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Pro-Ject Headbox SEII

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
I just wanted to make a brief post and say that after personally comparing the Pro-Ject Headbox SE and the new Pro-Ject Headbox SEII, I think the SEII is a much better sounding amp. Those who did not like the original SE or Project Headbox might want to listen to this new line of amps and re-evaluate how they feel about this line.

The SEII features a new revised circuit board. Unlike the SE, the build quality of the SEII is just first rate. This is a heavy, solid piece of audio equipment, with a very attractive brushed silver front plate. The volume control is very responsive and precise and useful throughout the entire range of motion, unlike the SE which had mediocre volume controls.

The sound of the SEII is now much darker, fuller, and smoother sounding. It is also punchier and more nuanced.

I really like this box. It sells for about $300
post #2 of 35
Hi,

Thanks so much for this post. I'm thinking of getting one of these because I have a particular situation where I want to drive two headphones at the same time from my computer soundcard output.

Your comment on the build quality would seem to be consistent with my experience with Project's Speed Box II and Project's Tube Box II.

Is this amp still in your possession? Any chance of some photos (and of the inside if you have taken it apart). I'm very curious to see the layout and inside build quality. Does it have a socketed Op Amps or are they hard soldered? And what type do they use?

What other amps have you tried apart from the other Projects that might serve as a comparison?

Sorry, lots of questions there I know

Thanks

PS: I wrote to Project asking them if they might consider building something based on the SE II, but using a tube stage (since they did a similar thing with my Tube Box II). Sadly, their automated answering service sent the message to my country's distributer. Not very helpful...
post #3 of 35
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ADD View Post
Hi,

Thanks so much for this post. I'm thinking of getting one of these because I have a particular situation where I want to drive two headphones at the same time from my computer soundcard output.

Your comment on the build quality would seem to be consistent with my experience with Project's Speed Box II and Project's Tube Box II.

Is this amp still in your possession? Any chance of some photos (and of the inside if you have taken it apart). I'm very curious to see the layout and inside build quality. Does it have a socketed Op Amps or are they hard soldered? And what type do they use?

What other amps have you tried apart from the other Projects that might serve as a comparison?

Sorry, lots of questions there I know

Thanks

PS: I wrote to Project asking them if they might consider building something based on the SE II, but using a tube stage (since they did a similar thing with my Tube Box II). Sadly, their automated answering service sent the message to my country's distributer. Not very helpful...

Well I'll have to look tomorrow and see what is involved in opening it up. As far as photos go, I might snap a few if I have time. There isn't much to see, it is just a nice solid little amp.

I'm not a big headphone person because I have very good speakers and the only other amp I compared it to was the other Pro-ject SE.


The new SEII is very warm and dark sounding, unlike the SE which was a little flat and cold.
post #4 of 35
Hi,

Thanks again. Please don't open it up on account of my curiosity. It was only if you were going to do that for your own interest.
post #5 of 35
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ADD View Post
Hi,

Thanks again. Please don't open it up on account of my curiosity. It was only if you were going to do that for your own interest.
I'm not going to open it up because it is so new but I will snap some photos later.

This is a very nice unit. Frankly the SE's build quality was just not up to my standards but this one is. For example a quarter turn of the SE's volume control would do nothing. The SEII's volume pots are very fine and responsive.

I was shocked at how different the sound was. My first impression of this unit was that it has a LOT more bass and punch. It also just seems to power the HD600s much more effortlessly. It is capable of producing much more volume than the SE and does it cleaner too.

Note that I tested both amps using first rate sources including a dCS Delius and Purcell with CD upsampled to DSD (SACD). My speakers are B&W N802s with a very large Mark Levinson amp. So I am a pretty discerning listener.

I also tested with iTunes and a X-fi soundcard in bit perfect mode. With the SE and straight out of the x-fi headphone jack, I had to put the equalizer to bass boost to get a decent sound but the SEII is so rich that I actually lowered the EQ back to flat, where it should be.

The difference in sound between the SE and the straight headphone jack was de minimis, whereas with the SEII the sound is much richer and fatter. It isn't lacking in detail, I can clearly hear room ambient sounds around instruments and recordings and it images a little wider too.

The best way to describe it is to say that the SE was like adding a headphone jack to my system and the SEII was like adding a real amp.

I suspect for $300 this amp is a good deal. It is an ideal amp if you feel like your setup is bright, harsh, lacking in bass or punch. My dealer suggested running pink noise through it to break it in so the sound might change a bit over the next week or so. I will update this post accordingly.
post #6 of 35
Thread Starter 
post #7 of 35
Thanks for the update and photo. It is always good to get opinions from people who have good quality non-headphone gear. I only use headphones through neccessity and I am always aiming to have a setup that comes some way to being as sonically rewarding as a good quality amp and speakers (not possible in respect to the things that are important to me, but I can still approach it in varying degrees).

