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Garage1217.com Project Ember Initial Impressions

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 

Garage1217.com Project Ember Initial Impressions

 

Hi guys,

Just received my amp today, the tube is brand new as well. No burning done so far. And used only as a preamp so far, not even tried any headphone :)

Setup:
Aktimate Micro powered speakers
Swan M50W 2.1ch speakers
Asus Essence STX DAC

Out of the box, default settings with the Siemens 12AU7 tube (same tube that I was using with my Bravo Ocean):
A little warm for my taste but some improvement over the Bravo. Noticeable out of the box. But I didn't spend too much time on this setting.

I changed Output to Low, Input Gain to High, bypassed Input capacitors and then tried again with the same tube:
Again, some more improvement over the previous combination. Not night and day over the previous setting, but again, I didn't spend too much time and it did seem less warm, louder and more to my taste.

Then I tried the Philips USA 6DJ8 tube with the new settings itself:
This was a significant improvement over the previous tube. Much better. Clearer, cleaner. Better pass, better in every way. I didn't listen too long but many would call this a substantial jump considering you don't expect the lyrics to change in the audiophile world :P

Then I finally settled on the Siemens 6922 with the same new settings:
Again, a noticeable jump in performance over the previous tube. Bass did become less tight and somewhat muddy in comparison to the Philips. However, for non bassy parts, it is cleaner, sharper and clearer. Seems more lively and dynamic as well. I might go back to the Philips later but for now I seem to have settled on the Siemens 6922, at least for the time being.

Changing the tube makes a hell lot of difference. Perhaps somewhat less than with the Bravo Ocean if you really ask me, not quite sure about it.

However, it does make a very significant difference to the extent that you might like an amp with one tube and dislike it with some other tube.

Especially, when you change the family, the difference is even more pronounced. And the tubes I tried from 6DJ8 and 6922 pawned the best tubes of the 12AU7 family :)


Compared to the Bravo, with the final setting and tube:
Much cleaner, much clearer, better bass response, better treble I think, much more hifi, a huge difference if you pay attention to details and listen for a few hours. Unlikely that you will want to go back after a couple of hours I think. Though, it has barely been 30 minute for me but the clean clear sound has already won me over :D

Far more dynamic and lively over the Bravo as well.

But of course, to somebody with less finicky ears, the difference might be barely noticeable. But for audiophile ears, the difference is significant, just less than night and day I would say. But then again, to each his own.

You do end up with diminishing returns, so provided you have the dough without being clinched, it should be a decent boost in sound quality.

Mids: Much more articulate. I can clearly make sound lyrics I couldn't before. It is much closer to cinema/hi-fi compared to the Bravo. Again, the difference won't bring you to the moon, but it is rather significant if you pay attention to details and articulation.

Details: A decent jump over the Bravo. Not night and day but perhaps I will know better with time.

Bass: 6DJ8 and 6922 families give much better bass response, at least the tubes I tried, and these families are not compatible with Bravo. Those 12AU7 tubes which have similar bass response lose in other areas, so this is a very clear win for the Ember by a long short.

Treble: Much more realistic and natural compared to the Bravo Ocean. Not a night and day jump, but a huge jump I think. Much cleaner and a bit sharper. Far better at realism. This is without burning in!

Dynamics: A night and day jump. Not even a comparison. Far more lively and realistic out of the Project Ember.

Realism: Project Ember is significantly more hi-fi and cinema like. Far more natural.

Soundstage Width: A decent jump, maybe huge or at least noticeable, not sure about the extent of the difference. But it is better for sure. Wider and more realistic.

Soundstage Depth: A night and day difference. It is far more profound and natural. Deep voices which engage you!

Imaging: Not too much difference, some difference, perhaps a bit noticeable. But not too big a difference out of the box at least. Definitely more balanced without channel imbalance and stuff, a bit more natural, but not as good as what I can get without any preamp in the chain.

Clarity: A huge jump in terms of clearness and cleanness. The PRAT is better as well I think. It is speedier when required but in a natural way. The PRAT isn't night and day difference, but not nil either I think.

