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Nectar Hive Review (Electrostatic Headphones)

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 19 19.2%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 48 48.5%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 23 23.2%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 9 9.1%

  • Total voters
    99

Garrincha

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Once more, it is the nature of deviation which is important. And lack of dynamic range/bass. If you are not understanding this, then I have nothing else to tell you.
Amir, I respect your work a lot and am very pleased with the quantitative, scientific approach of ASR. If you had written something like, the FR is not worse as in other headphones I recommended but overall this one leaves a bad feeling, than I could have followed you, but you gave a negative judgement with the FR as argument, which is not worse as in many other cases. Furthermore as far as I have understood, you are not sure of the origin of the resonances, or if it even are resonances, so it is hard to make an argument from that.
 

Doodski

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For example, FR response is just loudness at different frequencies. It cannot tell quality of sound at given frequency.
The frequency response indicates the magnitude of the varying slope in a graphical format. The frequency can be calculated from the slope and the slope from the frequency. In this case these are instantaneous values that describe the waveform at the resolution of the measuring gear. All AC waveforms can be stated as instantaneous values of sine waves to the resolution capability of the test gear or what is calculated. In the terms of sine waves which is what musical waveforms are made of they have been evaluated this way for hundreds of years. This is not a new science and the math is established and proven. So what I am saying is a bandwidth of 20Hz to 20kHz is in fact low frequency energy in the grand scheme of what science deals with and the math has been established for centuries and evaluating it is not out of the realm of science today. People use the Complex Numbering System and Fourier Transform Theorem to analyze down to the thousandths or millionths of a second or even more resolution sometimes if the calculations need to be done that way. So the test gear measuring the frequency response is basically showing at instantaneous points in time what slope and sine wave frequency that waveform is comprised of. This is all about sine waves (Even though the frequency response graph does not look like sine waves.) and the frequency response tells us about the waveform and how the device under test handles those sine waves. There is no missing science in this case as all has been described by math in great detail and resolution and the measuring gear is more than capable of measuring this energy. There is no voodo magic or unknown science. There is no missing quality of energy or this sort of idea. If the frequency response where flat in the graph then the energy would be equal in magnitude at all sine wave frequencies in the bandwidth and the sound would be, "Flat." The frequency response graph does tell us all about the sound quality or lack of it.
 
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africanus

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Regarding the amplifier issue, I own a Nectarsound Pollinator which shares the same driver with the original Hive. The Pollinator shows an audible hiss when paired with the Stax SRM-D50 but it is dead silent with the Kingsound M-10, the only electrostatic amplifiers I have.

None of the other electrostatic headphones I own (Kingsound H02, H03, H04, Stax SR-007 MKII, Stax L300) hiss with either of those amplifiers. I am not sure what is the problem but I suspect it could be related to the output voltage of the amplifier.

FWIW
 

Moderate Dionysianism

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I visit ASR almost every day and I have conscously ignored the review polls ever since they were introduced. I never even peek at the results. Reading justifications behind some of the votes only confirms it was a good decision:) Maybe if the polls were only available to the 'members with doctorates'... (in acoustics/EE-related fields ofc - couldn't care less about a professor of law's opinion on an amp lol). Seriously, I consider internet polls as much cancer as call-in radio shows. It does leave an impression of ASR sitting on the fence despite repeatedly claiming objectivist allegiance.

The argument about 'not disadvantaging bigger companies' is ridiculous imho. There are dozens of threads with whining about how respected mfrs are closing shop, brands are being bought by investment funds, and generally everything comes from a handful of factories, only with different labels slapped on the front. ASR gives off a vibe of mission to induce change. Isn't change needed here?

Kudos to @nectarsoundnet for providing insights in an informative, non-combative form. Sadly, I don't expect this to result in any sort of re-evaluation of the product.
 
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Miiksuli

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Regarding the amplifier issue, I own a Nectarsound Pollinator which shares the same driver with the original Hive. The Pollinator shows an audible hiss when paired with the Stax SRM-D50 but it is dead silent with the Kingsound M-10, the only electrostatic amplifiers I have.

None of the other electrostatic headphones I own (Kingsound H02, H03, H04, Stax SR-007 MKII, Stax L300) hiss with either of those amplifiers. I am not sure what is the problem but I suspect it could be related to the output voltage of the amplifier.

FWIW
That is weird. I don't have any hiss when paired Hive with the Muzishare X7. Even I know that amp has audible hiss when using "normal" headphones. Did u ask Stax about it? They could have the answer or not.
 

africanus

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That is weird. I don't have any hiss when paired Hive with the Muzishare X7. Even I know that amp has audible hiss when using "normal" headphones. Did u ask Stax about it? They could have the answer or not.

