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HD800 + $1,000-$2,500 Amp = Sonic Bliss? - Page 2

post #16 of 172

I like the following with the HD800s

 

βeta-22

GS-X

Balanced M^3 (tube like sound - but not)

 

 

Had the BHA-1 as well.  It sounded better witht he LCD-2.2 than the HD800s.  A tad bit on the harsh side - not much but more than the others.


Edited by preproman - 9/28/12 at 8:35am
post #17 of 172

@ the OP

 

Do you have experience with tube amps or is this your first foray?

 

Generally, once you're at this level of audio, it's always very helpful to have well defined preferences based on previous experience.  It's really hard to suggest to someone tubes vs solid state if they've never experienced a good example of both camps for themselves.

 

For example, you might like bass and details, but if you've never heard what a good tube amp can do to mids then you'd never know if you'd rather prioritize mids over details, etc.

 

There really isn't going to be a "best" amp among those you listed; they all cater to very different tastes in sound.  An amp recommended to you could be one of the most popular and well regarded out there, but if you don't like the sound signature then you just aren't gonna like it, so in the end it always comes down to personal taste.

 

For example, you read conflicting reports on the Eddie Current amps.  Some people said all those complements, and others said all those negatives.  The overall impression is that the EC is a tube amp that leans toward a solid-state sound.  Some people are going to like that, since it's going to have the right amount of sound traits from both tube and solid state camps, but for others it's not going to lean enough toward the tube camp for their preferences.  The only way to have a decent guesstimation of how you'll like it is by knowing how far on one side (tube v solid state) you tend to lean based on previous experience.

 

I'd like to emphasize that if you've never tried a tube amp, please try one!  You'll never know if you're a tube guy until you've tried one.  If you end up not liking the "tube" sound, then you'll know you're not a tube guy, and in the future when doing amp shopping again, you'll automagically know to only consider solid state or solid state leaning amps.

 

---------------------------------------------------------

 

However, all that said, I'd recommend a tube amp over solid state.  I've had a number of solid state and tube amp rigs over the years, but I can tell you my absolute favorites were ALWAYS tube amps.  With solid state, I always kind of have to listen for strengths such as improved detail or bass, whereas with a great tube amp, you literally just hear right away that the music as a whole just sounds better, for some reason I can't explain.

 

Out of your tube amps listed, I'd go for the Stratus.  Eddie Current, from my readings, tends to lean toward a more "solid-statey" sound despite its tube base.  Woo Audio seems to lean this way as well with some of their amps with a few exceptions.  I believe the Stratus will get you that "tube magic" you're looking for, without becoming overly warm or anything as a few other tube amps tend to.

 

I like the idea of the Stratus since it's based on the 2A3.  The 2A3, in speaker amps, is VERY highly regarded.  When a high efficiency speaker system only needs 3W, a very large number of people immediately turn to the 2A3 tube to power their system, since though it only puts out 3W, they're almost universally regarded as 3 VERY good watts.  And with headphones, the 3W output is more than enough anyway.

 

Also, based on my readings of the Stratus, I've read quite a few posts describing it with the HD800, and they were all pretty much raves.  So if it was me, personally I'd get the Stratus without looking back.

post #18 of 172
Quote:
Originally Posted by iim7V7IM7 View Post


David,
Thanks for chiming in.
It is funny, the ZD has been around for a while. It is very unusual for a OTL in that it has very low output impedance. People seem to love it and say it is transparent , dynamic and holographic OR they hate it and that it is thin sounding and too bright. Many seem to favor transformer coupled designs over OTLs. This leaves prospective buyers like me somewhat confused.
Everyone, however seems to think that Craig is. Tube genius. People seem to be more focused on his newer products ( S7, 2A3 and BA).
:-)
Bob

I haven't really noticed very many polarizing ZD comments myself. I do know that the Zana is much more ss sounding than say the popular Woo amps, which generally speaking tend to be lusher and more colored than EC gear. I can't for the life of me think anyone would call it a thin sounding amp, unless they are comparing it to a syrupy, distorted tube amp anyway.

 

Keep in mind I was about to sell my HD 800 after trying it with a few highly recommended ss amps for the Senn, including the TTVJ FET-A, and an excellent Dynalo build. They were simply to piercing, dry, and brittle imo on these amps. Then my Zana came and completely changed my opinion of the HD 800 for the better. Better dynamics, soundstaging, smoother character, yet more revealing than even the former Dynalo. Truly a great amp for some great, but picky headphones.

 

-Daniel

post #19 of 172
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by CountChoculaBot View Post

@ the OP

 

Do you have experience with tube amps or is this your first foray?

 

Generally, once you're at this level of audio, it's always very helpful to have well defined preferences based on previous experience.  It's really hard to suggest to someone tubes vs solid state if they've never experienced a good example of both camps for themselves.

