Donald North Audio — Owners Thread

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

  1. abraxas666

    abraxas666 Friend

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    I have a stratus, and with the tubes that I have been using till today there is very little similar to an SS amp. Mind you I have not used the more solid state sounding tubes from EML on it.

    If I was you, perhaps an ECP SS amp might be better without having to go down the tube rabit hole.
     
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    Last edited: Apr 7, 2021
  2. ogodei

    ogodei Headphone Heaven Gatekeeper

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    Starlett / Stratus is in no way as warm as the WA5. Neither Starlett nor Stratus is bass heavy, I don't think of either as particularly bright but the Stratus has a great & extended top end when fed with a good DAC. Either amp can be tinged upward by using a GZ34 rectifier. The Stratus can further be tuned even slightly brighter with some 2A3s, for instance old Sylvania spring plates. If you desire a truly bright amp this may not be it but like @loadexfa above, I could not recommend anything else in particular.

    Either DNA is much more technically refined than most tube amps so don't rule them out because of what you heard with a Woo amp. I put the Stratus on the top end of tube-amp technical refinement and I have heard many, many tube amps at this point.

    DNA versus SS: Both DNA amps sound like tubes, and that's not a bad thing. They sound like very, very good tubes. So, decay, sound coloration, dynamics, all affected by the tubes you use but in a way that obviously many tube-amp fans prefer. Its not scary but if it doesn't sound the least interesting to you stick to the SS.

    If you're considering blind buy with a high end tube amp, a DNA would be the way to go. If you're still on the fence about moving to tubes you might try something low end but better than Woo, maybe the SW51.
     
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  3. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Gearmaster

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    No; the Stratus has [slightly] more tube bloom. That being said I didn't hear it as any brighter/darker than Starlett, although this was with provided new production tubes for Stratus. Conceivably a tube roll can push things around.

    @ogodei kind of addresses this; there seems to be this thought floating around that DNA amps are warm and tubey. I heard all 3 (and own a Starlett), and while I would say they have moderate, tasteful tube bloom, they remain very extended in the highs; absolutely not rolled off. DNA amps are really phenomenal tube amps; doggedly old-school SET done meticulously and done well.

    That being said, @JeremiahS keep in mind the DNA sound isn't slamming and grippy like DSHA-3F. DNA is more composed and "grown-up," whatever the crap that means.
     
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  4. dematted

    dematted Almost "Made"

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    Having tried the Sonett 2, which is (from everything I've read) a definite step down from the Starlett that nonetheless has a lot of the DNA "house sound", I don't think that going for a DNA would be particularly advisable for you. The Sonett 2 was, for the most part, a very neutral amp, with very extended highs and a great sense of tonal balance. But it also had a good deal of bloom and wetness in the timbre, and it definitely didn't sound very much like any solid state that I have heard. This isn't a tube amp to go to if you're looking for tubes that mimic solid state while providing some advantages of tubes - rather, the Sonett 2 (and, I think most DNA stuff from what I've read) is decidedly a tube amp, with tube coloration and tube bloom, even if the tonality itself is mostly neutral. Despite the solid bass extension of the Sonett 2, I didn't find it particularly slammy or snappy in the bass, which struck me as its greatest weakness.

    If you want something that sounds more solid state, with excellent control over the driver in the bass, might I recommend just going to a solid-state amp, like the ECP DSHA-3F? That amp has a lot of the best qualities of tube amps while retaining the advantages of solid state. I hear Doug is working on another batch at a lower cost - maybe inquire into that. Alternatively, you can look into tube amps with Ultralinear designs - I've typically found that those have more of a "solid state" sound than the SET stuff.
     
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  5. ogodei

    ogodei Headphone Heaven Gatekeeper

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    Everything he said, since he said it better than me. DNA amps are not 'warm and tubey' compared to the vast majority of tube amps I've owned or heard, that's just not a description I would even think of with them.
     
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  6. JeremiahS

    JeremiahS Acquaintance

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    Thank you for the responses you guys write above, they really help. I am glad to read that DNA amps are not voiced in the warm way like the WA5 does.

    I think while my taste is definitely to the bright side, I also don't like the glare many SS amps exhibit in the upper mid area. I remember Ragnarok and GS-X suffering from this issue. Both the Beta22 and Dynahi I own are warmer and have minimized that issue while maintaining dynamics and control.

    I guess I am just worried that the Utopia may be a bit too aggressive with my current system which is also the reason why I am considering a tube amp to help calm them down. Also their bass decay is a bit short, am I correct to think that the tube "bloom" should help this issue?
     
  7. Ksaurav402

    Ksaurav402 Friend

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    Higher OI of amp will help in the longer decay if that's what you want.
     
  8. poohlikehoney

    poohlikehoney Rando

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    The Starlett is pretty neutral overall and do not soften and change the sound signature of the headphone like most woo amps. It does comes with higher impedance setting for single ended output which in my experience round the transient just a tad more.
     
