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REVIEW: Ray Samuels Audio Dark Star solid state headphone amplifier - Page 25

post #361 of 372
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nishy View Post
 

 

As a recent buyer of the DS (Dec 2013), after three weeks of listening to my DarkStar, I can only echo a previous headfier who best said upfront "It just sounds 'right'" (I take this subjectively and objectively!). I agree with figaro69 too. This is some further feedback...

 

The DS gives a very instantly satisfying, +fulsome+, detailed, "balanced" sound to my ears (I listen to jazz and classical only), and while sounding great with my HD800, LCD3 and HE6, the marriage is only consummated with the HE6! My sources were HM901 and HM801: I depend on these and need portability. I admit I generally like the airiness and neutrality of HE6 even without this amp - I've use SR71b, BUDA, EF5 and 6 -  but the DS, IMO, does indeed make it shine. (Of the others, I love my EF6 though, but DS outperforms and well it should at the price differential and looks). 

 

I listened (more on HE6 and less on LCD3) to Eliane Elias' recent "I Thought About You; A Tribute To Chet Baker" CD: your hear her intimately upfront (HM901's Balanced Switch being ON) in front of you and the instrumentation is nicely panned and rendered (this recording is actually recorded well, a 'first' for EE with so many other recordings: lovely CD as is George Benson's orchestral crooner "A Tribute to Nat King Cole", same class). Kate Reid's superbly recorded and sung "Love I'm In" (also "Sentimental Mood"), little known but one of the very best classic contemporary jazz singers in a crop of young so-sos, comes off just brilliantly - timeless. Needless to say well recorded Sarah Vaughans or Anita O'Days are nice, albeit the recording quality varies. [Flicking to the non balanced switch on the HM901 pulls back the vocals and gives a wider soundstage or more prominence to the instruments on this setup and others.]

 

On instrumental CDs, Hank Jones "With the Meridian String Quartet", a gem, is feather-touch. Stan Getz/Kenny Barron club duets in "The Complete People Time Recordings" gave intimacy and clarity. The likes of Bobby Hutcherson and Mark Sherman on vibe recordings were good but maybe the carryovers are best left to loudspeakers. Some Ahmed Jamal recordings gave an almost surround sound feel and bass play on several jazz recordings come off distinctly and firmly (more so with LCD3+DS, somewhat predictably). Drumming by pianist Cuban Hilario Duran's bands ["El Negro"] in "From the Heart" was crackingly good and taunt...while clarinet/sax crescendos by Paquito D'Rivera in "Quartier Latin: Live" and delicate lyrical pianowork by Chano Dominguez "Flamenco Sketches" ... were very enjoyable, to me.  2L Mozart pieces from HDTracks at 88/24, 44/16 and 96/24 were rich, spritely and enjoyable, in this land of Mozart. Vienna New Year Concert pieces (assorted years and recordings) by the Vienna Philharmonic had that swing and verve and detail on the amp that is their trait; Strauss lives and puts one in upcoming ball mood nicely. Of course, I do give particular credit to HM901, my favourite player, plus little extra oomph to Moon cables also for a good part of these final renditions... 

 

As between headphones, LCD3 +DS sounds very appealing to me on some recordings but just ok on others [some downright horrible and narrow soundstage too] - I presume this is very much a LCD3 signature trait. But LCD3 +DS gave by a good margin the most natural sound to my ears of these 3 headphones. HD800 sounded very full with the DS on most CDs I heard, with its characteristic acoustic distanced sound - to me the HE6+DS makes me much happier on more recordings even though it is also not a forgiving headphone. In some ways I find HE6 and LCD3 have more individual character than the HD800, despite its great status.

 

I am currently trying to decide on the best closed phone for the DS with lesser leakage/seepage and good clarity/neutrality/some brightness : TH900 (bit leaky I gather) being the hot runner given LCD-XC price and pros 'n cons ('thinner sound', heavier weight). T5p being a consideration but overpriced.  

