Reviews by John Massaria

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
Westone Mach 80 a three way 8 driver top of the line IEM from one of the most trusted names in audio
Pros: Very decent flagship solid offering from Westone, Imaging recreation is crazy awesome, pinpoint clarity and dynamics, does not need to play loud to hear an even presentation, would be a nice addition for professionals who mix or do live music say in a band, bass and mids are spectacular which could make the high ticket for entry worth while
Cons: needs a very long break in period, some higher frequencies in the 5.5K and 8K range can be a little elevated and be a deal breaker for some with sensitive hearing in that region
When I was offered to hear the top of the range of IEms from Westone I was like ummmm yes please.... and man am I happy they sent them to me. I didnt buy them I was sent them strictly for an honest review... and that's the only way I operate... I don't take $$$ from companies to compare and review. Every single review I do because I am interested in the product.... So lets get into it... unboxing is somewhat conventional rather than luxurious for a top tier product. I dont need to be blown ov er by packing - it was spartin but made up in functionality with a genuine Pelican carry case. You get 5 sets of foam and silicone ear tips, a nice felt bag and a clip (for your belt?), a digital card for instructions, a cleaning tool, a rather thin but nice non micro-phonic cable which uses T2 connectors which rotate nicely. The cable is not going to wow anyone - until you understand the way it is built... "Westone Audio’s top-of-the-line UltraBaX earphone cable features a quad-twisted cable with 224 strands of silver-plated copper wire for unbelievably clean audio with no microphonics. Better still, the cable flaunts just 0.6 ohms impedance, ensuring that the cable adds no sonic coloration to your signal. The UltraBaX cable comes equipped with Linum T2 connectors that provide a rock-solid connection and barely-there look. Westone Audio also tells Sweetwater that the T2 connector decreases intermittency and seized cables by over 99%." Its a cable Westone claims is neutral. I believe it- MAYBE... maybe they should have chosen ALL copper wire instead of silver plated for this IEM- more on that latter... Upon first listening to the top of the line Westone Mach 80- I heard something amazing. The imaging the ability for it to place images front forward and behind like few IEMs can. I don't remember hearing this often from other IEMs if any in recent history. I kept turning side to side while imaging these sounds were in the room with me. Simply an amazing feat! Then I noticed these were tuned for accuracy in the bass and mids however as things go up in the frequency range- I noticed a peak in two regions... a spike in the 5.5k and 8k region. I was ok... thats fine. I will keep evaluating of course... so cymbals and high hats, snare drums, sound accented, oh and then some females voices and some male voices also sounded elevated in the region known for sibilance. Is this it for this IEM? its trying to hard to bring air out which is a difficult feat while teatering on the change of sibilance on some ill recorded or engineered masters? Hummm maybe. Sometimes when designing and tuning an IEM or headphone - manufactures need to make a choice... at the expense of trying to extract definition- sibilance becomes a byproduct of many high end headphones and IEMs. That could be a fact and it seems very evident here.... I first thought well tips could help let me try different ear tips... and here again the tips do change the bass somewhat as usual but do very little for the upper mids and treble. Outside of using an eq- I cant see tuning the two peaks I observed while listening... Then I found a graph... which show the exact same thing I heard- a spike in the 5.5k and 8k region.

Mach 60 - Red Mach 70 - Blue Mach 80 - Green

Going on - I will keep this short... I like Mach 80 for what it does so well- the imaging and placement of instruments and the bass and mids are wonderful - seem to me to be top tier in their class and price. The upper mids and higher frequeinces give me some pause. Maybe I should try all copper wire or a tube amp (I did use my tube Pratues amp but it does not reveal anything but the truth with the Telefunken G73R and the way it was engineered- it was not designed to be overly wet or lush - so maybe not your typical tube equipment). Maybe I should just start to enjoy them by using an equalizer but I try to avoid them or dsps when I can for evaluations. Maybe I will leave that for someone else to try. For me my review ends here... recommended with reservations for price.




TESTED WITH TOPPING D90 and Mojo MYSTIQUE R2R Coffman Cypher Labs Prautes Headphone Amplifier, Ray Samuels Apache Limited Revision 4 (UPDATED 1/10/21)
Last edited by a moderator:
Ba Driver and Break in. Amusing
John Massaria
John Massaria
Could be

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
Cypher Labs Prautes: Could Be The Final Goal of Every Headphone Owner (Ultimate Nirvana In One Box)
Pros: Out of head realism unachievable from most totl solid state amps, accurate and detailed, loads of clean quiet crisp articulate power for any ohm load from In Ear Monitors 8Ω to 300Ω+, nearly as quiet as solid state, built like a brick - most likely will outlast any human for a many many generations, touching it gives you goose bumps, looks that rival the finest aluminum art, knobs all solid with great premium feel, unobtainium sound I know of at this time, transparent preamp similar to my Ray Samuels in quality, comes with a thick power cord thats been cryo treated, comes with a carry case that's handy for storing headphones in or other amps that you will retire after hearing this, convenient 1/8", 3/4" and two 4pin stereo XLR so two headphones using XLR's can be run at same time!, can drive small Stereo Speakers w/ premium Terminals, dampening factor here is executed very organically; and allows the amp to be compatible with impedance loads of nearly any size -the dampening factor also is very well controlled because it is PP design done right- bass is spot on and tight and probably the reason this amp sounds so good, transients are top (cymbals and piano always sound best on amps that do this with harmonic overtones), this amp is not overly warm or slow - an exceptionally well balanced act that combines the best of tubes and solid state, incredible dynamics and separation of macro and micro details, an addictive experience, has ground lift to isolate possible ground issues, point to point wiring making it easier for future service if ever needed AND eliminating current density because 16ga or 18ga wire is better than any circuit board
Cons: no xlr inputs, large, when tapping on top while headphones are in you can hear tap of finger like so many other tube designs in the world (all of them likely), at max volume and no music playing you can hear some breath of noise as you slide volume from 4:00 to 6:00 (max volume is 6:00), a somewhat useless bass boost for certain frequencies (I played with it - maybe better with other tubes - we will see) for now I leave the knob for bass boost off, no remote control, you may find yourself without a job or a wife or girlfriend since all you want to do 24-7 is stay connected to this and keep on listening, price is not a con AT all since it's worth $4K (probably worth much more in todays money for similar performance - I’m thinking a good chance it’s as good as some amps that cost in $6k-$10k range) amps these days if any could even touch it for over all sq performance) and as far as what Eddie Current owner Craig Uthus said ah it probably sounds flawed- 'its a push pull design' - I would say you should never ever ever judge a circuit until you hear it- he and others who judge a push pull done 100% correctly like this and specifically designed for headphones never heard this- but some snobs may likely snoot their nose at PP - and I would laugh as I turn my volume up and consider them limited in their experience with THIS amp - I have owned triode, ultra-linear, SE, and OTL - I never thought I would say what I am saying about PP until now, this is a legacy piece -only 50 units were ever made and no more, hard to read engraved lettering on silver case
Cypher Labs Prautes

Legacy. What is this term? In some circles it means "No longer made." Sometimes that's a good thing. When software gets retired its called legacy. It may be perfectly working and very favored by so many - but none the less- the software is no longer produced or supported in some cases. That could be a terrible thing too- forcing someone to upgrade because the software could have compatibility issues integrating with new software plug ins or just angering the user since he likes that software and now it no longer works. Many games on line that used "flash" I used to play are poof gone! And believe me, I miss those days and games.