  9. ogodei

    ogodei Headphone Heaven Gatekeeper

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    I had the same issue with Utopia on SS amps. The massive dynamic range was jarring and I couldnt listen for more than a few minutes without a headache. Stratus was a very good but not perfect solution to that. Use of a NOS DAC and 'slower' rectifier on Stratus fully solved it for me.

    Correct. The issue is finding the tube amp that straddles bass 'bloom' without losing control or getting bloated. But note the 'correct' amount of bass bloom purely a matter of taste. Many if not most posters around here prefer DAC \ AMP \ Headphone combos with less bloom, as that's 'correct' to their tastes. Some people go for 'dry' amps (SS sounding), others go for 'wet' amps (luscious & bloomy).

    IMO, DNA amps barely touch the 'wet' end, as @ChaChaRealSmooth said, have a "moderate, tasteful tube bloom" with a "doggedly old-school SET" sound. SET amps add just a trace of "romanticism", which as I described above translates to a slightly exaggerated decay, a touch of sound coloration in the middle, extended but not pushed top end, & an increased sense of dynamics due to all of the above. And all this (but especially the decay) can be adjusted through choice of tubes.

    Everyone around here knows i'm a DNA fanboy BTW. Take that for what its worth.
     
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  10. dubharmonic

    dubharmonic Friend

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    I had a similar experience! Using a Spring 2 in NOS mode with Starlett / Utopia resulted in less fatiguing listen compared to a Yggdrasil A2.
     
  11. ogodei

    ogodei Headphone Heaven Gatekeeper

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    Yep. Holo Audio Spring + Stratus + WE422A + Utopia is smoother than...well, I cant really post that here. ;)
     
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  12. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    I was hoping this would happen while I owned the Stellaris yet it's finally released, an Elrog 5U4G http://vinylsavor.blogspot.com/2021/03/the-elrog-er5u4g-rectifier-tube.html

    I've got a pair of Elrog 274B I hold in high regard compared to the true high end of rectifiers, Marconi U8, RGN 4004, U12 globe mesh, G2504, VG 3630 which make the GZ34 metal,U52 or WE422A,RGN2004 mesh seem mediocre at best even if they're really good in their own right.

    It's nice to see high end tubes available as new production and compatible with popular amps.
     
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  13. ogodei

    ogodei Headphone Heaven Gatekeeper

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    A high-end, high-priced 5U4G better be damned good to compete with the variety and stock already available out there.
     
  14. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    One lesson I've learned, never underestimate thoriated tungsten tubes. The only question is if the amplifier in question is resolving enough to take advantage of the upgrade. I wouldn't consider such a tube for the Stratus but Stellaris could be a very good candidate.

    If one thinks a life experience trip is better value take it no questions, tube amp upgrades of this magnitude make sense for people who live for and relax,reenergize though music experience and can afford it. If you think a Fivre/RCA/AVVT mono plate 2A3 is worth it and don't want to go into super custom amps this could be the rectifier of choice.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2021
  15. Donald North

    Donald North Friend

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    It would be nice if Elrog, EML, or Psvane made versions of the 45, 2A3, 300B with thoriated tungsten filaments to compare with their standard oxide versions, using same plate structures, etc and really get to hear the difference in filament materials.
     
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  16. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    I have been pestering Thomas of Elrog about a 2A3 variant but he just doesn't like this tube and really has no intention to build a modern version of it. I'm surprised he hasn't offered a 45 version of Elrog since he's adamant it's one of best sounding triodes but I guess he learned from KR and others it's not worth asking 10x of NOS prices. 300B thoriated tungsten Elrog is exceptionally good when compared against similar 300B such a Sophia Royal Princess and WE.

    Elrog has released a modern Type 46 tube and I'm eager to compare against my RCA globe 46s.

    In any case, myself, owing and having compared in the same amp various tungsten output tubes in single stage filament bias with over 120H passive load of various cores and active load such as RCA 801A grey plate, RCA 801A black plate, RCA 801A graphite plate, RCA type 10, Sylvania Type 10, Sylvania 210 graphite plate globes and finally Elrog 801A, I fell Elrog is not just a brand name and really delivers as expected of the price tag. All tungsten tubes share similar traits, exceptional clarity and tone yet slightly light on mid bass compared with similar RP tubes such as VT25A. I was surprised the Elrog 274B rectifier was as good as it was, perhaps synergy took over in a full tungsten setup but I got a feeling of absolute control over the humble HD650 drivers and in a parafeed setup I didn't except the rectifier to make as much difference as it did when compared to other hard hitters of similar caliber.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2021
  17. JeremiahS

    JeremiahS Acquaintance

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    Thank you everyone for the advise. I want to give you likes but seems I can't find the like buttons now. :)

    It also look like the Stratus is discontinued? I guess there is only Starlett to consider now.
     
  18. loadexfa

    loadexfa Friend

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    With the newer system you need to be upgraded to do likes, etc.

    Where did you see the Stratus is discontinued?
     
  19. Donald North

    Donald North Friend

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    Stratus is not discontinued
     
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  20. sfoclt

    sfoclt Friend

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