Donald North Audio — Owners Thread

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by Huxleigh, Aug 12, 2016.

  1. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    @BillOhio loaned me his DNA Sonnett 2 for a few days along with an Eitr. Audio chain was:

    Mac Mini -> Eitr -> Modi MB -> Sonnett 2 -> HD 6XX/HE-400i

    Besides meetups the only home experience I had with tubes was the Vali 2, which I thought was good but I preferred the sound of my own amp. The Sonnett 2 with the HD 6XX was a magic pairing. Everything was just so clear. I was always curious what people meant about the high impedance Senns needing tubes and now I understand. With the HE-400i I found it a bit underwhelming, but with high-Z phones this is an excellent combo. I preferred the sound with the 120ohm IEC switch. Very curious what the IEC output would have sounded like with 600 ohm Beyerdynamics.

    Definitely one of the most memorable amps for me.
     
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  2. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    This is why the HD650/HD800 are my favourite with the stratus above all other flagships.
     
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  3. BillOhio

    BillOhio Friend

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    Not mine anymore. I have definite mixed emotions about parting with that one.
     
  4. ufospls2

    ufospls2 Friend

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    Duuude. Why??? Thats such a shame.
     
  5. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    Aficianado
     
  6. BillOhio

    BillOhio Friend

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    Yeah, I liked the Sonnet 2 enough that I wanted 'Moar' tube amp and an Af was available locally without the wait time on a new Stratus. Plus, the buyer of the Sonnet 2 Really wanted a DNA Amp so I know it's gone to a good home.
     
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  7. Magnetostatic_Tubephile

    Magnetostatic_Tubephile Friend

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    In order to find out the potential in Stratus tube rolling for myself, I have purchased the following affordable tubes from my previously shortlisted candidates:
    • RCA 2A3 (a matched pair but no fancy monoplates)
    • Sylvania GB 6BQ7a
    • RCA 5U4G
    I really didnt have high expectations regarding SQ improvements but the following post from Head-Fi is absolutely spot-on:

    "After spending quite a bit of time with my new tubes (Sophia princess 2A3 and GEC U52, I think I am ready to give my thoughts. Basically I mixed them around with my current Shuguang Natural Sound 2A3 and EML 5U4G to try out the 4 different combi hoping to get an improved sound. Unfortunately, I am sad to say that I did not get the improved sound that I wished for, at the end of the day, the 4 combi are just different flavours, rather than one being superior. After spending close to $900 on the new tubes, I ended up sticking to my old combi of Shuguang and EML."


    I feel kind of stupid for spending quite a bit on tubes myself now. That being said, it was still a good experience overall. My impressions:
    • The only difference I reliably heard between all the tubes was in sound character, not in sound quality. Sometimes maybe slightly higher or lower noise floor. Thats about it.
    • The absolute differences were rather subtle. Synergy of the whole set of tubes I find to be the key to success. Still, I would probably focus on selecting output tubes first. Once done, you could then fine tune with rectifier and input tubes. (Absolute differences introduced by various rectifier and input tubes I found roughly equal to each other, of less significance compared to output tubes.)
    • I heard considerable differences in sound character even between samples of the same tube. That I found kind of scary. (Tried two NOS 6N1P from Schiit and two Sylvania GB 6BQ7a - none sounded completely the same.)
    • No, the stock tubes do not suck in terms of SQ, not at all. The stock tubes actually work great together - nice synergy, no lack of technical qualities.
    None of the purchased tubes suck. At the end of the day though, I really like the stock Shuguang 2A3B tubes - they sound balanced to me (not overly bright or warm, not overly smooth or analytical, no perceived tonal nonlinearities). As of now, I pair them with Svetlana 5U4G and Sylvania GB 6BQ7a for a bit more forgiving signature (that is not too on the warmer side of neutral). The only difference from stock is therefore the Sylvania input tube. And I feel happy knowing no more tube rolling on my Stratus.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2018
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  8. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    I never properly reviewed the Stratus in it's final form but now that I have two other great amps to play with I did a comparisons over the weekend and man it was fun.
    In blue we have the Stratus aka delicate and subtle with 422A, AVVT mesh and 6N1P-E
    In black we have the Apex Teton aka hard on harry with 422A, the massive 6528A and ECC32
    Last and maybe least the Cavalli LG with NOS 12SN7 BGRP no aka.
    I've done months of tube rolling on the Stratus and Teton and it's payed off in finding the best synergy with my beloved HD650M. The LG since it takes one type of tube was so much easier to roll and the BGRP was an easy winner.
    I've tried and had for a long time most of the flagships but none for me came close to what a moded and properly amped HD650 sounds like. This setup is my end game, the result of years of overspending and frustration to finally reach this point. There isn't another setup that I would take over mine.
    And since the HD650 responds so well to different amps and tubes it's so easy to customize the sound just by swapping a few tubes or amps.

