Better than SET? The radically different 535SE Headphone Amplifier/Preamplifier

Discussion in 'General Vendor Product Announcements' started by liamstrain, Jun 2, 2016.

  1. eastboundofnowhere

    eastboundofnowhere Facebook Friend

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    Just got home from work and there it was. Crazy with work and family now so will do my best to post pics and impressions late this weekend. Breaking it in right now feeding a Vidar and speakers for basic evening tv watching, just not much time for anything else this week. I must say that even though the pictures of this thing already up are great, it really does look nicer and more…substantial I guess…in person. Very nice build quality.
     
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  2. eastboundofnowhere

    eastboundofnowhere Facebook Friend

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    I will preface this by letting anyone that reads it know this is not a review. I don't feel that I swim deeply enough in these waters than to offer anything further than impressions.

    So, the bad:

    The noise floor is a little high. I seriously, seriously doubt many people would notice or even be bothered by this. Let me explain. I typically only buy head amps that double as low powered speaker amps or preamps. One of my criteria for falling absolutely in love is that a piece of equipment has to play nice with my two channel system and headphones. I have the emac pulling double duty right now in my two channel system with a vidar running to a pair of zu omens. Now I am not married to the omens. I don't even like the speakers all that much, but I have moved 5 times in the last six years and they keep coming with me. They are too heavy and comparably too cheap to try and sell on craigslist. Sadly, the room changes have been so extreme that sometimes the omens work better and sometimes my three way bookshelf speakers come out on top. So, I guess I am married to them after all. To put that in context, my three way setup in the right room is extraordinary while the omens are only optimally livable and I can't afford a divorce.

    With the emac as a preamp there is a noticeable hiss from three or four feet away. You don't notice it much when music is playing but I am hyper sensitive to this in the same way some people are very treble sensitive. The same noise is also present through headphones but it is very, very, very slight and does not increase with rotating the volume knob when music is not playing. In fairness I do not believe the power situation in the new place is optimal (moved again two months ago). I did't pay attention when we committed and half the house has two pronged outlets. I have an extension cord running from the kitchen to the living room because as shitty as it is, it is safer than those three to two prong adapters. Then again I have several headphone amps that double as preamps and their noise floor is the same in the new place as before…the saga is the only dead silent one I have running to the vidar and I suspect you really don't need much, if any, gain with that particular amp which kind of explains why the saga works so well. Need to try it with more dedicated amps.

    Next, the bass quantity is lower than I would prefer. Now, I am either a basshead or a closet one. It get's my attention when slam doesn't come when I expect it. I have owned the Schiit Lyr, Asgard and Valhalla and if it helps the Valhalla is my least favorite even though the midrange, in my opinion, is better than the other two. It just feels like something isn't there that should be.

    The good:

    This part will be shorter but only because I was trying to give context to the above and that takes time. There really is a whole heck of a lot more good than bad. The soundstage is not enormous, but as I understand it that is to be expected from a solid state amp. My only references here are the Asgard and a large slew of portable amps and this is better. The midrange is wonderful, for what I look for. There is a touch of bloom or euphony that I have only ever heard before from tubes. The mids are forward as well. I suspect this amp would pair very very well with a set of phones that already have a low end emphasis to balance things out. I don't sense any grain here, in fact from my stable it is the first amp I own to show how well the hd650 scales in this area. My only other highish end amps are the Decware Mini Torii, and it does not like dynamics, or a Woo WA2…need more back to back time with the hd650 on that one as I haven't used it in a very long time now…seemed a little too blurred together with all but bright sounding high impedance phones before it got relegated to preamp only duty…it didn't do that with speakers which I always found strange. So in my experience Woo have now omitted the feature from the WA2 that it excelled at(preamp has ben removed).

    The build quality, industrial design, and usability of this thing are beyond reproach. It is a pleasure to look at and use. As I said in a previous post it really is much more substantial in person. Even my wife, not the omens, noticed it. Typically I can swap out a new headphone/preamp without her noticing it at all which is handy…In this case, "I see you got something new."

    So basically, I really like this guy a lot. I want to pair it with some different speaker amps to see if the noise floor drops and some different headphones to see if the bass presence can come up without sacrificing that glorious, glorious midrange. As a headphone amp it is the best one I own and if I can get the headphone pairing right then it is also the first one I own that I would use record out straight from a dedicated preamp and forgo the whole dual functionality entanglement I am obsessed with.

    pictures later.
     

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