Liquid Gold X Balanced Headphone Amplifier from Monoprice by Alex Cavalli

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by jexby, Sep 10, 2019.

  1. Pharmaboy

    Pharmaboy Friend

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    Even more, the "Vivid" setting on a QLED TV (it's like staring into the sun itself).

    Yes, the gain stage implementation is a real mess. The right way to do it would be:
    1. Ditch the DAC. No one wants it & its absence would more than pay for #2-4 below
    2. Lower the Low gain
    3. Make a new Medium gain between Low and High
    4. And maybe lower High a bit. There's a limit to what you can drag out of a circuit and still have decent sound
    #2 would ameliorate the strange volume "hump" I & others observe in the LGX' volume pot. IMS it happens at ~10AM, a steep/sudden increase in volume above that point in the pot's rotation. With the voltage coming out of my previous DAC, of course 10AM is dead-center where my listening starts to get good on the LGX.

    Currently I have a different DAC with well-implemented preamp out/adjustable volume pot of its own. I have it set to 75%, which handily relocated that volume "hump" higher up on the LGX's volume pot, above where it comes into play for me. But really, I should have to play gain games to avoid that anomaly of the LGX., and a lower low gain setting would do the same thing.
     
  2. caute

    caute Friend

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    YES.

    Dead center 10 o'clock is where the "hump" appears in my system as well (LAuX fed by balanced XLR from a Gungnir A1 ((so a full 4V into the amp)) & BNC to Pi2AES), was thinking about getting a cheap, used Sys just to ameliorate this unfortunate issue, but I am happy with the all balanced setup I have now, and adding something into the signal path, even if it's just a passive attenuator, seems like too much trouble, especially given that it's only RCA in and out. There's little play on the pot above 10 before it gets to "this sounds great, but I am most likely damaging my hearing right now" levels.

    It would be killer to have a lower Low gain and a Medium gain option! High has soured me so much, even if it only had two options still, I'd rather they call the louder one Medium lol.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2022
  3. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    A friend put a TKD volume pot on my personal Liquid Gold X. It feels awesome but it was a HUGE pita and not recommended.

    I wouldn't worry about it, I think adding an XLR attenuator to the signal path would do more harm than the volume pot is doing. And I have heard the stock pot vs a nice TKD pot.
     
  4. Pancakes

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    Liquid Platinum gain and volume were even worse so the LAuX is actually an improvement lol.
     
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  5. lcmusiclover

    lcmusiclover Friend

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    Still love this amp (screw the DAC). Did some comparison listening today (what can I say, I’m thankful for outstanding audio):

    mScaler ==> TT2 ==> LG-X ==> Atrium
    mScaler ==> TT2 ==> DSHA-3F ==> Atrium
    mScaler ==> Audio-gd Master 11 (DAC out) ==> LG-X ==> Atrium
    mScaler ==> Audio-gd Master 11 (DAC out) ==> DSHA-3F ==> Atrium
    mScaler ==> Audio-gd Master 11 (amp out) ==> Atrium

    mScaler up-sampling was limited to 4x by Master 11, DSHA-3F running nickel transformers, balanced connections to both amps, amps ==> Atrium balanced in all configs. M11 is either DAC-out to one of the amps or amp-out to Atrium. I have a 3-in/1-out 4-pin switch box, so can compare 3 configs without changing cabling. So either

    m11 ==> Atrium
    m11 ==> LG-X ==> Atrium
    TT2 ==> DSHA-3F ==> Atrium
    or
    m11 ==> Atrium
    m11 ==> DSHA-3F ==> Atrium
    TT2 ==> LG-X ==> Atrium

    And the results:

    On many (most?) tracks the DAC differences significantly outweigh the amp differences. Tonality doesn’t move much at all (DSHA-3F/amorphous transformers change that). Tracks which offer more air and open staging lean that way a bit more from m11 ==> 3F than either DAC ==> LG-X — this would be more noticeable from 3F/amorphous transformers.

    Impact is close as well — there are tracks where the 3F ‘leading edge’ seems a bit crisper (e.g., cymbal strikes in instrumental middle of Whole Lotta Love).

    Also, both amps do very well presenting dense, complex passages cleanly.

    Bottom line, in my system, to my ears, LG-X performs very close to 3F for (in my case, including 2nd set of transformers) about 1/7th the price, although I did get my LG-X for 15% off the $499 sale price.

    And it is quite powerful. I’m listening to LG-X ==> Atrium @ 10:00 and that’s quite loud. And only up to 11:00 for Hedds & Ether 2 (my most demanding cans). Great pairing w/ Hedds BTW.

