Swan Song Audio Headphones Sound Impressions
As mentioned above, I am using the Cherry 2’s for the fidelity ratings because this review would hit 15+ pages talking about both the Cherry and the Rosewood’s variants.
So, consider the Rosewood’s the darker and bassier sound of the two and the Cherry to provide a lighter, more open and aired out sound. I don’t notice any fidelity differences between them. Just note that the Cherry 1 will sound more airy, treble energetic and lighter, the Rosewood will be more bass prone with a darker tone and relaxed treble quantity.
Holy hell. Right next to the Fostex TH909, which is a bass marvel in the audiophile world, this Swan Song Audio headphones blew it away, audibly so.
Not only is there more quantity, but the responsiveness to EQ is just as good as the legendary status I gave the TH909 earlier this year. These two headphones hit a +9dB increase on the low end without shake, mud or anything nasty. (Note: Bass Eqing + the Rosewoods is not something I recommend)
This is absurd and very rare and both arrived on the same day! Crazy!! The raw quality of the low end on the Swan Song Audio Headphones is shockingly good, if you are a bass head, you need this headphone.
It doesn’t start bassy, but it can get bassy if you feed it more EQ and DSP’s. What you get out of it is simply breathtaking and incredibly deep and responsive. I mean it. I love the low end on this headphone, bar none my favorite bass experience short of the SR007 Mk2 (the bassier version).
If that isn’t enough to sell it, the low end is super smooth and lacks a harsh impact. This is the type of bass I’ve always wanted and never had before. It is absurdly deep, large, plentiful and responsive, but also not slamming or overly harsh. Not ever.
Even with a ton of bass added in, the headphone still portrays a softer approach. If anyone remembers the older Sony XB1000, think of that type of presentation, but with even more quantity and with a ton more clarity.
The Swan Song Audio Headphones are non-fatiguing and let me tell you, bass tracks sound immensely yummy. Again, this can alter without EQ depending on what wood plates you use, so if you want more or less without any EQ, you can get it that way too.
The earpads likely lend a lot to this as well, as they are perforated and circumaural, but not huge like the Grado G-Cush pads at a solid 1/3 larger. That means more focus into your ear, a narrow wave coming at you that is extremely dense feeling.
I feel safe in saying this headphone is one of the best bass headphones I’ve ever heard overall. I cannot recall a single dynamic driver headphone that comes close and this Swan Song Audio bass experience feels cleaner than my LCD-MX4. We have a new dynamic bass headphone king. Show some respect.
It is difficult to talk about the midrange of the Swan Song Audio Headphones without also talking about the imaging properties of the headphone. I was told that Tony had intended to design a headphone with the end-result being as a speaker-like as possible.
In that regard, the midrange is center-focused, just like good speakers are. The midrange is not fully forward and gives a sense of distance and excellent spacial depth of field in a forward locale, just as good speakers do. So in that context, yes, I think this was achieved by the designer to sound “more speaker-like”.
The headphone is marvelous for live recordings and portrays a broad sense with vocals appearing on the stage. This is an oddly great sensation when watching a live concert and also listening through the headphone, as you can pick up the fantastic micro details of where each voice is emanating from in the void.
This is not a specialist headphone geared only for great mid experiences, this is a generalist that does great at everything, without being a specialist at just one or two things. There are other models I would prefer to use for vocals in Jazz, but I assure you that nothing in my inventory has the clarity of this headphone.
You’d never expect this little headphone to sound this clean, this is Summit Level Hifi right here. On par with the MX4 and the TH909.
The Swan Song Audio Headphones take some getting used to, so I urge you not to judge based on 30 seconds of listening if you can demo. I say that because I’ve noticed in my journey that some products require an adjustment period. Especially so, coming off another headphone entirely.
There are times where I swap between my TH909 to the Swan Song Audio headphone here and I immediately notice an unfocused sound signature coming from the upper mids and into the treble. But, after a minute or two, I am simply unable to notice it.
The first 30 seconds had a bit of an odd experience on the treble, almost muffled and shouty, however that vanished and was never to be heard again afterward. I’ve failed for weeks to explain this beyond this is just how my ears adjust to the headphone and the frequencies coming at me.
Then I remembered the Sennheiser HD800 does the exact same thing to me. When I swap to it, I get an odd harsh sound that feels unnatural but after a while, on a great rig that is well paired with the HD800, that goes away.
Like your eyes adjust to lights, I think there are just some frequencies in the treble areas that some people require an adjustment period for. Mine lasts about 60 seconds and after that, I simply do not hear what I heard seconds prior. The same thing happens to me with the HD800, as mentioned, and all my peers said this too when using this Swan Song Audio headphones at a meet.
The top end of the Swan Song Audio Headphones are just a little shouty and prone to slight drop off, IMO. I don’t have a testing facility, but I believe that there is a ton of energy at a specific higher Hz rating and then a sudden dip.
