1. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    With Verum on my mind I was thinking if I really need a planar headphone or just want to acquire a new tow to play with.
    The Peak/Volcano was my previous impulse purchase of must have and after several months of rolling everything I could get my hands on, I've got a good grasp of what it can do.

    The Peak is a Pete Millett hybrid design with the 6SN7 tube as the voltage gain and mosfet output stage. Some say it was built as a preamp first but it's also one hell of an amp.
    [​IMG]

    Pros:
    - dead quiet, not a hum buzz or crack from all my good tubes. When it unmutes the output at startup there is no change in blackness.
    - low output impedance
    - small and compact. The Volcano power supply is somewhere else. It might be the best sounding amp per volume
    - powerful, drives the K1000 and HD250 600ohm with ease at around 1 o clock volume. The HD650M is at 9
    - barely gets warm
    - front power on switch, looking at you schiit
    - preamp, though I never used it yet
    - black
    - one tube to roll
    - can use ECC32/ECC33
    Cons:
    - it's light, too light you might think it's a 50$ part when you pick it up. Thankfully it's not an issue and I would rather have better internals than a cool heavy chassis.

    The Peak was bought to replace the LG which failed as a daily amp. It was too big, hotish, two tubes to roll, not enough bass impact. The LG does have better mids in smoothness and detail and a relaxed presentation the peak can't really do. My guess it's the difference between the output stages. Most of my tubes sounded different on these amps.

    My Peak came with a sticky volume pot, replacing it was not easy as the solder just didn't want to melt properly regardless of the temperature.

    SQ:
    This is the big one and hardest to answer. It depends on the tubes and I already had lots of 6SN7 from the Ember/Teton/LG rolling. I'll cover the tubes in a separate post.
    With the HD650 I settled on the Sylvania 6SN7GT 1952. Other close ones: MELZ,BGRP,ECC32,6SN7W,B65,Ken Rad VT231,Fivre 6SN7,5692. Many more were just average. On the LG I didn't like the sylvania tube, too warm and smoothed out but a perfect synergy with the peak and HD650.

    -bass, oh lord that bass. Deeper than you would ever expect the HD650 to go, it actually has sub bass, no mid hump and impressive slam. The WA5LE fully kitted, Stratus and LG lag behind the peak in this area. It satisfies the basshead in me quite nicely. I haven't enjoyed The Prodigy/Spitfire like this since my LCD-3 +6db/60Hz days. Very similar to the Stellaris bass but slightly less control and impact.
    -mids, neutral, no dips or bloat that I can hear from low to upper mid. Extremely resolving similar tonality to the HPA4 but with a hint of warmth. Again similar to the Stellaris but less so. Reminds me of the HE6 mids with a hint of bloom.
    -highs, extended to the heavens and what sets it apart from the other 6SN7 tubes. Very 3D with distinct sounds coming from all over the place in a big cohesive soundstage. Detail retrieval is off scale, again no dips or peaks that need eq. On some overcrowded songs it may get out of shape where the Teton/Stellaris wouldn't.

    If I were to compare the amps I've owned:
    Project Ember---------Trilogy931-------------WA5LE---GSX-MK2---LG--------------------Peak--Stratus--------Teton----Stellaris

    Bottom line is the Peak hits it out of park on all areas for my preferred sound quality which is HD650 tonality, no mid bass hump, more sub bass, less warmth, bigger soundstage and let the mids and treble scale.


