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

Discussion in 'General 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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  3. liamstrain

    liamstrain MOT: The Audio Guild

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    Let me ask Steve about the noise floor and bass issues - I can't think what would be going on, but he might have some insight.

    If it comes to it, and you can part with it for a week or two, we can ship it back for testing, and a tune up - maybe something is out of spec that didn't get caught in testing.

    Feel free to shoot me a note if you want to discuss options - we want you to be happy. :)
     
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  4. liamstrain

    liamstrain MOT: The Audio Guild

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    From Steve - "Can he clarify if it's a buzz rather than a hiss? We use a fairly simple series power regulator, it is possible that it is more sensitive to the power issues he mentioned than some other amps might be. And on top of that, the single-ended output stage doesn’t have the power supply rejection that a push-pull topology would have. It should not be audible noise, but maybe with very sensitive speakers or headphones he's able to hear it. I cannot replicate it with the gear I am using."

    Bass - he thinks that it is probably due to the low output impedance (high mechanical damping factor). Different headphone pairings might help, you might also experiment with an impedance adapter on the headphone output.

    Both are things we can look at for a V2 board, as possible updates. Those boards could be offered to owners as drop in replacements for the existing one (tying in to the existing front and back panels connectors). We'd have to look at costs and timelines involved going forward.
     
  5. eastboundofnowhere

    eastboundofnowhere Facebook Friend

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    Thanks for the feedback liam. I honestly did not mean for my impressions to come off as overly critical. Only impressions and not a review. Overall, I really, really like the amp. Very happy with it in fact. I thought that I made it clear, but in this particular speaker setup there has always been a buzz, not a hiss, through everything not run by the Saga.

    Examples: Rega Brio R is more noticeable. Woo WA2 through Musical fidelity M1PWR, Schiit Vidar, is slightly less, and I do mean slightly 3.5 feet vs 4 but then it isn't as clean, half a dozen solid state integrates are worse, etc, etc. It is not I think a failing of this particular component, but my particular setup…and my current power setup sucks making things worse.

    Bottom line given the above, I need to buy new speakers and re-think the whole system. …And save up for an electrician… On a side note. I received my barnyard ZMF Atticus tonight. Ran them through half of my head amps so far and despite any impedance mismatches the vocal range through the EMAC is noticeably and I mean simply outright the best I have ever heard. I am somewhat of a basshead and still found that lacking a bit, but my god the rest was so good might give in and pick up a Schitt loki and give the first knob a little tug. Really, really impressive in every spectrum but bass quantity for my tastes. And if that wasn't clear enough I think this is special in that regard.

    When I get the chance I fully intend to get this over to someone else's house to see if that affects the buzz issue.
     
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  6. eastboundofnowhere

    eastboundofnowhere Facebook Friend

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    Sorry, just now experimented with a theory. I have suspected for a while that I listen at lower volumes than most people. Have a tad bit of hearing loss and it made me paranoid. I turned the volume up past my normal and everything leveled off. What I really need is an old school loudness switch for headphones evidently.
     
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  7. liamstrain

    liamstrain MOT: The Audio Guild

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    Heh. Maybe that will be part of v3. ;)
     
  8. eastboundofnowhere

    eastboundofnowhere Facebook Friend

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    So, just to add to my earlier impressions on this. I picked up an ifi AC iPurifier today. In the section of the house I am banished to there is not only a grounding issue, but polarity is reversed. Two red lights on the iFi. Figures, I get two good green lights in the rest of the house. I have little doubt this is contributing to my buzzing issue. ….And since I am married, I can't just move the equipment to a different room.
     
  9. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    GET THAT FIXED NOW! PLEASE! For you and your families' safety. Reverse polarity on an outlet can be both a fire and safety hazard!!!!
     
  10. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    A thousand times this. I borrowed one of these from a lighting kit at work:

    http://martindale-electric.co.uk/ma....html?osCsid=d8510c8b0c6e54232068cee8674ec89e

    ...tested all the sockets at home, for peace of mind. I'm sure there's a local equivalent- and I'd like to think that we'd all sleep easier knowing we don't have lurking electrical safety nightmares in our homes. If you find a fault, for fuck's sake, get it fixed, please. Be safe.
     
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  11. eastboundofnowhere

    eastboundofnowhere Facebook Friend

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    Thanks for the concerns guys, and I really mean that. Tested every outlet in the house, unplugged everything that was in a bad outlet and put safety plugs, like the ones you buy when you have children, over the outlets. Looks like my next upgrade will be an electrician.

    To be fair, I may have jumped the gun on the polarity issue. According to iFi's website two red lights may just be a bad ground. Either way, once upon a time I was a cable guy, a long time ago. Going to spend the weekend digging through the garage to see if I still have one of my real outlet fault testers.

    I hate moving.
     
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  12. AppleheadMay

    AppleheadMay Friend

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    What's up with The Audio Guild? Website expired ...
     
  13. allegro

    allegro Almost "Made"

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    Could be something as simple as the cc on file expired. Needs to be fixed ASAP of course.
     
  14. liamstrain

    liamstrain MOT: The Audio Guild

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    I'm asking Steve to look into it. I think we had a card expire.

    David - I sent you an email. Please let me know if you did not receive.
     
  15. liamstrain

    liamstrain MOT: The Audio Guild

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    Thanks for the heads up on the site, everyone! All fixed. :D
     
  16. Audio Addict

    Audio Addict Rando

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    Mine came in early December as well. I have it paired with the Utopia using the Pulse Infinity v2.0 as the source being fed by Roon. With two months of listening, I find the whole listening experience very involving. I have not noticed any buzz / hiss. It is dead silent when nothing is being fed to it.

    I must say, I really like the volume control. It is so precise and the marking make the volume experience repeatable.
     

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