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Sonic Lamb Headphone with Subwoofer Review

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 40 38.1%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 53 50.5%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 12 11.4%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    105

amirm

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This is a review, detailed measurements and listening tests of Sonic Lamb wired/wireless noise cancelling (?) headphone with built-in "subwoofer." It is a kick-starter type of product which a member kindly drop shipped to me after waiting a year. It is currently on sale for $US 239.
Sonic Lamb Bluetooth Noise Cancelling subwoofer headphone review.jpg

As you see, the style is "applesque" white with very supple but somewhat small ear pads. I got a kick out of the box packaging:
Sonic Lamb Bluetooth Noise Cancelling subwoofer headphone packaging case review.jpg

It felt like you were opening a bird's nest!

So while first impressions were positive, it kind of went downhill from there. No manual was included and I could not find one online. An app is available but when I installed it on my Samsung S23 Ultra, its mandatory registration was buggy. I got past that only to be greeted with a gray, blank screen. I believe it allows custom EQ developing using it and if so, that could be great.

There is no charge indication on the unit. I plugged in a USB-C cable and it just showed an orange indicator. There are no voice prompts either. It would make a sound or two at times.

The buttons sans the bass level (see below) were springy with no tactile feedback. The Plus and Minus keys seem to default to transport control (skip back/forward) and did not change the volume as I wanted. I had to use Windows volume control setting to manage that which was not convenient.

The claim to fame is an auxiliary, tactile driver. There is a nice rotary control that steps through four levels of subwoofer drive levels. Strangely, it takes a couple of seconds to take effect, again with no indication. If you could program each setting to a different EQ, it would be a killer feature.

Company shows some measurements while indicating that they could not measure the tactile driver's response with their HATS. Strangely, they go on to show such a measurement. I am not clear if the "Impulse Driver" is truly tactile and hence cannot be measured. See below on my thoughts on this.

The Audio Precision "Chirp" signal testing can act strange when interfacing with digital sources. I had to play with it a lot to get what looked to be reliable measurement. But some doubt remains in my mind as to whether it is working 100% right.

Sonic Lamb Headphone Measurements
Before getting started, I had to play with the wheel to measure its effect:
Sonic Lamb Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Bass Level Measurements.png


I am only showing one channel to make the graph clearer. As you see, there are four levels but two seemed to be the same (but maybe i didn't wait long enough for it take effect).

I set the wheel to lowest level (green above) and tested that way from here on:
Sonic Lamb Bluetooth Noise Cancelling frequency response Measurements.png


Response above bass more or less tracks our target. Per intro, I am not sure if the waviness is due to measurement error or is really the response of the headphone.

Seems like they are exaggerating the response below 100 Hz. Response drops substantially below 80 Hz though. Is that a measurement error or actual response? See listening test section for my thoughts on this.

Distortion response is good at 94 dBSPL but there are some resonances:
Sonic Lamb Bluetooth Noise Cancelling THD percentage Measurements.png


Here it is in absolute level:
Sonic Lamb Bluetooth Noise Cancelling THD Measurements.png


I was pleasantly surprised that I could get the headphone up to 114 dBSPL. Typical wireless headphone struggles to get that loud. Yet, I was there with 4 dB left as far as input level.

Group delay shows 100 millisecond latency which I would imagine would rule it out for gaming contrary to company positioning:
Sonic Lamb Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Group Delay Measurements.png


Sonic Lamb Headphone Listening Tests
I listened to the headphone before and after measurements. Initial impression both ways was very good sound above bass level. Bass response was strong if you set it to anything above minimum. The experience is very different than headphones with strong bass response is that you can get that at very low listening levels with Sonic Lamb.

Bass response is surprisingly clean even when you boost it to max. Yes, anything above 2nd notch becomes too much but at the same time, can be quite fun! The knob lets you adjust per track.

Here was the surprise: sub-bass reproduction was quite weak! My reference track for this was quite unsatisfying in that regard with faint response in that region. This tells me that my measurement is correct in that there is not much output below 50 Hz. Bass notes above though would come in with level of authority that was again, quite fun with the right content. Bass string notes for example had a level of impact that was uncanny.

Back to overall response, if you kept the dial at minimum, the sound was good to my ears. I did not attempt to EQ for that reason and the fact that I don't fully trust the measurements.

Note that the company measurements show bass response going all the way down which is in conflict with my measurements and listening tests.

