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Headamp Blue Hawaii Special Edition - Page 386

post #5776 of 5786
That's interesting. My DIY KGSShv is not too bright with the 009s. The KGSS was sold when the 009 was not around.
I am not saying it was designed for the 007 but it makes me wonder. It must have had a 'destination' phone for it?

I have not heard the KGSS that Justin built, but IMO you may end up paying top dollar for one. It might be better
to get someone to build you a new KGSShv, at least it would be brand new, never used. And you could have an influence
on the parts qualities and even the look of the casework.

On heat, the KGSShv off-board does not get hot, only warm to touch. The on-board may get hotter, not sure.
In fact my KGSShv runs cooler than my Stax SRM-717 which is an on-board design.
post #5777 of 5786

That might be right. I was talking about the spritzer version of the solidstateamp´s. I tried to collect information about the amp before i made the decision what to buy, and people who had both told me that there is not so much difference soundwise between the KGSS/KGSSHV solidstate amps. 


I know there´s allways a insecurity with information from other people.

It would be best to have them all for testing and decide afterwards what fit´s best to my hearing preferences.


But that will kill my financial budget and there´s also a loudspeaker system which will be improved.

post #5778 of 5786
Originally Posted by karlgerman View Post

Maybe in a year or so (HaHaHa) i can tell you the difference between the two.


Actually, i use a KGSS for the 007mk2 and the 009.

Typically, comparing to the Stax tube Amp, the SolidState amp is brighter, maybe a bit too bright on the 009. But with the 007/KGSS there is still a loss of detail in sound.


The dynamic and the power advantage of the KGSS is tremendous. Might be more extreme with a KGSSHV, but i think for a 009 the KGSS is enough power and it gets not as hot as a KGSSHV.


Thanks, that's very helpful. I think I should take this to another thread so that I don't hijack this one. 


I'm in pretty much the same position as you are (2nd batch BHSE) but have come across a Headamp KGSS selling in my locality at a bit more than the listed price by Headamp back in the day. 

post #5779 of 5786
Originally Posted by astrostar59 View Post

Hi Purk
My KGSShv is an off-board 450v and 10 Ma set on the supply. I could have 14 Ma but it gets hotter
on idle, and I live in Spain. That said, the amp only goes to 20°C above ambient, really barely warm
on the heat sinks.

The parts are Sanyo 1968, with Dale tantalum resistors in critical places. The trans is a Torroidy.
The pot is an A-D 41 step. All internal wiring is silver plated copper, and silver solder
was used.

The front face is 10 mm thick aluminium, the rest of the case is 3mm steel anodised.
The XLRs are Isotek. The heatsinks are big and chunky one piece and painted silver.
The transistors are glued / bolted to a 20 mm thick square section bar that is glued / bolted to the
inside of the heat sinks.

The amp is about 10 kg in weight. It uses about 80 watts on a 230 v supply at idle.

Build is by headinclouds (same as Paradoxper and Negura).

Geoff (headinclouds) is a superb builder, and a real genuine bloke. I have been to his house twice
for 4 hours slots, and he came to mine once as well. I am helping him with his next project.
Stay tuned! Love this hobby, it makes me so happy when I put my phones on in the morning, who
said you need to go outside? It's all happening in the music ......

A great great amp indeed.  Geoff's workmanship is incredible and his rate is reasonable as well.  Sadly, he doesn't reside on the stateside.  Nice attenuator you got there!!  This will be a really good and fair comparison with the BHSE.  I actually heard of two KGSSHVs.  One is the 500 V version by Wachara & another 400 V (miniKGSSHV) by Spritzer...and I do prefer the sound of the 500V by a noticeable margin.

post #5780 of 5786
Originally Posted by purk View Post

A great great amp indeed.  Geoff's workmanship is incredible and his rate is reasonable as well.  Sadly, he doesn't reside on the stateside.  Nice attenuator you got there!!  This will be a really good and fair comparison with the BHSE.  I actually heard of two KGSSHVs.  One is the 500 V version by Wachara & another 400 V (miniKGSSHV) by Spritzer...and I do prefer the sound of the 500V by a noticeable margin.

