ECP DSHA3F Ravenswood 3F

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by purr1n, Jan 22, 2019.

  1. tommytakis

    tommytakis Gear Cycler SoCal Edition

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    ECP 3F Ravenswood
    [​IMG]
    (my sad attempt at trying to capture the beauty of this LOL)

    Aesthetic/ non-sonic related:
    • I chose Bocote for my choice of wood and amorphous for the transformer option. IMO Verite already had plenty of body and warmth, so I thought the amorphous was the better option (for me at least). When I saw @atomicbob ’s spalted-maple 3F, I wanted to find the wood that was just as unique-looking, exotic (but NOT endangered) wood. After a couple email exchange with Doug, I ended up with Bocote, with its tonal contrast to the silver body and unique grain pattern. I originally wanted Ziricote to match my Ziricote Verite, but the upcharge was a bit much. Suffice to say, Doug did a wonderful job creating a beautiful piece of hardware that looks just as beautiful as it sounds.
    • I first found out about Ravenswood/3F through SBAF back when I was a lurker. Seeing Marv and other friends speak of this amp with such high praise, I became curious about this amp. I’ve never heard of ECP and the price tag initially threw me off a bit, but I decided to take a leap of faith and do a blind purchase. I did a similar thing before with ZDS and I was quite happy with the sound. I still regard that amp as one of my favorite tube amp and reference quality for stage width and depth. It took me a while to save up for this amp, but when there’s a will, there’s a way :) Throughout the waiting period, I’ve had my moments of doubt, but after talking to many of the members who have heard the 3F, (@jexby @Gaspasser @Phantaminum ) all reassured me that I would be getting a real solid piece of gear. Aaaaaand yep, they were absolutely correct.
    • This is a spectacular headphone amp. I never thought I would write such a positive review about a solid state amp since I’ve always preferred tubes, but here I am.
    Listening chain: Eitr > Gungnir Multibit A1 > ECP 3F Ravenswood > Verite + Verite pads | Auteur + AL pads | Elex | JAR600

    General impressions:
    • Something I noticed immediately was how good the dynamics (both micro and macro) were. The bass on the 3F is robust, fast/snappy, full of energy, and renders bass with some cajones. Bass doesn’t sound one note and quite multi-layered. The 3F allows the headphones to operate at full potential in terms of transients and slam. I didn’t think ZDT Jr’s bass was that bad until I heard the Verite+3F. It’s made me want to listen to EDM again.
    • vocals and instruments sound textured and effortless. Instruments are well separated and really easy to pick apart complex music. Images just pop out of nowhere and you can see images float around. I thought the imaging on the Verite was one of its weak points given its price tag, but with the 3F it was no longer an issue.
    • Like others, I noticed that I listen to 3F a bit louder than usual, but without a hint of fatigue.
    • Excellent clarity and presence: treble is well extended without timbre issues or sharpness. lively sounding and really grips the music. Slightly reduces the rough edges while maintaining the energetic nature of the headphones. The slight sense of hollowness in the Verite is ameliorated by 3F.
    • Wide sphere of sound, but lacks a bit in depth compared to TOTL tubes. I think amps like ZDS and Starlett will pull ahead in this category. However, I wouldn’t worry too much about this as the amp still holds its own very well and is not a flat wide pancake-stage like Jotunheim.
    Pairing Notes:
    • Auteur+ 3F: If you’ve read my Auteur review, you know I much I liked the synergy with this. Synergy that made me think of selling the Verite for an Auteur. Really lets the biocellulose bass shine, with the right amount of presence, clarity, dynamics without a hint of sharpness/sibilance.
    • Verite+ 3F: Another synergistic pairing. Slightly less.. I mean by a hair less than Auteur, but still an excellent match. Verite’s inherent qualities to throw 3D, life-like stage, zippy transient, and resolve are realized with 3F’s pinpoint imaging capabilities and sense of immediacy. It doesn’t feel like I’m listening to a solid state amp.
    • Elex + 3F: As this amp was originally intended for Focal headphones, I wanted to at least try it. As expected, great synergy. The Elex is a bit tipped up and bright for me, but with the 3F, it slightly reduces that edge while maintaining the liveliness. This pairing didn’t get a lot of head time since the synergy was far greater on both Auteur and Verite. I don’t know, maybe Nickel transformer would have been a better match or I guess it just didn’t capture some of the emotions I’ve felt with ZMFs. Still highly recommended if you’re into the Focal sound.
    • JAR600 + 3F: Actually scales quite a bit with the 3F, but now I can kind of understand why @ColtMrFire preferred his T3 over the 3F. At Least with the JAR600, while I was able to hear and appreciate the technical prowess of the amp, but it was a bit too dynamic and borderline-shouty at times. I’ve never heard the T3, but with the JAR600, I would pick the ZDT Jr. over the 3F purely in terms of synergy. I think this just shows how important synergy is no matter how great the gear is.

