After having enjoyed the Zeus for quite a while, I think I can reasonably give some feedback on my feeling concerning these iems. This is not a definitive review, as I generally don't do that, and I may provide further impressions later on with other sources.
In terms of context, I have been driving them with my AK240SS and then with the Lotoo Paw Gold, listening only to FLAC, Redbook and some 24/96. The Zeus I have are a demo provided by Jack, I just paid for the shipping. I will certainly be buying but we will come to that later.
Customer experience: I am not sure if my experience with Jack is the typical customer experience but it has been nothing but excellent. I have expressed interest in their product range and our interaction thereafter has been nothing but smooth and excellent. Jack had always taken all my comments with interest, trying to improve his products, looking for ways to address his clients' concerns. He visibly loves his products and his job, and it makes it really nice to deal with him.


Build quality and ergonomics: the build of these is excellent. There are very small for 14 drivers. It is a bit tricky to find the right tips, but once you have (spinfit medium or large for me), the fit is quite comfortable. A bit less than the 846, but more than the Roxannes or Solar. If I could note something to be improved, I think a more ergonomic shaped could be found, like the 846 or the Inear Stage Diver.
The cable provided is very nice, durable and flexible. I like more compact jacks but the right angled jack is still of great quality.
The whole iem fits in a very small case, so it allows for a very portable yet high end rig, paired with a high-end DAP.
Pairing and sensitivity: I will not insist on this, as I have said much about it already, but this is the only issue with the Zeus in my experience. It is twofold: the Zeus are not so easy to drive. I thought they sounded average of the AK240SS and significantly better out of the Lotoo Paw Gold. I am not sure if it is that they like more power, which would be counterintuitive for a very sensitive iem. The second part is indeed sensitivity, the Zeus hisses with my Mojo and my Paw Gold. I am starting to think know my demo is more sensitive than others, as some report no hiss with the Mojo. My Mojo has no hiss with my Solar, so the Mojo is not faulty. So to conclude I have not yet found a source that sounds good AND doesn't hiss at all. To be clear, the hiss on the Lotoo is very present, much more tolerable on the Mojo.
Sound quality: Once you find the right source, the Zeus is a marvel. It is quite colored, the mids sound pretty thick, I would say that it is because of a lift in the lower mids.
The key strong points are resolution and imaging. The sounds is quite forward and aggressive but it hits you in such an involving manner, all the layers are so fleshed out and textured, all the details can be heard perfectly placed in the stage, the mids are rich but refined, you can really hear the grain of the voices, making vocals very engaging. The stage is very deep, but clearly not at wide and airy as the Solar. It is not a negative point, because placement within that stage is very precise. Plus the quite narrow stage and lush mids allow a very together and centered sound. The Solar will have a more relaxed and laid back sound, placement in the stage is a bit more diffuse.
Bass is a bit north of neutral, highs are well extended but not aggressive. They have some sparkle but not the sparkliest nor the airiest if that is your thing.


On well mastered music, these are the most engaging and musical iems I have heard. I like them as much as my SE5 Ultimate. If I had only one I would keep the SE5 as it is more neutral, but I love the Zeus.
I am not yet sure which I prefer vs. The Solar, because on not so well mastered tracks, the Solars, being more spacious and airy, will sound better. Plus the Solar is much easier to pair source wise. But with the right source and goof quality tracks, I enjoy the Zeus more. The Solar are less fatiguing also, so for long seasons while reading for instance, I will go for the Solar. All in all these are very complementary.
Conclusion: I would love to see a less sensitive version come out, and maybe the signature is not for everyone if you like bright and thin sounding IEMs, but apart from that, the Zeus is a brilliant iem, standing above the crowd.

-Mimouille


VentureCraft SounDroid Valoq (SDP-1) Review
By Dr. Sheep





Happy New Year Head-Pie’ers!  

Let’s start this year’s review with something new: the AKM4490 based VentureCraft SounDriod Valoq, model SDP-1, from the land of the rising sun.

Bottom Line Up Front: if you are looking for a cutting edge DAP, have $750 to spare, and don’t mind some LCD QC issues, then the Valoq will be right for you.


As I mentioned from my CEntrance HiFi-Skyn review before:  http://headpie.blogspot.jp/2015/12/centrance-hifi-skyn-review-by-dr-sheep.html
the new AKM4490 DAC is quickly being the de facto choice of high end DAP from the portable audiophile community.  
VentureCraft, which is no stranger to the cutting edge, but primary focusses on the Japanese market with their portable DAC/Amp products, quickly capitalized on this trend and released the company’s first DAP.
Built with high quality carbon fiber reinforced plastic and aluminum, the Valoq packs two very unique class leading features: native up sample and decoding via DSD128, and the interchangeable low pass filter (LPF) operational amp (OpAmp) chips.



