Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by tommytakis, Jun 16, 2020.
no SS glare - natural leading edge on notes with BHA-1, solid state done at its best.
I've already heard the Starlett couple times along with a lengthy listening sesh thanks to Donald back when it was still called a “prototype”, so I can give you a rough gist:
- Starlett will most likely win out in staging, but I wouldn't feel like I'm losing out on much using the BHA-1. I think this is quite a feat since many solid state amps do width, but little to no depth. (Ex. Jotunheim, THX789, Asgard 3, Magni 3+, etc.)
- BHA-1 is far more versatile than the Starlett that could work with either dynamic or planars (If you end up wanting to have one of each type). Also neat that it has a balanced pre-out among many more features
- BHA-1 will have a more delineated/ well defined attack and livelier transients. (ZERO solid state glare/etch as @JoshMorr stated) Even with proper DAC pairings, Starlett still has its inherent softness to it (not a bad thing per se and can be quite pleasant to listen to) and will never slap as hard as a good solid state like BW and BHA-1.
- Starlett will probably have better microdynamics and better portray the nuances of your music, but BHA-1 is still very VERY good at that.
- Starlett will sound more liquid/smooth, better at mitigating possibly-troublesome peaks in your headphones like the HD800, Verite, Auteur, etc. without turning your system into a giant warmpoo fest. But like I mentioned in my review, BHA-1 is pretty great at that too where it makes stock HD800 kind of listenable lol
- Starlett will probably be more resolving/better plankton retrieval, but would have to do direct comparisons to be sure. BHA-1 still scales like mad though.
I think both amps have traits that make them very easy to live with, which is why I am still debating on selling the BHA-1 or not when the time comes. I prefer minimalistic setups and don’t need a plethora of amps and DACs to satisfy my needs. Who knows, maybe BHA-1 will stick around even after Starlett arrives.
Here's my thoughts after dealing with work stuff:
IMO @tommytakis it might be wise to keep both amps. Going by what you are saying, I have a feeling that depending on your music taste you want to keep both amps. I love the Starlett for instruments stuff, ethic stuff, folk rock, etc., but the stuff that I want the amp to hit hard (Judas Priest, N.W.A, Ice Cube, Kraftwerk, random Bandcamp electronic stuff), just needs to hit a little harder in order to get me going. Starlett is great for those things too, but I wish the hitness was a turn up by two point. However, most of my music collection sounds great on Starlett either way, so this is more a "brother amp" than anything else.
Of course, I could be talking out of my butt, so don't look at me for a good voice of reason on this....
@Jerry reached out and asked my opinion about this amp, so I figured I would drop a small review here. Sources are my laserdisc CD transport using a BNC to AES adapter into Yggdrasil A2.
I've owned the following amps over my 8 years or so in the hobby:
And I've auditioned the following:
Besides maybe the Aficionado, the BHA-1 is the best headphone amp I've ever heard. It has a smooth, liquid, confident sense of authoritative power. It has none of the downsides of solid state design (glare, etch, harshness, sterility) but all the upsides (slam, clarity, power). While the tone is pretty close to neutral, the amp has a slight inviting warmth that gives music a pleasing tonality. The music seems to flow effortlessly from an endless reservoir of dynamism without ever feeling overbearing or too in your face. In fact it has a confident, laid back quality that just feels so satisfying. Microdynamics and plankton are exceptional... nothing feels missing and the amp digs hard into mixes. But there is an explosive quality on tap that comes when necessary, providing plenty of slam. The soundstage is massive, with better than average front to back layering for solid state.
I've never heard the modded HD650 sound better. It damn near sounds like a different headphone out of this amp. A clear (at least as clear as the 650 can be), crisp, slamming monster with TOTL technicalities. I've heard hints of this out of other amps, but the BHA-1 seems to milk every ounce of performance from this "mid-fi" headphone. HD600 sounds equally amazing, but there is more synergy with the 650.
This is an amp that feels like there are no compromises to the sound. It just gets out of the way and lets the source components reveal themselves. And seems to boil headphones down to their true essence.
Nothing but positive things to say about this underrated amp. It's as good as anything coming out of the TOTL boutique outfits like Eddie Current and DNA. It should be getting alot more attention. And it has both SE and balanced inputs so no fiddling with external converters.
Thank you, great reading particularly for the BHA-1 owners.
