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Speaker amps for headphones - Page 25

post #361 of 2717
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post

Voltage is 100-240, 47-63 Hz, 2A.  Output 24vdc, 2.7A, max 65W.  It's significantly heavier than an HP laptop power supply.  I would read you the Chinese characters on it, but, well, I can't... sorry.

And there will be another day's delay in my next report.  Spraying the orchard took ~7 hours in >90-degree heat in the Tyvek suit with the full face mask. Having a hard time typing because of hand cramps.

I love the fruit, but my hobby orchard is turning into a job, and that ain't right.  Oh well, here's hoping I can get some sleep.  Nothing like waking up multiple times with cramping legs, feet, hands, stomach muscles... even my style... but never my ears.  Ooof, what a ridiculous thing to write.  Oh well, I've had a tough day, so I guess I have an excuse.

Listening to the Burson now, because it has to go back early next week.  My brief description would be: very nice.  Not the most exciting date at the dance, but kinda grows on you.  More details to come.  After the previous details I promised you but haven't delivered yet.

Gary

Gary,

With an input range like 100-240 Vac, that will be a Switchmode Power Supply.
It will also have PFC (Power Factor Correction) meaning, the power supply has some circuitry to reduce the amount of noise it injects into the power lines.

Sorry, we're going to need you to translate all the Chinese characters!tongue.gif

If the Switchmode Power Supply is purpose designed for audio use and/or the audio componenet is designed to reject noise from that Switchmode Power then they can work quite well together Without Fear!

You are correct, the "hobby" orchard sounds way too much like "work"!mad.gif
I was in Washington DC last week, it was hotter than a steel mill. The scenery was better, though.

C.
post #362 of 2717

Chris:

 

I do know that Jan re-designed the circuitry some to improve the sound with the power supply, so I assume he included noise rejection... but I don't know that for sure.  I'll talk to him on Monday about it.  I might have a faulty power supply, or a faulty amp, but I don't think I should be getting that kind of noise from a properly functioning system. 

post #363 of 2717

Okay, folks, here's the long awaited comparison of the Emo Mini-X A-100 and the Schiit Mjolnir. 

 

The music used was Grusin's Gershwin CD, Duke Ellington Orchestra's "Digital Duke", Harry Connick's "25" and Paul Simon's "Graceland.  Why those albums?  Because they have a combination of acoustic and electric instruments with lots of solos, small groups and full big bands.  There are also some individual and grouped human voices on "Graceland".  As a whole, they allow me to pick out individual instrument/vocal sounds, while also hearing how things blend. 

 

Note that I used a sound pressure level app on my phone to equalize the volumes.  Way cheaper and easier than buying an SPL meter, and given that all I wanted was relative loudness, I think it is good enough.  I set the volumes to get readings between 62 and 67 dBs, depending on the recording (~62 was for the jazz recordings that were louder to start with, ~67 for "25" and "Graceland" where the recording level was lower).  I don't believe that those numbers are accurate (I'm guessing the actual dBs were in the 70s or higher) but it didn't matter as long as they were the same, using the exact same process each time (phone in the same position between the earpads, Bink's beautiful white noise (thanks Mike!) being fed via computer and optical to the Emo XDA-1, then via the same pair of RCAs to the amps).

 

We'll start with the Mini-X.  My notes are consistent throughout:  the bass is boomy and the highs are harsh.  The mid-range is okay, mostly, but the sound is antiseptic, artificial. 

 

The bass is just not well-controlled enough, so that it tends to intrude on the rest of the sound spectrum.  I often had a hard time separating the bass drum from the bass guitar or stand-up bass, and the entire lower end of the spectrum just sounded muddled and muddy.

 

The highs were harsh on just about every song, particularly on pianos, vibraphones, trumpets, saxophones and the like.  Each of those instruments would not be harsh when they were playing in the middle of their range, but whenever they went to the upper end of their register, things would get a bit unpleasant.  And pianos also had a problem in the middle of the range.  Acoustic pianos often sounded like an electric.  One song "My Man's Gone" on the Grusin Gershwin album sort of epitomizes all of the Mini-X's issues.  I wrote the following in my notes:

 

Electric-sounding piano, in fact the whole song sounds kind of like it was being played on an electric piano, which is synthesizing all of the other instruments’ sounds.  Slightly boomy bass, difficult to hear details in the bass drum, or to separate bass from bass drum.  Sax sounds thin, harsh.  Brassy trumpet.  Harsh sounding.  Cymbals sound like snakes or radiators hissing.  Overall, not that pleasant to listen to.

