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DFW Texas 1/23/10


Asr
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I need more impressions of my amp, er, I mean Marc's FET amp creation! Who listened and what did they hear?

Well Marc's LCD-1 is damn near as hard to drive as my K1000, and the amp clipped at higher volumes, but at lower volumes the noise floor was quite good. It has plenty of detail and resolution. Tight bass that's well controlled. A great all around amp for easier to normal headphone loads. Considering the price of entry there aren't going to be too many competitors. You will be a happy man! It definitely drove the HE-5 better than the amp Alex had on hand, I just didn't like the HE-5 as much as I hoped, at least not that particular pair. I didn't listen to the other single ended pair.

Thats a shame, I would expect that amp to sound great. Wonder what is up.

Al's gear seems to be perpetually riding that line between working and blowing up. It's probably not at all related to the design.

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Well Marc's LCD-1 is damn near as hard to drive as my K1000, and the amp clipped at higher volumes, but at lower volumes the noise floor was quite good. It has plenty of detail and resolution. Tight bass that's well controlled. A great all around amp for easier to normal headphone loads. Considering the price of entry there aren't going to be too many competitors. You will be a happy man! It definitely drove the HE-5 better than the amp Alex had on hand, I just didn't like the HE-5 as much as I hoped, at least not that particular pair. I didn't listen to the other single ended pair.

Thanks Steve. Did you try the amp with normal cans or just the LCD-1?

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- Senn HE60 (source: Ayre QB-9 | amp: BHSE): Auditory memory is a funny thing. The last (and only) time I heard an HE60 was just over 3 years ago out of the SP Concerto ES and I distinctly remember being impressed by it back then. This time not so much. Granted a lot has happened between then and now so I'm not sure what to attribute this to. Well ok, it's not a bad headphone per se, but I just didn't enjoy these out of the BHSE. I turned up the volume in an attempt to get more mid-range presence but it was futile, to me these headphones were just missing a chunk of mid-range body that the OII has no problem with. It wouldn't have felt as bad if the treble was up to par but the HE60 disappointed me there also, as it felt like there was an upper-treble roll-off, right above where sibilance peaks out. And I did think the HE60 had a propensity towards sibilance too. So I think I would say the BHSE probably isn't the best amp for the HE60. ;)

It may be fixable with different tubes. I'm curious about what Elephas has said in the past about tube rolling the BHSE for his HE60, so I'll have to go back search sometime. Interestingly, I got blasted by Duggeh for suggesting that the BHSE mids were slightly recessed in comparison to the WES (with O2 Mk1, but same with HE60). I was told instead that the BHSE mids were just right, and it was the WES mids that were forward. I'm okay with that too, and not looking for a fight with Doug. However, for me the HE60 have never been lacking midrange presence with my GES or WES, eXStatA, SRM-T1, SRM-1 Mk2 Pro or even a speaker amp with or SRD-7 Mk2 Pro. The HEV70 actually makes the mids a little too forward for me, so I wasn't aware the HE60 suffered from recessed mids till now. Either way, I agree that the HE60 on the BHSE needed more mids and less highs; and he BHSE paired better with the O2 Mk1 and SR-404LE than the HE60.

The WES seems to be a little more laid back in the highs and fuller in the mids, and that goes better with the HE60 but not quite as well with the O2 Mk1. It's still pretty good with O2 Mk1, but better with the HE60. I suspect that things might go the other way with different tubes, source, listeners, etc. but I don't know. As for rolled-off upper highs, that describes my hearing - strong to 12 Khz, and audible but reduced by 16 Khz. :(

- pabbi1-built eXStatA w/ Stax OII MKI (source: Cambridge Audio 840C): I would describe my affinity for the OII MKI as something like "it's really damn good and can be absolutely amazing but isn't exactly one of my favorite headphones." This is one of the reasons I've thought about going with a cheaper stat amp - I like how the OII sounds but would like to minimize the associated cost of the amp if possible, since I don't use it for a wide array of music. The eXStatA proved to me that it might be possible to downgrade from the BHSE - I mean, I wasn't sure how much less to expect sonically but this amp was ear-opening. Of course I don't know how much the 840C was affecting the system but the sonic omissions compared to the BHSE weren't many and I certainly didn't have any major complaints. The system did seem to have less overall resolution but the biggest difference that I noticed was that it was quite forward-sounding in the mid-range and also quite punchy in the mid-bass. My system with the BHSE is significantly more laidback. That aside, I think the eXStatA represents substantial value for money and is probably a great option for anyone who wants to get a solid stat amp for cheap.