    Closing thoughts:
    • I feel like recently my impressions have been a bit too positive, at least in the last few impressions, but I have to give credit where credit is due. Like others have previously stated, it’s a fantastic sounding solid state amp with robust, tactile bass, excellent sense of dynamism and immediacy. While it doesn’t completely negate all the drawbacks of solid states such as expansive sense of stage depth, it still holds its own in terms of sheer technicalities and emotional involvement. One thing to be aware of for future/potential owners is no matter how great the 3F is to make sure to feed it with a headphone with the right synergy such as ZMF and Focal. I personally would not pair it with the HD600/JAR600. The synergy with the Auteur and Verite was noticeably better (at least for me) compared to Elex and JAR600. Anyways, I hope more people get to hear this amp, because it surprised the heck out of me. I never thought I would enjoy a solid state amp this much. I only have the 3F+ Verite/Auteur to blame for all the late nights of musical enjoyment.
     
  2. dsavitsk

    dsavitsk Friend

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    Just a note that I have unexpectedly reached the limit of how many orders I can accept in this batch. So as not to cut anyone off who was waiting, I will leave the order window open through the weekend. Thanks to everyone for your support.
     
  3. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    should any owners of 3F with nickel transformers inside, wish to purchase a (barely used, not burned in) rollable pair of amorphous core transformers as spares or slight sonic alternative send me a PM.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2019
  4. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    Hopefully I'll raise the money before then!
     
  5. dubharmonic

    dubharmonic Friend

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    Has anyone tried this amp with an HE6?
     
  6. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    I have not.
    except I do have a magic Code-X (HE5) here, and when listening with 3F would say the pairing is "good / serviceable" but not excellent.
    3F tone and detailing is there, but there is no real ballsy grip on the driver to bring planar bass truly to life.
    mids had a bit of a hollow sound.

    the best I've ever heard Code-X was on a Vidar, even if there was some background noise.
    and the Aegir are probably even better for HE5/Code-X.
    suspect staying with massive powahr amps for HE5/HE6 will bring out their best.
     
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  7. dsavitsk

    dsavitsk Friend

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    Thanks again for everyone's support. This round of orders is now closed.
     
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  8. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Gearmaster

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    **Thank you @Vtory for allowing me to rub my grubby hands all over this 3F and plug my headphones into this. It amazes me that I can have the type of relationship with some online folks where we can send each other our precious gear and have peace of mind.

    Let's get this out of the way in the beginning; the DSHA-3F is the best SS amp I've heard bar none, and belongs in the echelons of the best amps I've heard. It absolutely deserves the accolades and praise lauded upon it, although those eyeballing this amp do need to take caution as its sound is not going to fit everyone's preference.

    20191030_171642.jpg

    This might be a strange analogy, but the 3F's sonic signature reminds me of the Focal Utopia. The 3F's greatest traits are in its ironclad grip over the driver, dynamics, and transients; pretty much all areas the Utopia excels in. Also like Utopia, the 3F does extremely little wrong; there's hardly any sins of omission and commission. Stage is wide, up-close, and while flatter than Starlett, real good and feels natural. Resolve and resolution is great up and down the octaves; I can't tell if it's better than Starlett, but they're both extremely good here. Not in any way tilted dark or bright; it's neutral. This is NOT the amp to buy if you want to, say, warm up the sound signature of your headphones; it won't do that. What it will do is offer to grip dynamic driver headphones by the balls and hold a tight reign over them, offering tremendous transient performance, dynamics, and decay to seemingly every dynamic headphone I plugged in while still allowing each headphone to sound like themselves. This led to me having tremendous fun plugging in everything I had here that had a balanced cable.