Since the other headphones do not have any hiss driven from the Stax, we can safely discard the SRM-D50 being faulty. What I guess is that, for any reason, the Pollinator does not react well to that amplifier's output voltage. Since I am not an EE nor do I have any measurement equipment, this is only a layman's hypothesis. Hence, I would like to see the Hive measured with another amplifier to check whether or not my assumption is correct.
 

OkPsychology

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If you uses sharp enough EQ filters (high Q) then it's possible to EQ out those peaks - however you can't guarantee those peaks will be in exactly the same place for each person that uses the headphone, so it's possible that narrow EQ filters could miss the peaks in the headphone when worn on someone else's head, in which case such sharp EQ would actually have a negative influence - which is a good argument for a headphone having a smooth frequency response as one of it's design targets. Also I noticed that Amir is not using the stock pads, but that apparently the pads will be changing on the manufactured versions of this product anyway (see following quote in small text), so that is highly likely to alter the frequency response in some way thereby making this review and it's associated EQ less accurate:
"The headphone as tested came with the upgraded sheepskin pads. I am told the company has moved away from the stock pad that is supplied with these anyway."
So regarding the sharp peaks it makes it harder/less likely to be able to properly/accurately correct for those peaks when you wear the headphone - therefore in such situations where headphones have similar difficult to correct peaks & troughs then in my book they can be marked down for that. To be honest though, I think I have seen Amir recommend some headphones in the past that have had quite large and narrow peaks & dips in the treble, so there could be some inconsistency going on there - but I would have to go back through some of the headphone reviews to see if Amir recommended any headphones that displayed similar frequency response peaks/dips, but don't have time for that before work. (The impact of the frequency response graph will be influenced by Amir's listening test though, otherwise they'd be no point in him listening to them).
For clarification, Amir measured the headphones with the sheepskin pads that are now the stock pad. I purchased this headphone last year when the pads were made from a protein leather, but then upgraded them to the sheepskin myself. If you were to buy a HiveX today, you'd receive the pads that were tested here. That said, I am sort of curious to see measurements for the older, pleather pads too.

And since we've waded into more subjective waters here, I'll offer my opinion of these cans. I currently have a stable of fairly high-end headphones (HEKv2, Verite Open, Z1R, STAX 007mkII, HE6-O'rama, Aurorus Borealis, DCA Aeon 2C, to name a few), and have gotten rid of some other equally impressive (read: expensive) cans over the last few years (HD800S, LCD-4, LCD-X, Arya, STAX L300 Ltd, Focal Clear, etc). Anyway, this isn't meant to be a dick-measuring comment, and in some respects I'm embarrassed to admit how much cash I've thrown at this hobby, but I've heard a lot of headphones that are widely acclaimed and of decent repute. Take it FWIW, but I think the Hive is bested only by the 007 in the aforementioned list. I find it to be along the lines of the (admittedly bright sounding) HEKv2 in terms of instrument separation, layering, soundstage, imaging, tonality and timbre. It is a very impressive technical performer, IMO.

I'm willing to take a few slings and arrows here by the hard-core objectivists that will assert that these terms "have no meaning" because you can't point to their manifestations on a graph, and that's cool. But for the folks that might... just might... be interested in hearing the Hive before making a snap judgement about it, I invite you to do so. If you think it sucks, then don't heckin' buy it. Nobody's opinion of any headphone is more or less valid than anybody else's, whether backed by a graph or their subjective evaluation.

Oh, and one more thing. I saw that the Verum One was recommended here, and the point was raised that it didn't really conform to the target all that well without EQ, yadda yadda. I think this illustrates my point pretty well, actually. How many of you have heard the Verum? I owned it for a while, and actually thought it was a pretty good headphone on the whole, and a fantastic value. As with a lot of these grass-roots, independent makers I really applaud the effort and try to support them where possible. The Verum has impressive bass response, pretty lush midrange, and sounds pretty detailed. It also has the narrowest soundstage I've ever heard in any headphone. It couldn't have sounded any more "inside your head". It was for this reason that I got rid of it. I'm just curious how many people might have smashed that golfing panther button in response to their interpretation of the graph, but wouldn't be able to listen to it because of this one inconvenient attribute?
 

Miiksuli

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Since the other headphones do not have any hiss driven from the Stax, we can safely discard the SRM-D50 being faulty. What I guess is that, for any reason, the Pollinator does not react well to that amplifier's output voltage. Since I am not an EE nor do I have any measurement equipment, this is only a layman's hypothesis. Hence, I would like to see the Hive measured with another amplifier to check whether or not my assumption is correct.
Now I remember. I had a slight hiss when I started to use Pro iESL. I first used a higher impedance setting and then lowered it to 16 Ohm and I got rid of all the hiss. I think your Stax amp has a high impedance and causes that annoying hiss. Not 100% sure if it's your setup problem.
 

