Symphonized Wraith 2.0 Around-Ear Stereo Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Jun 5, 2015.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Youtube review:


    Sources: iPhone6+ with the Oppo HA-2/v-moda Verza DAC/amps; various computers using the HRT Microstreamer/FiiO E17k/Beyerdynamic A200p DAC/amps.

    Review notes: My first impressions of the sound of the Symphonized Wraith Version 2.0 are based on direct comparisons to other headphones - the v-moda M100 and XS, the FAD Pandora VI and IV, the Beyerdynamic T1 and T90, the AKG K812 and K712, and notes that I've accumulated from many prior reviews. I'll describe how I relate to the Wraith2 (i.e. my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    Summary of sound: A DJ-type of sound as I understand it, tilted away from the treble and toward the bass. The balance of that sound should appeal to most users, but the quality of the sound is more than just the superficial signature, it's the clarity and lack of minor distortions that are characteristic of the better headphones at more than twice the price. To get a better picture of the sound with different types of music that test the headphone's capabilities, check out the music tracks and comments listed below.

    I reviewed the original Symphonized Wraith circa October 2014, and it had earcups that resembled the LSTN Troubador design - a slight pear shape. The Wraith2 earcups are simple ovals - very elegant, especially given the cherry wood exteriors. Most of what I noted in the original review apply to version 2.0, from the mostly metal construction to the very soft and squishy earpads to the detachable double-entry fabric cable. Unlike a lot of headphones that don't look as good in person as in the product photos, the Wraith2 looks as good or better - see the photo linked above or on my dalethorn website. Those soft earpads are covered with a 'pleather' material, but that material doesn't have any shiny or even slightly stiff properties - it's a lot like lambskin - very soft and smooth, so I expect few if any issues using the Wraith2 in warm weather.

    The range of headband adjustment is 0.66 inches smaller on each side compared to my average sized head, and 0.66 inches larger on each side as well - a total of 1.32 inches of adjustment on each side. The cable length is slightly more than 4 ft. long and is terminated with a 45-degree angled miniplug with the extra ring for smartphones. There's a small control box on the cable near the earcup with a single button, for start/stop and next/previous track. One interesting and unexpected touch of elegance is the small wood pieces on the cable ends ahead of the 2.5 mm mono (dual-mono) plugs going into each earcup. Given the relatively low price of the Wraith2, few customers will expect the look and feel of quality of this headphone - it's not purely cosmetic, and you can tell a number of ways starting with the earcups, earpads, headband, and so on.

    The Wraith2 earpads go completely around my average-sized ears in perfect comfort, but users with very large ears might not do as well. The metal headband has a fairly light clamp, and with that and the very soft earpads, you get good isolation with incredible comfort, which is most unusual. The earcups rotate about 5 degrees forward or backward horizontally, and probably about 20 degrees total vertically, which should accomodate a wide range of head shapes and sizes. The Wraith2 will play loudly on an iPhone with most tracks, and even plays with a good volume on my low-volume tracks, so adding a headphone amp would be a concern only for improved tonality or soundstage. In my opinion, the wood earcups do help in smoothing the sound, however that doesn't mean that all wood-cup headphones will be equal or even similar.

    Isolation seems average or better for around-ear closed headphones - certainly better than the average on-ear closed type. Leakage is relatively low, and the Wraith2 should play OK in quiet offices or public libraries as long as the volume isn't ear-blasting loud. Note that when using the Wraith2 as a portable headphone, a carry case isn't essential since the headphone can be pulled off the head and worn around the neck comfortably with the earcups fully extended. In previous reviews I've included the following music examples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to those other reviews and see how the Wraith2 compares with each individual track.
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Symphonized Wraith v2 review part 2 - music tracks

    Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has good detail and tone, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The Wraith2 plays this very well.

    Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled well by the Wraith2.

    Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Very good overall sound. Of special note here are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts are soft and well in the background, but you can feel the weight they carry with the Wraith2.

    Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Very good instrumental detail and the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The Wraith2 plays this music very smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble.

    Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Great sound quality - this is a good test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled extremely well by the Wraith2.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The Wraith2 plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural, yet there is no excessive emphasis of the lower register of the male voices on this track.