Is it terrible? No, as mentioned, I stop hearing it entirely after a minute or so. But, when you swap from another headphone without that, to this one, you hear it audibly so. Don’t take this as a quality issue. It isn’t a fidelity problem. The clarity on the top end is very good and makes the TH909 feel like ice spikes prodding my eardrums.
The entire top end glistens, sparkled and lovely. However, sometimes, it can bite a little too much when in the context of the mids and bass below it are used as a comparison. Two very soft impact experiences below the treble make the treble feel more intense than it really is.
Again, swapping to something else results in the Swan Song Audio headphones feeling quite refreshing and easy on impact up top. I call it moderately engaging, just enough bite to make it interesting and just enough “stuff” to make it never boring and too reserved feeling.
The Swan Song Audio Headphones have a very spacious sound but they are also extremely coherent. If I had to 1v1 it with something else, the Beyerdynamic T1 sounds like a smaller version of this headphone. Both are immensely focused and richly detailed but set up to be personal and not overly expansive in stage width and height.
Separation is sublime, might be one of the better out there that I’ve heard. This headphones depth of field factor is only enhanced by its exceptional density of tonality from top to bottom. This is a thick feeling headphone, this sounds like a premium Planar and not a Dynamic in the slightest. The TH909, HD800, and MX4 from Audeze sound paper-thin by comparison.
This headphone feels more like a Philips Fidelio X series on steroids, which is a headphone that feels thicker than usual. It is hyper thick, super dense and weighted, which makes the vocals and instrumentals out in the bubble void feel more realistic, more rounded and less prone to just sounding like they appear out of nothing.
You can place sounds very well with this headphone and it is by far the best in density factor overall that I’ve had in years. Density factor is important, because the realistic weight carried in vocals, as well as large instruments like cello’s for example, requires that dense coherency to portray said realism.
Otherwise, it sounds thin and uninspiring. That isn’t a problem on this model. While not super vast in width, the depth of field factor and realistic feel is superb.
The Swan Song Audio Headphones require no amplification beyond a great portable source. Treat it well and you will get a great sound out of it. I can route my Sony ZX1 compact into Tony’s $999 DAC and achieve stellar results. I also can achieve amazing results on a lower-tier DAC from Xduuo in the XD05+, which is less than $300 and the result is quite shocking too.
This is not a snobbish headphone with DAC and Amp needs. Pick anything you want, it will sound great regardless. Just make sure to tone pair properly for your preferences. If you drop in a very neutral DAC, you’ll get a much more neutral sound. Drop-in a very warm rig and wow, that low end sings. Addicting really.
My Burson Conductor 3 is a marvelous pairing with this headphone, but so is just my dedicated Cowon Plenue M portable player. Don’t worry about power needs, anything over 0.5w is just fine.
This headphone doesn’t require anything special to make it sound its best, at least not in the context of output power. Give it a great DAC or portable amp, it sounds quite good even out of my older RSA SR71B.
Tony asked me to try to get some female opinions on the Swan Song Audio Headphones as he is trying to market them to women as well. I have a few female audiophiles in my group, as well as some family members who understand Hifi and have great rigs of their own.
These people have known me for many years, know what I am all about and are often asked to sample the products that I review. I’ve often used their opinions in the past years in other reviews too. So, these girls know their audio products. They are not generalist consumers and I vouch for their trustworthiness.
Mike is my brother. I’ve watched him grab headphones after headphones for well over the last ten years and I was there when he got his first writing job as a headphone debater and reviewer with a local magazine. He asked me to spend a day with this headphone, so I am going to give me thoughts on it for him.
I find this Swan Song Audio headphone to be a bit of a mix between what I like and what I do not like when I want to go buy a headphone. It is beautiful but there is such a thing as too beautiful and so beautiful that I would be terrified to ever show anyone this headphone in fear of it being stolen off my head.
I don’t quite understand the angled 3.5mm, I can’t move my head around without the cable crunching in that small space. As for the sound of this thing, this is more than I can handle and that I would personally ever need.
This ruined my senses for audio, as I thought my headphones, which are expensive, were pretty good. Turns out they sound hollow and warped sometimes compared to this one that Mike let me borrow for a little bit.
Mike gave me a set of JVC DX1000 headphones a few years ago, I would think I know something about good audio having experienced pretty much all of the headphones he comes across and then sometimes makes me listen to for an opinion. This new headphone is something I could never afford, but it is something I would like to sell some things to maybe try to experience more often.
Mike has been a good friend of mine for years and he is almost not seen without a headphone of some sort slung around his neck. This is his thing and I understand it very well because he all but denies me entry unless I give him my opinion on whatever new headphones and speakers he got in the mail recently.
I think the Swan Song Audio headphones that Mr. Crocker has made are dandy, elegant, and scary in a good way. Mike showed me the differences between what the term neutral and what the term musical means which is something before that I never knew existed years ago and before I learned more.
