Donald North Audio — Owners Thread

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

  1. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    Rolled my 2A3 spares, I haven't heard them yet with the ECC40 input and it's good to take a break from AVVT.

    Ken Rad black glass
    [​IMG]
    One of my absolute favourite with the Stratus. Fullest low end in terms off impact and weight but lacks control absolute. Nice for slow bass heavy music. Mid bass is accentuated and on the warm side.
    Very mid centric without being warm. Where in the Stratus I would have said bass its party piece in the Stellaris it's the mids. A bit of grain only when compared to the best with fantastic tone, certainly not neutral but hugely pleasing to listen to. Presents as much mid range detail as you can throw at it. Treble is a bit shy and on the darker side but all the fine detail is present even if at a lower volume than I'd like.
    Soundstage and depth is about average, nothing spectacular, layering is exceptional but that's more the Stellaris doing its thing than the tube.
    Strings lack bite, the edges are more rounded than I'd like.
    This is great for a leaner configuration or headphones such as HD800. In the headphone world this is the HD650 of 2A3.

    Sylvania dual flat plates.
    [​IMG]

    These were around average on the Stratus but shot to the top on the Stellaris.
    Low end if very tight, extended and controlled but lacks the fullness of the ken rads. Very close to neutral while still musical and quite similar to the single plate or AVVT for tone. Still I'd prefer if I could have the Ken mid range on this.
    Great crunch to instruments and bite. Dynamics are well above average especially compared to the kens. Larger sound stage as well with better layering and depth. Sounds do tend to pop out of nowhere at absurd angles.
    Extremely balanced across the frequency, top end is highly detailed though to be critical some edges are not as fine as they could be but never coarse.
    The only downside is slight shoutiness in the upper mids on certain tracks and on occasion the timbre in the mids is somewhat plastic but only on critical listening.
    I prefer to actively listen on this tube where the Ken Rad is doesn't call as much attention to itself.

    KR 2A3
    [​IMG]

    A perfect blend of Ken Rad and Sylvania taking the best traits of both.
    There's something absurdly musical about this tube, transients are seriously natural. Liquid.
    Low end is fuller than Sylvania but not to Ken Rad levels. Bass is well balanced and lacks ultimate focus. Bass can sound slightly loose but never boomy.
    Mids have are slightly warm and grain free, great tone. Edges are a bit rounded and strings don't have as much bite as Sylvania but it's a level where I can't complain and works well overall.
    High end is detailed, has good presence even if slightly soft.
    Soundstage and depth just above average but nothing exceptional.
    For a modern tube you can buy today this gets my approval even if absurdly expensive. Not for detailed freaks, more to kick back and relax.

    All three tubes are dead quiet on the Stellaris, I couldn't tell if the headphones are plugged in or not.
    Can't go wrong with any of them and you'll hear the DNA magic with any. Can't say the same for the stock tubes.

    AVVT Mesh
    [​IMG]

    These hum, some worse than others. I've tried 6 pairs, all of them have a low level hum that can be heard during quiet passages. Not an issue during playback and after an hours or so it dies down but it's still there. I want to get another 2A3 amp just with AC heater just to see if I get the same issue.
    I can use the -6dB setting on the Stellaris and that fixes it but it also reduces the dynamics. Still better than all the other tubes but knowing I'm not using their full potential is a turn off. Seems to be an issue with DNA amps as I've had the same behaviour with the Stratus.Only an issue with sensitive headphones like senns. 95db and lower should be fine.

    While listening to the other tubes I missed the crazy instrument separation these are capable of.
    Low end is full, tight, balanced and fully controlled. Soundstage is the largest of the bunch and only 300B tubes especially Elrog can outmatch them. Depth and layering is epic.
    Tonally these are between the Sylvania dual flat plates and KR, they retain the musicality of the KR without the rounded edges and the neutral tone of dual/single plates.
    Detail monsters with the second best being the mono plates. Best once fully warmed after one to two hours.
    Macro and micro detail cannot be matched.

    Overall it's a highly detailed tonally rich neutral sound that also comes as relaxing. It's as purrin said about having a 700hp engine cursing on the highway. Their only fault is the damned hum as it takes away the black background.

    I urge everyone not to buy these unless you're running a TOTL amp with top components and everything else in the chain sorted to the point were the output tubes are the bottleneck. Putting these on a mid level amp is like turbo charging a trabant. These on the Stratus were great but truly shine on the Stellaris.