 

For example, you might like bass and details, but if you've never heard what a good tube amp can do to mids then you'd never know if you'd rather prioritize mids over details, etc.

 

There really isn't going to be a "best" amp among those you listed; they all cater to very different tastes in sound.  An amp recommended to you could be one of the most popular and well regarded out there, but if you don't like the sound signature then you just aren't gonna like it, so in the end it always comes down to personal taste.

 

For example, you read conflicting reports on the Eddie Current amps.  Some people said all those complements, and others said all those negatives.  The overall impression is that the EC is a tube amp that leans toward a solid-state sound.  Some people are going to like that, since it's going to have the right amount of sound traits from both tube and solid state camps, but for others it's not going to lean enough toward the tube camp for their preferences.  The only way to have a decent guesstimation of how you'll like it is by knowing how far on one side (tube v solid state) you tend to lean based on previous experience.

 

I'd like to emphasize that if you've never tried a tube amp, please try one!  You'll never know if you're a tube guy until you've tried one.  If you end up not liking the "tube" sound, then you'll know you're not a tube guy, and in the future when doing amp shopping again, you'll automagically know to only consider solid state or solid state leaning amps.

 

---------------------------------------------------------

 

However, all that said, I'd recommend a tube amp over solid state.  

 

I've had a number of solid state and tube amp rigs over the years, but I can tell you my absolute favorites were ALWAYS tube amps.  With solid state, I always kind of have to listen for strengths such as improved detail or bass, whereas with a great tube amp, you literally just hear right away that the music as a whole just sounds better, for some reason I can't explain.

 

Out of your tube amps listed, I'd go for the Stratus.  Eddie Current, from my readings, tends to lean toward a more "solid-statey" sound despite its tube base.  Woo Audio seems to lean this way as well with some of their amps with a few exceptions.  I believe the Stratus will get you that "tube magic" you're looking for, without becoming overly warm or anything as a few other tube amps tend to.

 

I like the idea of the Stratus since it's based on the 2A3.  The 2A3, in speaker amps, is VERY highly regarded.  When a high efficiency speaker system only needs 3W, a very large number of people immediately turn to the 2A3 tube to power their system, since though it only puts out 3W, they're almost universally regarded as 3 VERY good watts.  And with headphones, the 3W output is more than enough anyway.

 

Also, based on my readings of the Stratus, I've read quite a few posts describing it with the HD800, and they were all pretty much raves.  So if it was me, personally I'd get the Stratus without looking back.

Count ChoculaBot (Always wanted to say that!),

 

Thank you for such a thoughtful response to my posting.  

 

Regarding tube amps, I have NO direct headphone amp listening experience.  However, years ago when I worked in audio retail (1977-1982), we did sell Audio Research amplifiers as well as Krell, so I have some distant experience.  Additionally, being a guitarist, I have had many tube amps over the years (still have two, 5E3 Deluxe and 6L6 Dumble Style Amp). So the "magic" within fire bottles and the Western Electric Handbook is not foreign to me.  My listening experience hower with HeadFi of recent days is purely solid state.  

 

Keep in mind that I have no intention of selling my Grace Design m903 so I will still have a very good solid state amp.  With a tube amp or a higher resolution SS amp it will be a balanced or unbalanced 24/192 DAC.It was contrast in sound that lead me to begin my search for solely a tube amp.   It was only after I began my search that I expanded my horizons to include both hybrid and solid state amps.

 

I have been reading about OTL vs. SET, balanced vs. unbalanced, different types of tubes and their character etc. Like you described it seems as if the world of quality tube amplifiers is comprised primarily (but not only) of Donald North, Craig Uthus and Jack Wu. All are well respected.  Some folks are fans of one builder more than another.  I have no understanding of the pros and cons of a 6H30, 2A3, 6SN7, 6C33C, 6AS7, or 6DE7 power tubes. in terms of sound signature, noise, dynamics, NOS availability etc.

 

So this is the normal evolving curiosity of wanting a bit more.  I have the K702s which are quite good.  Why get the HD800s?  because they are better.  I have a very good amp today in the m903, which I won't be selling.  Unfortunately, what you are suggesting is that emperically, one needs to listen for themselves to decide which camp one is in.  This of course makes perfect sense.  It is just short of attend the Rocky Mountain event, I must rely on opinions shared on site like this and others, talking with the makers and rolling the dice.

 

Your choice of the Stratus because it is in the middle in terms of its not SS character perhaps is a good one.  In your view you see the SS to warm tube array of amps being:

 

(Clear/Transparent) EC Zana Deux SE > DNA Stratus > Woo Audio WA22 (Warm/Euphonic)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It does make good sense. But not knowing if I am a "SS" guy as you describe, something like a GS-X is still interesting as well.  

 

 

 

Hence my posting.

