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Project Sunrise II Kit Review

post #1 of 108
Thread Starter 

 

I've been on a DIY bender since completing my first O2 some 6 months ago. My older brother and I built Heathkits during our teen years, and O2 (partly because of the intrigue surrounding it) provided the needed nudge. An O2 was followed by another O2, then a couple of CTH's (an awesome little amp by the way - Thanks Alex and Chris).
 
While looking around for my next project, I happened upon another hybrid tube amp called 'Project Sunrise' — designed by Frans and kitted by Jeremy of Garage 1217. While it was very similar to CTH (single triode hybrid, 6v/12v 9 pin tubes supported), I really like the clean open chassis design and its Class A output stage.
 
So I placed an order, and was immediately informed by Jeremy that Project Sunrise was EOL, and Project Sunrise II was just around the corner. The second edition of Project Sunrise retains the same sonic character as the first, but adds…
 
  • Easy LED tube biasing.
  • Improved on/off protection.
  • Improved circuit layout.
  • More goodness!
 
Excellent! My wait increased a bit, but for a few more dollars (disclosure - Jeremy gave me Project Sunrise II for the price of Sunrise) I get the new and improved Sunrise.
 
After one minor delay my kit arrived — which included a travel case and 1 6N23P tube. I was pleased to notice that I received 'K0001'. Not a big deal really, but kinda cool :-). While the 'end game' for any audio DIY kit is the sound, this review will focus on the kit and build. I'll post another review soon that will focus on the stellar sonics of this amp.
 
Kit
 
Unpacking the kit, I was immediately impressed by the quality of the PCB. Granted I haven't seen many, but this one's thicker with better traces and pads. According to Garage 1217, it's a "2 layer, black mask with gold wash circuit board / full lower and upper ground planes - .096 2OZ FR4 board!". Ok - It's all Greek to me, but it's the best I've worked with.
 
SUNRISEIIPCB2.jpg
 
Beyond construction, the layout is symmetrical and well thought out. Pads are generous, with ample space between them. Component locations are clearly labeled, with orientation (where applicable) clearly indicated. One thing worth noting - Garage 1217 has designed this PCB to be used with both Project Sunrise and Project Horizon (a future 48v version of the same design). This results in a couple of component positions that need to be ignored or simply 'jumped'.
 
While the manual did give instructions as to which should be jumped, it was a bit confusing as I wasn't sure if the jumpers (wire) should be permanent or temporary — as is often done when you need to test specific circuits during startup. This is a good time to mention that Jeremy is a solid, friendly dude that's gone out of his way to provide the best possible experience with Project Sunrise and Garage 1217. As I worked through these minor issues, Jeremy was quick to provide the help needed — and often updated the manual to clarify what might be confusing to DIY rookies such as myself.
 
Back to the kit, which came well labeled with components in individual bags (anti-static when needed). Garage 1217 didn't cut corners with kit components — output caps are Nichicon FG's, resistors are Vishay RN series, pots and trimmers are Bourns; all audiophile grade components. Even with this Garage 1217 went a step further with a PCB designed to accept a wide variety of component pitches and diameters. Tweakers and tuners can go wild! When assembling, I found all components to be properly and clearly labeled. Nothing was missing, nothing was extra.
 
SUNRISEKITPICS.jpg
 
The mechanic aspects of the kit (chassis, top, etc.) were top notch. Honestly, the fit, finish and overall quality of the kit exceeded my expectations for a kit from such a small operation. Kudos!
 
Assembly
 
As I discuss assembly, it may at times read like an addendum to the manual. This is somewhat deliberate, as I want to pass on details that may be helpful.
 
For the most part, the quality of 'kitting' and board layout places Sunrise II firmly in the beginner category if it wasn't for that one SMD (surface mount) component — an LED. Not that it's difficult to install — it just requires a steady hand with a bit of care to watch your soldering temperature. Because of this, I'd rate the kit as intermediate — though quite doable for beginners.
 
The manual begins with the usual (and appropriate) 24VDC danger warning. As with any electronic kit, damage and injury can occur if care isn't taken to insure proper safety. If you're a DIY 'newbie' and work slowly and deliberately — following the manual you shouldn't have any problems.
 
Actual work begins with PCB prep — the 90% Isopropyl Alcohol bath. If you're anything like me, you may be eager to skip this step and dive in. <strong>Don't do it!</strong> While the the kit PCB came relatively clean, solder will flow much better if you take the time to insure that the board is free of chemicals and oils.
 
Next up is heat-sink assembly and bottom chassis prep. When you've assembled your heat-sinks, set them aside such that the device leads are not bent, and will not be subject to static electricity. I rested mine on the anti-static bags the devices came in.
 
