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Speaker amps for headphones - Page 21

post #301 of 2627

Okay folks, let's talk about the TBI MIllenia, and it's magic box.

 

First the Millenia.  It's tiny.  the box itself is about 2" x 5.5" x 6" and the jack pack in the back (whoa, I'm a poet!) plus the volume nob on the front add a bit more than an inch to the depth, so it needs about 2" x 7" x 6"of space to live in by itself.  The amp enclosure is aluminum and the package has nice heft and an overall quality feel to it.  The volume control feels smooth.  The rear is a bit congested (duh) and the jacks for the speaker outputs are not 5-ways, so you can't just plug in straight from the back, which adds to the crowding and forces you to attach the speaker wires from the outside in, which is pretty sloppy looking -- no hiding wires with this amp.  But I managed to get everything wired together pretty easily, so no big deal.  It comes with a set of 20-gauge speaker wires, which I would replace with a heavier gauge if I were looking to run the wire more than a couple of feet, but I'm only running it about 6 inches to the magic box, so again I don't much care. Power comes from an external transformer that looks like a PC's, and you can use that, or literally any other transformer or external battery that delivers between 12 and 24 volts and can be plugged in to the standard jack.   There's also a battery compartment for 8 AA batteries.  All comes in a nicely printed and packed box that was in another box with the magic box (yeah, that wasn't exactly poetic, was it?).  Overall, I'd give it 4.5 stars for physical presentation, with the missing half-star caused by the lack of 5-way posts.

 

Now about the magic box.  It's a 2.5" x 4.625" black plastic electronics box with 2 sets of speaker jacks on opposite sides.  For $100, I was hoping for aluminum, but I guess plastic is okay as long as the internal parts work well, and they do.  I will note that the jacks were mislabeled, so that L and R are swapped if you follow the labels.  When I first looked at it the labels didn't make much sense to me, since L was on the left on both sides of the box, which would have meant that the wires would have to cross each other inside that small box.. That seemed wrong, and it isn't the way Jan did it.  He just didn't label it correctly.  Again, not a major problem for me, since I have listened to my demo tunes so often that I immediately knew that the sides were swapped and I just re-did the connections.  But he shouldn't have screwed up the labeling, which is literally just black marker on gold circular stickers.  He did use 5-way posts on the magic box, so plugging in the taps' banana jacks is easy.  I'd give the magic box 1 star for physical presentation, but it works, and that's a lot more important than what it's made of or looks like. 

 

So how does it sound?  I'm not telling.  Bwahahahahah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, I will, but note that these are first impressions, subject to change with hours of comparative listening.  Here are the key words:  warm; full-bodied; inviting.  The antithesis of analytical.  Lush mids, per the LCD family sound.  The sound stage is smaller than the Emo's, but still a bit bigger than the Adcom pre-amp's.  Bass decay is much slower than with the Emo, so the sound can be a bit sloppy or boomy on bassy tunes with fast transitions.  But all of the rest of the "you are there" realism and detail that the LCD-3s offer is there, and that realism was missing for me a bit on the Emo, at least for the short time I've listened to it.  Highs on the Millenia are relatively smooth, less rolled off than with the Adcom, and much less prominent than on the Emotiva.  In my view the Emo sounds analytical because at this point it is missing some mid-range.  That is not the case with the Millenia.  If anything there might be too much mid-range and mid-bass for the LCD-3s, since mids are their emphasis as well.  But this little amp LOVES acoustic guitars and male human voices.  On a hunch I fed it Mumford and Sons' Babel, and it sounds really great.

 

Okay, enough for now.  I have to work tomorrow.  And listen to lots of music tomorrow night.  So off to bed. 

post #302 of 2627
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cante Ista View Post

Looking forward to further impressions Gary. 

 

BYW, I just wonna plug First Watt F3 here. I liked it with my M51 but PWD mk2 completed the package for me. It just raised the level of musicality by a little bit, turning it into something I am now considering my end game set up for a while. I am using it primarily with HE6 and I am super happy with it! It is also a gem for HD800. As such, I bet it would work nicely with Audezes. I am really curious to compare it to the GSX when it gets here.

 

 

anyway, back to you Gary.


Cante:

 

You volunteering to drive up here with the F3?  I'm about an hour outside of DC, non-rush-hour.  If you bring it (and your cans too, if you want), I'll definitely make room for it (I have a pretty big house), listen to it, and write my impressions, and you can listen to all of the stuff I've compiled here and write your impressions.  But $2400 is out of my price range (I also have a pretty big mortgage), and the range has already expanded too much with the Odyssey Cyclops at $1300.

