Donald North Audio — Owners Thread

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

  1. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    I own both DACs. I'd not call either of them really dry (and I use the May with upstream DSP, which changes things somewhat) but they are definitely not wet. I use my May with Stellaris. The 2541 is elsewhere paired with a Piety. In both cases, leaving aside the clear differences in technicalities, the two DACs complement the wet-ish amps very well. In particular, I wasn't as happy with OG Yggdrasil where the May is now.
     
  2. ogharaei

    ogharaei New

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    It is more on the linear side and pairs well with the Starlett. Combined with the Starlett, I use the black filter and upsample (usually just set to x2).
     
  3. poohlikehoney

    poohlikehoney Facebook Friend

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    One thing I've learnt over the years is to pace my upgrades. In my own experience, getting too many things over a short period can also skew your perception on the effect a particular gear has on the overall sound so probably right to hold off for now.
     
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  4. bigjako

    bigjako Facebook Friend

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    @earnmyturns can you talk a little more about what made you unhappy with the OG Yggdrasil and the Stellaris? I have one now with the Stratus and am curious about what you felt it lacked.
     
  5. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    My own opinion after trying a dozen or so DACs on the Stellaris:

    I generally don't like the Yggdrasil A2 [edit: on the Stellaris], but with a few HP and tube combos, it works. Otherwise, it feels like the strengths of the Yggdrasil and the amp don't synergize. The overall sound clashes to a degree too - the Yggdrasil sort of puts you row 5 and has a bit of the wall of sound effect which isn't how the amp sounds to me. It also isn't 100% "there" in terms of technical performance and bottlenecks the chain slightly - but it's more than good enough for me to enjoy.

    I use a Spring 2 right now (have tried the 1, 2, and 3) because I like it the most with the Stellaris out of everything I've tried up to the point I bought it and I got a good price on a used unit. This is as someone who doesn't particularly want or like NOS (S2 sounds best in NOS but has OS modes). In the past I also liked the 2541 on the Stellaris along with a few other DACs. I think the 2541 sound signature matches the amp better than the YggA2 but I will admit the technical performance of the 2541 is a bit behind the Yggdrasil A2 (which is fine for the prices).

    If I were to buy another DAC right now, it would probably be a Holo May or Rockna Wavedream. May sounds more effortless and natural to me on the Stellaris whereas the WD has slightly better resolution and performance but at the cost of a slightly artificial and in your face sort of "modern hi-fi" sound. Again, this is just zooming in on the minute differences on the Stellaris, my overall opinion on both doesn't change that much otherwise. On the flip side, the May is maybe 2-4% better than the S2 with an extremely similar sound signature but would likely cost me $2-4k more after selling the S2 for it... The Wavedream is even worse in terms of value for me... so both are currently pretty low priority purchases for me.
     
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    Last edited: Jan 18, 2023
  6. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    @bigjako What @penguins explains so well matches my impressions closely. Of the DACs he mentions, I've not heard Spring 3 or Wavedream. I own two Stellaris on different locations, one with May, the other one with Spring 2. I agree that the difference between Spring 2 and May, with Stellaris specifically, might not be worth the difference in cost -- especially since you probably can get a used Spring 2 these days at a good discount. One possible difference between my setups and his is that I'm a convert to HQPlayer preprocessing into DSD256 for the Holo DACs, which improves resolution and reduces NOS smearing, while maintaining the DACs "effortless and natural" match to Stellaris.
     
  7. HotRatSalad

    HotRatSalad Friend

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    How's things going with DNA ? Is it still 2 years out for a starlett ? I still wake up with a mad urge to sell all my headphone amps and get a starlett ! I'm sure there's tons of issues with parts availability and wait time. Hope all is well.
     
  8. RestoredSparda

    RestoredSparda Friend

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    Donald is very busy. I believe it's a year and a half last I asked about a Stratus build. Im working on getting into his schedule for a v3 upgrade, but again, he is pretty swamped. He had some recent home repair emergencies the past month or so that have really slowed him down. I hope things lighten up for him!
     
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  9. miter53

    miter53 Friend

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    I got in the queue for a Starlett on 1/1/2022, and Donald is saying May now.
     
  10. HotRatSalad

    HotRatSalad Friend

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    That's good to hear Donald is an awesome dude. Appreciate the info sorry to clutter thread.
     
