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Cavalli Audio Presents: The Liquid Lightning 2 - Announcement and Update Thread

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 

Cavalli Audio Presents


The Liquid Lightning rev. 2


Dr. Cavalli: "This version is better than rev 1. It sounds better, it looks better, it’s built better, and it has more features."







An LL2 board finishing production




Rev. 2 with new features, and an all new build - revamped inside and out.



Offered for $4850



The Spring Production run of the Liquid Lightning rev.2:


Preorder 3/14/2013


Shipped 5/1/2013




More to come! We are pleased to announce the new second revision of the Liquid Lightning. Building on the highly acclaimed original LL, rev. 2 has been tweaked for top performance, including new features as a result of your feedback. The rev. 2 is Dr. Cavlli's electrostatic masterpiece, and we are excited for you to hear it. The full prototype is finishing production now, and continues to impress.




Stay tuned to the Cavalli Audio website for updates


Follow us on Facebook for production updates and more

Edited by SoundFreaq - 3/1/13 at 1:22pm
post #2 of 27
Any pictures of the new look outside?
post #3 of 27

Yes. Within the next day or two. The amp will be at the Austin meet and I expect there to be some photos from there too.



Thought I should add a little more to this post.


The LL 2 has the same circuit topology as the LL 1. But, some special attention was paid to a few refinements and some feature requests from LL 1 owners.


The input section, as mentioned, has three inputs and one of balanced inputs has a loop out. Several current owners and some potential owners have asked for this feature. The input wiring is completely changed to shorten some of the runs. As mentioned on the website, the amp now uses JPS Labs Alumiloy wiring for all of the input wiring including back and forth to the pot.


Capacitance is everywhere and electrostatic amps are designed to drive capacitors. The redesign of the LL board included careful attention to reducing parasitic capacitance as much as possible so that the amp is doing its work into the headphones not into a scattered array of parasitics in various places. Of course, there is still parasitic capacitance, but some critical ones have been minimized or nearly eliminated.


In the case of LK 2, function eventually outweighed form when it came to ventilation. After some experimentation we've changed the ventilation pattern on both the top and bottom of the amp and have added some very large through cutouts on the board to maximum airflow from top to bottom. As you will see in the pics, coming soon, the side panels have been ventilated too. They actually look pretty cool.


Construction is a combination of machined aluminum and sheet metal tops and bottom. The side rails begin as 1/2" thick aluminum rails before they are shaped for the amp's esthetic. Etc.


So while the basic amp hasn't really changed, there are a few key tweaks that should make it worthy of a MK II rev. I hope this gives you some idea of the evolution of the amp but I know that, in the end, you all want to see photos before you decide if you like the way it looks or not. :)


Finest electrostatic amp on earth? Well, only the marketplace can decide this. :)

Edited by runeight - 2/28/13 at 6:28am
Dr. Cavalli gained notoriety with his first DIY amplifier projects. His success has blossomed into Cavalli Audio, a world leader in amplifier design.
post #4 of 27

Awesome news. I absolutely adore my first gen. LL. Gotta say though, when I read "it sounds better" in the headline I felt a pang in my heart.

Edited by MuppetFace - 3/1/13 at 3:28pm
post #5 of 27

We'll see how she sounds with the he-60 tomorrow...

post #6 of 27

Nothing can save that headphone, Al. ;)


Originally Posted by pabbi1 View Post

We'll see how she sounds with the he-60 tomorrow...


In all seriousness, I can't wait to see it. Hype to say the least. 

post #7 of 27
I saw it yesterday, didn't try different amps with the high end phones, but with the SR-009 it was utterly GORGEOUS!
post #8 of 27

Certainly better built than it's previous version but I do miss the cool CA design on top. 


Sounded just as good as I remember it. Couldn't exactly say from the meet whether it's better than the previous version or not.

post #9 of 27

Any update on the external pix and would you have the dimensions by any chance?



post #10 of 27

From the Austin 2013 Meet thread.

post #11 of 27

Dimensions wise (just from eye balling it at the meet) it seems to be roughly the same as the old unit. 

post #12 of 27
Thread Starter 

Ladies and Gentlemen,







The Liquid Lightning MKII preorders have now been opened. A few days early!



With new user-requested features, a new build, and tweaked inside to be better than ever. 



The Liquid Lightning has undergone some design changes, mostly to the enclosure. LL MK II is now in the new Cavalli Audio stealth black finish.


It has more inputs, front panel input switching, and better ventilation including vent slots on both sides. Internally, LL MK II is the same circuit as MK I, but with less parasitic capacitance on the amplifier board. LL MK II is the LL MKI in a new enclosure with some new features. Those of you who liked or wanted a LL MK I should like the MKII.


