Massdrop Cavalli Tube Hybrid Amp

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by purr1n, Aug 11, 2017.

  1. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    Another report on tube rolling with this thing. When reading this, note that I’m totally new to tubes and tube amps so have no reference points...

    Amperex 6DJ8/ECC88 ‘A-frame’ with orange ‘PQ’ label, Heerlen 1972

    Amperex JAN 6922 with orange ‘globe’ label, NY 1967

    Electro-Harmonix 6922 (stock tube), Russia 2017

    Telefunken ECC88, Berlin 1972

    Short version: Telefunken or Amperex A-frame (depending on taste) > EH > Amperex 6922.

    The A-frame is smoother through the mids, particularly the upper mids, and is slightly more extended in the treble than the stock EH. Bass is stronger but more rounded at the edges. The EH seemed to me the lightest of all in the bass and has a slight peak in the mid-treble.

    The JAN Amperex lacks the A-frame’s smooth mids as well as its (and the EH’s) treble extension. It seems to have more amplitude in the bass, but doesn’t seem as coherent across the range as either of those others.

    The Telefunken is more extended and precise than the A-frame and EH at both ends, but not as smooth as the A-frame in the midrange; it comes across as more ‘analytical’, but is great at bringing out microdetail. Although the label was worn on this one it otherwise looked like it might not have been used, and did seem a trifle smoother after c. 24 hours of burn-in (the other tubes were more obviously used and I didn’t give them any burn time).

    The rest of my chain is Modi Multibit and HD6XX. The entirety would be viewed as being on the warm side (Marv’s first impressions of the MCTH as neutral were of a pre-production version; well-known warmfolks – you know who you are ;) – later declared the production version slightly warm). I’ve decided that while I’m not one of the warmfolk, neither am I obsessively 'neutral'. I go between preferring the Telefunken and the A-frame, appreciating the former’s technicalities and extension but the latter’s smooth presentation. I suspect I’ll be switching between them depending on mood & genre. Others’ preferences will depend on chain and tastes. In the same chain, those who prefer more warmth would likely pick the A-frame every time, those who lean more neutral, the Telefunken. Personally I'd wish for a combination of the A-frame's smooth midrange and the Telefunken's highs & lows, but I like both well enough that I'd rather spend the hunting-time listening and the money on more music.

    I should say that I didn’t find the EH hugely different from the other two in either respect, so I’m not saying anybody should roll tubes; I really only did it because I hadn’t before and thought it’d be fun to see if I could hear differences (and as usual was amazed that I could). Also – I have a second A-frame, purchased as a pair with the one described above, the two having date codes within 6 weeks of each other, supposedly testing within 3%, and having a similar history (Tektronix stock). @msommers heard this second one before I did and found the highs to be noticeably truncated vs the EH. When I subsequently compared the pair, the characteristics were otherwise the same – but #2 was indeed rolled off in the treble cf. #1. #2 looks like it’s had more use, and I know it’s no news to the experienced that there are variations between used tubes of identical manufacture. Indeed it was noted in the tube rolling thread that there’s little correlation between a tube’s test results and its sound.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2018
  2. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Professional tricycle rider

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    Of the tubes I tried, I also preferred the Telefunken ECC88. But it developed an intermittent buzzing / wheezing / whistling and became very microphonic, so I guess it's reached "old age". Went back to the stock EH and I'm fine with the sound.
     
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  3. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Professional tricycle rider

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    Others may have mentioned doing this, but I can't find it. I'm using a cable with an XLR connector with my HD650s. It's a bit stiff to connect/disconnect, so it would be more convenient to leave it plugged in. That leaves the 6.5mm connector free for my Clears (which are easily unplugged when listening to the Senns). Aside from possibly hearing the sound coming out of the HD650s while listening to the Clears, will the performance of the MCTH be affected by running both phones simultaneously? I think the outputs are in parallel so the amp will see a reduced impedance compared to when only 1 pair of phones is connected. And that impedance will be frequency dependent and the combined result of each phone's impedance curve. Zout is < 0.5 ohm at 1 kHz, and presumably low from 20Hz to 20kHz, so one would think there shouldn't be any combined impedance "bass bump" effect. Using the nominal impedances of 300Ω and 55Ω, the nominal parallel impedance is 46.5Ω.

    Any ideas? For convenience, grabbed from Tyll's measurements.

