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AKG K702 with Little Dot I+ with tube / opamp rolling Quick and Dirty impressions

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

OK first things first-

 

I do not consider myself a full blown audiophile, but I knows good sounds when I hears it.

 

That being said, I am a firm believer that you can get great sound without spending 1000's of dollars and also that I feel that anyone spending 1000's of dollars does so for nuances and minute changes at best.

 

So with this in mind, I set out to find a good sounding amp for my AKG K702's (which only have had 100 or so hours of burn in, though I'm also skeptical of that concept as well) and something that would be in the neighborhood of 300 dollars. My source is a laptop running iTunes with VBR mp3's.

 

I bought the Little Dot I+ with the stock 6JI Chinese tubes and a Heed Canamp. I sold the Heed Canamp because for the life of me there was no difference let me say that again- NO DIFFERENCE as far as sound quality went. I A & B'ed in for nearly 2 hours and any differences were so minuscule that I just got fed up and said "this is dumb". So why keep a 300 dollar amp when I have a 130 (after shipping cost) dollar amp that does the same thing?

 

So right off the bat I will say that the Little Dot I+ basic stock model has enough current to make the K702s sound very good.

 

Next, I ordered the OPA2107 opamp since some people on head-fi were talking like it was the real bees knees. I listened to the Little Dot for a few hours to allow my ears to get acclimated to the sound before switching from the stock opamp (forget the #, sorry) to the OPA2107.

 

Popped that sucker in AND AND AND.......no change.

 

Sorry, veteran audiophiles. I'm gonna call the BS police on this one. Pure placebo, there was no detectable change at all. It didn't bother me though, since I got 2 OPA2107's for 5 bucks and in fact, just kept it in there since it wasn't even worth the hassle opening the amp back up. 

 

So opamps be damned, I decided to try out some new tubes (hey why not?) So after some searching around I found a matched pair of Amperex 6AK5W tubes. I got them because someone on another thread said that they were the second best sounding tubes (to their ears, but also for a pair of Grado's not K702) next to the Sylvania gb-408a, which you can't find anywhere now. This is where things got interesting...

 

So I will provide a few tracks of varying genres I listened to a few times for purposes of example:

 

Radiohead - Reckoner (pop rock)

Mass Effect 2 soundtrack - The Normandy Reborn (orchistration)

Boards of Canada - Peacock Tail (electronic)

Blur - The Universal (pop rock)

HP Lovecraft - The Time Machine (classic rock)

 

First up, the stock 6JI Chinese tubes.

Again, in general I thought the amp sounded great with these stock tubes. However in comparison to the Amperex 6AK5W's, there were clear differences worth mentioning.

 

Reckoner - After the second verse when the bass comes in, bass sounded...blah, for lack of a better word. A bit distorted and messy.

 

Normandy Reborn - Huge big sound, strings swirling around my head...just sounded great. The crescendo was rich with powerful impact. Just proves that the K702's are masters of Classical/Orchistrated music.

 

Peacock Tail - Great soundstage, but I had to turn it down a tad because the snare drum was a bit fatiguing.

 

The Universal - Hmmm...the stringed instruments sounded wonderful, vocals were up front and clear as a bell, but where's the bass?

 

The Time Machine - Excellent instrument separation, and you could almost see where the instruments were up on stage.

 

Next I put in the Amperex tubes.

 

Right off the bat, I realized what people talk about when they say "warm tube sound". Everything did get a pleasant warmth to it, however I also noticed a very slight hiss in some tracks. I don't know if it's the recording or encoding or both but once the music started it was no longer an issue. Also the low end was kicked up a bit. I'm not a basshead, but I like to know that there is bass in my music.

 

Reckoner - The bass fixed itself. Sounded mellow and non-distorted. Seems as though the soundstage changed a bit as well, I could hear a tambourine behind my head. Now I'm seeing just what these cans can do as far as soundstage.

