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Meier Audio Quickstep (also Stepdance and 2Stepdance) Discussion and Impressions Thread - Page 133

post #1981 of 2819

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I wish the Quickstep had a DAC like the PCstep. In that way one device would cover two. I quess that when soundquality has highest priority it is the best solution to keep them apart?

post #1982 of 2819

Keeping the DAC and the amp in separate cases is not necessary for sound quality, but it's nice to keep them separate so that you can enjoy more control when tailoring the sound of the entire chain to your tastes.

 

I've never found products like the HiFiMan HM-801 or the iBasso DX100 appealing because you're committing to so much in a single box.  They're convenient for carry and use, but if the amp is weak, or the DAC is not your cup of tea, or the player interface is clumsy, you're stuck with all of it. 

 

Mike

post #1983 of 2819
Quote:
Originally Posted by zilch0md View Post

Keeping the DAC and the amp in separate cases is not necessary for sound quality, but it's nice to keep them separate so that you can enjoy more control when tailoring the sound of the entire chain to your tastes.

 

I've never found products like the HiFiMan HM-801 or the iBasso DX100 appealing because you're committing to so much in a single box.  They're convenient for carry and use, but if the amp is weak, or the DAC is not your cup of tea, or the player interface is clumsy, you're stuck with all of it. 

 

Mike

That's right. I am sure my iPhone is going to be my DAP for a long time and right now I am saving for a CLAS + Quickstep setup to drive my T5p. 

post #1984 of 2819
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by rasmushorn View Post

Subscribed. 

 

I wish the Quickstep had a DAC like the PCstep. In that way one device would cover two. I quess that when soundquality has highest priority it is the best solution to keep them apart?

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by zilch0md View Post

Keeping the DAC and the amp in separate cases is not necessary for sound quality, but it's nice to keep them separate so that you can enjoy more control when tailoring the sound of the entire chain to your tastes.

 

I've never found products like the HiFiMan HM-801 or the iBasso DX100 appealing because you're committing to so much in a single box.  They're convenient for carry and use, but if the amp is weak, or the DAC is not your cup of tea, or the player interface is clumsy, you're stuck with all of it. 

 

Mike

 

Actually I was thinking the same as Rasmushorn. I would really like it if the Quickstep had the PCStep's DAC built-in. There is no downside other than the extra cost and it could be quite handy. I probably won't get the PCStep because the amp section doesn't have the active balanced ground.

 

(Perhaps the balanced ground and DAC circuitry cannot both fit inside that small case.)


Edited by cooperpwc - 9/3/12 at 12:01am
post #1985 of 2819
Quote:
Originally Posted by cooperpwc View Post

(Perhaps the balanced ground and DAC circuitry cannot both fit inside that small case.)

 

Pfft, all Jan has to do is stuff yet another board layer and fold space time a little bit tongue_smile.gif

 

You know what would be awesome? A modular dacboard that could be plugged in (probably where the battery would be) for PC use, but taken out for portable use. Probably too niche to be a really viable commercial product though.

post #1986 of 2819
Thread Starter 

It occurs to me that the real limitation on the Quickstep incorporating a DAC, and therefore the reason for Jan producing the PCStep alternative, is that USB may not provide enough power for the active balanced ground amplification. The ability of the PCStep to run entirely off USB power is indeed handy.

 

However... I am going to recommend that Jan also consider releasing a 'Quickstep PC'. This would be a Quickstep incorporating a DAC section. It would draw no power from USB, even for the DAC section during USB DAC mode. (Or USB DAC power could perhaps be jumper selectable although I personally wouldn't use it.)

 

This clean battery operation would provide the highest possible sound quality consistent with the Quickstep design ethos. It would also differentiate it from the PCStep, i.e. different models for different users.

 

What do you think, Jan? The Quickstep PC would be a fine product!  biggrin.gif

post #1987 of 2819

Dear Head-Fillows,

 

> I wish the Quickstep had a DAC like the PCstep.

 

> I quess that when soundquality has highest priority it is the best solution to keep them apart?

 

Problem is space. A quickstep with a decent DAC would be pretty large.

 

> USB may not provide enough power for the active balanced ground amplification.

