Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by AppleheadMay, Nov 10, 2015.
thats because I was trying to write a usefull post unlike yours .
thats what I came up with for now.
I can only agree here because I dont like the way the hobby is so expensive,.
Yet, this is a novice mindset, because ALL the good gear, especially tube, are expensive.
We cannot get away from the expense of the transformers, and the caps, in traditional tube design...
To put things in perspective, I did use other TOTL tube amp impressions as comparisons.
Like everyone here, we all have our preferences.
That being said, I will now list my problems with my "perspective" of your post...
I do believe @k4rstar has valid points.
We ALL DO...
Here are some points we need to take into consideration.
I usually try to be neutral and also post other gear to put things into perspective.
The points I believe reduce/skew the validity of @k4rstar post.
First red flag of biased position
Not to be discounted, as anyone would be upset.
Second red flag of biased position.
In your position I might be upset, but slow response is pretty standard for smaller business, and you should already know this.
That is only how " you percieve it"
I didn't dissmis anyones impressoins, as I view them as additons to the collective overall impression.
I value all opinions in that sense and wanted to add to it.
Next red flag...
lack of weight, then "highly colored"...
In what way, I dunno as you havent specified.
If it really was in any way colored, it would have had more tube harmoinics, which it does not.
All the other amps I added in my post, as a usefull aid for descriptions, had way more tube harmonics, or colored sound.
Yet another contraditory statement...
Dimming of the top octave means, to me, your tubes are bad, or not burned in.
Newly used tubes have top end dull.
Yet you then immediately take offense to obvious traits of higher resolution
when you state attack and bite...
Maybe you just used to mid-grade gear, which is exactly what valhalla is.
Lets be frank here. Valhalla isn't a top contender amp, and not meant to be.
Are you jelly? Lol
On the contrary, This is the Ultimate position of being able to make impressions of neutrality,
As I can hear as long as I need, and not be biased from owning it.
Yes, I admit to this positon.
You NEED better headphones than HD650.
Sorry to burst bubble here.
I not knocking the HD650 down,
but its NOT gonna give you the resolve of these :
So there you have it.
My long winded post..
Well it is a tube amp. Rolling tubes does make drastic changes.
It might not transform the amp, but it could have changed what you thought have heard as colored.
It's pretty clear that the Aficionado is not the amp @k4rstar is looking for, and that's okay!
@Maxx134 You write like someone who has just discovered all the theories and cool headphone terms on head-fi but without the experience. An amp can absolutely sound thin / lightweight and be incredibly coloured, just like those horrible in flight headphones are.
HD650s are used by a large percentage of this forum as a reference, often against amps such as the EC Studio or DNA Stellaris. They absolutely do scale to these lofty heights.
to my aged ears, HD650/600 sound is akin to boredom. (on any amp)
not a problem being in the "small percentage" on SBAF in this regard.
I'm not suggesting they sound better or worse then anything else (although I quite like them). Simply that they have a lot of room to scale.
I'd take at least the HEK and Abyss off that list...
Um, why not the Abyss or HE1000? Both are highly resolving, if not more resolving than the HD650, and have better defined bass and sub-bass extension.
They both have lower and cleaner bass than HD650, but that's the extent of their advantage in resolution. The HEK isn't any more resolving through the midrange and treble and I find the Abyss less resolving that the 650 in those areas.
Neither belong in a list what what's purported to be a significant step up in resolution or detail. The HD800 and the Clear do. I haven't heard the Elex and I'm reserving judgment on the Susvara until I hear it on an amp I'm more familiar with.
Try Abyss vs HD600 / HD650 on the Hotel California track with a decent $99 DAC. Some low volume bits of the opening guitar work get muted / disappear with Abyss, but not with the Senns.
@alucart is referring to the Abyss phi which has less lower mid suck out in the passage Marv is mentioning than the Original Abyss, but Phi is still trumped in resolution here by the hd800sdr.
I like hd650, i keep it because there is some great synergy with the EC studio, but I would never use it as a reference personally because the stage is crap and it falls down with layering and timbre. For the price though, I think everyone should at least keep one around.
We all have our preferences..
Gee, thanks for the compliments buddy.
Thanks for sidetracking on how I post.