    DNA Stratus
    I tested in the Stratus everything I could get my hands on.
    Rectifiers: Ken Rad VT244, NU VT244, Sylvania VT244, Fivre 5U4G,RCA 5U4G, 422A, U52
    Power: Sylvania S plate, dual flat plate, Ken Rad black glass, EML solid, KR, WE275, RCA single plate, Fivre single plate, AVVT mesh.
    Input, all the 6N1P variants and Brimar,Sylvania,Mazda,Mullard,CBS 6BQ7A.

    The 422A and the AVVT are not being changed anymore. I do change the sound a bit with the input tubes by rolling different 6N1P when I want to use the HD800 or K1000.

    -the most transparent amp I've ever heard
    -widest soundstage out of the bunch
    -best micro detail
    -best mids I've ever heard
    -had the weekest bass control
    -10/10 tonality

    Apex Teton
    Went crazy on this and I'm happy I did. The ECC32 and 6528A are my favorite for the HD650 since they deliver such a different presentation from the Stratus. Every other tube combo ranked from unexception to quite good.
    Rectifiers: Same as Stratus
    Input: Sylvania 6SN7W short, tall, crome dome, TS BGRP, MELZ, ECC32,CBS 5691
    Output: GEC 6AS7G and 6080, TS 5998, WE421A, Sylvania 6080GB, Bendix 6080WB solid and slotted,6528A
    The teton with a GEC 6080 sounds like an upgraded LG.
    - the punchiest amp I've ever heard. This thing plays like it has a hard on all the time. I never thought possible the HD650 can have such savage yet clean bass. The body and control are beyond HD800,HEK,Eikon and most others I've heard apart from the Abyss. I wouldn't trade it for the LCD-4 bass
    - the cleanest amp of the bunch. While the stratus is more detailed and romantic the Teton sounds like a solid state butch never feeling like it's out of breath. Very complex passages are handled with ease and room to spare.
    - way above average micro detail just after the Stratus
    - hot, very hot, it draws about 170W of power
    - exceptional mid range thanks to the ECC32
    - 9/10 tonality
    -the only flaw from me is it's bonkers, always looking for a fight attitude which doesn’t work with all songs.
    Cavalli LG

    I've tried a few but the differences weren't so big as with the Teton.
    ECC32,CBS 5691,TS 12SN7 BGRP,various 6N1P, 6SN7W. The 12SN7 were the best in my opinion with the least amount of compromises.
    - bass control a bit better than the Stratus and way below the Teton
    - glorious holographic midrange on par with the Stratus and Teton
    - looses it's shit quickly on complex passages, everything blends together
    - the most relax amp out of the bunch
    - because of the above can be boring at times compare to the other two
    - 10/10 for tonality
    - can sound too polite and flat
    - last on micro and macro detail but not by much

    In the end the Stratus is like a RR Phantom, does everything in an exquisite yet relaxing way while being fully engaged.
    The Teton is a trackhawk, bonkers, uber powerfull, industrial design. It's my fun amp.
    The LG is like an S500, up there with the big boys(better than the WA5), super relaxing and detailed but doesn't like it rough.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
  9. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    That's it for me, end of the line, the search is over. It was already over with the Stratus but this is absurdly good.