Component installation was straightforward and follows the common DIY axiom of 'small and low, first to go'. Ok, maybe I just made that up. Resistors, diodes, small caps and such first — followed by medium sized components and finally large. If the board layout allows, I like to install more sensitive components (those shipped in anti-static bags) last, regardless of size — just to be safe.
 
Be sure to ground the volume pot (per the manual). It's critical for quiet operation. While it's not discussed in the manual, I highly recommend another 90% Isopropyl Alcohol bath on the bottom of the PCB to remove the rosin. You may need a couple of passes to get all the rosin off, but it will extend the life of your circuitry.
 
Set the LED and input capacitor bypass jumper to default settings, and install the top acrylic panel.
 
Configuration
 
Set output resistance jumpers to default settings, and set the tube heater voltage jumper accordingly to match the type of tube you'll be using. If you received a 6N23P from Garage 1217, set it to 6 V. Now insert your tube.
 
Power it up, and let it sit for a minute or two while you look for 'magic smoke'. If all goes well (and it usually does if you've followed the manual), you're ready to adjust the tube bias.
 
V2 of Project Sunrise has made this easy with a couple of small but significant enhancements:
 
  • 'High/Low' voltage LED's allows adjustment without a meter.
  • Tube bias trim pots are adjustable with the top in place.
 
Just follow the bias adjustment steps in the manual to dial in the bias for both left and right channels. If you're 'old school', there's a page covering tube bias using a meter.
 
Nits
 
For the sake of disclosure, I did come across a couple of minor issues during the build — though some fall squarely in the realm of 'builder error':
 
  • A couple of components were miss-labeled in the manual.
  • A couple of jumpers (IC1) seemed temporary, when they needed to be soldered.
  • There's a couple of redundant 'JP2' pads that I accidentally installed my jumper pins in.
  • A couple of my standoffs cross-threaded the first time I removed and reinstalled them.
 
All of the above have been corrected by Garage 1217 through manual changes or parts replacements. Through the entire build, Jeremy was quick to respond and correct everything I found. But he went even further — after building I noticed a very slight low volume channel imbalance. I didn't mention it to Jeremy as I never listen to music that low, and it evened with the slightest volume increase. Jeremy notified me that a small number of pots had this imbalance, and he was sending out a replacement. Now that's service!
 
Final Thoughts
 
All in all, Project Sunrise II was a very enjoyable kit to assemble. Fit and finish was top notch, quality parts are provided throughout, and the instruction manual is clear and well written. If you're a beginner with a kit or two under your belt (or a beginner with help available if needed), I highly recommend you give Project Sunrise II a try.
 
PSFRONT.jpg
 
Feel free to ask any questions you have about this kit - I'll do my best to answer them.
 
post #2 of 108

Wow!

 

Very cool...

 

I'm so intrigued..

 

How would you compare this to your LYR with the HE-500's?

 

Do Tell!! 

post #3 of 108
Thread Starter 

I've spent the last couple of days listening to my HE-500's with Project Sunrise II. Compared to Lyr, Lyr has the following advantages:

* Power. While PSII is in no way underpowered for these headphones, extra power equals extra headroom. This to me, translates to slightly more air and space.

* Slightly wider sound stage.

 

Compared to Lyr, PSII has the following advantages:

* Slightly better detail.

* Slightly deeper sound stage.

 

Overall, with HE-500's I could switch to PSII full time and not miss too much.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sonikbliss View Post

Wow!

 

Very cool...

 

I'm so intrigued..

 

How would you compare this to your LYR with the HE-500's?

 

Do Tell!! 



 

post #4 of 108
Quote:
Originally Posted by Misterrogers View Post

I've spent the last couple of days listening to my HE-500's with Project Sunrise II. Compared to Lyr, Lyr has the following advantages:

* Power. While PSII is in no way underpowered for these headphones, extra power equals extra headroom. This to me, translates to slightly more air and space.

* Slightly wider sound stage.

 

Compared to Lyr, PSII has the following advantages:

* Slightly better detail.

* Slightly deeper sound stage.

 

Overall, with HE-500's I could switch to PSII full time and not miss too much.
 



 


Well, I was completely ready to get the Lyr until I saw your posts for the Project Sunrise II. I think I'd prefer detail and sound stage depth to wider sound stage. Especially since the price is much lower. Is there any other Amp you think would be a better choice for the HE-500's? Oh and do you have a favorite tube for the PS II & HE-500's?

 

I really appreciate your posts!