  • The enclosure is now made from machined aluminum. The side rails begin as 1/2" thick aluminum stock.
  • We've added ventilation slots to both sides of the amp as well as more ventilation on the top and bottom.
  • The front is 1/4" and the rear is 3/16"


There is a new input section with 3 inputs:

  • There are two balanced (XLR) inputs. One of these has a loop out.
  • There is one SE (RCA) input.
  • Input selection is from the front using a small toggle recessed into the front panel.
  • The SE input is converted to balanced before the volume pot so that you don't lose any gain when using SE inputs.
  • Input wiring uses JPS Labs alumiloy wire for better sound quality.
  • The output jacks are still the custom made Cavalli Audio Stax style jacks.
  • Indicator lightning is now standard CA white LEDs through small holes in the power switch and the front panel.



Judging by preliminary results the LL MKII is every bit as good as LL MKI, maybe even better. Preorder yours today to be shipped my May 1, 2013!

Edited by SoundFreaq - 3/12/13 at 8:41am
post #13 of 27
post #14 of 27
Originally Posted by MuppetFace View Post

Some very early notes from me on the LL2:




Great impressions MF , reposted here for continuity :)



Originally Posted by MuppetFace View Post

I've got the Liquid Lightning 2 up and running.


I've left it on for most of the day, as I observe some amps (like the LL1) sound best after being on for a few hours. I've also observed that 'stats sound better when you've left them on for a while. In theory, the stators should charge up almost instantaneously. However there's some conventional wisdom about leaving them plugged in all the time rather than discharging them by touching the pins. Seems like one of those mysterious areas like cable difference and burn-in, though in this case I'm fairly convinced of "warm up time" being real for stats and many amps (stat or otherwise).


Some preliminary notes:


~> This thing is a beast. Large, heavy, sturdy ... very nice! If the Liquid Lightning was a species of wild amplifier critters, the LL1 would be the smaller more colorful looking male while the LL2 would be the larger more uniform female. She'd be the one doing all the hunting, methinks.


~> The front panel is lovely. Dr. Cavalli has improved the etching / engraving used on it, so it shows up better than on the LG while still maintaining the stealth look. Texture and overall look of the front panel is like the LG's. Black only, apparently. 


~> Improved ventilation on the chassis is a good thing. There are vents on the sides now, as the top of the amp is mostly a big open grate. I miss the yin-yang design of the older amps however. Also a good thing are the added inputs.


~> The jacks are the same proprietary ones from the LL1. Which means they start out being ridiculously stiff. Really, since I had Dr. Cavalli loosen the jacks on mine I forgot just how hard it is to plug stuff in LOL. He says that the production LL2 will come with looser jacks from the get-go thankfully. Also the jacks on the LL2 are flush with the front panel rather than slightly recessed as in the LL1.


~> Compared to the LL1, the amp is definitely more similar than dissimilar. Tonality is the same. It's still a stately, "grand" sounding amp with a punchy lower end and overall organic quality.


~> Detail level seems slightly greater than the LL1. I'd put it roughly on par with the BHSE now in that respect. Better definition around the edges. Vocals seem to "pop" more now.


~> Better sense of layering compared to LL1. This was by no means a weak point of the LL1, however the LL2 sounds a bit more open and multi-dimensional, and as a result I'm finding the LL2 to be a little more immersive.


~> I've noticed a very slight hum coming from the amp itself. It's not present through the headphones: the background on headphones is pitch black. However there is a definite hum coming from the chassis of the amp. I'm guessing it's especially audible since the amp is really open: the top is essentially a grate. Talked to Dr. Cavalli about this, and he is aware of the issue. His explanation to me was that the transformer wasn't potted correctly by Custom Magnetics, but that there was no time to fix it before sending it out to me. He assures me the production amps will be next-to-totally silent.



All listening has been done with the SR-009 for the time being. I plan on using the SR-007 as well at some point, though TBH I don't want to do too much swapping because the sockets are so tight, making removal of the plugs a major hassle. I'll probably leave the SR-009 in the top socket and the SR-007 in the bottom for the extent of the audition.


So far I'd say it's an improvement over the original in sonics, though how much of an improvement is a little trickier for me to answer with any degree of certainty. It's clear Dr. Cavalli has spent a lot of time improving the layout of the original LL and fixing stray capacitance, however. This has resulted in a performance boost.


At this point I'm a bit uncertain as to whether I'm going to sell my original LL to fund the revised version. I really like the LL2, but I'm also extremely attached to my LL1. It's a bond that transcends pure performance. It helps knowing that my LL1 would probably be going to a very cool head-fier, but still. I guess we'll see!


Pictures of the LL1 and LL2 together will follow soon-ish. Maybe some shots of the LG too.



Perhaps Alex could post a few pics of the LL2 too , I think the new faceplate looks really very good. 



post #15 of 27
Originally Posted by MorbidToaster View Post

Certainly better built than it's previous version but I do miss the cool CA design on top. 

Sounded just as good as I remember it. Couldn't exactly say from the meet whether it's better than the previous version or not.

Yeah, I too miss the old design of the ventilation holes in the top plate, but I'd rather have one that does not have heat issues, or worse, requires fans...

I think there are some new pics on the site?
LL1 on the front products page is gone.
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