How about between the 450v.and 500v versions? Any preference there?
post #5781 of 5786
Originally Posted by Crashem View Post

How about between the 450v.and 500v versions? Any preference there?

I am not sure about that? In theory the 500v should be more dynamic. The problem is the sourcing of parts
for a 500v version. I may be wrong, but I think the Sanyo 1968 build has to be 450v and the IXYS version
can go to 500v, though the Sanyo parts are said (confirmed by Kevin G) to sound sweeter.

The thing to be aware of here as well, is the on-board KGSShv can 'only' have a supply of 5.5 Ma due to heat
dissipation. So, even thought the on-board can run with 450v or 500v rails, the amps are held back IMO. The off-board
can go to 14 Ma as it has outside heat sinks. I think the BHSE has 18 Ma supply?

There was long debates about the advantages of voltage swing and amp supply in the Stat amps. Even though
the 009 is easier to drive, IMO it still benefits from a 'bigger' source i.e. a bigger power amp. I have book shelf speakers
as well as full range, and even the book shelf speaker sound much better with my bigger power amp, even though
I don't turn them up full. It's all about head room and speaker control / dynamic swings.

Going back to my Stax SRM-717 amp, which is ok within it's smaller performance envelope, it soon starts hitting
the glass ceiling even with the 009s.
post #5782 of 5786
Originally Posted by astrostar59 View Post

There was long debates about the advantages of voltage swing and amp supply in the Stat amps. Even though
the 009 is easier to drive, IMO it still benefits from a 'bigger' source i.e. a bigger power amp. 


This is probably why those that's heard the 009's with the DIY T2, have said those Earspeakers sound their best from using that stats amp.

post #5783 of 5786
Originally Posted by Crashem View Post

How about between the 450v.and 500v versions? Any preference there?

I've been lucky to have both in house last summer (I still own the 450V 1968SA version) and both are outstanding headphones. The only difference is that the 450V (mine has the current increased to 9mA) sounds a bit sweeter than the IXYS version and a bit more dynamic (could be the increased current?), but make no mistake about it, both sound very much like the KGSSHV.

post #5784 of 5786

Electrostats do react differently to increased current than the expectation formed from experience with dynamic transducers


Bass doesn't require current to speak of in ES headphones - for electrostats more current increases slew rate - ability to push high V amplitude at high frequency - not Bass


+/- 1mA output will drive 100 pF ES headphones to the amp's +/-500 V supply limits @1 kHz, requiring proportionally less current as frequency descends to any approximation of Bass



the vast majority of music has been found to have <~3kHz "power bandwidth", a good thing with SE 5mA biased output ES headphone amps being common

post #5785 of 5786
BHSE and KGSShv face off - my mini review.
Not sure if I should put this in a new thread? I thought it would get lost or not read,
so here goes.

David will probably post as well, but here is my take on a BHSE and KGSShv day with David1961.

System used:
Source - K-01 spinning CDs tracks of RedBook 44.1
Phones: 2 x SR-009s.

Alps RK50 pot and PSVane EL34 tubes.

DIY built by 'headinclouds'
Sanyo 1968 parts
Tantalum resistors in critical places
450v rails
Amps on output boards set to 10Ma supply
Toroidy Transformer (Polish audio company)
41 Step Acoustic Dimension Volume Pot (mounted to back with extension kit)
On/Off front selector (switch mounted to back with extension kit)
XLR inputs

Power Conditioner to mains.
Various high quality interconnects.
Amps on for 1 hour before testing.

Astrostar59 and David1951 doing the test.
Approx 3 hours duration.

Music used:
If I were a boy
Dangerously in love

When your gone

Alex M.O.R.P.H.
Sunset Boulevard (Original Mix)

Du Hast
Keine Lust

Violin Concerto in E major, BWV 1042 Allegro

The tracks above were used as they are very familiar / played regularly by one or both
of the reviewers on one of the amps.

A bit of history.
I have had the KGSShv for only 6 weeks, but had the 009s
for 3 months solid use with my old 717 amp.

