Need? Of course not. But want?
+1, I would not mind getting my ES10 recabled so I get to try it on the lightning. This way I can know why people keep talking about balanced out.
just to tease, I am finishing up a review of the lightning. A great amp indeed. Killer with the LCD 3 and HE500, which is what it is designed for. Not a good match with high impedance cans like the HD600 etc... very likely fantastic with balanced IEM's as well. but I dont have any.
REVIEW: The Lighting F-35 fully balanced portable amp by Ray Samuels Audio.
How many ways can you describe sound? Obviously it is very personal and when it comes to reproduced sound, at times challenging to convey the emotional and at times, what seems a visceral impact.
I have been using The Lightning F-35 the only way it can be used, balanced. Sources are the HiFiman HM901, iRiver AK100, Hisoundaudio 3rd Anv., iBasso DX100 single ended output and with the iBasso DB2 also incorporated as the truly balanced dac feeding the balanced input of The Lighting. With the DB2, there is a true balanced dac output to the throughput totally balanced Lighting amp.
The sound of any of the daps I have listed are very enjoyable. They are detailed, musical and all different. The HM901 and the DX100 have a true line out but I must add that the amped section of the 3rd Anv and my AK100 (22ohm resistor bypassed) used as a line out, are very good and seem to have a very minimal to negligible effect on the sound.
I used the LCD-2, ESW10 JPN, JH13 Pro and HE-500 monitors. At no time did The Lightning fail to drive any of these and with the JH13’s, I could hear zero hiss. The signal was balanced right and left and with the movement of the volume control, no contact sound could be heard
So, as to sound? The characteristic of the daps and the monitors was carried through. The Lightning is so neutral and to pure sounding that to me, it is like a wire with gain. I found it neither cold nor warm, not limited in frequency response nor dampening of impact.
The live recording of John Mayall, “Turning Point”, is one of my favorite blues to listen to as well as, Luther Allison, “Pay it Forward” and a number of Peter Green’s live albums. I also like to hear the bass presentation on the acoustical recording from the 90’s of Eric Clapton.
With all of the phones and dap combinations what I consistently heard was a beautiful special presentation that reached deep into the soundstage. And something I rarely hear on ear monitors, the hall sound from the sound slapping off a side or back wall and in a realistic manner that audible “describes” the size and feeling of the recording venue. There is such fluidity to the flow of the recording from any of the mentioned albums that for me, new joy in the listening of well traveling music occurs.
With the DB2 being fed by the HM901 or DX100 (and they do sound different but both very fine), The Lightning had a vibrancy to bass notes that was exciting. It was like a correctly tuned bass guitar that is plucked and the string has a resonance that is both tight yet space within the sound. The bass didn’t get muddy, it didn’t get lost within its own sound and it didn’t override any of the other frequencies.
On John Mayall’s, “The Turning Point”, California, that sax came across with purity and extension and with bite. At one point the sax player goes for an extended high note and what you hear is pure sound, a piercing realistic note held, with no grain, but like pure water streaming into the auditory domain. This sax transverses the lower mid to upper frequency and why simple in presentation, also tests a system in that it either maintains a space and place or moves. The Lightning held the placement of the sax and yet allowed the music to flow unfettered. Dynamics are unrestrained and with everything I listened to, transparency reigned supreme.
Over and over, with any of the combinations of monitors and daps, a slightly different presentation was made but always enjoyable and totally musical. With the DB2 inserted the balanced mode was even more obvious. The soundstage was a little larger, the music a little more spacious and the realism just a little more there.
There is little music I don’t enjoy. Classical came across with the magnitude that orchestral compositions demand, if to be believed. Small scale with violin or oboe or cello carried the sweet sound of the violin, the deep body and resonance of the cello was audibly felt and the strange oboe could haunt or tease with reality. Jazz, such a brassy sound to the cymbals when well recorded, made it easy to get lost in the music and sound. And the piano, not an easy instrument to reproduce, never collapsed in size nor the sound of combinations implode. Duke Ellington’s “Blues in Orbit”, kept its distance and with a wide open pallet of sound, that could be complex and driving, never fell apart nor did The Lightning surrender to the demands of Ellington.
Neil Young’s live 92 recording and another live recording (I can’t think of the title right now) is pure excitement and a step into reality. The nasal twang to Young’s singing, the audience participation, all create one of the most realistic sound experiences I have listened to. Now this comes through, for me, on many systems but on with these two recordings but with The Lightning, there is a magical touch that transcends the expected. You are lost in the moment but even more fun for me, I can relive it over and over and amazingly, I do not tire of the same tracks because it isn’t like recorded music, it is like real, live music!
Over the past few years, portable amps, daps, dacs and monitors have taken wonderful steps forward. The Lighting is small, light and easy to use. That it produces the sound that it does, is to me, is amazing. That it does what it does, is like a privilege and once owned, a ticket to performances that you can use over and over and over. This amp in my opinion is an excellent and exciting addition to your portable musical experience and frankly for home use as well.