ECP DSHA3F Ravenswood 3F

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

  1. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    I can sense that danger. Solution is to go for minimalist music, which is what I listen to anyway at work. Listening to Glass's Violin Concerto #2 right now, although focus is wandering from work to music....
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2020
  2. dsavitsk

    dsavitsk Friend

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    I used to give a law and econ exam question with a dispute that featured a window company called Philip's Glass. I don't believe anyone ever picked up the reference.
     
  3. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    A a former (computer science) teacher, I love it! Really delighted by how solo violin is coming alive through your amp, even before all the teeny magnetic domains get fully aligned. Spent some time back when working with condensed-matter physicists, who taught me about spin-glass models, magnetic domains, phase transitions, ... so when @pure5152 wrote about your reply on how the transformers change, it made sense to me in a way that other "burn-in" stories do not.
     
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  4. dsavitsk

    dsavitsk Friend

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    The big Lundahl amorphous outputs sound absolutely awful out of the box - near unlistenable. But after only a few minutes of use they start to sound pretty good. The inputs are not quite that dramatic, but there are definitely changes.
     
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  5. lcmusiclover

    lcmusiclover Friend

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    And THAT is I bought @jexby 's amorphous transformers -- he suffered the agony of burn-in, while I got the gorgeous end result. I've had the amorphous transformers in the amp pretty much continuously since they arrived. (Back-and-forth a couple times, then button it up and forget about it.) Really like what they do for the headstage. Even Utopia is pretty happy, although they do whine for nickel occasionally.
     
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  6. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    No kidding. Made the mistake of selecting Nelson Freire's amazing solo Bach recording (Decca) while working this afternoon and now I can't get back to work unless I stop it.
     
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  7. Failed Engineer

    Failed Engineer Acquaintance

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    Mine arrived over the weekend. I've long been a fan of Doug's work and lucky to have owned some of his amplifiers in the past. I've previously owned a L-2 and DSHA-1 (I believe) and current use the Walnut V as my DAC. I purchased all of these secondhand and glad to have finally given my business direct this time around. Doug is approachable and friendly, yet also direct and blunt when required. I value all those qualities, especially so as it relates to buying audio gear.

    It doesn't need to be mentioned, but Doug is an exceptional artisan. The pictures that litter this thread and other ECP threads on the internet are evidence aplenty. Here's my ambrosia maple 3F with amorphous to add to the portfolio. The mirrored wood panels are stunning and the amp's build is precise in every manner. Just looking at it on my desk brings me joy.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    But it's not a piece of furniture so onto the initial impressions. Each of the above two amps and the Walnut have been simmering love affairs as opposed to knockout punches for me. There's not much that stands out at first listen. So I wasn't surprised when I swapped in the 3F that it was much the same. I listen with the Utopia and Verite Closed. While waiting for the 3F I was using a trusty Headamp GS-1 with Dynalo+ modules, an oldie but still competent amp.

    The chain is local FLAC rips and Tidal via Roon to Audio Alchemy DMP-1 (Pi based streamer) USB -> Walnut V DAC -> DSHA-3F.

    The 3F is very good with the Utopia. The Utopia seems to be a love or hate headphone. It's small staging is a deal breaker for many, as is it's timbre. The 3F is not a corrective amp for either of those two issues. I loved the smaller stage from first listen because I primarily listen to vocalists of various genres and I prefer headphones that allow me intimacy with the singer. But most headphones that do that suffer from congestion and cramped imaging. The Utopia allows intimacy and crisp imaging. It made me want to build a system around it. The 3F accentuates the Utopia. More, more, more of everything. Sharper, faster, more detailed, and expanded micro and macro dynamics. The dead silence of the 3F and the Walnut allow the music to come out of nowhere. The bass texture and nuance is more notable. It's also very taut, not spilling into the rest of the mids and treble. There is a finer gradation in vocal texture and it's commanding of your attention. It's challenging to focus on anything but the music. It elicits emotion. For me, the Utopia intrinsically has all these traits. The 3F dials it up to 11.

    It excels at both higher volume (anything over approximately 80 dB for me) and low ones (<60 dB). I've been listening at about 60 dB the last 3 hours and not felt the need to raise the volume.

    I'm still trying to figure out how to write about what I hear and I'm curious to know what it is when others describe the 3F having control of the transducer?

    The VC was a compromise purchase for my wife. We both are home officed and she's tolerated my open headphones (long time Stax 007 and 009 owner) for far too long than is reasonable. The VC was the first closed one I've auditioned that I could live with, but still the headphone I'd only use if my wife insisted on silence. With the 3F, universe pads, and the AutoEQ convolution filter loaded in Roon, the VC displays markedly improved imaging, is less polite, more emotive, and attack oriented and gives the Utopia a run for its money for my listening preference. Until the 3F came, I'd been firmly on the fence about keeping or selling it.

    As mentioned above, the 3F is not anything like 100% better than really good mid tier amps. These are subtle improvements across the board. But they are audible, and in my experience, these subtle improvements are hard to come by. It elevates both the Utopia and VC in different ways (or doesn't bottleneck the Utopia and VC's drivers).

    These are just first weekend impressions so maybe not really useful and subject to new toy syndrome.