    HD650 impedance curve
    Sennheiser HD650 impedance.jpg

    Clear impedance curve
    Focal Clear impedance.jpg
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2018
  4. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    Apart from having to turn the volume knob higher, no problem - unless, as @Bill-P said, you have to turn it so high that the overdrive protection kicks in.
     
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  5. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Professional tricycle rider

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    I know it'll work, but I'm interested in whether or not the audio quality will be affected. Will one or both phones be driven with less "impact" due to the amp having to drive both of them simultaneously? Will there be any difference in tonality due to interactions between the loads of both phones?

    I guess I could just listen and see if I can hear any difference. I was curious from scientific/engineering perspective. Maybe this would better addressed in the All-Purpose thread, but the use case is specific to the parallel outputs of the MCTH.
     
  6. jowls

    jowls Never shitposts (please) - Friend

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    A short male to female XLR pigtail would make more sense. That way you could leave it plugged into the amp and just connect your headphones when required.
     
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  7. likearake

    likearake Acquaintance

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    Is this amp good with LCD2s? Found a couple of short mentions in the thread but still not sure.
     
  8. udin

    udin Acquaintance

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    I personally do not like the CTH with the LCD-2C, but haven't tried it with an original LCD-2. If I get a chance, I'll borrow a friend's and check it out. I found the former pairing to just seem shouty and harsh.
     
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  9. Sqveak

    Sqveak Friend

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    I like it once the tube or amp is burnt in, or however you prefer to think of it.
    This was my main combo for around two months in place of my HD600 on the same amp.
    I did not like the pairing untill the amp settled down.

    It can be shouty or harsh but I find this to be dependent on what you are listening to.
    Industrial and questionably produced electronic music is very hit and miss in particular.
    Most other music is fine.

    With the worst offenders among my music collection I hear some of the same harshness with the HD600 on the MCTH and don't hear it in the same way with my other amps. The LCD-2C just declines to be polite about it.

    @likearake
    Try it with your own music if you can.
    It's not a bad pairing but don't buy blind on this one.
     
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  10. ohshitgorillas

    ohshitgorillas Facebook Friend

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    I finally bit the bullet on a chinese LPS, $125 on eBay shipped from China. I'm excited to hear what this amp can really do.

    On the note of the internal SDAC, I have been running my SDAC+MCTH with a Wyrd. I never questioned the utility of the Wyrd for a USB-only DAC. Out of curiosity (and because I was considering taking it home to use as an LPS for my Chromecast Audio), I decided to take the Wyrd out of the system and... I honestly think it sounds better. Not a major difference, but I feel like it's slightly snappier on the low end with a little more in the way of dynamics. Headphones are ZMF Classics mk3. Weiyrd.
     
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  11. Biodegraded

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    If you run the LPS right to the amp, you'll notice a difference. Can't comment on anything to do with internal SDAC, never heard it myself.

    Weiyrd, I like it.
     
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  12. ohshitgorillas

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    Well... my SDAC+MCTH stopped producing music today out of the blue. I tried different headphones, different USB cables into SDAC, restarting computer, running a cable from SDAC out into the RCA inputs of the MCTH, running my phone into the RCA inputs of the MCTH... the only thing I could do to get it to make sound was to plug the headphone jack from the computer direct into the MCTH. And that just made a loud high pitched whine at full volume. I think the amp section is completely dead. I definitely cannot afford another, and I have a fucking LPS for the thing on the way. RIP

    Edit: Okay, now it makes music from the phone>MCTH bypassing the SDAC. It may be the SDAC that has kicked the bucket. Edit2: Confirmed w/ Chord Mojo that the PC has no problem outputting USB audio. CTH amp section is fine. SDAC is still unresponsive.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2018
  13. Sqveak

    Sqveak Friend

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    Is it still under warranty?

    On the massdrop website:
    Click the three dots in upper right corner > transactions > delivered > then "contact support" on the CTH w/ SDAC entry.
     
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  14. ohshitgorillas

    ohshitgorillas Facebook Friend

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    I bought this unit off of eBay...so chances are slim that they'll take pity. And to be fair, I paid $250 for the whole package, and still have a working CTH so I'm not too terribly upset. I pulled the CTH apart last night just to peek around insinde: no burnt components, voltage test pads all read OK. Then I thought maybe one of the oscillators had died, so I tried switching to a 48kHz sampling rate...no luck. The computer still recognizes the DAC and the volume meter in Sound Properties (Win10) bobs up and down when I'm playing a track, so it *thinks* it's making sound....but none of it is reaching the CTH, nor the aux out in the back. Without a circuit schematic, I can't do any more testing.

