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Speaker amps for headphones - Page 19

post #271 of 2628

Zilch:

 

Sorry, not moving to TX.  But feel free to visit MD in the next few weeks. You could easily fly here for what it is costing me to do this -- I have to pay shipping and fees, but it probably is cheaper than buying and selling and buying and selling, etc., etc., etc.  And it is kind of fun, but it can be intense if you get too obsessive about it.

post #272 of 2628

Folks:

 

Just talked to Klaus at Odyssey and the Cyclops is still being built -- he and two other people hand build everything they make.  He's going to try to get it done by the end of next week, but he sounds busy, so it might be later.  Prepro and anybody else interested in coming might want to wait until I have that amp on site, or not, since there will be other interesting things showing up here in the next week.

post #273 of 2628
Thanks for the invitation Gary, but I'm shackled to responsibilities. :-)

I suspect you've been at this long enough (longer tan me) to make objective assessments independent of others' comments, so I'll share this in advance of your forthcoming auditions...

I've had a new Emotiva Mini-X for three days now, and following a dramatic (necessary) 24-hour burn-in (where a somewhat harsh treble went away, thankfully), I'm just about ready to say I prefer the Mini-X to my Burson Soloist - cabled to LCD-2 rev-1 (without resistors). 85 dB SPL is achieved with the volume at 9 o'clock. The Soloist has smoother highs, but that's about all it offers (for my tastes) over the Emotiva's superior bass extension, control, speed, dynamics - everything one would expect when given a lot more headroom (8 Wpc into 50-Ohm vs. 1 Wpc). The Soloist is more laid-back, too (4th row seating instead of on-stage), but I'm enjoying that aspect of the Emotiva - just as I prefer it with the DACmini CX vs. the Soloist. A few more days of this and I might be selling my Soloist. The Mini-X is a remarkable amp - worth a lot more than $189.00.

Mike
Edited by zilch0md - 6/22/13 at 4:47pm
post #274 of 2628

Mike:

 

I'm hoping the mini-x is the winner, since it is the cheapest option outside of just using my existing setup, and at $189 almost not worth sending back if it is any good at all -- I'm sure I can find something to drive with it.  But I'm gonna go with whichever amp I like the best (though as I've said before, ties go to the cheapest).  That's how I ended up with LCD-3s when my wallet preferred the HE-500s, and whether I end up driving them with the Odyssey or the Adcom or anything in between, it'll be fun playing with all of the hardware and learning.  Thanks to the folks on this thread and on Head-Fi as a whole, I've already learned a lot about amps in the last month, and look forward to sharing what I learn over the next few weeks.

 

Gary

post #275 of 2628

Just for kicks while I wait for the real players to start showing up tomorrow, I'm listening to my old Sony HT receiver, feeding FLAC this time.  Much better than directly from the CD player.  Highs are still a bit crunchy and sibilant, but the soundstage is definitely much bigger than with the Adcom headphone out and the mids are pretty nice.  If any of these other speaker amps can clean up the highs and lows (which are not particularly tight or clean from the Sony), they will be VERRRYYY interesting.

post #276 of 2628
A better quality amp with an oversized power supply will give you even better performance. That soundstage you get now gets bigger but even more defined. The 3-d of a good recording is enhanced and the micro-details of ambient sound is present. Some may not like that level of detail but I get engaged by it's realism. If you feel inclined, take your speaker tap adapter and your favorite headphones to an audio store and try some of their high end amps with your laptop and DAC. Being able to move through a store and try different levels of fidelity will be another earopener. IMO, these mini amps (headphone specific) do regress from their larger brothers. The speaker amp world offers so many more options and for a lot less. The older behemoths can be had for cheap and will put these new toys to shame.
post #277 of 2628

Great advice. Worked for me...in spades!

 

Good luck.

post #278 of 2628

Folks:

 

The Emotiva Mini-x, Burson Conductor and TBI Millennia are here, the Mjolnir has been ordered (it is reportedly in stock, and the elves in Indiana are toiling away on the Odyssey Cyclops.  It's all coming together, and all it took was time and lots of money...

 

I have other things to do right now, but expect to at least get the stuff out of the boxes later tonight, and get a little listening in.  I might post first impressions, I might make you wait and then produce a great tome of all of my results in a month.  Not sure who would be torturing whom if I do the latter, so the chances are that you will get my impressions as I go along, maybe with a nice summary at the end. 

 

And so it begins...

 

Gary

post #279 of 2628

popcorn.gif

post #280 of 2628

Wooo!!! Go Gary GO!!!! atsmile.gif

post #281 of 2628
Yeah boyee!
post #282 of 2628

Okay folks, the first and only amp out of the box tonite is the Emo Mini-x.  Sorry, had to watch the SC finals.  Congrats to the Blackhawks and their fans. 