 

One thing which surprised me on receiving the DS is their size/weight : way smaller and more compact than I expected. This was practical - the photos of this amp kind of make it look falsely big, but they fit quite nicely on a bedside table. In comparison, my old EF6 is anchorweight. The only observation I have on the DS is that when I switch off, there is a subsequent loudish shutting-down click on my HE6 cans as the DS electronics go down (I switch the portable off first and then the amp...maybe I'm doing something wrong). Some slight hiss was heard on a few recordings, as some have observed, after the music died off, nothing which bothered me at all.

 

RS, while saying it takes 2-3 weeks to hand build and being a man of fewer words:), actually expedited my DS to Europe in much less time, kudos to him on this. It arrived fast, well packaged and suitably humble looking.

 

Overall, I am very happy indeed with the DarkStar which I bought after the many important comments by headfiers; I could be even more sublimely happier were it $1000 less but it is bearable for this lifetime though hopefully cheaper in the next...

 

N

 

Do you also hear the faint hiss as Nishy described with the sensitive headphones ? Can you confirm that ?

I think that issue should be fixed, this will delay my decision to order DarkStar :(

post #362 of 372
Quote:
Originally Posted by Canadian411 View Post
 

 

Do you also hear the faint hiss as Nishy described with the sensitive headphones ? Can you confirm that ?

I think that issue should be fixed, this will delay my decision to order DarkStar :(

Just like to say that the very faint hiss at end of a song and this only in some instances was - to me - very, very marginal and of no consequence in my own listening, even at this price tag... I would not wish to overstate this aspect. I don't know the tech reasons - recording or amp - but I have not lost any sleep at all. 


Edited by Nishy - 1/18/14 at 11:37am
post #363 of 372
Quote:
Originally Posted by musicman59 View Post
 

The Threshold amp you are referring to was Threshold 400A and it is 100 watts per channel class A.


 The threshold 400a that was one hell of an amp.I heard one a while back and it still sounds pretty damn good driving speakers . I imagine it would be simply awesome driving any headphone ever made.

   But you better have good ventilation because the 400a runs hot baby it runs hot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  After looking back at the original thread I believe the threshold amp referred to was the 550e. The person had tried his former headphone amp as a preamp with the threshold 550e driving his speakers. He mentioned that it worked ok in his system at the time. He moved on to the dark star from an apache preamp/headphone amp.


Edited by buson160man - 1/18/14 at 5:04pm
post #364 of 372
Quote:
Originally Posted by buson160man View Post
 


 The threshold 400a that was one hell of an amp.I heard one a while back and it still sounds pretty damn good driving speakers . I imagine it would be simply awesome driving any headphone ever made.

   But you better have good ventilation because the 400a runs hot baby it runs hot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  After looking back at the original thread I believe the threshold amp referred to was the 550e. The person had tried his former headphone amp as a preamp with the threshold 550e driving his speakers. He mentioned that it worked ok in his system at the time. He moved on to the dark star from an apache preamp/headphone amp.

 

I think you are confused. I own a Threshold S550e but I never used it with my HE-6. The 550e is much powerful than the 400A at 250 watts/ch in 8 ohms but it is Class A/AB. I used to have an Apache that I sold and got a Dark Star that I also sold. My HE-6 have been driven by a WA5-LE, Aleph 3, Aleph 5, Threshold T50 and the Dark Star. IMO they sound the best out of the T50 or DS.

post #365 of 372
Hmm....

This amp could be my perfect one stop solution and inject some warmth into my T1s, LCD XC & future HE6s. It's between the Dark Star and Auralic Taurus MKII. Anyone here had extensive time with both?
post #366 of 372
Quote:
Originally Posted by MoatsArt View Post

Hmm....

This amp could be my perfect one stop solution and inject some warmth into my T1s, LCD XC & future HE6s. It's between the Dark Star and Auralic Taurus MKII. Anyone here had extensive time with both?

