Soloist on steroids :D
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burson new soloist headphone amp - Page 52
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I wonder who?
Just wanted to chime in and say I've read the last 10-15 pages of this thread and have found them very informative. I only recently discovered there is a specialty headphone shop not too far from my work. They don't care too many amps, but the Soloist is one of them (along with the SPL Auditor & Phonitor, Calyx Coffee and the Burson Conductor). This thread has made me think the Soloist really is an outstandingly solid piece of gear - neutral, clean, well-built. I look forward to hearing it. Of course, I'm also going to be trying out the Audeze LCD-2 and the Senn HD800 (I've used my HD 280 Pros for pro audio work for years). Sounds like the Soloist and the 800s might be a bit much, but I'll let my ears be the judge.
Solude, your discussion of gain settings with the other fellow was enlightening. It really cleared things up for me.
EDIT: Also nice to see those measurements. I love me a dead-quiet, black background!
Edited by azteca x - 3/14/13 at 9:15am
Thank you! I've been reading Audiostream and InnerFidelity intermittently for about a year, but coming to Head-Fi, with its sheer number of users who actually own/audition gear discussing them...well, it's an invaluable resource.
I'm just glad I've been able to hold off on dropping a massive stack of cash already. I have been following Schiit's developments, particularly the Asgard 2, but the Soloist seems like it really is the sweet spot for performance:price ratio. Asgard 2 seems like fantastic bang for your buck, but I've heard near-universal praise for the Soloist, and seems to be as close to an "end-game" amp as I will get. Deep breaths, deep breaths...I keep saying "wait until the next paycheck."
Edited by azteca x - 3/14/13 at 9:35am
Yes, I have just read a bit about it in the past hour, but the ~$1400 price difference certainly makes that an act of curiosity rather than research for me. In my case, I'm okay with spending about $1k each on headphones, amp and DAC. I might go higher on the DAC if it is warranted, as I have an extensive digital collection and it will pull double-duty with my stereo set-up (which, though basic, I enjoy immensely). It's tough; the same amount of cash would buy me a pretty killer set of speakers, but given that I'm in my mid-20s, living in reasonable-but-not-huge apartments, and likely to move many hours away at some point, I have a hard time spending more on huge stuff (errr, that new 50-inch plasma aside). I have a fun old pair of speakers that my grandpa used in his hi-fi that I obtained for $0, and they are still a very engaging listen, so I think headphones and my current stereo are a good call. Plus, it's so much easier to re-sell headphones since they fit in a normal box and don't kill you on shipping!
Trying to find some info on that GS-X mk2 out of curiosity since the HeadAmp order page says:
Edited by azteca x - 3/14/13 at 9:50am
I should add that as an audio guy I can appreciate the advantages of balanced over unbalanced, but don't find it a pressing issue for me when we're talking about a short run of cable to my ears. Not saying it's not better; I haven't done the listening to speak on that. But the price and convenience tradeoffs tend to rule it out for me (i.e. Mjolnir seems great, and I respect the Schiit guys, but having it only work for balanced - well, that rules out my old pairs of headphones, or anything my girlfriend would get, blah blah).
Anyhow, enough about me! I'm hoping to hear the Soloist next week. I work at a university and next week is spring break. I still have to be here but perhaps I'll be taking an "extended lunch" over to the audio shop.
EDIT: And I guess here is the place for the GS-X mk2 discussion
Edited by azteca x - 3/14/13 at 9:59am
I am relatively new to headphone audio (about 1 year) and really new to the forum. I do own a nice full-scale system that sitting in storage at this time - temp apartment living! This is a great forum. I have gotten such great information that I am encouraged to comment. Keep all the great exchanges going.
In a fit of audio upgrade-itis, since December I have added a Benchmark DAC1, AKG K702's and more recently a HE-500 and Burson Soloist to my setup. The Soloist is my most recent upgrade. I had a Lyr before the Soloist, but just could not make it work. The Lyr is quite good, but seemed to require (to me anyway) a bit of tube rolling to tune properly. I figured that if I was going to roll tubes I might as well "roll" the amp. [You can see how I justify my empty wallet.] The other problem is that the amp section of the DAC1 is so good that substantially improving on it for under a grand (as others have pointed out) is not a cake walk. That brings me to the Soloist. I have only had the amp for a day or so. I bought the unit as a "demo" so I can't tell how many hours are on this unit. I am mainly listening via my HE-500. I am running the Soloist in the medium gain setting. It sounds pretty good. I am stilling waiting for the Soloist to convincingly surpass the DAC1. It hasn't happened yet. The only area where Soloist slightly betters the DAC1 (for now) is in the dimensionality of the sound. The Soloist also has slightly better bass. The DAC1 is more transparent/detailed at this point. I am unsure whether I am hearing the "warmth" of the Soloist or an amp still "hooded" - lacking break in.
