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New! HeadRoom Desktop Balanced Amp! - Page 3  

post #31 of 304
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Monkey View Post
So, if using unbalanced cans, can you plug in two at the same time?
Like humanflyz said, yes. But you only use the normal side of the balanced signal; the inverted signals go unused---poor things. One of the things I lobbied for but gave in on was that we could have wires one unbalanced jack in-phase, and one inverted and that way people could play around with hearing absoplute polarity of their unbalanced cans. But the option led us to ask if we shouldn't provide a phase switch for the balanced mode? And the argumant went downhill from there, so we opted for just normal jacks.
post #32 of 304
Quote:
Originally Posted by mkozlows View Post
So, at around the same price, which sounds better to you: Unbalanced Desktop with Max DAC/modules, or the balanced one with the Home stuff?
Yes, good question: get on with it, Tyll!

Looking at the Headroom range from a different angle, I suppose you could say that in terms of the ultimate upgrade destination, the Desktop Balanced Amp enables you to enjoy more of the benefits at a lower level of expenditure. With the Max balanced the entry level expenditure is $4K + the cable upgrade. With the Home balanced it's $2.3K + the cable upgrade. So being able to get onto the balanced upgrade path for $900 is pretty sensational value, considering that you don't have to upgrade your cable on day one and get an upgraded power supply for free. (Presumably if you don't recable your headphones then you've just wasted a significant proportion of your money, but there may be buyers who genuinely have to wait a while before they can afford that upgrade, or who want an amp in place while they save up for the dream pair of balanced cans.)

I'm guessing here that Tyll will stand by the implicit Headroom line on balanced amps: i.e. that balancing represents a crucial upgrade that cannot be duplicated by an alternative, unbalanced upgrade. If that's the case, then there's surely an argument for saying that a fully-pimped Desktop Balanced must come close in SQ to the top of the Headroom product line for about half the price. It's just as well that they couldn't fit the Max modules or they'd have to retire half their amps!

I note that the Desktop Balanced doesn't have any phono outputs ... I'm guessing because once everything's been balanced you can't simply output it back to an ordinary domestic amplifier etc. (electronics mean nothing to me). Couldn't the DB have been given some sort of output for the DAC section, though? I don't have a separate DAC, and I would regard an investment in a Headroom one as partially wasted if it could only ever be used for headphones. Of course, if HR made a standalone Desktop DAC, then that problem could be obviated ... Tyll?

p.s. Further to the new power supplies ... I note that users are currently recommended to buy the DPS when upgrading the existing Desktop amp to Home modules. If one buys the upgraded power supply (when this becomes available) is the need for the DPS dramatically reduced?
post #33 of 304
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sordel
I'm guessing here that Tyll will stand by the implicit Headroom line on balanced amps: i.e. that balancing represents a crucial upgrade that cannot be duplicated by an alternative, unbalanced upgrade. If that's the case, then there's surely an argument for saying that a fully-pimped Desktop Balanced must come close in SQ to the top of the Headroom product line for about half the price. It's just as well that they couldn't fit the Max modules or they'd have to retire half their amps!
If we could have put the Max modules into the Desktop we would have, even if it did cut into the Max sales. The Max IS a different beast, and IS better suited to the big rig of the well-healed audiophile. The Desktop on the other hand is a great way to put together a listening system on your desktop...hence the name. I'd love to sell fewer Maxes and more Desktops, I have no problem competing with myself. Saddly, we just couldn't deal with the heat of the Max modules in the Desktop enclosure without some serious modification.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sordel
I note that the Desktop Balanced doesn't have any phono outputs ... I'm guessing because once everything's been balanced you can't simply output it back to an ordinary domestic amplifier etc. (electronics mean nothing to me). Couldn't the DB have been given some sort of output for the DAC section, though? I don't have a separate DAC, and I would regard an investment in a Headroom one as partially wasted if it could only ever be used for headphones. Of course, if HR made a standalone Desktop DAC, then that problem could be obviated ... Tyll?
The biggest problem with the desktop was the size; we simply didn't have room for all the connectors and switches we would have liked to had. However, if you really did want a single-ended out from it you could plug in a 1/4 inch headphone to RCA adaptor into one of the front combo jacks when you want to drive a power amp for speakers.