Only with the Darkstar.  Amazing with all of the above including the HD800s, TH900s, ATH3000anv...everything sounds great out of it.  You won't need another headamp, ever!

post #367 of 372
Quote:
Originally Posted by figaro69 View Post
 

Only with the Darkstar.  Amazing with all of the above including the HD800s, TH900s, ATH3000anv...everything sounds great out of it.  You won't need another headamp, ever!

I am not so sure about that. I had the 4 ever produced and loved it with all the planar sand high impedance headphones but with efficient lower impedance headphones like the W3000ANV or the Denons I though tit had too much gain even at the lower setting providing a little hiss and not much room to play with the volume knob. Don't get me wrong, I love its sound signature but I wished it had an even lover gain setting.

post #368 of 372
Quote:
Originally Posted by musicman59 View Post
 

I am not so sure about that. I had the 4 ever produced and loved it with all the planar sand high impedance headphones but with efficient lower impedance headphones like the W3000ANV or the Denons I though tit had too much gain even at the lower setting providing a little hiss and not much room to play with the volume knob. Don't get me wrong, I love its sound signature but I wished it had an even lover gain setting.

very slight (almost non-existent) hiss with headphones such as the ATH3000anv and TH900, but once the music starts playing, no hiss to talk about.  I'm using silver interconnects with the aforementioned headphones (i.e., moon-audio silver dragon).  With the HD800 and T1s I'm using copper (i.e., moon-audio black dragon).  I'm using the Oppo BDP-95 universal player...I don't know if that player has low power, but the gain is just perfect with the low impedance cans.

post #369 of 372

This may be a stupid question but what are the dimensions of the darkstar?  Been looking online but can't seem to find it. 

post #370 of 372
Quote:
Originally Posted by musicman59 View Post
 

I am not so sure about that. I had the 4 ever produced and loved it with all the planar sand high impedance headphones but with efficient lower impedance headphones like the W3000ANV or the Denons I though tit had too much gain even at the lower setting providing a little hiss and not much room to play with the volume knob. Don't get me wrong, I love its sound signature but I wished it had an even lover gain setting.

The DarkStar was not designed to drive low impedance headphones, any portable solid state amp can drive the low impedance very well. Dark Star has too much gain for low impedance phones even with it's low gain of 11.

The DarkStar, with low gain of 11, works great with high impedance phones, like Sennheiser 600/650/800, 701/702, T1 and all the magnetic phones, But the HE6 and the K1000 requires much more voltage swing and that's why the gain of 21 covers that.

post #371 of 372
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ray Samuels View Post
 

The DarkStar was not designed to drive low impedance headphones, any portable solid state amp can drive the low impedance very well. Dark Star has too much gain for low impedance phones even with it's low gain of 11.

The DarkStar, with low gain of 11, works great with high impedance phones, like Sennheiser 600/650/800, 701/702, T1 and all the magnetic phones, But the HE6 and the K1000 requires much more voltage swing and that's why the gain of 21 covers that.

Ray, it may not be designed to drive low impedance headphones, but it drives my Denons, Audio Technicas, and Grados to perfection (yes, there is a very faint residual hiss that completely disappears when the music begins, but as far as I am concerned, who cares).  You would be happy to hear that you Darkstar is a great all-rounder, but, hey, that's just me.

post #372 of 372
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ray Samuels View Post
 

The DarkStar was not designed to drive low impedance headphones, any portable solid state amp can drive the low impedance very well. Dark Star has too much gain for low impedance phones even with it's low gain of 11.

The DarkStar, with low gain of 11, works great with high impedance phones, like Sennheiser 600/650/800, 701/702, T1 and all the magnetic phones, But the HE6 and the K1000 requires much more voltage swing and that's why the gain of 21 covers that.

I totally agree Ray and that's what I was trying to say. It is a wonderful sounding amp with all the planar and high impedance headphones.

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