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LCD-2 amps: Earmax Silver and Lehmann Black Cube Linear

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

More than one year ago I reviewed the Audeze LCD-2 against my Sennheiser HD 650. I was very astonished to learn, how good the HD 650 came out of this competition. If you are interested, read my review here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/564127/this-weekend-i-compared-lcd2-and-hd650
 
  All I have written is still correct IMHO, but the test had one shortcoming: by that time, I had only the earmax silver as a pure tube driven, output transformer-less amp for the test. It is a perfect match with the HD 650 but, according to the specs, shouldn't do so well with the LCD-2, because of their low impedance of 60 Ohms. On the other hand, the earmax silver was built and advertised to please even Grado fans. But also here at head-fi some people claim, the earmax is underpowered for the LCD-2.
 
  Recently I had a problem with the scalability of my setup, and I decided to investigate, if the headphones or the amplifier could be the bottleneck. For that reason I bought a Lehmann Black Cube linear and got a pair of LCD-2s, the leather free Rosewood option.
 
  The BCL should have all the power that is necessary to drive the Audezes. It even has a gain switch with 3 different settings to adapt the amp to the headphone. In the lowest gain setting, I found the whole presentation a bit thin in the LCD-2, the middle setting was better, although slightly harsher (not harsh, but harsher than the lowest). The maximum gain brought it beyond what I would accept as good sound: too thick in every respect. So I settled for the middle gain setting.
 
  After several hundred hours of break-in for the Lehmann and the LCD-2 it is time to write down a conclusion.
 
  First impression is: the earmax silver is by no means underpowered. It sounds great through the LCD-2, with a good bass, plenty of stage and space between the instruments. Gain adjustments, like with the BCL are not necessary. It is perfect as it is. It also sounds softer. Tube typical sound perhaps. Soft, smooth, the music gets a natural weightless flow. Very nice.
 
  The BCL on the other hand still seems to sound a bit slim compared to the earmax, especially in the low frequencies. This is where the LCD-2 shines and the earmax brings more weight to the whole presentation compared to the BCL. The BCL on the other hand is more analytical.
  For rock music the Lehmann adds a good amount of fun to the sound. The transients are faster and the LCD-2 is the right headphone to bring this to life. Keith Richards or Angus Youngs Guitar rarely sounded so dirty as with BCL and LCD-2.
 
  So there is no clear winner, but also no clear looser. I am happy to report that the BCL is a good amp. I wrote differently a while ago. This was clearly due to brand new - not broken in amps at the dealer. The BCL needs time to become a well rounded, soft and smooth sounding amp, that still delivers a lot of bite when it is asked for it.
  The earmax on the other hand is by no means underpowered (did I mention that before :o). I don't know if there could be a difference between the american 110 volt units and the european 220 volt earmaxes. For my understanding the psu should handle this and the power of the amps shouldn't be different. Maybe someone who knows more about electronics than I do can comment on this.
  For my personal taste, the added space and the weight of the earmax presentation sounds more enjoyable than the analytic side of the BCL.
 
  There is one more thing I noted when I compared the LCD-2 to the HD 650. Voices seem to be closer to the listener with the HD 650. That is very nice and it is a pity that the LCD-2 doesn't reach that level. When I listened to the basement tapes (Bob Dylan and the Band from the new MFSL SACD release) I noted that. Dylan is farther away in the LCD-2. But then, the LCD-2, especially when combined with the earmax, boosts the volume of contrabases in an Orchestra to a level that comes very close to reality.


Edited by mironathetin - 11/11/12 at 12:00pm
post #2 of 7

Thanks for the review.

What tubes have you used?

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

I still have the stock tubes in the earmax. They are unlabeled except for "TAD, selected" which is printed on the tube in the middle.

 

I also own a matched pair of Jan-Philips 6922 NOS tubes which came with my old X-Can. I tried them in the earmax but was not convinced. The stock tubes sounded more homogenous.


Edited by mironathetin - 11/12/12 at 11:21am
post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by rosgr63 View Post

Thanks for the review.

What tubes have you used?

I checked your last posts and found that you are pretty active in the tube section. Do you have any good idea what tubes work well with the earmax? I also tried to find out what is behind the unlabeled tad tubes with no success. I found out though, what has been used in the earmax anniversary: 

Selected and matched Siemens E88CC and one Philips 12AT7WC NOS tubes.


Edited by mironathetin - 11/20/12 at 1:51am
post #5 of 7

I am afraid I don't own an Earmax so my suggestions would be rather theoretical.

 

I understand that one of the best 12AT7 is the GEC A2900 or CV6091.

They are not cheap but worth trying.

post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thank you for your suggestions, rosgr63.

 

 

I wrote to Mr. Brocksieper, the constructor of the earmax amps, to find out the specs of the anniversaries and the current silver edition tubes.

His answer:
 
Anniversary:
NOS Telefunken, Siemens and Valvo tubes. No Philips mentioned.
 
Silver Edition:
Russian military spec tubes, specially selected and matched for the Earmax. The central tube is a chinese tube, checked for 1% match and specially selected for low noise and microphonics.
 
All the new tubes are relabeled by the distributor TAD (tube amp doctor).
 
Mr. Brocksieper assures, that the current tubes all measure better that any NOS tubes.
Very friendly guy and a quick answer.

Edited by mironathetin - 11/21/12 at 5:42am
post #7 of 7

The NOS I have tried are far superior to the new release tubes.

What matters is the quality of the NOS tube as many are used average testing tubes misdescribed and sold as NOS.

Test results are not the best criterion IMHO.

Materials used, construction details placing of elements are affecting the sound quality.

 

But that's my opinion with my systems and not referring to 12AT7's which I have never used.

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