 

Normandy Reborn - Sounded rich and lush like chocolate cake. However the crescendo seemed to had lost a bit of it's toe curling impact from before. Maybe it was just because I knew it was coming this time.

 

Peacock Tail - that pesky snare drum was now more tolerable at a higher volume level. The vintage synths that BOC uses never sounded so warm and pretty!

 

The Universal - hey, there's the bass!

 

The Time Machine - what a fun song. My toes were tapping and my head was bobbing by this point. Very vintage sound and great separation. I experienced that feeling of being right there in the middle of the room with these guys.

 

So maybe that wasn't so quick and so dirty, but that's my 2 cents. If there was ever a time I knew I was not going to give up these K702's it's now. For me, the opamps did nothing. The tubes made enough of a difference to warrent the 33 bucks I spent on them. So that's around 170 dollars total and I'm more than pleased with this setup and I'm going to be sticking with this for a long time smily_headphones1.gif

 

 

 

post #2 of 13

Thank you dxanex!

 

That is a very fine report of your experiences.

 

Quote:
That being said, I am a firm believer that you can get great sound without spending 1000's of dollars and also that I feel that anyone spending 1000's of dollars does so for nuances and minute changes at best.

 

Well in fact 1000's of dollars very often doesn't buy any improvements at all smily_headphones1.gif Frequently 1000's of dollars (or indeed 1000's of Euros or Pounds) buys things that aren't as good as the more moderately priced equivalents.

 

 

Quote:
Next, I ordered the OPA2107 opamp since some people on head-fi were talking like it was the real bees knees. I listened to the Little Dot for a few hours to allow my ears to get acclimated to the sound before switching from the stock opamp (forget the #, sorry) to the OPA2107.
 
Popped that sucker in AND AND AND.......no change.

 

Thank you for telling us that. This in no way diminishes you in my mind. Remember that the people who do report changes in all kinds of things nearly often haven't done blind ABX tests so we don't know if their reporting is of real sonic differences or of auto-suggestion.

 

You write that the Amperex valves (tubes in US) brought the "warm tube sound". I confess I hate amps that warm things up. This happens with some valve amps and some solid state amps.

 

Swapping valves will often change the sound, but unfortunately this is often because they can put out a lot harmonic distortion, so they are quite variable components.

 

In general I will say that the K702s will improve massively with better amp quality.

 

I don't know anything about the Little Dot I+ but if you do keep your eyes open on second-hand markets and see a really good amp for a good price then I think you will hear all the potential benefits of that amp with the K702s.

 

This is what I love about the K702s, they are so transparent. The better the signal, the better they are.

post #3 of 13

I have a similar experience, I got a LDMKII and a Burson 160, 3 times the price, but I can barely tell a difference, nor can I say that one sounds better than the other


perhaps my hearing is damaged or I am just not skilled enough to tell a difference


maybe if I add a DAC the difference will become apparent... more likely I wont be able to tell a difference DAC makes! :P

post #4 of 13

I'm not suprised that rolling the chineese tube made a difference.  I can't listen to music unless there's some "warmth" added, but it ends up being personal preference.  On my amp not only did it add some warmth but all other areas improved.  Do you have any plans to upgrade to the LD mk III?  

post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by real128 View Post

I'm not suprised that rolling the chineese tube made a difference.  I can't listen to music unless there's some "warmth" added, but it ends up being personal preference.  On my amp not only did it add some warmth but all other areas improved.  Do you have any plans to upgrade to the LD mk III?  

 

I actually considered the LD mk III while shopping around, but on the forums at littledot.net DavidZheZhe (one of guys that runs the site) said that the less expensive Little Dot I+ actually works better with low impedance headphones, specifically talking about the K70x.

 

I don't have plans on upgrading any time soon, although I admit I'm kind of excited about the Fiio E9 that's about to be released from China, only because I have a Fiio E7 portable DAC/amp that I use with my iPod when I'm on the road...and the E7 docks with it and becomes a DAC only. Someone here that has a preview model is also saying that it's actually a very good match with his K701's.