 

Just lemme know...


Edited by Gary in MD - 6/27/13 at 11:30pm
post #303 of 2627
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post


Cante:

 

You volunteering to drive up here with the F3?  I'm about an hour outside of DC, non-rush-hour.  If you bring it (and your cans too, if you want), I'll definitely make room for it (I have a pretty big house), listen to it, and write my impressions, and you can listen to all of the stuff I've compiled here and write your impressions.  But $2400 is out of my price range (I also have a pretty big mortgage), and the range has already expanded too much with the Odyssey Cyclops at $1300.

 

Just lemme know...

Thanks Gary. Next few weekends I am booked through and through. Normally it is tough for me to get away from the wife and my daughter on the weekends because I practically do not see them during the week, due to work. If you'd like we can revisit this idea in few weeks though. 

 

BTW, I hear ya on the mortgage payments. Mine are about to get bigger as we are planing to add on to the house.bigsmile_face.gif No more audio purchases for me for a while. frown.gif No Stax or that Simaudio amp couple of guys mentioned on the HE6 thread that I really wanted. 


Edited by Cante Ista - 6/28/13 at 3:21am
post #304 of 2627

And now, back to our show...

 

I've spent the past couple of hours comparing the mini-x and Millenia, and there really is no comparison.  The mini-x sounds sterile and 2-dimensional next to the Millenia.  I've been listening to Dave Grusin's Gershwin Connection album, among other things, and with all of the music the mini-x sound stage is larger, or more accurately, the instruments sound farther away because some of the sound seems to be missing. 

 

The LCD-3s have the ability to make you feel like you are in the studio, hearing the musicians as they are recorded live.  You can hear the attack of a drum skin being struck and the natural reverberation and decay of the drum sound.  You can hear the piano hammer hitting the string and the sustain of the note.  That capability is why I bought them. 

 

Except that with the mini-x, that is all muted, in fact it seems to be lost.  The music becomes 2-dimensional, sterile, boring.  All of the instruments are audible, there is plenty of high-end energy, you hear the bass and mid-range, but it doesn't sound real.  The high end sounds harsh in part I think because there isn't enough mid-range and bass energy to fill out the sound spectrum.  I'm left with the impression of a cartoon, or of a cardboard cutout, like from the scene in Blazing Saddles where the townspeople make a fake town complete with cutouts of themselves to fool the moronic bad guys.  Everybody was there, but only the silly bad guys couldn't see they were fake.  Except I can hear that the sound coming from the mini-x isn't real, so I'm not gonna be blown up!

 

The Millenia gives you everything there is on the recording, and perhaps a bit more than is actually there in the mid-bass and lower mids.  There is no high-end harshness even if you crank it (relatively speaking... I'm old...).  Snare drums sound like snare drums, not like hissing snakes.  You hear the cymbal being struck, the ring if the metal, and the natural decay of the sound.  Piano notes ring true.  You clearly hear the technique of the pianist, can tell when the pedals are being worked because the sustain is there when it is supposed to be, not there when it isn't.  The Vibraphone on "Fascinating Rhythm" on the Grusin album is just gorgeous.  Freakin gorgeous. 

 

On the other hand, the bass and mid-bass can overwhelm the rest of the music a bit sometimes.  It isn't exactly sloppy, but I wouldn't call it perfectly controlled either.  The sound stage is definitely smaller than with the mini-x, but I think that's because with the Millenia you are hearing all of the sound, so it seems that everything is closer. 

 

Note that with both amps I'm hearing noise in recordings that I never noticed before.  I'm pretty sure it isn't noise created by the amps or headphones, because it isn't there on every song.  It has to be in the recordings themselves, or caused by scratches on the CDs' causing mistakes in the FLAC rips.  I guess that's the penalty you pay for using a very revealing sound system.  Note once again that with the magic box, there is no audible noise coming from the Millenia, at least none audible to me late at night after I've worked all day. 

