Donald North Audio — Owners Thread

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

  1. Xecuter

    Xecuter Brush and floss your amp twice a day

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    @Claud have you tried many NOS 2a3? I've been curious about the Acme for awhile. Just haven't seen any reviews to get me to pull the trigger.
    Have you tried spring top 2a3, or fivre/arctarus? Have you tried the double mono plates??
     
  2. Claud

    Claud Friend

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    At the moment, that is a spring top or fishing pole RCA 5U4G in the Stratus as rectifier for my Acmes. I have several 5U4Gs that are/were NOS. I am still breaking in the Acmes. The system sounds very nice . I like to start tube rolling after I have determined a good base combination of tubes. That is why the rectifier is key. If I don't get any other recommendations , I will just buy a EML 5U4G and start from there. If its good enough for Ruby Tiger, its good enough for me.
     
  3. Claud

    Claud Friend

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    Yes. I have four sets of NOS 2A3s two RCA one early 40s Sylvania and one Tung Sol. My best sounding RCA pair is spring top.
     
  4. Claud

    Claud Friend

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    [​IMG]
     
  5. Claud

    Claud Friend

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    For those interested in Psvane Acme Supreme 2A3s, you can order from Grant Fidelity. You can order a "select" pair or just a regular pair that is cheaper. Grant's packing is first rate. The tubes are solidly encased in foam.
    [​IMG]
     
  6. allegro

    allegro Friend

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    @Claud suggest you use free imgur.com to host your photos to get rid of that annoying photobucket watermark.
     
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  7. Claud

    Claud Friend

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    Thank you. Have not used Photo Bucket in years. Yea, I have got to switch.
     
  8. Claud

    Claud Friend

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    Started breaking in my EML 5U4G this morning and putting another 100 hours on my Acme 2A3s. By Wednesday I should be ready to switch stock 6N1P for a RT select and enjoy the Stratus again. Is it just me or is that EML twice as big as a normal NOS 5U4G like the NOS RCA I switched out?
     
  9. Claud

    Claud Friend

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    [​IMG]
     
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  10. saint.panda

    saint.panda Acquaintance

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    For power tubes, interestingly I find the KR to be a better match (more musical) than the Sophia Carbon Princess 300B 2.5V. Was expecting the latter to be smoother and better match. The KR really is a good tube for the Stellaris despite being a current production tube.
    Having a Pavane instead of Yggdrasil would probably be an even better match for the Focal.
     
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  11. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    The 300B is biased far too cold considering the Stellaris operating point for it to sound good. Nevermind that I find the regular Carbon Princess 300B mediocre at best. The Royal Princess is in a different class.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
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  12. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    I know myself but I don't know my enemy. And he is fierce:

    [​IMG]

    Meet my new PX4 amplifier:

    [​IMG]


    A different animal to the 2A3 valve, on the same level for sound with the AVVT, fuller low end and midrange with better treble extension. This sounds more refined and classy, full of fineness and capable of unpacking all the layers of the music.

    Stellaris cannot use PX4 as is and while sound will be made you'll shortly destroy these delicate tubes.

    I had to change the DC heater boards, still have some fine tuning to do, currently it's at 3.9V, a 2.5% difference, well within spec.

    I've biased them at around 40mA, 10.5W dissipation with a 5U4G/U52 and 11.8W on 422A. This version is 15W max.

    Modern PX4 such as AVVT,EML,KR cannot be used without further modifications.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
  13. Claud

    Claud Friend

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    I think the KRs are great too. I use a WE 422a with them and it was the best sound I had gotten out of my Stratus until I went with the Acme 2A3s and EML 5U4G. I also bought a used pair of the Carbon Princess and like the rest of you, I think they are nothing special.
     
  14. Acoustic Taser

    Acoustic Taser Rando

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    I've recently joined the list of DNA owners and am quite impressed with the sound provided by the Stratus (v2). In the past I've used a Fosgate Signature hybrid which is enjoyable, but the Stratus has a much more engaging sound. Orchestral pieces have a richer texture and greater resolution. Using Focal Utopia's, the imaging with the Stratus places me within the orchestra as opposed to being in the fourth row using the Fosgate.

    At my age, I thought improvements in equipment would be a waste, but I took a chance on a higher end amp and have no doubt the Stratus provides a significant improvement that easily justifies the cost.
     