Ahhh, the DAC issue. I can't tell you how many times we've debated whether or not to build a stand alone DAC....lots! I mean it would be so easy! But we don't have a catagory on our website caled "DACS"; it's not what we do; we wouldn't want to spend money marketing it; it's a quandry. I can tell you that on future products we are going to put a "DAC Out" on the rear panel that is from the DAC direct, but it will often be a 1/8 mini-jack to save space as it's not the primary purpose of the product.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sordel
p.s. Further to the new power supplies ... I note that users are currently recommended to buy the DPS when upgrading the existing Desktop amp to Home modules. If one buys the upgraded power supply (when this becomes available) is the need for the DPS dramatically reduced?
Yes. Once the new switcher becomes available then the only need to go up to the DPS is for sound quality. Currently, the cheap supply is really out of spec for the pimped out products and really chokes off the beefy amps. The new switcher is perfectly capable of outputting enough current for the pimped amps, but it isn't as clean as the DPS. So it really would be no problem to get a Desktop Maxed with the switching supply and just waiting till the wallet fills up again.

Kinda blew past this one, but wanted to address it:

Quote:
Originally Posted by ralphp@optonline
Will getting one of these balanced amps help all of us poor unbalanced individuals here at Head-Fi become more balanced?
NO! Your all friggen nuts...me too. Nothing will help. You're twisted with no recourse but acceptance. Fortunately we have a great support system here where you can fully engage in you insanity with others similarly afflicted. Hi, my name is Tyll, and I'm a headphoholic.
post #34 of 304
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyll Hertsens View Post
Kinda blew past this one, but wanted to address it:
Quote:
Originally Posted by ralphp@optonline View Post
I have a rather important but somewhat nontechnical question regarding the new balanced Desktop amps from Headroom.

Will getting one of these balanced amps help all of us poor unbalanced individuals here at Head-Fi become more balanced? And if so, can we get our medical insurance plans to help pay for them?

NO! Your all friggen nuts...me too. Nothing will help. You're twisted with no recourse but acceptance. Fortunately we have a great support system here where you can fully engage in you insanity with others similarly afflicted. Hi, my name is Tyll, and I'm a headphoholic.
Thanks for answering my question.

So basically when an unbalanced individual like myself sits and watches Looney Tunes cartoons through headphones with the new Headroom Desktop Balanced amp it all comes out balanced in the end.

WOO HOO!! WOO HOO!!!
post #35 of 304
Thread Starter 
Allllrightythen! I did a bunch of listening this morning and here's the results, but first a pic.



It seems to me that the Desktop w/Max modules (DM) is faster and more articulate than the Desktop Balanced w/Home modules (DBH). But the soundstage is wider and deeper on the DBH, and the sound, though a bit warm and fuzzy compared to the 627s in the DM, is also more coherent and less harsh. My guess is that while the DM is articulate and clean, it also suffers from some of the distortions that get partially canceled in the balanced drive configureation. Based purely on what should theoretically be true: the DB should have more 2nd order distortion because some of the odd order stuff should be cancelled by balanced operation, and therefor the DB should be more "tubelike" then the DM. (Major assumption there, I'll try to get some measurements to verify that some month soon.) It is a VERY wierd comparison because at first blush it just sounds like the DM is a bit brighter and quicker than the DBH; that would usually give a better sense of "air" and deeper image. But as you listen you begin to hear this ease with which the DBH projects an image and space that the DM doesn't achieve quite as well.

I tried both K701s and HD650s in the test and the nature of the differences was roughly the same for both cans, however, the general consensus around here is that the 650s improve more with balanced drive than the K701s do. We assum that's because the lower impedance of the 701 causes a larger change in damping factor from balanced to unbalanced operation. (Assuming a 1 ohm output impedance of amp and 62 Ohm impedance for 701 and 300 Ohm for 650: Dammping for 650 is 300 on DM and 150 for DBH, for 701 is 62 on DM and 31 on DBH. Because your really starting to get close to the magic damping factor of 10 with the 701 driven balanced, these cans may suffer from a slight loss of damping when driven balanced compared to the 650.)

In the final analysis, I would take the DBH over the DM because I am so highly averse to harshness and I really like a layed back and easy sound, but I know there are some folks who want a lightning quick sound and would percieve the DBH as "warm and fuzzy" compared to the DM. I also think that to oversimplify my listening to harsh vs. warm and fuzzy would be wrong; it really is true that there is significant latitude in "good sound" and listening tastes out there and these two products are a perfect example of really good products that sound different.