I actually find pretty much everything slightly bright and harsh through all headphones except my cheap CX300 - no matter what I try - EQ, different models of headphone, etc - in the end everything is still too bright compared and unbalanced compared to a good speaker (especially English ones for some reason). So any headphone amp that has the sort of characteristics you mention would be interesting to try as they often seem to tame this brightness and hrashness even more than changing the headphone (one reason I am going to audition tube amplifiers this year).

Are the volume controls physically detended or are they a re smooth action across the range of movement?

As for volume versus range of motion, I don't really worry too much if I have to turn a pot a long way to get the desired volume. If anything, in my experience this is a positive attribute, since the further one turns a pot, generally the more accurately balanced it is from channel to channel.
post #8 of 35
Thread Starter 
Well, the brightness is always going to be sort of an issue when your source is redbook CD. Headphones seem to eggagerate it just because they are so revealing of the source. Also, a lot of headphones are voiced bright because believe it or not bright and forward sells better than dark and smooth. Consumers like that because they think they can hear so much more. The "HD600 is better than the HD650" debate is a perfect example of that in my opinion.

I don't want to mislead you into thinking this is a rolled off sounding amp. The sound is VERY pristine and clear and if your source is bright or harsh you will hear it. It is garbage in, garbage out, and most CDs just don't hold up to this level of scrutiny. In fact the big selling point of the dCS gear is that it upsamples redbook CD to DSD and in the process smooths things out in a very natural way.

For me the worst thing in a component is unpleasantness in the treble. Some speakers and setups are just hard on the ears. Generally, that smoothness is something you have to pay big bucks for--if you want detail and smoothness.

Sometimes it is just in the recording and there is nothing you can do. Some recordings are just going to sound good on everything and some are just going to sound harsh and brittle because that is what it sounded like in the studio, or there was a bad conversion to digital or something.

I think with this amp you will hear more of the source and more of what your headphones sound like.

But don't worry, if my dad is anything to go by when you get older you'll loose some of that high frequency hearing and then any old amp will do! If you haven't already.
post #9 of 35
Thread Starter 
Oh and to answer your question the volume control is very smooth and analog feeling it doesn't have any intervals.
post #10 of 35
well, it really really looks good!
post #11 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackstoneJD View Post
Oh and to answer your question the volume control is very smooth and analog feeling it doesn't have any intervals.
Hi,

Thanks again. I normally listen to vinyl. And if I listen to a CD, it is completely intolerable. My ears have adjusted over the last few months to vinyl and now CD is all but impossible to listen to unless I just stick it in the bedside radio. Even my HD580 headphones are now too bright for my tastes.
post #12 of 35
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ADD View Post
Hi,

Thanks again. I normally listen to vinyl. And if I listen to a CD, it is completely intolerable. My ears have adjusted over the last few months to vinyl and now CD is all but impossible to listen to unless I just stick it in the bedside radio. Even my HD580 headphones are now too bright for my tastes.
The HD580/HD600s are bright in my opinion, but I think most of the unpleasantness comes from mediocre sources. With really good sources they sound smoother and more balanced.

This amp sounds good but it isn't the type that is going to soften a mediocre source.
post #13 of 35
I'm using my PXC350 headphones now instead of the HD580. I know people here aren't enthusiastic about noise cancelling headphones, but to my ears and for classical music, these PXC350 blow away my HD580 and have absolutely no brightness or harshness at all. I think I will stick with them - they seem to be one of the few headphones that I can listen to for more than 10 minutes without any desire to remove them. The HD580 sound great when you first put them on, but they like many others I have tried, sound fatiqueing in the long haul.

I've been listening for maybe 2 hours per day on these PXC350 and everything just sounds so very natural - like good speakers do. And I am running them off a humble CMoy with a 2227 op amp, so maybe this Project amplifier might suit them well too.
post #14 of 35
I too was impressed with the Project Headbox SE. I liked it alot with the HD600s can.
Am sure the II would be even better.
post #15 of 35
Thread Starter 
I would love to hear other opinions on this amp because I just can't believe how good this little $300 box sounds with the dCS dac gear. The 600's do not sound bright with this amp and good digital gear. This amp is capable of a clean but smooth and punchy presentation. It has real nuance and detail. I just love this thing.

I wish somebody else would try it out I'm so curious as to how it holds up against similarly priced amps.
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