    Also be weary of any AVVT tube with the golden AN markings. At first AVVT made tubes for audio note and there were quite a few issues as in blowing up, some still surface the market. I've seen tubes marked for destruction by vaic that were sold as NOS.
    Best to only get tubes made after '99 with serial number greater than 4500.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2019
  2. saint.panda

    saint.panda Acquaintance

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    Besides ebay and Audiogon, are there other good places for NOS tubes?
     
  3. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

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    Yes. Andy at Vintage Tube Services is a no bullshit and reliable source. IMO you get what you pay for.

    Brent Jessee is another guy who is pretty reliable.

    All tubes these days are horrifically overpriced and you just gotta bite the bullet unless you have some magic source. We had a tube slut here but sadly he has a real life. Le sigh.
     
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  4. ogodei

    ogodei Friend

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    Brent Jesse is right down the road from me but unfortunately that means sales tax :(

    I get a sick perversion out of gambling on low-ball priced tubes from Ebay and then testing them once they arrive. Most are not actual 'NOS' as advertised (as EVERY tube on ebay is advertised) but a tube doesn't have to be 'new' to sound good.
     
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  5. saint.panda

    saint.panda Acquaintance

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    Perfect, thanks. He has the WE 422a I was looking for. Will be an interesting comparison against the EML 5U4G. Now just need to find power tubes.

    Which tube tester do you use?
     
  6. ogodei

    ogodei Friend

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    422a is great tube.

    Hickok 239C and TV 7D/U. Trying to talk myself into buying this, saw it in operation at AXPONA and was impressed.
     
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  7. fp627

    fp627 Friend

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    For those who have a Stellaris, what are some favorite DAC pairings/synergies? I see a little info here and there but that's it. I will be ordering a Stellaris soon (have tried both Stratus and Stellaris before).

    For reference, will be trying a Crane Song Solaris (SBAF loaner) very soon and am decently familiar with what to expect from the Yggdrasil. May also consider the Aurender A-10 or possibly the Matrix X-Sabre Pro but based on past experience I'm slightly skeptical about these 2 with a Stellaris.
    Currently only using Soekris 1421 and while I like the DAC, IMO there wasn't any special synergy between it and either DNA amp I tried (with stock tubes on both amps).
     
  8. ogodei

    ogodei Friend

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    Singxer SU-1 feeding Holo Audio Spring DAC via I2S or Schiit Yggdrasil via AES has been my go-to for a while. Balanced into the Stellaris.

    Both very good stacks, usually a very immediate and obvious improvement over other chains. Another SBAF member told me the problem is that 'everything sounds good with it', meaning it was hard to make a judgment on the worth of a headphone when the stack behind it jacked the performance up so much.
     
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  9. saint.panda

    saint.panda Acquaintance

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    I use a Yggdrasil 2 mainly because I use a MacBook as a source and Schiit's current and future USB implementations seem to be the best. For what's it's worth, under meet conditions and from a better digital source, I slightly preferred the Pavane over the Yggdrasil.
     
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  10. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Pavane. Heck, I'll throw Sonic Frontiers too.

    I don't like Yggdrasil A1, OG Gungnir DS, Hugo 2, PWD DACs, etc. into Stellaris/Stratus. Bad synergy.

    I can't imagine a Teac UD501 or Yulong DA8 feeding the Stellaris. There are limits: garbage in = garbage out.
     
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  11. fp627

    fp627 Friend

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    This is purely speculation based on feedback from different forums I saw last night, but the only other 2 I can think of in my budget range (at least for this year) would be the X-Sabre Pro and the Holo Spring level 3. I haven't read enough about (and haven't heard) the Pavane before although it's probably out of my budget this year for audio equipment. As mentioned in my intro post though, I have only been back into "audio" for a little bit and simply haven't had the chance to try "that many" DACs yet.

    purrin - have you by any chance tried with Yggdrasil A2? From listening I agree that Hugo 2 (and Hugo TT) wouldn't synergize and Yggdrasil A1 wouldn't be perfect (although I don't think it necessarily has bad synergy). Also can't imagine some other popular DACs like Benchmark, Resonessence, Bryston, etc. synergizing well either.
     