  11. k4rstar

    k4rstar Britney fan club president

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    I bought a Solaris when it came out and returned it. As a converter it does not really provide better sound than the $150-200 DACs on the market today. It's a mastering DAC and you are paying for the features, form factor and support. Despite the marketing, mastering DACs are not supposed to present the ultimate truth. Rather they all have some sort of consistent coloration they apply to all recordings which the listener can get used to and work around to make more informed decisions during the mastering process.

    In the case of the Solaris, it is polite and lacking honest sharpness/overtones. Veiled. I would rather have the Soekris. If you want better layering and detail, improve your digital source instead.
     
  12. lagadu

    lagadu Facebook Friend

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    One of my Starlett's power tubes had its glass start glowing with a faint blue light (photo taken in near darkness, it's not anywhere near as bright as shown):

    [​IMG]

    I detect no channel imbalance or anything audibly different and the internet says this is fine and even good. Is that correct? Or should I start looking into replacement tubes sooner rather than later?
     
  13. k4rstar

    k4rstar Britney fan club president

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    This is fluorescence and is normal of a healthy tube.
     
  14. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    Not that I'm especially shopping for tubes right now, but I just came across Wathen tubes and wondered if there were any impressions about their 2A3s and 6N1Ps.
     
  15. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    ^ precursory 30 second glance on their website looks like they just running modern production tubes through cryo and etching their brand name onto the tubes? Their "about us" or why our tubes section doesn't seem to say much more either. I too would like to know if anyone has other info but as of right now my hopes aren't particularly high.

    Anecdotal parallel - I was given a new and cryo'd 6N1P-EV and compared it against another 6N1P-EV of the same manufacture (iirc Voskhod, the one with the rocket logo), made in about the same time period, in the Stellaris. While it did sound different from the non cryo tube, it wasn't enough of a difference that I could contribute the difference to cryo vs just individual tube variance.
     
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    Last edited: Jan 26, 2023
  16. JK47

    JK47 Friend

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    Cryo... GUFFAWWW!! Guffaw is my word of the day
     
  17. RestoredSparda

    RestoredSparda Friend

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    Going to listen all night (once the kids are in bed) but first impressions are mixed for Stratus V3 versus V2.

    I'm surprised how much wetter v2 is than v3. There is for sure a reduction in bloom and warmth when going to v3. I need to play around with tubes again as I don't love my old favorites anymore. A bit too bright and lean.

    Although, v3 for sure has more resolution and clarity. Also blacker background. I'll chime back in once I find my favorite tubes for this iteration.

    Might try some Shuguang Treasure 2A3 with my kenrad 5u4g as they might provide the bit of warmth I'm after.


    EDIT: Ok, I got where I want to go with this amp for tonight.

    I tried a 6bq7a Mullard input tube and it really put some meat back on the bones. Polite treble but still really extended and airy. Bass is substantially increased. I'll continue trying my other input tubes but want to stay with this one for a while.

    Has the warmth and bass impact of v2 but with more detail and resolution all around. FWIW I hated this input tube on my v2 Stratus. Lol.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2023
  18. bigjako

    bigjako Facebook Friend

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    @RestoredSparda I had no experience with a v2, but on my v3 the warmest 2a3 tube I heard was the JJ. If it's bloom you're after, the JJ has the bloom. You give some up in resolution but it sounds like a mini-300b, and is still the best JJ I've ever heard (not a fan of JJs in other tube formats, but my understanding is that they took over the production line of some old school 2a3 facility and left things as-is).

    You should try going back to 6n1p, too (or the 6n1p-EV). Compared to the CV4068, the 6n1p has more Forde behind it. I keep rotating between a Fivre 6BQ7A, an Amperex 6BK7B and the 6n1p-EV. I've been content to roll the Stratus for several months now, it's a treat. I've locked in on a Philips GZ34 as a rectifier and am auditioning a pair of Linlai Elites to see if they'll usurp my GE and NEC NOS pairs. Still TBD.
     
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  19. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    Officially a member of team DNA! My Stratus is serial number 0031. I'm guessing that means it is not as new as people thought it was. But I don't know how his numbering scheme works. Anyone know what version that makes it?

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Also what do these turny loose screws do? The amp must be auto biasing.

    [​IMG]
     
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  20. RestoredSparda

    RestoredSparda Friend

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    It is either a v1 or v2 (unless the previous owner paid to upgrade to v2 or v3).

    I'm unsure when v2 started being incorporated into builds. My first was serial number 42 and was a V2.

    You can shoot Donald an email and I'm sure he will tell you for sure.
     

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