Originally Posted by mink70
Question for the Havana experts. My Havana sounds amazing with my speaker setup, especially with the triple-mica GE tube. The priority there is on mellowness and good tone. But when I connect it to one of my headphone amps—Bottlehead Crack and CTH—it sounds indistinct, soft, and low in gain. By comparison, the Centrance Dacport LE—which is a lot brighter and less juicy—sounds much more full and detailed through headphones. Anyone else experience this? Does the Havana have a low output level, or high impedance, or something else?
I'm no expert, either but I have used MHDT DACs for more than a few years; going on five or six? I'm not sure. First a Paradisea, then a Paradisea+, then a Havana (for the longest) and now a Stockholm (v1).
I've used them with electrostatics myself (SR-404/SRM-006T) and for the past four years or so, with Grado GS1000's (the headphones I've found to best approximate the speed and soundstage of the Stax set up I had, which I loved but sold in favor of a more flexible dynamic set up). Across the board, with both solid state amps (a Stello HP100 for a couple years) and a Ray Samuel's Raptor tube amp, I've never found the MHDT DACs (especially the Havana and even more so the Stockholm) to sound indistinct or soft. Granted, the v1 Stockholm that I have, has slightly less output than the Havana previously but this simply means a very slight up tick in my amps volume pot; I in fact, find the Stockholm to be a slightly more lively and detailed (spacious) DAC than I do the Havana but I enjoy them equally.
I also have had several other DACs in my house, an Electrocompaniet ECD-1, a Neko D100 Mk2 and a Stello DA100 ... and just speaking clinically, both the ECD-1 and Stello DACs were quite a bit more "digital" sounding, more hyper (execrated to my ear) detail and what I consider in so many DACs to have a very unrealistic character to the high frequencies which I just don't like ... especially with Stax ear phones and even more so with the Grado GS1000's. The Neko DAC, to it's credit and though not technically a NOS design, was still very reminiscent of the Havana/Stockholm DACs with perhaps a bit better, tighter and deeper bass.
But I certainly never have found the Havana to sound soft or lifeless or anything like that; it could have to do with my earphone choice as the GS1000's are extremely sensitive to source and amp, having about the most detailed voice of any headphone I've ever heard (short of certain Stax I've heard) ... and the high freqs, especially, can become troubling if not amped/sourced correctly. But the Havana has always been one of my favorite DACs for them, even with my Ray Sam Raptor tube amp (which, technically, is a hybrid amp as it uses a solid state power supply cabled to a separate tube output amp stage; it's a very fast but still obviously tube sound).
Anyway ... hope you get it suss'd. I know that having multiple sources/amps in my house sort of gets me confused at times and I can spend, literally, DAYS A/B listening. But once I settle on any give set up and leave it in place for more than a couple days? I end up loving it, no matter what it is, really (though in the end, I prefer the NOS sound over up sampling, any day and specifically with my cans).