How's that for spin?

Not really spin though, as we all know that there are a lot of great amps out there and they all have there own character. Simply saying a Single Power is better than a Rudistor is oversimplifying to the point of usless advice, because it simply may not be true for some folks. To be truthful, this is not an easy lesson for someone like me to learn. I really want to believe there is one "right" and that I'm working towards it. To be in the position of knowing that there is more than on satisfying solution means that there is no simple goal to shoot for. Fortunatly, there are so many other issues driving the end result (price point, portability, technologies used, feature set) it really is usually a matter of making the product you are working on as good as possible rather than making the product you are working on sound a certain way.
post #36 of 304
Hey Ty,
Are you recabling the 701's or are you just installing XLR's in place of the 1/4" plug?
TR
post #37 of 304
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Todd R View Post
Are you recabling the 701's or are you just installing XLR's in place of the 1/4" plug?
No, our recable job is a complete cable replacement. We are using the Smurf-blue Cardas stuff that is used on the Cardas 650 replacement cables, but we had them make the cable with a somewhat smaller diameter insulator in black with our name on it. It is exactly the same conductors and insulator material as on the stock Cardas replacement cables, however.
post #38 of 304
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyll Hertsens View Post
No, our recable job is a complete cable replacement. We are using the Smurf-blue Cardas stuff that is used on the Cardas 650 replacement cables, but we had them make the cable with a somewhat smaller diameter insulator in black with our name on it. It is exactly the same conductors and insulator material as on the stock Cardas replacement cables, however.
What do you guys charge for that? Not shure if I'm brave enough to tear into my phones
post #39 of 304
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Todd R View Post
What do you guys charge for that? Not shure if I'm brave enough to tear into my phones
I'm not sure yet.
post #40 of 304
Ahhh, the DAC issue. I can't tell you how many times we've debated whether or not to build a stand alone DAC....lots! I mean it would be so easy! But we don't have a catagory on our website caled "DACS"; it's not what we do; we wouldn't want to spend money marketing it; it's a quandry. I can tell you that on future products we are going to put a "DAC Out" on the rear panel that is from the DAC direct, but it will often be a 1/8 mini-jack to save space as it's not the primary purpose of the product.

I think that a critically acclaimed DAC built by you guys would only open more doors to the audiophile community. If it's easy to do....build it. If people who don't normally listen to headphones like it, they might also end up buying a headphone amp from HeadRoom. USB DAC's are hot right now. I'm using your MicroDac, but would most certainly upgrade to a HomeDac or MaxDac if available. Then I'll buy your updated Wheatfield HA-2 when it becomes available to go with the DAC.
post #41 of 304
noob alert
Ive known that in order to have balanced amping, your source needs to be balanced, but there is a balanced dac inside the amp already...so does that mean with this amp, no "balanced" equipment is necessary? Like I can just plug in any old digital signal from cd player and shebang its balanced? Im asking because this all seems unreal for just ~1200 bucks...
post #42 of 304
Quote:
Originally Posted by hYdrociTy View Post
noob alert
Ive known that in order to have balanced amping, your source needs to be balanced, but there is a balanced dac inside the amp already...so does that mean with this amp, no "balanced" equipment is necessary? Like I can just plug in any old digital signal from cd player and shebang its balanced? Im asking because this all seems unreal for just ~1200 bucks...
Noob or not, that is one heck of an awesome question. Why didn't I think of that question. Will someone please answer this one asap. Thanks, hYdrociTy!
post #43 of 304
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "hYdrociTy
...so does that mean with this amp, no "balanced" equipment is necessary?
Quote:
Originally Posted by ralphp@optonline View Post
Noob or not, that is one heck of an awesome question. Why didn't I think of that question. Will someone please answer this one asap. Thanks, hYdrociTy!
Yeah, absolutely. That's really the point: if you go straightline from digital-in to balanced dacs to balanced headphone amp to balanced headphones you get the most dollar efficient eargasm machine you can imagine. It takes a couple of kilo-bucks, but it's amazing when you get there.

