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Bottlehead Amplifier Discussion / Comparison Thread: Crack, SEX & Mainline - Page 25

post #361 of 833
Quote:
Originally Posted by gikigill View Post

The Hifiman 500 and the HE6 Doc.
Too bright which is a sign of not enough power.

I feel obliged to note that I am using a S.E.X. 2.1 (no 120 Ohm resistors) in combination with a HiFiMAN HE-500.

 

It's glorious, liquid, and definitely not too bright (this is coming from a previous HD-650 user, so I'm no brightness lover). The signature of the S.E.X. is more clear and uncolored than the warmness of the Crack. If you're accustomed to warmer amps, this might be what you're hearing. The power on tap is not, I repeat NOT, a problem with the S.E.X., except that the volume knob can barely go a quarter of a turn before it gets earsplitting... and I've currently got it set to the 4 Ohm tap.

 

Again, any power issue with this combination is the opposite of "not enough." I'm not sure what you're experiencing, but I can say with certainty it isn't a deficit of power if your S.E.X. is new production and built correctly. Considering how well it handles my ~92dB efficient large monitor speakers, I can hardly imagine any headphones would be beyond the capabilities of the S.E.X.

 

I'm quite sensitive to clipping artifacts as well, and none exist.


Edited by SilverTrumpet999 - 1/10/14 at 12:00pm
post #362 of 833
The HE 500 works fine but not the HE6.
post #363 of 833
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by skeptic View Post

This should be a great thread!  I look forward to your comparisons and hope to share some of my own as well in the not too distant future.  My mainline build is coming along - currently finishing off the last half dozen or so resistors in the coarse attenuator.  

11-18-13 Update - Initial Impressions of Mainline:

Having finished my mainline over the weekend and sat back with my hd800's and listened through a sampling of my favorite tracks this evening (from Oscar Peterson and Jazz at the Pawnshop k2hd to Emma Kirkby and the Choir of St. Martins, and from Alison Krauss to 2Pac)  - I have to seriously applaud the team at bottlehead on their new flagship.  This amp is technically excellent and thoroughly enjoyable with every genre you can throw at it, and that is most definitely not a statement that I would make about many widely recommended "TOTL" headphone amps.  

To provide something a bit more concrete - here are a few preliminary impressions of what I'm hearing in reference to Pierre Fournier's brilliant performance of Bach's Cello Suites.  I've probably listened to this album a hundred times on various systems and can't ever recall hearing it sound this good.  Transients are simply effortless - so fast and clean.  Timbre is rich and lifelike, and the audible micro-detail and texture as Fournier digs deep into the strings on certain notes are absolutely amazing.  More generally, on albums across the board, bass presentation is faultless - deep, impactful, and incredibly tight.  Possibly the best I've heard from any tube amp?  Trebles are detailed and nicely extended, but never strident.  For example, I tend to prefer my crack with the anax mod in place.  But to my ears, the pairing with the mainline doesn't need it and hd800's have more air without.  

From a comparative standpoint, I will always love my crack (an incredible value which will soon take up residence in my office) - but for anyone who has been sitting on the fence awaiting comparisons, be assured that, at least to my ears, the mainline absolutely takes it to the next level.  

The mainline retains what I have come to think of as bottlehead's house signature (fast, dynamic and engaging - making your toes tap - with a hint of tube fullness and warmth - the tubes, in a sense, filling in for the room effects you don't get with headphones), but it is just incredibly clean and refined, particularly in its excellent bass response and handling of transients, compared to my modded crack.  This is no doubt the result of its ultra highly regulated single gain stage topology and excellent custom output transformers.  Based on my recollections from CanJam - I would analogize that mainline is as fast, detailed and dynamic as a Zana Deux (leaving slower "tubier" flagships like the Woo 5 in the dust), but with a slightly sweeter top end.  Trumpets still scream when the source material calls for it, but I can't imagine this amp will ever be characterized as even slightly harsh or piercing - which criticisms are occasionally aimed at the Zana.  (I imagine this may mean that mainline has really low high order distortion - sort of the antithesis of the disproportionate glare folks complain of in SS amps with lots of global feedback?)  In any event, these positive qualities essentially mean that the mainline is a perfect match for hd800's to my ears.  Even when listening to very simple music (i.e. the Wailin Jenny's - the Parting Glass), the incredibly clean separation between voices is an obvious improvement over other amps with which I am familiar and makes vocal harmonies that much more enjoyable.  The same obviously applies to fast complex music as well, where the mainline's control and handling of transients is consistently impressive.  The more I listen, the more enamored I become.

