Initial Knee-Jerk Thoughts (not technical)My initial thoughts after spending approximately eight albums with the Arrow HEVolume
I've lost my old volume reference now that I've had the Arrow for a few hours which makes it difficult for me to compare the sonic quality at the amped level vs. the just-Zune sonic quality at a comparable volume level. My ears tell me that I'm listening at a lower volume level but enjoying a more balanced and livelier signature.[Note after 8+ hours]
I'm definitely listening at a lower volume (than with just the DAP) and enjoying much better balance and overall sonic quality. How can I tell? No ear fatigue with the SE530s. Just smooth power across the board. The amp's power delivery is like a car or truck with a gob of smooth torque.Mids, Highs, & Lows
Porcupine Tree,*In Absentia
*sounds fantastic. With the SE530s, the bass is vibrating my head (in a good way - not in a cars-that-go-boom way) the mids are punching me in the face and the highs are like Tinker Bell masturbating. After "tinkering"
with the IMP
settings, highs on the Shures finally have some definition, separation and are pushed back away from piercing the center of my head. Mids are powerful and dominate - when they should if that makes sense. Quiet passages with an upfront snare drum and acoustic guitars or piano (I think I was listening to Between the Buried And Me, Fossil Genera
) give me goose bumps.
On the my Sennheiser HD500As, I had to tweak with the IMP
setting (the HD500A are 150 Ohms) bump it down to II
(70 Ohms) and nudge the GAIN
to encourage the highs, but I got it just right. Mids! Wow, rich and warm and punchy. The solo on The Sound of Muzak
(above-mentioned album) had such a commanding presence. It did not sound like that straight through the Zune. The guitar was growling like a heated up and pissed off Marshall amplifier. Am I listening to tubes, or this just what I've been missing all this time. :-/ The bass has finally come alive on the HD500As - at times, too much. It's much more upfront and has clarity.DANG! (It made my say, "DANG!")
Trust Fall: This thing is quiet! Way quieter than I thought it would be. My Shures are hissless. I'm slowly (after a few hours) learning to dial back the DAP volume, trust the gain settings and the Arrow's power and let it do the driving, leaving the navigating to the DAP. The Arrow's a good driver. If anyone detects distortion, let me know so I can try and reproduce
. (I understand results, with all the different source and gear variables, will vary.)Duh Moment
This is one of those "duh" comments I referenced in a previous disclaimer which speaks to my newbness, but - the Arrow brings out the best in quality masterings... and the flaws and sonic attributes which otherwise may have gone unnoticed or at least not as noticeable in lesser quality masterings played on just a DAP.Detail
Subtle reverb, clucks, chirps and the scrapes of initial note strikes are more pronounced and have more character.
Good and bad: I can now hear when the mastering engineer (on a "good" mastering effort where the entire album doesn't sound like it was mastered in a compression chamber on Mars) pulls back slightly on the entire mix, e.g., when the band goes from a clean passage into a full-on punishing cement truck romp (ala Opeth).Soundstage
I am hyaving soundstage?! The cross-feed effect is fun to play with. With the Shures, inevitably, it'll be something I can't live without. With the Senns, it'll likely be a matter of taste, depending on the album, type of music and quality of the mastering. A layman's description coming from a layman is: incrementing the CROSS
effect scoots your chair back, away from the vocals monitor. And this is purely my weird perception/sensation, but from one extreme setting, O
, to the other extreme, II
, I felt lifted slightly above the stage. This is not the '04 Zinfandel talking. This is something I experienced many times when monkeying which the CROSS
switch, and each time, it tweaked my ear a bit.Blatant Technical Benefits (BTBs)
I have a hard drive-based DAP, and if I match the headphones, impedance setting, gain and volume, I no longer here the whirring of the DAP's hard drive spinning-up for the next song. If I get it "wrong" and/or I have the DAP volume louder than it needs to be, I can hear the HDD, but only a little bit.Build & Design
Case flaw? What flaw. :-/ It's well engineered. From form factor to fit and finish to the laser engravings, it's tight, clean and tidy. Switches are dainty but sturdy. The volume control has appropriate resistance. The jacks are snug and snappy and I don't detect any flex in the top or bottom caps when I wiggle my interconnect connector. Attention to detail is extremely high to me, but I don't have anything to compare the Arrow against except my own high expectations. The fact that Robert included separate line inputs on the top and bottom is a testament to the elegant design and speaks to the efficiency of the design and assembly. Charge & Play at the same time, and an FRU (Field Replaceable Unit) battery? Sweet icing on the cake.Concerns
I'm careful with my gadgets, but I'm concerned about the seemingly vulnerable power toggle.
Forgetting it when I go on a trip.Confusion
The only confusion for me is that the effects switch positions and label printing are oriented differently on some switches, e.g., BASS
is O II I
is I O II
. Although, this could be my own ignorance of how the analog switches are designed and implemented. Also, GAIN
is II I III
which threw me because the lowest value (which I understand should not be O
because some gain is produced at this setting) is in the center position which is counter-intuitive to my left-to-right thinking brain.Minor GripesMinor
- When the Arrow has gone to sleep and you push play on the DAP, sometimes there's a slight delay as the amp detects a signal and wakes up. This occurs when the switch is in "auto" mode and is a small price to pay for the benefit of the auto off/on convenience.
When the Arrow goes to sleep, there's an audible snap-pop which, depending on the gain and volume, hasn't been piercing or uncomfortable, but it gets my attention.Praise
A lot. Did I mention it's quiet? Excellent engineering and craftsmanship. It's versatile, powerful, and elegant, three words that often don't go together, especially, in a device with the Arrow's Kate Moss profile. It's a ton of fun messing around with all those effects. Bang for buck factor is high. I feel like I just got a Porsche at a legit auction for the price of a Subaru. (I have an automobile analogy for almost every situation.)