    Compared to the Teton. One of my absolute favourite tube combos after much rolling on the Teton is 422A/GEC 6AS7G/Sylvania 6SN7GT and since it's the same input tube it's somewhat a fair fight. Both single ended from the Pavane.
    - Teton has more impact and warmer bass. You might think it's not as extended as the Peak but the warmer bass hides the subbass somewhat. Teton has noticeable better control which translates to better overall rumble.
    - Teton has romance in mids where the Peak is neutral. It's also smother with more presence. Both feel like front row presentation which I dig.
    - High end not as extended as the Peak but has better transparency/detail. Slightly bigger 10% soundstage. Layering is about the same and that's saying something.
    [​IMG]
    There's no doubt the Teton is coloured, more so than the peak but it's faster,more dynamic and better in every way. It's like adding another volcano in benefits with just the right amount of wetness. I never liked the GEC 6AS7G before, it has an annoying lower treble peak and I mostly prefer the 6080 bottle over it. The 6SN7GT Sylvania has an amazing synergy and fixes those problems for an extremely natural sound where on the Peak it sounds airier.

    Final thoughts:
    I payed more for the tubes on the Teton than the Peak itself. It's a true tube rollers dream and so can cater to almost any headphone. If you can find one and have a stash of 6SN7 go for it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2019
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  2. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    Reserved for tube rolling impressions
     
  3. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    That will teach me to make post reservations. Since I'm done buying new 6SN7 tubes I did a roundup just to see where I stand with everything on the Peak.
    I'm marking them out of 10 for bass/mids/treble/3D(combination of layering,soundstage,imaging and dynamics).
    To keep a somewhat objective view I have the Stellaris with single plates on hand which is 11 out of 10 on all areas.

    Ken Rad 6SN7GT 8.5/8/8/8

    [​IMG]

    Starting with one of my favorites, great bass impact and control, mids could use a bit more bloom and more refinement in highs but no obvious dips or bumps. Slightly forward mids. Worthy because it’s cheap.

    EH 6/7/6/7
    [​IMG]
    Not bad actually, bass could do with more control and it almost bleeds into the mids, rolled off in the highs and lacks dynamics. Warmer than the ken rad. Will not use again.

    Russian 6H8C 5/5/5/5
    [​IMG]
    Woolly bass, flat, bloated mids, no.

    MELZ 8.5/7.7/8.7/8.5
    [​IMG]
    A proper Russian, plenty of detail, a bit v shaped, bass has the body but lacks ultimate control, mids can sound hollow, love the high end but close to being sharp, better than average soundstage, lacks bloom. Might listen to it from time to time.

    Westinghouse possibly Raytheon rebrand, D getter 7/7.5/8/7
    [​IMG]
    A good all rounder, bass could use more punch, mids are a bit laid back and high end a bit in your face but not harsh or bright. Will not use again.

    Tung Sol 6SN7GTB 7.5/7/6/6
    [​IMG]
    Lacks dynamics, bass is punchy, warm, detail missing with small soundstage. Will not use again.

    Fivre, no markings side getter 8.5/8.7/8.7/8.9
    [​IMG]
    Highly dynamic, great separation and imaging, balanced across the board, on the warm side but without poo. My kind of sound.

    Shungaugaguggaga CV181-Z 7/7.5/7/7
    [​IMG]
    Not a real CV181, bass sounds like it has an eq boost, mids are thicker than I like and not enough air. Will not use again.

    Sylvania 6SN7A/6SN7W short bottle 8.3/8.2/9.2/9
    [​IMG]
    Has a distinct solid state sound without being sterile. Uber detailed but lacks ultimate air, large layered soundstage, if the mids were richer this would be in my top 5. Could use more bass body but control/impact is there. On the rolling list.

    Sylvania 6SN7A/6SN7W tall bottle 8.7/8.5/8.2/8
    [​IMG]
    This trades the details of the short bottle for more bass body. Mids sound more natural but I cannot live without detail. Bass is borderline too much in some cases and could use a hair more control. Not as dynamic as the short bottle. Not using it.

    Sylvania 6F8G VT99 8/8.8/8.6/9
    [​IMG]
    Impressive soundstage layering and imaging, smooth and natural but still dynamic. Bass is the weak point compare to the rest, body is there but lacks control. One of my favorites, not actively using it.

    Sylvania chrome dome 8/8/7.5/7.5
    [​IMG]
    Smooth, maybe too smooth for its own good. Laid back but overall balanced. Not using it.

