Oblivion | UltraSonic Studios

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by Maxx134, Jun 10, 2019.

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  1. Phantaminum

    Phantaminum Friend

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    I’ve received the Oblivion amp from Tomas and I’m putting it through its paces. I’ve talked to Hands and was recommended to talk to @purr1n and @ChaChaRealSmooth to get it out to senior members. I’m planning on contacting them this weekend and hopefully (with their help) arranging something.

    I can say that the amp has a slightly warm yet neutral sound. Sounds fantastic with planars and surprised me with the sound that came out of the Verum One when paired with it. TH-X00 also surprised me with an expanded sound stage and tamed treble peaks. Seems like it pairs well with low ohm headphones. I still prefer high ohm headphones, like my HD650 and Verite, out of Glenn’s tube amp. I’ll do a more conventional write up this weekend if time permits.
     
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  2. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

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    Very excited to hear your impressions as this amp is at the top of my list to try/buy. If there is a limited loaner count me in!
     
  3. Lyander

    Lyander Too sensitive for SBAF

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    Well bollocks this just became even more interesting to me. Would personally appreciate some attention given to the X00 in your write-up, if it's not too much trouble! Specifically how much control it exerts on sensitive biodynas and how much it goes towards addressing the peaky treble on it.
     
  4. bazelio

    bazelio Friend

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    Very cool. Staying tuned for impressions, and it's a good thing I'm a senior citizen I mean señor member....
     
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  5. SonicTrance

    SonicTrance MOT: Ultrasonic Studios

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    @Phantaminum recently received his Oblivion.
    I did measure output power on his amp and it's
    4.24W peak into 4 ohms
    2.16W peak into 8 ohms
    200mW peak into 100 ohms

    I've no way to measure THD so this is just me driving a sine wave until visually clipped on the scope. But, like stated before, you don't need massive power headroom in these amps. They're open loop, no gNFB, and recover very fast from large transient peaks. Power output will of course get lower and lower with easier loads (higher impedance loads).
     
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    This could be really good into the 8-12ohm Verum.
     
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  7. SonicTrance

    SonicTrance MOT: Ultrasonic Studios

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    Here're some pics of @Phantaminum amp using the new aluminum chassis.

    [​IMG]

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  8. SonicTrance

    SonicTrance MOT: Ultrasonic Studios

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    The XLRs on this amp is optional ad on for convenience. The input stage is still SE and only one phase/channel enters the amp.
     
  9. Ash1412

    Ash1412 Friend

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    Thank you. Just saw the answer on previous page and deleted my post.
     
  10. Phantaminum

    Phantaminum Friend

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    Oblivion Amplifier Review

    Gear: PC --> Eitr --> Gungnir Multibit MB A1 --> Single End: Oblivion, Single End: Glenn OTL, Balanced: Liquid Platinum

    Headphones:
    ZMF Verite
    Sennheiser HD650
    Fostex TR-X00
    Hifiman Ananda
    Verum One

    [​IMG]

    Build:
    The Oblivion is one big puppy. It's the size of two Liquid Platinum's side by side and stacked two high. It may be bigger than Glenn's OTL amp but weighs much lighter. The black aluminum attributes to this as well as it being transformerless. The only niggle I have with it are the metal spike feet. There are three in total - two in the front corner and one in the back. Metal feet that the spike sit on are provided and it's stable enough. Now, when you're disconnecting cables and moving things around, the back tends to wobble if you're not careful. I would of personally asked for a fourth spike to stabilize it. The rest of the amp looks and feels well built. XLR jacks click in smoothly and the power switch feels sturdy.