 

And one final piece of data before I retire for the night:  I exposed the Millenia to the truest test of an amp's ability to make any recording sound warm and inviting:  I fed it Red Hot Chili Pepper's "Californication", which could very well be the epitome of "wall of sound" recording.  I literally cannot listen to this song on my Beyer T1s or Koss ESP-950s because it hurts.  On the LCD's fed by the Millenia, it actually sounds very good.  I had to turn down the volume a bit, to ~8 o'clock vs. 9 for most music (10 for the Eagles' "Hotel California), but it is very listenable, with only minimal cringing at the loudest parts.  To me that's a really impressive feat.  I'm actually afraid to try doing this with the mini-x, though I might scrape up enough courage tomorrow.  On the other hand, I will also be hooking up the Burson tomorrow, and the MJ is also supposed to be here then, so there might not be enough time for me to torture the little Emo (and my head).  Yeah, I'm a wuss, but as I said above, I'm getting old -- too old to be destroying what's left of my hearing.

 

Until our next episode...


Edited by Gary in MD - 6/28/13 at 11:05pm
post #305 of 2627
Man, you make the Millenia sound damned appealing.... Looking forward to the rest of the comparisons!!
post #306 of 2627

Folks:

 

The Burson is up and running.  I only listened to one song, just to make sure everything was working.  The recommendation is to let the amp warm up before critical listening, so I'm gonna give it an hour or so, then start doing some listening.

 

In the mean time, here are a couple of pictures, just to give you an idea of the relative size of the amps (and the magic box, of course).  The emo is on the table to the left.  The TBI and magic box are in the middle on top of the stereo cabinet.  The Burson is next to it on top of the cabinet.  It's the one with the see-thru top.  Still waiting for the MJ to arrive, and need to call Klaus to see how the elves are doing on the Odyssey...

 

 

 

post #307 of 2627

The TBI is even smaller than I imagined.. sweet.

post #308 of 2627

This is so entertaining, Gary.  Thank you!

 

I can't believe how small the TBI is - very appealing!  I hope you get a chance to also tell us how it sounds on 12V internal batteries vs. 24V external PSU.

 

Did your special order the Burson with a clear top or is that the way they're shipping them now?

 

 

This morning, I replaced the dinky 18AWG unshielded power cord that's included with the Mini-X with two items ordered from Amazon...

 

Emotiva's 2-meter power cord, currently on sale for $52.49:   http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008O37KBW

 

 

 

 

And a Pangea IEC C14 to IEC C7 adapter:   http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003K1K71I

 

 

 

I've yet to experience a sonic difference with the various RCA interconnects I've tried that was as dramatic as the difference made by replacing the 18AWG unshielded power cord with this 12AWG shielded cord.  Prior to upgrading the power cord, but after more than 100 hours of burn-in, the Mini-X was still a little bright for my tastes, with the LCD-2 - not as harsh as when it was fresh out of the box, but still not as smooth in the treble as my DACmini CX or better still, my Burson Soloist's treble.  

 

Now, just by upgrading the power cord (spending about $73, which is nearly half the cost of the amp itself), I am unable to distinguish the treble of the Mini-X from that of the DACmini CX' amp section - which amazingly, has remain undefeated for use with the LCD-2, in all of my trials - I actually prefer the DACmini CX, overall, to my Burson Soloist, which I'll soon be posting for sale.

 

I remain undecided as to whether or not the new power cord did anything for the mids, but in general, the Mini-X > LCD-2 Rev.1 is much more engaging than it was before - less mechanical sounding.  

 

I was hearing the same harsh treble and recessed mids that you've heard when I first pulled the Mini-X out of the box.  You might not want to spend any additional money to upgrade the power cord, but I'm confident you'll hear improvements in the Mini-X as you put more hours on it.

 

 

Note:  The Mini-X power jack does not grip the two-conductor C7 power plug tightly enough to support the weight of this heavy power cord - you'll have to cable-tie it to something upstream to keep gravity from pulling it out of the jack (and to provide strain relief).

 

Mike

post #309 of 2627

Man, I bet that 18AWG cord is feeling a bit embarrassed.  "Hey, it's not about the size, it's about the motion... of the electrons."  But for $73, I wonder if it would have been cheaper to just give the little guy some enzyte...

 

Bad jokes aside, I'm not likely to invest in a bigger power cord, at least until this comparison test is over.  At this point, I'm comparing the systems as they come from the manufacturer, with the exception that Jan Plummer insisted that I had to have a resistor box, and he was right; so for headphones, the stock Millenia includes the magic box, raising the price to $600.

 

The Burson is a loaner from The Cable Co, so I have no idea if it comes with a glass top, but I can tell you that I would prefer metal.  Looking at the inside of the amp is cool for a few minutes, particularly at night, but for long-term durability I prefer something a little less breakable. 