I agree completely. The eXStatA doesn't give up or sacrifice a lot from what you get with the BHSE or WES. I even think it's a better match for the O2 Mk1 than my previous GES was, with better soundstage, treble and power. And while it is still warm and forward sounding like the GES or WES, it has better treble energy with the O2, at the expense of less organic or lush mids and micro-detail. For someone who likes the Qualia and HP-1000 more than O2, you would probably be just as well off with the eXStatA for occasional stat use. As someone who likes my re-cabled HD800 a little more than my O2, the eXStatA might be a better option for me as well.

But I think the improvement with the WES over the eXStatA is bigger with the HE60 than with the O2, and there lies my reluctance to part with the WES until I can spend more time with both amps and become more familiar with them. I still need to try both amps with my Smegma Pro, Jade and SR-003. The bonus is that my SR-Lambda sound great on the eXStatA, while my WES has an HE90 jack but no normal bias jack (side effect of buying the demo unit, can't special order the jacks).

- Balanced B22/o22 w/ K1000 (source: Original CD-2008-MKII): When I was done listening to this system I thought: "aw, crap, do I have to re-invest into a B22 for a K1000?" I've never paid much attention to the K1000 before primarily due to its earspeaker design but this system had me re-considering my ways. I liked the treble and the overall level of detail which seemed to be approximately on par with the Qualia 010. I think if there's a cheaper headphone that could take the Qualia's place in my headphone collection, the K1000 is probably it. At the same time it sucks that the K1000 also has beefy amp requirements. Crap! :P

Naamanf's B22/K1000 combo off his Buffalo DAC is what convinced me to trade my first O2 Mk1 for J-PAK's K1000 (now I have Naamanf's O2 Mk1, but sadly no B22 for my K1000). However, I thought your WA22 with Sylvania 7236 sounded nice with my K1000, and you may not need the B22 right away. K1000 do seem to sound different depending on serial number, so you may want to wait on a new amp till you try out the K1000 you find.

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Naamanf's B22/K1000 combo off his Buffalo DAC is what convinced me to trade my first O2 Mk1 for J-PAK's K1000 (now I have Naamanf's O2 Mk1, but sadly no B22 for my K1000). However, I thought your WA22 with Sylvania 7236 sounded nice with my K1000, and you may not need the B22 right away. K1000 do seem to sound different depending on serial number, so you may want to wait on a new amp till you try out the K1000 you find.

While I have no doubt as to the variance of K1000s dependent upon manufacturing dates, I would imagine the β22 would be well suited to all varieties. We're talking about a very neutral amp here, and the β22 has the grunt needed for these phones. I think the way to approach a K1000/β22 system would be to find your particular flavor of K1000, not to try to correct a variety of K1000 you might like less than others by trying to tailor an amp to mask those less desired characteristics.

I would have loved to hear Naaman's B22/K1000/Buffalo system. This is where I'm headed source wise, though I've not heard any of the Buffalo varieties. I doubt I'll be disappointed though, as so many people I seem to agree with on most things have raved about the DAC.

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While I have no doubt as to the variance of K1000s dependent upon manufacturing dates, I would imagine the β22 would be well suited to all varieties. We're talking about a very neutral amp here, and the β22 has the grunt needed for these phones. I think the way to approach a K1000/β22 system would be to find your particular flavor of K1000, not to try to correct a variety of K1000 you might like less than others by trying to tailor an amp to mask those less desired characteristics.

I would have loved to hear Naaman's B22/K1000/Buffalo system. This is where I'm headed source wise, though I've not heard any of the Buffalo varieties. I doubt I'll be disappointed though, as so many people I seem to agree with on most things have raved about the DAC.

Well, that wasn't quite the point I was making. I was suggesting that Asr might enjoy the K1000 with the WA22 that he already owns, and might take his time looking for a B22. I wasn't suggesting that some B22 wouldn't be good with most K1000. I didn't get to spend enough time at RMAF with his WA22/K1000, but I heard enough to know it was much better with K1000 than the 12AU7 based WA22 prototype had been with them.