That is an old tactic used to dissmiss ones opinion,
but I'll take it as a compliment, that I cause you to add opinion.
The enigma here is that I do have the experience which your not hearing.
Yeah I know how good the hD650 can be I owned them and still have a 580.
Yeah I know full well they climb greatly.
Thats both a plus and a negative.
Having to coax the hell oit of them to perform,
And then when you think you have it great,
A quick swap over to the HD800 to find it also scaled proportionately, so you never catch up.
We all know this so who is posting like they not have that experience?
I am not knocking the 650, but they never wowed me.
The Abyss PHI & Susvara shown me nuances & tonality that no headphone has shown me.
Their problem is same. They need scaling power even more.
Anyways, my point that you misinterpreted are about the amp.
My experience with owning and modding tube amps, is you cannot color the amp withoit coloring the bass.
I know full well an exaggeration when I read it,
(that the Afficionado is colored.)
That is ludicrous because I know how it sounds, but I do know that there must be aspects of sound that led "k4rstar" to that conclusion.
That opinion must still be considered.
To each his own .
Everybody has preferences.
I not saying the Afficionado is my top choice either, but I know when I hear a superior tube amp, which it undoubtedly is.
Hell I aknowledge lots of things I hate.
I like the Yggdrasil/Yggdrasil A2 and hate its unreliable PSU transformer layout.
I like the Denon7200 and hate the conpany policy to not helping anyone without warranty.
Nobody here to win a beauty contest, but post what they think.
My opinion is just one.
My advice is only to take the general consensus over a few posts...
HD650 isnt a great pair with this amp. This amp is a terrible match for K4 - his preferences are for a hd650 to sound its best and why something like Valhalla 2 might be a better pair - when something like hd800 exposes grain and resolution ceiling of the amp. I'm as much of a hd6x0 family lover as anyone - I owned 580, 600, 650, and 660 all while owning AF and AF scales way way past them. I also think that a big problem in K4's setup was the Electro Harmonix new production tubes. Being the guy who blames the shitty sonic reproduction of a favorite album is as shitty as a cop out as they come, but in my personal experience the EH were the lightest on the low end and a bit hazy. The more you use them, they open up a tiny but, but even regularly available RCA NOS were a significant improvement. I know that being a tube roller with a large collection of tubes you dont use is frowned upon, but this is one of the few amps where I've heard major differences when swapping any of the tubes (IHA1 probably being most recent 2nd example). Stock new production Chinese rectifer, we396 might have just been combo from hell on top of headphones that just dont pair well.
I also owned a HE1000 when I first got AF and while it was a favorite with Black Widow (planars always seem to like high current solid state amps) I found it pretty disapointing with AF. HEK lived up to its soft reputation and really didnt have a use for it.
I'm a firm believer that a modded hd800 is technically best headphone out there ( but not necessarily tonally) and that anyone using anything else is just fooling themselves (unless you decided to buy a utopia instead of send your kids to college). This goes against the many people who have tried hd800 and left thinking its bright , glarey or boring. HD800 is also the only can I really find myself using with AF. I've tried several others, and don't see why I would trade off for a less technical can. Are there others? Probably, but I'm content and learned to love exactly what HD800 does and AF is the best amp I've used to recreate a musical performance.
Ive said it before - but AF is still the best headphone amp I've used. Swapping in jupiter caps an improvement, but I was pretty happy before too. I probably use this amp 50/50 with headphones and speakers. It does have several areas where it lacks, and many others where it excels. It wont be for everyone, but it continues to put a smile on my face and transport me to the place where I dont want to turn it off.
HD650 from Valhalla 2 (what K4 is used to) with 16 ohms output impedance is going to sound quite different compared to the AF with 2 or 3 ohms. Not surprised at the "lack of weight" observation. A lot of people have said similar things going from ZDS (about 20 ohms output impedance) to AF. The higher output impedance gives the HD650 more punch, more bass, and imparts additional lushness to the mids.
The EH 2A3 I don't care for. Dull, lifeless, weird pseudo 300B wannabe bloom, and rolled at the extremes. Cheap though and they work. I can definitely see some people liking them, but those are the last tubes I'd use. The output tubes matter more than any cap rolling and just as much if not slightly more than the driver tube.