 

That's not a real problem. But an amp like the QUICKSTEP does deserve a truly high-end DAC. And that implies a technical solution that is way more complicated and space-consuming than the one on the PCSTEP. A decent DAC-section (with 24/192 USB and digital inputs) requires at least 5 IC's extra (DAC-IC, S/PDIF-receiver-IC, USB-receiver-IC, flash-IC, input-selection-IC. That would be quite a big amp!

 

The PCSTEP is a very nice upgrade (both amp-wise and DAC-wise) over any standard soundcard. And for a very nice price (which will be considerably lower than that of the QUICKSTEP)!

 

Life is a compromise!

 

:-)

 

Jan

post #1988 of 2819
Quote:
Originally Posted by cooperpwc View Post
 
[snip]
 
However... I am going to recommend that Jan also consider releasing a 'Quickstep PC'. This would be a Quickstep incorporating a DAC section. It would draw no power from USB, even for the DAC section during USB DAC mode. (Or USB DAC power could perhaps be jumper selectable although I personally wouldn't use it.)
 
[snip]

 

 

I second the motion!  I'd love to see a Jan Meier-designed, portable, battery-powered DAC+AMP.   

 

Especially since I, personally, am not impressed with how the iBasso DB2 sounds, at least with USB input.  The DB2 uses an internal battery pack, even when using USB input, but it resides apart from the iBasso PB2 amplifier - requiring two 100x55x22mm devices and the use of an interconnect.

 

Frankly, in my growing, but admittedly limited experience, Jan Meier's portables are the only portables that offer the neutral, uncolored, transparent sound that I crave, without sounding in the least bit harsh, glaring, sibilant, clinical, or analytical.  

 

Take your pick of any adjective typically used to describe the least desirable traits that are stereotypically associated wiith solid state gear - none of them can be applied to any of Jan Meier's offerings, desktop or portable.

 

Ray Samuels produces some nice gear, no doubt, but I'm not even interested in auditioning it because I've read again and again, from multiple reviewers, that he has a "house sound" that's described as dark, colored, or even "fun."  I liken these descriptions of RSA amps to how people describe the Sennheiser HD650 vs. the more accurate HD600.   

 

The only threat I see to Jan Meier's monopoly on truly neutral, transparent, portable gear is CEntrance - with their forthcoming HiFi-M8 - a combination DAC + amp for portable use.  In my experience, only CEntrance competes with the "house sound" of Jan Meier - or should I say, with the total lack of a "house sound" offered by Jan Meier?  

 

The HiFi-M8 will offer balanced output via TWO Neutrik combo jacks that each support both single-ended 1/4-inch TRS plugs and XLR.  This will give users the choice of running one headphone balanced or two headphones single-ended (simultaneously).  When not running on its internal lithium-ion pack, the HiFi-M8 will accept any external power supply in the range of 9V to 24V DC and polarity is rectified so that you don't have to worry about tip positive vs. tip negative - you can virtually use any power supply that produces 9V to 24V DC, as long as it meets some minimum amperage (for which I've not seen any specification, yet).  

 

I have reason to believe (but can't prove it) that the HiFi-M8 will be equipped with a 4-cell lithium-ion battery, producing 16.8V when fully charged (4.2V per cell). I'm conjecturing that they are following RSA's lead in using a 4-cell battery (as with the SR-71B) vs. iBasso, who missed the mark with their PB2, in using only a 3-cell, 12.6V battery.  The difference in sound quality is remarkable when operating without an external battery pack or power supply, because the higher the supply voltage (16.8V vs. 12.6V, for example) the better most op-amps sound.  

 

Per their datasheets, most op-amps deliver their lowest THD and noise when supply voltages are somewhere just below the op-amp's absolute maximum permissible supply voltage.  Typically, they perform best at a supply voltage of 15V, where their absolute maximum supply voltage is typically 18V.  I'm stereotyping all op-amps used in audio gear, as there is considerable variation seen in the datasheets -and- depending on the amp's design, there's not necessarily a direct correlation between the voltage coming out of a battery pack and the voltage supplied to the op-amp, but the pattern is obvious:  Most portable amps sound best when supplied with the amp designer's stated maximum permissible supply voltage.  The Stepdance sounds best at 15V, the iBasso PB2 at 16V, and the Triad L3 at 32V, for example - yes, the L3 can handle a supply voltage of 32V and benefits by doing so.  