Volume: The Bravo Ocean is much louder than the Project Ember with high gain. Night and day louder, the Bravo Ocean is.

Most significant differences over Bravo Ocean:

No channel imbalance like in Bravo Ocean

Much much clearer and cleaner

More dynamic and realistic

A huge difference in articulation and mids

Many more differences, lots more, which really matter, but the above is what will really matter to you out of the box to the most extent.

And the tube/tube family/brand within the same family make a huge difference even with the Bravo Ocean, and also with Project Ember. It is enough for you to like or hate the amp based on the tube used. It is rather significant. Changing the tube is like trying another amp which is similar but different at the same time.

Would I call it a worth it upgrade over the Bravo Ocean for the price difference I paid?

I got my Bravo Ocean new with 1 year warranty shipped to my country including customs etc for less than USD 100.

Project Ember cost me nearly $550

Is the difference worth it?

If you can afford it and have the money to spend this much on a preamp, then yes, it is worth it, provided you have audiophile ears and can appreciate minor nuances and changes.

Is it worth it for every Tom Dick and Harry who finds Bose better than Sony?

NO, the difference isn't as large. But it is huge for most audiophiles, considering people spend 1000s+ on a single equipment, this is definitely worth what I paid, provided money isn't an issue for you :)

PS: I am not reviewing Bravo Ocean with Project Ember. Just trying to point the differences as these are the only two full sized desktop amps I have owned. They are in different price brackets and of course Project Ember is much better. But how much better? I try to answer that!

Thank You

Aakshey

 

Source
akshaytalwar.blogspot.in/2013/09/garage1217com-project-ember-initial.html
Read more: http://www.diyah.boards.net/thread/143/project-ember?page=15&scrollTo=3694#ixzz2f2eF13N3

http://www.head-fi.org/t/681835/garage1217-com-project-ember-initial-impressions

http://www.hifivision.com/portable-audio-players-accessories/46753-garage1217-com-project-ember-hybrid-headphone-amp-preamp-initial-impressions.html

http://www.techenclave.com/community/threads/garage1217-com-project-ember-hybrid-headphone-amp-preamp-initial-impressions.152732/

http://www.erodov.com/forums/showthread.php?p=887161#post887161


Edited by techboy - 9/16/13 at 1:28am
post #2 of 32

great review, i don't understand why the project Ember cost you $550 ? (shipping and customs are really expensive in india?)

post #3 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheaphifi View Post
 

great review, i don't understand why the project Ember cost you $550 ? (shipping and customs are really expensive in india?)

 

$340 price on ebay

$55 Intl Express shipping USPS

$120 approx customs

So around $500-550 in total

 

It is awesome for the price though :)

post #4 of 32
Thread Starter 
After being insulted like anything, I set upon myself to prove the world. I finally did an AB test with a friend of mine who took care of changing the tubes etc while I listened.

SETUP
Speakers
Aktimate Micro
Swan M50W
Preamp
Project Ember
DAC
Asus STX
All connected through Belkin Rockstar splitter


AB TESTING METHOD 1

We selected 2 tubes at a time. Wrote the name of each 5 times on a paper. So a total of 10 names. My friend cut it into pieces and selected the one which came to his hand. I was in the other room waiting for the changes or lack of changes :P
After he randomly selected the tube, I had to guess which one was it based on a small section of a particular song or two I had already listened it with, before we started.
Initially, I was using a song from Bhaag Milkha Bhaag but after the first round changed to a song from Chennai Express because the first song was more difficult to clearly articulate the differences. Both are bollywood flicks (Hindi films).

Round 1: Lorenz 12AU7 v/s Sylvania Conn 1959 12AU7
I got 6/10.
The differences were there but very subtle. Although I could tell a difference I still wasn't sure which was which every time.

Round 2: Shu Guang Hifi 12AU7 v/s RCA ClearTop 12AU7
I got 8/10.
The differences were there. Subtle but noticeable, definitely not night and day!