Make no mistake, the Valoq supports up to DSD256 and PCM at 384/32 natively.  However, for any lower byte rate DSDs, PCMs, or FLACs, the device digitally up-sample them all to DSD128 (as an optional setting) for decoding.  Couple with its 125mW at 32 ohms per channel in balanced mode, you music will have more speed and dimension compare to DSD to PCM conversion and even just native DSD decoding.  With the Valoq, you get all the benefits of DSD processing even if you do not own a single piece of DSD music, and that’s terrific.



The Valoq comes with the tried and true AD8397 as its primary amp, and a pair of MUSES 8820 of LPF OpAmp.  
Tested with my reference JH Audio Layla in balanced mode, the Valoq stock sound signature has a noticeable recessed mid, with good sound stage and instrument separations.  
Although the software 5-band EQ is fast and responsive, like so many other DAP it leaves more to be desired.  

This brings us to Valoq interchangeable LPF OpAmps, and you do this by taking off the back case over with a T5 screw driver.  You will need a pair of dual channel chips in DIP8 like NJR MUSES series (01, 02, 8920, or the stock 8820), or Ti LME series (LME49860 for example.)  Single channel OpAmps, like the OPA627, is currently out of luck but still possible with adapters.  
In addition, VentureCraft has a history of releasing products with different OpAmp variants, so an OPA627 based Valoq is more than likely being in the works.  Based on my testing, the Valoq with the LME49860 is being the most neutral with the recessed mid largely fixed.  

I am happy enough with the SQ that I can give my heavy AK380+AMP a much needed break.

What’s makes the Valoq a 3rd base hit and not a home run can by large boil down to one thing: that poor quality LCD screen.  I can forgive it being TN and not IPS, and scroll wheel design and not touch screen (which I actually prefer.)  But what will kill the deal for most folks, especially at the $750 price point, is that the LCD will develop white lines and other display related issues for this otherwise wonderfully sounding DAP.  This is an all too common issue reported from multiple sources, including my own only after a couple days of use.  Granted one don’t really look at that screen once the music starts to play, but a quality issue this obvious should have been caught early in the development cycle.  Although this does not district me from my listen experience of the Valoq and faith in VentureCraft products in general, VC should take a hard look at this and learn for future revisions and products.


The Valoq really gives the Astell&Kern series a run for its money with its good SQ and unique features, and the adventure minded folks should really give this DAP a try.  I can’t wait for revision or the next iteration as this is seriously a home run DAP in the making.

Regards
DrSheep


Added bonus:

Operation: Amp!

1, Tools: T5 driver, chip lifter, puller, and extractor.

2, opened back.

3, MUSES8820 pulled.










































4, caution: make sure you lift and pull straight up, or else the pins are easily bent.  Most of my chips pins are bent now, but the lifter can also use to help straighten the pins out.  I recommend lifting the chip first then pull, as the socket can be pretty tight.



5, LPF Amp replaced.











































Findings:


Test track: Christina Perry "Human" from "Heart to Heart" in 24/48 up sampled to DSD128.

1, sad to report that single channel amp like the OPA627AP does NOT work.
2, MUSES01 is under powered and sounded very dark, which makes the recessed mid issue worse.
3, MUSES02 is better and bring the SQ closer to neutral but still on the warm side, mid still recessed but not as much as the stock MUSES8820.
4, the most surprising is the LEM49860, which can be had for $5 for the pair.  This amp is bright for the VC SounDroid Typhoon (which is also why I got one more to make a pair for the test.)  However, pair with the warm AKM4490 DAC, the SQ balanced out and make the whole thing much more neutral, plus fixing the recessed mid to a large degree.  This is not a 100% solution, but making classical more enjoyable now.

I am keeping the LEM49860 inside for now to compare to my AK380.  Also, I am sad to report that my unit also developed the "white line" right after the amp swap with my OPA627AP.








Head Pie and Fiio have been working together to get an interview completed. That will follow soon.

In the meantime I present to you this brief article, certainly not a puff piece but more akin to an ohm image ohmage/homage.  More will follow in due course - such as the interview, but let this piece show we have not forgotten about Fiio, and neither have they forgotten about us.

Head Pie loves Fiio. Yes we have said that about other companies and sites, but its true. We do. It does not mean mean we love every audio company, and If we didn`t love a company I think we would be polite enough to not even mention it, I hope.

