Apos Audio's First Headphone: the Caspian!
Updated: Apr 24, 2022
Hi all, and welcome back to The Neighborhood. After getting some positive reviews by other reviewers, I was pretty excited to get the Caspian in the house for review from Apos Audio. In this case, Apos is not only the seller but also the manufacturer. So how did Apos do with their first headphone? Let’s get InToit!
Build wise, I like a lot of what Apos has chosen to do here. First of all, one should note that this headphone was conceived in collaboration with the headphone maker, Kennerton Audio, and as such, Apos has chosen to mirror some of Kennerton’s design choices. In fact, I’d say that this headphone is somewhat of a Frankenstein- being made up of a number of the parts of others. More specifically, the Caspian uses a 50 mm Kennerton driver, a balanced, dual XLR connection, and has oak, opened-back, wood cups like many of the Kennerton cans. But, unlike Kennerton headphones, Apos has chosen to go with an oval, ear-shaped design, rather than a round one. The headband is also different from other Kennertons, and instead resembles more the headband from a Berydynamic DT Series headphone with additional padding up top. While I like this headband from a comfort perspective, I wish that Apos would have used the same material as the earpads, as the material used in the headband is noticeably cheaper, and although it claims to be leather, it is definitely not as supple as the leather found on the ear cushions.
In terms of the ear pads themselves, these are some of my favorites. The material is soft to the touch and feels luxurious on my skin. If I could buy these pads separately for all my headphones, if only from a fit and feel perspective, I would. The overall clamp is not intense, but these do feel bulkier on the head than they do in the hand. While they are somewhat lightweight, they are also something that is a bit ridged, which does wear a bit on my neck over the course of longer listening sessions. Some additional swivel or play in the yolks would have been appreciate.
These also come with a nice min-XLR to quarter inch cable that decently thick and covered in a black cloth material. It’s somewhat floppy, but is not prone to memory, and reminds me a lot of the nondetachable cables used in the E-MU Teaks or early generation Fostex headphones, but unlike those sets, this cable is detachable here. A leather carrying bag is also included in the package here. While this is a nice thought, it looks like a camcorder bag from the 1980’s, and is rather large, bulky, and devoid of any style.
The sound of the Caspian was somewhat unexpected. Note thickness varied with amplification, but this is a warm, dense, lush and somewhat bassy sounding headphone at its core. For a single dynamic, there’s a decent amount of sub-bass here, with a sub-bass emphasis to the overall bass response general. It’s not quite the low-end of the Focal Elex, but its leaning in that direction. And while its bass does penetrate the overall mix to a small degree, the bottom-end was mostly contained within the lower regions of the frequency response.
The mid-range response on the Caspian is varied and uneven- with certain middle portions of the frequency response sounding more scooped or shallow than earlier or later regions. Vocals were affected by this inconsistency in the frequency response, and although male vocals could sound full and forward enough at times, male vocals, especially those with a leaner presentation them, often sounded pushed back into the mix. In contrast, female vocals often came across as pushed too far forward at times, with certain, sharper female vocalists becoming overly dominant in the presentation. Guitar licks showed similar inconsistencies, as some licks normally in the background pushed their way forward with the Caspian, while others normally in the foreground faded more into the backdrop- leaving one’s ears stretching to hear.
Still, the treble response of the Caspian’s was perhaps this headphone’s greatest struggle. The Caspian is dark, both in its tonality and in the traditional sense- meaning that the treble here lacks any real semblance of air, sparkle, or brilliance, and it just kind of comes across as flat to the listener. There’s also a definite, but slight veil here which begins in the mid-range and worsens in the treble. And while I know this is a dynamic set and not a planar magnetic one, the overall frequency response of the Caspian still kind of reminds me of something like an Audeze LCD-2 Classic. So, there might be a market here for the sonic profile of this kind of headphone even if the tonality of the Caspian isn’t exactly this reviewers cup of tea.
Still, when listening to this headphone, I can’t help but think the Caspian could have turned out more to my liking if some different design choices were made upfront. For example, the choice of oak wood ear cups strikes me as a curious one. Oak tends to be a rather dense would, and, generally speaking, with greater density comes a darker sound signature. And, although I love the look and feel of these leather sheepskin earpads (seriously, these may be some of my favorites, ever), they also likely contribute to the Caspian’s darkened tones as well. To me, perforated sheepskin earpads and a less dense wood for the earcups would have been a better choice from an auditory perspective. Such alternative choices could allow the Caspian some much needed breathing room, that is, if Apos were ever to consider a refresh.
Speaking of needing breathing room, adjustments such as this might also improve the staging of the Caspian, as although the Caspian is an open back headphone, it surely doesn’t sound like it. Instead with the Caspian, one gets a rather intimate presentation, with a stage that is more analogous to Sennheiser HD600 series than anything else. And like some have complained about with the Sennheiser HD600 series, I found the Caspian to also display imaging that was rather blob-like as well. Furthermore, these images also tended to blur from blob to blob, and weren’t really what I would call precise. This resulted in a somewhat hazy image as things tracked from left to right. Resolution, clarity, and detailing capabilities were also more akin to headphones in the $200-300 dollar price range than it was to the Caspian’s price-point at around $500 dollars at the time of this review. So, needless to say, the Caspian isn’t really a technical headphone in its stylings, and although a headphone doesn’t have to be technical for this reviewer to enjoy it, the Caspian just had too many other flaws in addition for me to overlook its technicalities otherwise. Still, other reviewers seem to be willing to give this headphone more of a pass than I am, so your mileage could vary from an enjoyment perspective.
It’s also always possible that the Caspian just didn’t mesh well with the gear I had in house at the time of this review. For me the best experience I had with the Caspian came when it was driven by the Dark Voice 336 with a Japanese Raytheon pre-amp tube installed in combination with my Gold Note DS-10 Plus as the source. This pairing opened up the Caspian a bit, and surprisingly, removed some of the haze and veil, but this increase in capability also came at the cost of some bottom-end; which was somewhat of a shame, as the bottom-end of the Caspian is really its best characteristic overall. Still, the Caspian’s presentation did vary from amplifier to amplifier, and as such, there might be better matches out there.
To wrap things up, the Caspian is a slightly overpriced, decent first attempt at a headphone by Apos Audio. Still, is it a headphone you should invest in? At its current price of $500, my answer for most audiophiles will be “no,” that is unless they’re after a darker, lusher sounding set in particular- one which sacrifices technicalities for that peculiar brand of enjoyment. But hey, the Caspian’s could certainly compete better at a lower price point, and Apos could certainly save some cash by ditching the large, kind-of-dorky, unnecessary, carrying case that comes with this set. That notwithstanding, those who do choose to invest in the Caspian will almost assuredly benefit from having an additional willingness to experiment with amplification and sourcing in order to find the best possible sonic match for this headphone, as it was somewhat source dependent overall. And, who knows, maybe they will have better luck with this headphone than I did?
But, with that said, Apos Audio has generally been rather supportive of this channel, and no matter what I think of the Caspian, I appreciate them for their kindness, effort, and love of audio. So, if the Caspian’s sound signature sounds like your cup of tea, or if you wish to pick up another item that Apos Audio sells, go ahead and use my affiliate link, which I’ll share in the description below. Using that link let’s Apos know that you support this channel, and all the hard work that I do here to bring you guys detailed and accurate reviews with a fresh perspective.
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*Thanks to Apos Audio for sending in the Caspian for review (affiliate link): https://apos.audio/?sca_ref=654128.h9mNwPZr9M
Apos Audio Caspian: https://apos.audio/products/apos-caspian-headphone
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