Like I said earlier: I'd take the balanced Home modules against the unbalanced Max modules because it sounded smoother and organic (and it's still the prototype which developed a hum and lost the inverting right side of the DAC signal today---OMG and I'm taking this thing to Florida!); imaging with an aparent ease that the Max modules did not. But I also heard the better responsiveness of the 627s in the Max module. I think I have to attribute it to the distortion cancelling effect of running balanced leading to lower odd-harmonic distortion in balanced cans and to the reduction in cross talk due to the lack of common ground wiring in normal cans. Joe Woj (our engineer*) said he would set up the gear to do the measurements when we run a full set of amp measurements for the amps on the web site---planned for sometime next year. So, it'll be a while before I see if my hypothesis is correct. In the mean time, I'll have a balanced amp on my desk because the difference is strong in a certain way that seems very natural to me.
post #44 of 304
Quote:
Originally Posted by ralphp@optonline View Post
Noob or not, that is one heck of an awesome question. Why didn't I think of that question. Will someone please answer this one asap. Thanks, hYdrociTy!
No. You don't need balanced input. Just read the first post:

" The rear panel has one pair of balanced inputs and one pair of unbalanced inputs. Yes, you heard right: unbalanced inputs. We are using a balanced line driver chip internally to create a balanced signal from an the single-ended ins---it’s not as good as using a balanced source, but it’s amazingly close and oh so much fun to hear an iPod on balanced cans".
post #45 of 304
Quote:
Originally Posted by Large4mat View Post
I think that a critically acclaimed DAC built by you guys would only open more doors to the audiophile community. If it's easy to do....build it.
I know that you've thought this through, Tyll, but I agree with Large4mat. In fact, it's very odd that you don't have a nice DAC in the same half-height unit that you use for the Portable Desktop Amp. Looking at your prices, I would guess that you could do a Desktop DAC for $449 with the Max at $599. Even if I'm a little low with that estimate, that's an interesting price-point for an audiophile DAC and might attract people who are not immediately interested in building a headphone-oriented system ... but who might be persuaded to add a headphone amp further down the line.

More significant to me is the way that it would fit into your product line, though. At the moment, the Millett Hybrid has no DAC, so anyone wanting to build an all-HR tube system would presumably have to buy a second full headphone amplifier. It makes a lot more sense to buy a boxed-off DAC and then choose the flavour of amp that you want ... especially now that there are three separate upgrade paths. You might well find that people end up with HR stacks with multiple amps ... maybe they'd start with the entry-level Portable for flexibility, and then go for a fully-pimped Balanced later on. I'd have thought that more people would buy the DPS as well, because now it would be providing power for three, four or even five(!) units rather than the one that it customarily feeds today.

Finally, it would add a lot of flexibility at my level, which is the entry level. Currently when one buys a single box Desktop amp/dac one more or less has to upgrade both modules simultaneously, doubling the cost of the upgrade from Desktop to Home to Max. With a boxed DAC, things would be different. If DAC weren't a priority, I could buy an upgraded Desktop Amp and wait. (Adding the DAC curcuit later isn't an option for me because I wouldn't want to have to ship my unit back over the Atlantic.)

If having a DAC were to be a priority I could buy a world-class DAC and use it to feed a Micro Amp while I save up (i.e. start trying to convince my wife) to get a Desktop Amp. If I buy a Desktop Amp with Home modules in the next few months, you will struggle to sell me future units because they would entail redundancy ... I can see a lot more likelihood of my buying further units in the future if I had more control over my initial configuration.

Let me put it another way (and here I will probably make admissions so grave as to get me expelled from the forums):

I'm going to buy my headphone amp "sound unheard" and have been here for a while trying to assess the market. HR are way in front but not because they sound the best (although I've got no reason to suppose that they don't). I'd like a portable amp, so you'd be up against the Emmeline Hornet in my mind: I like the look of both units, but you've got the crossfeed and you've got a (visibly) matching DAC which I want for my PC. I'd also like a home amp, so you'd be up against the Heed CanAmp, but you've got the crossfeed and the onboard DAC. You'd also be up against Meier-Audio (in my mind your closest direct competitor), except that your DAC has a greater range of inputs.

My point is: you're in the amp business but things like added functions, DAC sections etc. are for me (the bottom rung of the ladder when it comes to buying headphone amps) crucial to your appeal. And - because it wasn't long ago that I was buying lifestyle mini systems - I like matching boxes!
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