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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    Now it could be that's just my oldster hearing damping that treble, but this is not at all what I hear, even with stock tubes, on my two Stellaris. I know it's a stretch, but I wonder if some of what you are hearing is a consequence of the weird electrical environment that you've reported before. Just listening to a new jazz vibes album Liberated Gesture on Stellaris #2 (with RCA JAN NOS rectifier, Sylvania 6BK7B driver, somewhat green Tak 2A3s). I forgot to bring my Atriums (eek) so I'm "dealing with" Verité blackwood, which are darker but also have sharper leading edges. Vibes really bring out treble glare and harshness if the gear is not right. I've listened to many live vibes gigs, and I've also heard a couple of the album players live multiple times (Matt Mitchell on piano, Dan Weiss on drums). What I'm hearing here is in place, upper mids and treble would be what I'd hope for at a good live gig seat. Actually better, as many live gigs tend to push the piano back too much for my taste.
     
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  2. internethandle

    internethandle Almost "Made"

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    Sure, but keep in mind the HP’s @rhythmdevils uses (Audeze’s, IEM’s). As far as I understand, quite different from ZMF’s house sound. Synergy/preferences are an easier explanation than his electrical issues, I think.
     
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  3. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    Fair point. Even ZMF Caldera is a poor match to Stellaris in my experience, thin and lacking bass-lower mid presence.
     
  4. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    I didn't mean to accuse anyone of not hearing "the brightness" just to be clear. I told Donald about it and he said it was the first time he'd heard that. Which is alarming.

    Interestingly, Josh ( @loadexfa ) also has the exact same impression of the Stellaris, even using some NOS tubes over here (he thought the treble, mids and bass were right in balance, but the tone was still off). But he borrowed my Stellaris before that. In his house and came away not liking it, thinking it was way too bright (you can see his impressions above), My Stellaris was bought from @dubharmonic who got it new and only had it for 4 months or something, so it's probably 6 months old. I doubt there's anything wrong with it, but who knows.

    I've thought a lot about how your impressions could be differing from mine so much @earnmyturns because I can't imagine adding silver to the Stellaris, oh my gawd and the Taks are just so flat, sterile and have so much treble in mine over here. But we do disagree about the Holo DACs so that's one point of reference being different. I very much respect your hearing though of course so I don't know.... with the Holo DAC's it's a different thing, more a matter of preference and not "this is wrong". I think genres listened to and preferences are at play there, but there seems to be something else going on here.

    I am using iems, but you can't really call them "iems", they aren't like any other iem's I've ever heard. They're planar magnetic for one thing, but they're also one of the most revealing headphones I've ever heard. Not the same as some Shure iems or Campfire iems or something. (I can't make them commercially because they changed the housing in a silent revision and I can't open the new housing to modify them so this is not an advertisement)

    It could be that these iems's just are not a good match for the Stellaris, but Josh used the LCD-4 (my modded version k the RD-4) and when he borrowed it, he used electrodynamic ZMF's of some sort - Auteur Classic or Atrium I think.

    So I don't know what's going on. My power is a disaster, literally. I need to make a blog about it because it doesn't even make sense. But I don't think it would change the sound of the amp. It's probably causing my rectifier buzz though. I think moving would be cheaper than fixing it at this point, but I want to fix it of course.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2023
  5. RestoredSparda

    RestoredSparda Friend

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    Just to chime in, I've never heard a Stellaris, but even going from a v2 Stratus to a v3 the amp went from pretty damn warm and wet to almost completely neutral and slightly wet. I've decided I don't ever want to go to Stellaris levels or even a v4 Stratus based on others impressions and my tastes. It took me 6 months to dial in my v3 Stratus with tubes but now I'm at a place where I would never change a thing. (Using ZMFs and HD650 JAR, or KISS). I'm using the same DAC as you...Yiggy A2.

    I have heard a Caldera and Hifiman HE560 on this Stratus and felt they sounded horribly bright and thin. Not what I heard from these planar headphones on other amps. I don't think you are going to find what you want with Stellaris with planar headphones and it's probably best to move on. (All ZMF are dynamic drivers FYI, besides Caldera).

    All NOS is where I stopped with my amp FYI. It's the most natural and enjoyable sound I've heard compared to midrange and lower new production tubes.

    Also please try out the stock 6N1P, and more likely the 6N1P EV input tube. After trying tons of other input tubes I suddenly found this one to sound the most correct. I can tell Donald tuned these amps with it. Not sure why I didn't enjoy it prior to now. Lots of system changes, etc. and synergy is important. Worth trying however.
     
  6. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    Thanks for your input. Oh no, I bought a used V2 Stratus and had it upgraded to V3 while Donald fixed it before knowing about the change towards a drier, flatter sound. Hopefully I didn't goof on that. @loadexfa loves his RD-4 with his V3 Stratus though and @Bill-P did too in an audition. So I think Audeze's are a good match, it could just be these iem's. They may like "looser" tube amps. Which are often noisy and high gain unfortunately.
     
  7. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    So can the 6BK7B be used as the input tube with no adapter? Maybe I should try some of those.

    I have the 6N1P you sent me @RestoredSparda and like it, I agree, sometimes everything sounds right with it FR wise, but I still want more wetness and holography (is that spelled right?) and realism...

    it would be handy not to like the Stellaris given the cost! But I want to... :confused:
     
  8. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    Just something random I found on Head-fi

    The KR Audio HP version is safe to use with DNA amps, as Donald was sent a pair and confirmed it.