    Tung Sol 6F8G VT99 flat plate 8.2/8.5/8.5/8.2
    [​IMG]
    My first proper listen with this tube, surprised how balanced it sounds, rich mids, great separation and imaging, creates a proper soundstage but a tad flat compared to the best. Proper macro and micro details, love the dynamics. Bass could do with more control but has plenty of body and impact. Will not use again.

    Tung Sol 6F8G VT99 round plate 9/9/8.7/9
    [​IMG]
    Mid king even if a bit thick for my liking, can’t really fault the bass, wide layered soundstage, could do with more air but super extended and detailed. As natural sounding as they come I just wish it was lighter on its feet. Will include in my rotation.

    CBS 5692 8.1/7.8/8.5/8.2
    [​IMG]
    Another great balanced tube, lacks bloom, bass has excellent control, but I would prefer more body, one of the best for treble lovers, needs mid richness. Using it in the saga.

    Westinghouse 6SN7GTB D getter 8.3/8.8/8.7/8.6
    [​IMG]
    Close to my ideal sound, mid has the right amount of weight, treble is extended and airy. Throws a wide 3D soundstage, spot on tonality. Doubt I’ll be using it again

    Sylvania 6J5 7.8/7.5/7.5/7.5
    [​IMG]
    Mids a bit distant and cold, dynamics are so so, airy but a slight bump in lower treble. Not worthy.

    National Union 6J5 8/7.8/7.2/7
    [​IMG]
    Nice punch but needs more body, needs more soundstage, kinda flat. No

    Sylvania 6SN7GT 1952 9.5/8.5/9.2/9.5
    [​IMG]
    The only tube with proper sub bass. Glorious sound stage, imaging and layering. Mids lack last bit of richness but same tonality as the Stellaris. One of the airiest and dynamic of the bunch. In my top 3.
    In the LG I found them too warm and smooth, but they work so well in the peak. Wish I had this combo when I started so I didn’t feel the need to ever upgrade. My second used tube in the peak

    Sylvania 6SN7 grey plate 1951 8/8.8/8/8.2
    [​IMG]
    Better mids than the black plate, more natural and detail but the rest of the spectrums isn’t up to par. I don’t think this is a naughty boy as it’s from the 26th week. Will not use again.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2019
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  4. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    Sylvania VT231 1945. 7.8/7/7.3/7
    [​IMG]
    Same exact construction as the 1952 one with 2 hole but worse in every way. Flatter and less resolving, good punch. Not using it again.

    Brimar 13D2 8.5/9.4/8.8/9
    [​IMG]
    One of the rarest tubes in existence, ruggedized variant of the normal 6SN7. One of the best mids even compared to the Teton, a hint of warmth, rich as fuck, extended very well on both ends, highly detail and airy, exceptional imaging, I could listen to it for days. No wonder glen users rave about it in the 12/25V variant. Thankfully tested over spec since I won’t ever find another one. For special occasions.

    ECC32 9.4/9.2/9.4/9.5
    [​IMG]
    Sounds better in the Peak than in the LG, end game combo. Spooky close to the Stellaris with less technicalities and a warmer mid range. Spot on my ideal sound, I would happily live with this for the rest of my live. One of the few that can reproduce the natural sound of percussion instruments, cymbals etc. My third most used in the Peak.

    MOV L63 9.2/9.3/9.3/9.4
    [​IMG]
    Comes in various sizes and brands, Osram,Gec,Marconi,MWT black,brown and metal base, cup rectangular and o getter, dark and clear glass. Olders ones have a round bottom mica with smaller holes on the top one. Later ones have a square bottom mica with bigger holes in the top one. I don’t have the halo getter as I’m allergic to those but the rest of mine sound pretty much the same.