BHA-1 can be factory moded to lower the gain -12dB. Was your unit moded or on full gain?
And your review gives me more incentives to look at the Yggdrasil option once again, take another look at HD650 mods.
Very motivating but not good for my wallet
The gain was lowered on the preamp outs, which doesn't apply to me. The gain on the volume pot is fine, could use a bit more leeway, but it's nowhere near the shit show that was the early Liquid Platinums. It's not as much of a problem on low gain.
Had the BHA-1 in to try for the past few days. Not really much to add that hasn't been said, but some brief impressions anyway:
Slight upper-mid focus/emphasis that gives the amp good clarity.
Very fast, precise transients without being sharp or fatiguing.
Large, somewhat diffuse stage with good depth in particular.
Still lacks some of the layering or holography of tubes, though.
Extended on both ends, with controlled bass that digs deep.
High resolution of low-level information, but blackground and microdynamics lagged behind just the slightest amount imo.
Not obviously colored, other than the upper-mids.
Overall, smooth but authoritative and with impact when required.
Source was Bifrost 4490 (Gen 2 USB) at first, then Gungnir Multibit A2. Headphones used were Clear, HD 650, DT 1770 Pro. Reference point was Valhalla 2, which has been my main amp for the last few years.
The Bifrost sounded bad here, as the transparency of the BHA-1 was of course quite revealing of the Bifrost's shortcomings - fatiguing at times, lack of (real) stage depth, over-present mid-bass, overemphasized top octave and transients. These characteristics were masked or compensated for with the Valhalla.
Soundstage with the Gungnir was on another level, and together they paired well with the HD 650. The neutrality of the chain helped the slight excess warmth of the 650, and the bass extension, control, and speed were transformative of the typical woolly 650 low-end. It was too lean for the stock Clear, although that wasn't my plan to begin with anyway.
Good match for Utopia? since it seems the BHA-1 have a upper mid forwardness, it doesnt seem to be a good match?
I remember when I first got into this hobby years ago this amp was on the display at the local headphone shop, and I consider it to be a FOTM amp which I wouldn't be able to afford.
Fast forward to this morning when I discovered this thread, checked the used price of a BHA-1 and boom, I got one now.
Listened roughly for an hour at the 2nd hand audio market.
Teac P70>Metrum Pavane L3>BHA-1>modded HD650/Atticus cocobolo
Tightest bass out of my HD650 that I've ever heard, thinking about tuco's tight. The rest of the chain + music I'm not familiar with so I won't comment much.
Back at home my chain is:
Pi2AES>modi multibit v1>vali 2(siemens E88CC for HD650, WE396A for Atticus) / BHA-1
Listening to music that I know with the HD650, the best thing that comes to mind is that, nothing actually comes to mind. I'm not experienced in hearing and describing difference between sounds, but all I can say is the BHA-1 is effortless, and gets out of your way. Kind of like forgetting that you are listening to headphones, and with the comfort of the HD650, I actually felt sleepy. Maybe they do have some magic synergy.
With the Atticus, the BHA-1 sounded tighter at the low end and are more holographic.
High gain on BHA-1 seems to bring the vocal forward by a bit, which I like better, but I'm never reaching 9o'clock on the volume pot with high gain, guess it's better to do the -12dB mod.
Perhaps my modi multibit is dragging back the potential of BHA-1, still waiting for bifrost 2 and SW51+ to arrive for a proper comparsion.
Yggdrasil A2 is a better match for the BHA-1, and really shows what the amp can do. This combo with the Sennheisers shows how insanely they scale, and makes it easy to forget anything Focal or ZMF (no offense to either company).
I wouldn't go so far to say it's forward. I tend to be sensitive to the level of upper mids (prefer a slightly laid back sound). It just sounded a bit more focused to me in this area, in the scheme of things. More clear.
So I performed the gain mod after some googling and finding the instructions on head-fi, couldn't wait for the reply from Bryston lol. It's basically flipping some resistors. Now that I can get to around 9 o'clock on high gain with pop song, and around 11 o'clock on better recorded music. However on low gain I find there to be minimal volume increase from 9 o'clock to 3 o'clock, don't know if this feature(problem?) present pre-mod as I never got past 10 o'clock. Don't seem to hear any sonic degradation.