 

Here's the link if anyone's interested

 

http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/518997/fiio-e9-pre-release-unboxing-review-part-1

post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by p a t r i c k View Post

Thank you dxanex!

 

That is a very fine report of your experiences.


Thanks!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by p a t r i c k View Post

You write that the Amperex valves (tubes in US) brought the "warm tube sound". I confess I hate amps that warm things up. This happens with some valve amps and some solid state amps.

 

Yes, I wasn't sure whether or not I'd like the "tube sound" at all, but I suppose this is just a personal preference thing. I appreciate a bit of warmth with the K702's as I find that it helps with some of the harshness that these cans can sometimes display (I guess I'm just more sensitive to high end frequencies as well). But all in all I love how they sound now...I am really happy with them in this current setup smily_headphones1.gif

post #7 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by dxanex View Post
I am really happy with them in this current setup smily_headphones1.gif


I'm glad, the AKG K702s are truly great!

post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by dxanex View Post

OK first things first-

 

I do not consider myself a full blown audiophile, but I knows good sounds when I hears it.

 

That being said, I am a firm believer that you can get great sound without spending 1000's of dollars and also that I feel that anyone spending 1000's of dollars does so for nuances and minute changes at best.

 

So with this in mind, I set out to find a good sounding amp for my AKG K702's (which only have had 100 or so hours of burn in, though I'm also skeptical of that concept as well) and something that would be in the neighborhood of 300 dollars. My source is a laptop running iTunes with VBR mp3's.

 

I bought the Little Dot I+ with the stock 6JI Chinese tubes and a Heed Canamp. I sold the Heed Canamp because for the life of me there was no difference let me say that again- NO DIFFERENCE as far as sound quality went. I A & B'ed in for nearly 2 hours and any differences were so minuscule that I just got fed up and said "this is dumb". So why keep a 300 dollar amp when I have a 130 (after shipping cost) dollar amp that does the same thing?

 

So right off the bat I will say that the Little Dot I+ basic stock model has enough current to make the K702s sound very good.

 

Next, I ordered the OPA2107 opamp since some people on head-fi were talking like it was the real bees knees. I listened to the Little Dot for a few hours to allow my ears to get acclimated to the sound before switching from the stock opamp (forget the #, sorry) to the OPA2107.

 

Popped that sucker in AND AND AND.......no change.

 

Sorry, veteran audiophiles. I'm gonna call the BS police on this one. Pure placebo, there was no detectable change at all. It didn't bother me though, since I got 2 OPA2107's for 5 bucks and in fact, just kept it in there since it wasn't even worth the hassle opening the amp back up. 

 

So opamps be damned, I decided to try out some new tubes (hey why not?) So after some searching around I found a matched pair of Amperex 6AK5W tubes. I got them because someone on another thread said that they were the second best sounding tubes (to their ears, but also for a pair of Grado's not K702) next to the Sylvania gb-408a, which you can't find anywhere now. This is where things got interesting...

 

So I will provide a few tracks of varying genres I listened to a few times for purposes of example:

 

Radiohead - Reckoner (pop rock)

Mass Effect 2 soundtrack - The Normandy Reborn (orchistration)

Boards of Canada - Peacock Tail (electronic)

Blur - The Universal (pop rock)

HP Lovecraft - The Time Machine (classic rock)

 

First up, the stock 6JI Chinese tubes.

Again, in general I thought the amp sounded great with these stock tubes. However in comparison to the Amperex 6AK5W's, there were clear differences worth mentioning.

 

Reckoner - After the second verse when the bass comes in, bass sounded...blah, for lack of a better word. A bit distorted and messy.

 

Normandy Reborn - Huge big sound, strings swirling around my head...just sounded great. The crescendo was rich with powerful impact. Just proves that the K702's are masters of Classical/Orchistrated music.

