DarkVoice 336SE

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by Kon Peki, Apr 3, 2016.

  1. Kon Peki

    Kon Peki Friend

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    Anyone have experience with this amp? I've been wanting to try an OTL tube amp, and this is an inexpensive option. Someone is selling theirs on my local Craigslist for $200.

    I haven't been able to find much information about it on the web, but this review makes it seem like it's worth a try:



    This one not so much:

     
  2. Ash1412

    Ash1412 Friend

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    Z-reviews are not that concerned with sound quality rather than design,comfort,... The guy practically hypes a new pair of headphones every week. He even considers the HD700 equal to the HD6x0s ffs. I'd rather go with the usual SBAF recommendations: Val2 or Crack or the Vali 2 for under 200$. What headphones are you looking to pair a tube amp with?
     
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  3. a44100Hz

    a44100Hz Friend

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    This one should be in a similar ballpark to the APPJ tube amp I'm offering as a loaner, you could check that out if you're interested.
     
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  4. bixby

    bixby Friend

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    I had an amp that was a bit better, the Le Figaro Classic. Basically an upgraded 336 but without the pre outs. Effusion on this forum still owns a 336 SE.

    As for sound it was pretty good but a bit congested compared to some amps you can now get under $300. Lots of tube rolling for flavoring but at the end of the day, I think you can do better. Depends on what can you plan to use. I used Beyer DT-880s 600 ohm and they liked the smoothed top end and extra warmth of this type design. And it also liked the more lush mids. That really helped the dry Beyers.

    The Darkvoice, I heard primarily on Senn 650s. Nice but not outstanding. I personally would look for a better true OTL design like a Hartung (another of Effusions amps). Or go with something like one of the tube Schiits depending on can. I like the Polaris SS amp just fine with my Senn 650s for example.

    Good luck. Price is about right on the DV, I think I sold my Le Figaro for around that or about $175 or so.
     
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  5. Kon Peki

    Kon Peki Friend

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    Thanks, all. I will be primarily using my HD600 with this amp if I buy it.

    Considered the Valhalla 2, but I read somewhere (I think it was a thread at Changstar) that the method they use to lower the output impedance on the Valhalla 2 makes it sound more solid state and less like an OTL tube amp. Really I'm just looking for something that will sound different (in any way) from my Lyr 2 and V200).
     
  6. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    If anything, the Valhalla 2 might sound less similar than the Lyr2/V200 than the 336SE. I heard the Lyr 2 as rather warm, and have read the V200 is warm too. 336SE supposedly warm. Valhalla 2 sounded more like solid state to me. Then again, if I can guess what the 336SE will roughly sound like, it will probably have it's own sort of warn, euphonic sound vs all the other amps.
     
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  7. Ash1412

    Ash1412 Friend

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    The Lyr 2 already sounds warm and kinda tube-ish with the 600. For the HD600, the Crack will be a better match tonally but the Val2 will be better technically. If you really want something different from the two amps you're using (both kinda warm and not that resolving), I'd recommend you go for the Val2. Vali 2 won't be all that different from the Lyr2, probably more neutral and less dynamic from the impressions I've seen on SBAF.
     
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  8. Effusion

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    bixby is correct, I've owned the 336SE for the past 7 years or so and I also own the Hartung 6080/6SN7 OTL amp as well.

    The Le Figaro Classic is the newer design, with a few different components internally and is also a slimmer unit, but I couldn't tell much difference between it and the SE, they are very similar. I believe they stopped manufacturing the 336SE, but you can still purchase directly new. One main difference with the La Figaro Classic is that the 336SE has pre-outs, so if you plan to run it to a power amplifier/speakers it is a plus. I believe the output of the 336SE is a bit hotter than a usual line-level RCA, so make sure to pair it with a quality amplifier with well built inputs; I believe the extra juice is the reason the input on my original cheap small form Onkyo desktop amplifier eventually went out, but I've had no trouble feeding it to a Qinpu A-6000 MKII.

    In my experiences, the Darkvoice is just that, a little dark, but in my opinion a great little desktop amp for the price, plus the rolling options can make it really fun. It may not have the detail and openness of others, including much newer designs, within its price range, but it really meshes with the HD650s and the 6SN7 tube is just fun in general, while the 6AS7G and variants are easy to find NOS. I exclusively paired this amplifier with the HD650s and it truly is a great match for them; I'm assuming it would be just as good on the 600s, which I did try for about a week or so, prior to receiving my 650s, but it was years ago.