    [​IMG]

    Sound:

    Slighty south from neutral with good extension on both ends. The Oblivion can go low but it's not a bass monster. It has a refined presentation of bass - tight, fast, and punchy. Don't expect a big rumble from it. It extends well into the highs but never at any point harsh. This is an amplifier that I can see pairing very well with bright to neutral cans. The amp has a liquid way of presenting music while still having the attack needed for snares and cymbals. Speed is up there with solid state amps and I've not one complaint over it's PRaT. I had a blast listening to Rush's La Villa Strangiato from the Oblivion. It ate up all of the rhythmic changes without any complaints. The EL81 and 6AT6 imparts a tube like sound to the sound stage. It's big, and wide, with good depth. Great instrumental separation, tonality, and timbre. I will say that the amp can be strange with it's sound stage. For example, I found that the Verum One can be shouty at times on the Liquid Platinum and the Massdrop CTH. On the Oblivion it pushes the sound stage back a bit to where it's almost perfect for my tastes. When I decided to try out the Ananda I thought, "This may push the sound stage too far back for my tastes". It didn't change the sound stage at all.

    Amp Comparison:

    Glenn OTL:

    Both amps are priced around $1700 in total. Where Glenn's amp falls short is speed and bass tautness. This is quite obvious when using the HD650 on both amps. You feel like you're listening to the Sennheiser out of a fast solid state but with a tubey sound. The Oblivion's presentation reminds me of the iFi Audio Pro iCAN in that sense but with better tonality/timbre. With the Verite, speed is not an issue. I feel like I'm almost cheating when using that headphone with this amp. It sounds faster than the Liquid Platinum pairing. Glenn's amp has the upper hand in dynamics, layering*, depth*, instrument separation*, and versatility*. Small gradients in sound and large dynamic swings are done so incredibly well. The Verite just doesn't feel as dynamic sounding out of the Oblivion as Glenn's amp.

    *Layering, depth, and instrument separation are all dependent on the tubes being used. On average the tubes I use in the amp are worth around $400. The tubes in the Oblivion are a total of $35 - $40 shipped. *Versatility is either a big positive or big negative. If you're looking to be able to change the tone and timbre of your headphone this amp is for you. You can use 6, 12, and 25 volt driver tubes with a turn of a knob. On the other hand once you start the journey you'll end up going down the rabbit hole of tubes trying to find the right sound for your headphone. The Oblivion does not change sound when you tube roll. It has great tone and timbre but I would not trade the perfect tube combination on the GOTL for the Oblivion.

    Liquid Platinum:
    The Oblivion is technically a much better amplifier in almost all comparisons. The LP falls behind in speed, bass tautness, instrument separation, blackground, liquidity, imaging, and sound stage width. The Oblivion's smooth and liquid presentation can't be underrated. Tonality and timbre are about the same but only because I'm using $250 tubes in the LP. The LP does have the versatility of being able to roll tubes to adjust the sound to a specific headphone and it has fully balanced connections. Tomas does offer a fully balanced version of the Oblivion. Where the LP does win hands down is in the sub bass. It gives Verum One and Ananda a really nice rumble to it.

    Headphone pairing:

    Verum One:

    This is, by far, my favorite pairing with the Oblivion. Just amazing synergy here and it makes the headphone sound like a million bucks. The Verum One has great timbre and tone, combined with its smooth presentation, and speed, it's no wonder that it sounds that good out of it. The Oblivion just stacks on the Verum One's strengths with its own. The Oblivion expands on its sound stage as well and pushes it slightly further out. Fast, tight attacks, with punchy bass. Rush's YYZ instruments, double kick drums and snares sound great with this pairing. Very clear and liquid sounding. Almost a holographic sound stage.

    Ananda:
    Great pairing as well and enjoyed it more out of the Oblivion compared to the Liquid Platinum. Most of what I said on the Verum One applies here as well except it doesn't scale as well as the Verum One. If you want a more laid back approach to music this is a good headphone to use. Smooth, clear, and wide. I would of loved to try out the Arya or HEK V2s as I think this amp would of tamed the highs enough to enjoy them.

    TR-X00:
    I was pleasantly surprised with this headphone and the Oblivion. I only had the default pads (which I loathe) but from experience you never get the same level of bass once you pad roll. The Oblivion tightens up the sound, adds speed, and tames treble peaks. When I owned the Fostex before, my ears would fatigue quickly. I've been running these for the past couple of hours and I'm truly enjoying combination. The LP rumbles the Fostex harder but the rest of the frequency sounds so much better out of the Oblivion. There's more air between instruments and it expands the sound stage slightly (it's noticeable but not big by any stretch of the imagination).