 

:-)


Bob


Edited by iim7V7IM7 - 9/28/12 at 1:09pm
post #20 of 172

I've been totally happy with the Ray Samuels Audio Raptor and some vintage tubes with my HD800. Can't imagine anything I'd want in the sound that it doesn't deliver!

post #21 of 172
Quote:
Originally Posted by iim7V7IM7 View Post

 

It does make good sense. But not knowing if I am a "SS" guy as you describe, something like a GS-X is still interesting as well.  

 

 

 

 

The next GS-X will be different.  More power. A 4-pin XLR output.  and more...

post #22 of 172
I'm going to toss out the SP amps. They are otl but do a wonderful job on the 800s, or any Senn for that matter. Similar to the ZD would be a Supra. (To new members, these amps can be dangerous and not to be considered for purchase by novices)
post #23 of 172
Quote:
Originally Posted by Happy Camper View Post

I'm going to toss out the SP amps. They are otl but do a wonderful job on the 800s, or any Senn for that matter. Similar to the ZD would be a Supra. (To new members, these amps can be dangerous and not to be considered for purchase by novices)

 

What?!?! wink_face.gif

 

Seriously though, the SP Supra is even better sounding than the GSX and the Zana Deux in my experience.  The key is to find one that is properly built or get it check out thoroughly by a qualified tech to see if anything is out of order.  Not all SP amps are bad though.  The earlier ones are well built and has proven to stand the test of time (well in my case ....a constant usage for nearly 7 years).  Most SP amps are sold at a fraction of the original purchased price these days.

post #24 of 172
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BournePerfect View Post

I haven't really noticed very many polarizing ZD comments myself. I do know that the Zana is much more ss sounding than say the popular Woo amps, which generally speaking tend to be lusher and more colored than EC gear. I can't for the life of me think anyone would call it a thin sounding amp, unless they are comparing it to a syrupy, distorted tube amp anyway.

Keep in mind I was about to sell my HD 800 after trying it with a few highly recommended ss amps for the Senn, including the TTVJ FET-A, and an excellent Dynalo build. They were simply to piercing, dry, and brittle imo on these amps. Then my Zana came and completely changed my opinion of the HD 800 for the better. Better dynamics, soundstaging, smoother character, yet more revealing than even the former Dynalo. Truly a great amp for some great, but picky headphones.

-Daniel

Daniel,

Thanks for taking the time for sharing your experience with the EC ZD. I am sure there is a reason that Craig has been making them as long as he has. Many experienced HeadFiers seem to adore them, yet some folks as you describe may prefer a warmer, more euphonic sonic experience or may not like it with another set of headphones.

Forgetting personal preference, what I am beginning to sense from this thread and some other searches is that these companies while they have a diversity of amps, have sonic signatures. EC strives for transparency, DNA strives for presence and Woo strives for warmth. Depending on what you are looking for, you might prefer one over the other. Without being able to hear all three, I am really guessing.

Such is the nature of high-end Headfi.

That being said, this forum is extremely helpful in helping me decide.

:-)

Bob
post #25 of 172
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Happy Camper View Post

I'm going to toss out the SP amps. They are otl but do a wonderful job on the 800s, or any Senn for that matter. Similar to the ZD would be a Supra. (To new members, these amps can be dangerous and not to be considered for purchase by novices)

Happy camper,

I am fairly new here and this was the first hit that I found:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/437344/my-singlepower-supra-experience-why-mine-almost-blew-up-like-a-hand-grenade-and-yours-might-too

Not exactly confidence building. I am not expecting that amp at UL or CE Mark lab any time soon.

:-)

Bob
post #26 of 172
Allow me to suggest a SS option few people remember to point out: the SPL Phonitor. I was never a big fan of the HD800 until I started to use it with it. The HD800 legendary imaging in addition to Phonitor's excellent crossfeed hardware implementation is a no brainer for auditioning classical. I been listening mostly to Haydn symphonies lately in this combo and believe me, it doesn't make me miss so much my Orpheus system. It reaaly gives a soundstage that is the next to the real thing in a theater.

The DNA Stratus is also an execellent choice.
post #27 of 172
Quote:
Originally Posted by iim7V7IM7 View Post

Happy camper,
I am fairly new here and this was the first hit that I found:
http://www.head-fi.org/t/437344/my-singlepower-supra-experience-why-mine-almost-blew-up-like-a-hand-grenade-and-yours-might-too
Not exactly confidence building. I am not expecting that amp at UL or CE Mark lab any time soon.
:-)
Bob

And as such, we normally don't discuss them. But for those who have an amp that works, they do exceptionally well with the 800s.
post #28 of 172
Quote:
Originally Posted by Happy Camper View Post


And as such, we normally don't discuss them. But for those who have an amp that works, they do exceptionally well with the 800s.