    "I’m sending mine [KR Audio HP 2a3] to Donald so he can test and verify rather than rely on the spec sheet. I’ll report when I know more.

    Update from Donald

    They’re higher current than a standard 2A3 and self bias in the amp to a reasonable operating point. Feel free share this good news with others interested in KRs. I’ve been listening to them and they sound really good – airy and extended and resolving.

    Note: these are the High Performance version of the tube."​
     
  9. Tchoupitoulas

    Tchoupitoulas Friend

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    Just as another point of reference, my Stratus is the v3, my DAC's also an Yggdrasil A2, and I loved your RD-4s with this setup. There was a slight, inner warmth to the sound - it's not warm per se - and it was lovely in its degree of wetness, not dry at all.

    It's so good to see you posting again, we're rooting for you and hoping there'll be a breakthrough with your father's research.
     
  10. dubharmonic

    dubharmonic Friend

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    When I had this Stellaris I didn't find it to be bright or harsh, but it did seem very refined and controlled to the point of being tense. I'm assuming it was a deliberate design choice by Donald, and I can appreciate that others would love it. As I told @rhythmdevils this morning, I would get the feeling that the Stellaris needed a drink to loosen up just a bit.
     
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  11. JK47

    JK47 Friend

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    If spending $300 on a Amazon power generator doesn't help the noise situation, you could always return it. You have kilo buck tubes and amps, $300 is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of $$$ you have in gear.
     
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  12. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    Yes, no adapter needed. I can lend you one if you are interested.
     
  13. ogodei

    ogodei Friend

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    @rhythmdevils , your experience with the Stratus and Stellaris seems pretty out of the ordinary. Id never describe its sound the way you have, for instance, and that mechanical buzz in the tube obviously isn't typical. Id suggest getting the amp to Donald to take a listen to, preferably with the problem tubes. He'll be able to tell immediately if its an issue with the amp. If its not, maybe a Stratus v1 would be the way to go.

    You also asked about 'looser' 2A3s that sound more natural. I'd suggest trying Shuguang Nature Sound 2A3C-T. They're out of vogue around here but I think they're a good fit if you find the current sound to tight.
     
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    Last edited: Nov 23, 2023
  14. Clear Water

    Clear Water Friend

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    I'm not sure what else is going on, but I do want to say that my first pair of Tak 2a3 tubes sounded exactly like what you described. It turns out that it was a defective pair. The replacement pair is wet and lush, and reminds me the most of my 1940s RCA single plate 2a3's. It's by far warmer and denser in tone than the Acme, Linlai 2a3s. If you're within the 1 year warranty I'd look into doing an exchange.

    One more data point for comparison: I had the Stratus v.2 and the Stellaris (stock, no upgrades) side-by-side for a few months before I sold the Stratus. At the time, my impression was that the Stellaris had more "body" to the tone and being a touch more refined than the Stratus. For me, the overall tonal balance was identical, which relieved me because I was also afraid of trading in tone for more resolution.
     
  15. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    Hum... Those Taks are actually mine that I lent @rhythmdevils and have had over 200h on both of my Stellaris. My take on them is exactly how you describe, warmer and denser than Acme or Linlai (I own those as well). I have another Tak pair, less burned-in, which sounds pretty similar.
     
  16. loadexfa

    loadexfa MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    I’ve heard Whitney’s Stellaris and compared against my V3 Stratus and I find the Stellaris loses the Stratus tone that I love. To my ears it’s dry, perhaps that’s the same as “tense” as dubharmonic is describing it. I would also say it’s brighter than my Stratus though I think Whitney finds it brighter than I do. Maybe comparing against another Stellaris (if possible) with the same tubes would be a good idea. I haven’t tried it with earnmyturns’s super fancy 2a3s though (yet ;) ).
     
  17. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    I'm for some reason obsessed with trying to get the sound I want out of the Stellaris. I bought a whole bunch of different "shitty" new production 2a3 tubes, I just tried a cheap 5U54GB ($20) and it seems to have helped, though I need more time.

    I'm not sure I have the energy to type up all of the things I've been thinking about regarding the Stellaris right now, but does anyone have a list of all the input tubes you can safely use with the Stellaris/Stratus? This is what I know...

    6N1P (stock)
    6BQ7A
    6CG7/6FQ7
    6BK7B

    with this adapter

    Brimar CV 4068

    Any others with/ without adapter?
     
  18. ogodei

    ogodei Friend

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    • Variations of the 6N1P (–EB, -EV)
    With a 12AU7/12AX7 -> 6DJ8/6922 adapter:
    • Brimar 13D3
    • CV4068
    • Brimar 6158
    With 'flying leads' adapter and some pins re-routed:
    • CV4069
    I've tried several of these, honestly biggest changes are with the rectifier.
     
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  19. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    thanks! I might try some of the first 3. Is that 12au7 on the amp end and 6922 on the tube end? All the ones on ebay seem to go the other way.

    And I bought the "natural" 2a3 tube you recommended thanks for that too! I'm thinking bloomy and wet might be just the ticket here for me and my modded ortho iems. We'll see about Audeze. I've been playing with a cheap 5U4GB tonight with good results. And I agree, the rectifier makes a huge difference in the Stratus/Stellaris.
     
  20. RestoredSparda

    RestoredSparda Friend

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    Try a Sylvania 5U4G. It's what I am sticking with after trying many. It's on the warm side of neutral but has excellent resolution.

    Many other 5U4Gs I found a bit too bright or too warm. This is the middle ground tube for me that is never getting changed out.
     

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