    HD650:
    Eh, it's doable. There are amps out there that have better synergy. I would stick with the MCTH and a LPS if you have one or save up for one of the TOTL amps to really make it scale.

    Verite:
    Universe Pads - No. Please don't.
    Suede Perforated Pads - Much much better. Does a better job by bringing up the treble and doesn't make it sound dull.
    Be2 pads - Different presentation but much more holographic than then Suede Perf Pads. Starts sounding like the Auteur.
    With all three pads there is still the problem of dynamics. There are just better amp combinations for the Verite.

    Conclusion:
    This amp pairs up nicely with neutral to bright headphones. It loves low z dynamics and planar headphones. I can just imagine how an Elex or Clear would sound out of it. I wish I could give you guys more data points when it comes to other amps. It be nice to compare it against the iFi Audio Pro iCAN, or the A&S Pendant. It'd be nice to have someone test it out with an Elex or Clear which from what I hear have great dynamics.

    Edit: I want to add that the issue with dynamics seem to be when paired with high Z headphones.

    TL;DR - Buy it with the Verum One. You're welcome.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2019
  11. SonicTrance

    SonicTrance MOT: Ultrasonic Studios

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    @Phantaminum
    Thank you for the detailed review! Much appreciated!

    Just so there's no confusion.. You mention Oblivion being transformerless. That's not accurate. Besides, obviously, the power transformer there're also output transformers. They're quite small and light weight though.
    The reason for Glenns OTL being heavier is because he uses Hammond 159 series chokes for filtering in the power supply. I have some of those and they're heavy chokes.

    I'll address the spike issue and use four in the future, no problem. Thanks for the feedback!
     
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  12. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    (picture or didn't happen)

    Big thanks to my friend @Phantaminum !
    He kindly loaned me this amp for a couple of weeks.

    Reading previous posts in this thread, I thought it would sound good doubtlessly. What I didn't expect is its sound resembles black widow very much. It really sounds like a BW (which I owned until very recently) with steroid to me. Some gives and some takes.

    I am also puzzled that this amp actually went well with Verite in my environment -- this pairing wasn't that loved by the owner. Will look into the combo more later.

    Anyway that's my first impression. More organized thoughts to come later.

    PS. This amp is damn huge. I gave up placing it on the desktop..
     
  13. SonicTrance

    SonicTrance MOT: Ultrasonic Studios

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    @Vtory
    Just make sure the fan has room to breathe when on the carpet. Maybe put the amp on a cutting board or something. It wont overheat easily but the extra airflow is good.
     
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  14. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Oh I actually did. The owner advised me similarly, and I remembered it just after taking photos.
     
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  15. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

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    Been looking for an upgrade to my T3, but the Uber $2K+ amps are a bit out of my reach. This has me interested. My only reservation is the apparrent lackluster synergy with high z dynamics... the Senns are my preferred cans.
     
  16. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    @ColtMrFire As a hd600 lover, you may have to strongly consider this. So far this amp seems to go particularly well with brighter headphones. Note I felt the same way for black widow: hd600 fantastic and hd650 passable.

    And due to its output transformer-coupled structure, I believe headphone Z affects less than transducer tonal balance.
     
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  17. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    UltraSonic Studios Oblivion Review

    Pro: organic sounding, forgiving tonality, crazy cost-performance ratio (in a good way)
    Con: likely jack of all trades, potentially challenging placement and setup

    Associated gears
    • Gustard U16 + DAC-X26 (via AES/EBU XLR)
    • ECP Audio DSHA-3F
    • ZMF Verite/Auteur/Aeolus, Verum One

    As I wrote above, this amp was loaned by @Phantaminum (along with Verum 1). In short, it exceeded my expectations. Expectation to consider a primary head amp. I still prefer DSHA-3F by all means, but Oblivion was the first amp that I think can replace 3F with reasonable compromises (particularly on the budget).