Question: I would like to know what kind of "warm up" times you guys have experienced with the Soloist. I have read that the amp "opens up" after a while. I have been running the amp for the better part of 24hrs, and I can tell there are some gains in transparency/details. Some have commented that the amp requires a mini break-in any time the power has been discontinued for an extended length of time. Note: When the amp arrived a day or so ago it was literally ice cold. I was snowing, and you could have cooled a drink on this amp.
At this level it is a game of slights towards and end goal. That said I find the Soloist unmatched at its asking price and frankly haven't owned an amp yet the I prefer and I've had some that cost as much as $3400 :O
Thanks for the response, Solude. I agree the Soloist is turning out to be quite good. And, a good $ deal to boot. To someone who had an addiction to full-scale systems, most head-fi gear is cheap in comparison.
I was playing around with the gain settings on the Soloist this morning. It seems that in the "high-gain" mode with the HE-500's that "hoodedness" goes away. The dynamism is increased and the top-end and upper mids open more. I went back and scanned some reviews. This effect has been noted a few places. I did not think the medium-to-high gain switch would make much of a difference given the HE-500 aren't that difficult to drive. But, I think it does - at least for my listening tastes. This shows that "driving" and "shining" are two different things. In this configuration, the Soloist is showing its refinements verses my Benchmark DAC1.
I also suspect as others have mentioned that the gain switching system is a bit of compromise to allow flexibility with high efficiency phones. The build favors inefficient phones. Per the 6moons' review, feedback is added to achieve lower gain. The reviewer swears to no sonic compromises. I will have to listen in low gain mode through my SR125's to see what happens. I am generally an adherent to inefficiency+power=path to exceptional sonics - only a path, however, no guarantee.
Is it not a challenge to switch between LO, MI and Hi gain - and keep the volume adjusted exactly equal to your headphones for all three gain settings when the volume adjustment is done via a stepped attenuator? It is easy to be fooled by volume variances.
Anyway; contrasts in design languages: Soloist and TH-900
Edited by Loevhagen - 3/17/13 at 1:15pm
Hey, nice rig! I have been wondering about those Fostex. I can use a closed phone when my kids are around. One day I will post a pic of my rig. As a new member, I can not post pics yet.
You are quite right. It is difficult to keep the volume level and switch the gain. But, what I was referring to was a general "dullness" - rolled off treble and thickening of the bass. The dullness was present even with the volume increased - i.e. the volume turned up louder in the medium gain setting than in the high gain setting. All the reviews spoke of the dynamism of the amp, so I was surprised. That same dullness was not present when I switched the HE-500 for the K702. Don't get me wrong. The sound was not terrible. In fact, some might prefer the somewhat rolled off sound when using the HE-500's. Of course, all of this depends on what the front-end sounds like. Anyway with my setup and listening tastes, the high gain sounds quite a bit livelier.
Using the Soloist in preamp mode, a reviewer at monoandstereo.com made a similar point.
"In the preamplifier role Soloist remarkably sets new grounds for Burson and the class it belongs to (actually it belong much above). Partnered with my trusty Mactone MH-300B power amplifier Soloist prolonged my listening hours more then I would ever expected. Being a high dynamic impact nut-guy I found myself satisfied with the highest gain on the Soloist preamplifier input switch. For me without the much needed gain and dynamics, everything can quickly become pale and lifeless with music. Correct gain matching is one the most important things of any high-end audio system. I’ve seen and heard many top bucks audio systems, that sounds dull and more like hi-fi, because they failed to do this basic homework. Do not in any way overlook this standout feature of Soloist."
Some one made a similar point when using the Soloist with the HD800
"I have been very satisified with the Burson and use it frequently with the AT3000ANV and it is also quite good with the HD800 and M50 and pretty much all that I tried with it. I use it more so with the AT3000ANV and M50 on the lowest gain setting but the third setting makes the hd800 really sing. Nice work and I enjoyed the read." Frank, InnerFidelity commenter.
The low gain setting sound pretty darn good with my Grado SR125's. Although there may be some technicalities involved (more versus less feedback used to control gain), more likely its a matter of preference.
Edited by Pasquale - 3/17/13 at 2:40pm
It's my understanding, but I stand ever willing to be corrected, that when you change the Soloist's gain setting from Low to Medium (or from Medium to High), then adjust the attenuator to restore the original volume at the headphones, you are not changing the sound signature at all.
The Soloist's gain setting is a multiplier of power. The attenuator is a divider of power.
So, increasing the gain then rotating the attenuator counterclockwise (for more attentuation), to restore the original volume level, accomplishes nothing other than shifting the range of volumes covered by the attenuator.
It's best to leave the gain set on Low, increasing it to Medium (or to High) only if you are unable to achieve your desired volume with a given headphone, when rotating the attenuator fully clockwise. The lower the gain setting, the more gradual will be the 24 steps of the attenuator - allowing you to more finely tune the volume level.
All that said, if you (or anyone else) is hearing a difference in sound signature, such that the Soloist sounds "better" when operating at high gain, I have no explanation - but I believe you.
- burson new soloist headphone amp
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