I have listened to my KGSShv a lot since getting it, so am already familiar with the sound
fed by my Metrum Octave II DAC. This DAC is my stand in while in the UK.
I run an Audio Note 4.1 DAC back home in Spain which I have not heard yet with my KGSShv.

Before I bought my KGSShv, I spent a solid day at David's listening to his BHSE with his 009s,
and compared that to my 717 amp and my phones then - the 007s. I loved the sound of David'd BHSE
and since that meet, I went out and bought the 009s. The sound at David's left a big impression
on me. At that meet, I used the same tracks listed above and came away with a good idea
of how those tracks sounded. A few weeks later, I had another meet at David's, this time with my own 009s.
Again, I listened to the same tracks for a couple of hours.

Back at home, the sound with my old 717 amp and the 009s was clearly a big step behind the BHSE but was better than my old 007s as regards detail and sound stage, and the 717 managed to drive the 009s better than the 007s which always sounded on the edge of the amps performance.
The volume pot is at 12 o'clock for the 007s, and 10 o'clock for the 009s. (using RCA input). It sounded worse IMO with the XLR input, possibly as the transformer was weak or low quality.

Overall I could hear the 717 amp was a bit cold and brittle, very artificial and close to it's 'ceiling'
as regards dynamic range and bass power.

This led me initially to order a BHSE, but 2 weeks later I cancelled, and then (based on
some reviews I found of the KGSShv design) went on the hunt for a KGSShv builder. I found 'headinclouds' and paid
a deposit to start the build. It took about 6 weeks, though that was unusually quick as he had most of the parts in stock.

When I got the KGSShv home, I immediately played my selected tracks. The amp had to be run in, and sounded really good
off the bat, but a bit 'closed in'. After 3 or 4 days of use however, it began to come alive and jumped up to an amazing level.
Now I was getting really excited. Those same tracks were (to my memory) sounding really close to the sound I heard at David's
with his BHSE. I had to check this out to be sure, so we arranged another meet after my KGSShv had run in.

The Demo
So, 6 weeks later at David's we set up the gear, and let both amps warm up for about an hour from cold.
Then proceeded the listening tests. Right away listening to the KGSShv I could tell David's K-01 had a beefier (more bass, bigger dynamics) sound signature than my little Metrum Octave DAC. This was getting interesting.

I listened to the female vocal tracks first. I picked these particular tracks as their voices have a high frequency pitch to them which will show up any treble edge (if present) in the system. These tracks sounded very close IMO on both amps. The KGSShv had surprisingly, a warmer signature and slightly stronger bass. The realism of the vocals was top notch on both amps and the sound stage. I would say the BHSE had a bit of classic tube advantage in the midrange, and possibly slightly more realistic vocals - and the upper midrange was more forward, If I was to sum up the sound with these track I would say the BHSE was a bit more detailed or brighter (not harsh). The KGSShv had similar treble detail but it was slightly further back if that makes sense. So the BHSE was nudging ahead a bit here but it was real close.

Next, I listened to the dance tracks, which are all very well produced / recorded. With these tracks, I think the solid state trait of rock solid control over the drivers came into play. I thought the bass power and depth and speed of the lower frequencies was stronger on the KGSShv. It gave theses tracks more of a foundation to the sound, possibly made them more exciting. Sound stage width and decay, the detail, all were superb, very impressive. Moving onto the BHSE these tracks sounded slightly more airy, lighter, more sensitive to micro detail. It was close, but the KGSShv bass control and dynamic drive on these tracks was my preferred choice here.

Next, Thrash Rock - Ramstein. I like using these tracks as they are well recorded and have tons of electric guitar energy. If the amps have a rough treble or are a bright signature with the 009s, these tracks will sound painful at high volumes. On the KGSShv I was smiling, they sounded manic and alive, great bass and dynamics, really wide sound stage and even when everything was playing at once, sounded controlled with no dynamic compression and no blurring or confusion going on. This was great, like a live concert in the room, or as near as I have heard from ANY hi-fi set up with rock music. Moving over to the BHSE, it also sounded superb. If David had any issues with the stock Mullards, that is gone with the PSVanes. The screaming guitars begged for more volume on both amps. I would put the KGSShv ahead slightly on this type of music.