 

Any portable amp that starts out at 16.8V with a fully charged 4-cell battery (i.e. RSA SR-71B), has a distinct advantage over an amp  that starts out with a 12.6V 3-cell battery  (i.e. iBasso PB2).  During use, the supply voltage tapers until the lithium-ion pack must be recharged at the point where the voltage reaches 3.0 V per cell (9.0V for a 3-cell pack or 12.0V for a 4-cell pack).  Thus, when fully charged, an iBasso PB2 is running at a voltage that's only 5% higher than a fully discharged SR-71B - 12.6V vs. 12.0V.  That's significant, but you'll not see it discussed in the vast majority of reviews of either the SR-71B or the PB2.  Just as I had found significant improvement in sound quality when using the Stepdance with the Energizer XP8000 regulated to 15V, I've since found a similar improvement in sound quality is had when using the iBasso PB2 with the XP8000 regulated to 16V.  CEntrance appears to be following the SR-71B route with their HiFi-M8 combo DAC + amp portable, in using a 16.8V, 4-cell internal battery - but I might be wrong about this - we won't know for sure until the HiFi-M8 is released (at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, October 12.)

 

Here are some more features from the only portable DAC + amp that has any chance, in my opinion, of sounding as good (neutral and truly transparent) as Jan Meier's portables:  The CEntrance HiFi-M8 will include a battery state of charge indicator (with 3 LED's).  Unlike the iBasso PB2, it will only offer USB connectivity (no coaxial or TOSLINK inputs) - which makes sense given that CEntrance does USB so well (with their jitter-free, bit-perfect adaptive vs. asynchronous technology) and given that I've been unable to find any battery-powered, portable transports with S/PDIF output, other than the long discontinued iRiver H120 and H140.  If you're going to be tethered to a laptop, why not use USB? And this product is likely to work well with an iPad, via the camera connection kit (CCK), because it won't rely on the USB port for power (at least I don't think so, given what I've read so far.)  

 

Then again, CEntrance has said that the HiFi-M8 power switch has three positions (On - OFF - On), with the two On positions allowing the user to select between two, as yet unannounced modes of operation.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn that one mode allows the DAC to be powered by a USB port, where the other mode allows the DAC to use either the internal battery pack (or external power if it's supplied at the power jack).  I doubt that the the two power modes switch both the DAC and the amp section between using USB power vs. battery or external power.  This might be possible if the HiFi-M8 was no more potent than than a DACport, but it offers balanced output.  So, even if the HiFi-M8 has an amp section no more potent than two DACports twinned together into a new chassis, a single USB port could not supply sufficient current to drive both the DAC and the balanced-output amp section, excluding any use of the internal battery or an external supply.  No, I think the three-position power switch will just determine where the DAC section gets its power.  An iPad with CCK would likely force the user to use the the internal battery, exclusively, where a decent laptop USB port could supply sufficient current to power the DAC section without relying on the internal battery.  

 

Blah, blah, blah...

 

I apologize for the brain dump, here, but in closing, I'd like to join you in encouraging Jan Meier to offer the DAC + amp combo you've suggested, as, again, I wouldn't be interested in such a product from the likes of any other designer besides CEntrance, as, in my experience, only CEntrance and Jan Meier offer the clean, detailed, transparent sound I crave.  Having everything in one box would be very convenient, but I'm not interested if it can't deliver the transparency that Jan delivers.

 

Mike


Edited by zilch0md - 9/3/12 at 9:31am
post #1989 of 2819
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jan Meier View Post

Dear Head-Fillows,

 

> I wish the Quickstep had a DAC like the PCstep.

 

> I quess that when soundquality has highest priority it is the best solution to keep them apart?

 

Problem is space. A quickstep with a decent DAC would be pretty large.

 

> USB may not provide enough power for the active balanced ground amplification.

 

That's not a real problem. But an amp like the QUICKSTEP does deserve a truly high-end DAC. And that implies a technical solution that is way more complicated and space-consuming than the one on the PCSTEP. A decent DAC-section (with 24/192 USB and digital inputs) requires at least 5 IC's extra (DAC-IC, S/PDIF-receiver-IC, USB-receiver-IC, flash-IC, input-selection-IC. That would be quite a big amp!