Round 3: Siemens 6922 v/s Shu Guang Hifi 12AU7
I got 10/10 biggrin.gif

Round 4: Lorenz 12AU7 v/s Sylvania Conn 1959 12AU7
I got 7/10.
Being disappointed with my first try, I tried again. Was a bit easier with the second song. But the differences were still subtle.


AB TESTING METHOD 2

I asked my friend to randomly choose any of the tubes first, and then put the second tube. From one set at a time (from the 3 sets above). This means, I knew he was choosing between RCA and Shu Guang, but didn't know which was used first and which was used second. And so on. Used the same song from Chennai Express.
I was allowed to hear each tube as many times as I wanted, without him telling me another except No.1 or No.2. And I had to tell which was No.1 and which was No.2.
Almost always, just on hearing the first tube the first time, I was very confident as to which it was and immediately spelled it. I rarely waited to hear the second tube, leave alone for more than 1 round. And still got very few of them wrong :P

Round 1: Lorenz 12AU7 v/s Sylvania Conn 1959 12AU7
I got 3/5.
I got the first two wrong because I got confused in how they sounded. However, I got the final 3 right in a row! biggrin.gif
Again, differences are there, but subtle and not very imminent!

Round 2: RCA ClearTop 12AU7 v/s Shu Guang Hifi 12AU7
I got 5/5 :P
What more should I say?

We didn't try Siemens 6922 v/s Shu Guang Hifi 12AU7 because I got 10/10 in the previous test. So this wasn't needed.

Please NOTE
My friend was shocked as to how I could notice the subtle differences in the tube. He was in awe and refused to take the test because he felt the differences were rather small smily_headphones1.gif

Conclusion
The differences in tubes can be summed up as:
5% Very subtle differences
5% Somewhat noticeable differences
5% Difference in dynamics
25% Difference in bass
30% Difference in gain
30% Perception Bias

I admit that there is some degree of perception bias that does creep in, regardless of whether we feel it or not. No matter how much difference we feel, some of it is perception bias. Not all of it, for there are differences in tubes. But the differences are usually subtle or at most moderate.

Between two tubes which are very different in sound signature or sound quality, the difference could be immediate and huge. But that is not the case with most tubes, especially not in the same price range. Although the differences exist between each tube, and although you can't deny that they can indeed be appreciated with keen ears, the differences are not as big as they seem initially, especially once you come down to AB testing.

I still believe that there are differences in tubes, and each has an unique flavor, nevertheless, AB testing proves that although the differences are there, they are not huge. They are on the subtle and somewhat noticeable side. Once you get a tube you like, only some tweaks are possible with a change of tube, and that perfect tube may or may not be out there, and even if it is, it definitely won't make a night and day difference. But the difference will certainly be worth it with a good tube, and the experience will be worth it, and very significant, just not night and day.

I hope I have proved that I wasn't boasting. A part of it was indeed perception bias, but the changes I hear are indeed very real and do exist with my setup (for somebody with very keen ears), but not as huge as I thought they were. They exist, are worth buying tubes, but not worth wasting a fortune smily_headphones1.gif

Thank You

Aakshey

http://www.diyah.boards.net/thread/143/project-ember?page=16&scrollTo=3963
post #5 of 32
Thread Starter 
This is my collection so far. Did I get them at good rates? :P All prices include international shipping.

1. 1pc Mullard Blackburn 1960 12AU7 grey 3 ribbed plates small halo top getter
http://www.ebay.com/itm/231059471959?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649
13 pounds

2. 1pc Telefunken 12AU7 ribbed plates Tests NOS
http://www.ebay.com/itm/171129181823?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649
USD 52.25

3. 1pc Genalex 12AU7 B749
http://www.ebay.com/itm/140883386806?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649
$42

4. 2pc Sylvania Conn 1959/52 long grey ribbed plates D getter Tests NOS
http://www.ebay.com/itm/261276957594?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649
$24

5. 1pc Siemens 6922 NOS NIB Halo getter
http://www.ebay.com/itm/221274037162?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649
$39

6. 2pc Sylvania Conn 1959 long grey ribbed plates bentbox getter
http://www.ebay.com/itm/151104778740?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649
$24