 

If it was just this song, I would have blamed the recording, but it was the same on most of the stuff I listened to, many songs on several albums. 

 

On the other hand, human voices sounded very good.  On "Graceland's" "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" the male voices all sounded fine.  Harry Connick's voice was also clear and sounded good.  I didn't listen to any female voices that night, so I can't provide any information on that, but I would assume they would be fine, except maybe on the high notes.

 

Overall, the Emo does mid-range fine, though it sounds artificial, electronic, and the sounds lack depth.  The end result overall is an artificial sound... like a machine trying to reproduce live sounds, which is of course what the Emo is.  But the other amps are all machines too, and they just do a much better job of mimicking live sounds.  

 

Is the Mini-X worth $189, or $220 when not on sale?  Not if you are going to use it to drive high-end cans like the LCD-3s.  The Audezes' just reveal the amps flaws too clearly and obviously.  Lower-end headphones, that aren't as revealing, might do fine with the amp, but even there, folks need to be careful about matching transducers, whether speakers or headphones, with this amp, i.e., don't pair it with anything that already has too much bass and/or is harsh on the high end.  I have no speakers or headphones that will match even remotely well with the Mini-X, so it is going back -- a bargain isn't a bargain if you can't use the product. 

 

One final note on the Mini-X.  It is possible that a replacement power cord would work miracles for this amp, making it worth the price.  But that isn't how Emo sells the hardware, and I'm not sure that even the finest, most expensive power cord will turn the amp into a real competitor in this comparison.  The other amps are just better.


Edited by Gary in MD - 7/6/13 at 10:36am
post #364 of 2717

So you might ask, "What about the Mjolnir?"  Well, it is clearly better than the Emo Mini-X, particularly in the bass.  It also does voices well, and the high-end is not as harsh as the Mini-X's.  It's greatest strength:  detail was spectacular.  Overall, it is a significantly better amp.

 

The bass is clear, tight, detailed, so that you can clearly differentiate all of the instruments in that part of the spectrum, and each low-end instrument sounds right.  On pretty much every track, my notes highlighted good bass performance.  Good thump, strike, reverberation, decay... Great electric bass on every track that included that particular instrument.

 

Voices also sound really good.  On "Diamonds on the Sole of Her Shoes," each of the voices in Ladysmith Black Mambazo can be heard cleanly, with excellent articulation.  This song is just one indication of how revealing the MJ is:  every detail in every sound is distinct and audible. 

 

Again, detail is clearly the MJ's strength.  On a fast big-band song like Ellington's "Cottontail" it is very difficult for any audio equipment to keep all of the instruments separated, clear and well-articulated, but the MJ does it, even with horns, which can sound very wrong if not blended properly. 

 

On the high end, the MJ mostly gets it right.  There is a bit of harshness, but nothing compared to the Emotiva.  Cymbals generally sounded very good, with nice detail, good ring of stick hitting metal, as opposed to sounding like an angry snake. 

 

Wow, you might be thinking, what an awesome-sounding amp.  Well, not in every way, I would respond. Like a hammer, MJ is generally cold, metallic, flat, lifeless.  The detail is all there but it isn't always that nice to hear.

 

The piano in particular sounds cold and electronic.  On Gershwin's "My Man's Gone" the piano sounded like a piano, but lacked warmth or sustain.  It sounded lifeless, flat, 2-dimensional, like I was only hearing part of the information from each note.  Same with the violins, saxophones and clarinets.  That lack of fullness made these instruments sound harsh at times, particularly on high notes.  I think that's because the parts of the notes that would balance out the sound were lacking.

 

This was a prevalent characteristic of the MJ:  you could hear every detail, but it didn't always sound all that good.  There was no warmth to its sound, no sense of hearing music played live, which is the LCD-3's strength.  Electric and electronic instruments sound fine, for the most part, but acoustic instruments just don't sound real, or right.  This amp really epitomizes the classic characterization of "solid state sound" for me.  If you want detail, but don't care about dimension in that detail, or totally accurate reproduction of the full sound of each instrument, then the MJ is a great amp. 

 

But I do care about dimension, fullness, richness, and there is at least one other solid state amp here that provides it.  So the MJ, as good as it is in revealing detail and providing awesome bass... is going back to Schiit. 

 

Up next will be the Soloist, since it has to go back soon even if I decide to buy one (remember, it's a loaner... I'd have to buy a new one from the Cable Co.).