Hope more of you will have a chance to hear this amp in the near future. If possible, I will bring mine to the So. Cal. meet in March.

I just re-read this, Skeptic, having initially only read it before my Mainline was finished and I'm stoked to read that we are both hearing the same things.

Now that I've spent time with the Mainline, I have to commend you for a perfect write-up and description of its many merits!
post #364 of 833

Please, try one or two planar headphones with Mainline, if the result is still great as it is, I really want to purchase a Mainline next year (oh, this year I meant if possible) to drive my Alpha Dog and future high-end dynamic headphone as T1 or H800.

post #365 of 833

Has anyone heard both the Mainline and the Sonett2?  I would love to find out how they measure up to each other.

post #366 of 833

 

Edit: moved my question to Help & Recommendations Forum


Edited by TinFoildHat - 1/11/14 at 11:18am
post #367 of 833
Thread Starter 
Does anyone in Melbourne have some planars I could try with the Mainline (ie arrange a time to meet somewhere)? I think I'm going to get the new HE-560 when it's released, but not sure when that is.
Edited by Loquah - 1/11/14 at 1:43pm
post #368 of 833

the HE-560 is coming in March

 

The LCD 2 is a great match with the S.E.X. The warmness really isn't an issue for me, but I tend to like it a little bassy (thats why I own an LCD-2 I guess). I noticed with my HE-400 and LCD that the SEX puts vocals forward. I really like with the LCD since otherwise its presentation is laid back. The instruments are still a little laid back but the forward vocals are very nice.

 

I remember Doc saying he liked the pairing of the S.E.X with the HE-500 more than the LCD though. The 500 has a greater soundstage and treble presentation than the LCD so I can see why the SEX would be an HE-500 dream amp. Same reason why people like the SEX with the HD-800.

post #369 of 833
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rayvolution View Post
 

the HE-560 is coming in March

 

The LCD 2 is a great match with the S.E.X. The warmness really isn't an issue for me, but I tend to like it a little bassy (thats why I own an LCD-2 I guess). I noticed with my HE-400 and LCD that the SEX puts vocals forward. I really like with the LCD since otherwise its presentation is laid back. The instruments are still a little laid back but the forward vocals are very nice.

 

I remember Doc saying he liked the pairing of the S.E.X with the HE-500 more than the LCD though. The 500 has a greater soundstage and treble presentation than the LCD so I can see why the SEX would be an HE-500 dream amp. Same reason why people like the SEX with the HD-800.

 

I thought the S.E.X. would pair well with the LCDs. The S.E.X. has such an open soundstage that it would really open up any of the more intimate sounding cans and also bring a little extra treble presence to darker cans, too.


Edited by Loquah - 1/12/14 at 1:56pm
post #370 of 833
Quote:
Originally Posted by Loquah View Post
 

 

I thought the S.E.X. would pair well with the LCDs. The S.E.X. has such an open soundstage that it would really open up any of the more intimate sounding cans and also bring a little extra treble presence to darker cans, too.

Maybe I am going insane but I have found that the DAC affects the soundstage on the LCD2's and 3's a lot more than the amp.  Even with the SEX I found the soundstage to be a bit small but the base punch was insanely good.  

post #371 of 833
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zashoomin View Post
 

Maybe I am going insane but I have found that the DAC affects the soundstage on the LCD2's and 3's a lot more than the amp.  Even with the SEX I found the soundstage to be a bit small but the base punch was insanely good.  

 

Do you mean the same DAC with different amps has less impact than the same amp with different DACs? In theory there should be no difference and it should just come down to each component's ability to present the soundstage, but maybe something about the way the planars interact with the amps changes that.

 

I'd heard that the LCD 2s had a fairly small soundstage. Does the S.E.X. expand it a bit though in comparison to other amps?

post #372 of 833
Quote:
Originally Posted by Loquah View Post
 

 

Do you mean the same DAC with different amps has less impact than the same amp with different DACs? In theory there should be no difference and it should just come down to each component's ability to present the soundstage, but maybe something about the way the planars interact with the amps changes that.

