Firsrt impressions of my new Apache
(copied from the long "the Apache" thread).
Maybe Ray should have called it the Can Opener.
It creates a vividly open sound area with whatever cans
I try it with (Senn 650s, AKG 701s, Grado GS1000s).
In short, the sound is un-headphone-like. (Uncanny?)
The Apache produces a very compelling listening experience that I have never had
with headphones before.
Tonality is excellent, striking a perfect balance between detail and smoothness.
It rivals what I have heard in
audio shows and dealerships with some extreme high-end speakers.
(The Apache also functions as a Preamp. I have not used it in this mode.)
All of my listening is from my McIntosh C46 preamp into the Apache.
I have a CD-only system. My previous headphone amplifier was a 1999 Headroom
Max (updated with a newer reference module in 2004). I still have the Max.
I have had the Apache for only a week, so I may be
updating this. Consider these initial impressions.
The sound is quite speaker-like, especially with the Grados.
The Grados are natively tipped up and bright, so I use the
tone controls on the McIntosh preamp (which has an 8-band equalizer)
to roll-off the highs somewhat.
With the AKGs or Sennheisers, no equalization is necessary.
(I like using the McIntosh preamp to feed my headphone amp becuase
I sit some distance away from my system and use the McIntosh
remote to adjust the volume. Actually, I wish headphone amps had a
remote volume control. I also appreciate the Mac's tone controls--blasphemy I know...)
Listening to the Capitol Beatles CD set, other classic rock or popular music
(which is what I mainly listen to on headphones), with the Apache
I feel like I am in the studio, with the voices and instruments spread out,
fleshed out and distinct in a 3-dimensional space much larger than I have
ever heard with headphones.
The musical components, if not life-size, are far from the miniaturized images
that, to my ears, are common with headphones. The Apache somehow creates some
sort of ether-field with honest-to-goodness 3D images, each with its own
size and shape. This effect is more prominent with the Grados,
but still quite evident with the other phones. The Senn 650s seem
especially helped by the Apache--really coming out of their shell.
The vauge claustrophopic or compressed feeling I always had with the
650s (and predecessors) has just about disappeared.
The images have real body and density but are not heavy or hard-edged or super-pinpointed.
They blend just enough into the recording venue to sound naturally placed.
And, thankfully, nothing shouts or sounds pushy.
In comparison with my Headroom Max
everything sounds de-congested. Many of these old CDs of 60's and 70's
recordings sound raspy and rough through the Max.
Somehow, the Apache separates all
the pieces and smooths out the rough edges just enough to produce a natural sound.
The spatial cues are there but the harsh abrasion is gone.
The sound is still vivid but no longer annoying.
I really feel as if I am among the performers.
The vocals are liquid and rounded and have just enough grit to sound
genuine without being mechanical,
grainy or telephone-like. I have always felt that vocals were always
the ultimate truth-test for a system. Sometimes even when instruments
sound fine, a vocal comes along and sounds artificial, raspy, buzzy, and
nothing like a real voice. With the Apache, I can listen deep into a voice,
and I hear a continuous, smooth sound that is just extremely satisfying.
Percussion is precise and fast without being assaultive. Wind instruments
are airy and have just the right density. (I think the famous flute solo on
California Dreamin' is as pure as I have ever heard it.) Strings are silky
and never scream or make me wince.
The Apache's bass is a real joy. It is "just-there," with no subwoofery/boombox
feel. I love the way the bass is attached to the the object creating it,
rather than just part of a pervasive
bass-fog. I am reminded of the bass from well-set-up Wilson speakers.
At first I thought the highs were more spotlighted than with the Headroom Max,
but then I realized I lately had been using the Max's high-frequency filter (a useful
feature by the way), and concluded that, In A-B'ing the two amps, that
the Apache is no more aggressive or less warm than the Max with its filter off.
To sum up, I think that
the great thing about the Apache is that it is revealing, but not ruthlessly revealing.
Details are well evident, but just recessed enough to produce an inviting, relaxing sound
that is still live and involving, along with a wonderfully plausible sense of space.
EMM DCC2 SE DAC and CDSD SE Transport,
McIntosh C46 Preamp,
Stealth Indra RCA IC from DAC to Preamp,
Kubala-Sosna Balanced IC from Preamp to Apache,
Shunyata Anaconda Power Cables on all components except Apache,
Kimber PK-10 Palladium Power Cable on Apache,
All equipment plugged into Shunyata Hydra 8.
Headphones: Grado RS1000s with Moon Audio Black Dragon cable (single ended).
Sennheiser 650s with Zu Mobius (single ended).
AKG K701 with Moon Audio Black Dragon balanced.