 

However, that will have to be done later, because now I have to go mow the lawn.  3 more hours in the hot sun, but at least I won't be wearing a plastic suit and dragging a hose around.  Instead I will be driving around, listening to tunes on the Sony XBA-3s.  Pretty decent lawn-mowing headphones, by the way... better sound than the Etymotic MC-5s, though noise protection is not as good, even with comply tips, mostly because there is too much material outside of the ears, and not enough inside, so they pull out easier.  As long as I maintain a tight seal all is good, and I can do that pretty well as long as I'm just mowing the open areas, like I will be today... but in the orchard, weaving around and under trees... not so good.  To translate for those who have normal hobbies like working out or puttering around, the Ety's are better for anything that requires lots of strenuous movement and real hearing protection, but if your activity is not so strenuous or you don't need hearing protection, the XBA-3s are pretty nice IEMs, particularly for the $120 I paid for them.

 

No extra charge for the IEM review folks...

 

Back at you later...

post #365 of 2717

Wow!

 

You've got ears Gary!

post #366 of 2717
Interesting Gary. Have not heard Mjolnir but this is exactly what I find with Schiit's little Bifrost dac (non-über version). It gives distinct space between notes and good clarity with fast music, but piano, cello etc sound tonally right but these instruments' normal harmonic sustain or slow decay is missing. They sound unnatural to anyone who knows these instruments well, I would think. Like you I found electronic fine, otoh.

Makes me wonder if this is something of a Schiit house sound where SS is concerned (as one can hardly say the above of the Lyr, with many tubes almost syrupy).
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post

So you might ask, "What about the Mjolnir?".... Like a hammer, MJ is generally cold, metallic, flat, lifeless.  The detail is all there but it isn't always that nice to hear.

The piano in particular sounds cold and electronic.  On Gershwin's "My Man's Gone" the piano sounded like a piano, but lacked warmth or sustain.  It sounded lifeless, flat, 2-dimensional, like I was only hearing part of the information from each note.  Same with the violins, saxophones and clarinets.  That lack of fullness made these instruments sound harsh at times, particularly on high notes.  I think that's because the parts of the notes that would balance out the sound were lacking.

This was a prevalent characteristic of the MJ:  you could hear every detail, but it didn't always sound all that good.  There was no warmth to its sound, no sense of hearing music played live, which is the LCD-3's strength.  Electric and electronic instruments sound fine, for the most part, but acoustic instruments just don't sound real, or right.  This amp really epitomizes the classic characterization of "solid state sound" for me.  If you want detail, but don't care about dimension in that detail, or totally accurate reproduction of the full sound of each instrument, then the MJ is a great amp. 
post #367 of 2717
Quote:
Originally Posted by zilch0md View Post

Wow!

 

You've got ears Gary!


Um, last I checked, one on each side.  Firmly connected my head. 

post #368 of 2717
Quote:
Originally Posted by AiDee View Post

Interesting Gary. Have not heard Mjolnir but this is exactly what I find with Schiit's little Bifrost dac (non-über version). It gives distinct space between notes and good clarity with fast music, but piano, cello etc sound tonally right but these instruments' normal harmonic sustain or slow decay is missing. They sound unnatural to anyone who knows these instruments well, I would think. Like you I found electronic fine, otoh.

Makes me wonder if this is something of a Schiit house sound where SS is concerned (as one can hardly say the above of the Lyr, with many tubes almost syrupy).

The Schiit house sound?
No further comments!biggrin.gif
post #369 of 2717

Wow... Thanks for the detailed review, Gary!  

 

A couple of nights ago, I was comparing cymbals reproduced by the Emo Mini-X and an Asgard II.  I discovered that with the Emo driving Yamaha HP-1's cymbals sounded, to borrow a phrase, like an angry snake or leaky radiator.  The Asgard II did a substantially better job.  Interestingly, I discovered that the Emo did a much better job of reproducing cymbal strikes when driving HE-6's!  Surprised me, for sure.

 

Looking forward to more impressions.  

 

So, when does that Cyclops arrive?   popcorn.gif

post #370 of 2717
Quote:
Originally Posted by potterma View Post

Wow... Thanks for the detailed review, Gary!  

 

A couple of nights ago, I was comparing cymbals reproduced by the Emo Mini-X and an Asgard II.  I discovered that with the Emo driving Yamaha HP-1's cymbals sounded, to borrow a phrase, like an angry snake or leaky radiator.  The Asgard II did a substantially better job.  Interestingly, I discovered that the Emo did a much better job of reproducing cymbal strikes when driving HE-6's!  Surprised me, for sure.

