The AKG K1000. Introduced in 1989, it was a headphone so lauded that many would bestow upon it the title of “Best Headphone in the World”… but alas, even legends have to die sometime. The K1000 officially “died” in 2006, thereafter languishing as a rare collector’s item for those with heavy wallets.
Now, there seems to be a successor. Heinz Renner and Helmut Ryback, co-developers of the K1000, have partnered up with Viennese test equipments LB-acoustics to create the MYSPHERE earspeaker. The MYSPHERE comes in two different variants, the 3.1 and the 3.2, both built for different amplification requirements (the 3.2 being the harder-to-drive one at 110 ohms, compared to the 15 ohm 3.1).
Not to mention the design of the earspeaker itself, which strikes a great hybrid of minimalist and futuristic at the same time. And as someone who has spent the last few days catching up on the latest gaming hype, the MYSPHERE also evokes straight-up Cyberpunk-ian vibes in its aesthetics. Could definitely visualise a Netrunner rocking a pair.
But history has never been kind to those who attempt to create legends, and the headphone world may not be an exception. Does the MYSPHERE 3.2 have the chops to contest for the title of “Best” once again like its predecessor? Or is it destined for a life as a simple conversation piece without merit?
Product page: https://mysphere.at/product/buy-mysphere3/
Driver configuration: Dynamic
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A brief word on the measurements obtained above: due to the highly variable nature of earspeakers, additional precautions need to be taken to ensure that the final measurement is at least representative of the typical operating conditions. This means that the MYSPHERE was measured other the following additional conditions (on top of the usual processes highlighted in my measurement procedure):
- Drivers are angled such that the centre of the driver sits at canal-level, and the drivers themselves are just barely in contact with the pinna. No significant deformation of the pinna should be observed.
- The right channel will be measured about 10 times, with the earspeaker removed and placed on the ear each time.
- Three (3) data points that are closest to each other will be selected. The average of the selected three will be set as a reference for the left channel.
- The left channel will be measured as many times as possible.
- Three (3) data points will be selected again, this time according to conformity to the reference established by the right channel. This is done so as to minimise the placement/angle variation between the right and left channel.
In essence, the measurement obtained is merely a guideline or rough estimate of what it would actually sound like on your head, at least moreso compared to measurements of traditional full-contact headphones. You may get more bass or less bass depending on the driver angle, or perhaps a different treble presentation depending on how it fits on your head. That said, this measurements is roughly how I hear the 3.2, so at the very least it’s relevant within the context of this article.
With that out of the way, onto the subjective impressions.
The 3.2 is certainly an… oddity. They don’t really have much competition in the earspeaker game (the only real commercial one available these days is the RAAL-requiste SR-1a, more on that later) so they gather interest by virtue of being unique and quirky in a hobby that some would consider as moving towards homogeneity.
But upon getting the opportunity to finally listen this unicorn, I must say that the dominating sensation is simply “underwhelmed”.
One could tell that MYSPHERE was going for a reference, neutral-ish tuning in the 3.2, much like the K1000 before it. That is the 3.2’s direction at least, but where it finally arrives is pretty far from neutrality in my own opinion. Probably the most offensive thing about the 3.2 is the vocals; very shouty and uncharacteristically in-your-face despite the earspeaker configuration. Interestingly enough the 3.2 is shouty whilst also being somewhat dark in its treble presentation (one may even consider it “smooth”), making for a double-whammy of contrasting tonalities.
Bass is the second thing that comes to attention, and for good reason: the original K1000 suuuucked at bass. So it’s only natural that people (like me) would expect that MYSPHERE would’ve improved on the very area that many criticised in its predecessor.
Well… the 3.2 does have better bass than the K1000 for sure, but only by virtue of the K1000 having basically none. The 3.2 leaps over the low bar but at the same time it would be a stretch to say the 3.2 has good bass, oh no. Oddly enough the 3.2 sounds like it clips specifically in the bass, and it’s almost obvious to hear the driver strain itself trying to reach into the sub-bass.
I mean, it tries. It doesn’t succeed, but it tries. The 3.2 doesn’t do sub-bass at all so don’t bother if you’re a rumble enthusiast like moi.
On the technical side, the 3.2 is decent but nothing excellent. Once you get past the wonky tonality you’d hear that it does resolve well, and of course the earspeaker configuration does wonders for its imaging capabilites owing to the wide illusion of space it presents. But as far as whether or not it could compete with current TOTLs in sheer detailing, even if we selectively exclude its horrendous bass? It doesn’t look good for the ‘sphere.
In comparison to the RAAL-requiste SR-1a, I would put the 3.2 a solid step down. Do note that my opinion of the SR-1a isn’t exactly marshmallows and rainbows either; I found the tonal balance too strident and the bass terrible, and so it doesn’t even break the “A” ranks despite the new tech and exotic design.
The 3.2 and SR-1a’s bass are pretty bad (again, in my opinion and all that) but in different directions. Interestingly, I perceive more bass out of the 3.2 than out of the SR-1a, but the 3.2 has the aforementioned clipping issue that makes me want to avoid any kind of music with notes below D2. The SR-1a’s bass on the other hand, sounds so one-note with so little texturing that I wonder if it’s even there in the first place.
The SR-1a also manages to outresolve the 3.2 rather handily, and with similar imaging capabilities. So if you were asking me over a casual cup of coffee, I’d pick the SR-1a over the 3.2. Of course that’s assuming that the requirements of a separate power amp isn’t a problem, and that price isn’t an issue, also if you don’t mind owning a headphone that looks like it were made of Lego pieces…
In short, the MYSPHERE 3.2 is certainly a compelling showpiece item with aesthetics that’s just pure eyecandy without being obscene. If we hear with our eyes, I’d give it a solid “S”.
But with my ears…
Overall Grade: B-
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