 

Now back to business.  First, note that the amp was nicely double boxed.  Extra fuses in the bag with the power cord.  Like I would ever blow a fuse! biggrin.gif.  Kind of a dinky little power cord, but this isn't a 400 wpc beast either.  It is a heavy little sucker though.  Seems well-built.  Does not seem like a cheap amp, but it can be bought right now for $189 delivered. 

 

All plugged in, glad I did the dry run with my old Sony, made set up quick and easy.  Sending some Sonia Dada, "A Day at the Beach" from the computer, FLAC, via the Emotiva XDA-1 and using the Adcom as a pre-amp (imagine that... using a pre-amp as a pre-amp).   Late 90s rock.  Good dynamics, lots of percussion, lots of layering in the instrumentation and voices.  This is my demo album, since I know it really well, and can listen for certain things in each song.

 

The sound stage is definitely wider and deeper than I get from the Adcom's headphone jack.  No more feeling like I'm sitting on stage with the band  -- I kind of liked that feeling for a while, but it gets old.  And it ain't like the band is paying me to sit in. 

 

With the Adcom at max volume, the Emo is at 8 o'clock and difficult to control. I would definitely want some sort of volume attenuation on this thing, whether a pre-amp or a magic resistor box.  Set the Adcom to 12 o'clock, and now the Emo is at 9 o'clock and controllable. 

 

MUCH more high-end energy than I am used to with my old setup.  The LCD-3s no longer seem as mid-/mid-bass-centric.  The lower frequencies are all there, just not as prominent.  Decay is much quicker on the lower frequencies.  This could be a break-in issue, or just that the Emo is controlling the bass more/better.  Highs are not as crunchy as with my old Sony, but not perfectly smooth either.  Again, could be a break-in thing, could be my brain just needs to adjust.  Detail is fine, but the sound is slightly less "life-like" than with the Adcom's HP jack, and I'm finding the highs intruding a bit on the music in some songs.  Not sibilance, but diminished warmth and body to the sound.  Almost analytical, and a bit fatiguing. 

 

Again this is straight out of the box, with no no break-in or warmup -- in fact after about an hour of playing, the box is room temp.  LCDs are clearly easy lifting for this amp.  I will leave it on overnight to see if there is any change in temp or sound.  I will not be sending anything through it, so I don't really expect any changes.

 

So there you have it, the first in what is likely to be many reports.  Remember, this is just the first amp, and the first hour.  I reserve the right to change my opinion completely over the next month and to totally contradict everything written above in any/all future reports.

post #283 of 2628
Your description of the uncooked Mini-X is a perfect match to my experience earlier this week - but you're describing it so much better than I could.

I love the way you write, Gary! It makes what's coming all the more appealing. :-)

Mike
post #284 of 2628
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post

Okay folks, the first and only amp out of the box tonite is the Emo Mini-x.  Sorry, had to watch the SC finals.  Congrats to the Blackhawks and their fans. 

 

Now back to business.  First, note that the amp was nicely double boxed.  Extra fuses in the bag with the power cord.  Like I would ever blow a fuse! biggrin.gif.  Kind of a dinky little power cord, but this isn't a 400 wpc beast either.  It is a heavy little sucker though.  Seems well-built.  Does not seem like a cheap amp, but it can be bought right now for $189 delivered. 

 

All plugged in, glad I did the dry run with my old Sony, made set up quick and easy.  Sending some Sonia Dada, "A Day at the Beach" from the computer, FLAC, via the Emotiva XDA-1 and using the Adcom as a pre-amp (imagine that... using a pre-amp as a pre-amp).   Late 90s rock.  Good dynamics, lots of percussion, lots of layering in the instrumentation and voices.  This is my demo album, since I know it really well, and can listen for certain things in each song.

 

The sound stage is definitely wider and deeper than I get from the Adcom's headphone jack.  No more feeling like I'm sitting on stage with the band  -- I kind of liked that feeling for a while, but it gets old.  And it ain't like the band is paying me to sit in. 

 

With the Adcom at max volume, the Emo is at 8 o'clock and difficult to control. I would definitely want some sort of volume attenuation on this thing, whether a pre-amp or a magic resistor box.  Set the Adcom to 12 o'clock, and now the Emo is at 9 o'clock and controllable. 

 

MUCH more high-end energy than I am used to with my old setup.  The LCD-3s no longer seem as mid-/mid-bass-centric.  The lower frequencies are all there, just not as prominent.  Decay is much quicker on the lower frequencies.  This could be a break-in issue, or just that the Emo is controlling the bass more/better.  Highs are not as crunchy as with my old Sony, but not perfectly smooth either.  Again, could be a break-in thing, could be my brain just needs to adjust.  Detail is fine, but the sound is slightly less "life-like" than with the Adcom's HP jack, and I'm finding the highs intruding a bit on the music in some songs.  Not sibilance, but diminished warmth and body to the sound.  Almost analytical, and a bit fatiguing. 

