Pros: great detail, tone and PRaT, powers all headphones from Grados to k1000s as well as high efficiency speakers
Cons: styling could be more in line with the Balacing Act
Last month Craig Uthus of Eddie Current debuted a new amp at a smallish gather of friends in NorCal. I've heard many amps by Craig including those under the old Moth banner as well as his current name Eddie Current and I've been impressed by his output,Under theEddie Current name he has helped define the high end space with amps like the BA and HD25 hitting it out of the park for me. I've owned a few of Craig's amps notably one of the original Moth 2a3s that was a visual masterpiece and sonically one of my all time favorites. To this day it is the one piece of gear that I regret selling. He's made better sounding amps like the HD 25 ( a one off that he built for me) and Balancing act since then but the marriage of industrial almost gothic design, old school innards like brass plugs for switching output impedance and wax cloth wires and sound quality earned a special place for me.
Enter the new 2a3, Craig's had multiple iterations of the 2a3 design at Moth from an his first more expensive units, scaled down more entry level and finally his 2a3/45 SI ammo box units. This new amp can switch between 2a3 and 45 tubes with a toggle switch located in the rear. Users that try to run 45s in 2a3 mode will most likely learn quickly that 45 tubes do not like to be run in 2a3 mode (POP goes the NOS tube). So like all things a little care and knowledge goes a long way. The amp is a two box affair with a 5ar4 driven power supply with the amp hosting a pair of 2a3s (Craig supplied Sylvania tubes) but I'll also run my big bottle JJ's in there as well and a 6sn7 for the driver tube. I'll likely try and sub a 6fg8 with adapter in there at some point in the trial. There are three single ended inputs, a set of speaker taps, and both a 4 pin and 1/4 headphone plug out front.
I ran the amp with a pair of Alon Lotus SE speakers ( http://www.sonoris.c.../lotussemk2.htm ) , a pair of Audeze LCD2s, Audio Technica AD200s and the JH13s. As a source I've got the Metric Halo ULN 8 (badged as a Sonic Studio 305) and an Origin LIve Sovereign turntable with their encounter tonearm with either the ZYX Atmos cart or the Miyajima Shilable cart (still can't make up my mind about which to keep).
When I received the amp I gave it a few listens with the Alon speakers, LCD 2 and JH13s and so far it is very favorable. This is an uber quiet amp with gobs and gobs of detail, glorious tone and drive. It really splits the difference well between pacing, detail/extension and the all elusive musical expression. Some amps do one or two of those but its tough to find an amp that has rhythmic drive, extension gobs of detail and great tone. as of this red hot moment the 2a3 is hitting all three equally well. I'l see over the course of my time with it how it fairs over the longer haul.
The speaker sound was fantastic, very detailed but also very musical but ultimately the Alons do need more power maybe like a 300b an 845 (which I already own). Where EC 2a3 bested the Fi X 2a3 and the Dared 845 micro detail, tone (oh that amazing natural and accurate tone!). At low levels the EC 2a3 shined but did run out of gas with dynamic peaks or recordings with full dynamic range. This is not a knock on the EC 2a3 just a fact of a 3 watt amp powering a three way passive crossover speaker. Hooked up to a pair of Cain and Cain Horns I bet would be a revelation.
I've always loved the AT AD2k and the EC really re-enforced my love. The common knock on the ATs are they are airy (what the heck does that even mean) and lack bass extension and power. This was totally mitigated by the EC 2a3 as the AT's shone like a light on the recordings that I threw at it. I downloaded the new Rolling Stone HD tracks 24/176 of Though The Past Darkly. Man of man it was like being in a studio control room listing to the masters. Little details jumped out. Ruby Tuesdays strings had stunning bow attack and Jagger's voice was so freaking papable. Jumping Jack Flash was a blast, Jagger takes a breath right before singing and I never really noticed it before " I was born in a crossfire hurricane" and it's like he's right there in fornt of you! This was one memorable listening session.
Switching to the LCD2s its a totally different perspective instruments are weightier bass is powerful and driving. Details are still there but its like going from a studio monitor to Maggies. Both are awesome but they just portray the music in a very different way.
I played some Beatles from the 24/44.1 usb stick that came out and same great results weighty detailed and musically involving. The EC 2a3 should be on any LCD 2 owners short list, particularly if they plan to power high efficiency speakers as well.
I borrowed an old friend'd (i've know him a long time and he is old ;-) ) K1000s to see how they would perform with the EC 2a3 and they were sublime. The 2a3 to me rose to the top flight k1000 sessions I've heard with amps like the Moth 300b or first watt F1 being driven my an Eastern Electric pre amp . One of the knocks on the k1000s is they can get strident with the wrong amp and while some amps can power them they still don't sound good. The 2a3 provided a very balanced sound with nice bottom end (not the k1000s strong suit), speed like a possessed demon, PRat and tone.
Right now I'm using an RCA 5ar4 instead of the Chinese rectifier that was provided. I pulled the Sylvania 2a3s and popped in the JJs I had on hand and both are really good. The JJs have more bass and are overall thicker sounding where the Sylvania tubes are cleaner but have less bass weight and extension. I've got a few 6sn7 variants here but for now have stuck with the United Electronics that Craig sent. I do plan on popping in a 6fg8 and maybe a 7n7 as well for kicks. I also plan on playing with the Bendix 6106 (?) and 5y3 I have here too. I'd go for NOS 2a3s if you can find then as they bettered the JJs and are normally only marginally more expensive and sometimes less.
While not the TOTL experience that the BA is and the only comparison I did was in NorCal the 2a3 does not give up much. It's not a balanced input amp like the BA and the PS in the BA is arguably better but the 2a3 is dead nuts silent. The BA to 2a3 is a tough comparison as the BA's I've heard had wither PX4 or AD1 tubes compared to the 2a3. Craig offeres the BA in 45/2a3 variation but most are being made with the PX4/300b option and from what I understand the AD1 version is no longer made.
The amp really responded to tube rolling and the change from the stock NU driver to one of my 6fg8 tubes (with adapter) improved tone and perceived headstage on both the AD2ks and the LCD2.
The amp can be made with either partial silver core or copper transformers. The partial silvers were in the amp I auditioned and I'd go that route as the copper provide slightly more gain but you lose the sonic benefits of the silver cores that according to Craig are speed and tone.
This amp reallly puts people in a spot that are looking at the BA as it comes close to BA quality, say a 9 out of the BA's 10 but that last bit of improvement is pretty large. I hate people that equate the percentage increase in cost to a value equation to improved sonics. First it's just not possible to truly measure improved subjective sound quality and secondly my 9 out of 10 might be somone elses 7 out of 10 depending on what thye value.
So in closing if you want to power just about all headphones (including the k1000s) and have a budget of around $3000 this amp is a slam dunk. You also can experiement with single driver high efficiency speakers while you are at it.
Here is a picture from Craig, as I failed to take a picture of it when I had it in house.