7. 1pc Siemens 12AU7 tests nos
http://www.ebay.com/itm/231035693682?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649
Total for both Siemens and Lorenz is a combined $32

8. 1pc Lorenz 12AU7 tests nos
http://www.ebay.com/itm/231035693682?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649
Total for both Siemens and Lorenz is a combined $32

9. 1pc Philips Jan USA 6DJ8
http://www.ebay.com/itm/370733554370?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649
$25

10. Assortment of 10 12AU7 tubes
Including
4 RCA ClearTop
4 GE
2 Raytheon black plates
Total $30

11. 2pc Shu Guang 12AU7 Hifi series
$20

Total
23 tubes
Approx $300 so far smily_headphones1.gif

Thank You

Did I get value for money deals? biggrin.gif

Aakshey
post #6 of 32

Why would anyone 

 

1) Answer that question?

2) Know the answer to that question?

post #7 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by techboy View Post

This is my collection so far. Did I get them at good rates? :P All prices include international shipping.

...

Total
23 tubes
Approx $300 so far smily_headphones1.gif

Thank You

Did I get value for money deals? biggrin.gif

Aakshey

 

This kind of question is not related to audio nor the Ember it self, the one who can say if you get value for money deals is YOU !
post #8 of 32
Thread Starter 
Not really. It is a question of market value or going rate.

If you can get a NOS CCa Siemens for $100 then you have a bargain. Realistically, you won't get such a deal in the first place.

Get my point? :P
post #9 of 32

I'm curious--this is a headphone amp. Why you using crappy little speakers? Are you holding them up to your ears?

post #10 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by rmouser View Post

I'm curious--this is a headphone amp. Why you using crappy little speakers? Are you holding them up to your ears?

I wonder where I saw that before?

$300 dollars on tubes?

Ever wonder why you get the kind of replies seen here now?

Perhaps it's something to do with your posts. dt880smile.png

Try taking advice or the hobby will cost you a fortune and you will be further embarrassed Techboy. (And possibly insulted further)
Edited by iancraig10 - 9/27/13 at 9:26am
post #11 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by rmouser View Post

I'm curious--this is a headphone amp. Why you using crappy little speakers? Are you holding them up to your ears?

You haven't heard the speakers. These speakers are excellent. Read reviews online. Don't talk without reading first.

Thank You

Aakshey

PS: I challenge you to listen to them at full volume close to your ears for a few minutes. I guarantee that will result in your being 100% deaf for life biggrin.gif These speakers are loud enough to be at the max I hear them at 10% volume. And they engulf the entire room.
Edited by techboy - 9/27/13 at 9:31am
post #12 of 32
I have a pair of them as well as other speakers. Once again, I am very surprised that you can hear any differences on them with your golden lugs that you don't want to boast about.

I also seriously question what you use as a source. Feeding a bad signal into the best amp in the world won't change a scrappy source. In fact, if anything, it could sound worse.

Then again, you never listen.

He's also stuck a subwoofer in because the speakers don't go that low and are rolled off.

I challenge you to try and take advice and stop posting nonsense!! blink.gif

Get serious Aakshey!!!!
Edited by iancraig10 - 9/27/13 at 9:42am
post #13 of 32
Thread Starter 
Do you not read or do you not want to accept what you read? smily_headphones1.gif

I have done AB blind tests with my setup. The results are given above. The results are very clear. The differences in the tubes are noticeable and the blind tests prove that without a shadow of doubt.

I don't understand what it is that you don't understand about it.

And I use Asus STX as a source. You can rate it somewhere above a Modi as a source. So it isn't the best but very far from bad.
post #14 of 32
Thread Starter 
I have proof for my claims. You are just posting BS. It is clear who is posting non sense based on the facts that one has proved himself while the other keeps talking BS without reading or thinking.
post #15 of 32
Oh yes, I read very carefully what people post. You are not welcome on my site and I will now read the replies that you get after your detailed listening tests with great interest.

Please, we're really not as silly as you presume.

Good luck Aakshey. wink_face.gif
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