Super Best Audio Friends

The evolution of the original irreverent and irrelevant and non-authoritative site for headphone measurements, i.e. frequency response graphs, CSD waterfall plots, subjective gear reviews. Too objective for subjectivists; too subjective for objectivists

Holy f**k $220? I'm so glad Drop is back to its old self where the deal is so fricking good that I have to give them my money. TBH, I thought this was going to be priced at $399 - "as a deal" - the old HE-500s were what? $699. What it comes down to is that in my mind, the PPP (proper price point for performance), which I can be a bit stingy or tight on, was $400. $220 beats this significantly. The downside for this price is that we will have to wait.


A lot of people are going to be happy that HiFiMan has brought these back from the dead. There's been a segment of hobbyists who have been itching to get that of that old school sound (HE-6, HE-5, HE-500). HiFiMan, while initially saying that bringing them back was out of the question, has been steadily releasing remasters of them in the past few years. Customer demand is hard to ignore. Looks like Drop went all in with HFM on the HE5XX, and that's a good thing because all of sudden, its super affordable. The appeal with the OG HFMs was their timbre and slam. The newer HFMs with their thinner membranes and wannabe STAX sensibilities didn't always appeal to the old schoolers. Despite sounding "faster", many models exhibited steely, splashy, or plasticky timbre, lacked slam, or exhibited bouncy-bouncy effect in the lows. Now I wouldn't say that these HFM remasters go totally back in time to the OG sound, but they do straddle the line between the OG and new HFM sound. It's a good compromise in my opinion.
In light of this discussion where I was accused of being all like: "dude trust me as it’s surprisingly lacking in any sort of spec whatsoever from a site priding itself on measurements and objectiveness and the initial pitch feels intentionally vague" and requests from @Boops, @atomicbob and others out of curiosity in regards to this amp both subjective and objective, I figured I'd offer up some objective measurements and also discuss the history of this amp. Note that all variants of the EC Studio are sold out and it is unlikely that Craig will ever make one again.


I really won't get too much into how it sounds, other than maybe a few tidbits related on how this came to be. This amp came to be from a project Leviathan that never really took off, or at least took off in another direction. Basically one day, some guy bought some high-end Tango amorphous core interstage and output transformers and asked Craig to build a 2A3 amp out of it. The special thing about this amp was that an interstage transformer was used in lieu of a interstage coupling cap. There was an attempt to build this amp for Changstar folks, but it turned out that Tango went out of business (they are back in business again) and this project went kaput. The Studio amp came to be as a result of using Tribute nano-crystalline core interstages and Cinemag outputs with a tertiary winding (a McIntosh design from long ago).
Despite high proclamations by YouTubers, it turns out that the HD560S is much ado about nothing - at least to most of the audience here. One step forward and one step back, at least when compared to the old HD558. Compared to the established standards, the HD600/HD650, the HD560 is one step forward and two steps back.


I can't recall exactly, but I thought maybe the HD558 may have had very slightly angled drivers. Regardless, the HD560S takes the cake and pulls of a really impression of the HD800's headstage. Very impressive! From my limited experience so far, the headstage is closer to the HD800 end of the spectrum than the HD6xx end. Unfortunately, this is where the good news stops. The frequency response takes a hit. The HD558, the predecessor to the HD560S, had small an upper-mid peak. This wasn't particularly obtrusive and made a lot of music sound more energetic. @ultrabike owned the HD558 for years and was perfectly happy with it before finally upgrade to the HD600...
Notable highlights:
Liquid Gold X (LAuX) has been optimized for balanced operation. It provides great performance Single Ended but clearly best performance is attained in balanced mode. If contemplating this amplifier, balanced headphone cables will prove a wise choice. LAuX falls squarely in the transparent design camp. Attributes of low output impedance, low residual noise, low distortion, high bandwidth, fast transient response definitely contribute to extraordinarily clean performance.

Listening picture:

Typical of Cavalli designs bandwidth is quite wide, DC to > 500KHz with 30R load and DC to > 600KHz with 300R load.
Dynamic Range is greater than 113 dB relative to 0 dBu in balanced mode.
Note particularly the exceptionally low IMD for all two tone tests, not just 19+20 KHz which is impressive.
Note too, the fast square wave response transitions times do not ring, also very impressive.
How do they sound...? Like tiny satellite speakers half their size. I'm hoping the paper drivers burn in a bit.