    One last note. I love how Doug's stuff is simple. The Walnut V just has a USB input and balanced outs. The 3F has balanced inputs and balanced headphone out. There's nothing to do except connect cables, power them on, and try not to fry your ears with the volume knob. He's made all the decisions for me except for which album to play. I did purchase the nickel transformers but that may have just been a wasted $300.
     
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  8. dasman66

    dasman66 Self proclaimed lazy ass - friend

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    I want to make a mini rack for my 3f & dac which are currently marooned/inaccessible at my office. Can someone please shoot me the dimensions of the 3f? I want to make sure it fits what I'm drawing up.

    Thanks
     
  9. pure5152

    pure5152 Friend

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    12" x 8" x 3"
    30cm x 20cm x 7cm

    Quite compact!

    (sorry for my crappy picture quality)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  10. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    Pi2AES>Yggdrasil A2>DSHA-3F nickel>Verité C monkeypod Auteur pads. Using Roon Radio to play chill ECM jazz starting from a Nik Bärtsch track while WFH. I can't think of a better way to listen to the ECM European jazz sound — spacious, developing at a walking pace, precise, delicate percussion, almost baroque bass. Not in your face, but not light either, allowing me to pick passages when switching between tasks, but just going with the flow when focused on a particular task. Comparing DSHA-3F with EC Af and Phonitor XE (subjectively from memory now, not A/B testing): Phonitor dominates with its speed, Af dominates with dynamics and depth, DSHA-3F carries you along more delicately, without pressure. I'm delighted that this amp does exactly what I was hoping for when I ordered it last year for my work setup.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2020
  11. pure5152

    pure5152 Friend

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    People who have a 3F with them now, do you have any channel imbalance when you turn down the volume knob? I'm getting pretty bad channel balance below about 8pm on the dial, with it skewing completely to the right channel.

    I'm wondering because I'm growing concerned that there may be subtle right-skewed channel imbalance at all volumes with my 3F unit. The black widow I have has perfect channel balance at all volumes, and I'm noticing a subtle but definitely more "full" and balanced feeling in the left channel on that amp vs the 3F.

    This lower-volume imbalance has been here since the beginning, but the subtle right-skewing suggested itself only after a/bing with the black widow. I think it took so long to notice because I tried to rationalize it away as a problem with my hearing/nervosa, but there's no balance issues with the black widow so it has to be the 3F somehow. Once I've noticed it, I can't go back to listening to the 3F because the slightly more pronounced right channel bothers me.

    I'm thinking it may be an issue with the volume knob, but want to hear what you guys have to say.
     
  12. Ksaurav402

    Ksaurav402 Friend

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    I don’t have access to amp right now but there was imbalance at very low volume , I guess below 8, but once I get in normal listening range i didn’t notice channel imbalance. Do you notice it even at higher volume?
     
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  13. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    This is a common problem with all potentiometers, even the most expensive. If one wants to maintain balance at all levels a precision stepped attenuator is required. More information to be found here:
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...uator-comparison-technical-measurements.7324/
     
  14. pure5152

    pure5152 Friend

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    Thanks for the replies and confirming it's not just me about the imbalance below 8pm. Regarding the imbalance at higher volumes, I just checked with an extended perceptual channel-matched listening test and realized I think the perceived imbalance I was hearing with the 3F was actuallly nocebo (negative form of placebo). In other words it was nervosa, damn it. Thanks for the sanity check guys.
     
  15. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    I'll have to test. I have my 3F after a Goldpoint stepped attenuator/switcher that's at 2/3rds (16 on the 0-23 stepped attenuator), so my amps volume pots typically live between 10am and 2pm and I don't notice any channel imbalance with the 3F (or with the Af).
     
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  16. Ksaurav402

    Ksaurav402 Friend

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    sometimes it’s also the songs that we listen to. For eg. Drive by R.E.M always feels louder to me in one channel irrespective of the amp I use. So test tones to check channel balance or using songs that you have heard lot of time will help in determining if an amp has imbalance.
     
  17. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    It could also be hearing damage. Sometimes to see if there really is channel imbalance I'll switch the left/right side of my headphones to hear if the imbalance switches or stays on the same side.
     
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  18. pure5152

    pure5152 Friend

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    Yeah exactly, it was so hard to determine when listening to music because a lot of songs have instruments placed off center (like drum sets) and it's hard to determine imbalances when they're subtle. That youtube audio check I linked seemed pretty good though and helped me confirm that if there was an imbalance, it was very subtle.

    Yeah I tried this and when switching sides the subtle imbalance also switched sides. But again, after doing that youtube channel imbalance check and listening to more music, I've confirmed that if there is an imbalance it's subtle enough and not worth bothering with. I really think nervosa/nocebo effect just got to me honestly and made me hyper-worried haha.
     
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  19. dsavitsk

    dsavitsk Friend

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    As a general rule for these, or really any amplifier that uses an input transformer, the best performance will be realized with the volume turned all the way up, and the signal lowered before the input. The vast majority of the distortion in these amps is due to the transformers, and the amount of distortion is proportional to the signal level. So if you can control the volume prior to the amp without any loss of quality, that is your best option. It also bypasses any possible imbalance in the pot.
     
  20. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    @dsavitsk - I remember seeing a general schematic for one of your earlier amps where attenuation was after the input transformer. This seems like the input transformer would still get the full signal. Do you still do this? Was there a reason to change this arrangement?
     
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