Conclusions

Let's start with the obvious: the software side is clearly unfinished and needs work ASAP. Not having documentation is really poor form, adding to this problem. If the app can let you easily create EQ profiles and assign them to different clicks on the wheel, they would have a winner on their hand as no other headphone I know of lets you select five different settings on demand to match your content/mood.

Overall tonality both measured and listened to, seems alright. The "Impulse Driver" seems to have a narrow response that doesn't extend to sub-bass. This is unfortunate as I expected it to fill in that area. But there is "something" here that could be better optimized in the way it creates good and clean bass at low listening levels.

I am not going to recommend the Sonic Lamb headphone until they deliver a proper, working app. But overall, I admire them trying to innovate and produce a unique product. It is something to try and get to know.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

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amirm

amirm

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Reserved for @AdamG to kindly post the specs.

I tried my best to squeeze out some type of Specs and mostly failed to find anything that we are use to getting. So I improvised and below I present the best information I could find that kinda sorta maybe fits. You be the judge: (lack of clearly stated specs is not a good sign)

IMG_0657.jpeg
 
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Somafunk

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Certainly unusual but if they can fix the app and include preset eq through the dial then it’d be quite good
 

Blumlein 88

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Shouldn't they have named this Sonic Slam?

I like the idea, neat if it is worked out. Kind of strange when you listen to headphone with your sub on. Not quite as weird as when I used to use my Stax Lamda's at one end of a long room and play my Acoustats at the other. Added spaciousness to the sound. This is a portable solution.
 

MikeO

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Panasonic had tactile headphones in the 1996-1998-ish called the "Shockwave". They were bought with the discman at the time - it was about $250 for the discman and the headphones. I used to like the effect as a teenager. It was fun feeling those things pulsing against my ears. I forgot what they were called... They came in Yellow, Blue, or Black (both discman and headphones).

So, while this isn't a new idea, I welcome this product and hope they iron out their rollout. Shockwave headphones were cool as I was listening to a lot of Nine Inch Nails/alt rock/'90s Dance and am surprised it's taken almost 30 years for a follow up from another company!

The headphones look nice as does the packaging.

https://www.reddit.com/r/nostalgia/comments/iro0pi
 
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Maiky76

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Not a new concept:
just from the top of my head:


Here are some thoughts about the EQ.
Please report your findings, positive or negative!

Notes about the EQ design:
  • The average L/R is used to calculate the score.
  • The resolution is 12 points per octave interpolated from the raw data (provided by @amirm)
  • A Genetic Algorithm is used to optimize the EQ.
  • The EQ Score is designed to MAXIMIZE the Score WHILE fitting the Harman target curve (and other constrains) with a fixed complexity.
    This will avoid weird results if one only optimizes for the Score, start your journey here or there.
    There is a presentation by S. Olive here.
    It will probably flatten the Error regression doing so, the tonal balance should be therefore more neutral.
  • The EQs are starting point and may require tuning (certainly at LF and maybe at HF).
  • The range around and above 10kHz is usually not EQed unless smooth enough to do so.
  • I am using PEQ (PK) as from my experience the definition is more consistent across different DSP/platform implementations than shelves.
  • With some HP/amp combo, the boosts and preamp gain (loss of Dynamic range) need to be carefully considered to avoid issues with, amongst other things, too low a Max SPL or damaging your device. You have beed warned.
  • Not all units of the same product are made equal. The EQ is based on the measurements of a single unit. YMMV with regard to the very unit you are trying this EQ on.
  • I sometimes use variations of the Harman curve for some reasons. See rational here and here
  • NOTE: the score then calculated is not comparable to the scores derived from the default Harman target curve if not otherwise noted.
Not great L/R match.

I have generated one EQ, the APO config file is attached.
I am not sure about the LF due to the doubts voiced by Amirm regarding its measurements.