I don't really even hear the single full range driver imaging that I hear with my Fibhorn 2, which is a 3 inch driver back loaded "horn" (though diyaudio experts think it's technically a transmission line). Fibhorn 2 also extends farther in treble (around 10k) and has flatter midbass....
Let me get this out of the way right now: the Rockna Wavelight is the best DAC I have had the privilege of auditioning at my own house. For my tastes and preferences, with the chains that I have used to evaluate it, it absolutely is the best and forces the Yggdrasil GS into the backseat.


If that’s all you care to read, there you go; I saved you some good minutes reading what is going to be quite an excessively long post. If you do want to dive more in-depth as to how I think it sounds, the features, and its quirks (and downsides; yes it has those), then read on.

I’m getting this out of the way first, because let’s be real; this is the most important thing. All of the following evaluation, unless explicitly stated otherwise, is from using the linear phase filter, fed from Pi2AES through AES,no attenuation from the built-in preamp (I will get to the preamp and various filters later on), and XLR out.
The next few posts are intended to be a mini-guide as opposed to a step-by step. This is intended as a supplement to the the standard pi2AES case build (no display) thread.


STUFF WE NEED TO BUY: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...hrow-away-your-pc-or-laptop.8878/#post-288017 The exception to above that we want the acrylic case for the 7" display instead of the regular one, and of course the official Raspberry Pi 7" Touch Screen Display
The instructions for assembling the Pi2AES 7" display case can be downloaded here. These instructions are very good, but I will offer a few tips to make the process easier.
Over the years I've tried a fair number of different tips: Comply, Spiral Dot, Mee, Spinfit, Symbio, and the stock silicone tips that come with the SE215s. My skin is on the oily end of the spectrum, but even after cleaning out my ear canals with an alcohol swab, I have problems with most tips breaking seal. The Complys want to creep backwards out of the canal (and are a hassle to install in the first place), and Spiral Dots keep seal for a while and then start breaking seal every few minutes. Same with Symbios, and those 3 are the only ones that are comfortable enough for me to wear for extended periods of time.


I ordered a variety pack of AZLA SednaEarfit XELASTEC tips from Amazon to try them out. I had heard from someone here that they run large, and you might need to go a half-size smaller with the XELASTEC tips. That turned out to be correct. I'm a M with Spiral Dots and a MS with the XELASTEC tips.
To put an end on speculating blah blah blah on the T60RP, I've decided to buy one and tear it down. The T60RP appears to be very similar to the T50RP in many respects. From the outside, the major differences are the wood cups, the 4-pin connector (should one want to run balanced from the amp), and a suspension headband. The stock sound is a bit different from the T50RP, but will we get into that later. First let's have a few photos.

Manufacturer Page:

The Hestia is a 60 stepped relay attenuator. The flagship Denafrips preamp, the Athena, has the same specs with lower distortion numbers. The Athena by the way looks to be two Hestias in one box - one Hestia per channel. The same way the Hattor Big preamp just doubles up on the stepped attenuators when you step up from the Hattor Mini. I only mention this because I was originally going to buy the Athena, thinking bigger was better until I studied the specs and pictures a bit more - mainly noticing that despite double the number of relays the number of volume steps remained unchanged. I seriously doubt the two preamps sound any different. Folks at ASR might be willing to pay for the lower distortion numbers though. New, it will cost you about $900.
Introducing the Sennheiser HD800 S Mordred from Excalibur Edition. Nope, you can't have this. At least not in the USA. It's my understanding that this limited edition headphone is sold out. It may be possible for folks in the USA to buy from Europe and have them shipped here. I hate reviewing stuff that people can't have, but at least this is interesting.

HD800 S Anniversary.jpg

By the way, the HD800 S Anniversary Edition seems to be quite different from the HD800, and by extension, a little different from the HD800S. It's still an HD800 in terms of soundstage, timbre, transients; but the subjective tonal balance seems a bit different. I could be dreaming though. Will put this on the bench to confirm, but my sense is that the midrange dip is more evident, the 6kHz is no longer existent, but the highs are still up there. Also, the bass quality seems more in line with the HD800 than HD800S which sounded thicker to my ears (this is a good thing).
I'll post measurements over the weekend, but will start with subjective impressions and usability notes. In a nutshell, if I had an entry-level phono setup, I would immediately buy this over anything else on the market for less than $800, heck make that $1500 even. The fact is, the vinyl-nutjob world has been dominated by the for far too long. Basically, anything below $1500-$2000 for a phonostage from well established brands will be a severely nerfed product.


With the ZEN Phono, the "nothing better until we spend much more" argument is still valid, but there's also buy this because it's actually very very good. To be honest, the $149 price is absolutely shocking. With iFi, I would expect $399. But heck, let's see iFi bring it on for the masses. I hope iFi sells thousands and thousands of these.