    Compared to the Bottlehead Crack, I've always enjoyed the Darkvoice more. The base Crack was always been a bit too soft, polite, and sweet for me when I've auditioned in the past, while the Darkvoice gave a more forward sound with much better impact, speed, and attack overall. I recently heard the Crack with the Speedball upgrade as well as an upgraded pot and it was much better than stock; however, a 5998 tube was also being used, which generally gives a stronger, more forward sound with quite a bit more gain plus weight to overall signature. I'm now convinced that these 3 upgrades to the Crack are well worth it and probably necessary for me at least. Also, the nice thing about the Darkvoice is that you don't necessarily need something like the 5998 for most applications. I've found that I quite enjoy quality 6080s better than 5998s or 6AS7Gs, as 6080s tend to give great soundstage/air by really opening up the sound and also impart a bit of sweetness, such as the Crack, but without dulling the sound too much or making it too sweet; European and military variants are my favorite of the 6080s. Although, it really all comes down to what type of music you enjoy the most, as I can see the Crack being a great choice, even stock, for certain genres.

    There has been a ton of discussion regarding the different rolling options for this amplifier over the years as well:

    Darkvoice 336 + 336i Tuberolling [ tubes ]

    Darkvoice 336i & 336SE Tuberolling PartII

    As bixby also stated, I own a Hartung 6080/6SN7 headphone amplifier, which I believe is a true OTL design, whereas my understanding of Darkvoice has always been that it was more of a hybrid, albeit with great use of the tube section, unlike some. Hartung is a company that has been making OTL amplifiers for many years and are highly regarded in this area, more so in Europe, as I believe they are just less known in the states. Below is a link to their website, plus where you can find one for sale (I purchased mine from an auction a few years ago for $300 shipped off eBay direct from Hartung, so you might be able to find a better price than the $495 offered below):

    http://www.hartung-amplification.com/

    http://www.efdevicerocks.com/hartung-otl-tube-headphone-amplifier-i16287/

    Overall to me the Hartung is more detailed, open, transparent, dynamic, and forward than the Darkvoice, giving better overall sound quality in general. My only complaint is that there is no power switch on the Hartung, so you either have to unplug from the back or use a switch at the cord, etc. to turn it off/on. Also there is a switch on the back for US/Europe voltage, so you need to make sure it is to the right for US because there are no markings indicating which is which, be careful not to switch it accidentally either. Other than these two issues, I'd consider this Hartung as a great option for the Darkvoice/Crack/Valhalla 2 field.
     
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  9. Kon Peki

    Kon Peki Friend

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    Thank you for all the great information! Any thoughts about the particular Crack this fellow is selling?

    http://www.head-fi.org/t/721488/special-edition-bottlehead-crack-with-speedball-upgrade
     
  10. Luckbad

    Luckbad Traded in a unicorn for a Corolla

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    Same ballpark for the price, I'd get the Garage1217 Project Sunrise III.

    I'm a big fan. I slightly prefer the more expensive Project Horizon III for Sennheiser cans but you can't really use it with IEMs.

    It took a $1700 amp for me to sell the Sunrise.
     
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  11. Kon Peki

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    From what I can see, all the Garage 1217 amps are built without walls to keep my 2-year-old daughter's hands out. I do watch her closely, but it seems like a risk all the same...
     
  12. Luckbad

    Luckbad Traded in a unicorn for a Corolla

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    Yep. I have a 2 year old as well. I just turn it off if I'm not in the room.
     
  13. Kon Peki

    Kon Peki Friend

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    I just got the DV336SE from the guy on Craigslist. Much bigger and heavier than I expected.

    So far, I love the way it sounds with the HD600! Quite nice looking as well :).
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2016
  14. Effusion

    Effusion Friend

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    Very cool, congrats on the purchase! I'm glad you are digging it with the HD600s.

    I agree, I like the look of the SE version the best, the chrome plate on the classic always looked like it would pick up a ton of prints and I believe would get a bit hotter to the touch as well.

    What tubes did it happen to come with?

    There are a ton of options for the 6sn7 out there, but it may be best to first determine what type of power tube, 6AS7G/6080/5998, would best suit your needs.

    Most of the 5998s were made by Tung-sol, Chatham, and Western Electric, with re-brands here and there, and they'll give you more gain, powerful attack/speed, and quite a bit of impact. However the 6080s tend to be on the other end of the spectrum, with a more delicate, open, and less solid state sound overall. Many regard the 5998s as the best variant, however they have also been more solid state sounding to me and not always the best for every genre, but they do sound very good.

    As far as 6080s, I've always like the Bendix cast-iron plates and the European CV2984s the best, but all of the militarized WB versions are generally quite good. To me the 6080 tends to be the most tubey overall, with great bloom, soundstage, and air. However, the cheaper NOS versions were always a bit too laid-back, soft, and polite for my general tastes. The GE 5 stars and Sylvanias were always my least favorite and in this category, but they are easy to find and are cheap. The military Tung-sol with cast-iron plates are also very nice, with a bit more weight than the Bendix, but with less of a top end.

