Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by Luckbad, Feb 28, 2016.
Having an Horizon III with an LPS myself, I’ll be looking forward to your impressions.
@Imraan Thank you I will look into getting the LPS and the links you posted.
Really enjoying the Sunrise III as my second option amp. It really shines with the Phillips/miniwatt E88CC SQ. Listening with my Lcd-2 closed and Clears. There have been a few tubes in my collection that won't bias properly, but the majority are just fine. Jeremy sent a NOS RCA tube instead of a typical JJ, so that was nice.
I actually just finished building a Project Sunrise III and I'm putting together a video of the build. If you have a soldering iron, I highly recommend building an @atomicbob Noise Nuke to give it clean power.
Decided to give my LCD-2 rev2 pre-fazor a shot with the Project Horizon III, and was surprised to find it an excellent match (surprised because I had yet to hear a tube amp that I preferred to solid-state with any LCD-2).
Did a little digging and apparently Audeze recommends (or did at one time) an output impedance of 32 ohms for the LCD-2 rev2, which is precisely what I have the PHIII's jumpers set to. Neat-o.
Some quick notes on the Sunrise III. Keep in mind, I am new to critical listening and to reviewing gear. I am still learning about my sonic preferences. I used an HD650 with some dynamat with spider intact and no foam mod (cats!). The source is a Fiio X5III (apparently a good AKM4490 implementation). I compared the Sunrise to my Valhalla 2, with the former using a Telefunken ECC88 and the latter a pair of Siemens PCC88. With the V2 rated at 800mW vs 120mW for the SIII, I thought the Sunrise would be simply out muscled.
I was surprised. The V2 definitely produces more bass (not dramatically so) but falls short of the SIII for my taste in other areas. Attack and decay on strings were more prominent. At first, I thought that this was a matter of loudness with SIII perhaps emphasizing treble more, but the increased detail was truly there. I could hear it on the hard panned guitar work on Dear Prudence and on Fleetwood Mac’s The Ledge. Despite this, I detected no glare or harshness. The overall effect was of greater dimensionality and definition, qualities that the Valhalla 2 were noted for. So far, at $100 less than the Valhalla 2, the Sunrise III feels like a good buy to me. I will see if I can post more impressions with details on other aspects of the comparison.
The bass delivery is pretty heavily dependent on the power supply. Add a linear PSU and it will get you there. Phase Reversal Trick takes you a bit further, and proper tube selection for your preferences will go the rest of the way.
I still think my Project Sunrise III with LPSU is tonally about the most enjoyable amp I've owned south of $1000.
I forgot to post this build video a while back:
Totally agree. I've had several "budget" amps with better detail retrieval, tighter bass, blacker background, etc. than my PH III (the addition of an LPS does go a long way toward cleaning up the bass) but none with a more agreeable tonality.
HD-600 + PH III w/LPS is like Colt 45; "it works every time".
Some more impressions on the Sunrise III before I move the loaner on. I continued to compare this amp to the Valhalla 2, switching to TH-X00 Purplehearts and listening to more complex music but sticking to Rock and Roll. No time left for Spanish Harlem.
The Sunrise gives a closer to the stage feeling than the Valhalla, yet did not feel claustrophobic. For the Police, Zep, and Radiohead, the SIII engaged me better, with instruments popping more with nuance and character. An exception was with Pink Floyd “On the Run." I liked the Valhalla 2 better here, as if the blending of effects created that Wall of Sound that can be so hypnotic. With the S III, certain sounds popped more, pulling me out of the experience of the cut. So we’re talking one song of the ten or so that I listened to that the V2 came out of ahead of the SIII.
I ended up being puzzled by this amp comparison. The Sunrise bested the Valhalla in the areas that are considered strengths of the latter. A look at the Schiit amp spider chart shows the V2 as relatively strong in microdynamics and plankton. So some possibilities are at play in some combination ; 1) the SIII is simply a better amp, 2) my ears are untrained, 3) my V2 amp is busted, 4) poor synergy between the Fiio X5III and the V2. That written, if could trade my Valhalla for a Sunrise, I would. Recall that this is the amp that @atomicbob used for his synergy thread, one of the most illuminating threads on SBAF IMHO.
My only reservation about the Sunrise is that it is a little fragile for my tastes.The On/ Off rocker switch is flimsy and crapped out. I would love to see a removable full case for this amp.
Last, a big thanks to SBAF for the generosity of the loaner program and the knowledge of the folks here.