The contact turned brown right after I put the soldering tip onto it, but the solder just wasn't melting for some reason.This is my first time dealing with smd component and I was sweating the whole time, basically went "fuck it whatever" and finished the job. Really sloppy work but glad it worked in the end. Honestly I would not recommend this mod if you are in the NA region and with no smd soldering experience, just send it to Bryston and let them do it for you.
According to the reviews, and my experience, that's how the BHA-1 volume is supposed to work. Sharp increase in the first quarter. fine tuning between 10-3 and another increase in the last quarter. My amp was modified at the Bryston factory, and the pot worked in the same way, before and after the mod. With 12dB difference of course.
Trying to better triangulate the sound on the BHA-1 to see if I want to audition this amp - to those who have heard both, how does BHA1 compare to the 3F? or to Phonitor as mentioned on the first page? Or if we do a tl;dr version, is this "better" than 3F or phonitor x/e and if so, in what ways or with what synergies?
It is worth auditioning.
The 3F is probably a bit more resolving, but also alot more expensive, even on the used market. I personally am fine with the BHA-1 even after auditioning the 3F, especially for what I paid ($1200). 3F is probably a bit more incisive too, but I found it a little dry sounding for my taste. But there are transformer differences that change the character.
3F has better microdynamics, clarity, and resolution/plankton
BHA1 has better macrodynamics/slam, staging, and more versatile.
In my experience, synergy-wise both amps work well with Sennheisers and ZMFs, but 3F has special synergy with Focals and BHA1 can drive play-nars and has some real gud synergy with my JAR650! Hope this helps
BHA-1 is so good with IEMs. Few months ago I compared it directly with new RME ADI-2 DAC which is great with IEMs and the verdict was still in favor of BHA-1. RME had a darker background, which was important with SE846s, but I liked soundstage, bass control, and resolution of BHA-1 more.
Recently, I was going through my test playlist to find out if I like iBasso DX220 enough to keep it, using CA Vega, and ER4SR and switching between DX220, Kann Cube, and BHA-1.
BHA-1 takes Vegas to completely different level. I have always loved everything Vega was doing above 130Hz but spent a lot of time finding the right tips, and right synergy to tame the lower bass. Kann Cube at high gain, and comply comfort tips get me almost there.
But BHA-1 on low gain, and balanced output, increased Vegas resolution, sound stage is taken to the next level and bass is entirely controlled. It extends low, it is still elevated but layering an the texture of the low end is much improved. Nothing is missing and there and I do not hear even a trace of booming, even on those few tracks that caused Vegas on Kann Cube some problems
My BHA-1 gain was lowered by -12dB, which may be a factor here.
I also noticed something strange: the 3 pin 2 x XLR output background is entirely quiet, but 4 pin XLR, if I focus, I can hear just a very slight noise in the background. I thought that a signal path was pretty much the same.
Anyway, now I ordering a cable for Vegas with double 3 pin XLR amp connection.
You can nudge BHA-1 a little bit into better layering, and better microdetails. I did some testing with HEKv2 and HS800S and on low gain the sound is slightly different: it may be less dynamic but is more resolving with better microdynamics and better revealing the layers of music that are somewhat obstructed on high gain.
More details in the link but I am not sure what role he fact that my amp is moded, to -12dB on both high and low gain, is playing in this.
99% of my listening was on low gain, as I didn't like the high gain sound much. You might be right in sonic differences between low vs. high gain, but I still think BHA1 is a couple steps behind ECP 3F's resolve and microdynamics. BHA1 hits harder and stages a bit better for sure, but the bass doesn't seem as grippy and controlled lacking a bit of finesse and textural nuance that 3F conveys. Now, is it worth the price differences? Really depends on what type of sound you're trying to attain and sonic preferences (slam head vs. detail/stage h0e )
Also didn't think the BHA1 lacked any detail until I did some side by side comparison with the Starlett. I'd say it's just a bit shy of "TOTL" level of plankton not hearing as much microdetail and ambient cues, but just as much enjoyment as one. Really glad BHA1 is getting the attention that it deserves!
This amp is interesting to me... can anyone comment on how it compares to the Mjolnir 2?
I currently have a Starlett and a Mjolnir 2... Mj2 is for when I am in the mood for more slam and dynamics. Also for my planers that need some juice.
But it lacks some resolution and finesse that the Starlett does so well....
Maybe BHA-1 keeps the great slam but adds some resolution/finesse?
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