 

Peacock Tail - Great soundstage, but I had to turn it down a tad because the snare drum was a bit fatiguing.

 

The Universal - Hmmm...the stringed instruments sounded wonderful, vocals were up front and clear as a bell, but where's the bass?

 

The Time Machine - Excellent instrument separation, and you could almost see where the instruments were up on stage.

 

Next I put in the Amperex tubes.

 

Right off the bat, I realized what people talk about when they say "warm tube sound". Everything did get a pleasant warmth to it, however I also noticed a very slight hiss in some tracks. I don't know if it's the recording or encoding or both but once the music started it was no longer an issue. Also the low end was kicked up a bit. I'm not a basshead, but I like to know that there is bass in my music.

 

Reckoner - The bass fixed itself. Sounded mellow and non-distorted. Seems as though the soundstage changed a bit as well, I could hear a tambourine behind my head. Now I'm seeing just what these cans can do as far as soundstage.

 

Normandy Reborn - Sounded rich and lush like chocolate cake. However the crescendo seemed to had lost a bit of it's toe curling impact from before. Maybe it was just because I knew it was coming this time.

 

Peacock Tail - that pesky snare drum was now more tolerable at a higher volume level. The vintage synths that BOC uses never sounded so warm and pretty!

 

The Universal - hey, there's the bass!

 

The Time Machine - what a fun song. My toes were tapping and my head was bobbing by this point. Very vintage sound and great separation. I experienced that feeling of being right there in the middle of the room with these guys.

 

So maybe that wasn't so quick and so dirty, but that's my 2 cents. If there was ever a time I knew I was not going to give up these K702's it's now. For me, the opamps did nothing. The tubes made enough of a difference to warrent the 33 bucks I spent on them. So that's around 170 dollars total and I'm more than pleased with this setup and I'm going to be sticking with this for a long time smily_headphones1.gif

 

 

 

 

I am one of the 2107's primary proponents. It is one of the better op amps for the I+, and I've tried every hyped op amp all of them eventually letting me down even compared to the stock unit. I seek a very open sounding but fairly neutral sound, something natural sounding. I want 3D presentation! Just for kicks, let's talk about what it does: it adds a touch of warmth and spaces things out. In fact, I'm not sure the difference would be so audible on a can known to have good SS. You're basically taking an already wide can and increasing it whatever percentage the 2107 gives and expecting to hear it. That's like adding 2% of bass to a bass heavy can. You won't hear it. Lick your hand. Now put a single grain of salt on your hand. Lick that. the flavor is totally different regardless of how small it is... but licking a table spoon of a salt vs a cup of salt... both are beyond discernible difference. It all tastes like the devil's arse.

 

Try that same comparison after burn in with a pair of grado's or something else like my SRH840. Changing op amps does change the sound, more than any other thing in that amp to be honest. It's actually a bigger change than the tubes. I actually reccomend rolling tubes to match the op amp you like. In fact, best practice with the I+ is to roll op amp to something that sounds awesome, and then start rolling tubes. Stick with stock tubes for now (I am of the opinion that they are the best sounding tube with a range of cans) and once you find the op amp look for tubes.

 

The I+ is such a tweakable amp it's the perfect starter amp. You can learn to hear differences clearly and quickly, which is invaluably for saving time, money and heartache. Also, you'll get a good idea of what you're looking for. Every tube I tried squashed the sound stage into a flat plan going let and right, it was always like listening through toilet paper tubes around my ears... but with stock and M8083 it was perfection, now I can't say if I outgrew my M8083 or if they went bad but I need to get another pair and find out. It'll be about another year before I start buying higher end source gear so it's probably a good idea I get a pair. Just waiting on my ebay bucks to clear.

 

But without being disrespectful, I have to call you out on this. Personally, I think if you can't hear a difference between two op amps (especially in the I+) you aren't able to provide a valuable or informed review.