The power switch on the Sunrise is a weak link. Try one thing before sending it for repair: push in on the switch while flipping it off. Sometimes that contact gets weird and needs to be reseated.
If there is an atomicbob Noise Nuke in play (I'm guessing not since it wasn't mentioned), the caps in there can fry the switch if you don't turn the SMPS off with an in-line toggle.
I've had to replace my own power switch before if I have the Noise Nuke connected and flip the amp's switch instead of killing power to the SMPS first.
BTW, your impressions made me connect it up again. My Sunrise was sidelined by the ECP Audio L-2 for a while. I forget how enjoyable this thing is to listen to with my monstrous old LPSU.
Just want to add my .02 on a recently acquired Sunrise. Currently I'm working on a Soekris 1021 board as my DAC alongside the Sunrise. So Modded Soekris --> Sunrise --> HD599/6XX. I purchased the kit version of the Sunrise since I prefer to diy whenever possible. Quick background summary: when it comes to headamps I do not have much retail experience to draw on - all of my previous ones were diy/ch-fi, like Tangentsoft MINT and a heavily modded JLH-based Class A amp. I primarily focused on speakers and amps, including tube and class d, preferably passive pres but did mess around with opto-coupler-based stuff and even an aikido tube pre. But head-gear is still new territory.
So with that said, being diy-oriented made me appreciative of just how great a job Garage1217 did with this kit. It's probably the most thoroughly documented and organized kit I've ever purchased. The board is well made and beautiful, the parts selection is top notch, and the flexibility of features they provide is really really rare. Heck even the resistors came pre-bent in perfect form. Like, what?! That never happens. I almost feel bad that someone spent hours of their time with a resistor width-bending ruler thing and just...bent resistors all day. But boy did it make my life a lot easier. Just plop them in the circuit, solder, and done. Same for all the other parts. It did take me some 4 hours or so from start to finish including some user error requiring hitting the parts bin. Given that the pre-built cost isn't that much more than the kit you might as well just buy the pre-built unless you have the tools and the time.
One strike against the Sunrise that's been mentioned before is the power switch. Mine failed and I haven't even had it a week. Not good. That's really the only bad thing I have to say about the Sunrise.
As for sound quality, there are some things to consider in terms of trade-offs. Stock, with provided tube, it sounds great. No hum, pretty clean and engaging presentation through my HD599 and 6XXs. I have a stash of preamp tubes from previous tube amp builds so I was able to do some tube rolling w/o opening the wallet. All the tubes I tried had a substantive effect on presentation, some better than others. Tung Sol and Sylvania 12BH7As pull some great inner detail from the music while still sounding sweet and clear on the top end. JJ ECC82 was meh - but all JJs I've ever heard were meh (probably good for guitars though).
Still, the Sunrise did not seem quite as smooth and quiet in terms of noise floor as my modded JLH which uses a linear power supply. I do suspect - as atomicbob has shown with measurements and Luckbad has observed - that things can be taken up a few notches with a better power supply. I plan on trying a basic linear supply with a Noise Nuke attached, and then I have one of the Studer900 power supplies that have gotten great feedback on the way as well.
But I wouldn't be a diy'er if I didn't feel the need to mess with a perfectly well-designed piece of gear. And I did. But I have my reasons:
1. The Amplitude Module that allows you to switch to low gain uses resistors plugged into an adapter that sits on top of another adapter. This is great for customizing gain or even resistor-hopping to try different resistor brands. Especially as the tubes provide plenty of gain as is. So I prefer to have the low gain jumpers in place. It allows more range for turning the volume pot. However, to my ears sound quality using the low gain takes a hit - sounds a little strained and grainy. So once I knew what low gain resistor values I preferred (62k), I soldered them directly to the board from underneath, bypassing the layers of adapters and loose 'plug-in' connection. The low gain now sounds as good as the regular gain, just quieter. Problem solved.
2. Continuing with resistors - although Dale resistors are excellent quality and sound decent, I personally don't care for them that much. I've done a lot of resistor swapping over the years and Dales can sound a little harsh in the mids to my ears. I've come to really love using PRP resistors instead. They are cheap, made specifically for audio, and SonicCraft sells a lower noise version not available anywhere else. At only 40cents ea. it's an easy upgrade. I swapped out a few of the resistors in signal path, including the amplitude module. Also the cathode resistor. The result was a lower noise floor as has been my experience with PRP in the past. The main thing is that, if possible, I think it's worthwhile trying out different resistors in some of the more critical areas. SonicCraft has Takmans that are also very inexpensive and make for a cheap entry into resistor nervosa.
