Monoprice/Cavalli Liquid Spark Headphone Amp – Review

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by Hands, Oct 4, 2018.

  1. dBel84

    dBel84 Friend

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    For those who had not seen atomicbob's measurements of the Spark.

    The standard smps does extremely well.

    .. dB
     
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  2. xsuperxapplex

    xsuperxapplex Acquaintance

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    That's awesome, I'm glad to see that the Cavalli x Monoprice collab has started off well. The description of the tonality from the Spark seem to be the classic Cavalli house sound. Super excited for the Liquid Platinum now, especially since the power supply seems to perform very well, something that I worried would suffer from cost cutting. @Hands, have you gotten a chance to compare this to other lower range Cavalli amps like the Liquid Carbon or MCTH?
     
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  3. westermac

    westermac Friend

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    Spent a little time this morning comparing the Liquid Spark to the Magni 3.

    Chain: GumBy > LS/Magni 3 > HD600

    Most of what @Hands wrote rings true for me as well, especially regarding treble, soundstage, and dynamics.

    TREBLE - The LS's treble isn't just a bit less pronounced but also a bit smoother, which makes it a tad more forgiving of aggressive recordings. Magni 3's treble has a slight edge to it that can come across more hashy or abrasive. This is pretty nitpicky though.

    MIDS - The LS is also a bit more laid-back in the upper mids. I prefer the LS's presentation with the HD600, but for more mid-recessed headphones I would expect the Magni to be a better match (haven't gotten around to trying with my LCD-2 rev2 yet, will update when I have. I'm pretty positive the Magni will be the better match).

    BASS - This is where my impressions differ from Hands. While I agree that the Magni has better macrodynamics (slam), I found the Magni's bass to be tighter and more controlled. In electronic tracks with especially quick bass hits I found the Magni to leave a better sense space between the notes, almost like a vacuum. The LS on the other hand didn't seem to clear those spaces quite as nimbly with the HD600.

    SOUNDSTAGE - Neither amp does anything magical in this regard (buy a Vali 2 instead if you care about soundstage). The Magni does have a bit flatter, two dimensional "wall of sound" thing going on which I attribute to its more forward midrange. The LS by comparison gives the stage a bit of depth and space beyond the front plane, which also gives the soundstage a less "in your head" feeling. It's still in your head, just a bit further forward in space than the Magni. Like around your eyeballs.

    DYNAMICS - Macro vs micro. The Magni has more weight, punch and slam, making it a more exciting and engaging listen overall. The LS is more polite and reserved, but has a bit of extra refinement that gets lost in the Magni's more heavy-handed presentation.

    TL;DR - The Liquid Spark and Magni 3 are both good, exceptionally well-priced solid state amps. The differences outlined above are minor, and had I not the opportunity to hear them side by side I would be hard pressed to find any useful points of comparison. Get whichever flavor appeals to you more and be happy.

    Side note: The above comparison was done with the Liquid Spark's stock SMPS power supply. I did try a LPS (Acopian A36MT400) and did find it to improve the LS's macrodynamics as well as bass slam and control, bringing it about toe-to-toe with the Magni in these areas. The LS does not respond as dramatically to a LPS as the MCTH however, and given the fact that a LPS will easily cost you more than the LS itself, it's not something I would necessarily recommend.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2018 at 9:55 AM
  4. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Regarding bass, listen to "Lose Yourself to Dance," and listen not for how quickly the bass dissipates (a clear win for Magni, no doubt, as it's faster overall), but listen for the pitch differentiation and resolution of the bass as it plays. Try to separate that out from any lingering nature. I'm curious if you hear the same as I did.

    However, this was an area where I started to go crazy. You hear one thing one minute, then something else the next. I ended up landing where I did when I wrote the article, but I could be wrong about it!
     
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  5. westermac

    westermac Friend

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    Just listened to it; I see what you're getting at. The Magni has more pop and slam to it but the quick jumps in octave in the opening bass line is a bit more well-defined on the LS. There seems to be a bit more texture on the LS as well, I can hear the finger/fret interactions with the strings a bit more clearly.

    Admittedly my choice of tracks for testing bass may have played into the Magni's strengths more than the LS.
     
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  6. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I think they both have their pros and cons in the low-end either way, and they're similar enough that you could probably fool yourself into hearing it either way on each.
     
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