    [​IMG]
    I see quite a few non billable days in my future. The Stellaris is basically a super Stratus, same sound but upgraded technicalities and finally balanced input.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
  10. Thenewerguy009

    Thenewerguy009 Friend

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    How long was your wait time for it?
     
  11. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    One year and ten days.
     
  12. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    Gratz! Hope you enjoy it even more than you already seem to be doing.

    You are in the states right?!
     
  13. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

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    A year wait?!?! Holy fuuuu
     
  14. saint.panda

    saint.panda Acquaintance

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    Just heard the Stellaris at m17xr2b's place. Difference between Stellaris and Teton smaller than between Teton and Liquid Glass. Could be interesting to compare Stellaris with the Apex Pinnacle but I don't think that comparison will ever happen. Incredible transparency coupled with a nice inner bloom. Outstanding bass control. Excellent layering allowing you to pick out different instruments and voices even in complex passages. Never heard the HD650 sound better and controlled the bass on my Grado PS-1 beautifully. Only challenge is that turning the volume knob with the Grado just a bit would raise the volume to ear splitting levels. The amp is also stunning to look at, great attention to detail. Definitely keeping my order even if it's another 10+ months of waiting. Didn't get to compare it to the Stratus.
     
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  15. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    Now that I had the Stellaris for a while, time to see how it compares to the Stratus. While everything else is equal including tubes the Stellaris is modified to take the 422A rectifier considering it's indirect heating. You can see the switch in the background.
    [​IMG]


    Only my main headphone is used, HD650M.

    The first thing that strikes me is how clean the Stellaris sounds. It resolves perfectly every last bit of information in the song where the Stratus can get confused on fast passed stuff with lots and lots of detail.
    Bass extends lower and I hear it as flat from subbass to upped bass. The Stratus is has less sub bass and more mid bass with less control. I never had an instance where the Stellaris didn't have anything but the right amount of bass. Stratus is hit and miss on some thing where the increased mid bass can be good or bad.
    Tone is bang on the same.
    Soundstage is bigger with better placement.
    Same amount of mid/highs balance.
    Stellaris is faster and never looses its shit.

    Now the issue is not everything sounds good on the Stellaris. On my less than well recorded stuff, let's say Alizee since that's what I'm listening to now, it's too clean and a bit bright. It's kinda the high refresh rate they use in some soaps, it looks cool but it's off somehow. The Stratus smooths things a bit so it's better where smoothness is needed or it enhances the experience. The mid bass increase gives it a warmer sort of sound while still being uber detailed just not as much as the Stellaris or Teton for that matter.

    Rock such as SOAD and classical music is much better on big brother where the huge amount of detail and spacial cues are presented with an effortlessness I haven't heard anywhere else except stats maybe. I'm thinking 009 driven by the MSB amp.

    So to summarise I see the Stellaris as a better detailed, punchier, faster, more unforgiving Stratus lvl 2 which I believe is wetter than the current lvl3.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
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  16. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    Have to ship the Stratus to it's new home soon so I tried the stock tubes for one last listen. These have seen only one hour usage when I first turned it on. Surprisingly compare to the Stellaris the base sound signature is there, every maker seems to have it's own. Let's me put it this way, the stock tubes don't take away that much as in weakest link in the chain from the house sound.Compare to the previous tubes dynamics suffer the most, a bit rolled off in the bass and more mid,voices are a bit shouty and high end has less detail and kinda single note, smaller stage. Mind you this is like having side to side a 65 inch and a 47 inch tv where the smaller one looks...small, not fit for purpose compare to the bigger one, even if by itself in the right room can look quite impressive. Anyone have a spare sonett?
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
  17. jowls

    jowls Never shitposts (please) - Friend

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    I now have a Sonett, but it certainly isn’t spare. Thank you to @sheldaze and @Donald North for making it happen.
     
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  18. EeePee

    EeePee Acquaintance

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    I had to log back in after months to more or less say, spare Sonett? Hahah!

    And congrats on the Stellaris you have.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2018
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  19. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    [​IMG]
    More details tomorrow, this was exhausting.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
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  20. brencho

    brencho Friend

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    i bet. it takes all my energy to move things only with my mind.
     
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