    At this level of gear, I believe preferences and synergy play a huge role since pretty much everything here has merit. The X-Sabre Pro MQA isn't what I'd call an ideal partner for the 3F; the 3F only exacerbates the X-Sabre Pro's tendency of overly energetic transients, although I should note that this pairing sounded extremely clean, modern, and very hi-fi. Stage seemed to lack a little depth and the images felt thin. I still enjoyed the end sound, but my thought is that the 3F is practically made for the Schiit R2R stuff.

    In terms of headphone synergy, here are my thoughts in no particular order:
    • Focal Clear: Figured that since the "F" in the DSHA-3F's name stands for Focal, I'd try this with a Focal. I wasn't disappointed; the Clear + 3F was incisive, startlingly dynamic, and just one heck of a listen. Treble is smooth and not fatiguing. Does absolutely jack squat about the FR, although surprisingly I didn't feel the Clear sounded that metallic with the 3F (at least, I didn't notice it). Synergy is up there with Euforia, although I do have to admit that I'd prefer the Euforia for Clear. I'd really want to try Utopia, but I don't have a balanced cable around for it.
    • Sennheiser HD6XX: This headphone is where it's really obvious the 3F imparts its qualities into all headphones (all amps do this). The HD6XX tightens up and its resolving prowess is brought to the fore, and space between notes is improved. However, the special sauce isn't as present here; better amps exist for pairing with the HD6XX in particular. For this headphone, I like the Euforia better.
    • ZMF Auteur: One of the headphones which benefit the most from what the 3F brings to the table. The Auteur's weak point is macrodynamics; the 3F does a lot to take care of that and lets the Auteur do the other things it does well. Timbre is top-notch, details are absolutely present, and the layering is there. Top-teir synergy where the one piece of gear is helping cover a weakness, and the other traits work with each other to for a beautiful sound.
    • ZMF Verite: This pairing is for those who wish the Verite was a bit more incisive-sounding. The 3F sharpens up the slightly rounded transient attacks of the Verite, and it actually makes the resonance stand out more than usual since the 3F has absolute control over the driver. The pairing works well, but for the 3F, I preferred the Auteur.
    • Sash Deaux v2: An unusual Ukrainian planar, but there's nothing unusual about the sound with 3F. The 3F puts some serious meat on the bones of this headphone's sound: sounds less airy, more punch, more dynamic, and the bass is much improved. If you have some more efficient planars the 3F might be worth checking out, although I got to say that personally I just like dynamic drivers.

    Since the 3F is an amp that I considered buying before I decided upon Starlett, it was only fitting that I ran a direct comparison between them. Here are my thoughts:
    • I don't agree with the thought that the 3F can replace a good tube amp. The 3F, while it has righteous timbre and tone, doesn't quite sound like a tube amp (it's close, but not quite). If you want the tube sound, just buy a good tube amp. This is not to say the 3F is bad; the 3F's capabilities can easily supersede any mid-tier amp and even some high-end ones. And if you have a tube amp and want to change to something different, the 3F is a hell of a candidate that almost sounds like a tube.
    • The Starlett's stage is more holographic and can be almost eery in how it reproduces sounds inside of its space. The 3F is a bit flatter, more up-front, and somewhat more left-to-right than it is deep. To be fair here though, I think stage is something the Starlett just does exceptionally well.
    • Details are oustanding on both amps; however, the Starlett is flat-out better at layering and playing soft sounds while loud sounds are playing.
    • In direct comparison, the Starlett's slight bloom in the bass and round transients is obvious. The 3F has neither of those traits and is instead incisive and neutral.
    • The Starlett is tilted a bit warmer, especially with the IEC output (high Z).
    • The 3F's tone is a touch dryer than the Starlett. Considering that the Starlett is slightly wet, this might mean the 3F is one of the most neutral amps in this area.
    • It's REALLY hard for me to say which amp really commits more sins of omission. Sins of commission aren't high on either side as well; although you could argue that the Starlett has more sins of commission because of its tube bloom.
    • While both amps have a sense of ease in their sound, the 3F is more stoic and relentless in its presentation. The Starlett is more gentle, composed, and seductive.
    These amps are two different amps that do different things well. The 3F is more about control in dynamics and transients; the Starlett about seduction in staging, timbre, and layers. At this level, gear synergy and preference is going to play a bigger role than actual performance.