 

All that being said, sometimes those subtle changes are worth every penny and I've heard a few that to me are worth it. I'm still figuring this out, but if you can't hear the difference nor do you want to, then you should be perfectly happy with this amp for quite some time.


Edited by Aynjell - 10/29/10 at 3:50pm
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aynjell View Post



 

I am one of the 2107's primary proponents. It is one of the better op amps for the I+, and I've tried every hyped op amp all of them eventually letting me down even compared to the stock unit. I seek a very open sounding but fairly neutral sound, something natural sounding. I want 3D presentation! Just for kicks, let's talk about what it does: it adds a touch of warmth and spaces things out. In fact, I'm not sure the difference would be so audible on a can known to have good SS. You're basically taking an already wide can and increasing it whatever percentage the 2107 gives and expecting to hear it. That's like adding 2% of bass to a bass heavy can. You won't hear it. Lick your hand. Now put a single grain of salt on your hand. Lick that. the flavor is totally different regardless of how small it is... but licking a table spoon of a salt vs a cup of salt... both are beyond discernible difference. It all tastes like the devil's arse.

 

Try that same comparison after burn in with a pair of grado's or something else like my SRH840. Changing op amps does change the sound, more than any other thing in that amp to be honest. It's actually a bigger change than the tubes. I actually reccomend rolling tubes to match the op amp you like. In fact, best practice with the I+ is to roll op amp to something that sounds awesome, and then start rolling tubes. Stick with stock tubes for now (I am of the opinion that they are the best sounding tube with a range of cans) and once you find the op amp look for tubes.

 

The I+ is such a tweakable amp it's the perfect starter amp. You can learn to hear differences clearly and quickly, which is invaluably for saving time, money and heartache. Also, you'll get a good idea of what you're looking for. Every tube I tried squashed the sound stage into a flat plan going let and right, it was always like listening through toilet paper tubes around my ears... but with stock and M8083 it was perfection, now I can't say if I outgrew my M8083 or if they went bad but I need to get another pair and find out. It'll be about another year before I start buying higher end source gear so it's probably a good idea I get a pair. Just waiting on my ebay bucks to clear.

 

But without being disrespectful, I have to call you out on this. Personally, I think if you can't hear a difference between two op amps (especially in the I+) you aren't able to provide a valuable or informed review.

 

All that being said, sometimes those subtle changes are worth every penny and I've heard a few that to me are worth it. I'm still figuring this out, but if you can't hear the difference nor do you want to, then you should be perfectly happy with this amp for quite some time.


Well, like the title implies, it wasn't really meant to be a review, just my impressions. I am weary of "reviews" even by seasoned vets since as I've said before in other posts, telling someone how to hear sound is like telling someone how to see a painting. It's all subjective, though it did ultimately help in my decision to purchase my 702's which I'm very happy with smily_headphones1.gif

 

The opamp didn't change a thing for me, but also many of the people describing the benefits of the OPA2107 were also using Grados and Sennheisers. But I do see your point about adding a bit of soundstage to cans that already have a ton of soundstage...there won't be quite a big difference. But even still the bass, another area that the OPA2107 supposively improves upon, sounded exactly the same as well. And we all know the 702/1 is not known for bass. Perhaps when I get tired of the K702's (probably not anytime soon) I'll test it out with other cans.

post #10 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by dxanex View Post


 


Well, like the title implies, it wasn't really meant to be a review, just my impressions. I am weary of "reviews" even by seasoned vets since as I've said before in other posts, telling someone how to hear sound is like telling someone how to see a painting. It's all subjective, though it did ultimately help in my decision to purchase my 702's which I'm very happy with smily_headphones1.gif

 

The opamp didn't change a thing for me, but also many of the people describing the benefits of the OPA2107 were also using Grados and Sennheisers. But I do see your point about adding a bit of soundstage to cans that already have a ton of soundstage...there won't be quite a big difference. But even still the bass, another area that the OPA2107 supposively improves upon, sounded exactly the same as well. And we all know the 702/1 is not known for bass. Perhaps when I get tired of the K702's (probably not anytime soon) I'll test it out with other cans.