This could be similar and confused with the term "no longer made" but never was intended to be anything but a convenience product- something similar to the 8 track tape for example. A useless invention of the time that had horrible sound quality and had no chance in a dignified stereo system ever- a system flawed from the very first and very last tape player ever made. The 8-track tape offering no way to improve on it's fidelity or collectability. NO ONE will ever say - "my goodness what a wonderful 8 track tape player you have there." It will never be highly desirable. Laser Disc was another and Betamax. These are not legacy pieces - these are just discontinued and outdated technology. DO NOT confuse the term with legacy. Legacy should mean more than retired or no longer made when it comes to stereo equipment. It should mean leaving something special behind: A LEGACY. Something which stands the test of time and is nearly irreplaceable and desirable due to the fact that the owner or designer was absolutely obsessed when it came to parts and construction or design- too expensive for the time or place to be properly appreciated in many instances...
I can think of countless artists that were poor and starving because their work was ahead of their time but now are priceless pieces of art that only can be seen in billionaires homes or museums. For me - The Prautes was either misunderstood, too expensive or didn't have the right marketing behind it- but it is certainly now a valuable Legacy Product... something no longer made but will be sought after for years and years to come since it is not available or manufactured anymore. I am also thinking of the extremely rare genuine vacuum NOS (New Old Stock) tubes that have soared sky high in price from such makers as Telefunken, Seimens, Mullard, Tung Sol, GE, RCA or Tesla - highly desirable and never to be made again- some tubes can now fetch thousands for just ONE tube! And I expect some will pay $5K-$10K in the future for some tubes as collectors who want the best of the old world. Similarly I can equate equipment from Ray Samuels, Eddie Current, Cypher Labs in the same company- highly desirable but now no longer manufactured... that's all there is, no one will be making it ever again... Someone could try to copy the magic or try to improve on the designs but likely that will not happen.


The Prautes was designed from the on set purposefully with the word legacy in it's DNA- engineered from the onset to be a statement piece. With audio equipment- there are designers who will go down in history for breaking the mold, perfecting the mold, breaking new ground and just plain creating state of the art designs that will be challenged but not bettered. Few things in audio are long lasting and highly desirable years after release- I can count a few. Think: Nakamichi Dragon/CR-7A/ZX-7 Series by Niro Nakamichi, PASS Amplifiers designed by Nelson Pass, Mark Levinson designed by Mark Levinson himself, Krell amps by Dan D'Agostino. Of course some may consider Riviera Labs absolutely in this group as well. The remarkable crafted Kennerton headphones by Valentin Kazanzhi and of course ZMF founders Zack and Bevin Mehrbach. The stratospheric creations like Audio Note Japan Ongaku series by Hiroyasu Kondo, or Lloyd Walker who went to the ends of the earth for perfecting the turntable. These designers and products we get to have grace our homes for the exchange of some cash is quiet incredible. If you are lucky enough to afford such designs - you actually have a useful functioning piece of audio memorabilia that exemplifies the state of the art for a period that transcends time. The Dragon/CR-7/ZX-9 Cassette deck is and will always be one of the best performing decks ever- no mater the time or place in the future. Same thing with Walker turntables- there will be few if any future designs to challenge his designs and flawless performance. Thus the term state of the art. Iconic for generations and highly desirable for anyone who truly knows what they are looking at or listening to. I wrote the same thing about my Ray Samules Apache when I reviewed it and here I am repeating the same of the Cypher Prautes. This is an iconic legacy piece of gear I consider nearly unobtainable or replaceable. Its simply is that good. It can be serviced and will never be useless - an amp like this will always be in demand for generations to come.


(Just The Right Amount of) WET



The Prautes was priced at $3,900 in 2018 and in 2022 dollars -it’s value is up there easily with $6K-$10K for similar sound quality -if I could name an amp that compares I would...
The Praues features four independent inputs, as well as speaker output terminals for low powered highly efficient speakers, two separate balanced XLRs to drive two separate headphones at the same time, a 1/4″ and 1/8″ headphone outputs. The impedance is adjustable to five different settings: 300 ohm, 100 ohm, 32 ohm, 8 ohm, or an In-Ear Monitor setting. There is also a bass boost switch, to supply a +3dB boost with a variable roll-off point. In combination with the Impedance switch, this offers quite a bit of opportunity for fine-tuning. I opted not to use the bass tuning and had it turned to zero.

Yes this sounds better overall than many other amps I have tried that cost more... for instance- The Manley Headphone amp- no matter if one were to select the push-pull or single-ended mode (from Manley) - my Prautes sounds much more musical and has better definition of details and more accurate. Yes the Manley has more features but the only feature that matters for me is sound in the end and I am sure most people would put that about above all else. The Prautes has the better tonality if you will..the best rendition of music on all headphones -where the Manley sounded really off more times than not- a hit or miss experience with many headphones I had tried- totally not what I expected from such an iconic company like Manley. I have not heard the more expensive Auris amps in a long time so I can not comment really... but my memory of their amps didn’t leave enough of an impression. The only real competitor to this amp may be the giant Riviera AFC-10- and that is yet to be seen (heard) by doing a head to head comparison and I am not sure when I will hear a Rivera anytime soon. Ok what else? I haven't heard the Viva Audio Agoista 2a3 ($7,800) or 845 ($11,800) but acording to one of the people (Valentino) who helped develop the Aventador 845 S.E. (you can read his comment at the very end of this review) said the Prautes is at the same level in performance for a lot less. Seriously - a guy who has / owns a $12,000 amp said the Prautes is his favorite valve amp and compares with the most expesive amp he helped design such as the Aventador or his Viva! The Prautes always leaves me wanting to listen more and more unlike ...say the DNA Stratus or other DNA amps I have heard... granted I need to do a head to head with their premium editions but I can say - every single time I put a track on the Pratues I have never got so addicted- so enveloped so captivated - so many endorphins firing; so many tingles along my neck and the absolute feeling of total nirvana - a dopamine trip that may cause you to loose track of time. You may become an addict to headphones and music all over every day- I know I am hooked like a kid who just discovered MUSIC played on a high end system for the first time. For me I challenge any company to go head to head with this amp... I just can not think of one head amp that moves me in this way...

What is the bottom line here? Should I compare it to the last 25+ years of going to trade shows or all the memories of going from store to store all over Long Island NYC and NJ and finally coming home and saying to myself... 'maybe I can live with this amp for ever...' is that a good representation of the sound and impressions I get from listening each and every time? To hear this particular amp is to instantly get it. To recall the other times I listened and reviewed amps in the past -
I had this amp and that amp here at my home and well ... this is where searching for gear really could end... could be I said.... I'm still obsessed with the search but I am not totally crazy and the real hunt is always going on in the back of my mind- but it will be the tallest of orders to beat this amp. I could care less if I am being over excited! It is well deserved when you hear it you get it... and I finally got it with the Prautes.

I ONLY review gear that moves me- and writing does not come easy for me. My time to write an article and take the breath from my mind to paper or pixel so to speak - never moves me unless I am moved one way or the other. Sometimes I write a review because the gear upset me so much to the point of disgust by it's lack of performance (like I was compelled to express my complete disappointment in the Wyred4Sound Intimo Review I did a while back). I write reviews for me... and I want to remember the emotion of certain equipment. How it presented the same familiar songs over and over - does it pull me in or does it tire me out? I want a record... for myself... is it worthy to take the time or just move on?

Until someone comes along with a challenging piece of gear I can rightfully say with no alcohol or drugs in my system and with my complete lucid mind say this is where it could all end blissfully and happily ever after... yes its that good. THE HIGHEST recommendation- if you see one grab it. - JM (3/8/22)

I just purchased a few tubes to roll- and to ensure a good supply of spare tubes for the future- some include:

1950s GE / UNITED ELECTRON 5814A -ECC82 12AU7- Black Plates, 3 Mica
- An excellent silent tube with full body sound nothing really rounded off if anything its a little polite on higher end- the bass is tight and with a nice spread out sound stage and very nice bloom, right mix of wetness excellent- but but a tiny bit darker than the 5814A 1973 Long Plate- worthy of asking $ but not top tear when comparing it to 1970's 5814A by Siemens Germany - need more time with these

Value: ★★★★
3D image/stage: ★★★★
Musical/Warmth: ★★★★
Detail: ★★★★
Bass: ★★★★

Noise: ★★★★★
Overall Performance ★★★★


5814A Siemens Germany "long plates and triple mica" copper grid 1973 (74/75) one of my favorites so far for the Prautes worth every single gash darn penny- I weep at how organic and real this sounds- an addictive 3d image and stage and separation- articulate so far the winner of bunch. Considered one of the best tubes in the world ever made...
Value: ★★★★ (expensive for triple mica pre '75)
3D image/stage: ★★★★★ (wide)
Musical/Warmth: ★★★★★+(of course)
Detail: ★★★★★+ (yes just the right amount)
Bass: ★★★★★+
Noise: ★★★★★+
Overall Performance ★★★★★+

