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Mini-Review: HeadAmp KGSS vs Blue Hawaii SE - Page 2

post #16 of 130
Good stuff ASR. I want a bhse.
post #17 of 130

Ugh... his review confirmed some of my assumptions of distortion and congestion with lower amps. I just finally told myself that I wouldn't buy anything else anymore. I guess I'm not done yet.

 

Thanks Asr even though you said you wouldn't write any more reviews, this one was very helpful.

post #18 of 130

Thank you for the comparo.  This is the serious talk.

 

 

 

 

Reply
post #19 of 130

Great review ASR, and good to see such a balanced perspective. In fact, this is the ONLY review of the BHSE that I can remember, other than one liners talking about rivers and such, which weren't very helpful.

 

All the negatives you list for the BHSE are the very reasons why it took me so long to order one. And the one huge positive is the very reason why I finally did order one!

 

Looking at your pros and cons, I just can't imagine that you could now part with the BHSE without regretting it later.

 

When dropping down to a lesser component, I've frequently been surprised how initially good it sounds, only to be disappointed later - typically by first it sounding "boring" which stops me getting lost in the music, and then by gradually being driven to distraction by other weaknesses like exaggerated brightness.

 

It sounds like the KGSS at least fails on the boring part - relatively speaking.

 

One area not covered, which is a factor in high end, is pride of ownership. I imagine that, for all it's inconvenience, the BHSE's "presence" scores well on this point, compared to the much simpler KGSS "box".

 

 

post #20 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by spritzer View Post

Convenience is also the reason why my BHSE is mostly neglected these days as the KGSS is just so easy to live with.

 

Interesting. What is the inconvenience? Once you've reconciled yourself to the heat output and power dissipation, isn't it a matter of erm, just switching it on?

 

Am I missing something?
 

 

post #21 of 130

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheAttorney View Post



Interesting. What is the inconvenience? Once you've reconciled yourself to the heat output and power dissipation, isn't it a matter of erm, just switching it on?

 

Am I missing something?
 

 


The amp + power supply take a lot of horizontal and vertical space. It's hard to place this amp in a convenient location.

 

When placed at an inconvenient location, it becomes inconvenient to use...

 

post #22 of 130

Also the pricey tubes in the BH require maintenance and if one "heads south",

it can cause much hate and discontent, possibly frying those high-end Stax cans

or other parts of the amp. I have no direct experience with this,

and have not heard anything negative with Justin's latest BHSE design.

The older BH designs are legendary for "grenading". 

When running right, they do herald the impeccable TOTL stat sound.

 

The solid state designs (KGSS AND KGSSHV) are not prone to these type of fireworks. 


Edited by livewire - 8/16/11 at 5:56pm
post #23 of 130

Great review Asr, it sounds like love for you with the BHSE!  Even if I could afford one, I don't know if I could deal with the year (+ ?) wait time.  But if you do decide to unload the KGSS I will buy it... like right now.

post #24 of 130

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheAttorney View Post

Interesting. What is the inconvenience? Once you've reconciled yourself to the heat output and power dissipation, isn't it a matter of erm, just switching it on?

 

I have both; just sold the KGSS.  My BHSE is a Kerry build, not HeadAmp.  I just turn it on, as TheAttorney says.  Sits on the same shelf the KGSS sat on -- yes it's taller of course and you can't stack anything on it, and it generates some heat so that I had to move the O2 stand a little further away, but it was so worth it.

 

The SQ difference is way more than 9.5 vs 11.

 

When there is someting in the music "out front", like the featured instrument in a concerto, or a vocalist, there is nothing in the world like O2+BHSE.  Nothing at all -- you get goose bumps, you get tears in your eyes.  No one would ever say that about the KGSS..

 

(I know Spritzer will flame me but I have to say) On very specific types of music -- large scale choral works and certain symphonies, MD1032 and I both feel the Orpheus beats it (we can do a quick-switch because we feed the BHSE the balanced output from my Wadia and the HEV90 the s.e. output simultaneously). 

 

On hard rock I still reach for dynamics btw.

 

post #25 of 130

My problem is that I work way too much so there is no time for extended listening sessions.  Leaving tube amps on while unattended is a very, very bad idea in my book and repeated thermal cycles are also not a good idea for the tubes.  The KGSS on the other hand I can just turn on when I get home and turn off when ever I stop using it.  Mine does get pretty warm though since the amp is stacked on top of the PSU with rather small slots to suck in cool air.  Still that massive aluminum chassis (about 10kg) acts as a nice heatsink...

 

As for the HE90, pffft....  wink_face.gif  Anything the HE90 can do the SR-Omega does better and the SR-007 is better still. 

 

Btw.  It was a lot of fun to read the Mk1 and modded SR-007A comparisons.  My main set these days is a modified 007A though the mods are rather different now. 

post #26 of 130

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by spritzer View Post

My problem is that I work way too much so there is no time for extended listening sessions.  Leaving tube amps on while unattended is a very, very bad idea in my book and repeated thermal cycles are also not a good idea for the tubes.  The KGSS on the other hand I can just turn on when I get home and turn off when ever I stop using it.  Mine does get pretty warm though since the amp is stacked on top of the PSU with rather small slots to suck in cool air.  Still that massive aluminum chassis (about 10kg) acts as a nice heatsink...

 

As for the HE90, pffft....  wink_face.gif  Anything the HE90 can do the SR-Omega does better and the SR-007 is better still. 

 

Btw.  It was a lot of fun to read the Mk1 and modded SR-007A comparisons.  My main set these days is a modified 007A though the mods are rather different now. 