Finally, cap rolling helps, but wouldn't have changed ones mind about the AF if one didn't like it. I expect that Craig would still honor the warranty provided that modifications didn't break it.
Related to the cap rolling earlier and the current discussion on headphones, I believe system synergy is so critical. With the Utopia and unmodded HD800 the EC with Jupiter is to me a good mix as I feel it warmed up the sound a little (well the HD800, the Utopia still in repair). But for the Abyss Phi I do still feel the mids are still very weak. Plus I feel the Abyss Phi is actually a brighter headphone (more treble energy) than the other two while providing less treble detail, though the HD800 has the sharp glare and Utopia a slight metallic sheen.
So back to the synergy for the Abyss Phi I’ve been doing little mods to tame down the overall treble (without losing too much detail) and tighten the bass. Maybe look into other caps besides Jupiter that has stronger mids. This should allow the mids more room to breath. It’ll never be as good as Utopia, maybe rival the HD800, but that’s good enough. It’s looking like Abyss Phi is here to stay and I’ll sell my Utopia once it’s back. The driver issue with Utopia too scary long term.
Plus, good thing I feel the EC does drive the Abyss and Utopia well, and I got it as demo model for a huge discount from an authozied distributor, so it’s great value to me. @Garns will have to decide for himself if the synergy/marching with his headphones are worth the cost of the AF.
I also respect @k4rstar comments about not modding amps and voiding warranty. This is absolutely YMMV and maybe one should pick an amp stock that already fits ones system.
Slightly off topic, as far as vintage driver tubes, my advice is to buy several of the same kind and different kinds. A lot of this stuff is super old and we really have no idea where the heck they came from. Tube testers don't really say much other than the tube works and might work for another 5000 hours.
We are at the tail end of vintage WE396 availability. We are getting there with the vintage 2A3s too. A lot of counterfeits and anything remaining has decent chance to be iffy. For all we know, some might have been the shitty ones which traded hands seven times already through HF, 'gon, and eBay. The good thing is that sometimes we can find gems among the less "en vogue" ones.
On synergy, yup. Don't expect plug and play at this level. This shit is a rich man's game. And even after countless hours and money to make things play together, we may still realize we went down the wrong path.
I would say HD650 (coin mod only) and Utopia, if you can ignore the Be, have the most tonally correct mid range. Abyss, and Phi, like Audeze have a sever dip around the 4kHz area. This sucks the soul out of acoustic instruments and severely affects timbre.
Here is an overlay of HD650, Utopia, and Abyss Phi at same perceived listening volume:
Some further experimentation today. Up to now I have been comparing AF -> HD800 to my monitors. Today I tried the AF as a preamp to my monitors via the XLR outs. Usually I use the Freya in passive mode as a pre, which pushes the Yggdrasil 1 output stage to its limits but just about works.
Of course the AF is not a pre, so degradation of the sound is to be expected. What is interesting is the nature of the degradation matches precisely the things I was less happy about with the AF as a headphone amp.
First I tried both channels through the AF into the monitors. Here I picked up the same haze/veil/compression that I heard over headphones. Dynamics were flattened and the leading edge of attacks softened. Parts that previously stood out from each other with clear outline were smeared together and more impressionistic in nature. Overall the sound was greyer. These effects are what I expect using something that isn't a pre as a pre, but the magnitude of the effect was larger than I expected.
Then I tried one channel through the AF, one channel direct to speaker so I could compare the FR. What I found through the AF was:
Bass appears to be rolling off at around 40-50hz. The fundamental of kick drums is missing. There is a hump above that around 60-100hz. The sound is somewhat reminiscent of ported bookshelf speakers.
Top octave is down probably about 3db. This is super obvious with cymbals and hi-hats.
So it seems that FR wise the stock tuning is indeed quite far from neutral.
I will say that I find AF soft sounding, at least with Utopia. No tube combination, cap, or cable has fixed this. What this softening of attack does though is allow me to hear everything else clearer such as decay, ambiance and microdynamics. Spatial cues are very well placed but slightly smudged by lack of attack. It makes listening slightly ethereal and intoxicating.
I wonder if the OI at 3-4 Ohm is affecting the attack or if it's some other design element?
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