    Right now I'm hoping that I can just buy a standalone SDAC and swap it into the CTH. After all, aesthetically I really prefer having a one box solution for the office (I'd make an exception for the Airist RDAC). Also, the faceplate on the unit says CTH+SDAC... and I'm kinda OCD about that. It looks like it's just four pins that connect it to the CTH. I'm trying to figure out whether the PCB layout is the same in the standalone unit, and if someone has a standalone SDAC I'd really appreciate a picture of the PCB.

    If the PCBs are different and my plan won't work, I'll probably pick up a Modi 3. Aesthetically, it's a downgrade, but probably a slight upgrade SQ-wise.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
  15. CEE TEE

    CEE TEE Massdrop's Golden Child (MOT)

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    Ha! I was checking HF and SBAF and just PM'ed you on HF with some options. Lemme know. :p
     
  16. Kris

    Kris Rando

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    I borrowed a pair of AKG K340(possibly bass-light version) to give them a whirl on the mcth. I do have to turn the volume up way higher then with my HD58X, but the mcth can drive them louder than i care for, and still have some margin. It starts to get too loud for my tastes at 3 o'clock with the K340s.
     
  17. ohshitgorillas

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    I finally got my chinese LPS yesterday... actually it arrived on Friday but my apt complex holds onto packages that don't fit in our tiny mailboxes, and failed to let me know I had something to pick up. It's bittersweet since the SDAC is still dead, and the original eBay seller isn't responding to my requests for his original purchase info. It's about the same height and internal volume of the MCTH but is longer where the CTH is wider so unfortunately not stackable. I did some half-assed preliminary listening using a different DAC and headphones than I'm used to running on the CTH, and I didn't hear a stark difference but it definitely had a little blacker background/better microdynamics. I think once I get it back into its usual environment, I'll be able to better suss out whether the upgrade was worth $125 to me
     
  18. BrokeSkoolBoi

    BrokeSkoolBoi Rando

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    Hello! I just joined the site and this is my first post.

    I got my CTH+SDAC yesterday and burned it in a bit the last 16 hours. I connected my Modi Multibit to it and have been comparing it to the SDAC which is the first dedicated Delta Sigma DAC I've owned, and I gotta say it's really humbling my Modi Multibit in some ways. I'm not sure I whether I can appreciate the combination with my CTH yet, there is very little attack to anything, everything is very smooth except certain frequencies that stand out sometimes. I'm afraid to connect the SDAC to my Magni 3 (I honestly don't have that 3.5 to RCA with me atm), but if that pairing is more enjoyable as well I think I'll be getting rid of my Schiit Stack and buying a better DAC.

    Right now I'm listening with my GMP 8.35, I've tried it with my HD700, MD+ IEM, HD 558, X2, and SHP9500 (This will never be plugged in there again).

    I'm in a bit of a pickle because my pads are in unfortunate states on my GMP and HD700, but that wasn't going to stop me :D. It tamed the sibilance on my HD700 :) and sounds quite lovely with my X2's. I just want to take this Amp to it's fullest potential, so I'll wait and see how the Tube burns in and maybe get my hands on better tubes and maybe.. a better DAC
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2018
  19. Lasollor

    Lasollor Friend

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    My SDAC just arrived a couple of days ago and I also have a mcht with the chinese LPS. The SDAC has a little higher vrms than my Yggdrasil, so I need to compensate the volume when comparing the two (obviously just for fun), otherwise the slightly louder SDAC fouls me to think it sounds better than it is.
    I don’t know if this matters with the internal sdac too or not.
    Plus the Modi MB’s has a darker tilt, it might be too much with the mcth, which is already a laid back amp.
     
  20. BrokeSkoolBoi

    BrokeSkoolBoi Rando

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    Why did you buy the Sdac when you have the Yggdrasil?? I've read that this amp gets drier with time, it was just strange for me to see many enjoying the combo of the Modi Multibit with the MTCH on forums, when I can't even hear the string sound, reed sound, basically anything noise which distinguishes instruments before a pitch occurs.

    I have the opposite problem with volume, my sdac is softer when outputting both from my laptop :D. My experience is also surprising considering this is just a tube hybrid, I can't imagine my reaction if I decided to buy an OTL just to be SOL cause my DAC is so dark. o_O
     

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