BRIMAR England 1960 CV4003 12AU7WA 6189 ECC82

A legendary tube possessing all the holographic magic of the Mullards CV4003 with a bit more detail. A full bodied sound. Excellent with lean headphones like HD600 or HD650 with a high ohms (150ohm or more) headphones and speakers. For me and my headphones like the GH50MK2 or my IEM Electrostaic Kinera Nanna this tube adds a bit too much mid bass weight to them- this tube at least for me is a stellar performer with HD600 or HD650 or similar LCD-5 which may need a boost in bass weight and heft (as I mentioned). Expect stellar depth image and a 3d holographic wide stage with air, a whisper quiet experience. I can see how people call this their end game tube.
Value: ★★★★★
3D image/stage: ★★★★
Musical/Warmth: ★★★★★ (yes)
Detail: ★★★★+ (could be gr8 match for bright systems)
Bass: ★★★★★+ (perfect for lean systems to bring authority)
Noise: ★★★★★
Overall Performance ★★★★★+

RFT (Haltron Labeled) 12AU7/ECC82 E. Germany, labeled for Haltron/England
insanely quiet and non micophonic - ONE of the quietest of any tube I tested in the 12au7 range - black silky backgrounds and instantly fast - vocals are spot on tempo is fast- these certainly need to open up more I think with less than 1 hour on these NOS rated triode matches 2600/2600 and 2650/2700- these are truly NIB NOS and maybe need more time to open up - flattish front to back depth compared to some of the top 3 tubes but close - width sound stage seems incredible and instrument placement is spot on - dang! these are whisper quiet between notes... they may need to break in more since some female singers reach dog hearing frequencies (remind me of the detail monsters like clear RCA?) - "Free Me" by Jess Stone really is lively- on top a bit much with this tube... very fast with panning left right songs like Ping Pong Party by WATEVA - this tube beats 75% of the tubes here for transient speed. "China" by Tori Amos sounds nice and just the right amount of wet but the details on the high end of her voice remind me of the details of the Sparkos S3601x4 discrete OPAs- this tube is a reference revealing the recording truth warts and all- much more break in needed I would think. Could be a very good thing for those looking for that level of detail.. wow impressive.​
Value: ★★★★★+
3D image/stage: ★★★★
Musical/Warmth: ★★★★
Detail: ★★★★★++
Bass: ★★★★★
Noise: ★★★★★+
Overall Performance ★★★★★+

Tungsol 12AU7A 1950’s NIB made in U.S.A -Long Plates and "O" Getter
a wonderfully accurate tight bass tube with nice air yet fast... with TRS outs- when using my Kennerton GH50Mk2 and my electrostatic IEMs like my Kinera Nanna 2.0 -I prefer this tube combo on nearly every song more so than the RSA APACHE TRS- giving more body and weight to the depth of vocals through the bass line.. a surprisingly top notch tube... wow this amp really does make music with so many tube combos... this tube is not going from my collection anytime soon I think. In my top 5 list of desirable tubes... no wonder its sold out all over in this NOS condition... did I say this could end anyones search for a perfect blend of music and detail a tube lovers dream for $$$
Value: ★★★★★
3D image/stage: ★★★★
Musical/Warmth: ★★★★ (yes)
Detail: ★★★★★ (just the right amount)
Bass: ★★★★★
Noise: ★★★★★
Overall Performance ★★★★★+

RT (La RadioTechnique) 1960 MIL SPEC 12AU7 France, short plates O-getter

Tube glow both even upon start up with a beautiful glow from power on and slowly fades as tubes boot up- beautiful! A quiet tube with an even handed bass and mid range presentation, holographic soundstage and open, airy top end. May be one of the more dynamic 12AU7's - nothing accentuated here except maybe the details one will hear- this is a very textured define sound in mid up region- reported to be better than long plates which tend to be more muffled and less detailed- Upscale has a video I feature here but his tubes are not stamped MIL Sepc with special stamps these are the hardest to get RT tubes to get they have the highest quality and spec ratio higher than the regular non stamped RT tubes! I can also say as upscale has mentioned in 2014 and just now in 2022 selling a single tube for $106 each and those are not MIL sepc. These La RadioTechniquehave more texture and definition up on top than the so called lazier sounding Mullards or Philips of same era with long plates... a winner for price and value hands down a piece of gear no longer available in NIB NOS like these... with just a few hours I can tell these are a very special made that sets records and benchmark for price that just so happens to be made in the romantic country of France.
"they sound delicious in comparison with other 12AU7" "ONE GUY WROTE ON NON MILATARY SPEC TUBES : "Initially the Radiotechnique was too intense in the very high highs, causing it to be fatiguing. After three days of continuous pink noise, it's not fatiguing any more. I'm glad, because I love so many of its qualities and didn't want to end up with a fatigue problem. It has great imaging (yes, headphone guys talk about imaging), it's warm and not bright despite being so extended on top, and it has more life than the other brands I tried. OH, the other brands I tried were - RCA Clear tops - the German-made RFT "
Value: ★★★★+
3D image/stage: ★★★★
Musical/Warmth: ★★★★
Detail: ★★★★★+(could use some more warmth- but sample is NIB)
Bass: ★★★★
Noise: ★★★★★+
Overall Performance ★★★★
tele G73R.jpg

Telefunken G73-R (RED)
Value: ★★★★★ (if rolling is an expensive habit stop/just buy these)
3D image/stage: ★★★★★+++(transients detail/space like no other tube I can describe w/ Tesla Plaid Speed while still retaining insane front to back layering - precisely as recorded placements - this is reference in my set up for sure)
Musical/Warmth: ★★★★★+
Bass: ★★★★★+++ (tight nearly emotionally perfect)
Noise: ★★★★★+++ (how low can you go- this LOW!)
Overall Performance: ★★★★★++++

Telefunken G73-R - "Surpassing the quality control requirements of the famous Telefunken ECC802S, these are extremely rare, limited production, black shield coated, avionics/aircraft grade, factory selected Telefunken G73R. Manufactured solely for Agilent Technology and Hewlett-Packard, the proprietary G73R part number and RFI/EMI black coat shielding indicate the highest quality grading on the planet. This illustrates exhaustive aftermarket testing for low noise, uniform output, low microphonics, freedom from physical defects, long heater life and an even, uniform cathode emission.

The finest West German manufactured Telefunken tubes, with smooth plates and diamond marked, these have G73R hand written on the outside black shield coating. Records indicate they were only available as spare parts for Agilent or H-P equipment. Critical use in hospital and aerospace equipment demanded tubes with extremely low noise and tightly controlled output. The ultimate tube for Hi-Fi, tube mics and mic preamps, these tubes are very fine, highly rare and in great demand. Authentic, the real deal, the bottom of the glass is diamond marked. Matched pairs and quads are available with tightly controlled transconductance from section to section and from tube to tube. Astonishingly accurate, the sound image blooms out of a dead quiet background. "
"ETHEREAL CONDUIT TO A HIGHER REALM" ..On the other sonic-side lies the realms of musical-ideals, dream worlds, and the sonic-heavens and havens of different tube-religions. The G73-R can be the conduit to outer sonic planes or sonic-astral realm"
SIMILAR WORDS SAID BY OTHERS: "While listing to Miles Davis SKETCHES OF SPAIN with Gil Evans I can hear, see, and feel Miles sitting on a stool in a section in my listening room, a trio of trumpet, trombone and flute behind him. As if the members of the band are right in the room with you! The dense textural details and markings for dynamics are performed precisely as recorded and reproduced so that all the interweaving parts emerge clearly. The depth of musical emotion is distinctly audible with every detail of the pure orchestral fabric as I'm not hearing my preamp, amp, or speakers anymore, just pure music, the conduit to a higher musical realm, as if there is no hardware at all! "Miles above" and Simply beautiful and well worth the price for the ECC802S 'klingarm' factory tubes!...worlds better than the newer commercial series by "miles"...
"Their performance was off-the-charts in two separate listenings for this report. The bass is paradoxically liquid-tight sumptuously textured with all the low nuances the Double bass can give in a live-performance, yet full-bodied, and powerful. The midrange displays first, secondary, and third octave nuances, the tube has enormous layers of harmonic tonal depth, like a well weaved tapestry of sonic colors with pure gold strands woven into it's complex sonic-fabric, as well as a pouring out of liquid sonic lower, mid-midrange and upper-mid texture. The highs are liquid sweet like milk and honey, and pure as the crystalline morning snow and true to everything life has to through at it. THE VOCAL TIMBRE was compellingly superb, hauntingly realistic, like the singers were in the room with us, breathing every word. Very compelling tube providing absolutely no ear fatigue, or preamp adjustments, providing your speakers are placed correctly in your listening environment, and you have the audiophile-gear to appreciate it's capabilities."… " LIQUID SONIC TEXTURE ELIXIER
". You may just loose you job and girl firend/wife/both all because all you may do is stay connected to your amp 24/7 and never want to stop lsitening to music. The highets praise worth every single bloody dollar- you may think people who own 4 or 5 pairs of these are insane- until you hear your first set- you will be hooked like a muscial head tripp you will never forget... the only thing you can do is listen and wonder how it is so musical and precise at the same time.

