AAW Black Amp impressions thread

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by Erroneous, Feb 2, 2021.

  1. Erroneous

    Erroneous Friend

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    Someone sign Barry up for the BHA-1 loaner that's brewing. That'll easily show him what slam is.

    I think @loadexfa said it well. I can say it more crudely and try to explain that when the music has balls, cojones, WEIGHT, heft to it, when it just kicks you square in the nuts, that's slam. Slam is nice, it's a great quality in an amp.
     
  2. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    These are my approximate definitions of both slam and heft as the two are different aspects of sound to me. My definitions may not be 100% correct or the same as definitions used by other members, etc. :

    slam: The impact, kick, hit, initial and sustaining boom, or the general feeling of power in the bass. Not to be confused with slappy bass or as only an initial (or sloppy) overshoot coming off of a "flat".

    heft: sustained or continued fullness, presence, weight, the feeling of "there-ness" in the bass. Not to be confused with a slow or unnatural decay, adding some kind of delay, etc.

    -----
    Although heft and slam are not explicitly defined here, the SBAF glossary (and maybe one on HF) may also be useful for providing common definitions:
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...ology-subjective-terms-used-on-superbaf.3400/
     
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  3. BarryT

    BarryT MOT: Austin Audio Works

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    Thank you, my education continues.
     
  4. tommytakis

    tommytakis MOT: E.T.A Headphones

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    AAW Black Amp Impressions:
    pi2aes > Sonic Frontiers SFD2 > Black Amp > HD600 | GenP

    - All in all, I think this is a pretty good sounding, versatile amp but with tons of features 3 input (2 single ended, 1 balanced) and adjustable impedance(?) knob in the back.
    - slam and macrodynamic contrast feels a bit lacking for my taste compared to something like Black Widow, BHA-1, 3F. I was hoping for some explosive dynamics.
    - I do hear fair amount of nuance in micordynamics and plankton, but I don't think it's quite up there with the big boi amps, solid state or tube.
    - clarity is good, but not great. Maybe part of it is bad pairing with SFD2 since it doesn't have the best clarity.
    - staging and imaging is quite good for a solid state. I actually feel like bha1 staged better but it's definitely better than the black widow from memory.
    - I think the pricing would be a lot more attractive at $1k new.
    - I like the small form factor and the overall aesthetics.
    - To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure if I would purchase one for myself, but I think it can be a solid all rounder amp for folks. Thank you @BarryT and @k4rstar for introducing us to this amp.
     
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  5. BarryT

    BarryT MOT: Austin Audio Works

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    Hello my friends. Our last interchanges were about the words 'slam' and 'heft' as I had not been familiar with them. While these are terms derived from the passion of the music I am helpless to use them until I understand their physics, that is the 'what' property or aspect of a physical event that causes them and thus possibly to quantify and measure them. I subsequently spent almost three weeks with a medical issue whose meds rendered me non compos metis. That is behind me now and I have been crystallizing thoughts of these words. This has lead building models in simulations to reveal the dynamics of an audio signal that could account for the use of the words.

    Let me offer some thoughts that I would ask you to consider, reflect on, and comment upon.

    I think that it is safe to say that Slam and Heft are not steady-state terms. Bandwidth and frequency response are not really frames of reference that are definitive of them. I see them as relativistic and transient sensory impressions.

    This suggests to me that they are 'second derivative' effects of an audio signal, that are more related to the rates of change of a signal's envelope than the pure signal itself. A quick example would be a plucked bass note that is asymmetric in its production (as are all plucked or struck notes,sounds generated) suggesting that a second time constant is key to the overall sonic signal.

    In all amplifiers there is such a second time constant, it is the DC gain path of the amplifier. While we want AC gain in the amp (the purpose of the amplifier in the first place) we don't want DC gain as if can toast the voice coils of the transducer over time. So there is a filter in all amplifiers separating the AC from the DC. Some amps us a simple blocking capacitor as a high pass filter, some use an integrator such as a DC Servo to do the same thing. The Black AMP uses a servo, this may be were the possible 'slam' question resides, I am experimenting with the amp now to that effects.
     
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  6. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    I tend not to be too excited about solid state amps and originally declined to demo The Black Amp because it didn't seem my speed. @Erroneous and @Phantaminum talked me back into it because it was a said to be tubier solid state that "leaves Jot in the dust." My evaluation therefore focused mostly on how it performed vs. Jotunheim 2, but also if the price tag was warranted. I've added The Black Amp to my impressions table for more context.

