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Speaker amp advice for driving TakeT H2


catscratch
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Gents,

So, I bought into the H2 hype and have a shiny new one lying around. The thing is, it sounds like garbage out of my garbage gear. I am guessing that it's just being honest and revealing, so I will give it a chance with something decent behind it. At the moment, though, I have NO bloody clue as to what that something decent should be. I am also disadvantaged by not having bottomless pockets. So, I figured I'd ask your penultimate wisdom since head-fi hasn't produced anything satisfactory.

I need a speaker amp. It has got to put out 10wpc minimum into a 16 ohm load, which is what the transformer box is (I think? Well scratch that, I don't think). It needs to be neutral, since what I'm hearing is that the H2 has a rather neutral tonal balance but amplifies signal path defects considerably. It should be smooth, and it should be resolving, since the H2 does sound like it has the potential to be incredibly detailed, and incredibly full of spatial information.

I have a Rega Planet 2000 as a source. I like the sound, so I will keep it for a while even though it doesn't quite have the resolution the H2 needs.

I've got about $1k to spend, but I can push it up to $2k if I need to. The thing is, there are dedicated amps for the H2 coming on the horizon, so I guess that getting something expensive now when there are dedicated amp options in the future is pretty pointless. And, it has been noted by others that the transformer box does hurt the sound quality.

I also vastly prefer the sound of tubes over solid state. I'm totally addicted to the saturated tone color tubes give you. However, I also can't stand the bloated bass that a lot of lousy tube gear gives you. So, just as a point of reference, the HD600 may very well be my favorite dynamic headphone, but I can't stand the HD650 because of the bloated bass.

So, what are my options?

The Jolida 302B is in the price range, but is it a piece of junk or can you actually make a tube integrated for $1k sound good? I heard good things about modded ones but I can't tell my ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to DIY, so modding things myself is not an option.

What should I take a look at? Where should I get it from?

I'm really in the dark, and no wiser for having spent hours looking it up. I don't know which sources of information are objective enough to give me actual good amp advice, and I simply don't have the option of going to meets, heading out to hi-fi stores, and listening to countless gear.

Hence, I'm here at the oracle hoping for divine enlightenment...

I'm not expecting brilliance for $1k, or $2k even, but I would like something that's nice and musical and synergistic enough with the more or less neutral H2 to make me content until dedicated H2 amps come along (or until I realize that the H2 is rubbish and move on to something else).

Thanks!

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I'd love to try things out personally but it's just too much of a hassle right now. Work full time + school = GG personal time. I haven't made it out to a meet in hell knows how long.

I think my best bet is to get something from a place that doesn't have a draconian return policy, and see if I like it. I just want to narrow down the hopefuls as much as possible before I start, hence me asking for advice. And just about any major online publication that I've come across has been pretty useless in giving me any kind of relevant suggestions.

Also, I do have fairly high hopes for this piece, simply because it's a lot faster than a dynamic and a lot more impactful than a 'stat. I always feel that dynamics lack speed and electrostatics can't convincingly portray tactile impact and feel artificial even though the sonic component of their presentation is sublime. On paper, then, this does look like the answer, but as the wise man said - in theory, theory and practice are the same, but in practice, they're different...

Checking out the Dared MP5 right now.

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Bleh. Here I am trotting out my speaker tube amp that no one's heard and am not likely to hear from DIYHifisupply. It's called Ladyday, model 3 and uses 300B tubes in a WE310A as inputs and a 274B as rectifier (substituted military RCA 5U4G as replacements).

Built and delivered it cost me a bit over $2K. You can probably get a cheaper variant for a bit less.

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And that's answering any of his questions how?

I felt bad so I modified it :-)

Oh. And I'd wait for a 'dedicated' H2 amp rather than plugging it into any old speaker amp.

I do regret missing the opportunity of auditioning the H2 at the UK meet with my speaker amp, but considering the number of other items I was bringing, I felt I didn't need to hear it that bad.

As it was, I'm kind of glad as I think the H2 is still too much of a work in progress at the moment. Continual revisions are occuring and the difficulty of matching it to amps is certainly a problem.

When they figure it out I'm sure it'll sound fantastic.

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As it was, I'm kind of glad as I think the H2 is still too much of a work in progress at the moment. Continual revisions are occuring and the difficulty of matching it to amps is certainly a problem.

