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REVIEW: Ray Samuels Audio SR-71B balanced portable headphone amp - Page 3

post #31 of 209
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skylab View Post



Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadphoneAddict View Post

Thanks for the review Rob.  I'm thinking you need moar balanced phones...


LOL - maybe I do.  I have a lot of headphones - I guess the question is which to balance?  I should order a balanced cable for the LCD-2 at least - that doesn't require any mods. 

 



Quote:
Originally Posted by Audio-Omega View Post

Is SR-71B better than The Protector ?


I believe so, yes.  It's certainly much more powerful, that's for sure.  I don't have a Protector so I can't say for sure, but from memory I would say it's better, and again the SR-71B is definitely much more powerful.


I called Ray Monday and my order should have gone out yesterday in the first batch.  And I still have my Protector so in a few days, I should be able to compare them side by side.  I don't have the vast experience as Sky, but in side by side comparision, I think I should be able to tell if there is any difference at all.

post #32 of 209
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Armaegis View Post


You even have to ask? The only answer here that would do us proud: "all of them".

 

I say reterminate to a small 4 pin connector at the end, then make up a variety of adapter cables for single ended or xlr or 6 pin use.


That's not going to happen.  I'm not a big believer in balanced as a general rule, and none of my amps are balanced.  Not going to add a bunch of additional connector and wires just to make you guys happy biggrin.gif

post #33 of 209

Are you resisting peer pressure? Pfft, that's not the headfi way tongue.gif

post #34 of 209

Thanks for the awesome review Skylab.  I'm really thinking about picking one of these amps up, is there any way you can post a picture or two of the amp next to your ipad?  It's hard from all of the pictures i've seen to get a good idea for how big this unit actually is.

post #35 of 209
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Goronok View Post

Thanks for the awesome review Skylab.  I'm really thinking about picking one of these amps up, is there any way you can post a picture or two of the amp next to your ipad?  It's hard from all of the pictures i've seen to get a good idea for how big this unit actually is.



Here it is with my Blackberry bold on one side and the Meier Stepdance on the other.

 

DSC02301.JPG

 

post #36 of 209

Thanks for the quick reply.  Looks like it might pair nicely with my iMod/iPhone4.  Are the edges on that front bezel sharp?   

post #37 of 209


great pic to show its size vs the SD

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skylab View Post



Quote:
Originally Posted by Goronok View Post

Thanks for the awesome review Skylab.  I'm really thinking about picking one of these amps up, is there any way you can post a picture or two of the amp next to your ipad?  It's hard from all of the pictures i've seen to get a good idea for how big this unit actually is.



Here it is with my Blackberry bold on one side and the Meier Stepdance on the other.

 

DSC02301.JPG

 

post #38 of 209

off topic, but I really wish meier would come up with better design in casing...

is the stepdance not flat on the top?

post #39 of 209
Quote:
Originally Posted by LevA View Post

off topic, but I really wish meier would come up with better design in casing...

is the stepdance not flat on the top?



It is very slightly curved but I have not found it to be an issue in having my ipod classic on top secured with a rubber wrist-type band. It is such a subtle curve that it seems to not effect the pairing.

Pictures do not do this amp justice, the quality of brush work on the metal reminds me of the texture of Japanese rice paper and the end caps are nice and thick, the whole thing feels really solid!

post #40 of 209

Thanks Skylab, YOU DID IT AGAIN!!!  beerchug.gif  as always, very nice write up and easy to read.

post #41 of 209
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skylab View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadphoneAddict View Post

Thanks for the review Rob.  I'm thinking you need moar balanced phones...


LOL - maybe I do.  I have a lot of headphones - I guess the question is which to balance?  I should order a balanced cable for the LCD-2 at least - that doesn't require any mods. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Audio-Omega View Post

Is SR-71B better than The Protector ?


I believe so, yes.  It's certainly much more powerful, that's for sure.  I don't have a Protector so I can't say for sure, but from memory I would say it's better, and again the SR-71B is definitely much more powerful.

 


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS SR-71B (updated with more details from an edited copy of this post that I put in another thread last night):
 
My SR-71b arrived on the 22nd, and I have only had time to try the HE-6 and JH13Pro balanced with the SR-71b so far.  The SR-71b sounded great right out of the box, but I'm still giving it some burn-in with music into my balanced JH13Pro.  After some listening with the HE-6 balanced I can say that the SR-71b is "significantly" more powerful than my balanced Protector (using TWag "Protector to 4-pin XLR" adapter). 
 
