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.
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