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Questyle CMA800R with Sennheiser HD800 vs CEC HD53N balanced amp review

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

Please keep in mind that I only tested jazz music for this review because that is the main genre I listen to. I used for this review the Sennheiser hd800 headphone. The Questyle cma800r is $1500 including shipping and the CEC hd53n is $1150 including shipping. I used the cma800r single-ended with the unbalanced rca input. I used the hd53n balanced with the XLR balanced input.

 

Both are attractive units with very good build quality. The cma800r volume pot has a little play in it, not as solid and smooth as the hd53n. The hd53n has quite a bit more power. To play at the same volume level the hd53n is at 9 o'clock and the cma800r is at 12 o'clock. On the cma800r I can crank up the volume all the way, whereas on the hd53n I can't turn it all the way up because it would bust my eardrums.

 

The cma800r is warmer and smoother than the hd53n. The hd53n is a little more colder and not as liquid smooth. The cma800r has a little more bass and impact. The bass on the cma800r extends a little deeper, but is never muddy or bloated. This helps give the cma800r a little more impact. The bass on the hd53n does not go as deep, but has very tight bass. The hd53n can sometimes lack some impact.

 

The mids on both amps are very natural and realistic sounding. Vocals on the cma800r are more full bodied, natural and warm. Vocals on the hd53n can be a little bright, not as warm sounding but still very satisfying. Piano sounds awesome on both amps.

 

The treble on the hd53n is more extended. Cymbals crash with a crystal clear sound. This helps with the clarity and detail which is fantastic. The cma800r has good treble extension also, but lacks a little of the clarity and detail. Both amps have excellent soundstage.

 

I can see why alot of reviewer's of the cma800r like it so much. It gives the hd800 more bass, tames the treble and has sweet mids. I like both amps alot and for different reasons. If I had to choose one amp it would probably be the hd53n by a hair. It has just that little extra clarity and detail. Both amps are spectacular, but the hd53n sounds just as good and at a lower price.

 

One cool thing about the cma800r is you can go monoblock balanced by buying two cma800r. At $1500 an amp, I won't be going balanced anytime soon. Plus, it sounds great with just one amp anyways.

post #2 of 3
It is possible that the "extra" clarity of the CEC is given by the balanced connection? It could be interesting trying to redo the test with unbalanced conection on both amps. IMHO.
post #3 of 3
...thanks for the short review. Really strange that there is so little about the HD53N reported here in headfi...
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