 

 

I see your was not telling no lie.  Talk about that amp and it's on.  Glad you got one of the good ones.  

post #29 of 172
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by madbull View Post

Allow me to suggest a SS option few people remember to point out: the SPL Phonitor. I was never a big fan of the HD800 until I started to use it with it. The HD800 legendary imaging in addition to Phonitor's excellent crossfeed hardware implementation is a no brainer for auditioning classical. I been listening mostly to Haydn symphonies lately in this combo and believe me, it doesn't make me miss so much my Orpheus system. It reaaly gives a soundstage that is the next to the real thing in a theater.
The DNA Stratus is also an execellent choice.

Madbull and Others,

Thanks for your suggestion.

I am aware of both the SPL Phonitor and Auditor and I understand them both to be excellent SS amps. Regarding the Phonitor much of what you are paying for are cross-feed functions. My Grace m903 a very good cross-feed circuit (designed by Jan Mier) that is defeatable. I almost never use it. I did not include SE SS amps like the Auditor, Phonitor and the Violectric V181 or V200 in my list because I regarded them (rightly or wrongly) to be in a similar class to what I have now with my m903.

If I decide to go SS instead of Tube (still on the fence), I was thinking that either a HeadAmp GS-X from Justin (delivery time is a concern here) or a YBM built AMB Audio Sigma/Beta 22 (no warranty on a DIY is a concern) seem like my top SS choices. These concerns are not limited to the SS amps. All three tube amp companies are small, individual based as well.

But I have definitely narrow my choices to:

AMB Audio Sigma/Beta 22 built by YBM
DNA Stratus
Eddie Current Zana Deux SE
HeadAmp GS-X
Woo Audio WA22

All are likely a "step up" from my m903 in terms of performance, but they will all have somewhat different signatures. I am unclear as to the exact nature of the differences, so now that I have narrowed down to these 5 amps discussing the differences between the amps in this post?

My understanding based on what I have read (the caveat), is that the GS-X is the more neutral amp compared to the sigma/beta 22. Do people agree with this?

Among the three tube amps, the ZD is the most transparent and the WA22 is the most euphonic withe the Stratus falling in between. Do people agree with this?

Being without the ability to audition before purchasing it is quite difficult to decide. I can go the route of contrast to m903 (something euphonic) or something more detailed (akin from changing from my K702s to HD800s). The tube amps all offer the advantage of sonic tune ability with tube rolling. Some questions here:

Can the ZD be made a bit more warm by tube rolling? Inversely, can a WA22 be made less warm and lush by tube rolling? I have read that the Stratus can be changed dramatically by changing out 2A3s.

So the tweak ability of a tube amp seems to hold some advantage in a buy it blind situation. Do folks agree with this? I am fairly sure that all of these amps are a step up in terms of HD800 performance, it is about finding the best fit to what I said that I was looking for in my OP.

Does one of these 5 amps excel more than the others in these listening attributes WITH HD800s?

Bass Performance

Not bloated, but solid, detailed, textured bass with more "slam" than the m903 provides.

Sonic Detail & Dynamics

One thing that I enjoyed with the m903 was the level of sonic detail that I can hear. I want to any amps excel in presenting micro details and micro/macro dynamics an amp that can rapidly respond to the demands of a musical passage.

Sound Stage & Imaging

It is already quite good on my m903, but an amp that both translates the recorded space supremely in terms of depth and width and instrument location within the image would be welcome
Edited by iim7V7IM7 - 9/29/12 at 6:52am
post #30 of 172
Quote:
Originally Posted by iim7V7IM7 View Post


HeadAmp GS-X from Justin (delivery time is a concern here) or a YBM built AMB Audio Sigma/Beta 22 (no warranty on a DIY is a concern)
My understanding based on what I have read (the caveat), is that the GS-X is the more neutral amp compared to the sigma/beta 22. Do people agree with this?

 

 

Yes on the delivery time from Justin.  However, if you order now you would be right on time for about a 2 or 3 month wait instead of a year or two wait.  "I hope"

 

Where did you get the idea of no warranty from YBM?  Ying provides very professional customer service and warrants all his products - I worked with him on a few occasions.  You ask me it's a better deal warranty / customer service wise compared to a company.  He has more time to spend with you sense he's not mass producing these amps.  You get exactly what you want, the way you want it the flexibilities are great and he stands by his work (very professional young man).  

 

If you have any issues Justin and Ying will be there for you - I would not worry about warranties if it comes down to these two.

 

GS-X more neutral that the B22?  I would say yes based on my experience with the GS-1.  However, in my application they complimented each other very well.  The B22 is more fun to listen to.  The GS-1 was technically better and more transparent while the B22 adds a little fun color to the mix - not much though.  Both amps are great with any headphones you have, IEMs included - with the argumentative exception of the HE-6 and K1000.

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