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Meier Audio Corda Classic

Posted

Pros: Strong value for money and features

Cons: lacks the transparency and fluidity of the top tier of (more expensive) amps

REVIEW: Meier Audio Corda Classic solid state headphone amp.

 

Introduction

 

My first serious headphone amp was the Meier Audio Corda HA-2 Mk II.  It was something of a revelation to me at the time – I had never heard a headphone amp that sounded as good.  I didn’t have much experience with headphone amps back then, and the HA-2 mk II was a huge cut above anything I had experienced.  The crossfeed was especially important to me as I first got used to headphone listening as a serious alternative to speakers.

 

I’ve probably listened to over 100 headphone amps since then.  Meier has cranked out a pretty steady of very fine headphone amps since that time, including, most recently, the Concerto, which I thought highly of.  The Corda Classic is based on the Concerto, with some feature additions, and some tweaks (like, says Meier, using the nicer and costlier Nichicon FG caps rather than the FW of the Concerto).  The Classic does have selectable two-stage crossfeed, which is a hallmark of the better Meier amps, and often a useful feature.  It also has the subtle bass compensation circuit for the crossfeed, which can be handy regardless of whether one is using crossfeed, to compensate for recordings.

 

Dr. Jan Meier offered to loan me a Classic for review, to which I happily agreed. Most of the time I will not review products that are not already commercially available, and I never review pre-production prototypes. In this case I agreed to review a production unit in advance of the release date, as Meier's reputation is such that I was not concerned that the unit would not come out. [Note to people who are not long-time readers of my reviews - I almost always review only loaner units from manufacturers, although I will occasionally buy units to review.  Such loaner units are provided at no cost to me for the review period, but are NOT "freebies" - following the review I either return them or, on occasion, I will purchase the review loaner]. 

 

 

The Classic, like many solid state amps, outputs significantly more power into low impedance loads than high impedance ones.  Jan provided me the following information:

 

  • Maximum output current: 500 mA / channel
  • Maximum gain factor: 4,9 x (+14 dB)
  • With a source signal of 2V rms the limiting factor normally is the gain factor. Maximum output voltage becomes 9,8 V rms.
  • At 600 Ohm: 160 mW / channel
  • At 300 Ohm: 320 mW / channel
  • At 50 Ohm: 1.9 W / channel
  • At 30 Ohm: 3.2 W / channel

 

As such, I thought it mated very well with the Audeze LCD headphones, The Ultrasone Edition 8, and with the Audio Technica W3000ANV.  It also sounded good with the Beyer T1, which is 600 ohm, but the T1 is VERY efficient.  Something like the 400 ohm AKG K-340 would probably not do well (but I no longer had a pair to try it).  

 

Looks are also “classic” Meier:

 

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Info from manufacturer’s website: http://www.meier-audio.homepage.t-online.de/classic.htm

 

Build quality is very good, with a solid but non-fancy chassis, and, mercifully, an on-board power supply that would make many modern speaker/power amps blush.

 

I auditioned the Classic over several weeks, using the headphones mentioned just above, plus the Ultrasone Edition 8.  I compared it to the Red Wine Audio Audeze Edition with the LCD-3, and to the Trafomatic Experience Head One with the AT, Beyer, and Ultrasone cans.  As always, my comparisons were done by using an SPL meter to match levels to within <1dB, and calibrated at 80 dB A weighted peaks. 

 

 

Sound

 

As with the majority of Meier products I have reviewed, the Corda Classic provided what I felt was essentially neutral, transparent, clean, and generally “out of the way” sound, more or less directly connecting source to headphone, within its power delivery limits.  The real departures from that come when you start to play with the features. 

 

It's a little difficult to describe the soundstaging of a Meier amp that employs crossfeed, and you can subtly change it.  There was no crossfeed setting that gave me the depth or holographic imaging of my Trafomatic or Leben amps, but the soundstage was nonetheless quite convincing.  The soundstage does shift with the two stages of crossfeed, as it takes on better center focus but loses some channel separation.  The effect is actually fairly subtle most of the time, but on some recordings I much prefer the crossfeed on.  The soundstage gains depth and moves out of the head, which is a pleasant effect.