    I think it’s still a good value at the current price (BF15 discount off $699) of $595.
     
  6. Pharmaboy

    Pharmaboy Friend

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    That just about sums it up!
     
  7. Termineyter

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    Hey,
    I'm pretty late on this topic, but i'm interested in buying the liquid gold x .
    Main use will be hd800s , sundara and arya is coming later.
    Currently i'm using topping e30 and smsl sp200. I feel like i need an upgrade from this..
    I can buy the liquid gold for 780 euro through amazon.com I live in Belgium so taxes and import are awful.
    But i would def buy it at this price if its recommended :) What do you guys think? Or are there better options at this price point? Kind regards

    Ken
     
  8. bengo

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    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/best-amps-for-hd800-2021-edition.10330/
     
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  9. Pharmaboy

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    I appreciate what my LGX brings to my system--specifically, a potent, reliable source for planar headphones. That what this amp is really good for. With planars the LGX equals my best SS amp, the Violectric V281, in some/not all ways (a hard test for any amp).

    Dynamic driver headphones? Not so much...a case-by-case basis. Some sound grand, others less so. You simply have to try.

    The HD800 is not for me, but if it was, I wouldn't get the LGX specifically for it. But I would get it specifically for any planar. I currently have 2 planars (ZMF Ori & Final D8000); both love the LGX. I've also tried the ZMF Caldera on it (with success).

    In Belgium, you could probably pick up a gently used Violectric V280 (the no-preamp, smaller PS variant of the V281) for about the same as the LGX new (maybe a bit more). Then you'd have an amp that will (in my experience--the V280 & V281 have identical amp circuits) never fail you with any type of headphone.
     
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  10. lcmusiclover

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    I don't know anything about EU pricing, but I've owned both of these amps (LGX & V280) and I agree with the recommendation. V280 has one very nice feature -- pre-gain. You can set it to have significantly more or less gain -- on the lowest settings it drove all my IEMs hisslessly (not a word, I know), and on the highest settings it did a very good job driving HE-6se (most difficult-to-drive headphone I've owned).

    Sound quality-/signature-wise they're pretty close. Both slightly warm of neutral but basically pretty transparent, with excellent dynamics. LGX is maybe a little more incisive, and V280 is maybe a bit more euphonic, but really that might be a memory artifact, since I did not own them simultaneously.

    I did think the V280 was a good pairing with my HD-800S, although you need to take that opinion with a whole pound of salt since I didn't really care for HD-800S and sold them after just a few weeks.
     
  11. Pharmaboy

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    The V280's gain adjustment for headphone outputs is a major design benefit. I use those same dipswitches switches with my V281 to offset a serious excess gain problem my main system has. IMO gain adjustment is a big plus.

    When I compare the V281 to the LGX, tonal voicing goes out the window: it's too similar to be a real factor. That leaves:
    • dynamics (nod to the V281, not a big delta)
    • bass (same comment)
    • euphonics/musicality (same comment)
    • soundstage (pretty big delta here in favor of V281)
    • predictable results with any/all headphones (big delta here; V281 wins it)
    • remote control, adjustable gain (LGX has neither)
    • positive & dependable switch construction/quality (V281 has it, LGX doesn't)
    I'm lucky. I don't have just one amp (or 1 SS vs 1 tube), so I can make use of the LGX's positives (sound with planar headphones) without concern for its subtle negatives.
     
  12. lcmusiclover

    lcmusiclover Friend

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    This is a much more reliable/authoritative comparison than mine, which was hampered by the time-gap between my ownership of the two amps.

    Good job pointing out the significant difference in build quality. Violectric products feel way more solid than the LGX and LP from Monolith/MonoPrice. Not in the same ballpark.

    Should point out that there is no remote option for the V280, unlike the V281. And the price difference between V281 and LGX is significantly more than V280/LGX.
     
  13. Rob the Comic

    Rob the Comic banned from ASR

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    Great comparison from @Pharmaboy. I have the Phonitor XE, and like the Violectric it wins out overall, but the Synergy with the LGX and planars is unreal. I put the LCD-3’s on today and listened to Pink Floyd’s ‘Meddle’. Just wonderful. Echoes was especially amazeballs as the young people say.
     
