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DNA Sonett Review

post #1 of 661
Thread Starter 

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
post #2 of 661

I just created a thread asking if the Sonett would pair well with the GS1000s. I know they differ in signature, but from your review it sounds like they'd sing like never before 


My wallet is pre-emptively starting to ache..

post #3 of 661

Nice review, thanks.  I've been wanting to get a tube amp to try one out.  I've only ever heard one tube amp and that was for just a few minutes so I'm wanting to see what all the fuss is about.  Sounds like this might be one to consider.

post #4 of 661

Nice read, thanks.

post #5 of 661
Thread Starter 

brandnewgame: The reviews I've read on the Sonett have people raving about it, no matter WHAT can they have, even the finicky HD800s! I'm also going to post pics later for everyone's viewing pleasure  I say do it! DOOO EEEEET!


wantmyf1: I've had limited experience with tube amps, a DarkVoice 336SSE I believe, and my previous amp, the WA6...I wouldn't say this sounds like most tube amps. It's somewhere between tube and solid state. 


dannie01, your B22 is stunning! I'm considering acquiring one one day. Hint, hint 


Thanks for the input, everyone! I edited my original post just slightly to include more notes about the volume knob 

Edited by punkaroo - 5/20/10 at 5:02pm
post #6 of 661

Nice review, is the Sonett you have single ended or balanced?

post #7 of 661
Thread Starter 

Single ended.

post #8 of 661

Nice review Pat. Hopefully I can make the trip to your place this weekend to hear it (but chances look slim right now :( )

How does the Sonett sound compared to the other amps you've heard? What separates it from the pack?

post #9 of 661
Thread Starter 

Shahrose, I really hope you can make it; I'd love to hear those 800s with the Sonett!


I love the detail that SS offers, but sometimes, they can be harsh. Many of the SS amps I've heard are fast and punchy, and I've always felt that was exactly what a Grado can needs (at least, the HF-2s to my ears!). They're also fun as hell with HF-2s!


Tube amps can be smooth, rich and inviting, but too laid back for my tastes. It was the primary reason I ended up selling the Woo; speed and attack were not there.


The Sonett however, seems to be a beautiful hybrid of all the things I love about SS and tube amps. Most importantly, it made music really fun again in no way I've heard before. It's a really stunning piece of work. I know I sound like I'm gushing, but this amp doesn't nearly get the credit it deserves 'round here!

post #10 of 661

this is one cool looking amp. 


Edited by TheWuss - 5/20/10 at 8:55pm
post #11 of 661
Thread Starter 








Yes, that last pic has a Sophia Princess rectifier in the unit. I only tried it out for a few minutes, as Donald had cautioned me that the Sophia ran too hot for the 6H30 tube. From what I heard, I prefer the stock GZ34 rectifier; however, the Sophia only had about 20 hours on it.

Edited by punkaroo - 5/21/10 at 1:01am
post #12 of 661

maybe it's the blue enameled metal.  maybe it's the crazy asymmetrical design.

but something about the sonnet is just cool...

post #13 of 661

Wow, looks amazing. I love upper tier amps in the 1K price range. To me, it's a true sweet spot.

post #14 of 661

DNA is a lovely machine, as i have audited it in last Christmas. I was once have difficulty choosing between it and Woo's WA2, but i found there is a used WA2 on sale, also i think DNA's signature somehow belongs to "old-style" sound. So i get the WA2 as a result.


However, i always think Sonettis not just a machine, it's an artwork also, choosing and switching the tubes are let you pass an afternoon.

post #15 of 661


Congrats on the Sonett punkaroo! I loved mine out of the box; loved it even more with the NOS tube substitutions; and then even more as things progressed (yes, there's even more to be had from Donald's very robust design). One of the reasons I like the Sonett so well is that it pretty much plays any kind of music with some of the "bestest" cans out there, a testament to its versatility and drive (that lil' 6H30 is one heck of a tube). I was using my Pico Amp/DAC with very nice results. Recently, I paired it with the new Wyred4Sound DAC-1 (Cullen Circuits) with the 24/192 USB option. The Sonett rewards generously, so give it your best and it'll play some music!


I've had several very late (early morning) listening sessions. My only regret was my lack of sleep.

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