 

 

 

I've got about an hour of head time on the Burson, set up just like the other amps:  the Emotiva XDA-1 is doing the digital decoding, feeding the Burson as an amp only.  I'm fighting the urge to use the Burson's sabre DAC, but the whole point is to compare the amps.  Once I've compared everybody with the Emo DAC, I'll do it again with the Burson DAC.  It is entirely possible that some of the harshness in the Emo amp is due to interaction with the Emo DAC, which has a reputation of being on the analytical side of the DAC spectrum.  We'll see, eventually.

 

I played a bit with the Burson's gain selector, and after most of the time on the medium setting I'm now using the low setting.  The dial is at about 2 o'clock, which worries me a bit, but I was having problems finding a pleasing setting on the medium gain.  The sound went from boring to too loud in one click.  Going to low gain fixed that problem and now I'm going to, in effect, restart my listening session.  Solude had recommended using the lowest possible gain in a post on the LCD-3 amp thread, and as usual he was right.  I just worried about cranking it past 12 o'clock, but so far nothing has blown up and it sounds much better.

 

How much better?  I dunno yet, since I haven't really listened enough.  I'll get back to you in a few hours.

 

Gary

post #310 of 2627

So here's my first day's impression of the Burson Soloist (I'm actually listening to the Conductor, but using an external DAC, the Emotiva XDA-1, so it is equivalent to the Soloist).

 

Lets start with the positives.  L/R separation is excellent. On a couple of songs where there is a transfer of a sound effect from left to right and back, the Burson nailed it cleanly.   Soundstage is relatively large.  The various rock (Sonia Dada, Dave Matthews, Eagles) and jazz (Grusin) pieces I've played have been mostly brought out of my head -- the Burson does this better than my Adcom pre-amp or the Millenia.  The Emo Mini-X soundstage is larger, but to the point of being distant. 

 

The sound is very clean and tight.  No bloat anywhere in the bass or mid-range. 

 

Now for the not-so-positives.  There is some harshness in the upper mids and treble.  Not outrageous harshness.  Just enough to make the sound a bit cold and a touch artificial.  Not quite analytical, but certainly not warm.  At all.  While the depth of sound and timbre is basically there (which isn't true with the Mini-X), it doesn't seem quite life-like.  It is also a bit fatiguing.  To go back to my Blazing Saddles cutout-people analogy, if the Mini-X creates 2-D cutouts, and the Millenia creates fat people, the Burson creates mannequins.  The sound has dimension but still isn't alive.

 

It is entirely possible that what I'm hearing is actually the harshness of the Emo XDA-1 DAC, but interestingly, the TBI is significantly more revealing of detail -- as in if there is any noise in the recording, you will definitely HEAR it with the Millenia, when it is only hinted at with the Burson -- yet the Millenia doesn't sound at all harsh fed by the same DAC with the same cables.  Hmmmm...  Good thing I have another DAC here, I can test out the same amps with the Burson's Sabre DAC.  But that's another day's tests (Okay, I'll fess up... I've already done an initial test, but I ain't telling... I mean, come on, I've got to sell you folks beer and cars again tomorrow too...).

post #311 of 2627
Quote:
Originally Posted by zilch0md View Post

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note:  The Mini-X power jack does not grip the two-conductor C7 power plug tightly enough to support the weight of this heavy power cord - you'll have to cable-tie it to something upstream to keep gravity from pulling it out of the jack (and to provide strain relief).

 

Mike

 

 

This is a really great find.  I'm ordering one right now.

post #312 of 2627
Quote:
Originally Posted by preproman View Post


This is a really great find.  I'm ordering one right now.

Given all the contributions you've made to my advantage (and others'), I'm glad to have helped you!

Do let us know if you, too, can hear a difference with a power cord upgrade...

:-)

Mike
post #313 of 2627

Hi all,

 

I have just found this thread and am looking at experimenting with speaker amps for my HD650. I prefer tube amps so, what would be a good resistor set-up to match the HD650's 300 Ohm impedance? many thanks for the advice!

post #314 of 2627

What tube amp do you have in mind?

post #315 of 2627
Quote:
Originally Posted by zilch0md View Post


Given all the contributions you've made to my advantage (and others'), I'm glad to have helped you!

Do let us know if you, too, can hear a difference with a power cord upgrade...

:-)

Mike

Im using all pangea power cords myself and it has made a difference with the noise floor and hash in the upper frequencies. :)

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