 

Two rejoinders --

 

(1) I use a 717 like you use the KGSS.  Turn it on and off without a care.  When I owned them both I heard almost no difference, both are superb with (your old modded) O2 Mk II's.  At the NJ meet a few weeks ago we all loved the 717 with O2 Mk I's as well. 

 

(2) Agree 100% with your HE90 comments, EXCEPT when it is paired with a properly functioning HE90V.  Then (and only then) on certain types of music, the Orpheus bests the O2/BHSE combo.  I have to say that I have the perfect quick-switch rig for testing this, with a Wadia 781i playing SACDs in to both rigs simultaneously.  Many head-fi golden ears have been to my house and feel the same way.  Most of the time it is too euphonic, no doubt.  But then there are those moments ....   "I have two lovers and I love them both the same ..." 

 

Maybe when Kerry gets the noise out of his T2, and then builds his T2/BHSE hybrid, and Doug brings over the 009s, then maybe maybe maybe we can have an undisputed champion of the world.

 

Except for those people who prefer the R10, the Qualia, or even the K1K.  I guess it's about personal taste and listening.  And music selection.  Now that's a new thought.


 

 

post #27 of 130

The KGSS did indeed replace my old 717 in this role.  Both are lovely amps but Stax went a bit too far in butchering the KGSS design for my liking (the 717 is just a KGSS built under license) plus the KGSS was a bit cheaper for me as it was mostly recycled.  It's also quite striking too look at which is always cool.

 

(2) This is the main reason why I'm going to build my own version of the Aristaeus and a HE90 from used parts.  I was never happy with the HEV90 so if the Aristaeus doesn't float my boat I also have drawn up an all triode based version of the design.  Should be a cool little amp which uses tubes nobody has used for 40+ years.  :)

post #28 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by livewire View Post

Also the pricey tubes in the BH require maintenance and if one "heads south",

it can cause much hate and discontent, possibly frying those high-end Stax cans

or other parts of the amp. I have no direct experience with this,

and have not heard anything negative with Justin's latest BHSE design.

The older BH designs are legendary for "grenading". 

When running right, they do herald the impeccable TOTL stat sound.

 

The solid state designs (KGSS AND KGSSHV) are not prone to these type of fireworks. 


What kind of maintenance do the BHSE tubes require?

Could you please provide any links to DIY BHes destroying headphones?

 

I'm on the verge of ordering the BHSE and have been doing research on the care and maintenance of [electrostatic] tube amps.  Most technically credible people seem to say that they haven't experienced a bad tube damaging headphones, even when the tube eventually goes bad and needs to be replaced.

 

The only negative thing I've read about the BHSE is, iirc, Spritzer mentioning that it's basically like having a 200W space heater, and ensuring that there's proper air flow and cooling.  Even then, many people say even though it's not ideal to run a tube amp 24hrs+ at a time (due to how power is delivered continuously since it's a Class A?), these devices are designed to withstand heat, though heat and other forces will eventually take out the most rugged amp.

 

Even solid state devices will fail over time.  I'll concede that the points of failure are fewer and more robust on the solid state, but I don't see why a properly cared for tube amp (proper cooling, keeping lint off of the device and vents, avoiding quick power cycling, replacing tubes every few/several years, avoiding excessive tube rolling, having a reliable power supply, etc.) wouldn't give at least 10+ years of enjoyment.

 

All the assessments on Justin's BHSE seem to indicate that it's a fantastically designed amp, and that its design solves the most glaring reliability issues which plagued the Stax SRM-T2s.

post #29 of 130

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by spritzer View Post

The KGSS did indeed replace my old 717 in this role.  Both are lovely amps but Stax went a bit too far in butchering the KGSS design for my liking (the 717 is just a KGSS built under license) plus the KGSS was a bit cheaper for me as it was mostly recycled ...

 

Interesting.  I didn't hear ANY difference at all between an early Justin KGSS and a 717 when I had both right next to each other, using the same trick as I do know -- drive one balanced and the other s.e. from the same DAC.  What differences did you hear?  I bet in is in the high end, since I know my high end hearing is off (I got tested).

 

The 717 has that deep but not wide form factor, which is perfect for my set-up -- the KGSS had to go to make room for the Kerry BHSE ... it sat in the only space that is fully open on top, a concern with the heat.  Your old modded Mk II sounded SO GOOD with the 717 (not just my opinion -- everyone's) at the NJ meet that I am going to keep it.  I was going to sell it now that I have purchased Mk 1's, but the MK 1's will live with the BHSE and your Mk II's will stay with the 717 -- too good to let go.  The second pro bias jack of the 717 will be devoted to either 404s or Baby Orpheus ... haven't done a close test yet.  The "loser" goes to the SRM-1/Mk II Pro on the other side of the room (as a bunk mate to the Gammas that nikongod made me buy at the last NY meet that live on on the non-pro bias jack).

 

I have taken this off-topic from the OP, sorry.  But its fun to engage Da Man Spritzer!

post #30 of 130



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Elysian View Post


What kind of maintenance do the BHSE tubes require?

Could you please provide any links to DIY BHes destroying headphones?

 

 

 

First question: Bias adjustments, occasional tube testing to check if the device is still within operating specs,

Maintaining the amp in a safe environment away from children and house pets, which pose dangers to themselves as well as your amp.

 

Second question: No. If you note, I said "possibly". The possibility is definitely there if a tube breaks or is shorted out. 

 

Yeah, please buy Justin's BHSE. It is an excellent machine with enough resolving power for O2's.

Sorry about your wallet as well as the long wait in the HA line....

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