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  15. Claud

    Claud Friend

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    Acoustic Taser, What is Stratus (V2)?
     
  16. fp627

    fp627 Friend

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    Received my Stellaris today. (edit #14). Previously had a 2 week loaner of the Stratus followed by 2 weeks with the Stellaris.

    Normally I write stuff but I think this would be much more fitting for today. More serious comments will come soon:
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2019
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  17. Acoustic Taser

    Acoustic Taser Rando

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    The one before v3!!! HaHaHa. God I kill myself.
     
  18. fp627

    fp627 Friend

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    Brief comments:

    I bought Stellaris because it's bar none the best headphone amp I've ever heard.

    This is DESPITE it being actually somewhat opposite to most of my sonic preferences.
    - Stellaris is on the wetter side, I prefer slightly dry (if max wet is 10 and max dry is -10, I prefer -1 or -2, edit: forgot to say Stellaris is at about a 6 or 7 to me, EC Af, Studio Jr, and 1 or 2 others I've heard are generally -3 to -4).
    - DNA house sound (although Stratus more so than Stellairs IMO) does have a somewhat "gentler" sound. I usually like a little more slam, more macro, and a tiny bit of bite. Do not interpret this comment as the Stratus or Stellaris not having slam or macro. Will try EML Mesh 5U4G (rectifier tube) later as per Donald it should add a tiny bit of slam and boom to the sound.
    - I asked briefly asked about component swapping to add more slam and bite and make the sound dryer, but even when asking I was hoping he would say no. And yep, Donald said no. Makes sense - it's all steak, but you don't go to Ruth's Chris and demand they prepare it and make it taste like Morton's or vice versa (or McD vs Wendy's, etc.)- you just go to the other restaurant instead.
    - Won't go too much into my other preferences as they aren't that fixed - generally, I prefer a well executed and put together, most likely cohesive, vision and sound over just "must be or have XYZ and ABC". Just be competent at what you want to be and Stellaris is beyond "just" competent. Disclaimer: This is how I naturally feel about people too so yes, it may be my personal bias leaking in.
    - More details about the sound will come later. However, I may or may not be as detailed/nuanced as I normally am.

    - How do I know this amp was very well thought out? - I don't need $$$$$$ holy grail tubes to get maximum sound. Tried Sylvania 2A3 blackplates briefly (stock are Shuguang 2A3, edit: Sylvania 2A3 were purchased from @m17xr2b) and while it did get "better", they are far from a necessity. Like less than a 5% improvement in sound on some tracks for more extreme cases. Closer to a 1-2% improvement on most tracks. What tubes do change are the sonic characteristics slightly. Whether or not I should get a $600-800 pair of good 2A3 is a question each person will have to answer on their own. I certainly will NOT be spending $1k+ on a pair of great 2A3.
    - One "problem" with this amp that I encountered during the loaner and am encountering again now - all the weaknesses in my chain are now very audible. Most recordings I enjoy aren't recorded at the "super great recording" level and this amp exposes all of that very clearly to me. Cheap cables are audible (I stuck them in briefly to see if I could hear, not for regular use). Switching between my copper and silver RCA cables is easily audible. The fact that I use Tidal+ (and not CDs, vinyls, etc.) for convenience most of the time is also very audible. So on so forth.
    Yet, here is where another "genius" part of this amp is - everything despite the above still sounds good and is still very enjoyable. When I had the Solaris, it could also expose the above, but the flaws seemed to take away from the enjoyment a little. Like I had to upgrade my chain sooner than later to properly enjoy it. Here I feel like it's more of a subtle "hey upgrade your stuff when you have time and more free cash."

    - Ygg A2 with USB5 is not the right DAC for this amp IMO but it does no disservices either. One is up front and in your face (Ygg). The other is more sit back and let the sound come, like walking into a small 5-8 row theater with musicians just jamming (but not the goofing around jamming) on stage. I will eventually 1) Get a nice CD player and/or 2) get a Pavane 3 or maybe Holo Spring 3 to address this. I completely understand why Donald used his CD player at the mini meet earlier this year now.

