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Liquid Lightning MKII Audition Program

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

Hello everyone. Now that LL2 pre-production unit is beginning to make the rounds and has garnered some strong praise.

 

I am opening an audition or loaner program. If you are interested in trying out the LL2 please email me at:

 

liquidlightning@cavalliaudio.com

 

Please let me know your equipment and some reason for wanting to audition the amp. I will do my best to prioritize everyone in a fair manner.

 

There will be some minimum requirements such as -- a minimum set of Stax headphones is 507s and a you'll need decent source.

 

Since the LL2 may go from one individual to another you will be asked to cover just the shipping from your location to the next. This is fairly common for this type of loaner program. To minimize these costs I will try to arrange the routing so that the package doesn't have to travel long distances. Occasionally it may come back to CA just to see what condition it's in. ph34r.gif

 

One additional requirement will be that you make at least one post with your experiences. biggrin.gif

 

Looking forward to talking with everyone.

post #2 of 22
Nice initiative smily_headphones1.gif
post #3 of 22

So you're sayin that anything under a 507 ain't worthy? Sorry, I don't qualify.

What changes have been made to give your latest creation a "MKII" designation?

post #4 of 22

I love the Lambda and Sigma series a lot, and overkill has its charms, but honestly I wouldn't purchase a $4800 amp to drive them.

 

Changes have been posted before here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/653279/cavalli-audio-presents-the-liquid-lightning-2-announcement-and-update-thread#post_9210928

 

The result is an amp with a definite similarity to the LL1, but that is elevated to another level in detail, layering, and dynamics. The best commercial stat amp I've heard so far. Purrin was amazed by it too (you can find his impressions in the usual place).

 

Looking forward to seeing more impressions from folks. This amp is really somethin' else.

post #5 of 22

It is very cool.  I am thinking to bring my record to the next event for Audition.

post #6 of 22

@MF - Thanks for your candid response!

So no MKII for me. (as if I could afford one in the first place.) tongue.gif

post #7 of 22
First off, a big thanks to Alex for trusting the community enough to allow this great amplifier to make the rounds.  Ok, on to the impressions!
 
tl;dr  => The LLmkII has the juice to take control of the SR007mkI and make it sing.
 
Impressions:
 
I have spent a few hours listening to the LLmkII and I would have to say that I am quite impressed with it.  It is a great looking amp and I feel that it has the power to unlock the full potential of the Stax OIImkI headphones.  For the comparison, I listened to a few of my tried and true "test tracks" and then just started going through my music library.
 
I am not sure if it is expectation bias* or not but I have always felt that I could hear the slight bass hump around 50 hz for the OII and was bugged by the peak at 10khz.  When I first got a chance to actually sit down and listen to the OIIs in a quiet setting, it was when I purchased them about a year ago alongside the SRM-323s.  The speed and precision of the headphones was like I remembered from my meet impressions but the low bass seemed absent and there was a crowded sense to the upper treble.  The treble seemed unnatural to me.  It felt like there was too much information in the highest register which I attributed to the rising response approaching 10khz.  The best I could describe it was that the treble emphasis led to an accentuation of every minute detail in the high frequencies giving the sound a little more brittleness.
 
Enter the LLmkII.  The first thing I noticed right away was the bass.  As I stated in my first impressions, it was simultaneously more present and pronounced and at the same time cleaner and more precise.  Tracks that I normally would pull out the Paradox for in order to get a more impact and low end extension now rock just as hard on the Stax.  The LL seemed to greatly lesson the issue I had with the OII through the 323, which is that even though the low bass frequency response is only 3-6db down, the 50hz hump would mask its presence and therefore, my ability to enjoy the music. 
 
The second thing I noticed with the LLmkII was the treble.  I actually found myself turning up the LL louder than I would the 323 because the uncomfortable upper treble didn't become a limiting factor.  It felt like the "busyness" or congestion was lifted from the upper register.
 
The two ends of the frequency spectrum stood out the most from just a basic comparison.  As I started to do a little more back and forth between the two amps comparing my test tracks I started to feel like the individual instruments and sounds had more body and depth on the LL.
 
The best way I could summarize was that the 323 sounded "thin" in comparison.
 