Garrincha

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The frequency response indicates the magnitude of the varying slope in a graphical format. The frequency can be calculated from the slope and the slope from the frequency. In this case these are instantaneous values that describe the waveform at the resolution of the measuring gear. All AC waveforms can be stated as instantaneous values of sine waves to the resolution capability of the test gear or what is calculated. In the terms of sine waves which is what musical waveforms are made of they have been evaluated this way for hundreds of years. This is not a new science and the math is established and proven. So what I am saying is a bandwidth of 20Hz to 20kHz is in fact low frequency energy in the grand scheme of what science deals with and the math has been established for centuries and evaluating it is not out of the realm of science today. People use the Complex Numbering System and Fourier Transform Theorem to analyze down to the thousandths or millionths of a second or even more resolution sometimes if the calculations need to be done that way. So the test gear measuring the frequency response is basically showing at instantaneous points in time what slope and sine wave frequency that waveform is comprised of. This is all about sine waves (Even though the frequency response graph does not look like sine waves.) and the frequency response tells us about the waveform and how the device under test handles those sine waves. There is no missing science in this case as all has been described by math in great detail and resolution and the measuring gear is more than capable of measuring this energy. There is no voodo magic or unknown science. There is no missing quality of energy or this sort of idea. If the frequency response where flat in the graph then the energy would be equal in magnitude at all sine wave frequencies in the bandwidth and the sound would be, "Flat." The frequency response graph does tell us all about the sound quality or lack of it.
This is all true. But for headphones the question remains, is the conjunction of frequency response and distortion really delivering the whole picture of their sound or not and if the "subjectivist" terms like speed, resolution, slam, imaging, soundstage etc. describe something real that exists and if so, if they can be measured.
 
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Doodski

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But for headphones the question remains, does the conjunction of frequency response and distortion are really delivering the whole picture of their sound or not
The "picture" is being delivered less the THD that affects the, "picture." As we know in some cases the THD affects the signal more so or less so and we prefer less THD. The majority (Almost all of the signal is retained in it's original form.) of the picture is being delivered when using reasonably good equipment to very good equipment.

"subjectivist" terms like speed, resolution, slam, imaging, soundstage etc. describe something real that exists and if so, if they can be measured.
Speed is related to a frequency range that creates the illusion of speed.
Resolution is again related to a frequency range that makes the sound as if resolving and tight.
Slam is usually mid bass and bass ranges combined to make for a nice thump/slam.
Imaging is generally in the mids and high frequencies.
Soundstage is the same as imaging.

They have been measured in the frequency response graph. It's all in the frequency response. They can be measured and calculated as I explained before in post # 102.
 

OkPsychology

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This is all true. But for headphones the question remains, does the conjunction of frequency response and distortion are really delivering the whole picture of their sound or not and if the "subjectivist" terms like speed, resolution, slam, imaging, soundstage etc. describe something real that exists and if so, if they can be measured.
Yeah. I'm with you. And I don't think anybody who's not bullshitting themselves can answer this question authoritatively. I always think the concept of soundstage is probably the best example of this, but I do think it pertains to the perception of "speed", "detail-retrieval" and other audiophile terms that seem to irk strict objectivists so much. If I showed somebody 2 FR graphs for 2 random headphones that more or less adhere to some target (within reasonable limits) without any further identifying information, do you think anybody could reliably tell which one had a larger sense of "spaciousness" or "width", or what is generally referred to as "soundstage"? Of course not. And yes, I do think this information is baked into the graph, for sure. But to my mind it's a bit like one-way encryption, just because that information is encapsulated in the FR, doesn't mean we have the ability to simply look at the graph and interpolate those "qualia" from it.
 

Doodski

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@Garrincha here is a graph of the musical instruments corresponding to frequency. With the combinations of musical instruments all the effects that you describe can be recreated. There is a graphical form of frequency versus slam, bass, snap, sharp etc etc but I don't have it. Perhaps one of the peeps here @ ASR has that graph and can post it?
zzzzzzzzzzz.png

zzzzzzzzzzzzz.png
 

Doodski

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Yeah. I'm with you. And I don't think anybody who's not bullshitting themselves can answer this question authoritatively. I always think the concept of soundstage is probably the best example of this, but I do think it pertains to the perception of "speed", "detail-retrieval" and other audiophile terms that seem to irk strict objectivists so much. If I showed somebody 2 FR graphs for 2 random headphones that more or less adhere to some target (within reasonable limits) without any further identifying information, do you think anybody could reliably tell which one had a larger sense of "spaciousness" or "width", or what is generally referred to as "soundstage"? Of course not. And yes, I do think this information is baked into the graph, for sure. But to my mind it's a bit like one-way encryption, just because that information is encapsulated in the FR, doesn't mean we have the ability to simply look at the graph and interpolate those "qualia" from it.
The sense of spaciousness and width depends on which combination of instruments or sounds are being played back. Yes, if 2 frequency response graphs are very close in form then determining which has spaciousness would be tricky to difficult but if there are obvious differences in the graph one can reasonably determine which one will image better or worse. Because the imaging is derived from the mid frequencies to middle high frequencies if the graph shows a deficiency in those ranges or exaggeration then the imaging can be extrapolated in a general sense. A good example of poor imaging would be a paper cone tweeter. That tweeter would have poor dispersion but also poor high and mid frequency response and that would be indicated in the frequency response graph for that speaker.
 