When they figure it out I'm sure it'll sound fantastic.

I think you hit the nail on the head here. The H2 is not ready for prime time. The poor fit and housing construction alone attest to that. If this was a cheap ebay knock-off that had serious sound potential then I'd overlook that, but this is a $1500 product. For that money, the problems that the H2 is having simply should not exist. We're paying to beta-test a product, and in an ideal world we should get a finalized market version for free after having done TakeT's work for them.

Having said that, I do believe there is enormous sonic potential here. The drivers are fast as a 'stat but displace a lot more air. They don't have the wispy, insubstantial quality but are still really transparent and very open and airy.

I can't wait to hear this thing driven right.

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The housing construction is on a par with the Stax Lambda series, and fit with any headphone is a subjective problem but I think that peoples problems with fit may be stemming from trying to get the H2 to fit like a normal headphone, when a k1000/Jecklin "floating" fit is what should be aimed for. The sprung headband isn't as comfy looking as the Audio Technica ones but it is comfy and it does work, at least for me. Indeed, I think that temple pads like on the K1000 might be the ultimate solution for those drivers. I might try cobbling one together in the inter-semester break in January.

The weaknesses in the design are the main headband (screw together is primitive to say the least) and the cable (which insofar as I can tell, is just low gauge low quality stranded copper wire with no real insulation. I shouldn't expect any huge design revisions from TakeT for a long time. No sudden change to an all metal damped housing and self adjusting headband and low capacitance cabling for example. You have to remember its a really small company selling really small numbers of units and that their main business is almost certainly in those super tweeters. I am drawing speculation of course though.

Amplification is a huge problem, and one that likely isn't to be resolved quickly. I mean how many years has it taken for the headphone community to discover the optimal K1000 amps? And there's a lot more of those about the place. Gradual experience and experimentation will build a knowledge base but I agree its frustrating not having an easy and obvious direct drive option available atm.

I've had my best results, both with and without the transformer from a Pass Labs Aleph amp. The transformer is still a necessary evil though.

There is one plug and go direct drive amp, made by another small Japanese company run by an ex Stax employee. It's only available for Japanese market though (100V). So getting ahold of one is tricky and then you'd have to use a voltage converter as well.

From memory of things posted on head-fi, the Headamp Blue Hawaii SE will run the H2 with a Stax-XLR converter cable according to Dr Gilmore. He also mentioned that the Singlepower ES-1 would drive the H2, but it would need modifications to do so. I cannot recall comments on the standard KGBH or KGSS. In any event, the KGBHSE and ES-1 are hardly easy or cheap options. I think that Dr Gilmore might also have drawn up a separate design for an H2 amp.

You say that it sounds like garbage out of your garbage gear. Its entirely possible that there's something about the sound you simply don't like. What specifically is it that sounds garbage? Until we ascertain the answer to this question I think it best that you hold off on throwing more money at them, unless you're using this as a double opportunity to upgrade your amp for your speaker rig fo course.

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From memory of things posted on head-fi, the Headamp Blue Hawaii SE will run the H2 with a Stax-XLR converter cable according to Dr Gilmore. He also mentioned that the Singlepower ES-1 would drive the H2, but it would need modifications to do so. I cannot recall comments on the standard KGBH or KGSS. In any event, the KGBHSE and ES-1 are hardly easy or cheap options. I think that Dr Gilmore might also have drawn up a separate design for an H2 amp.

Justin said the following in this thread:

Only the Blue Hawaii SE can drive the TakeT H2. The KGSS would work with some mods including paralleling the output devices, but this would be a different PCB, different chassis, different power supply...I can't see an amp exclusively for TakeT H2 as a possibility, because it would cost 3x as much as the phones - already same price as KGBH SE - and I'd need at least 15 who want one

That makes the likelihood of a HeadAmp-made "KGTT" not so great, at least in the foreseeable future. It may, however, extend the popularity of the KGBH SE, at least for those with deep enough pockets to swing one. I wonder if the KGST will be able to drive the H2.