 

The bass contour can also drive you a bit mad…is it better with or without?  Hard to tell.  I generally used it when the crossfeed was on, and not when not, but I actually sometimes preferred to use it regardless.  The nice thing with both of these features is you can always choose not to use either of them, and in this case the Classic is still a very neutral, transparent, and high quality amplifier.

 

I would love to say a lot more about its sound, but there really isn’t that much to say, which is a good thing, really.  The Classic doesn’t have much of its own flavor.  It won’t power crazy-hungry headphones like the Hifiman HE-6, but aside from that, it was revealing enough to allow me to easily hear the difference between some DACs I was comparing while it was here.  I thought it was good enough to be the main amplifier for headphones costing 2-3 times what the Classic itself cost, which makes it something of a bargain.  It did a good job with detail retrieval, and was nicely extended at the frequency extremes. 

 

If I had to pick a few nits, it doesn’t provide quite the level of iron fisted bass control of the LCD-2 and -3 that I get from the RedWineAudio Audeze Edition, and it doesn’t have quite the same extension at the very top of the frequency range, either.  There were also a few times when things seemed to get a little congested on the Classic with the LCD-3, whereas the same piece of music, at the same level-matched volume, did not sound congested on the AE.  And the AE may be just slightly more transparent.  But otherwise, the difference between the two was not that significant driving the Audeze headphones.

 

Driving the Ultrasone Edition 8, the Meier again basically stepped aside sonically.  I thought the Trafomatic Head One was a little more open sounding in the mids, and has the slightly more holographic soundstage.  But remember that the Trafomatic is a significantly more expensive amp.  When keeping that in mind, the Meier did very well indeed.

 

I really wish I still had the Concerto around to compare, but in my Concerto review, I felt that the Concerto could on occasion be just the slightest bit bright.  The Classic seems to have resolved that, as I never heard even the slightest bit of brightness from it.  Nothing stuck out at all in its frequency response. If anything, the Classic is just the tiniest bit warm, but only slightly.  And you can subtly change that with the bass level switch.  So you can really do some nice system matching that way.

 

 

Summary

 

If you want a neutral, clean, transparent solid state headphone amp that performs at a very high level without costing a fortune, the Meier Audio Classic is a very good option, IMO.  I still find that almost all mid-priced solid state headphone amps, for me, lack a little bit of musical realism, compared to what I hear from tube amps.  Many will call this effect a coloration, and perhaps it is, although I think it’s more complex than that. And it could certainly be considered a personal bias of mine (although clearly shared by numerous others).  In any case, the Classic isn’t going to be confused for a tube amp.  I still prefer to listen to headphones through thermionic valves.  If it were MY $700, I would buy something like the WooAudio WA6.

 

But many people don’t want to mess with tubes, and in the under $1K price range, the Classic has a lot going for it.  While not exactly cheap, the Classic does provide good value in terms of sonics, rated output, and features, IMO.  Jan Meier has a deservedly excellent reputation in the head-fi community, and I think the Classic is a good example of why.  Another excellent product overall from the estimable Dr. Meier.

 

 

Posted

Pros: neutral and natural sounding, powerfull tight bass, volume control, crossfeed, build quality

Cons: not portable

Hello all. This is my first review and I want to tell you about this fantastic headamp.

 

A view months back I bought an Audio Technica W1000 (not X !) headphone.   I like it’s sound; very transparent, a  little bright, certainly not dark, a sweet rolled off treble and a very tight, but not to  much bass.  And most of all; very involving.  It has something special, it let’s you here beautifully the acoustics of the recording room.