    The L63 coke bottle is not as good and has a different construction where the MOV ones are identical to B65, might even be the same tube. Presentation is slightly more forward than the ECC32 while being a tad lighter in both mids and treble. Availability is still good and can be had for under 100$ but a tube tester is mandatory for matching and most are sold as is. Bought my first two singles from different sellers with the same test result 8.0 on the same tester. My tester reported 7.0 and 9.0.

    My main tube in the Peak as it excels in every area, it works great with less than well recorded music, similar to the LG signature but without its flaws. More laid back than the ECC32 and works great to tame the slightly aggressive output stage of the peak. A perfect synergy.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2019
  5. Dimitris

    Dimitris Rando

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    Nice review. I have the Arete which is the solid state version of the Peak and I am really enjoying it with planars.
    It got very favorable reviews during one of the headfi meets in PA last year.
     
  6. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    I've been a solid-state guy for decades, but recently I dipped my toes into the tube-sea with a Schiit Lyr 3, and I'm kind of hooked. The hybrid, dual-triode design of the Lyr 3 and of the Peak is attractive to me because I can do a bit of tube exploration without going into very complicated multi-tube configurations that require a lot more investigation. I'm considering a used, 2011 Peak+Volcano as an alternative to the new Lyr 3 I own and enjoy. Should I? The nice thing is that I can use my current small set of tubes on the Peak as well and explore different sound signatures on both.
     
  7. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    Could not resist that used Peak+Volcano for sale on the other forum. Been listening to it with a Sylvania 6SN7W brown base. It does not suck. Mids a bit grittier but overall more punchy and spacious than my other hybrid amp, Lyr 3 + Psvane 6SN7SE. Interesting complement to the Metrum Onyx DAC I'm evaluating, which sounded very liquid but maybe a bit too polite with the Lyr 3+Psvane combo. Much to explore and compare in the next few weeks. Update: Wow, Psvane 6SN7SE on the Peak gets it to a higher level of jazz quartet micro-detail (sax reediness, cymbal overtones, bass resonances, drum decay).
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2018
  8. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    Well mine is with Pete for repair. So much for solid state reliability over tubes, one of the mosfets blew and had to be replaced, not a big deal but I'm already in withdrawal...though that might be the lack of nicotine.
     
  9. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    Before buying mine, I contacted TTVJ to inquire about future repairs but I got no reply. I'm glad that you were able to contact Pete directly for repair! I'll keep my Lyr 3 as a back up, just in case ;) As you note, this amp is addictive, especially with the Psvane SE tube. The main win over the Lyr 3 is better dynamics and staging while having competitive micro- and macro-details.
     
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  10. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    @m17xr2b I'm a bit curious about where to go beyond the Peak+Volcano I got a while ago (based on your review above, actually), if anywhere. On one hand, I'm still enjoying the Peak with a Psvane 6SN7-SE tube very much. On the other, I can't forget the "wow" I experienced this winter when I skied my new stiffer, longer powder skis after quite a few years on a shorter, a bit softer model from the same manufacturer (DPS) so I started wondering about possible similar effects in my audio world ;)

    You mentioned the Teton in a comment to my status, but rereading your review, I'm not sure that's the right direction for me -- I'm not looking for extra warmth, and I'm unsure of the Teton's ability to drive magnetic planars. Since I prefer to change one thing at a time, the amp will be downstream of a Metrum Onyx, and feeds Ether C Flows 1.1. What I'd hope to hear beyond the current setup? Deeper soundstage, better clarity in complex passages. Music tastes: according to Roon's sort-by-most-played: baroque-classical keyboard, modern jazz small ensemble (Vijay Iyer, Charlie Haden, Dave Holland, Anat Cohen, Cris Potter, Charles Lloyd, Brad Mehldau), jazz guitar (Bill Frisell, Wolfgant Muthspiel, Nels Cline, Miles Okazaki, John Scofield), West and North African (Ali Farka Touré, Ballaké Sissoko, Anouar Brahem), modern classical (Debussy, Bartók, Stravinsky, Pierre Boulez, Philip Glass, John Adams). Lots of new jazz from small labels.
     