Unfortunately I do not have any other "uber" stax amps around for comparison so I can't really draw any conclusions on that front.  That being said, I think the LLmkII passed the defacto "can it drive the OII?" Stax test with flying colors.
 
 
Notes from the listening session:
 
Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes - Paul Simon: Graceland
This has been my go to track for sometime now.  I am very familiar with how it sounds and have heard it enough times on enough systems that it acts as a great reference for me on how a piece of gear sounds.  On the LLmkII the vocal harmonies of LBM and Simon sounded alive and real.  The rhythm section and drums had plenty of punch and the horns managed to not sound as processed as they can on some systems.
 
Man in the Mirror - Michael Jackson: Bad
This is another familiarity track.  A big test for me is to listen as each layer is added and see if the sound becomes compressed.  The LL managed to maintain a sense of spaciousness throughout the cresendo whereas on the 323s it coul be anti-climatic.  Another simple test here is the bass.  When the synth bass line comes in it is punchy and tight.  The 323s did not provide the weight it needed and tended to mush up the presentation.  Not so with the LL.
 
Queensryche - Operation Mindcrime
This is actually a new addition to my test tracks.  This recording is not mastered very dynamically and can easily sound flat on a lot of playback systems.  The usual "audiophile" frequency response of tilted treble and rolled off bass totally kills the recording.  This was one of the albums that had me reaching for the Paradox and questioning the Stax investment.  With the LLmkII, I actually prefer listening to this album on the OII now.
 
Gear:
 
I am using a Metric Halo LIO=8 with balanced outputs => LLmkII, and single ended into the 323s.
 
* innerfidelity measurements

Edited by raif - 4/24/13 at 11:36pm
post #8 of 22
Nice review, can't wait to get mine smily_headphones1.gif
(Especially since I also have a 323S and agree with your comments on its shortcomings)
post #9 of 22

Subscribedpopcorn.gif

post #10 of 22

^ me too. 

post #11 of 22

US only like most loaner programs, I'm assuming? frown.gif

post #12 of 22
Thread Starter 

I think we can probably work something out for CA. biggrin.gif

post #13 of 22

Subscribed as wellpopcorn.gif

 

 

post #14 of 22

First, thank you Alex for organizating this loaner program.  Although we can bring our music to audio show for audition, it is not possible to bring the whole audio system to see if the amplifier matches our system.

 

Gear used:
Desktop computer -> iUSBPower -> EMMLabs DAC2X -> LL MKII -> Stax SR-009

 

Most of my records are stored in computer, I used JRiver Media Center 18 to play the music with EMMLabs DAC2X through USB connection as what I always do.

 

Impression:

I use RudiStor RPX-303 and Intercity MBA-1 platinum edition ver2 with HD800 most of the time.  After receiving LL MKII, the box of my SR-009 got opened for the first time.  I was stunned by the dimension and separation created by LL MKII and SR-009.  Now I have truely realized what people said each instrument has its own bubble with this combination.  Although I can identify each instrument in the music with HD800, LL MKII with SR-009 deliver the very fine detail which I didn't notice before.  The music becomes more engaging, you will discover more details escpecially for complex pop music.

 

Comparing with Stax SRM-727 II, LL MKII brings SR-009 to another level.  I did audition with SRM-727 II and SR-009 when I traveled Japan.  SRM-727 II does make SR-009 sing, but I was not greatly impressed.  The ground noise is not low, build quality is fair.  At the end of the day, I decided to buy SR-009 and started looking for suitable amplifier in the market.

 

LL MKII is one of the best candidates for every Stax headphone owner who looking for amplifier.  I will say it is the best solid state electrostatic headphone amplifier you can find today in the market.  I think every Stax headphone owner should try to take chances for audition especially for those who don't want to deal with tubes.

post #15 of 22

It looks like I'm next on the hitlist and the mk2 will go up north to Cornville AZ with Rico613 over the weekend.  So far I've been purposefully avoiding reading the impressions from you guys.

 

I have the o2mk1's and Rico613 has the mk2's and 009 so it seems we have a good mix. 

 

For sources I've got XA5400ES, PWDmk2, Lynx Hilo (if I am feeling ambitious enough to move it), and Parasound ZDac in comparison with the SRM-717.

 

If there are any other AZ folks interested please contact me, I don't mind having a few bodies over but don't want to overstep my bounds with the wife!

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