 

The PCSTEP is a very nice upgrade (both amp-wise and DAC-wise) over any standard soundcard. And for a very nice price (which will be considerably lower than that of the QUICKSTEP)!

 

Life is a compromise!

 

:-)

 

Jan

 

Would you consider making a slim/portable dac only? Something stackable with the quickstep for those who carry bundles around. Or perhaps for those who already have nice amps but would like to have a Meier inspired dac.

post #1990 of 2819

Thanks for the answer Jan. I would prefer a Quickstep with the soundquality it has and in the current size. It is great to have the option to pair it with a CLAS for portable use. I prefer other options for desktop use anyway. My iQube has started to make noise in one channel and burns battery very fast so I am soon going to order a Quickstep.

post #1991 of 2819
Quote:
Originally Posted by Armaegis View Post

 

Would you consider making a slim/portable dac only? Something stackable with the quickstep for those who carry bundles around. Or perhaps for those who already have nice amps but would like to have a Meier inspired dac.

 

 

normal_smile%20.gif That would be nice!


Edited by rasmushorn - 9/3/12 at 8:52am
post #1992 of 2819
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jan Meier View Post

Dear Head-Fillows,

 

> I wish the Quickstep had a DAC like the PCstep.

 

> I quess that when soundquality has highest priority it is the best solution to keep them apart?

 

Problem is space. A quickstep with a decent DAC would be pretty large.

 

> USB may not provide enough power for the active balanced ground amplification.

 

That's not a real problem. But an amp like the QUICKSTEP does deserve a truly high-end DAC. And that implies a technical solution that is way more complicated and space-consuming than the one on the PCSTEP. A decent DAC-section (with 24/192 USB and digital inputs) requires at least 5 IC's extra (DAC-IC, S/PDIF-receiver-IC, USB-receiver-IC, flash-IC, input-selection-IC. That would be quite a big amp!

 

The PCSTEP is a very nice upgrade (both amp-wise and DAC-wise) over any standard soundcard. And for a very nice price (which will be considerably lower than that of the QUICKSTEP)!

 

Life is a compromise!

 

:-)

 

Jan

 

Thanks for the reply, Jan. I remain all-in on the Stepdance / Quickstep as the amplifiers to power my low (16 ohm) impedance headphones both at home and on the road. (And I have been trying many others during my visits to Hong Kong.) The Stepdance is fast and neutral and utterly black (zero hiss) with both my ES5 and my Piano Forte IX.

 

So now I am looking for a better DAC to use with the Stepdance at home with the PF IX. And that is where It will stay permanently once I get a Quickstep for the road.


Edited by cooperpwc - 9/3/12 at 9:32am
post #1993 of 2819

I have just ordered a Quickstep which I am sure will be a big upgrade from my "long in the tooth" 2Move. Jan's customer service in the process has been exemplary. 

 

The idea of a separate portable Meier DAC appeals to me as well rather than a combined Amp+DAC. Although there is the CLAS, the problem is that it is very expensive due to import duties and I prefer being able to deal with Jan directly as I live in Scotland and not the USA. Jan obviously has a lot of experience with DACs not least with the Stagedac which is a product I have really enjoyed. 

 

Jan, what are your thoughts on this - or having read one of your earlier posts you have enough to keep you busy & maintain the work/life balance. What do you think?


Edited by pjw241142 - 9/4/12 at 10:11am
post #1994 of 2819

Dear Head-Fillows.
 

> Would you consider making a slim/portable dac only?

 

Right now I have no such plans, sorry!

 

I do have plans for a small amp/DAC combination but it will not be portable. It will be of the size of the ROCK, just a little bit longer. So it is very transportable. but it will be powered by mains.

 

Cheers

 

Jan

post #1995 of 2819
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jan Meier View Post

I do have plans for a small amp/DAC combination but it will not be portable. It will be of the size of the ROCK, just a little bit longer. So it is very transportable. but it will be powered by mains.

 

Cheers

 

Jan

 

Very interesting, Jan. Will this have the stepped attenuator and active balanced ground? (if you are willing to reveal this...)

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