 

But it didn’t pair well with my NuForce HDP.  I think mainly because that one also has not much bass.   I am certainly not a basshead, but there must be a natural balance.  With the headphones I used it (AKG K501 and ATH-W1000), the sound was too thin.  With the somewhat dark and bassy sounding Senn HD600 I had for a while, the tonal balance is much better.   Besides that, the HDP has a wide soundstage.  I also noticed that when using it as a dac for my speaker set-up.  When listening through headphones to music with instruments mixed a little bit to extreme to the left or right, it becames not natural and thus can cause listening fatigue. Some cd’s were really unlistenable for me with the HDP with headphones.  A good example is Eric Clapton’s MTV Unplugged cd, where on a lot of songs (for example Tears in Heaven) you hear a guitar on the left, which can sound isolated from the rest of the band.  Like he’s  not on the stage and mixed in later.

 

So I decided that my next headamp must have a crossfeed switch.  And a sophisticated volume control.  Not a conventional volume pot, because they can crackle after a while and they often have channel imbalance at low settings (and I listen at low volume settings with a sensitive and low impedance AT headphone).  I already have an Meier 2Stepdance headamp for portable use, and that is a very good build and sounding headamp.  The 2Stepdance also has a sophisticated volume control which works very good.  I have faith in Jan Meier and the quality of his products, so the Corda Classic could be the headamp that satisfies my needs.

 

Well, it certainly is!  The Corda Classic is uncoloured,  transparant and detailed, has a powerfull  tight bass and a big soundstage.  I think it sounds good with 99% of the headphones.  And the crossfeed and tone switch works exactly as Jan describes on his websites.  When switching the crossfeed, the difference seems to be very subtle, but when listening over  longer periods, using crossfeed on and off, it is clear that with  using crossfeed, it sounds much more natural, more like listening to speakers than headphones.  Much more relaxed, you can listen the whole day without getting listening fatigue.  The guitar on “Tears in Heaven” is still on the left, but now he is on the stage with the rest of the band.  From now on I always listen to music with crossfeed switched to the high level.

 

I also like the tone switch.  This is not a bass-boost or loudness.  It’s to elevate frequencies below 2 kHz a little bit.  See the website for the explanation.  With the little bit bright sounding  W1000 headphone I prefer the lowest (medium) position, which makes it sound less bright, a little bit darker.  With the AKG K501 I prefer the middle (off) position. 

 I never liked the NuForce HDP as a headamp, except with the Senn HD600 which I had for a while.  But even with the HDP, the HD600 has to much bass (for me) with many recordings.  It becomes tiring after a while and gives listening fatigue.

 

For me, the Corda Classic is the perfect partner for my Audio Technica ATH-W1000.  It’s relaxed, powerfull,  you get all the bass the W1000 has in it in a very controlled way, the W1000 is less bright thanks to the tone switch, no tube replacing, it doesn’t get very hot so you can leave the amp switched on always, very good build quality, a beautiful volume control with small steps,  and it’s not gonna cost you a fortune.

 

The cheap portable P2V2 amp is good to start with, but sounds midfy, with a warm and muddy bass (depending on the headphone using), the Meier 2Stepdance sounds much better but has short battery life, the NuForce HDP lacks bass and crossfeed and can have channel imbalance, and at last the Meier Corda Classic which, for me, does everything right.

 

Thanks for reading!

Posted

Pros: Balanced and transparent. No added cost of tubes to upgrade.

Cons: Lacks the warmth of tube amps

BACKGROUND:

 

After having the experience of using a less expensive tube amp, the Bellari HA540, I was interested in upgrading my desk amp. without going through multiple expensive tube trials.  Tube upgrades add significant cost and time to the process of headphone listening.

I also had the positive experience of using the portable ALO Audio MKll amp. on all my current headphones.  I found the solid state amping up to the task of amping my efficient 600 ohm Tesla T1's and my less efficient 600 ohm vintage AKG K240 sextet's.

 

I spent time on Head-Fi and multiple other web sites researching DAC/Amps at the cost point I was looking for; roughly $1000. The Meier Stack made the most logical sense.  I haven't found many other quality audio manufacturers that are willing to discount their end game products in combination.