SECOND SET with Black G73-R reported to be an earlier version of the G73-R than that of the Red Lettering. The black was designed for Aircraft Radar and Scientific Equipment reportedly and the red label for Medical Use. One is a tad more forgiving and smooth (black) and the other a bit more revealing.

G73-R (BLACK TEXT) may be smoother sounding than the RED label. The BLACK may be a bit less open and dynamic. It could be a great solution to have as an option- two top of the line tube options? Maybe...

'Vocals may be more magnificent and the liquidity of the treble may be something unheard of in your system. It may seem to some owners to combine the best traits of the much beloved Mullards with the transparency and speed so much enjoyed from the "red text" G73-R. I have been told that this is the most ancient version, intended for military radar equipment while the red label was for medical usage. ' We will see and hear back and update as these tube with the black label will be here any day.


Pinnacle 13D5A Industrial Grade ECC82 12AU7 Toshiba Source RED TIP
- (red tip usually denotes extreme reliability and low noise intended and sorted for "scientific or medical grade") Another person wrote: "Separation and blackness in between the notes is second to none. Very sweet tone on strings and piano. Like this better than the Brimar 13d5 as it had a wooden tone." For me- I am feeling music from stings and piano very very organic and natural sounding - vocals from Madeleine Peyroux La Vie En Rose- and Don't Wait too Long and J'ai Deux Amours- the sound is glorious - a wonderfully musical addicting sound- hairs on the back of my neck stand up! All the tingles and pleasing feeling one gets when something this good is playing... wonderful ! I wound up getting one pair and well I fell head over heels and bought more... I need to see a tube dr... and the only medicine is more tube goodness like this! as I said these are the cats meow! MEOW! ( and I don't even like cats) so for all those dog lovers like myself WOOF! WOOF! this is the dogs bone of tubes!
3D image/stage ★★★★
Musical/Warmth: ★★★★
Detail: ★★★★★
Bass: ★★★★
Noise: ★★★★★++
Overall Performance ★★★★+

I SHOULD NOTE- I BOUGHT 5 Pairs of these and the closer they are matched the better they sounded- with higher triode μMhos/cm and close triode matching in each tube being the obvious choice- the cream of the pick-so yes the amp DOES in fact sound better with highest rated matched tubes like so many have claimed one way or the other- Its a fact for me as I proved it trying these all and the conclusion is something buyers of all tubes should face as fact- FOR headphone AMPS the matched tube triodes make best sound BUT for preamps in a speaker system their may be less of notable difference if the tubes are not tight matches-

VALVO ECC82 Hamburg 1960, short plates, 45 degree-declined O-getter
- quiet tube- The sound is transparent, a bit romantic and it's so rare to have such perfect sparkle up on top at the same time! this is a magic tube! a beautiful mix and blend. The version I have is extremely NIB and needs time to break in- but one person wrote this report after its broken in- Produced in the late 50s (this specific tube is from 1960) to the early 60s. Sound, although is not as musical as long plates (which sell for $500-800 for this kind of pair at the time of this review in 2022) it’s still a pleasure to listen to it. One of the truly great 12au7 tubes. The sound is transparent, romantic with a good mixture of warmth and top register sparkle. Airy and detailed – you may just want to keep listening to it - track after track. What strikes the most about this tube is how it can be smooth and how good treble sounds. Amperex is a great example of what I’m talking about, but this tube has outdone Amperex in the treble department. And the bass is so accurate and ever so slightly boosted - again very tastefully done! Words like tube magic come to mind here! VERY RARE AND HIGHLY RECOMMENDED but this pair is so new i'm
sure it only gets better from here... the long plate commands twice the price and adds only a bit more 3d air- these at half the going rate are insane and for me top 3 of all the tubes tested here. These are a perfect blend of tube and accurate reproduction- CRAZY and blessed to have this ultra rare tube here to review...
Value: ★★★★★+
3D image/stage: ★★★★★
Musical/Warmth: ★★★★
Detail: ★★★★★++ (could use some more warmth- but sample is NIB)
Bass: ★★★★★
Noise: ★★★★★
Overall Performance: ★★★★★

Tesla ECC802S long plate Czechoslovakia yellow print 32 XD (1966)
a remarkable tube and reported to be one of the finest 12AU7's made for the money - yes it is very quiet and all kinds of musical, wonderful details - good examples like this set could be close to top Siemens, or maybe as close to a pure <> ECC802 fortune 500 life styles of the rich and famous "Telefunken" at a lower price- The right pair like this matched year tube set will impress you but once you start to listen for details -I think this tube could fool you and make you forget all about shopping for anything else- piano and string are done so organically here! stop rolling and find a great matched pair like this and your search could be over... opens up after burn in - reported to have very long life of over 10K+ Hr life a finer tube than the Haltron label for RFT or RCA anything (gray or black etc) I think - The Tesla is known for low microphonics and low noise- and super transient dynamic package while being so musical... a winner for less $$$
3D image/stage ★★★★
Musical/Warmth: ★★★★
Detail: ★★★★★ (could use some more warmth- but sample is NIB)
Bass: ★★★★★
Noise: ★★★★★
Overall Performance ★★★★★+

A possible truth that needs to be verified: RCA cleartops tend to have high trans-conductance compared to most 12au7. This is something that is not stated often. As a result, the cleartop gives you more drive which would suit circuits where 12au7 is used in the output stage. Another 12au7 types with high trans-conductance is the Telefunken ecc802s. (In general transconductance can be either positive or negative depending on the circuit or this case when comparing it in a head- amp)

RCA 12AU7A Clear Top original "Hickok Elect. Instr. Co"-

"Here are the words you might have heard about this tube : Vivid, vibrant with high resolution, rich-full sound throughout the frequency range - all true" - One of the best in my bunch of tubes- best overall balanced musical experience. If I only had one tube to choose on a budget or not this could be it if I was listening to darker headphones a sure bet as well... a must own tube set... perfect synergy with my Kennerton GH50Mk2- quick and the most out of head experience and superb details with out one ounce of fatigue. Musical and accurate... breathes more life in the music and nearly equal detail to the Ray Samuels Apache XLR vs XLR. No harshness just music- this is in the top 4 of all tubes no matter the price and matches very well with my headphones and amp. My favorite tube if all other tubes stopped being made I would be ok with a few prime examples of these if stranded on a desert island (if that island had 120V that is)
Value: ★★★★★+
3D image/stage ★★★★★
Musical/Warmth: ★★★★★
Detail: ★★★★★+ (just the right amount of detail vs warmth)
Bass: ★★★★★ (accurate)
Noise: ★★★★★+
Overall Performance ★★★★+

1950's RCA Blackplate 12AU7 (LABELED CONN)
Incredible detail and micro dynamics, musical but a bit analytical nearly clinical- tempo and speed very tight. Bass seems neutral and mids and highs seems more detailed than any other tube I can recall here. An articulate experience - but honestly the Clear Top RCA I received sounds more musical and less fatiguing which should be the opposite here- a testament to each tube set will sound slightly different.
Value: ★★★★★+
3D image/stage ★★★★★
Musical/Warmth: ★★★
Detail: ★★★★★+ (this sample too detailed more than the RCA clear /not as musical as I would like for tube)
Bass: ★★★★★ (accurate)
Noise: ★★★★★
Overall Performance ★★★★

