I've been at this hobby for about a year now; I've found my favourite cans out of many: Grado HF-2s. But I decided I had to find the perfect amp for them. I've listened to many amps, most of which are recommended for Grados: Eddie Current EC/SS, Millet Hybrid, Gilmore Lite. I tried a four year old MAD Ear+ (which ended up being a favourite), and I owned a WA6 with Sophia rectifier for a while as well. I could have happily bought a MAD amp and be done with it, until I started reading about a little amp called the Sonett...
I had done some research on these very forums, and it's a highly regarded amp. Not the first choice for Grado owners, but Grados (like my HF-2s) were said to synergize quite well with the Sonett. In fact, from what I read, it was a jack-of-all-trades: can handle any can and any type of music. I had to try it for myself!
After exchanging a few emails with Donald of DNA, I sent him a deposit and he shipped me a demo Sonett. It arrived very quickly from LA to the suburbs of Toronto where I live.
Unwrapping the Sonett felt like Christmas; it was wrapped up carefully in a plastic bag of sorts, tubes and power cord in a separate envelope. The Sonett ships with a 6H30 tube and a GZ34 rectifier. Pictures do not do this amp justice; it's absolutely stunning in person. The shade of blue is darker than on the DNA website. The build quality is right up there with Woo amps; it's heavy but not too heavy. The volume knob begs to be turned! It tracks extremely well, and a slight adjustment actually does make a difference in terms of volume. Very precise, I love it! The Sonett has a switch labelled "IEC" at the top, and "Low" at the bottom. I liked "Low" with my Grados. "IEC" is supposed to be for higher impedance cans.
I didn't want to be too analytical in my time spent with the Sonett. I hooked up with with my Pico DAC, put on some music, plugged in my HF-2s and tried to get some work on my computer done as I listened. 8+ hours later, I had very little work done! This amp wasn't letting me SLEEP! I'm smitten! My head is bopping, my feet tapping, a smile threatens to pop my face!
Cymbals shimmer, guitars are crystal clear, bass lines are fast! Absolutely fantastic detail, but very snappy bass. It is punchy, thick and full, but I wouldn't call this a 'warm' amp. It's delicious, thick and snappy. AMAZING mid-bass as well. The midrange is clear, smooth and upfront. This is a FUN amp; I couldn't believe how much my foot was tapping. It's detailed, clear, but has great bass. It's not analytical, or cold. I can't call it neutral either, because that would sound boring. This is a really fun, amazing amp.
I've been rediscovering my entire iTunes collection again: I've listened to everything from Morrissey, James, k.d. lang, Tori Amos, Madonna, Gnarls Barkley, Patti Smith, The Distillers, Def Leppard, Radiohead, Joni Mitchell, Collective Soul, Miles Davis.
While listening to Madonna's "Hung Up", I couldn't believe the authority in the synthesizers! They were intense, powerful and mesmerizing! The Sonett can truly handle any genre; it's got an amazing capability to make all music sound alive, fresh. Music suddenly has soul, blood and guts.
I know Grados have a collapsed soundstage, however, while listening to Collective Soul's "Gel", the electric guitar was to my left, and the bass was to my right and slightly behind me. Both instruments were clear, tight, fast and punchy. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor!
If any Canadians are reading this, you might remember a band in the mid-90s called BTK. They were kind of a hip-hop/rock band...hard to classify, but their album simply titled "BTK" is still a favourite. The first track titled "Corn-Cob Pipe" is a great rap/rock track (I know those terms get meshed with bands like Limp Bizkit or Korn, but this is not at ALL what I'm referring to), and the Sonett drives that bass line so well; LOTS of bass slam. It's not sloppy and it doesn't bleed into the midrage. I don't think I've heard another amp that has such authority over bass guitar.
I forgot to mention: this amp is absolutely silent. There's no hum, no hiss whatsoever. From 0 on the volume knob to 10, there's NO NOISE WHATSOEVER! I will be testing out my Shure 530s later to see if the results are the same. But with the HF-2s, and my AT-ESW10s...no hum. Zip, zilch, nada.
I believe my search for the perfect amp is over. My wallet will ache one more time as I tell Donald that I want a Sonett for myself :)
Edited by punkaroo - 5/20/10 at 4:57pm