 

 

 

post #5 of 108
Thread Starter 

The Lyr is a great amp for the price, but if you're not trying to drive an HE-6 or other cans that are not efficient, you can wake up the HE-500's with less raw power and get more detail. The PSII is one one such amp. I'm limited in the amps that I've use with my HE-500's. It's been the Lyr, PSII, a BA (amazing but very expensive), and a CTH. Oh, and an O2. Of all these (excluding the BA), I liked the PSII and the CTH the most. My favorite tube in PSII is a Siemens & Halske E188CC. Second is the Lorenz Stuttgart PCC88. For the price, PSII does an amazing job with these headphones. Not a lot of experience with with PSII around here I guess, but their are a number of HE-500 users on rock grotto that use the PSII to drive them. 

post #6 of 108

How would you compare the O2 to the PSII? My sense is the O2 is great for most cans, but not really the HE-500's.

It probably does a good job, but not a great job. Also you have the Bifrost, I was planning on getting one as well. Do you think for the price there is anything else worth considering? 

 

And finally regarding the PSII, I was going to buy the PSII fully built kit. Do you see any downside? I just don't have time to DIY right now.

 

post #7 of 108
Thread Starter 

To me, O2 was a tad bit underpowered to bring out the best in the HE-500's. Bifrost is awesome. The consensus is (and I agree), that it's hard to find a better DAC for the money. Fully built is the way to go if you don't have time. Jeremy (one of the two principles) is a good dude, and I've seen his work. It's top notch. 

post #8 of 108

Ok, I'm ordering the PSII. Where did you get the Siemens & Halske E188CC? I don't see it on the Garage 1217 Site.

Any other tips I should be aware of or other suggestions?

post #9 of 108
Thread Starter 

I'd order one of the tubes they stock - it's actually a pretty good match with PSII (as makes sense, I think they used this tube to voice it). You'll have to go hunting for the S&H E188CC. But that's part of the fun wink_face.gif. PSII has a few nice tweaks to it. You can adjust the tube HV, allowing you to roll 6.3v tubes, as well as 12.6v tubes. This opens up many possibilities. I'd polk around the CTH threads. It has the same feature, so you can see what sort of tubes they're using. You can also bypass the input caps and adjust the output impedance. I'm running in cap bypass mode, and have my impedance set to low, which works very well with the HE-500. You can also adjust the color of the tube LED if you like. 
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sonikbliss View Post

Ok, I'm ordering the PSII. Where did you get the Siemens & Halske E188CC? I don't see it on the Garage 1217 Site.

Any other tips I should be aware of or other suggestions?



 

post #10 of 108
Thanks misterrogers, a very nice overview indeed. The PSII is definitely on my 'to build' list. Any thoughts about the potential benefits of using it with a linear power supply?
post #11 of 108
Thread Starter 

Ultimately I'd address that to Jeremy at Garage 1217, but usually real gains can be had by replacing a wall wart with a good linear power supply. Now you have me intrigued - I'll have to check into that wink_face.gif

post #12 of 108

How does the O2 compare to the PSII in sound quality?

post #13 of 108
Thread Starter 

They're both very good amps, with good extension. Being a class A tube hybrid, PSII has a weightier delivery with more 'n' order harmonics. The hybrid aspect keeps this in check, but you get a bit. The core question you have to answer is, do you enjoy the sound of tube amps, or do you prefer the cooler/leaner sound of an amp like O2? Both are great, depends on you. They both have very good SQ.

post #14 of 108
Quote:
Originally Posted by Misterrogers View Post

They're both very good amps, with good extension. Being a class A tube hybrid, PSII has a weightier delivery with more 'n' order harmonics. The hybrid aspect keeps this in check, but you get a bit. The core question you have to answer is, do you enjoy the sound of tube amps, or do you prefer the cooler/leaner sound of an amp like O2? Both are great, depends on you. They both have very good SQ.

 

I have never had a tube amp and the two solid state amps that I have used, have been of a small capacity (60 mW at 100 ohms at best), so I could not know the answer to the core question.  But, I think that you can help me.  What is the difference between a "weightier delivery with more 'n' order harmonics" (tube sound) and a "cooler/leaner sound."  if you elaborate a little on that difference, I would understand.  Which one do you prefer?

post #15 of 108
Thread Starter 

Sure mate. Don't mind elaborating - with the usual caveats; IMO, YMMV, WYSIWYG... Generally (not always), a solid state amp such as the O2 is going to produce sonics that are closer to the source (though ss components can certainly add their own coloration). The designer behind the O2 is very measurement driven and sought to produce an amp that was essentially 'wire with gain'. He did pretty damn good. A tube amp on the other hand, can produce additional 2/3 order harmonics that lend a 'fatter' or 'retro' sound to the sonics they produce. There's a lot of science to all this of which I am no expert; though I do enjoy the research. Personally, I prefer 'controlled' tube sonics (major 2nd order, minor 3rd, little or no other harmonics) that are found with most hybrid or super cathode feedback designs. 

 

Put simply, a lithe tubiness is a good thing, too much isn't. 

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