 

SETUP:

 

DAC:  Meier Daccord  

HP:  HE-400, B&W P5, Senns 595, Tesla T1 and vintage AKG K240

Source:  MacAir>Amarra 2.5.1 

Cable:  Meier stock

CD:  Muse "Black Holes and Revelations," Jake Bugg "Jake Bugg," The Cars "Heartbeat City"

Lossless:  The Beatles "Abbey Road," Yes "Fragile," Heart "Dreamboat Annie," Traffic "John Barleycorn Must Die"

 

REVIEW:

 

I found that the Meier Amp was efficient at dramatizing the best and worst that the headphones offered.  If you like the sub bass on the HE-400's this is a good thing. "Come Together" by The Beatles thumped in the low range as did "Supermassive Black Hole" by Muse. On the other hand the treble deficiency of the HE-400 are more revealed in Heart's "Dreamboat Annie" the title song.  

The Senns 595 were well balanced, but not spectacular, still upgraded from any other amp I had previously used with them. The Beatles "Something" and "Oh Darling" were well suited with these HP's. 

The T1 really shined with this amp, displaying both depth and imaging. The soundstage and separation of sound in particular on The Cars CD "Heartbeat City" were at a level I had really not experienced before. The balance and clarity of the Jake Bugg album and the jazz infused rock from Traffic were stunning.  The transparent amp and transparent HP made me feel as though I was I was moving closer to the original recording sound. Music is revealed from recordings I've heard for years.

The B&W P5 were solid in the mids, less so at bass. I primarily use these as my go to HP's for portable listening.  They are light and are easily amped with portable players.  They add some level of isolation but are not at the same level of my desk HP's. The Meier amp punched up the mids improving the imaging of "Crazy On You" by Heart.

The vintage AKG K240 was the most suprising. This HP is really hard to drive. The HP meshed beautifully with this amp.  Mids stood out more with improved separation and individuation of instruments.  The bass is not great but easily made up for by the added fun that these HP's have to offer.  Yes "Roundabout" really stood out for me, as did The Cars "Magic" which danced all around my ears. 

 

I originally questioned the need for the cross feed, but after hours on the Amp/Dac combo the level of audio separation increases fatigue.  Mixing the sound to create a more of a natural audio experience makes sense.  You can mix the cross feed at multiple levels to match your own taste. I found the cross feed was more useful with the complex instrumentation of Yes and Traffic.  

 

Summary:

 

For the price a well built quality amp.  This amp is not as gorgeous as some of the tube amps at the same price point.  On the other hand I'm not going to spend hours researching and buying expensive tubes. 

 

Service : Excellent customer support

Posted

Pros: Neutral with fast attack and a lot of power and lack of listening fatigue. Impressive value.

Cons: Switches could be centered better in the front plate.

I bought it to use with Ultrasone Pro900 and blue-ray player, tv DAB receiver and of course for music with Daccord. Mine is in silver with red LEDs.

Case is very sturdy and build quality at the high level. Front plate is aluminium about 4mm thick. Switches could be centered better in the front plate, however it is not bad.
 
Everything works like it should. When connected to DAB, sound is much cleaner, without any hiss, cracks etc. With BD player it just gives cinema on your head, power you can feel almost on the chest.
Now, music. It is just music, neutral but efficient. I have had possibility to listen to my music for a while in a professional studio, and Meier Classic with Daccord is just a reference piece of kit. Have in mind I have listened to speakers and with such system you have headphones so differences are undoubtful but linearity can be heard well. When connected to Xonar Essence ST some sort of harsh inpurities are present.
 
In blind tests With Xonar I was able to distinguish my music in mp3 256kbs from .wav (about 98% of hit), when with Daccord I can do it respectively mp3 320kbs from .wav (about 90% of hit). Crossfeed is nice feature but I don't use it, for me it makes sound more mellow, and so tonal balance, some would say it sound more analogue. Digital volume control is working similar to analogue, there is no lack of in between steps. Impressive thing, after hours of listening I can't feel any ear or head fatigue.
 
Summary: Neutral with fast attack and lot of power and lack of listening 
fatigue, it is just pleasure to listen to. Awesome customer support. Corda Classic really is full of engineering and parts.
Meier Audio Corda Classic
Description:

Solid State home headphone amplifier with crossfeed

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