    Lastly, and hopefully this is not uncouth to bring up but I'm sure / guessing that many even at SBAF are wondering this without saying it out loud - Yes, this was worth making the financial sacrifices I made this summer to step up and buy this instead of a Stratus or EC Af. (I can't speak about if this is worth buying over XYZ nice $10k+ amps or how this will complement XYZ 5 $ figure amp - I just don't have enough experience with that next level of gear.) And no, no rent, car payments, 401k contributions, or other bigger picture important life things were skipped or neglected. Don't do things like that to buy audio gear please.

    edit: minor typos
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2019
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  19. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Gearmaster

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    So some strange glasses-wearing dude came to my house and dropped off this curiously blue amp, which has these strange glass tubes sticking out of it. It has no name....yet (those who have talked to @Donald North might know what I'm talking about). Only markings on it is on the knob for the pot.

    I first took a listen to this amp a while back, but having it in the house on my own system confirms my desire to buy one. If you like a slightly gentler sound and are looking to step up from something like a Liquid Platinum, this must be on the shortlist. Similarly to how I found the Feliks Euforia, over my Liquid Platinum I find this blue amp better* in literally every sonic category, the only caveat being that you don't use super power-hungry planars.

    Compared to the Euforia, this DNA has a larger and more open stage, has more treble extension (I'd actually rate it as excellent in this regard), is better at layering mids. and has better quality bass. The Euforia sounds sweeter in tone, but loses in layering. Transients are superb on this amp, and I find it to just sound clearer in general, although I think the Euforia might be slightly blacker in background. The blackness could be because the DNA sounds more resolving and is more apparently detailed (I'm pretty sure it is more detailed in general, but I'll need to rip the Euforia off the speaker rig and plug it back in my headphone rig and compare). Both amps excel in microdynamics and the little nuances in making the sound super-engaging. Needless to say, I prefer the sound of the DNA to the Euforia, although the visions for both amps seem to be quite different.

    In the grand scheme of things, I'd classify this amp as being more of the TOTL tube style, where it puts a premium on sonic clarity and plankton while retaining the charm of tube amps. Still tilted slightly warm, but is just a superb presentation of sound. Different vision than the Euforia, and just like the Euforia, this strange DNA executes its vision extremely well.

    Is it the last word on bass slam? No. It's also completely NOT the type of sound that I'd recommend to people who want a more square and modern presentation. However, I really don't find it lacking in any category, and to say that it doesn't belong in the echelons of truly good headphone amps is not doing it justice.

    Only thing to note: this is the first and only DNA amp I've auditioned seriously; I've never heard either of the Sonnets or the Stratus, and I've only briefly heard the Stellaris. That being said, I don't feel a need to audition them; this amp just hits all my preferences and I fully intend on buying it when it's released.

    I highly recommend this amp to those who like a slightly romantic presentation that still maintains a high level of technicalities. Be on the lookout for news from DNA!

    *note: I know that there really aren't many times you can say something is a direct upgrade in audio, and that using a term like this is inviting skepticism. That being said, I don't think the Liquid Platinum is on the same tier here. I'm NOT saying that the Liquid Platinum is bad (I still think it's an excellent amp); I just think the DNA (and Euforia) are that much better.

    I so wish I could post a picture of it because it's purty….

    Edit: After spending more time comparing Euforia and this DNA, the sonic differences really are stark. They're clearly meant to cater to different preferences as their presentations are vastly different: the Euforia is euphoric, sweet, tubey, and very wet-sounding, whereas the DNA plays things noticeably straighter and has better nuance and texture. They both sound fairly resolving, although I think the DNA is more detailed AND handles fine detail better. Ultimately, the pick between the two depends on the listener. If you want to go the full 9 yards on romance and tubes, go Euforia. If you want something more technical but want a bit of the tube romance and bloom, the DNA. I enjoy them both.

    That being said, the Euforia is both very synergy-dependent (more than any other piece of gear I've auditioned, ranging from OMG to "huh?") and is somewhat of a specialist in nature. The DNA, while I don't doubt has better/worse synergy with certain gear, doesn't seem to depend as much on synergy. Also, the DNA is much more of a jack-of-all-trades than the Euforia.
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2019
  20. Claud

    Claud Friend

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    Can you at least tell us what tubes are used in this amp? Is it going to be a step up from Stellaris?
     

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