Garrincha

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The "picture" is being delivered less the THD that affects the, "picture." As we know in some cases the THD affects the signal more so or less so and we prefer less THD. The majority (Almost all of the signal is retained in it's original form.) of the picture is being delivered when using reasonably good equipment to very good equipment.


Speed is related to a frequency range that creates the illusion of speed.
Resolution is again related to a frequency range that makes the sound as if resolving and tight.
Slam is usually mid bass and bass ranges combined to make for a nice thump/slam.
Imaging is generally in the mids and high frequencies.
Soundstage is the same as imaging.

They have been measured in the frequency response graph. It's all in the frequency response. They can be measured and calculated as I explained before in post # 102.
How exactly do you know that all these sound characteristics are completely determined by the FR? Up to now it is just a claim by you. Furthermore, I can have 2 headphones with identical FR, but one having a very sluggish driver. Shouldn´t make this a difference in the perceived sound?
 
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Garrincha

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@Garrincha here is a graph of the musical instruments corresponding to frequency. With the combinations of musical instruments all the effects that you describe can be recreated. There is a graphical form of frequency versus slam, bass, snap, sharp etc etc but I don't have it. Perhaps one of the peeps here @ ASR has that graph and can post it?
View attachment 214270
View attachment 214271
Nice, yet it does not answer any of the posed question. Different instruments have different frequencies and harmonics. That is correct. So? What does this tell about the perceived soundstage of a headphone and how it is related to the FR? Even Amir does not deny the existence of different spatial effects of headphones, nor does Sean Olive, by the way. So if they are completely determined by the FR, how exactly?
 

Doodski

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How exactly do you know that all these sound characteristics are completely determined by the FR?
I know from years of experience, from a education in electronics and frequency analysis and from other peeps that are far more well educated than I.
Up to now it is just a claim by you?
It is not a claim and I am not making this up.
Furthermore, I can have 2 headphones with identical FR, but one having a very sluggish driver. Shouldn´t make this a difference in the perceived sound?
Yes, of course it will make the sound different although that will be indicated in the frequency response graph as a deficiency in certain frequencies.
 

OkPsychology

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The sense of spaciousness and width depends on which combination of instruments or sounds are being played back. Yes, if 2 frequency response graphs are very close in form then determining which has spaciousness would be tricky to difficult but if there are obvious differences in the graph one can reasonably determine which one will image better or worse. Because the imaging is derived from the mid frequencies to middle high frequencies if the graph shows a deficiency in those ranges or exaggeration then the imaging can be extrapolated in a general sense. A good example of poor imaging would be a paper cone tweeter. That tweeter would have poor dispersion but also poor high and mid frequency response and that would be indicated in the frequency response graph for that speaker.
Totally agree that big differences in FR would generally be a dead giveaway as to which sounded more "open", "tall" or "wide". But that's kind of the point I'm getting at. 2 headphones that have near-ideal adherence to target can still sound quite different with respect to soundstage. Also, only tangentially related to this discussion, I think it's curious that you use soundstage and imaging interchangeably, as I consider these 2 things to be completely different attributes of a transducer's ability to reproduce audio signals.
 

Garrincha

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I know from years of experience, from a education in electronics and frequency analysis and from other peeps that are far more well educated than I.

It is not a claim and I am not making this up.
Could you please point out a peer reviewed source where it is demonstrated that FR is the only determining factor of the sound of a headphone?
 

Doodski

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Nice, yet it does not answer any of the posed question. Different instruments have different frequencies and harmonics. That is correct. So? What does this tell about the perceived soundstage of a headphone and how it is related to the FR? Even Amir does not deny the existence of different spatial effects of headphones, nor does Sean Olive, by the way. So if they are completely determined by the FR, how exactly?
We are getting into psychoacoustics, acoustics versus frequency analysis. I am not educated in these subject matters (psychoacoustics, acoustics) to explain to you "exactly" how this occurs. What I can tell you is if the frequency response is "off/changed" by the gear then you are not hearing the same as it was recorded. Then we get into the fact that different recording studios use different speakers and rooms and have different mic's and all sound different and people like to EQ/PEQ their sound too to the liking of their ears. So it becomes irrelevant for some people because they tune by ear and others tune by a frequency response curve
 
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