Tungsram ecc82 red
serial# printed on tube gray plate o getter 1960s-1976 Industrial Grade tubes were subject to rigorous test and burn in process. Faster and more Holographic than Tesla ECC802S. Amazing spread out width and 3 d landscape - very beautiful sound- neutral/natural sounding, it has a extended top end and tight bass - vocals on both female and male sound so delightful, no harshness yet still defined details. So lush yet refined. Very good bass. Mid range is dreamy. Highs are spot on. This is a heavy weight tube and deserves the reputation it has as being jaw dropping good. (some weep to their knees I have read)... worthy of all the hype! I consider this top of the litter in many ways. Definitely in top 4 of this group so far.​
Quiet and reliable with top notch sound quality. This version is very neutral/natural sounding, it has a extended top end and tight bass compared with the dual bar getter below which is unicorn in 2022 in NIB condition but the dual bar getter support is a tiny bit more euphoric and slightly more romantic and more tube sounding while still holding on to the details.
Value: ★★★★★+
3D image/stage ★★★★★
Musical/Warmth: ★★★★★
Detail: ★★★★★+ (just the right amount of detail vs warmth)
Bass: ★★★★★ (accurate)
Noise: ★★★★★
Overall Performance ★★★★★+

56 Numbers One Two And Three On A Victory Podium Stock Photos, Pictures &  Royalty-Free Images - iStock35516A08-E30F-40DE-8BCD-33DCE5482020.jpeg

TOP 3 NIB NOS Tube in this shoot out shown above:
so far for my set up! The Tungsram ECC82 MIL Red serial DOUBLE BAR GETTER! VERY RARE


AWESOME GETTER GLOW SPARK AND very even upon start up! But that doesn't make or explain the music you get from this crazy rare tube... Everything enhanced over the single bar getter above!!! performance is similar BUT extremely rare tube came all the way from Italy and took 4 weeks to arrive. Worth the wait- this is a tube that will make you stop searching - it gives you everything you could want- depth, clarity and detail with the perfect amount of warmth of tubes with air and wetnness no solid state can produce so well that I know of... the is a maestro maker... musical and magical. Listening to this tube with the Mk1 JM Edition of the Kennerton Vali Neoteric Dynamic - it is a musical experience that rivals any planar I have ever auditioned with amazing height and clarity. I would be cautious as to recommend this tube to those who like very bright headphones such as Utopia or Ultrasone Edition 10 - however this tube may be perfect for the AudezeLCD5 since this tube is so full and satisfying- you may weep at how good vocals and emotion comes through.... now I know why I bought a second set... remarkable The single bar getter above is very neutral/natural sounding, it has a extended top end and tight bass where the double has more warmth and tube greatness while still being accurate and holds the details of the single bar. Incredible combination here! !
ONE GUY WROTE: "I'm using it in a very expensive VAC sigma preamp I shouldn't say this but one of the best 12AU7s I found was the same tube but with the double support bar getter tube looks the same but the double bar getter one sounded much better. So watch what your buying Best for Classical or jazz I would say"- he missed all music this tube is in the top 2!!!!
3D image/stage ★★★★★++
Musical/Warmth: ★★★★★++
Detail: ★★★★★++ (just the right amount of detail vs warmth)
Bass: ★★★★★++ (accurate)
Noise: ★★★★★++
Overall Performance ★★★★★++


Amperex ECC82/12AU7 Holland, Orange Globe late 1960s and early 1970s, NOS

When booting up the Amprex they glow evenly together and its a slow getter glow for a few seconds- very nice! listening to the Amprex ORANGE Globe and notes dance in the air with Jancintha singing Light My Fire - very sweet voicing here- the flute sounds nice - its not as clearly defined as the both RFT's or Pinnacle I mentioned in this review. Similar to a Bugle Boy- this has a nice warmish mid-range with balanced highs and lows and ample while not over doing it. It's a lusher sound - more relaxed and not as fast. The Amprex is a bit more romantic and warm- mid bass ever so slightly more prominent. The Amprex can have a more 3d stage than the RFT but - Killer by Eminem sounded faster on RFT and left to right pans seem faster on RFT. This is a romantic tube. Lots of air and beauty. There is no harshness here at all- this is a lush (not lazy though) sound that is very very pleasant- I can imagine this is not really recommended for amps that are warm already or headphones that are warm or dark- unless you want to really pour on the lushness. For me and my headphones like the GH50JM Mk2 this tube is a bit too much of a good thing. I can imagine this being great with any FOCAL or Ultrasone or would be IDEAL for LCD 5. You could listen to this tube all day and NEVER get fatigued. It could put you to sleep with some songs... THIS WAS WRITTEN ON THE ORANGE GLOBE- and I 100% agree: Later versions of this tube were produced under the 'Orange Globe' logo. Many times you can find Herleen, Holland Amperex with a 'Hammond' logo. These are very nice low noise tubes that were highly screened for use in organs. They are the same as any Bugle Boy or Amperex ECC83, except screened for higher quality. Hammond Amperexes are one of my favorite tubes... I buy them whenever I can. I have found certain Hammond Amperexes to be exceptionally sweet, as good or better than any 'Bugle Boy' labeled tube.
Value: ★★★★★+
3D image/stage ★★★★★
Musical/Warmth: ★★★★★+
Detail: ★★★★ (more warmth than detail)
Bass: ★★★★★ (accurate)
Noise: ★★★★★ (quiet!)
Overall Performance ★★★★★+

RFT ECC82 E.Germany 1966, O-getter with dual thick support rods, labeled and boxed for RSD/Germany

Beautiful even dual tube glow when you first turn on amp! Glorious! Incredible sound! Silent black textured backdrop! silky smooth and musically engaging. FAST! great for all genre of music since it's so even handed... These are a cold war gem from E Germany. Vocals on both male and female are heavenly strings and brass instruments are spot on. Separation is spot on. 3D Stage and width could be less than the top tubes costing three times more but for this price these beat so many others for double! Plus these are NIB so I expect them to open up a bit more- Man this is a great set! Matched triodes with tight tolerances!
Value: ★★★★★+
3D image/stage ★★★★★
Musical/Warmth: ★★★★★
Detail: ★★★★★+ (just the right amount of detail vs warmth)
Bass: ★★★★★ (accurate)
Noise: ★★★★★+
Overall Performance ★★★★★+


TUNG-SOL 12AU7 Clear Glass Long Gray Plates O-Getter early 1960
Worth the $200 for the pair! You could spend more but not get more... this is a end the search tube money or not these could do it all. Very musical and fast. Tempo and rhythm excellent. What else you want?
Value: ★★★★★+
3D image/stage ★★★★★
Musical/Warmth: ★★★★★
Detail: ★★★★★+ (just the right amount of detail vs warmth)
Bass: ★★★★★ (accurate)
Noise: ★★★★★+
Overall Performance ★★★★★+


TUNG-SOL 12AU7 Clear Glass Long Gray Plates D-Getter early 1950's Hickok Co.Inc
Quiet and accurate. A keeper that any amp owner will love- nothing too overly done. Perfect balance between details and warmth. A winner set here! warm sounding tubes with precise resolution - similar to the RCA D getter believe it or not... didn't spend too much time with this as I think they resemble the RCA D getter - this pair is extremely NIB with excellent - μMhos/cm ratings so I didn't want to use it too much just yet as I just checked for noise and microphonics and it has none - also played a few songs and went right over to RCA D getter and its similar (so I moved on)
Value: ★★★★★+
3D image/stage ★★★★
Musical/Warmth: ★★★★ (since new there is hug potential to score high in all categories)
Detail: ★★★★★
Bass: ★★★★
Noise: ★★★★★++
Overall Performance ★★★★+


RCA 12AU7 Mid-Late 1950s, Long Gray Plates with D-getter - very lush yet detailed tubes- a treasure with a rating of μMhos/cm 2600/2400 and 2475/2700 these are like the day they were minted ! holographic and musical- not my favorite for my set up I like the Tung Sol D Getter a bit more but these are still young baby's and need time to open up is my guess. These are a treasure of a tube and will not be broken in by me- they are whisper quiet and beautiful in every way but for me the match up for my headphones and amp are not ideal. This is for a slightly laid back (the warmer of all the RCA's I have- which for some people is WHY these are so desirable and expensive! I have seen these as high as $99 each in 2022 NIB from reputable dealers BUT they don't score as high in life μMhos/cm as my pair - I never seen a tube this old score so high!) BUT for me I don't like my RCAs so warm sounding - I like it a bit more forward. These are more AUDIOphile sound tubes and should please those looking to get lost in the music more than evaluate as my analytical mind is. hats why I know they will open up more as someone owns them.
Value: ★★★★★+
3D image/stage ★★★★
Musical/Warmth: ★★★★ (since new there is hug potential to score high in all categories)
Detail: ★★★★★
Bass: ★★★★
Noise: ★★★★★++
Overall Performance ★★★★+