I prefer neutral but I also really do not ever use headphones that do not have great bass quantity. He calls it “Bassheads” and surely I am one of them. I can’t tell you how clear they are compared to a lot of other very expensive headphones, I’ve only ever listened to some of what he had at the time of visiting now and then.
He gave me an Audio Technica ESW9 after he did a review on it, so I do understand nice wood design. Mr. Crocker’s headphone is what I call what I’d want to buy if I won the lottery. First thing. I think he was looking for design cred and he certainly earned it. This headphone is so pretty.
I am just like Michael, I spent a lot of time searching for used deals on audio equipment online and ask him all the time what he thinks of this or that product, only to be told “Dear god, don’t buy that, buy “this” instead, this one is better for you.” And you know what? He’s only been wrong maybe 2 times…haha!
Would I buy a $2000 headphone? Yep. Sure would. Do I have the money for it? Nope. Sure don’t.
Every Sunday, I visit his place and his parent’s place and end up taking some time to listen to his amazing speaker setup and whatever headphone he leaves on the table. Often, he is typing away at the PC writing something or helping someone, on the phone with a company who he is working with and in that time I partake in sneaking a listen to whatever he had sitting on the dining room table.
When you have a toddler running around, you tend to let the grandparents play with them while you slip away into the dining room to sit. When I’m there, Michael’s headphones are on display always so I grab them and tune out for a bit. By the way, I bought those tea lights that you always see in his pictures for his articles.
I want a beautiful headphone. Who doesn’t? As a travel agent, I need something that sounds good to escape for a few hours when I move around the country. At times like this, with this virus nonsense ongoing still, I look to something much better than what Mike has recommended for me that I take with me.
I want one that is not open, just like this. Something small, with smaller earpads that does not upset others on an airplane around me. But I do not want the sound to change. I know what the HD800 is and what it means to his hobby because it is on the center display on his table always and its the thing we around always pick up and just listen to when we all stop talking.
We’ve done this for years, every single Sunday until quarantine happened I picked this headphone up and thought the speakers were somehow playing, Mike asked me what I was talking about and then realized “Oh, you are listening to the new ones. Yea, they have a relaxed sound, very realistic feeling aren’t they?” and then I realized what he always meant by this “realistic sound”.
Having used his headphones so often, I still never “Got it” or really “understood” I had used one of his headphones, taken that off and then used this Swan Song Audio Headphones. I think it is the best-looking headphone on his display and he has a lot of them.
This is what great TV’s do to people, and great electronics like phones do. You think you have a good one, but you then get to experience a good one, and there you are at Best Buy shelling out $3000 on a 65-inch OLED display and being told you need special HDMI cables for it too.
This happens with phones a lot with me, as I need to have the best on the market. This seems to also be the case with audio people like him and the rest of his friends in this hobby. The price doesn’t matter, I paid a significant percentage of this headphone cost just for my phone.
If I hadn’t need of that phone and had that money to spare, I’d be buying this one because both Michael and I agree it is addictive and hard to stop listening to. It is also very attractive and traveling around as much as I do, I’d prefer to have something stunning to look at and have others around me look at too.
The Swan Song Audio Headphones are probably the most satisfying and musical headphones I’ve ever heard that is not an Electrostatic. This headphone is the start of something truly amazing for us who want a hefty dense feel to tonality. I urge Tony to pursue this venture with the fury of 1000 suns gone nova.
What he has here is something I’ve wanted for my entire audio journey. That one headphone that is so close to a myth that nobody has made for us who need a great imaging experience, but also an amazing low end. It is a woodie and its gorgeous, a real head-turner.
It also has the most vivid and musical tonality in a non-Planar that I’ve ever heard. If you like bass, but great bass and not just quantity, this is an absurdly perfect option for you. The headphone feels sweet and soft on impact, so you can listen without fatigue for hours.
True, it is pricey, but consider that the earcups are solid Walnut and hand-crafted. The audio fidelity of the Swan Song Audio Headphones offered is justified when you consider the woodie appeal the headphone also has. It doesn’t require a lot of power at all, really none beyond a good portable source. The headphone cable can be swapped if need be and it both light and comfortable. I cannot ask for more.
Swan Song Headphones Specifications
- Walnut cups 55 by 60mm
- 2 Cherry and 2 Rosewood Discs with 3 port sizes. Interchangeable with the provided hex screwdriver
- Leather ear pads that are over the ear for average ear sizes and on the ear for larger ear sizes.
- Padded leather headband
- Rod and gimbal adjustment system. Adjustable with provided hex screwdriver
- Nhoord 33 ohms SPL 95dB drivers
- Break-in time 40 hours
- 50 milliwatt recommend minimum amplification
- Headphone weight 9 ounces
- 5-foot silver cable with locking 3.5mm cup connectors
- 3.5 or 6.25mm headphone plug