 

Looking forward to more impressions.  

 

So, when does that Cyclops arrive?   popcorn.gif

 

potterma,

 

I think you hit the nail on the head with that one.  Although I do agree with Gary with the LCD-3 / Emo combo.  Sounds to muddy to me.  With a heavier load and the a-100 is pushed it tends to sound much better.  It even sounds pretty good with my Mad Dogs.  

post #371 of 2717

Folks:

 

Unfortunately, I have no HE-6s to test... Anybody volunteering to send me theirs?

 

On the cyclops, I hope it shows up this week, but I'm not holding my breath.  There will be at least one competitor left here when it arrives, even if it takes another month normal_smile%20.gif.  And there's always the ole Adcom pre-amp...'

 

Gary

post #372 of 2717

Alright folks, I have spent a good deal of time the past couple of days listening to the Burson. 

 

Reviewing the basics, this is the Conductor, but fed from my Emotiva XDA-1 DAC, not the internal sabre DAC.  Using the same cheap cables as fed everybody else.  Per experimentation earlier, the amp was set to low gain.  I had left it on constantly for a couple of days, just to make sure it was definitely warmed up.

 

Let me start by saying that I had a hard time establishing a solid SPL on this amp.  Set to the 67 dB that was the upper limit on the other amps tested, the Burson sounded too soft for critical listening when playing the Ellington disc.  Hmmm.  Upped it one notch.  Still too soft.  Upped it 2 notches.  Then a third.  The sound finally came alive, but the bass on Satin Doll was a bit boomy. The amp was at 3 notches past 12 o'clock, approximately the 2 o'clock I had been using before I started matching SPLs.  But the white noise SPL was now at 80 dBs per my phone app.  Whatever.  I decided to just use whatever level the amp sounded best at, but I found that the right level varied by recording.  This amp has a very narrow sweet spot.  Not enough volume and it sounds soft, damnear dead.  Too much and you start to hear harshness, at least when using the Emo DAC input.  Just right and the bears finally get to eat Goldilocks.  Or something like that. 

 

Okay, now to the sound itself.  I decided to listen to the Ellington at 2 notches past 12 o'clock, and just concentrate harder, because I didn't like the boom in the bass.  That turned out to be the right decision, since on Satin Doll, the bass tightened up.  The cymbals were a bit quiet, but sounded right. You could hear stick hitting metal.  The piano also sounded right.  There was no harshness and the detail was all there, just much more subtle than on the MJ. 

 

Everything sounds distant on the Burson, like you are sitting in the back of the theater, instead of the front, or with some amps, on the stage.  Some would say the Burson has a larger sound stage, I say it puts you in the cheap seats.  But hey, for those people who don't want to be in the band, pay a premium price to sit up close and see how haggard a 60-year-old rocker really looks, or risk getting hit by flying guitar splinters, the Burson might be perfect. It sort of turns the LCD-3s into the HD800s, without the high-end issues.  Not at all bad, depending on what the listener wants from his/her headphones.

 

The amp does handle the high end extremely well.  Cymbals and snares sound absolutely fantastic on this amp, and the higher notes on all of the instruments are clean with no harshness -- assuming you have set the volume level properly (always keep that caveat in mind with this amp, please).  Bass is also very clean and tight.  Kick drums have great, distinct thump and both acoustic and electric basses sound right.  It is easy to pick out the various instruments playing in the lower octaves on pretty much every song. 

 

Instrument separation is extremely good with this amp throughout the audible range.  If you want to listen to the drums or clarinet or guitar all the way through a song, the Burson makes it easy, as long as you pay attention, because everything is very subtle, assuming the right volume level. 

 

Sounds like an awesome amp, right?  Well, maybe, if you listen to instrumental jazz or classical music.  But this is not a very good rock amp.  The mid-range is kind of dead, even at the "right" volume.  And you don't dare kick it up a notch on your favorite tune, because the "reward" is not just more volume, but very intrusive harshness.  And while I'm talking about volume, let me whine about the stepped volume control.  I don't like it.  For an amp with a very small sweet spot, not having infinite control over the volume is a bad thing.  There were times when I really wanted to be in between steps, but that isn't possible.  In addition, and this is a minor complaint, there is a static noise in between each step.  It isn't doing any harm, but I would prefer silence between steps.  