3. Capacitors: Up until this point, with the aforementioned changes, I was very happy with the Sunrise but a couple things still bothered me: the upper frequencies were a little 'crashy'/splashy/tizzy, and the mids were still kind of congested (even though the PRPs helped clear some of that up). Based on my previous experience with tube gear I knew the rear Nichicon KWs probably were not the culprit. The FGs in front, however... And yes I know swapping caps gets overplayed. But they can play a prominent role, especially if they're in the signal path and in tube gear. Nichicon FGs are known for their top-end emphasis. I haven't used them in a long time for that reason and also because the next step up, the Nichicon Muse, isn't that expensive. The downside is the Muse doesn't come in that high a value. The FGs are as good as Nich. gets at 2200uf. But I have a lot of caps on hand, including 4 1000uf Muses. So I swapped out the FGs and replaced with 2 Muses per side, one above and one below. I wasn't sure if it was going to be a worthwhile mod, maybe just improve things by a few degrees. I was mistaken. The performance of the Muse reminded me why I stopped using FGs a long time ago. With the Muses in place the mids lost its congestion and the upper frequencies became articulate and well defined. Splashiness disappeared. This refinement also extended to the low frequencies. I believe this was the most impactful mod of the bunch.
Now I have been messing with other gear in the chain so it's possible, not probable, but possible that perhaps something I did from the previous day is what I'm hearing (messing with a Soekris board ATM), but it's unlikely. What I've been hearing as far as weaknesses since using the Sunrise has been consistent despite all the messing around, up until the cap swap.
I don't know how the Sunrise now compares to costlier retail options, but as far as my own standards, it now sounds like a truly great little amp. I love the build quality and how easy it is for me to work on it without looking like a typical diy frankenmod. I hope G1217 continue to offer new designs and they deserve more love from diy and retail audiophiles alike.
Just my (lengthy) .02.
@Wushuliu pics or it didn't happen! Also, they bend the resistors on the kit now? That's awesome! Mine didn't come bent into shape as you can see from the video above of me building one.
I've thought of replacing those FG caps as well, but as you noted there aren't any Muse of the proper value. I didn't do what you did because I want the amp to look clean, but maybe I'll go for it at some point here.
Mind showing off where you replaced the resistors as well?
Not too bad. Especially since the stand-offs have be reconfigured for more room below. If I can find out the exact threading size I can order 4 more and get the Sunrise acrylic cover back on. So keeping mods AND still look (relatively) polished is doable.
Input and line output resistors changed to PRP. 100nf bypass caps switched to Wima FKPs. I missed the 56 and 61ohm resistors for the headphone output however. Still need to do those.
Low gain resistors soldered directly to board below. Also 1k Cathode resistors replaced further back (easier to attach from the bottom). Used Muse caps have a small length of wire to the legs so they can bend outwards. Of course If you use brand new ones with their long leads that wouldn't be an issue.
Quick question for Luckbad - did you put the in-line on/off toggle on the DC cable between the NN and the amp - or did you put it on the cable between the power supply and the NN?
Keep the power switch on for the Garage1217 and the on/off toggle in front of the SMPS.
Okay - thanks again
I am a bit of a dumbass for forgetting to post this. Work suspended because of the massive typhoon, figure I might as well post a write-up here now that I've got more time to dick around. Current gear, i.e. those immediately at hand: Klipsch HP-3, Sennheiser HD600, Meze 99 Classic, iFi Micro iDSD, and Schiit Bifrost Multibit A1 (USB Gen 5), plus Lake People G109A and Massdrop ZDT Jr (all comments here with GE JAN 5654W tubes) to compare to.
Note that because the power switch on the amp it self is borked (a common failure based on the interwebs), I've only really used this out of the LPS, so no real comments on how it sounds without that. Also, I paid much less for this amp than I would otherwise have because @Magnetostatic_Tubephile is excessively nice, if occasionally persnickety
My personal disclaimers here.
TL;DR is that the amp is excellent value, especially for higher-impedance loads like Senns. Others have attested to how this is a match made in the happy afterlife when paired with a Bifrost MB A1 and Sennheiser HD650 (and occasionally with some good booze to sweeten the synergy)— nothing in my experience rebuts that. Not strictly neutral in presentation, but mildly euphonic in a pleasing manner for long listening sessions, even for cans with notable treble roughness (cough) so long as you don't crank the volume; technical chops that might fall short of ridiculous-value amps like the ZDT Jr. and ostensibly the SW51+, but leaves the party with its dignity intact and pants unsharted. Low impedance cans like the Meze 99, Fostex TH-X00EB, and Klipsch HP-3 are all given sufficient power, more than enough, but there's a bit too much noise when using them with the Low-Z (1ohm) out that I often end up switching to Mid-Z (32ohm) just to reduce gain and sharpness at the expense of reacting with impedance curves. Far from ideal, but hardly enough of a bother unless I'm being very anal about sound quality.