 

Again this is straight out of the box, with no no break-in or warmup -- in fact after about an hour of playing, the box is room temp.  LCDs are clearly easy lifting for this amp.  I will leave it on overnight to see if there is any change in temp or sound.  I will not be sending anything through it, so I don't really expect any changes.

 

So there you have it, the first in what is likely to be many reports.  Remember, this is just the first amp, and the first hour.  I reserve the right to change my opinion completely over the next month and to totally contradict everything written above in any/all future reports.

popcorn.gif

post #285 of 2628

Hey Gary,

 

Reading all of your posts to this thread, again this morning, it has struck me that you've never expressed why you've chosen to insert the Adcom GFP-555 pre-amp between the Emotiva XDA-1 (USB DAC) and the various amps you'll be testing, but I can see from you latest post, that you're adjusting the pre-amp's gain to regulate the signal strength coming into the Emotiva Mini-X. 

 

It turns out that when I'm using my LCD-2 with the Mini-X, with my DAC providing a 2V rms signal directly to the Mini-X RCA inputs (without a pre-amp), I measure a SPL of 85 dB between the ear pads with the Mini-X volume control at 9 o'clock.   I don't know what SPL you're achieving at the LCD-3 ear pads when your Adcom pre-amp is at 12-o'clock and the Mini-X is at 9-o'clock, but I'm guessing it would be somewhere around 85 dB, given that you find those gain settings to provide a reasonable auditioning volume.

 

Making a lot of assumptions in above paragraph as to output voltage of your DAC (being the same as my DAC), efficiency of the LCD-3 (being the same as my LCD-2 rev.1), and SPL at the ear pads (being the same as I measure with the JL Audio iPhone app and the lapel mic I'm using)...   I can nevertheless propose that when your Adcom gain is set at 12-o'clock, you might actually be at or near unity gain - where the Vrms leaving the pre-amp is the same as the Vrms coming in from the DAC.   Can you confirm this through documentation or measurement?

 

I ask because I'm concerned about the impact that your Adcom is going to have on all of your impressions, even if you were to leave its gain fixed as you compare one amp to another, due to injection of the Adcom's deviations from perfect neutrality and transparency (no matter how subtle).  But I'm also very concerned that if, for any reason, you vary the signal strength coming out of the Adcom as you compare amps, you could significantly alter the dynamics or weight of what's heard at the headphones vs. setting the Adcom at unity gain.

 

In the Owner's Manual of the Decware ZSTAGE (single-tube triode gain stage) Steve Deckert writes that one can reduce the dynamics and weight of a DAC/amp combo, by inserting the ZSTAGE between them and adjusting the ZSTAGE gain to something less than unity gain, while simultaneously increasing the gain at the amp to maintain a constant SPL at the headphones or speakers.  

 

Conversely, he writes that the ZSTAGE (which is really just a tube pre-amp with a single pair of RCA inputs and outputs), can be used to increase the the Vrms going into the amp (up to about 5 Vrms, depending on the tube you've selected).  When the amp sees a stronger signal than what the DAC would provide directly (greater than 2Vrms, for example), dynamics and weight can be increased, while maintaining a constant SPL at the headphones by simultaneously decreasing the amp's gain.

 

 

I can attest that I've experienced this ability to customize dynamics, first hand, using the ZSTAGE to either increase or decrease the gain seen by the amp (above or below the 2Vrms provided by my DACmini CX DAC section).  And last night, just by inserting a pair of Harrison Labs 6dB inline attenuators between the DACmini CX and Emotiva Mini-X (reducing the incoming signal from 2Vrms to 1Vrms), I could hear a reduction in dynamics, after volume matching.  

 

 

So, with tremendous respect, I'd like to propose that you remove the Adcom from your test environment when using amps that have their own volume control - opting instead to compare these amps with a direct signal from the XDA-1 DAC.   This could make volume adjustments tricky for the more powerful amps, but it would rule out any sonic traits imparted by the Adcom even if it were fixed at unity gain, and would also rule out the impact on dynamics that can be imposed with variations to either side of unity gain.

 

What do you think?

 

Thanks,

 

Mike

 

Edit:  When Steve Deckert uses the word "weight," I've concluded he is referring to bass extension and bass energy.  I'd also like to add that in e-mail exchanges with Jan Meier (of Meier-Audio), he has agreed that an increase or decrease in dynamics can be affected by increasing or decreasing the amp's input signal strength, but that the degree to which this is possible varys from one amp to the next.  Some amps are not as susceptible as others, but he didn't explain why.


Edited by zilch0md - 6/25/13 at 8:04am
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