Score no EQ: 70.9
Score with EQ: 96.6

Code:
Sonic Lamb EQ Flat 96000Hz
April232024-112213

Preamp: -9.7 dB

Filter 1: ON PK Fc 36.48 Hz Gain 10 dB Q 0.45
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 74.57 Hz Gain -8.06 dB Q 5.21
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 239.24 Hz Gain -3.05 dB Q 0.61
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 1509.13 Hz Gain 2.76 dB Q 4.26
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 2332.77 Hz Gain -7.97 dB Q 1.37
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 2236.17 Hz Gain 6.9 dB Q 1.37
Filter 7: ON PK Fc 3310.32 Hz Gain 4.58 dB Q 4.39
Filter 8: ON PK Fc 7500 Hz Gain 2.4 dB Q 2.37
Filter 9: ON PK Fc 8455.57 Hz Gain -5.09 dB Q 5.88

Sonic Lamb EQ Flat 96000Hz.png


Actually, one less biquad works even better:
Code:
Sonic Lamb APO Score EQ redux Flat@HF 96000Hz
April232024-114238

Preamp: -9.7 dB

Filter 1: ON PK Fc 36.48 Hz Gain 10.00 dB Q 0.45
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 74.44 Hz Gain -8.06 dB Q 5.21
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 235.87 Hz Gain -3.05 dB Q 0.61
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 1533.88 Hz Gain 3.36 dB Q 3.51
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 2612.66 Hz Gain -1.50 dB Q 1.12
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 3307.82 Hz Gain 4.83 dB Q 4.39
Filter 7: ON PK Fc 7500.00 Hz Gain 2.40 dB Q 2.32

Sonic Lamb APO Score EQ redux Flat@HF 96000Hz.png
 

Attachments

  • Sonic Lamb EQ Flat 96000Hz.txt
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  • Sonic Lamb APO Score EQ redux Flat@HF 96000Hz.txt
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The unfortunate shortcomings in the bass and latency are what makes me glad a place exists for empirical testing. There’s hardly anything worse than a product that differs from the advertisement. I hope they can iron out these issues.

Thanks Amir and the person who shipped them.
 
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Panasonic had tactile headphones in the 1996-1998-ish called the "Shockwave". They were bought with the discman at the time - it was about $250 for the discman and the headphones. I used to like the effect as a teenager. It was fun feeling those things pulsing against my ears. I forgot what they were called... They came in Yellow, Blue, or Black (both discman and headphones).

So, while this isn't a new idea, I welcome this product and hope they iron out their rollout. Shockwave headphones were cool as I was listening to a lot of Nine Inch Nails/alt rock/'90s Dance and am surprised it's taken almost 30 years for a follow up from another company!

The headphones look nice as does the packaging.

https://www.reddit.com/r/nostalgia/comments/iro0pi

That brings back memories as a kid. I saved up while mowing lawns and bought the RWSW99V tape player with the earphones having the tactile driver that rested at the back of the neck. It was driven by its own amplifier channel using an interesting proprietary plug that still accepted normal 3.5mm headphones as well. I think it was tuned to the 30Hz region, just going by memory.
 

pavuol

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So they fitted motorized "immersion" seats in this "personal cinema" but forgot to install sonic subwoofers? I'd probably go opposite, like JBL 710 BT measured by solderdude, with measurable subbass..

At the same time, I understand it may be of some appeal for gamers, here I see potential target audience.

[No lamb killed during making of this review. Wait, maybe injured.. probably a bit.]
 

solderdude

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As @Maiky76 already mentioned ... not a new invention (2016):


and the newer model (review shows picture of the haptic transducer):

 

johnnyx

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I wonder how much the low bass response is limited by the electronics, because a big electrolytic coupling cap is - well - big, and there isn't much room in there.

This was a problem with the usual "Walkman" that I used to see. Single supply rail battery power mandates an output coupling cap, and restricted space led to a value that was too small for good low bass response. Even in models with bass-boost.
 
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amirm

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No treble above 16K. Typical AAC Bluetooth performance
Measurement stops at 16K. Connection is over USB so no Bluetooth is involved (it acts as a DAC).
 

anphex

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So they had the possibility of DSP linearization and it turned out even worse than an average passive headphone for this price range? Huge missed opportunity. :(

Also what's up with that straw in the casing. It's one of the most annoying things to dispose of. :D
 

pavuol

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So they had the possibility of DSP linearization and it turned out even worse than an average passive headphone for this price range? Huge missed opportunity. :(

Also what's up with that straw in the casing. It's one of the most annoying things to dispose of. :D
From what they write at its indiegogo product page I get more of an impression they cut off the lowend of the dynamic driver completely so to not interfere with the impulse driver. Turns out our reviewer have some low conducting bones or something as he didnt't enjoy reference track. We need more samples of subjective evaluation, specifically by people with "reference" bones ;)
 
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