Definitely a better match for more typical home-use cans like the HD6__ line. In my opinion, a better match for the HD650 than the HD600 given the mild treble aggressiveness, but that's only at higher SPLs than I normally listen at.
Long-ass rambling below:
Despite local post's best efforts to bollix things, I eventually got the G1217 Sunrise III + Jays Audio Talema LPS to review. Things were remarkably hectic around that time and I encountered some scary difficulties with the post so writing proper impressions of the amp escaped my mind completely. Doesn't help that the amp went on a mini-tour locally either so I plain forgot I'd promised to share impressions too. The good news is that honeymoon period is long over with the amp, and I've had the opportunity to demo some nicer shiz in the time since. More importantly I've mostly forgotten what other people have said about the Sunrise in the interim, haha.
In all, I'd say the amp as fed by a not-horrible LPS is well worth the ~$370 or so it'll take to put together, upper ceiling of tubes you'd not be entirely off your rocker to "waste" on an inexpensive amp included. This is thankfully verified by atomicbob's measurements, or at least as far as I was able to understand them with my decidedly non-STEM background, so I suppose I'm not insane or deaf as far as I can tell.
Overall, regardless of tubes used the amp is reasonably balanced-sounding with a definite warmth in the midrange and less air up top than the ZDT Jr., definitely more body to lower treble that can be overbearing at higher volumes. Headstage is larger than most budget SS amps I've been able to listen to (transportable iFi, FIIO, a crappy ChuMoy I yanked together when I was in undergrad) but perhaps not massively different from the Fostex HP-V1 I loved before the battery went to hell. There's good directionality and layering to things, though it does get more congested-sounding for big band and not-horribad orchestral works even on "normal" sounding headphones like the DT880 or HD600/HD650, unlike on the ZDT Jr. There's a definite aggression to the Sunrise's sound relative to the Massdrop amps (ZDT Jr and G109A) that isn't just a function of slightly unrefined treble— though the headstage isn't very small it has a forwardness to the presentation that, depending on recording and other components, is either straight-up painful or enticing enough to dance to and maybe snap a swivel chair in half grooving in your seat to (this didn't actually happen, I swear to Jeebus).
If there's one major shortcoming to the ZDT Jr., and mind this is my opinion alone, it's that there's certainly a stereotypically tube-y bloom to the sound, causing that overall sense of "slam" and bottom-octave rumble to suffer as a result. This is more obvious watching horror and action movies that often employ near-infrasound to prime viewers into a sense of tension than on music, but I definitely get less thump on Billie Eilish or Mitski's stuff. Though the Sunrise isn't close to the best at bottom-end rumble I've heard (even as per the limitations of store demos), it certainly does a better job at hitting hard than the ZDT Jr, though with decidedly less texture in faster bass passages, e.g. Primus, Sailing the Seas of Cheese. The bass solo on Fleetwood Mac's The Chain (which is a song I love to death) has more of a visceral impact out of the Sunrise as well, though again with less air and texture to the presentation, more muddled. The bass on Giorgio by Moroder off Daft Punk's Random Access Memories only serves to reinforce this: more eye-rumble but less distinct individual notes v. the ZDT Jr. It's a matter of tradeoffs at this point I feel, which is fair because these aren't top-tier amps in the grand scheme of things nor obscenely expensive, but I'd personally go for nuance over big head-rumbles, fun as the latter can be.
Midrange has a lush balance similar to that of the ZDT Jr, both being much richer-sounding than the G109A which is sterile in comprarison. The ZDT Jr has more weight to vocals and instrument fundamentals than the Sunrise, and not just as a function of FR skewing— individual sonic "images" seem to have more depth and body to them. Coarse resolution keeps up with the Laconic brainchild but it lacks that last sense of "thereness" that the ZDT Jr excels at, made more obvious by sparse arrangements like Nick Drake recordings. I used brickwalled modern vocalist-centered music to evaluate this, as well as older ballads that aren't as poorly-crafted. Metallica, Machine Head, and Amon Amarth also serve as decent tests of aggression in the middle-mids and lower treble, not to mention how much space a component can present when everything's seemingly flat as pancakes in the recording itself; again off Giorgio by Moroder, the cymbal crashes are much less tolerable off the Sunrise than the ZDT using either the HP-3s or HD600s at moderately high SPLs. Also checked out Yob's discography thanks to PTS's mentioning them a while back— holy fuck yes they're a good reference, seems like it'd be easy to overdo the grit and crunch here (which the Sunrise does with the Klipsches).