 

I'd heard that the LCD 2s had a fairly small soundstage. Does the S.E.X. expand it a bit though in comparison to other amps?

It could also be that I have been hearing much larger upgrades in dacs but smaller upgrades in amps and their respective price points if you know what I mean.  Digital tech advances a lot faster than analog.  

 

Ya the LCD2's soundstage can be mistaken for a closed headphone with large soundstage IMO.  But yes the SEX did expand it a bit in comparison to a couple other amps but even so it is a bit constricted.   The biggest issue I had with the SEX was the noise floor to be honest,  otherwise I loved the SEX with the LCD2's

post #373 of 833
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zashoomin View Post
 

It could also be that I have been hearing much larger upgrades in dacs but smaller upgrades in amps and their respective price points if you know what I mean.  Digital tech advances a lot faster than analog.  

 

Ya the LCD2's soundstage can be mistaken for a closed headphone with large soundstage IMO.  But yes the SEX did expand it a bit in comparison to a couple other amps but even so it is a bit constricted.   The biggest issue I had with the SEX was the noise floor to be honest,  otherwise I loved the SEX with the LCD2's

 

How did you find the noise floor on the lower impedance taps? I've really only used it with 100+ ohm cans (other than during the testing and review) so I forget what it's like with lower impedance cans. I would have thought the low sensitivity of planars would counter-act the lower impedance and therefore remove the noise.

post #374 of 833
Quote:
Originally Posted by Loquah View Post
 

 

How did you find the noise floor on the lower impedance taps? I've really only used it with 100+ ohm cans (other than during the testing and review) so I forget what it's like with lower impedance cans. I would have thought the low sensitivity of planars would counter-act the lower impedance and therefore remove the noise.

I had impedance switches on mine so I played around with different impedances and I found the lower impedances would have a little less noise but still what I would consider a loud noise floor.  Also the speaker taps where the same.  Ya I thought that I wouldn't have an issue with planars but I could still hear it.  It was loud enough to where I could hear it through the really quiet parts in songs.  

post #375 of 833
Quote:
Originally Posted by Loquah View Post


I just re-read this, Skeptic, having initially only read it before my Mainline was finished and I'm stoked to read that we are both hearing the same things.

Now that I've spent time with the Mainline, I have to commend you for a perfect write-up and description of its many merits!

 

Thank you Loquah - that's high praise indeed coming from a listener and reviewer of your caliber!  Your creation and dutiful cultivation of this thread, and your finely crafted reviews at its heart, have made it one of the best on head-fi in a long time, imo, and I am very pleased to be able to participate in the discussion, at least with to the crack and mainline!  

Quote:
Originally Posted by LoveKnight View Post
 

Please, try one or two planar headphones with Mainline, if the result is still great as it is, I really want to purchase a Mainline next year (oh, this year I meant if possible) to drive my Alpha Dog and future high-end dynamic headphone as T1 or H800.

 

I would love to hear Loquah's (and any others!) impressions of the Mainline with orthos as well.  After several more hours of not particularly attentive listening, I continue to feel that the Mainline pairs very nicely with AD's, but my growing sense is that the AD's lack the sort of micro-detail necessary to really show off everything the mainline can do - which is immediately apparent with hd800's by contrast.  Then again, as the AD's oversized pads and foam risers compress a bit, and the drivers ultimately settle a little closer to my ears, and subject to any mechanical break-in that may or may not occur, this initial impression may very well change.

 

As a fun experiment, based on a number of posts reporting that the AD's pair well with the emo mini-x (a 50watt/channel speaker amp), I built an xlr to speaker tap adapter this weekend and tried my balanced AD's out with a 15 watt differential t-amp (the topping tp30).  Setting aside a little audible hiss (which I understand can be addressed with a t-pad in each channel, made up of high watt, noninductive wire-wound resisters), the AD's sounded surprisingly good with the tp30 - although still not on par with the mainline.  I plan to order and rig up some appropriate resisters in the next couple of weeks and test this out as a possible bedside rig, which was the purpose of my AD purchase from the outset.  The mainline hd800 combo is on a whole 'nother level and will remain my primary rig.

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