As I said in this thread when I first got my H2/TR2 and attempted to power them with my 10-year old Yamaha reciever, they sounded horrific. Getting my Hafler P125 fixed, and most recently getting proper cabling has brought out a lot of the H2's potential. Personally, I've grown to deal with the fit. They stay on my head, and the drivers stay pointed where I want. I occasionally have to pull the rubber coating on one of the wire loops back in place, but that's a minor issue. I still find some issues in the H2's midrange, and I do suspect the TR2 as the primary culprit. My source is very organic and textural, and the H2s convey these qualities with ease. The Hafler P125 is not a huge amp (60WPC), but it's absolutely loafing in its current role and consequently the H2s never sound like they're wanting for power.

I would like to hear the TakeTs driven by a serious tube amp. I have an open invitation to bring them in to the local hi fi snob store (Spearit Sound/NoHo) and plug them in their various C-J space heaters and Krell arc-welders. That should prove interesting. >:D

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You say that it sounds like garbage out of your garbage gear. Its entirely possible that there's something about the sound you simply don't like. What specifically is it that sounds garbage? Until we ascertain the answer to this question I think it best that you hold off on throwing more money at them, unless you're using this as a double opportunity to upgrade your amp for your speaker rig fo course.

I'm exhausted beyond the capacity for rational thought, so bear with me here...

I have just done some listening. I compared the H2 driven by my rubbish gear (Denon PRA-1500 pre, Onkyo M-504 160wpc arc welder and Monster cables) sourced from my trusty Rega Planet 2000 to my transportable rig - HD600 driven by the Hornet out of a MicroDAC, 1s and 0s coming from a Sony D-NE920's optical output.

The H2 suffers from an uneven tonal balance. The highs are very crisped and very bright, the midrange seems to be recessed, and the bass seems to be somewhat overblown in the midbass and upper bass region. The HD600 is much more linear, though it doesn't extend as far in the bass or in the highs. However, I should point out that the M-504 is known for its toasty highs and general frequency response nastiness.

The H2 seems to be lacking definition. I would compare listening to the H2 after listening to the HD600 to looking at a focused image, and then getting it out of focus. Everything is just blurred, and sonic images have a lot less definition. This is most evident in the midrange - vocals aren't localized with any kind of accuracy but sort of occupy a formless space at the center of the soundstage. At the same time, the soundstage is much bigger with the H2 than it is with the HD600. This is definitely not good news - if the HD600 is beating you in imaging, you have problems. But, I should also point out that the Onkyo amp is also known for collapsing the soundstage in a recording, and I'm guessing at least some of the imaging problems are caused by this.

The H2 also seems to be lacking in dynamic range. Everything is either uniformly quiet or uniformly loud. It doesn't seem to be strained for power during loud build-ups and swells, but the difference between these build-ups and the quieter moments isn't as pronounced as it is on the HD600 rig. Everything on the HD600 just seems to have more power, and is a lot more vibrant. The presentation is vivid and alive, whereas the H2 seems somewhat squished.

Tone and tembre seem to be handled well by the H2 in this rig, but texture isn't. This gives everything a sort of crystalline quality, quite pretty but also unrealistic. The HD600 is more accurate in this regard.

At the same time, the H2 is definitely the faster transducer, and not by a small margin. This leads me to believe that the veiling/blurring effect that I hear is upstream, and not a product of the transducer itself. It is also more impactful, and much more extended in either direction.

I also hear a rattle in the left driver during bass-heavy passages. I am not a low-volume listener, I like to crank it, and a lot of my music is very bass-heavy. So, if this persists, it will be a deal-breaker for me.

I am hearing a great deal of potential here - if we could just focus the sound a bit more, give the headphones a much clearer and more resolving signal path, give it some more punch and dynamic range, and take care of the FR irregularities, we could have a seriously wonderful sounding rig. Specifically, it seems to me that the H2 should be capable of conveying incredible amounts of spatial information. In fact, with some recordings, even on this rig, it throws a truly incredible 3-d soundstage that is full of depth cues and nearly holographic imaging - but only with a select few recordings. Which, unfortunately, I can't find right now, so I have no clue if the HD600 would do it better.

****

In terms of amping - I can't afford the BH at the new $4.5k price tag, so that's out of the question. The most I have for spending on an amp is $2k, and I want to put a K1000 rig together as well (and fast) so realistically it's more like $1k. At this price, I don't think I'm going to get anything stellar, so I might as well wait it out and see what comes of the direct-drive H2 amp project. But in the meanwhile, it would be great to find a nice tube integrated that can power the H2 as well as the K1k decently well. Hence my useless posts here ;)

If only I liked solid state more, I'd have more options.

