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Desktop Amps item created by nightmancometh, Jun 27, 2010
Pros - Excellent all around.
Cons - Not widely available. Limited tube rolling capabilities.
I've had my Trafomatic Experience Head One for a few days now and have put some hours on it. I bought it secondhand, complete with tubes, so I'm assuming it has already been fully burned in. I'm posting my impressions here in a little mini-review. It is driving my HD600s, which I find to be a match made in heaven.
To understand where I'm coming from, I'll give a little bit of a background about me. I grew up with Walkman cassette players and Discman CD players. I listened to most of my music that way, complete with the cheap $1 headphones they throw in the box for you to use. I didn't know any different. I didn't know any better. I enjoyed music that way and was happy as can be. Later on, I got into iPods, also with cheap headphones, and listened to lossy AAC files. Once again, I didn't know any different and really enjoyed music that way. Concepts of sound stage, decay, timbre, etc. were all foreign to me. I was blissfully ignorant in music being compressed between my ears.
Then, about 2 years ago, I got my first "good" amp. It was a Woo 3. It drove my first "good" headphones, which were the DT880s. This was an epiphany for me. I never knew how much headphone music could come alive. I had sounds all over my head, projected out into space. I could hear 3-D positions of instruments and dynamic range came alive. I entered into a whole new world.
You could consider my Woo 3 as a gateway drug. Once I knew better sound was possible, it became game on. I had a new understanding of music reproduction, but more importantly, the desire to maximize my listening experiences.
Well, now I have taken ownership of the Trafomatic. This amp has bested everything I have heard so far. I'm not trying to put down the Woo 3, because it really is a fine amp for the money, but it is my only real point of reference for comparing the Trafomatic. I also realize that the Woo 3 costs about 3-4 times less than the Trafomatic, so it should perform less impressively. But, once again, it is my only point of reference.
Compared to the Woo 3, the Trafomatic is better in every desirable category. For starters, the sound stage is huge. I had no idea a headphone sound stage could be this large. It has layers upon layers of sound. I feel surrounded by the music. The imaging is sublime. I can pinpoint the exact position of instruments and voices. I don't have the vocabulary to describe it, but there is just an immense sound signature. It is alive. There is just so much sound and information surrounding my head. It is very holographic and 3-D. I have never experienced such an expansive image ever before. There is tremendous separation. However, it is not fatiguing. I am not under sensory overload. It all comes together in beautiful musicality. Yet, there is tremendous air in this tapestry of sound. Everything is sewn together in a wondrous atmosphere.
The sound is very neutral, but there is a hint of warmness. It also has a touch of liquidness and midtone tube magic. Warm and syrupy this amp is not. This amp is clear, precise, but very musical. It has a hint of sweetness to it. This amp does not have flaws to my ears. There is nothing fatiguing about it. No strident tones. Accurate, but musical.
The bass runs deep. It is tight and accurate. Not at all boomy. When the song calls for bass, the amp puts it out. This amp seems to have power to spare in spades. It can dig deep when needed and never lose focus, clarity, or control.
There's not a whole lot more I can say about this amp that has not been said already. My biggest impression is just how much sound this device puts out. There is sound everywhere. Layers upon layers upon layers in total control and precision. Coming from my Walkman cassette player with $1 headphones, I never knew how much sound was possible. I never imagined I would have this amount of sound around my head.
The only real drawbacks are this amp is not widely available and tube rolling is limited, or even not possible. However, this isn't an issue because the standard tubes are phenomenal.
The Trafomatic is a true masterpiece. It is without a doubt the best musical experience I have ever had.
Pros - Lots of tonal colour. Fantastic pre-amp too
Cons - Source toogle switch on back side
Just got this head-amp some days ago and already find it to sound very good on various phones of differing impedance and power requirements. The amp has a selector switch for 30, 100 and 300 Ohm phones plus line out. I have a pair of Audeze LCD-2 but my favourite phones are by far the Sennheiser HD800 which truly shines with this amp as well as with my Burson HA160.
The treble is extended and the lows are tight and goes very deep. Even though it is a tube amp, the tonality seems very neutral and is by far the most detailed amp I've heard. Still, there is so much bottom grip and dynamics that listening through this amp becomes truly engaging. The amp conveys PRAT in spades.
I must admit that the high ranking is also due to the item's performance as a preamp. I use it also as an input stage in front of my regular power amp and it far outshines my Conrad-Johnson Premier 17Ls2 mkII in my stereo system - which is a big bonus. I've come to respect the designer of this head-/pre-amp.
Avkward issues of the design is that the source selector is on the amps backside which is less ideal when the amp is located in a bench. However, this amp has input for two sources which is better than most.