    Using 3F exclusively for an entire weekend, I did thoroughly enjoy the amp and could definitely live with it if I exchanged my Starlett for the 3F. I wouldn't necessarily call it charming, but it does have a certain dynamic quality that lends itself to bring plenty of smiles.

    In conclusion, if you are one of the people who have ordered a 3F this previous weekend, rest assured that you are getting one of the best amps that exist. As for me though, now that my curiousity has been sated and the dust has settled, I will be sticking with the Starlett (which continues being the best amp for me).
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2019
  9. dsavitsk

    dsavitsk Friend

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    some of the black walnut for this round.
     

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  10. dasman66

    dasman66 Self proclaimed lazy ass - friend

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    If I could, I'd like that 347x. Gorgeous piece of wood
     
  11. Roman

    Roman Facebook Friend

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    I'm currently using my DSHA-3F with Focal Clear and the DAC is Bifrost 2. I noticed I have to use a very low amount of volume - it is usually below 8 o'clock or under rare occasions it is about 9 o'clock. Everything higher is just too loud for me. The source is MacBook Pro and the player is Audirvana in exclusive mode.
    I wonder why there is such a small amount of volume is needed and if there could be any potential channel imbalance (although I don't hear any).
     
  12. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Gearmaster

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    The Focal Clear is a low impedance, high efficiency headphone. It doesn't take much to drive those to ear-splitting levels.

    If you don't hear any channel imbalance, don't worry about it. Not sure what pot is in 3F, but my experience is that it's sort of like the TKD pot in Starlett; practically no channel imbalance. I use the 3F with Clear with the knob around where you did and experience no problems (on Starlett I turn the knob to what's marked as 1 on the knob, which is a tiny amount).

    Edit: Okay, there is a problem with 3F. Both it and the Starlett like to keep me up at unholy hours at night/morning. Bad for studying. And really bad when the sun starts to rise.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2019
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  13. Ksaurav402

    Ksaurav402 Friend

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    I am using it with Verite and I have never gone beyond 9. Even with 800s I went till 8:30 or 9
     
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  14. joch

    joch Friend

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    The Bifrost outputs 4v under balanced. If it really bugs you perhaps you can try xlr attenuators in between?
     
  15. Baten

    Baten Friend

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    Or maybe a RCA > XLR cable? To get 2V input rather than 4V?
     
  16. joch

    joch Friend

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    I think @dsavitsk mentioned that the 3F was purely balanced. You might short it if using single ended adapters.

    EDIT: I stand corrected on the above
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2019
  17. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Gearmaster

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    This has been discussed before in this thread; running it as such is perfectly fine! What you can't do is run an adapter from the XLR-out (i.e. no 4-pin XLR to SE cable).

    You could try what @Baten suggested, but honestly there's no reason to let running low on the pot bother you, especially on an amp that's as excellently built.
     
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  18. joch

    joch Friend

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    Apologies to Doug that I invoked his name in vain. Purrin did mention that the transformers don’t care.


     
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  19. lcmusiclover

    lcmusiclover Friend

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    Same story with Utopia, which have the same sensitivity (104 dB) but higher impedance (80 Ohms for Utopia, 55 for Clear).

    I use a passive preamp between my DACs and amps. DACs are A2 Gungnir Multibit & Denafrips Pontus, both using balanced output, with about the same 4V output. With my Liquid Platinum, it was necessary because listenable volume on Utopia was down in 'channel imbalance' land. With my 3F, that's not the case -- when I first added the amp to my system, I tried without the preamp -- Utopia WAS low on the volume pot, but I never heard any imbalance.

    Preamp is there as much for convenience as anything else -- 3 inputs, 2 simultaneous balanced outs, remote volume control and source switching. But I did switch from an active (Emotiva) preamp to a passive (Hattor) due to sound quality -- didn't like the coloration the Emotiva was adding.
     
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  20. dsavitsk

    dsavitsk Friend

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    The current batch of '3F's is getting close to being complete. And, I made a few extras this time. The extras -- which will ship last, so probably in several weeks still -- are primarily black anodize with sapele (a type of mahogany) wood sides. If you are interested in one of these, please contact me via email.
     

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