    Let’s begin with appearance. My first impression was (1) wow, this amp is huge and (2) heck, can I place it on the desktop? After a few trials, I concluded it impossible without fundamental reallocation of everything on the desk, which isn’t appropriate for a short-term loaner. Physical dimension is 18 inches wide, 11.5 inches deep, and roughly 7 inches tall (including center cylinder and supporting spikes/shoes). It also has a large fan on the bottom, so needs enough space to breathe below the fan. Taken together, Oblivion is full-size audio rack friendly, rather than easy-to-place-anywhere. Good thing is partially due to such a size, this amp looks much more expensive than anything in this price range. @SonicTrance seems to know how to make things look remarkable.

    From the first moment, this amp sounds very familiar to me, as its sonic signature resembles EC Black Widow (my previous main amp) much. Notes sound very organic and cohesive over all the frequency range. Treble is smooth and overall presentation is quite involving.

    However, that doesn’t necessarily mean this amp sounds colored -- either in positive or negative ways. it doesn’t have as much lushness or bloom as Feliks Euforia. Midrange isn’t that sweet, either. Oblivion has all of those, but to a less extent. It’s less neutral than DSHA-3F but more so than Euforia. I feel this amp pretty neutral and accurate.

    Tonal balance is on the warm side, which also reminded me of BW (maybe a tad brighter). Top end is well extended and has enough air, but not bright at all. I found DSHA-3F (very neutral tonality in my book) had a little brighter top end. And because of this, Oblivion generally favors brighter Auteur and Verum1 over Verite/Aeolus. I love listening to treble-heavy tracks with the Verite+Oblivion combo very much though.

    Dynamics and resolutions were very good. Quite the same ballpark of my expectation for $2000+ amps. Staging is nicely dimensional and layered, too. Maybe one or a couple of ticks behind 3F in all the mentioned criteria. Not a big margin.

    Overall, the Oblivion feels like a souped up BW combined with some nice characteristics of DSHA-3F. I still can't believe the asking price of this amp below 1.5k usd. @SonicTrance claimed to intend to achieve $$$ performance without using $$$ parts. And what I hear confirm that the purpose seems to be well achieved.

    Is Oblivion affordable for every person? Definitely not.
    Does this amp outperform every $$$ giant amp? Not quite.
    But I know a bunch of people who desire to own BW (but they seldom pop up) or want to upgrade their amps without a full willingness to spend 3k-ish. For them, Oblivion could be a bliss.
     
  18. SonicTrance

    SonicTrance MOT: Ultrasonic Studios

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    This is not an Oblivion but rather the first Citadel I've built for sale. Biggest difference visually is the deeper chassis (70mm deeper than Oblivion) and the octal tubes used.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG][​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
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  19. SonicTrance

    SonicTrance MOT: Ultrasonic Studios

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    I will now offer these amps with an optional impedance switch! I've made some measurements on my Citadel and updated the website with specs and power outputs. Will update the Oblivion page with power outputs when I've built the next one but it will be similar to Citadel.
    This is to give more power to high Z headphones.
     
  20. Romulus

    Romulus Rando

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    I am the proud owner of the Citadel Amp :) This is just a customer impression.

    Packaging was top class; Citadel is huge, heavy and impressive; I still building furniture around it :)

    I feed this Amp with RME ADI 2 DAC and with Meze Empyrean planars. With Citadel I can really see now why Empy is a flagship headphone. Also the DAC was elevated quite impressive.

    Compared with the good amp section of the RME everything is more in sound, soundstage is wider in all directions and more focused, instruments are well positioned in space and with more body and air. I can hear more details and textures; Dynamics and transients are just perfect for my ears. Bass is now deeper and hit harder, mids and highs are so sweet. Live recordings are teleporting me with the artists in the same place with them :)

    I was worried about power but not after first minute of listening, still plenty of room without any distortions; I find Citadel fast, neutral, liquid and natural; this is what I was looking for. I like many genres of music, so depending on my mood I need my chain to serve me well in all cases and is doing very well.

    After a huge leap of faith, I'm a very happy customer and recommend this Amp highly, also Thomas is very helpful and nice guy!
     
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