While the Protector drives my HD600 and HE-5 LE with authority, it can only maintain "conversation level" volumes with the HE-6; but the SR-71b drives the HE-6 better than I ever hoped.  I didn't believe it until I heard it for myself.  And it's not just in having enough power, but the sound quality is also superb.  I would have to say the treble quality is smoother than the Protector in balanced mode so far.  Bass, mids and highs are all excellent and balanced in respect to each other.  So, in both power and sound quality I'd say the SR-71b has an edge over the Protector, and that's with less than 24 hours on the SR-71b and over 1,000 hours on the Protector.  One thing to note is that the Protector in balanced mode sounds slightly more aggressive than the SR-71b or P-51, although less so via single ended mode.  While the Protector has been perfect for my balanced JH13Pro, the SR-71b is every bit as good or better with them and yet not too forward with the HE-6.  (I have not swapped over my Westone IEM to the balanced TWag cable yet, as it's too early in my ownership to try anything else.)  I will compare the balanced output vs SE output later.
 
There are several other amps that I reported on in the HE-6 threads, including the HDP, SAC KH1000, EF5, WA6 and ZDT.  I haven't compared the SR-71b yet to them, but I can say that I do believe it's a better match than HDP, SAC or EF5 in terms of sonic synergy and balance because I'm enjoying the combo more.  I previously felt that the SAC and HDP amps could be slightly bright with HE-6 as the volumes got higher, and the EF5 had a good balance but lacked the detail and soundstage of the other amps.  I'm certain that I would pick the SR-71b over any three of those amps for my HE-6.  I'm surprised that I can turn it to max volume without signs or strain or distortion like with the above desktop headphone amps.  My ZDT also allows me to max out the volume with the HE-6 without any distortion, and I would not be surprised of the SR-71b can match volume levels with the ZDT, based on what I am hearing up here in my bedroom rig.  The SR-71b is clearly more powerful driving the HE-6 than my WA6, although I didn't have many complaints about the sound quality at normal volumes with the WA6.  The WA6 is phenomenal with the JH13Pro, and it's too early to say how the SR-71b compares, although I am not hearing anything that I would want to change or fix with the SR-71b.  
 
As stated above, I have not had time to try any other full size phones or IEM with it yet.  I am planning to order a balanced LCD-2 Silver Dragon cable in the next week or two, so I'll be able to listen like I did at RMAF with the demo SR-71b and LCD-2 - I loved that combo there.  My HE-5, HE-5 LE, HD600, HD800 are already balanced with a 4-pin XLR like the HE-6, and I'll try them later on the SR-71b.  Plus with my Protector adapter and my APS V3 1/8" adapter I can use all these phones on any of my amps.  So that will make comparing amps easier later.  
 
I wanted another small balanced SS amp, and I have gotten my wish.  So far, just with these two phones I have no regrets about spending $614 on the SR-71b, and all my desires to repair my balanced Single Power Square Wave XL's broken PSU have evaporated (other than to fix it in order to sell it).  

Edited by HeadphoneAddict - 12/24/10 at 11:23am
post #42 of 209
Thread Starter 

Good stuff, Larry - thanks!

post #43 of 209
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skylab View Post

Good stuff, Larry - thanks!


Rob, I can understand when all you have is full size phones or single ended phones, in combination with such good full size amps, that it's not a priority to get an SR-71b.  Especially with how good the Stepdance and P-51 sound single ended with reasonably efficient phones.  Certainly if you didn't have the mini Tori or Leben amps I think the SR-71b would be more attractive because of how they drive your HE-6 in balanced mode.  If you had re-cabled IEM you'd also find the balanced output to have better imaging and soundstage, even though they don't need the extra power.

 

In my case, I actually use my laptop rig more than my main headphone rig, using a 4 port USB hub to feed my Macbook into a variety of DACs and amps.  I have (1) the Pico DAC > Protector/SR-71b, (2) uDAC-2 > Audioengine A2, (3) Nuforce HDP > ALO Amphora, and (4) Apogee mini-DAC > Woo WA6 and eXStatA with loop out into SAC KH1000 amp. This way I have a combination that suits a wide variety of IEM and full size phones, and I can give impressions about the combos on the forums.

 

The main rig that typically moves around the house with my Macbook when I go to another room is the Pico DAC > Protector (and now SR-71b) with the TWag'd JH13Pro or ES5 (or the HE-5 LE if I want full size phones).  Sometimes it's the iPad or HM-801 instead of Macbook as source.  Now I can also use my HE-6 anywhere around the house, and the HD800 also sound better/smoother with the SR-71b than with the Protector.  Once I get my Silver Dragon cable for LCD-2 I'll use those too, and that was one of my favorite combos at RMAF.  I would like to get the 5 foot cable with mini-XLR, plus one adapter for 4-pin XLR and one adapter for Protector/SR-71b.  This way I don't have to deal with a heavy 4-pin XLR mail and female connecter in the middle of a cable when I'm moving around with it.  With current finances, I may just get a stock balanced LCD-2 cable.

