Symphonized Wraith On-Ear Wood-cup Stereo Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Oct 7, 2014.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Youtube review: http://youtu.be/Fa91igXn-90

    Photos:
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Leica_T-701/Headphone_Symphonized_Wraith_01.jpg
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Audioforge/Symphonized_Wraith.jpg

    Sources: iPhone5 with Portaphile Micro/PA2V2/Decware Zen Head amps using the LOD, various computers using Microstreamer/Beyer A200p/v-moda Verza DAC/amps.

    Review notes: My first impressions of the sound of the Symphonized Wraith 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 describe how I relate to the Wraith (i.e. my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    Summary of sound: The Wraith's lower bass is very good, but the upper bass has an emphasis that can mask much of the lower bass quality and detail, so users who are familiar with this type of warm bass signature should know in advance how they'll relate to it. The midrange is nearly flawless, with only a slight sense of forwardness that's otherwise unremarkable. The treble is on the shy side of minimum-neutral** as I call it, and the headphones I'm familiar with that have a comparable treble are the AIAIAI TMA-1x, the ATH ES700, the Klipsch Image One II, and the Marley Liberate XL. Since the Wraith is such an amazing price bargain (in my opinion), potential buyers who need a brighter sound can simply turn up the treble, as they would with the iPod/iPhone treble boost setting.

    **At one time, my standard for neutral treble was the Sennheiser HD800, which I owned for 3 years. Today I consider the HD800 to be somewhat bright, but not as bright as the AKG K812 and Beyer T90 that I currently own. The Shure SRH 1840 that I also owned at one time is much closer to a practical neutral for use with a wide variety of genres of music, although a few users find it to be a little too bright for them. The Beyer DT1350 and the AKG K712 are additional examples of the level of treble I aim for, and the Wraith's treble is shy of that level by about 6 db in my comparisons.

    Soundstage is tricky to describe since it's dependent to a large extent on the amount and quality of treble that the headphone presents, not to mention the recording itself. I'll just say that the Wraith can sound amazingly good in that respect, depending on where you find your ideal treble balance. In my case, it's as good as the last half-dozen $200 headphones I've reviewed. One very demanding track I use in evaluating a headphone is David Chesky and Wonjung Kim's "Girl From Guatemala", and the strong treble percussion starting at 3 minutes in is delineated very well by the Wraith. Another track that's a stress test for treble is 'Time' from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, and the Wraith plays that very cleanly too. I find the isolation better than average for a closed on-ear headphone (i.e. very good), and the leakage is very low - good enough to play at audiophile volume levels in a public library or quiet office.

    Physically, the Wraith seems to be mostly metal with a few small plastic trim pieces. The earcups (or possibly the outermost parts of the earcups) are made of wood, which has a high polish that may be a wood finish, or just an acrylic covering of some kind (can't tell). The earpads are a very soft memory foam with a quality pleather-type covering, and the headband has a similar pad embedded in it - i.e. a small part of the headband pad is visible on top with 'Symphonized' lettering, and the larger part underneath covers everything that touches the user's head. The metal headband appears to be a good quality stainless steel, and the size adjusters for the earcups and other metal parts may be stainless steel as well, but I can't be certain just by the look and feel. The bottom line as I see it is a luxury look in the $150 to $200 USD range, but given the $60 current pricing of the Wraith, I don't have anything to compare it to.

    The Wraith's 1.2m/4 ft. cable is double-entry and detachable, with 2.5 mm mono plugs going into each earcup. The cable is fabric-covered, has a small control box with just one surface to click (i.e. no buttons), has a microphone, and is terminated with a 45-degree 3.5 mm miniplug with the extra connector for the control box. The range of adjustment for different head sizes is 14 mm less on each side of the headband, and 17.5 mm more on each side, compared to my average head size. Compared to most headphones I have or had, that's a pretty good range of adjustment. The impedance of 32 ohms suggests high efficiency, and the Wraith is very efficient. I've never felt a need for more volume than an iPod or iPhone can supply, but I highly recommend a good headphone amp for best quality sound.

    The comments in the music tracks listed below can be compared to other headphone reviews I've done, to get an idea of how the Wraith plays the different music tracks listed here compared to other headphones. My suggestion is instead of reading each comment below as an absolute unto itself, you could compare these notes to other reviews as they get posted, and see how the Wraith compares with each individual track.
     
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Symphonized Wraith review part 2 - music samples

    Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has excellent detail and tone, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The Wraith 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 perfectly by the Wraith.

    Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent 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 some of the weight they carry with the Wraith.

    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 Wraith plays this music 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 Wraith.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The Wraith plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural, yet there is no added 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 Wraith 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 Wraith renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The Wraith 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 recognizable as such.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The Wraith reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are normally very extended and detailed, but the Wraith needs some treble boost to get the full upper-harmonics effect.

    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 Wraith plays this music 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 good deep-bass response. Overall, the Wraith plays this music very 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 Wraith plays this track perfectly.

    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 Wraith. 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 Wraith provides fair 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 the Wraith does those fairly well.

    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 Wraith plays this so well that you can almost hear/feel the individual 16 cycle per second "beats" of the fundamental tone.

    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 Wraith is a perfect example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance.

    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 subtle but impressive with the Wraith.

    Pinback - Non Photo Blue (Pop-Rock): Crispy sound with "crunchy guitars and bashing drums" - the Wraith renders this music as perfectly as I've 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 Wraith reproduces that sound effect almost perfectly.

    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 Wraith conveys as much of that experience as is possible with an on-ear portable headphone. 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 the Wraith renders the tones and transients pretty well.

    Tiger Okoshi - Bootsman's Little House (Jazz): The trumpet here is recorded fairly close up and is somewhat bright with a significant "bite". The Wraith's reproduction is near-perfect, 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 very strong and work extremely well with the horns and other instruments. The Wraith delivers the impacts with great weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.
     
  3. marcusd

    marcusd Member

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    This is an e-smooth OEM product rebranded, always was interested in this as it was an exact duplicate in wood of the SC Aviator which was one of their better sounding headphones.
     
  4. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Oh yeah - there are a lot of esmooths out there, and I didn't know what to expect, but this item is amazingly good for the price.
     
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