    As far as 6AS7Gs, most are RCA's, with the black plates being earlier than the grey; most consider the sound of the newer grey plates to be a bit better as the black plates can sometimes seem a bit harsh, clinical, and shallow. Also, there is of course, the original, the GEC 6AS7G, which are regarded as the best sounding of the type, but they are expensive; my understanding is that the non-coke bottle GECs (look like 6080s) are virtually the same, but they tend to go for much less (I have yet to try any of them though). Generally, I would put the 6AS7G between the 6080s and the 5998s on the spectrum, having more of a balance of flavor between the two extremes.

    The 6sn7 is one crazy world, since there were so many types and variants made, but there are a ton of impressions out there if you search.

    Then again, you may already know all of this and have some different types at hand already.

    Let me know if you have any questions and congrats once again! :)
     
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  15. Kon Peki

    Kon Peki Friend

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    Thanks very much, this is all new to me. I believe I have the stock tubes. They look just like the ones in the Z-Review video I embedded in the OP. Will try to locate some of the ones you are recommending!
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2016
  16. Kon Peki

    Kon Peki Friend

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  17. JoshMorr

    JoshMorr Friend

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    When looking for tube recommendations you can also see what people are using in the bottlehead crack it uses same tubes. Should be plenty of them out there too!
     
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  18. Kon Peki

    Kon Peki Friend

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    Just to get things started, I bought a couple tubes that were inexpensive, hopefully better than stock, and have a short shipping time :)

    Thomson-CFS 6080WA France

    and

    Tung Sol 6SN7 6SN7GTB Reissue
     
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  19. Effusion

    Effusion Friend

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    Good purchase on the Thomson, they are nice and do quite a bit good, especially if you got a good deal. I had never tried them before, but my Hartung amp came with one stock that was NOS, so I'm thinking there is a big stash somewhere in Europe. Anyway, I enjoy it!

    As far as the Tung-sol reissue, I'm not really sure as I have not tried any new production 6sn7s. They are Russian however, produced by the New Sensor Corp. and re-branded as Tung-sol. They ended up buying the rights to the old tube branding/design and produce them in the same way, however the materials and manufacturing tends to be less than stellar, at least compared to the old versions. I believe general impressions of the some of the new production Tung-sols are that they are a bit thin and shallow compared to their NOS counterparts, but it's a good place to start and they should work just fine.

    I do like Tung-sol 6sn7s though, with my favorites being the "T" plates and the brown base WGTAs. The "Round Plates" are also excellent, but are very expensive and in my opinion not really worth the extra coin. Below are some "examples" of the T and brown bases, but I have not looked closely at the sellers/results, etc., so just examples.

    T Plates - Mouse Ears


    Brown Base

    *Edit: I just noticed that the T Plate linked above is actually a "Mouse Ear", which is a T plate, but has those round saucers protruding from the sides at the top, indicating that it is a mouse ear. In my experience, the mouse ears have great soundstage and air, but sound a bit thin and more polite than other Tung-sols. A true T plate is linked below (you'll notice that a few are taller than others, which is just differences in the years/manufacture):

    T Plates

    That CV2984 does look nice and isn't a horrible price or anything, they are hard to come by. The ones I've used have been earlier productions though, probably 50's to 60's I believe, so I'm not 100% sure, but those appear to be them (mine have slightly different labels, etc.). In my unit they always gave me everything I wanted, no less, no more, and were generally my starting choice when rolling with others for the first time to get folks a good starting impression. You'll find that sometimes with tubes, compromises must be made, as most do some things right and other things not so right. The fun, at least for me, is being able to get different flavors for different genres or to just change it up a bit after using others for awhile.

    Also, consider trying an RCA grey plate 6AS7G, or even a black plate, to a least get a sense of them compared to the Thomson as well. They are generally cheaper, around $20-$25 for NOS or close to, and easier to find than others. Plus, getting a sense of how different the 6080 is to the 6AS7G helps.

    In addition, I've found that Tube World is a great resource for information regarding NOS types as there is info plus pictures of many different kinds. However, I don't remember them having much on the 6AS7G/6080/5998 types. Anyway, it's nice to have a picture and description sometimes.

    https://www.tubeworld.com/index_high.htm

    I'm unsure of what they are including as stock nowadays, I believe they are probably cheap Chinese types though and you'll get better sound as soon as you swap them out.

    Let us know how those new tubes turn out!
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2016
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  20. Kon Peki

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    Last edited: Apr 4, 2016
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