  14. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    I know I am late.
    Monolith Liquid Gold X review

    There were pretty good reviews in this thread and will not repeat what seems to be a consensus, unless I strongly object

    The chain: Pi2AES->AES->RME ADI 2 Pro -> Liquid Gold X balanced OR BHA-1 to compare

    1. Audeze LCD-x 2021

    2. HEKSE

    3. HD 25, Cuctom Cans dumping kit

    4. ES4XR

    5. Campfire Vega, Ara

    6. HD800S

    7. HE6SE – grills removed
    Compared to: Pi2AES->AES->Soekris 2541 XLR –>BHA-1 with gain mod AND SE -> Adcom GFA 535 speakers taps direct (HE6se)
    Susvara that I had for 1 day in my hands was a special guest in this review.

    Hardware
    Looks really good, I agree that the metal faceplate was made to look like a plastic, silly.

    1. The startup sequence and the status codes are pretty scary, particularly when you turn it on first time and it blinks red and white an… does not start. Who could expect that Ebtech HUM X was the problem but it was. Why? My old Talisman amp needs it, but Liquid Gold X PSU hates it for some reason.

    2. It was said before: disconnect HPs before changing gain.
    Sound summary
    I started critical listening after close to 30 hours of playing Beethoven 9 symphonies in the loop

    Let’s start with planars

    1. I had Susvara for a day and, powered by Adcom GFA 535 II and RME ADI2 Pro it was the best I have ever heard. HEK SE resolution with lees annoying, but not less resolving treble, and I did not know that such a thing as plankton of microresolution can be even happening below 100Hz.
      After listening for 10 hours straight, LG X was warming up, I was pretty much determined that I will sale whatever it takes and get Susvara.
      So before I started listening to HEK SE on LGX and used Crinackle graph tool and essentially EQed HEKSe to be “like” Susvara. At 2AM, after 5 more hours ABing between two setups, LGX on high gain, there was nothing in the bass area that I could not hear on both setups and HEKSE occasional shrill was gone. The micro detail retrieval of HEKSe is unmatched, Susvara does not need to be any better, but in this space HEKSE is as good and maybe slightly more resolving.

      Would I still envy the folks here who have Susvara? Yes, but using LG X my old ears could not hear anything that would make me to change my setup.
      Word of caution: My excitement with HEKSE LG X may be related to my preferred genre ,classical chamber music. I read some reviews where people noticed how good HEKSE was in this space but for anything else they strongly preferred Susvara.

      The planars: Without EQ HE500, HE100SE, LCD- X 2021 all improved on LG X comparing to BHA-1. Mostly tonality, more meat on every note more pronounced and clearer low end.
      The HE6se still sound richer and more engaging powered by Adcom GFA 535 II.

    2. EMs: The amp has completely black background except some very low level Ara hiss, that is almost unnoticeable at the normal listening levels. And it was lower than on any other amp including DX220, Kann Cube, THX 887, BHA-1 low gain.
      And that is important because LGX improved the resolution, imaging and instrument separation of Ara. Essentially Ara tonality was as good as with DX220 plus improved resolution, layering and imaging.
      Listening to complex orchestral of choral music (Bach Mass in B minor) with IEMS almost never makes sense but it does with Ara and Liquid Gold X.
      Vega, which with Kann Cube is my second setup for IEMs with great synergy, was very good but it was not as spectacular jump as Ara.

    3. Sennheisers:
      Nothing really good to say about HD560 Ovation, HD800S. Comparing to BHA-1, everything sunds thinner, slightly veiled, not easy to do with HD560 Ovation. LGX it is not an amp to consider .
      The real surprise was HD25 with velour pads and Custom Cans dumping kit.
      My best pairing for HD25 is DX220 AMP8 with With modified Crinacle EQ. On LG X, HD25 tonality was as good as on DX220 but bass was better controlled and the background was blacker. HD25 is a star in my little collection: any time I really need a closed back, HD25 never sounds disappointing.
    I am keeping LG X. I could really hardwire it to HEKSE :). This setup gives me a lot of motivation to listen to my seven complete sets of Beethoven quartets once again. Thanks to all who posted their reviews on LG X.
     
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  15. Pharmaboy

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    (speechless)

    Thank you for putting serious time & gear into this comparison. I put less of both into it, but concluded something similar: the LGX is a real amp factor with any planar. But with dynamic driver headphones it's quite unpredictable, a case-by-case basis. For example, it sounded quite good on the ZMF Atrium but is the only amp that managed to make the ZMF Verite Open sound less than wonderful.

    Net/net: I only use this amp for planars, and am very pleased with it under those conditions.
     
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    Last edited: Jan 3, 2023
  16. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    Finally an amp designed for orthos and not the HD650!

    Nice review @wormcycle now I need to hear those Hifimans!
     

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