In terms of raw power, I have no headphones on hand that are particularly difficult to drive so I'm not the person to ask about this. There's more than enough gain to drive everything I have to ear-bleed levels regardless of tubes, perhaps a bit too much so for the Klipsches on brickwalled pop and pop-rock that I might listen to fairly often. Pending investing in gear to measure the actual value the resistors I have installed are either 130ohms or 100kohms, IDK, so it may be worth noting I don't listen at high volumes very often and that this issue could just be a case of me being a dumbbutt.
The amp has very good build considering it's a DIY kitted piece, easy to mod if one were capable and so inclined (I am the latter, not so much the former). Worth noting is that it's highly sensitive to EMI, so do keep away from phones during use and laptops if at all possible (ahem), otherwise you might get a painfully loud blast of staccato static right in your ear-holes.
Background on the Sunrise is hazy in a more overt way than the ZDT Jr is, even units still afflicted with the infamous hum issue. This could be due to my cramped setup and other components adding noise, but it's not something exhibited by other gear I've had so suffice to say while this could be a me-problem, it's still notable. Ambient noise in my area is seldom so low as for this to be particularly noticeable or a massive turn-off, but may be a problem for others.
Bypassing input caps seems to lower gain, tighten up midbass, improves low detail retrieval, and cleans up the background some. There's improved depth to the staging, maybe better width, on all headphones used, as well as less sharpness for cymbal crashes (e.g. Evanescence, Tourniquet) and the like, but this comes at the expense of making the volume pot unusuable with headphones plugged in— ear-shivving static noise especially on more sensitive headphones, AAAARGH. Not worth it for me, especially since the expanding headstage makes for a less-definite center image, which I value more than a purely diffuse presentation.
The amp came with three tubes, but the JJ E88CC gold pin was more or less DOA so I only have very brief experience with it. Comments on individual tubes below:
JJ Electronics E88CC: Hiss, snap, crackle, poppycock. Bright and extremely lean, good pairing with HD650 but even on headphones with more sensible impedance like the Senns there was too much noise that didn't manifest with any of the other amps; effectively unusable on the Klipsches, but it'd have been a poor pairing regardless because of how sharp and thin it sounded. Maybe pinpoint directionality for imaging, but "flat" images, like cardboard cutouts almost. No comment on other aspects of sound pending getting a new unit to evaluate (no plans at all on getting one).
Genalex Gold Lion ECC81: Larger soundstage than I'd get on ZDT Jr. with GE JAN tubes, albeit worse at layering. Still some decent air but not enough to exacerbate the HP-3's sizzle in the uppermost octave. Best of the three in terms of bass control, though it verges on being too-lean for me, especially with the HD600. My fave of the three (presuming broad-stroke impressions of JJ apply to non-worn tubes too). Ekes out more nuances in recordings than loads of other el cheapo amps, probably due to being leaner than the EH, but is really free-sounding re: macrodynamics; HD600/HD650 were as good in this aspect as on the ZDT Jr, at least on crappily-mastered video game soundtracks that I often listen to; the video game stuff is about even. Background is the best of the bunch, not perfectly clean but neat enough that it's hardly a bother. I personally love this tube the most, but damn it's also the most expensive one. Fuuuuuuuuck.
Electro-Harmonix 6922: Immediately, much stuffier stage than the Genalex and darker-sounding. Not suffocating but doesn't help when paired with already-breathless headphones. Directionality and texture aren't bad, still better than Lake People G109A (aka the very well-measuring amp) in terms of conveying nuance and ambiance, e.g. the infamous toms test Hotel California off HFO— less discernible broadband texture, but just as good in grand macrodynamic swings as the Genalex, more "meaty" sound likely due to slightly thicc-er bottom end. Messier background, grey but not particularly grainy-sounding.
From my tube rolling with the Sunrise, I've found the 12BH7 to offer the most balanced presentation. The Electro Harmonix in particular.
Haven't got one of those in, but will keep an eye out. Many thanks for the tip!
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