 

More on the dead mid-range.  Voices sound distant and cold, whether the singer is Harry Connick, Paul Simon or the others on Graceland, Mumford and Sons or Dave Matthews.  I listened to a lot of Dave Matthews on this amp, because his early recordings tent to be very clear and mid-centric.  Not on the Burson.  Keeping the amp in the sweet spot meant changing the volume on nearly every song, and even then the mid-range was not alive.  Guitars and ukeleles most often sound thin.  Horns sounded a bit harsh, probably because I had the volume too high because I wanted the mids to come to life.  Even on jazz recordings, my notes indicate that the piano often sounded thin and cold... not awful, not really harsh, yet not smooth.  Just not right.  Same with vibraphones, trumpets and saxophones on most songs.  Not horrible, just not quite right. 

 

I put on my old reference, Sonia Dada's "A Day at the Beach"  a very well-recorded album in my view, with a wide mix of voices and instruments. The LCD-3s really love this album... but not so much with the Burson.  The sound was distant, not very inviting.  When I cranked it a bit, it became more involving, but some warmth was missing in the voices.  The drums sounded great, as always with this amp.  Bass was fine.  Even the piano sounded okay.  but the voices were just not well represented.

 

The verdict:  The Burson Soloist is an excellent amp for instrumental jazz, and probably for classical, though I didn't have time or the inclination to listen to any classical music during these sessions.  I would guess that small ensembles would sound fantastic, and even full orchestras would sound very good.  But opera would probably not play to its strengths.  In general, it provides a large sound stage (too large, for my preference, but YMMV), great instrument separation and excellent, though subtle, detail.  Highs and lows sound superb.  The mids are not anywhere near as good.  This amp has the classic U-shaped sound signature, and while I like it better than the Emotiva Mini-X (which, interestingly, has the exact opposite issues -- mids sound better than the lows and highs), or the Mjolnir, it doesn't suit my listening preferences, and thus I won't be buying it.  But it is a very fine piece of hardware, and I can understand why lots of people really like this amp.

 

Next up:  I'm gonna use the sabre DAC in the Conductor and see if I like it enough to recommend the combo (for $1850... OUCH), because if it can fix the mid-range problems, it might be a really good setup. 

post #373 of 2717

Few things Gary.  

 

Did you try it any other gains?

 

What amp did you hear the LCD-3s on that made you decide the LCD-3s was for you?

post #374 of 2717

Prepro:

 

I had experimented with other gains earlier, and agreed with Solude that the low gain was the best.  Think of it this way:  on an amp that has a very narrow sweet spot, adding gain just makes it that much harder to get the volume levels right.

 

I used both my Adcom pre-amp and the Burson HA-160.  I heard no difference between the two, so decided just to stay with my pre-amp.  I can tell you after listening to all of these other amps that the Adcom is a damned fine headphone amp. 

 

The whole thing was part of last year's comparison of 6 high-end headphones, including the HD800s, HE-500s, LCD-2s, T-1s, and PS-1000.  LCD-3 whupped them all. 


Edited by Gary in MD - 7/7/13 at 3:01pm
post #375 of 2717

I'm now listening to the sabre DAC in the Conductor, playing through the Burson amp section.  Setup is optical from the computer to the DAC, which feeds the amp internally.  There is nothing else in the chain. 

 

Listening to the same music, the sound is significantly different than when the amp section was being fed by the Emotiva XDA-1.  Much more forward, much brighter.  The sound stage has shrunk.  Instrument separation is diminished.  It is much harder to pick out individual instruments in the background.  The harshness has increased.  I backed off a notch or two on the volume, but trumpets and saxophones still sound a bit shrill and pianos aren't quite right, a bit too bright and "ringy" if that's a word.  Not full or warm enough to sound real.  Cymbals sound excellent, but are a bit brighter and more hissy than with the Emo DAC. 

 

It appears to me that Burson tried to match their amp with a DAC that added brightness and aggressiveness that the amp itself lacks, and ended up sacrificing some detail and a lot of smoothness to do so.  If you couldn't stand the lack of mids in the Soloist/Emo combination, you might be willing to make the trade-off.  I personally would not do so, and would look for a DAC other than the Emo or the Sabre to match with the Soloist.  I don't know if there is a perfect combination, but in my opinion, neither of these DACs matches well enough with the Soloist to convince me to buy it. 

 

Next up... back to my old Adcom pre-amp.  I wonder how it will sound...

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