 

Either way, once I test battery life, if it's good enough I may end up selling the smaller Protector.  Prior to the SR-71b, having the Pico DAC-only with both Pico Slim and Protector covered playing music with most of my headphones portably; and other than smaller size and better battery life I can't see a reason to have both the Protector and SR-71b.  While the ES5 and HD800 were not as good with Protector as with Pico Slim, they are pretty good with the SR-71b.  The Pico DAC > Slim has been good for efficient phones/IEM and is warm and more laid back sounding, while Pico DAC > Protector was more energetic, powerful and forward.  With both amps their sound signatures covered a wide variety of phones and IEM.  But the SR-71b seems to fall right in between the other two.

 

FURTHER IMPRESSIONS:

 

I did briefly try my Westone ES5 single ended with stock cable through the SR-71b and I love the sound.  Usually I say the ES5 with balanced TWag cable and Protector doesn't have the best synergy.  However, I would be perfectly happy to listen to them either way with this amp, as much as or more than any of my other portable amps.  It's time consuming to try to swap cables and compare the balanced vs single ended output with IEM, but I will get to that eventually.  

 

However, I am finding that the LCD-2 single ended with stock cable on the SR-71b is not nearly as impressive as I recall hearing when balanced with balanced Silver Dragon at RMAF.  The SE output into LCD-2 seems to lack a solid foundation and extenstion/impact like I heard with them balanced with the prototype amp.  It's also more closed in sounding and 2D in depth via 1/8" jack, and can't play them nearly as loud without distortion as it did at RMAF balanced.  Apparently the SE output current delivery is not as good (not just voltage swing) and the LCD-2 single ended off the SR-71b is not really any better than out of my $130 uDAC-2.  The LCD-2 still sound best through my maxed WA6.  I will definitely have to try other full size phones single-ended with the SR-71b, but based on how it sounded balanced with LCD-2 at RMAF it's like a whole different amp via SE output, except with IEM where the SE output is very good.  I absolutely must get a balanced cable for the LCD-2, hoping they sound as good as I recall.

 

Later I'll report on single ended vs balanced HD600, HD800, HE-5 LE and HE-6 through the SR-71b, if you don't mind me hijacking your review thread so I don't have to start another.  We already have two threads discussing the SR-71b in detail.

post #44 of 209

 

Something else to add tonight - with Bink Audio Test CD and my ES5 or JH13Pro custom IEM with TWag balanced cable I'm finding the SR-71b's very deep bass to be rolled off below 30Hz.  While my well burned-in Protector is strong down to 20Hz with both of these IEM tonight, the SR-71b is almost silent at 20Hz and several dB down at 25Hz.  I'm hoping this is just a burn-in issue and that more hours will fix this.  With Bella Sonus album Enamoured, in the first track "From a Standstill" some of the deep bass notes in the intro are missing.  I can hear the notes just fine with my Protector (using Pico DAC-only out of Macbook Pro).  

 

Skylab, can you test the SR-71b vs other amps with some test tones and your deepest playing phones?  I'll try some other DAC's or sources, but that shouldn't matter since the Protector is playing down deeper tonight with the same DAC.

 

Otherwise, I'm really happy with the sound.  There is no graininess for me, and the SR-71b is a much better match for my ES5 than my Protector.  Previously I preferred the ES5 on the Pico Slim, but the SR-71b is also a very good choice, and it's smoother than the Protector.  The combo sounds so good that for now I'm leaving the ES5 paired with the SR-71b and TWag balanced cable.  Usually I keep the ES5 with me to use with my Pico Slim that I keep in my pocket.

post #45 of 209

Larry it is like we are hearing two different amps. I listened both balanced and single ended to all types of music from cello to bass heavy well recorded rock and organ music. Both single ended and balanced the 71B drove my LCD-2 with ease. Turning up the volume in SE not only was loud with the LCD-2 but also nothing changed from what it was at a lower volume. The stage did not collapse, nothing compressed and no clipping occurred. On my test tracks I can go down to 16hz with the LCD-2 in balanced with good usable bass at 20hz and with the JH13's 25hz as they rattle when lower than 25hz, which isn't the fault of the 71B. I am running the 71B with the Boomslang and I have used the MB-1 dual dac. 


Edited by jamato8 - 12/25/10 at 2:31am
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