Originally Posted by songmic
Because I sadly missed the L-2, I'm eyeing the Black Diamond. I have some questions, though.
1. Although it's cheaper than DSHA-1 and L-2, will it likely be a superior sounding amp?
2. Will it be a tube or solid-state amp?
3. Will it have a low output impedance for a wide array of headphones, or a rather high output impedance optimized for high-impedance headphones like HD800 (like L-2)?
1. Unlike pretty much any brand out there that I can think of, Doug's amps really aren't designed for better/worse as price goes up. He comes up with a circuit that interests him (and is usually novel in the market in one way or another) then puts out a small batch. While each amp certainly has its strengths and weaknesses (especially pairing with certain headphones,) there is no clear-cut superior in a universal or absolute sense, at least not to my ears.
2. The voltage gain will be supplied by transformers, so I'd call it a transformer amp (though apparently the definition of "amplifier" is a matter of semantics.) The parts that are not transformers are solid state. Based on release date, this will be unique among headphone amplifiers, although Steve Eddy (of Q Audio Cables) plans on releasing something similar with an indeterminate release date (last update was in December, so not sure where that's at.)
3. Both the DSHA and L-2 had a Lo Z of about 10 ohms and a Hi Z of around 40. On paper that might not be perfect for something like CIEM's, but I really did enjoy it with my JH13's as well. I don't have the output impedance figure on the BD, but I would not be surprised if its similar, its definitely not a 50 ohm deal like Meridian put out (which sounds like wooly mush) or DNA's Hi Z out of 120 ohms (DNA's low Z output is about 3 ohms). [Edit- and the meridian sounded wooly but I have no idea what the DNA gear sounds like.] The L-2 and DSHA had a Lo/Hi switch, and I don't think the BD will offer this. 40 Ohms I'd call optimized, 10 would not be, that would be more 'general purpose'. It does sound good from CIEMS and Grados up through Audeze, though it is definitely a 'pedal to the floor' situation there. X and XC should theoretically be much better but I have never tried
As an aside, and because I want to be up front and not mislead anyone who really would be better off with something else: I don't think Doug's amps will appeal to everyone. I look around and see thousands of posts dedicated to megawatt amps (either headphone amps or speaker amps with adapters of some kind) running headphones more inefficient than your average government. This is definitely not one of those amps. It runs really quiet, is generally closer to what I'd call "neutral," (inasmuch as I don't think it changes the sonic character of my headphones much other than amplifying), has good speed and detail, and unique design by one of the few innovators in this hobby. It will not be bombastic, or blow one away at first blush (it is more understated and the benefits are more readily evident over time.) It will not have much in common with the "tube" sound some are looking for or the more aggressive candidates in the solid state arena.
Oh yeah, and I prefer it + my HP1K to some very highly regarded and expensive rigs. I won't go into detail as I haven't hydrated well enough yet today to get into pissing matches.
Edited by Radio_head - 3/25/14 at 4:03pm