  12. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I would probably go Yggdrasil A2, DAVE, Metrum (higher end), and Sonic Frontiers (there's a theme here in case no one has noticed). With Stellaris, it's more a matter of enhancing what it can do well as opposed to covering up its weaknesses. For example, I don't think a more antiseptic sounding DAC really gels with the Stellaris' richness. But richer sounding DACs enhance the richness of the Stellaris. Also, bad nasty treble DACs do not do any of Donald's amps any favors. Donald's amps already do well in terms of taking the edge off with brighter headphones such as Utopia, Beyer, etc., but this doesn't mean it will take the edge off of nasty glarey strident sharp sounding DACs.
     
  13. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    The pleasures of tube amps are never ending. I have to replace the UX sockets since one of the pins gave up and broke, had an extra UX socket laying around and I could extract a good pin and replace the broken one so I didn't have do a more time consuming socket swap. A permanent solution is in the works.
    While I had the hood opened I added a switch for each socket and voila:
    [​IMG]

    45s definitely have a different character than 2A3s, the ST shape is delicious but the globes are sublime and delicate. Just the thing for post surgery recovery.
    This is only a temporary mod born out of curiosity and once my new sockets arrive I'll remove the cathode resistor switch.
     
  14. Claud

    Claud Acquaintance

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    After months of trying to finish my registration, I am now a SBAF member!!
     
  15. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    Wow cool first post, thanks for sharing!
     
  16. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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  17. Claud

    Claud Acquaintance

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    Thank you for the guidance, m17xr2b. I have now done so. Stratus with the right tubes makes me happy. Presently I am running WE 422a, Ruby Tiger Select and KR 2A3s. John (RT) has been trying to get me to change to Acmes for months. I resisted because he bitched so much while they took so long to break in. Finally ordered the select Acmes from Grant the other day. I am at the beach and they are home.
    Enjoying iBasso DX 220 Amp 8 w/ CA Andromeda IEMs while here at the beach
     
  18. Claud

    Claud Acquaintance

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    Have been breaking Acmes in on my Stratus since Sunday afternoon 24/7 using my Ibasso DX 220 into Yiggy. Also running stock 6N1P and 1944 RCA rectifier. Also have hooked up is my ZMF Verite and a Norne Einvaldi cable. For the last two days, the Verites have been singing beautifully.
    Anyone else have Acmes? What rectifier tube are you using? Are you happy with it?
     
  19. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    Acmes might be great but in my case I don't trust any marketing and to quote them Psvane ACME Supreme series is created with the intention to ‘top the tube world
    The intention might be there but I really, seriously doubt they created the top tube, that was done in the 30's, PX4,PX25,AT20,RE604,AD1,45 globes and many other come to mind.

    My main rectifier is the Western Electric 422A and listening to it right now but...
    1. It's not ideal for most amps and least the DNA amps
    Stratus, Stellaris is built to take the high voltage DC after rectification from AC from the center tap of the transformer, long story short it's optimised for directly heated rectifier so 5U4G,
    Using indirect rectifiers such as U52,GZ34 is not such a big deal, in theory there's some extra noise added but I cannot hear it myself
    2. 422A is screwed up
    Where normal rectifiers take DC from pin 8 this bastard uses pin 2. What this implies is that using a 422A the voltage has to travel through the transformer itself to get to the filtering stage of the power supply circuit where other rectifier tubes just go to the first capacitor. Donald modified my Stellaris with a switch for 422A operation to bypass this nonsense. I know at some point Glenn built adaptors for 422A to invert pin 2 and 8 for other amps.

    P.S
    I've seen people use the Western Electric 274B with the Stratus. Very, very bad idea. It will work but the tube will be super stressed out.
    274B needs the fist cap to be really small like 4uf and the DNA amp uses something like 5 times larger capacitance optimised for 5U4G. This is like having the idle on your car set to 2000RPM.
     
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  20. Claud

    Claud Acquaintance

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    I respect your knowledge, but the WE 422a with KR 2A3s and a RT Select 6N1P has been my fave tubes until I got the Acmes. I had heard that the WE 422a was not a good tube for DNA amps and asked Mr. North. He said it was OK and so did Brian who sold me one of his WE 422as as well as a WE 274 B. Maybe I am not getting the full effect of these tubes. I DO want one of them there 422a switches like you have!! m17xr2b thank you for sharing this We422a info.
     

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