Fiio is known to anyone with an interest in portable audio gear, its affordable prices, well made gear
and Fiio`s excellent relationship with their community of Fiiophile fans.


Fiio burst onto the scene back in 2007 with their under the radar but sold well, dock for Meizu players.

The new Fiio E06.
The successor to the E5 and E6.


Later they burst onto the more global scene with their excellent series of small and well priced portable amplifiers, The E3 and the later E5. Those of us with cautious and not boundless pockets jumped on the products.
At the time it was Cowon player, imods and hefty amplifier stacks and wall to wall LODs. The Fiio series was refreshing and a sign of new times to come.

Fiio was and is still basically the budding audiophiles gateway (audio) drug products.

I personally owned and loved the E5 amp and the L9 LOD, later I bought the E11.


Luckily living in Japan I have had the chance to try out many Fiio products over the years either in store or at Headphone shows. I have always been amazed at their ability to listen to what their customers want and to deliver it to them. No wonder they have so many loyal fans.

By I digress...

As we know Fiio keeps churning out products, and they get better and better. We had the many renditions of DAC/amps beginning with the E7, the portable amplifiers that kept getting better and better in terms of sound and build quality....so many to mention, oh I give up thinking about them all from exhaustion.... you can see the present product range on their website page  http://fiio.net/en/fiio  and then ...

...and then they surprised us...with the Fiio X3 portable music player.

Fiio X3
It was an early attempt and a fine one at that. A bit of a quirky design that also tried to implement everything a community of Fiiophiles on head-fi.org suggested to include.

It set the stage for what became to known as the Fiio signature sound, slightly on the warm side. Although with later DAPs this began to change and more detail and transparency became the order of the day, but not at the expense of lush mids.



Fiio series of DAPs
Later came the X5, X1, X3 2nd generation, and X5 2nd generations of Fiio Daps. Each one more improved and with software updates released often.

X5 second generation pictured.


Fiio X7
Now we have the flagship Fiio X7 portable music player that is getting positive reviews from its purchasers.
Gone is the scroll wheel for a touch screen DAP.



I tried the Fiio X7 at the Fujiya vic Headphone show in Tokyo, Japan, October 2015.




"Fiio X7. The unit I tested still had on the protective wrapping so when the staff said that I was the first to listen to it, they weren`t kidding.
The X7 I found to be warm as is generally expected of Fiios in house sound signature.
I thought it was a great little unit with a well functioning UI.
The weight of the unit was a bit on the heavy side for me.
It had a great lush, warm sound without the muddiness of say the earlier X3, certainly I see listening to for extended periods wouldn`t be a problem."



That seemed to be enough. Fiio had covered about all the ground it could, or so we thought.

Suddenly Fiio announced the Fiio M3 a player dubbed `the sansa clip killer`, not that so many used them now as they did before. A small and affordable solution people said, well the Fiio X1 is affordable for sure, but this is one that can be taken to the gym etc.
Think of it perhaps as the X7 mini version.


Recently Fiio have entered the earphone market with the EX1 set of in ears, I have yet to try them but am very curious as how they match with the Fiio M3.



One recent release is the Fiio K1 entering into the field of mini dacs.




In between all this Fiio have released a wide range of connector cables, desk top amps, convertors, headphone cables and accessories.



Fiio is the everyman of the audio world.
They are like the water that fills a cup of stones, slowly they fill the gaps, moving ever onwards and upwards towards the top.

regards
expatinjapan for head pie.








Head-fi. Well it had to be written eventually...didn`t it!? or did it?

head-fi, head pie - is it a homage or a mocking title?



Is this a click bait article where I reveal the inner workings of the largest audio and headphone forum on the internet, or discuss my many possible grievances?

Will writing a series of complaints or how I may or not have been offended , banned or otherwise make for compelling reading on the internet. And added hits for Head Pie?

Well, sorry to disappoint...

We at Head Pie love head-fi.

As like many of you it is the first site we visited to get information on audio gear, from a community that was by and by mostly very helpful and well informed.

I started off trying to improve my gaming set up and received accurate and helpful advice.
Then I thought about getting an improved portable set up to listen to music on the go, my last portable set up was a beaten up used cassette player and earphones of doubtful quality back in, well I won`t mention what year.

Suffice to say I was lost in this new world, perhaps around 2010 (I just checked my profile).
Only five years but it does seem longer with the various changes in audio gear I have owned in that time. And also the vast number of new products that have been released in those five years.