RCA 12AU7A Early 1960s, Long Gray Plates O-Getter 1960s near perfect/ideal stock match- Tektronix checked and precision matched pair with the same Tektronix code labels- these come in NIB 2600/2575 μMhos/cm and 2575/2450μMhos/cm - insane numbers for such an old tube! All the great qualities for the RCA long plates from the 1960's one could expect.
Value: ★★★★★+
3D image/stage ★★★★
Musical/Warmth: ★★★★ (since new there is hug potential to score high in all categories)
Detail: ★★★★★
Bass: ★★★★
Noise: ★★★★★++
Overall Performance ★★★★+

Halls of Shame, Part 10 - Youth Journalism International
BUYER BE WARE!A gross stained box that smelt like mold when it arrived- all their inventory is questionable- I will post images of the tube Ma ratings and boxes so you don't think I am exaggerating- they weren't even a matched pair and Ma looked poor for a NOS- these are at best NEARLY new rating butt ugly box and tube etchings!
(returning to banybang tubes - INDIA
AKA: nosaudiotubes dot com
AKA: bangybang dot com/collections/all
AKA: activepowertechnology @
AKA: www dot nosaudiotubes dot com/about-us/

Telefunken G73-R the ultimate tube for my Prautes hands down winner bar none...
Music sounds so tangible that it seems as though you can touch it.
I hear ever so slight accents and lisps from singers I never heard before on some vocalists...​

I am also testing different Quad (4) matched sets of 50L6GTs:



NIB 1950 RCA 50L6GT Black Coat

NOS 1960 Sylvania MATCHED 50L6GT 'Silver' Plated

ANOS 50L6GT Philco 'Silver' Plated

National Elctronics Universe NIB 50L6GT 'black coat'


"Smoked glass", i.e. a uniform grey or black coating inside the glass, usually seen on tubes from roughly the 1930s to the mid 1970s. Some report the coating is designed to reduced secondary emission from electrons striking the (non-conductive) glass-
When a tube is operating, excess electrons escape the plate structure and land on the glass, where they can build up a significant negative charge. This electrostatic field can then, in turn, affect the operation of the tube. The grey or black coating is made of graphite and equalizes the charge on the inside of the glass, reducing this effect.


What I got was exceptional tonal detail, clarity, depth stage and definition in all frequencies-
a tight (not bloated) bass unlike any I heard before. What else am I looking for than this?

EXCERPT from Single Ended vs. Push Pull: The Fight of the Century by Eddie Vaughn

  • Less signal deterioration because of fewer signal path components
  • Better detail and coherency, especially at low volumes
  • More open and airy sound
  • Poor efficiency, with low power and high heat production
  • Almost no rejection of power supply hum and noise,
  • which necessitates more power supply filtering
  • No cancellation of second order harmonic distortion (some do not consider this a disadvantage)
  • (Usually) shorter power tube life
  • Has speaker compatibility issues, is less tolerant of
  • wide impedance curves and complex crossover networks
    Poor damping factors

  • More power
  • (Usually) more authoritative and powerful sounding
  • Better bass performance
  • Fewer load compatibility issues
  • Lower distortion

  • Homogenized, uninteresting sound- NOT with the PRAUTES AT ALL
  • More signal deterioration due to greater signal path complexity - NOT AT ALL - ON THE CONTRARY
  • More power supply inter-modulations between amplifier stages, and other power supply anomalies - NOT THAT I CAN DEDUCE
  • Poor low level detail and dynamics (NOT AT ALL APPLICABLE HERE- THIS AMP RIVALS and beats MY RAY SAMUEL APACHE with 4 SS2590 discrete circuit amp's a completely mono dual balanced design from end to end with separate power supply)

    "Triodes and single ended operation. Triodes sound less bright, thin, and harsh when not using NFB (Negative Feedback), and have lower output impedance and lower distortion. A SE amplifier with a single, highly linear driver stage and a low plate resistance triode power tube can usually get by without NFB, which means the average SET amp is usually more open, airy, and purer sounding than an otherwise identical SEP (single ended pentode) amplifier using NFB to correct it's problems of high distortion and output impedance. In Summary We've seen that single ended and push pull amplifiers both have advantages and disadvantages. It's difficult to make blanket statements about each, as there are many variations of circuitry and quality in each broad category, so keep in mind these statements are generalizations. There are exceptions to the rule.​

Again, do note that these are generalizations. There are some horrible sounding SE amplifiers out there, and some very open and musical sounding PP amplifiers. It all depends on the design. If we apply SET design concepts to PP, using engineering practices aimed at achieving the best sound rather than the best specs on paper, the results can be astonishingly good. A PP amplifier using low Rp triode power tubes such as the 2A3 or 300B can get by with little or no NFB.
For one, the triodes are an advantage in themselves, in both linearity and output impedance. Two, the front end voltage amplifier and phase inverter stages can be designed with much lower gain, if no NFB is present to reduce the available gain. Lower gain means lower distortion and lower output Z, so NFB is not necessary to attain these desirable properties. You end up with a much more linear amplifier, that has a simpler circuit with lower parts count and therefore less signal deterioration, and more air, breath, and vibrancy. See how much better everything gets when you set out to design it right from the beginning, instead of trying to fix it with NFB?

You're probably thinking, "There must be a catch." Well, there is. The power from such an amplifier is very low compared to high feedback PP amps using big pentodes.
<THIS IS WHY THE PRAUTES IS A HEADPHONE AMP - and why the designer chose PP and designed it from ground up-the right way>

But, which would you rather have? 15 watts that sound scary good and leave you wanting more of the same, or 70 watts that bore you to death and leave you fatigued?

Furthermore, in light of the huge number of highly efficient, great sounding speakers on the market today, amplifier wattage is a moot point. The pitfall to be avoided is not so much SE or PP as it is high power. By using very efficient speakers with minimalist or no crossovers, we can sidestep the whole power issue, and end up with much better sound, usually at lower cost as well. High efficiency and low power is the way to go in this author's opinion. I grew up in a house full of vintage tube gear, and have owned both high and low powered tube and solid state gear. I've heard a lot of gear in my lifetime, and quite frankly, most of it isn't worth remembering. Most of what is put out well less than 10 watts. Nothing I've ever heard can compare to a good low powered tube amplifier with highly efficient speakers.<!!!! MY POINT HERE!!!!>

SE or PP? Name your poison. Both have their place, and both can be fabulous if correctly designed and implemented. We can sum it all up in these words of wisdom, from one of the greatest tube amp transformer designers the world has ever known, Dutch electrical engineer Menno van der Veen: "In reality, measurements are fine and can help you. But we have the finest measurement devices available on the two sides of our head: our EARS, and are not they fantastic? Well, use them and rely on them." Eddie Vaughn

If you managed to read what is in that above box then you understand what I now get so clearly after I started listening and wrote what I wrote for the review: THIS is why Damon Coffman of Coffman Labs and David Maudlin of Cypher Labs designed the Prautes as a PP simply because it is best suited for headphones- all the advantages of PP and SET combined. "Prautes delivers an incredibly detailed sonic image with all the warmth that old-school audiophiles crave," is what he said and I am a firm believer he is and was and still is on to something I never ever heard in a headphone amp... not now not ever so far... this is one of the finest sounding pieces of audio gear I know...











3/8/22: UPDATE
The TRS 3/4" sounds nearly better on Prautes than the RSA Apache TRS 3/4" (the RSA runs a tiny bit less on micro details and oomph when it comes to raw power for bass and mids) The XLR out of the RSA APACHE sounds better than the XLR of the Prautes most of the time with average tubes installed.... The Apache is more full and dynamic and slightly quicker with detail retrieval- clear winner RSA w/XLR- more dynamics and power more full sound and slightly more detail) - but when using the Tungsram ecc82
red serial#or 5814A Siemens Germany "long plates and triple mica" the gap narrows and the Prautes is a more pleasurable enveloping 3D organic experience while still preserving the slightest of details and the Tesla and RCA are similar in this regard. When using certain tubes the Cypher Prautes and RSA Apache are now neck and neck when using XLR - amazing!