    [​IMG]

    Headphones: HD6XX, HD800SDR, HD600, LCD-2.1
    Amps: The Black Amp (BAL), Jot 2 (BAL), Mjolnir 2 (BAL)
    MJ2 Tubes: EH 6922
    DAC: Yggdrasil GS (BAL) Lynx AES16.
    Notes: Black Amp sensitivity knob turned to provide good headroom, keeping the volume pot around 10 o'clock but never past noon. I heard no hum on any input or output combination. Balanced output seemed slightly better sonically than the SE output, although it's reasonably close.

    General comments
    The Black Amp run in balanced mode is resolving, slightly warm, and features excellent cohesion and strong consistency across genres. I think it falls short on some technicals and the overall build quality is not commensurate with a $1500 price. I think it solidly beats Jot 2's treble in terms of naturalness and wetness but the macrodynamics and excitement in the presentation are not there for me.

    The Black Amp has a neutral house sound that doesn't assert itself. It's an easy going listen, and for those looking to avoid aggressive presentations it might be a great choice. I don't think it's fair putting it against a big sounding amp like Starlett, which has wider headstage, blacker blackground, and lots of macrodynamic fireworks. Mjolnir 2 has macro in the same ballpark of Starlett and jumping from MJ2 to The Black Amp there's a big delta in this category. Cohesion is better on The Black Amp, but an amp like Jot 2 is also cohesive, but it does so while being nearly as slammy as MJ2. My sonic preferences lean rich and exciting, but I can also appreciate laidback when it's been a long day.

    One area that I can't let go is build quality. A spray painted project box with a wall wart is not acceptable for something near the top of mid-fi pricing. The loaner amp has traveled, but the paint has scratches all over, the finish is flaking off around connectors, and it just has a workbench prototype feel. Maybe production builds are better, but with The Black Amp's modest appearance I'd be rushing to justify the price tag to a naïve onlooker with statements like "Honestly, it sounds good!" For improvement, I'd like to see a proper C14 power connector and the power transformer moved inside the chassis housing, even if the amp has to be a little larger. It's really quite compact, and a larger footprint wouldn't be fatal. After that, I'd like to see a better finish and maybe better fonts or branding that doesn't seem cookie cutter.

    I do like the sound of The Black Amp. I found it engaging on all headphones with no fatigue factors, but I'm not sure I'm as excited about it as some of our other members, but I can understand it could be a winner for some.
     
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    Last edited: Jun 10, 2021 at 2:22 PM
  7. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: E.T.A Headphones

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    Impressions from the loaner (late to the party here since I had it before roshambo above) -

    My experience with this amp was a highly mixed bag and I know some potential changes may be in the future so I don't want to belabor what I felt to be the negatives (or compare with other amplifiers) without hearing a revision first. If the weaknesses could be improved while retaining the strengths, I think it could be a winner. Both the strengths and weaknesses of this amp felt rather pronounced in my listening at all times regardless of the source or headphone. As-is, I don't think it's an exceptional value at the price. I cycled through my Naks, SPL Phonos, Burl B2 Bomber, and Monarchy M22B DAC as sources. Bunch of Senns and ETA selection for headphones.

    Likes:
    buttery smooth highs with good HF extension, completely fatigue free even at higher SPL or with harsh tracks, nice I/O flexibility, mellow timbre and cohesive tone, good spatial rendering, compact size, would probably allow me to listen to any HD800 without crying tears of blood.

    Dislikes:
    poor channel matching even at around 10:00 on the pot, soft/gutless dynamics, homogenized bass, doesn't scale changes of source very well, felt like the sonic equivalent of corn starch.

    In general, I trust @BarryT to make great products and I welcome his enlightening / refreshing posts here. I know how much a simple tweak can lock everything into place, product development can be a roller coaster :confused: I have a feeling a nudge in the right direction is all this amp needs, something to bring a sharper edge to the sound of transients across the spectrum. All of the dislikes kind of orbit around that one weakness for me. I look forward to revisiting this amp if such a revision is in the pipeline. Cheers to sending your creations out into the wild regardless! Thanks Barry.
     
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    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021 at 8:43 PM

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