Listen subjectively for 3 months, then swap back to stock op amp. I'm sure you'll hear the difference then. Major changes are subtle to those who aren't used to what they're hearing. Changing within the first day will seem like no change. After 6 months you'll very well may be completely exhausted by your current tubes. Trust me, stuff that sounds good at first will start to lack. You have one of the best and most well rounded op amps with the widest and most revealing sound stage and probably best sound signature in that amp. I suggest keeping it in, but then swap back later just to hear what's actually different. I think you may find what you hear very revealing.

 

I think if I had to describe it, in the I+, the op amp is our limiting factor. It determines more so what the tubes can display more than what it sounds like, while the tubes are mostly there for flavor. Few op amps change the color, but for me, swapping op-amps became a quest for sound stage more than anything. For comparison, here are some notes on some op amps you might end up with:

 

OPA2132, bass heavy, and lacking width.

OPA2107, slightly bass heavy, but rich and large sound stage.

Stock, much like the OPA2107 but far less refined.

LT1367, fun, bass heavy but sibilant. If it wasn't so sibilant it might actually be a good choice!

LME49720, cold lifeless, sharp. I didn't like it. I took it out too quickly to really get a good feel for it, it just sounded terribly lifeless.


Edited by Aynjell - 11/2/10 at 11:27am
post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aynjell View Post




Listen subjectively for 3 months, then swap back to stock op amp. I'm sure you'll hear the difference then. Major changes are subtle to those who aren't used to what they're hearing. Changing within the first day will seem like no change. After 6 months you'll very well may be completely exhausted by your current tubes. Trust me, stuff that sounds good at first will start to lack. You have one of the best and most well rounded op amps with the widest and most revealing sound stage and probably best sound signature in that amp. I suggest keeping it in, but then swap back later just to hear what's actually different. I think you may find what you hear very revealing.

 


I'll give it a shot after a couple of months. Would you suggest changing the tubes as well, or just keep the same tubes I'm using now and just swap the opamp?

post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by dxanex View Post


 


I'll give it a shot after a couple of months. Would you suggest changing the tubes as well, or just keep the same tubes I'm using now and just swap the opamp?


Well, if you enjoy the sound you're getting now, leave it alone for 3 months. Then make a change. You should learn to hear it. smily_headphones1.gif

 

Also, I want to state very specifically I'm not telling you what to do. I was just a bit concerned you heard no change. I at first didn't either, but after listening for a while this will open up to you. I'm simply giving you information on what you need to do to really hear this change. You have to get used to what you're hearing to notice something different. Get really familiar with an album. I have a few albums that are so perfect sounding now...

 

Here's another tip, the map is a good sounding amp. If anything sounds terrible that you know should sound good, it's doing something wrong. That's one of the thing we're working to change by rolling tubes/opamps. If it sounds great at first, it's also probably going to sound bad later. Anything that sounds fantastic with one song probably won't sound near as good with another.


Edited by Aynjell - 11/2/10 at 1:41pm
post #13 of 13

I'm running my AKG 702's with the Schiit Audio Vahalla Tube Amp. The sound is warm yet very detailed.  I was previously using a solid state Schiit Asgard Headphone Amp, but I find that as great as the Asgard is, the Vahalla adds a little something extra to all my CD's. I listen to mostly jazz and classical, with some rock,blues and a little country and folk thrown into the mix. It's all good and alot of fun. The Schiit is American made and the tube amp sells for $349.00 with a 15 day money back guarntee. Also, I found that Schiit voiced the Vahalla with several AKG models, including the 701. You can check this out on their website under FAQ on the Vahalla page. I'm totally thrilled with this combo and don't feel any need to keep endlessly looking for something better. Enjoy the music, and I would like to thank the Head-Fi community for opening my eyes and ears to just how good headphones can sound without spending crazy sums of money.

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