I ended up with Sennheiser MX760, 4th gen ipod nano, and an LOD connected to a Fiio E5.
I was set, my terrible mp3 tracks playing back at blistering levels, I was very happy.

And then of course one reads more, and wants more.

It has been a great journey. Friends made, familiar names on the forums, learning more about gear - although I am still little more than a hobbyist, improving my set up so now I have a wonderful rig, meeting up for mini meets in Tokyo, Tokyo headphone shows (as head fi Team Tokyo with T-shirts to match) and meeting people from Head-fi, a few Tokyo based moderators and of course on occasion Jude himself. but always briefly because well....theres gear to checked out.


So thanks to head-fi. My experiences have always been positive and I still post on there in the various threads which I am most interested. I created a blog as a creative outlet and it seemed like it was time.

Head Pie is an entity in itself amongst all the other sites starting with `head`, but my first home was head-fi and so I guess you could call the blog title a homage of sorts, a head nod to where it all started. But also because I had a pie and thought headphones looked liked head pies in a Dada or Dali-ish way.......and also as you can see by our many memes, I have a terrible sense of humor.

Thanks head-fi.

Kind regards
Head Pie.




*NOTE: I have never been banned from head-fi, had any grievances and don`t believe I have been offend...yet.  :)







Well the silly season is over and things can get back to normal. 


Luckily we had the COZOY Aegis giveaway over Christmas time and that kept everyone happy, myself included. I was able to keep the Facebook group going with the usual Head Pie memes while we built up to the announcement of the winner of the COZY Aegis.
Which was useful as I only had my mobile device with me for the few days, and so updating the blog itself was difficult for a few days whilst I traveled.




So what does 2016 hold for Head Pie, a mere baby in the world of the many older audio blogs?

At Head Pie we have a people first philosophy, sure we love the gear, we love the music but essentially all that is useless without the people - from the designers, manufacturers and down to the consumers.



Interviews
Which is why we have interviews with the companies who design and make the products we all love.
I myself am curious and love to read, I read everything and anything.
Our interviews are very simple and skeletal and reply on the interviewee to fill in the space.
I remember Parkinson was fabulous as an interviewer way back when on UK TV.

We contacted some companies who responded positively to participating in interviews with Head Pie, they were sent out mid December on the cusp of the busy silly season so hopefully we will see them returned from January to March for you all to enjoy.

Some of the interviewees are:
Fiio
JH Audio
Cypher labs
MusicaAcoustics
Noble Audio
Ubsound
Carot One
Heir Audio
Cyberdrive
COZOY
Mezzo Hifi
Sustainable rhythm project
Custom Cable Philippines
...to name a few.

Unboxing, impressions and reviews.

We are looking forward to showing more unboxing pron of audio products, we will continue to showcase Rudi`s usual unique and succinct style of comparisons of hi end (and low end) portable gear - complete with accurate impressions and photos.



REVIEWS - 
We have a few up and coming reviews early this year:
The Echobox Finder X1 IEM
Centrance Hifi-Skyn
DITA - The Truth revisited
Cyberdrive IEMs (more products will be sent to review)
ifi ipurifier
Relisten app updated version
..........and many more.

We welcome companies that would like to see their products reviewed. Contact us at headpieblog@gmail.com
Our impressions and reviews will always be honest.

Also a warm welcome to Dennis Chung aka Dr.Sheep our newest regular contributor.



Facebook
Head Pie has an excellent presence on Facebook. Someone described us as `the fun group` which was nice. Hopefully we can mix our hobby, enjoy with like minded people, mix with leaders within the industry, post pictures of the gear we have and want, post and read articles, discuss and debate in a lovely peaceful and respectful manner and of course keep things light with the a few Head pie memes - which also serve to break up the cascading wall of audio pictures which may eventually put us in a viewing stupor.

I am proud of the way our Facebook group has taken off so quickly, 1000 members in about a month.
That is fantastic. I like the contributions from our members, the photos with a detailed description, the polite questions, the offer of different opinions without getting into a fight.
I think our membership `gets` our group.

We are serious about audio....but we are also the `fun group` and I hope that continues. Life is too short.

Contributors
We welcome anyone willing to participate to our blog, we have in the past picked a few pieces off the Facebook page and added them to the blog. Often the original writers have added more depth to their first posting before publishing.
This year we will continue to look for already completed pieces, unboxing, short impressions etc with photos.
It can be time consuming for us but we would like to continue this aspect in 2016.


Thank you all,
lets make 2016 a great one together.

Kind regards
Damon and Rudi.