-John M
music lover, professional video and audio producer, IT Support

SIDE NOTE: So you know, I have 3 systems at my home- my speakers are Vandersteen 3a Signatures, Magnepan 3.6r and my desk top system which uses SEAS drivers in custom D'Appolito configuration. I edit videos and film on location for professionals- I mix sound for a living occasionally after I film them in person- sometimes I am handed tracks that are terrible masters but am asked to make videos from them without re-mastering the sound. My IMDB page is I also do IT support for Hospitals all around the NY Area. I am not a flake or hard of hearing at all-I get sound tested by my doctor each year or two. I grew up with sound engineers in the studio who were mixing albums at The Mix Palace and Platinum Sound Recording and The Power Station, Electric Lady Studios Studios in NY to name a few. When I like something I will review it such as the Kennerton headphones I reviewed on head-fi before. If I take the time to review something it has to be meaningful- it must have moved me and compelled me to do so- I do not get paid for any reviews. I do this because I care to set the record straight on what I hear and how I felt about a particular piece of equipment.

Headphone user, music lover and professional video and audio producer
I wasn't paid by anyone to write this - so honesty for me is the best policy!

Here is another take on the Cypher Prautes written by head-fi member: best56
Here are my considerations on the Chypher Labs Prautes, in my possession:
Connected to the Accuphase Duo CDP (Mecc./Conv.) and put on a CD by Peo Alfonsi, Works for Lute Vol.1 by J.S.Bach, from the first two notes, I knew I was facing "the Immense". A sound made of sweetness but at the same time of firmness, with a lot of air and an amazing depth, with a resolution, a transparency and an impressive transient response, each sound is perfectly separated from the rest, and the focus is sculpted. The colour of the sound, in my opinion, is perfect, without ever going to affect the transparency and balance between the various frequencies ... Fear!!!... Never heard a live effect like that, and / or perhaps only the great Triodes 845, VIVA and AVENTADOR, can express themselves at these levels. Too bad for the Price, but the quality is really there, and it is an object that is made to last in time, and without time. Finally, the gem of this one is its S/N, in fact it is "Special", and Mr. David Maudlin, Sales Mgr. of Cypher Labs, had this to say about my new purchase
"The Serial # 001 is also special. We usually reserve this for ourselves, but our importer in France is a good friend"

The thing that surprised me the most in listening to this Driver, is that the Music opened up in my head, from the auditory apparatus went straight as a "Frecciarossa" to the brain, without this having to activate any "Cerebral Synapses", to elaborate the signal coming from the auditory receptors, as much as it was "Natural", and my body, through the muscles, automatically went into a sort of pre "REM" state, made of deep tranquillity and quiet. A sensation, believe me very strange and never experienced before, and it is perhaps the first time that the "Sound" according to the concept of the "Accuphase Philosophy", which translated means "Fluidity and Flowability" of the sound message, has fully materialized in my head.

crap, this Damond Coffman, is a "Genius", and thanks to the exclusive use of Military Components, recovered in the years, during his long period in force, at the USA Navy, he has brought his devices, first with his well known G1-A Preamplifier and then with this Damond Coffman Signature Edition, for Headphones, to realize his "Perfect Sound", with a level of realism, just like a live listening. All the switches, inside this Driver, have been taken from Military Aircrafts, and in operating them, they have given me the same sensations, of when I used to operate them for work, to make tests, inside the Cockpit of our Aircrafts...What can I say, it is one of my best purchases ever. And then we want to talk about the CRYO-156° Power Cable! It's simply extraordinary, for its appearance, and the two Plug Blocks, made of solid AL, have on one side, a large milling, in the shape of an arrow, which identifies the direction of the phase...spectacular.

Yesterday evening, I ordered from Cyphen Labs, co-producer, together with Coffman Labs, thanks to the good relationship with David Maudlin, a 50L6 Black NOS Valve Quartet, together with its Aluminium Case, for its possible Transport.

I enclose a couple of photos of its interior, when it was under development and a few pages of reading and videos from the Web to describe the product and understand the Philosophy of the manufacturer, Damon Coffman.

Meanwhile, after a few days, the listening sessions confirm the amazing sonic beauty of this US driver, in combination with both the Grado PS1000 S.E. and the HD800 and Abyss 1266, the latter directly connected to the Prautes Speaker Outputs via Tail by Invictus Cable.

Note: The PS1000 is even more pleasant to listen to, full-bodied and with more punch, by setting the Impedance Selector on the front panel to 8 Ohm, instead of 32 Ohm.

After clearing up some mess, as it often happens to mere mortals, I had time to mount the new 50L6 Black Nos Power Valves, arrived from Cyphen Labs, Oregon, and warmly recommended to me by David Maudlin. The tubes are NIB, (New in Box), so they need at least 100 hours of warm up, but at their first listening, something has been noticed, that is a slightly softer and warmer sound, without losing that wonderful detailed and airy sound of the 1970's Full Set RCA NOS. Now, since as preamplifiers, this Prautes always mounts 12AU7 RCA NOS valves, I would like to try a pair of 12AU7 Radiotechnique valves, made in France, at the end of the 50's/60's. According to Sal, who has mounted them on his new Riviera, he has found them excellent compared to other NOS valves of those years.
From my little experience with Valvular Drivers, I've heard that the best benefits, with the change of valves, are to be found more with the Driver and Rectifier ones, than with the Power ones. As a matter of fact, on my Trafomatic TR-2+ Ampli, beautiful Serbian Driver, dedicated to the Piezoelectric Taket H2, the benefit was not so much in the change of its Tung-Sol EL 34, with the Mullard EL-34 XF2 Double Getter, paid a lot, as in the substitution of the ECC88 Driver, with a NOS Siemens Gold Pin, where listening to female Voices or the sound of Guitars is a blast.

Waiting to receive the two new 12AU7 NOS Valves by Radiotechnique of 1958, today I have received the second Cypher Labs Cable, in CRYO 156° version, purchased after I have visually realized, with the arrival of the Prautes Driver and its Wiring, their goodness, in terms of Construction and Materials used, as well as the excellent Audio performance.

This Power Cable, with Rhodium-plated Aluminium Connectors, with Cryogenic internal Cable at -156°, will be mounted on the Prautes Driver, while the previous one will power the Weiss DAC-202.
We all know by now, that the musical performance with all Digital Machines, increases significantly, using a good Power Cable.

Meanwhile, after the installation of the new Black Nos power valves, Tung-Sol 50L6, the listening sessions with the HD800, to which I gave the new Airtech "AIR" Cable, and the Audeze LCD-X with the Aftermarket Cables, Invictus Cable, Silver Litz 26 AWG and Portento Audio "INCANTO" have become even more involving and fantastic. This last Headphone reaches very high listening values, with the S.S. Dual Mono, Single End, Full Balance Class A and Separate Power Supply, SXT-2 Limited Edition, 10W+10W, at 32 Ohm, and that for a 20 Ohm impedance, like the one of the LCD-X, pulls out more than 6 W per channel, confirming that the best synergies for Orthodynamic Headphones, are the S.S. Drivers.

Finally, the 12AU7 NOS 1958 Driver Valves from Radiotechique have arrived, so I have mounted them together with the AC Cable, Cryo by C.L., and after the necessary warm-up of the Driver, I am now enjoying one of the most beautiful Drivers I have ever heard. With a marvellous and holographic stage presence, so much so that you could hear it in a Live of Fay Classon, in Amsterdam, there in the middle of the audience, applauding the performance of this excellent Singer.

I would love to try it against the RIVIERA, and I don't think the final result would be so obvious!!!...Let's see later on, if it will be possible to meet Salvatore and get rid of this whim. I say that for me, with these changes I have reached the right amalgam and the coupling with Senn HD800+AIR; PS1000 by Spirit Labs and LCD-X+Silver Litz, is almost perfect and synergic.

