What you getting?
- 466 Posts. Joined 10/2014
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I had Zojokelli's full-option Japanese Bakoon first, indeed a great amp with the TH-900 and even more so with the HD800.
I sold it to get a GS-X MkII which is also a fantastic amp but am thinking of selling as well since I'm planning to move to tube amps only.
Tube amps are much more expensive though if you consider the crazy prices you pay these days for the scarce good NOS tubes.
I've gound that I'm happy with the tube amps that have a hybrid style flavor. A bit of tubey w/o going overboard. I'm using the Woo WA7 with the upgraded Electro Harmonix 6C45 for my TH900's and a KGST with GE tubes for my Stax SR007A's. Fed by the ygg and listening predominantly to FLAC files from my Deezer streaming service is a big win. Happy as a clam.
At the time of writing this I've had the pleasure of owning my Bakoon HDA-5210mk3 for a month and a half. The headphones I used while writing these thoughts are the Fostex TH-900 and the Sennhesier HD 650. My source is a Fostex HP-A8, using the SD card input. My music tastes largely fall into the buckets of R&B, hip-hop, electronic, rock, and pop. I purchased the SATRI-IC-EX standard model (the cheapest one).
The TH-900 is a wonderful pairing with the HP-A8 through its headphone output (which should come to no surprise considering the two were until recently the flagships in Fostex's consumer headphone products). This system has detailed bass with lots of impact and lots of detail in the midrange (characteristics of the TH-900 I'm sure you've read about or know of). The HD 650 sounds thin in comparison and unimpressive in general connected to the HP-A8.
The HDA-5210mk3 (and its brethren) has both a voltage and current output you can plug your headphones into. With the TH-900 using only the HP-A8's DAC, the voltage output is a significant upgrade with increased bass impact and more detailed midrange. The current output is... magical. It's subtle but the bass has less impact/body but has more detail and *character* that increases the PRAT of my music. I would say the TH-900's midrange has a sparkle but the Bakoon's current output brings it to an even more enjoyable level (it's hard to explain because I don't want to say it "tames" it but it improves its "quality", whatever amazing "quality" the TH-900 presents already). I don't know the technical details but the current output is its touted feature and I enjoy it much more than the voltage output. I bought the Bakoon because it's an often recommended companion to the TH-900 and I can now enthusiastically back that claim.
The Bakoon took the TH-900 and increased every good quality about it. It changed the HD 650 into a completely different sound from what it was before. If you've heard the HD 650 you know it has a warm quality but a lot of people says it has a "veil". I think that word is a good description for the system I had it plugged into before. Like you enjoyed the idea of what it was trying to do but at the same time you had the nagging feeling it sounded "muffled". The Bakoon reaches into that veil and pulls the midrange front and center (from its "veil") while stretching that beautiful texture of the bass behind it into this incredibly enveloping experience.
The TH-900 here is still technically better with much more detail and better quality bass (more impact, more detail). High energy rock and hip-hop suits this headphone better for me. But I find myself choosing the HD650 for much of my music because the sound signature the Bakoon creates (really smooth but less detailed mids and "wide", enveloping, less detailed but more textured bass) fits better what I love about listening to more downtempo music.
The base of this review has been with these two headphones and my one source so your experience could be wildly different with different components. But one thing I hope you can take away from my experience is the large impact the Bakoon can have.
Now I'm curious about the HD800 since it comes from the same family as the HD 650. And I've read how well Bakoons (mainly the HPA-21) fare with planars. This hobby is more complicated than I thought!
Edit: Added some clarification that the TH-900 is certainly technically superior with this setup and that my love for the HD 650 is due to my music and sound signature tastes.
Edit 2: As of today (3/31/16), contrary to what I wrote above, I've changed to using TH-900 over the HD 650 for all recordings now. Maybe it took some time to get used to the sound but the detail and bass have become extremely addicting for even warm and downtempo music. Love it!
It's funny to see how popular the 5210mk3 is with TH-900 users (me as well), when in reality i'm 99% sure it's good with every headphone there is. For some reason it has this reputation with the th-900 in particular.
Like @sir poulet said. It took his hd650 to another level. I have no trouble believing it unlocks the (at least near) full potential of the vast majority of headphones that could be plugged into it. If this amp doesn't do that, I can't imagine what one would. It's really special.