  11. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    @earnmyturns if you're like me then there's only one way, DHT SET amp.
    The Peak is fantastic, listening to it you wound't say it lacks in any one area but fairly tube dependent according to ones tastes. Currently under the 1K price range I wouldn't choose anything else.
    Ultimately compared to high end amps it's a bit lacking.

    The Teton is OTL so only high ohm HP apply, some find it a great match with Utopia. Most people think of OTL amps as slow, tubey, thick and that's mostly due to the Crack.
    The Teton is extremely close to neutral, intimate soundstage with superb mids and detail on the tubes I have. The you are there feeling and thus audio pleasure increases. There is no area where the Peak is better, close yes, quite close in some instances but the difference is enough to fully justify the increase in cost(I find cost/performance increases logarithmic).

    Now to upgrade from the Peak you have:
    - a huge increase is cost especially if going full tube amp
    - a huge increase in power consumption and heat output 40W vs 150W-250W
    - an increase in size, I don't think you can get better in the same size or smaller.
    - increase in complexity
    - the horror of knowing how much you paid

    Take this example, using the same input tube ECC32 to make it apples to apples
    [​IMG]

    Peak has:
    - less soundstage
    - grey-ish background
    - timid high end extension with a somewhat metal edge
    - somewhat plastic tone
    - less separation
    - less tactility(you loose the impact strings can make)
    - 7 times cheaper

    There is no way to reconcile with the Peak shortcomings after listening to the WA5 and I'm not using the Peak at all these days but here's what I would say:
    1. If you can, go big as in DHT 2A3,300B,etc. with good iron, classic design topology nothing fancy and call it a day for a long long time, Studio Jr. comes to mind. You might sell it eventually if it's not your cup of tea but at least you know and can go out of the hobby.
    2. Don't side-grade, even a more expensive amp say <2K would be hard to justify since it has to be more than a little bit better and most aren't.
    3. Depends how important is music to you. I use it to unwind after a long day, forget about my existence and float away, add the x factor in life.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2019
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  12. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    If you like the tonality and clean zippy presentation of the Apex Peak (BTW, I owned this amp), I would stay away from the 300B version of the Studio Jr. Order it in 2A3. EC amps are not that tube dependent IMO. There are "known" tubes that get the job done. Peak fans should really gravitate to the 45 tube (which is what I use on my main amp).

    I'm on board with what @m17xr2b said about not sidegrading. You are better off getting the most that you can get from Lyr 3 or Peak. Next step is all in, and even then, there are diminishing returns.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2019
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  13. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    Thank you and @m17xr2b for the detailed advice. I'll definitely forget about sidegrades. I had already been sniffing around the Studio Jr. I also read an earlier thread on the Studio where you and other friends discussed 2A3 vs 45, and whether they should be matches different transformers. Since I only know anything (not much) about preamp tubes, and nothing about output tubes: is the idea to start the Studio Jr. with 2A3 anyway, and later consider 45s as an additional exploration, or would it make sense to start with 45s?
     
  14. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    I listen to lots of music, both recorded and live, mainly jazz and classical. I'm always finding new material to listen to (see my reports in "Jazz nuts"). I'm more interested in experiencing new music than in a sensory bath of familiar music, although I try to re-explore older material too. Because of jazz, the textures of individual instruments, the exact timing and dynamics of the rhythm section, and instrument relationships on the stage matter most.
     
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  15. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    45 won't be a choice. Needs different OPT. Craig won't make a 45 amp anymore. Lack of options for new production and dwindling supply and crap condition of old stock.
     
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  16. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    What great visual identification posts, thank-you!
     
  17. Curado

    Curado Rando

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    Fantastic write-up.

    Pics are all gone now. Can it be fixed?
     
  18. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    Just for you
     
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  19. Curado

    Curado Rando

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    Thank you so much Sir, much appreciate it!

    This is definitely one of the best write-ups on SBAF, haven't seen these in years!
     

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