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Finally have a few seconds to jot down some random comments!

First, I got to listen to the JFET amp a lot. I tried it with two sources, my Muse Model 9 Signature and Al's Cambridge Audio Azur. From a source standpoint, this was sort of a strange trade off, as the extra voltage was nice to have from the Cambridge Audio as it got the orthos to a moderate volume without any obvious nasties. However, I just don't think this source is worth it's weight. It's been in Al's rig long enough that I've sort of forgot that the source is where it all starts, and once I listened to a a few different amps on it (my KGSS in the past, now the JFET amp) I'm thinking that a lot of what I hear with the Cavalli electrostatic amps might just be colored by the source. For a tube guy, Al needs to consider a tube output stage I think :) Al mentioned that this source has some of the same processing as the Capitole, but that's sorta an apples to oranges comparison due to the radically different output stages. All this to say, I think Al should try a tube output stage with solid state amplification some time, rather than the reverse. Either way, tubes are in the chain, which he says is his preference, right? Or even go tubes in every amplification stage and avoid the inconsistency :) I dunno, just a random musing...

Back to the JFET amp. I tried the HD800, AD2000, LCD-1 on it and liked the AD2000 the best. I didn't care for this can on some of the Woo amps last meet, but it sounded pretty good on this amp. I think I'll probably pick one up down the line to have a more extended audition once I finish that other FET amp. I wish the HD800 had a bit more midbass presence, which could be a fault of the amp I suppose, but I'd like to hear what others have to say when they get it in their rig. Anyways, someone who was listening pointed some sibilance out on a recording or two, and when we compared that same track on the Cavalli 'stat amp, that particular track was much smoother. I'm not sure if this is to the detriment of the JFET amp, or the 'stat amp. Cans were HD800 and HE60 respectively. Again, no final judgment either way, just an observation. I did this with a number of recordings and just came to the conclusion that this little amp is pretty honest in it's presentation, as DC coupled all discrete amps tend to be. However, it's not dry, lifeless honestly, if that makes any sense :)

I had a chance to listen to a few other dynamic rigs, including K701 / Channel Island combo the LD mk5 HE-5 combo, the latter particularly nice. I've made a few comments in regard to the HE-5, but I think they can be best summed as a oddly unortho sound. I'm just not sure why these are getting such differing opinions. Anyways, I'm still looking forward to the LCD-2 if and when it is released. For some reason I'm just not in a hurry to get the HE-5 back in my rig, perhaps down the line, but there are bigger fish to fry at this point, and perhaps a K1000 is in order!

On to the 'stat setups. Given the immense pressure to jot down some impressions, I'd like to say that both sources were a bit of a wild card to me. The Ayre source had audible glitches at times (I showed one to Asr in fact, who commented that the rips were at 100%) that were at repeatable spots in the track. This was a bit unnerving and sort of caused me to by hypercritical. The Blue Hawaii SE sounded like... well a Blue Hawaii. I remember the first time I heard it, I was amazed by the bass. Al pointed out a few tracks that he thought the bass was a bit overblown. Not being familiar with the tracks, I tended to agree with him. The material I was more familiar with though seemed to be more even in the low region. My qualm with the Blue Hawaii has always been the treble, and I just sort of noted "yup, still that way" and moved on. I just prefer the KGSS treble signature I guess. But with the KGSS, you find yourself nudging the volume up to get the bass to lock in just right. Anyways, no real complaints of Asr's rig, it was a familiar sound to me. I tried the 404LE, which I was really excited to try, but I felt like I was having fit issues. Things seemed to lock in place once I pushed the earspeakers in at the temple region and held it there. This had the result of less force at the bottom of the pad and a tighter seal at the top of the pad. This was the only way I could get a somewhat realistic stereo image. I felt the sound staging was a bit off with these for some reason I guess. I didn't hear any midrange etch of any kind, which I sorta felt could have been a bad thing (?), which was fueled by my mistrust of the source. They're a bit different I guess, but there are plenty of cans I'd own before these I guess.

