Letters to the editor: Qobuz, HD800S, Qutest, Audiophonics

  • Header image: HEDD Tower Mains launch event, Emil Berliner studios, Berlin – January 2019.

    Alun H writes…

    Hello John. Thanks for all this informative entertaining stuff. I didn’t know you could stream CD quality via Sonos until I watched your recent video. Qobuz now added to Spotify  – streaming via a Sonos Connect in the living room (via Marantz and KEF) and Chromecast Audio in office headphone system (via Schitt Modi, Magni and AKG). Second Chromecast bought to form part of a cheapo bedroom system (yet to buy). Thanks v. much!

    Charlie M. writes…

    Hi John,

    Have really been enjoying your website for a couple of years now, and more recently the videos. Much more appealing to the younger up-and-comer audiophiles like myself, aged 29.

    The articles from other major sites (that shall not be named) could lullaby me to sleep. I have made many product demos, and purchases, following your advice.

    I haven’t much to report on the gear I have bought – Nothing you and your readers don’t already know. Just wanted to say the Schiit guys at RMAF really had me laughing, and thought you/they might enjoy this image that came into my head watching the video!

    (Don’t panic, it really is just a SFW edited picture of Moffat and Stoddard)



    Toby J. writes…

    Hi! I am a regular reader of your site and think it is really good and objective! I think you should try this streamer, I love it and it would be nice to get your opinion on the 432 Hz as well as the many features with SQI filters etc. I have the 432 AEON, link:

    Give it a try!

    Best regards, Toby, Sweden

    Jeff B. writes…

    Of course, you’ve heard this before, but…thanks a million for doing what you do.

    I’m a lifetime audiophile who went back to vinyl exclusively about 12 years ago, right after my last SACD player gave out. At that time, I was unwilling to learn all of the skills and lingo needed to figure out computer audio – the whole thing just seemed far too daunting and distracting.

    Now, a couple of shows and many listening sessions later, I’m ready to get back into digital music. I wouldn’t be if I hadn’t discovered your website. Your honesty and intelligent prose have taught me an awful lot. This website has become my reference point for understanding digital playback, and I really can’t fully express how valuable it is for those of us who need to learn what to do next.

    All I can really say is “Thanks. Thanks a million.”



    Ronald E. writes…

    Against the slight possibility you haven’t seen this site, it [Audiophonics] offers a ton of Raspberry Pi audio possibilities.

    I enjoy your work immensely.

    Erik M. writes…

    Erik M. writes…

    Hi John,

    I love your site! Thanks for all you do.

    Since we both own and are fans of the Chord Qutest I thought I would share a hack I’ve enjoyed.

    Apparently, Rob Watts says that the lower RF on TOSLINK can sound more smooth and natural than Botha USB and coax in some cases. And darned if I don’t agree! I was running my Rega Apollo CD player into the Qutest via Coax and my streamer into the Qutest via a curious USB cable. Switched over to an Audioquest cinnamon TOSLINK and found in my system that I agree with Rob’s assessment.

    Try it, you might like it!

    Thanks again for your great work.

    All the best,


    Amelia C. writes…

    Dear Mr Darko,

    I’m writing because headphones are a serious threat to my relationship with my boyfriend. I am hoping you can provide some professional insight, advice and/or intervention. Because you look at the “real world” use and impact of audio gear and somewhat its socio-psychological aspects, I believe you are uniquely qualified to help me.

    Briefly, here is the situation: So through a totally innocent set of circumstances I happened
    upon my boyfriend’s credit card statement. There was the usual stuff: restaurants, Starbucks, subway pass—and a $1600 charge for a Sennheiser HD-800 S. I asked him what a Sennheiser HD-800 S is and why it costs so damn much. My boyfriend, a bit of a geek, told me it was a bargain, a “rendering network bridge computer” for our streaming movie-music system and had something to do with speed and hi-def picture. I stopped listening at “rendering” but thought, how sweet, he wants me to have a wonderful experience for our movie nights together. What a great boyfriend! Then I Google’d “Sennheiser HD-800 S”. That’s when I learned an HD-800 S isn’t some computer—it’s a pair of headphones. A pair of $1600 headphones!

    This was a little while ago. We got past his little “slip”, as couples do, and those Louboutin shoes he gave me around that time had nothing to do with me forgiving him. Mr Darko, it’s humiliating to admit it, but my boyfriend seems to have an unnatural interest in headphones. When the sex was still on a wait-and-see basis due to his idiot purchase, he swore the HD-800S were “end game” headphones—the last pair he’d ever want or need. The end of his “headphone journey”. He reified this position by adding, “After all, I can’t imagine anything sounding better.” I must say, my curiosity about these headphones was piqued, but I had to stick with my “I don’t care about headphones and neither should you!” stance. So when the boyfriend was out (I verified he was across town with the GPS tracker that somehow ended up on his phone) I slipped into his office.

    The HD-800 S looks more like a punishment rather than something one would willingly put on one’s head. Yet I persevered. I closed the blinds and donned them. I reluctantly admit they were actually quite light and comfortable. And yes, listening thru them was a different experience than listening through my earbuds—but that’s not the point! Are they eighty times better than $20 earbuds?! No way! And for all that cash they don’t block any outside noise at all. Great if you sit around alone in a quiet room (something the BF had ample time for when his HD-800 S purchase first came to light).

    So let me recapitulate for you, Mr Darko: for $1600 he got no noise blocking so they won’t work on the subway; no folding or any collapsing so they sure won’t go in his pocket or travel; and even in a ComicCon crowd, the look is humiliating. I admit the spacious sound was neat, but you could fit an entire orchestra in each giant ear cup, so is it really all that amazing?! And again… Ugly! Expensive! Impractical! Plus earbuds don’t mess up one’s perfectly highlighted hair. Add this all up and I hope you’ll agree the Sennheiser HD-800 S headphones were a stupid purchase!

    But what’s done is done. Therefore I tell my boyfriend how great they sound. In spite of his glaring headphone sickness, I love the guy and I want him to feel good about his dumb headphones—and of course, make sure they stay his “end game” headphones. After all, relationships require sacrifice. In retrospect, I should have known better and clearly, I capitulated too soon on the sex. I walked in on the boyfriend the other day when he was talking excitedly to one of his audio geek pals. They immediately stopped talking when they saw me. Not good. So while he was at work—and again quite inadvertently—I came across his Internet search history. “Focal Utopia headphones” came up a lot. I Google’d it. Shit. Mr Darko, is there such a thing as “end game” headphones or is this a harbinger of a life-long pattern of reckless spending and deceit? Thanks for your attention to this matter and I very much look forward to hearing from you.


    911 in NYC

    Written by John

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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