Donald North Audio — Owners Thread

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

  1. Jinxy245

    Jinxy245 Vegan Puss

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    The sale may already be pending but I can give you a quick comparison.

    The chain is from my P/C Gungnir D/S via USN (Gen 5). I believe both amps have stock tubes (the MCTH definitely does).

    Describing music through words is kinda like trying to paint a picture of what something tastes like, but I'll do my best.

    The DNA obviously has more of that (hard to define) tube-ish-ness people talk about, which makes sense since it's not a hybrid, and the MCTH is.

    The adjectives 'wet' and 'warm' never seemed clearly defined to me, but I'll say there's some more 'weight' to the notes, as well as a bit more perceived 'air' & 'room' in and around the music. The MCTH comes off leaner, but with a little better detail retrieval overall. The MCTH is more peaky in the treble, slightly sharp on some recordings.

    The stage feels larger overall with the DNA, not that the MCTH is closed in, but the Sonnet 2 is a step up.

    The mids are great on both amps, but I do prefer the 'lush' presentation with the DNA...as always YMMV.

    I hope I touched on all the salient points , but if there's something specific you were wondering about, let me know.
     
  2. allegro

    allegro Friend

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    @m17xr2b glad chasing the dragon paid off for you with your Stellaris and HD580's. Sounds like you reached audio nirvana!
     
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  3. saint.panda

    saint.panda Acquaintance

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    Stellaris #9. (pictures re-uploaded)

    Custom cover to avoid (even more) questions from colleagues. Ask Donald for the option if you need it. Easily detachable because it's just lying on the amp.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Will need to buy a small rack at some point.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2019
  4. EagleWings

    EagleWings Friend

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    Not able to see the pictures. Could you try uploading via a different method?
     
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  5. saint.panda

    saint.panda Acquaintance

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    Hope it works now
     
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  6. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

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    You're brave having that thing at the office! I'd be terrified it would get stolen.
     
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  7. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    Isn't cooling an issue since you won't have convection with it on top of the yggdrasil without feet?
     
  8. allegro

    allegro Friend

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    Very very nice but I also winced when I saw that beautiful Stellaris stacked right on top of the Yggdrasil. I would buy or make a rack to get a few inches of convection space above the Yggdrasil.
     
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  9. saint.panda

    saint.panda Acquaintance

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    More scared of cleaning lady trying to go the extra mile. Just ordered a "high voltage - shock hazard" sticker.

    Stellaris has rubber feet so there's some space in-between but buying a rack right now.
     
  10. Elnrik

    Elnrik Super Friendly

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    Here you go.
     
  11. EagleWings

    EagleWings Friend

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    @saint.panda , it’s beautiful. Congrats! Looking forward to reading your impressions.
     
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  12. ogodei

    ogodei Friend

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    Hockey pucks make solid, inexpensive lifters till you get a rack.

    Love the cage, I think I'd freak out if I was leaving this on the floor of an office at night though !
     
  13. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    While looking for the output impedance of the XLR output I noticed something on the Stellaris page:

    Features of the Stellaris Special include:
    • Upgraded Audio Note output transformers with 50% nickel cores, copper primary and silver secondary windings
    • Audio Note silver tantalum plate-loading resistors
    • Custom 41-step TKD stepped attenuator

    So the Stellaris comes in three flavours, stock, special and silver.
     
  14. ogodei

    ogodei Friend

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    The Special is something newish, the Silver was always an option. I don't know that either have been seen out in the wild yet.
     
  15. saint.panda

    saint.panda Acquaintance

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    Some impressions. My first TOTL amp. Most recent amp was BW2. Best system before that was Omega 2 and HE90 on a Stax tube amp 10 years ago.

    Setup: Macbook Pro (Itunes/Amarra) > Yggdrasil A2 via USB > Stellaris (stock tubes) > HD650M

    What the Stellaris excels at:
    • Tonality. There's a wetness/sweetness/liquidness to the sound without adding any coloring to the frequency response. I have a soft spot for this quality in audio gear. It's one of the reasons I held onto the Grado PS-1 for such a long time because of its beautifully liquid midrange. Stellaris doesn't overdo it but it's there.
    • Coherence. Nothing stands out in a good way. Frequency response makes total sense. Soundstage is never disjointed.
    • Blackground + layering & separation. Every note and line of music stand on their own. With vocals you can effortlessly distinguish polyphony, e.g. if some background singers sing a third higher and what their vocal timbre sounds like. Same for instruments. It never gets too busy or muddles things into a wall of sound.
    • Bass. Best low bass I've heard the HD650 with: tight, deep, no midbass hump, and no bleeding into the midrange.
    • Flow. Probably not an audiophile-accurate word but you get a strong sense of the ebbs and flows of music, especially noticeable on jazz pieces where you have many subtle mood swings.
    • Microdetails. Analogy for photos would be an effortless portrayal of details without turning up the sharpening effect.
    • Transients. There's an almost electrostatic-like plasticity to the attack: super fast but with rounded corners. I like it.

    Trade-offs:
    • Not the widest soundstage. It's a clearly defined stage and neither diffuse nor a concentration of wide blops, both of which can give the impression of a larger stage (e.g. the HE90 does the diffuse thing). Look elsewhere if you want headphones to sound like speakers.
    • The fast & rounded corners on attack may come across as lacking bite.

    Concepts I thought I had understood before but only internalized after listening to the Stellaris for some time:
    • Effortlessness. Most overused word in audio reviews. Real effortlessness is when the amp doesn't shove anything into your face, but let's you pick the details you want to focus on (or not). I can easily go from focusing on the overall picture to a particular aspect of the music without strain.
    • Microdetails & microdynamics. The degree by which I can hear micro alterations in the voice of a person or subtle variations in the flow of music.
    • The fact that smooth & fast or smooth & detailed are not oxymorons.
    • HD650 scaling
    • The relative unimportance of soundstage if everything else sounds right.
    Most importantly, you can tell that there's a clear & coherent vision behind this amp, executed beautifully.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2019
  16. ogodei

    ogodei Friend

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    I think you're describing dynamic range here, ability to go from very loud to very soft (and vice versa).

    I agree with your write up point-by-point, I am just far too lazy to have written all that out myself. What tubes are you using?
     
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  17. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    @saint.panda, get a pair of HD580s and put HD650 grills on them.
     
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  18. ogodei

    ogodei Friend

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    I got a 580 in to test this out but you never told me what tubes you are running, I think. Need to hear this for myself.
     
  19. saint.panda

    saint.panda Acquaintance

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    Thanks. Just stock tubes at the moment.
     
  20. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    Well, I finally got the hear what the Stellaris is capable of. And it's scary good with MySphere 3.1.
    This is now my go to combo and finally dethroned both HD650 and HD580. It's blend of the best qualities of HD650, HD580, HD800 and K1000. Shame a bit of Abyss couldn't find it's way in there but it's more than I ever hopped.
    Still it's a real pleasure using the K1000 output with its successor. Can't beat that.[​IMG]
     
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