Listening to the Cavalli amps, I immediately noticed that the current version is a vast improvement over older iterations. I couldn't get that strange clipping to happen and it never seemed to run out of steam. However, in the back of my mind the analogy went like this: Gen1 SS > Gen1 tubes && Gen2 tubes >> Gen1 tubes so, does Gen2 SS >> Gen2 tubes? :) If you don't follow, I'm very excited to hear the newest solid state version. The frequency response relatively even to me, with perhaps a slight dip in the midrange. I felt there was some artificial detail in the highs that I more or less attributed to the upsampling source. The bass was pretty even I though, extending very low but without as much midbass impact as the Blue Hawaii. I listened mostly to the Stax and didn't really bother with a HE60 comparison. I felt that the overall sound was a bit better with the 404LE, with my "fit adjustment" outlined above. I think the HE60 / 404LE was a better comparison than either with the SR-007mk1. They were in fact rather similar, and at the price point I think I'd take the 404LE over the HE60. Anyways, I enjoyed the Cavalli amp and cannot wait to hear the new solid state revision, as I have high hopes for it.

Anyways, kudos to the Dallas crew for making this happen! I cannot wait for the next Texas meet, whenever that might be!

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Gen1 SS > Gen1 tubes && Gen2 tubes >> Gen1 tubes so, does Gen2 SS >> Gen2 tubes? :) If you don't follow, I'm very excited to hear the newest solid state version.

Every comment I have read everywhere has been that Exstata toobs are moar betterz, so I'm really pleased to see at least one opinion contrary to that :)

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Every comment I have read everywhere has been that Exstata toobs are moar betterz, so I'm really pleased to see at least one opinion contrary to that :)

There were some audible nasties with the last tube amp iteration though that didn't show up in the solid state version. Either way, the current follower version sounds much better.

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Great write up! You pretty much covered everything I wanted to know/was curious about except how the K1000 sounded out of your JFET amp. No biggie, I will hopefully find out soon.:) Not lifeless honesty sounds great. Strange about the 404LE fit, if it's anything like the vintage Lambdas or even the SR-202 and SR-404 I tried it shouldn't have been too difficult to find a good fit. I think Birgir said the 404LE pads are a bit thinner than normal so that might've been the problem. I'll definitely keep the notes about the BH treble and the Exstata amps in mind when I decide what 'stat amp to build.

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Listening to the Cavalli amps, I immediately noticed that the current version is a vast improvement over older iterations. I couldn't get that strange clipping to happen and it never seemed to run out of steam. However, in the back of my mind the analogy went like this: Gen1 SS > Gen1 tubes && Gen2 tubes >> Gen1 tubes so, does Gen2 SS >> Gen2 tubes? :) If you don't follow, I'm very excited to hear the newest solid state version. The frequency response relatively even to me, with perhaps a slight dip in the midrange. I felt there was some artificial detail in the highs that I more or less attributed to the upsampling source. The bass was pretty even I though, extending very low but without as much midbass impact as the Blue Hawaii. I listened mostly to the Stax and didn't really bother with a HE60 comparison. I felt that the overall sound was a bit better with the 404LE, with my "fit adjustment" outlined above. I think the HE60 / 404LE was a better comparison than either with the SR-007mk1. They were in fact rather similar, and at the price point I think I'd take the 404LE over the HE60. Anyways, I enjoyed the Cavalli amp and cannot wait to hear the new solid state revision, as I have high hopes for it.

Anyways, kudos to the Dallas crew for making this happen! I cannot wait for the next Texas meet, whenever that might be!

At least with my regular 404, I could only get a seal with my glasses off. The thinner Lambda pads allow less room for compression/sealing to occur (even though my frames are on the thin side).

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  • 4 months later...

I will gone July 24th if there is a Dallas meet on that day.

As for August, I am traveling at the beginning and I may have some visitors during the second two weekends (not quite sure). The weekend of the 27th may work for me but it the weekend after the first week of classes so I am not sure.

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asr:

where I have been! I had no idea... things seem to be moving pretty slowly over there :)

shelly:

yeah, first week of classes sounds like a non starter. probably better to schedule it for whenever Rice's NOD is so you can escape the crazies (unless you wanted to join in, NTTIAWWT...)

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I'd be up for a summer meet. It looks as though the interest level for Dallas is pretty low, and I'd prefer something closer. A/C needs to be completely overhauled at the condo, so Port A might be out of contention for a little while.

I also wouldn't mind waiting until the Buffalo II is finished, so I have something new to offer.

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