    Cath Carroll - Moves Like You (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's percussion and voice are crisp and well-balanced, and there's a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The Wraith2 reproduces the space and detail very well.

    Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the Wraith2 renders the deliberate instrumental distortions with reasonable clarity.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The Wraith2 plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly - the voice and instruments are very detailed but not edgy - very musical in fact.

    Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track has a good amount of space around the voice and instruments, making for a very pleasant stereo image. The voice is excellent, and the tambourine is clearly recognizable.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The Wraith2 reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed, though a bit soft with the Wraith2.

    Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) - Peer Gynt-Solveig's Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950's) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg's amazing voice are as close to "being there" as I've heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The Wraith2 plays this track perfectly.

    Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the bass tones beginning around 0:45 have the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind of sound and feel that indicates a solid deep-bass response. The Wraith2 plays this music extremely well.

    Heaven 17 - Let Me Go (1980's New Wave/Techno): The bass instrument (guitar?) has excellent detail, and the voices and ambiance have a "you are there" quality that's uncommon in early 1980's pop music. The Wraith2 plays this very well.

    Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce very well with the Wraith2. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone's bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy.

    Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has several loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical with some headphones. The Wraith2 provides great detail. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for best-case detail. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrument separation and detail, and while the Wraith2's reproduction is a slightly distant perspective, it's very musical.

    Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek Michigan, Aeolian-Skinner Organ (1933) - Pedal, 32', Resultant, Arpeggio: This 16 hz organ pedal tone differs from other music tones in that you won't "hear" the tone - you'll only feel it. Although most music tones have harmonics (including this one), the harmonics from this tone will be too weak to provide any "feel", so whatever you actually hear would not be part of the fundamental 16 hz tone. There are ~30 hz sounds in the outdoor environment in big cities, generated by large trucks, buses, and subway trains, and they have a quality of "rumble" that's similar to some deep-bass tones found in music. This 16 hz organ tone is easily distinguished from those sounds when compared on a headphone that has good undistorted response at 16 hz. The Wraith2 plays the fundamental tone very well, and although it's not as detailed as some of my best headphones, it's not muddy or boomy either.

    Mantovani - Sunrise Sunset (Easy Listening, ca. 1972): A master musician and conductor** who specialized in light classics and orchestral pop music, Mantovani's accomplishments were overshadowed by music critics who couldn't tolerate the notion of "light classics" or "semi-classical" music, even when those recordings were no threat to the classical music genres. In any case the later Mantovani recordings from the mid-1960's through mid-1970's had the advantage of being mixed for much better hi-fi systems than those which the music critics possessed at the start of the Long Playing (LP) record cycle. Here in 2014, at least some of those digital remasters have improved the sound further, although it's not always the case. This track as played on the Wraith2 is a perfect example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance.

    **Mantovani developed the "Cascading Strings" sonic effect circa 1950, a famous "Wall of Sound" effect for mono hi-fi systems that predated Phil Spector's own famous Wall of Sound effect by 10 years or so.

    Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is impressive with the Wraith2.

    Pinback - Non Photo Blue (Pop-Rock): Crispy sound with "crunchy guitars and bashing drums" - the Wraith2 renders this music as well as I've ever heard an energetic pop-rock recording played with any headphone.

    Porcupine Tree - Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some nicely-detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are a series of "clip-clop" effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The Wraith2 reproduces some of the 'clop' effect but not as well as my best headphones.

    Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) - Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I've heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The Wraith2 conveys that experience nearly as well as many full-size headphones that cost twice as much. The tympani also have good impact here.

    Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is fairly bright and detailed, and while the Wraith2 renders the tones and transients musically, the harpsichord's upper harmonics aren't as detailed as with the better full-size headphones.

    Tiger Okoshi - Bootsman's Little House (Jazz): The trumpet here is recorded fairly close up and is somewhat bright with a significant "bite". The Wraith2's reproduction is quite good, and the close-miked piano is also a treat. For comparison, I have several Maynard Ferguson tracks that feature a similarly strong trumpet with lots of brassy bite.

    Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are strong and work extremely well with the horns and other instruments. The Wraith2 delivers the impacts with great weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a very realistic sound.

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