This looks tempting (Dared MP-15):

MP-15.3.jpg

That's not an amp, that's just pornography...

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In terms of fit - I think I am wearing it much like Duggeh, resting lightly on the head with most of the support coming from the headband. The pads are basically there to keep the thing from sliding around all over the place, and they don't do the job very well. My ears are flush against the cloth mesh surrounding the drivers.

It's not an uncomfortable fit per se. It's certainly not painful like the SR-001 can be. But, it's very loose and sloppy, and given how incredibly sensitive the H2 is to position on the head, it simply needs to have a tight, grippy, clampy fit that locks it securely into the position that it needs to be in. Otherwise, I forsee lots of disagreement in listening impressions based on the positioning alone. Of course, the flip side of that is that one fit may not necessarily work for all, and this is infinitely more adjustable. Still, it just doesn't have anywhere near the feel of a finished commercial product.

The housing may not be any worse than the SR-404, but the SR-404's housing sucks. Balls. It's not exactly the best basis for comparison.

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Just how loud is loud listening for you, I find that if you crank the volume up, to a level that i personally wouldn't listen at, the frequency response changes, the highs become too bright, probably because the tweeter driver is more sensitive. And the mid-bass does start to boom. Possibly a standing wave resonance, or a factor to do with the housing.

Driver rattle is simply unacceptable, and it is an issue that I had at first with my set. I thought it was down to hairs in the housing, but my hair is long now compared to when the headphone arrived with me and the rattling has long since gone and never shown itself again.

The transformer is almost certainly the weak link as regards dynamic response and tonal balance away from neutrality (at my listening volume). I have noticed improvements as I have changed my amps but other H2 listeners have noted minimal impact so long as the amp is capable of the power requirements.

I think that any amp that's worthy of the K1000 ought to do just fine with the H2/TR-2, and yes, that MP-15 is seriously sexy. I want.

Fit issues may be changed with the new series of pads that TakeT has been working on. However the idea of these pads doesn't fit with how I think that the drivers should be worn, which is as I say, free hanging. And yeah, the lambda housing is a pile of aids. I think though that the H2 has comparisons with Grado headphones. Disagreements over comfort, pads to use for best sound, and easily criticised build quality. There are though of course, loads of people who love Grado headphones, for how they sound. I hope that people who do take the brave step of trying an H2 do like it, and I do hope that the company makes some money and improves its product.

The not finished commercial aspect is debateable, however the weaknesses for the most part, are not related to the driver (only the housing). So if TakeT does for example, design a whole new headband mechanism and pads, then it hopefully wont be a huge cost for a set of those pads.

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Just how loud is loud listening for you, I find that if you crank the volume up, to a level that i personally wouldn't listen at, the frequency response changes, the highs become too bright, probably because the tweeter driver is more sensitive. And the mid-bass does start to boom. Possibly a standing wave resonance, or a factor to do with the housing.

Um... I have no SPL meter and I don't have much of a sense for what volume equals what dB in the first place so I can't really tell you how loud it is. It's basically the minimum volume you need for the sound to really open up and bloom. This is, of course, system dependent, and in the current H2 setup it's also quite a bit higher than what I would be comfortable with on a long-term basis. In my listening comparison I tried to match the SPL between the H2 and HD600, but the HD600 seemed to bloom before the H2 did. This is most likely due to the more recessed midrange on the H2 in my current setup.

This, incidentally, is another knock against the K340, which you also noted. It needs a lot of volume to really come alive. Though mine is the bass-light version, which sounds very much like a better, more linear and more coherent SR-404.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Wow, the Dareds really do make a difference with the H2. Much more resolution, the treble is back under control, the bass is no longer loose, and everything is much more realistic and defined. The transformer box still limits the ultimate resolution, as does my source and the rubbish cables I have in the system, but it's already very palatable and will only get better from here, I think. The soundstage is already pretty astonishing, and the bass will make you run home and cry to mama. Everything just sounds BIG and there is enough air and space around each instrument to make electrostatics weep.

I can only imagine what a good tube direct-drive amp will do.

This is also a very lousy headphone for meets, since not only do you need to listen in a quiet area, much like you do with a K1k, but it's also pretty system-specific from what I've been able to tell, and needs smooth and neutral gear if it's to sound balanced.

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  • 5 months later...

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