Next, some Bach to calm things down a bit. I don't think David heard this track, but I thought both amps sounded superb, though I would say the BHSE might be slightly more airy and revealing, it was a bit more apparent on classical music, So the BHSE was ahead here IMO.

My Summary
For some, headphones can't quite do it like the best speakers. I find they can but that is a personal thing. I have a speaker system as well, which has 300B monoblock power amps, so I am a tube fan already. And my tube amps have great midrange realism, smooth treble, great with vocals and classical, but less bass power and iron fist control of the speaker units. Good solid state amps tend to excel in speaker control and bass power, dynamic drive and 'some' can match tubes in the treble and get 'close' to the midrange magic of tubes IMO. My tube amps are SETs and they excel at micro detail even at low volumes. Push Pull and other tube designs may or may not be as good at this. This is my observations and experiences, others may disagree here.

I think my particular build of the KGSShv is like that. It gets real close. How close to the BHSE? On the treble detail I would say 95%. On midrange magic and vocals 90%. On bass power, dynamics and slam I would say better than the BHSE. It was odd, but the KGSShv sounded warmer than the BHSE, the opposite of how most would perceive a solid state v tube amp to be. Is it because the BHSE is a tube hybrid? It has tubes in the final gain stage, the first gain is solid state as is the power supply. I am not a techie. I am only saying what I am hearing.

I would offer the idea / fact? (however people view it) that not all amplifiers are identical, even though the design may be the same. One KGSShv off-board may not sound the same as another KGSShv off-board if the parts are different i.e quality and spec of the transformer, silver or copper internal wiring, resistor quality (tantalum or not) volume pot used to name a few. It is also worth mentioning that the on-board KGSShv does not run 10Ma, rather 5.5Ma, which could in theory sound like a smaller amp as regards dynamics and control. Again, I cannot clarify that as not heard an on-board, but obviously there is a technical difference there in the amps power supply. Someone else can clarify that if they own both designs and with similar part quality.

Would I buy the BHSE - hell yes! If I had the money and not worry about it. I can't afford both. I would be happy with either amp, both sound so good with the 009s, you can't go wrong. But they need a great source. The amount of detail retrieval is so high, a brighter sounding DAC may kill the effect. I tried my Metrum Octave II with both amps, and on the BHSE it sounded a bit too lean and bright. Not all DACs sound the same (I can see many will argue about that).

The KGSShv suits my music taste and lifestyle (I need to walk the dog twice a day and don't want to switch the amp off and on 2 or 3 times a day).
I like detail but do prefer a warmish signature. David may be a bit more the other way, loves the detail. In fact we both said the 009s with the KGSShv may rival the LC2/3 bass slam for sure. The 009s really are superb. To do the bass power when it is there, yet sound so delicate and detailed when required, they are world class phones.

I came away feeling very happy that my KGSShv was not trashed. I would have been honest about it if it was, and would be ordering the BHSE right now. It is spot on to me, a great balance between power and smoothness, detail and sound stage width. Every time I listen to it is makes me smile - yeah I know that is cheesy, but why not - I love music and this hobby.

One last thing, the KGSShv casework is great quality by headinclouds, really neat and a tight fit with a 10mm thick faceplate and big one piece heat sinks.
I like the look of it as did David. But lets not get carried away here, the BHSE casework is amazing. Those glowing EL34s poking out of the top plate, who cannot like that?
post #5786 of 5786
Nice review, I particularly appreciate the fact you mentioned the tracks you've used in the comparison. It reaaly helps to put things into perspective. Not sure about the Metrum Octave as I never heard it, but my Hex sounds a bit boring through the RCA output, but is pretty different on the Xlr output. But it seems the KGSSHV sort of compensates the slight lack of impact with a nice bass presence.
BTW, the KGSSHV looks very nice indeed, nice pictures too.
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