After a few days of listening with the new set of Black NOS 50L6 Tung-Sol Power Valves and the NOS 12AU7 Preamplifiers from Radiotecniche 1958, mounted on the Cypher Lab Prautes, I must say that these are giving back a Sound made of impact but at the same time silky, creamy and full-bodied at the right point, giving back a really beautiful and true "Live" image. Like sipping a good glass of Wisky Cream.
Right now I'm enjoying the Live performance of Mary Stallings in "Live at the village vanguard" of 2001, what can I say, really exciting, wonderful Track 4, Sunday Kind Of Love, it's goose bumps!!!.. Listened with the LCD-X...Highly recommended for an hour of pure and satisfying listening!!!
Damon Coffman worked his way through college as a concert violinist and obtained an advanced degree in physics through the Naval Postgraduate School. He then specialized as an engineer in the Navy and later on in medical technology firms. While working as a VP of Engineering and CTO for pioneering medical companies, Damon rediscovered his love of music and began exploring the designs of the classic amplifiers from the golden age of analog audio. Realizing that he could rely on his physics and engineering expertise to create clean, custom circuits that made his favorite recordings sing, he began to enlist local artists and artisans in crafting a one-of-a-kind chassis that articulated the purity of the amplifier design contained within.

In optimizing specialized parts for the amplifier and using locally made custom parts for our chassis, Coffman Labs is keeping our commitment to supporting green manufacturing, local business, and high-craft artisanship. By keeping our products as limited-edition runs, we can ensure the authenticity and heirloom quality of each item that we create. We're proud of our unique approach to audio and design, and we believe that our amplifiers will be enjoyed and cherished for many years to come.​
Last edited:
John Massaria
John Massaria
wondering if you ever compared the H1-A to the Cypher Prautes- seems like they made very positive changes in design - its nice to know I just spoke with Coffman and he said after reading my review he would consider seriously about making a newer version that this but it would be priced probably double the $3995 due to costs... Ray Saumels told me same thing - things have sky rocketed to make this kind of gear takes $$$ - and for what its worth (haha) the gear is worth it since it breaks all the molds for quality and sound
I'm really surprise to know Cypher Labs still exist. Can't find their website and all their products seem to be gone for years.
John Massaria
John Massaria
They are gone

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
Quicksilver Audio Headphone class A Triode Transformer Coupled Single Ended
Pros: very well made rugged no nonsense style, depth of sound stage and balance, tight bass, good definition and rendering of any recording, bests anything under $2,000 I know of or heard at shows; could end a search for users seeking the finest for under $2,500, musical and organic with atributes of solid state definition, not designed for "critical" listening but rather for pure enjoyment
Cons: no pass through for line pre amp, not balanced, uninspired looks, not designed for "critical" listening but rather for pure enjoyment
Quicksilver Audio Headphone Amp
Class A Triode Transformer Coupled Single Ended



Quicksilver manufactures these amps in Stockton, CA and have been in business since 1981. Mike Sanders, the owner and founder, personally tests each product to ensure it is performing optimally before it leaves the factory. Quicksilver Audio’s transformers are custom built to his specifications. The amps come with a 3 year parts and labor warranty.
Mike Sanders spent almost two years refining this design, testing a multitude of different headphones to insure the unit would drive even the most difficult headphones available. I can say without reservation this amp has gone above and beyond in regards to the goal - with a sound so good it should cost much more...
The Quicksilver Headphone Amp is a transformer coupled single ended class A triode using (2) 12AX7 and (2)6BQ5 tubes. I typically have the volume pot between 10-12 if it was a clock.

When this amp first came out it was a bargain at $998 and now in 2022 it's price at $1198.00... it is still one of great values of our time. Why? It's construction and sound compete with amps in the $2500+ range easily. Yes it is true there is more I would like to see- I would have liked to have balanced in's or maybe a balanced topography - certainly it would be nice but may affect the price value so I will leave that alone. The sound is so good with RCA and well that's all one could ask for really. One thing I think at this price it should absolutely have is outputs so the amp could be used as a pass through or preamp. I had a little xDuoo MT-602 that cost $99 with tubes and it had a line out. But again that is forgivable as well since this amp performs so well.

What does it do well? Stage, width and depth and a velvet quiet background deep and dark (no noise) - something of a rarity in a high powered tube amp such as this. Is it the most powerful tube amp I ever heard - no. Did it drive headphones better than my Bottlehead Crack with Speedball upgrades? Yes. Did the crack sound a bit more lush and wet? Yes, but the Crack lacked the refinement to the Quicksilver in details and over all accuracy. Does it have that good tube sound or is it more clinical - no its not clinical at all and not dry. Yes this is a modern day extremely well engineered tube amp. It's balanced in its tone- not overly syrupy with tube mush, the bass on the QS is tight! The Mids glorious and the treble very detailed and layered perfectly with from what I can hear no holes or dips in the entire frequency range. Its what Laozi would teach- the blend between yin and yang or harmony

If you are in search for an amp that gives you the tube sound most people crave with the best that solid state has and blend those two ideas together... you have the Quicksilver. Is it as detailed as my SS Ray Samuels Apache? Close, not really but my Ray Samuels would cost nearly 4 times as much as the Quicksilver and it doesn't have that tube air you get that so many want. Does it sound better than the Bottlehead Crack w/ Speedball yes- its a better designed amp with better details and tighter bass. Is it better than a Felks anything under $1900 (Elise and Echo) - I would say yes. Its more accurate. Much more refined and quiet. Is it going to make me want to sell my Ray Samuels - no. Or my Cypher Labs Prautes - no and if you read the review on the Cypher you would understand why. Some might say it's incisive in its attacks vs. the slightly rounded attacks of the DNA amps.

The Quicksilver could be a destination for parking a budget of $2500 or less happily. And you really shouldn't have buyers remorse here- you wouldn't really question the purchase or worry, did I buy something worth every penny of my hard earned cash and get that back in returns- 100% yes. So my high recommendation here for the Quicksilver.

Coffman Cypher Labs Prautes Headphone Amplifier
Ray Samuels Apache Limited Revision 4 (UPDATED 1/10/21)
HD600, HD650, Kennerton Gallahorn GH50 JM Edition Horn Graphine Closed Back, and the GH50Mk2, Kennerton Rognir Closed Back Plannar Magnetic Headphones, Kennerton Gjallarhorn GH-40 Caliber 40mm, Gold Planar GL2000 Open Back, ETYMOTIC ER4SR, Kinera Mount Nanna 2.0





-John M
Headphone user, music lover & professional video/audio producer, IT Support

SIDE NOTE: So you know, I have 3 systems at my home- my speakers are Vandersteen 3a Signatures, Magnepan 3.6r and my desk top system which uses SEAS drivers in custom D'Appolito configuration. I edit videos and film on location for professionals- I mix sound for a living occasionally after I film them in person- sometimes I am handed tracks that are terrible masters but am asked to make videos from them without re-mastering the sound. My IMDB page is I also do IT support for Hospitals all around the NY Area. I am not a flake or hard of hearing at all-I get sound tested by my doctor each year or two. I grew up with sound engineers in the studio who were mixing albums at The Mix Palace and Platinum Sound Recording and The Power Station, Electric Lady Studios Studios in NY to name a few. When I like something I will review it such as the Kennerton headphones I reviewed on head-fi before. If I take the time to review something it has to be meaningful- it must have moved me and compelled me to do so- I do not get paid for any reviews. I do this because I care to set the record straight on what I hear and how I felt about a particular piece of equipment.

Headphone user, music lover and professional video and audio producer
I wasn't paid by anyone to write this - so honesty for me is the best policy!

A tube that may need to be tested and listened to by every music lover-
The Telefunken G73-R 12AU7



tele G73R.jpg










Last edited:

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
SHORT AND SWEET - Kennerton Rognir Planar Magnetic Closed Back Over-Ear Headphones
Pros: heirloom quality, dreamy sounding - ez on the ears hours of listening to music melt by, one of the widest closed back sound stage reproduction of any closed back planar design, Drop dead gorgeous looks and construction, comfortable, head to head with 6K headphones easily, TOTL in many many ways, unique DuPont Carbon planar driver makes these sound awe inspiring and addictive
Cons: standard cord is a micro-phonic (make sure you request the twisted braided one to avoid this issue), will not play as loud as my GH50Mk2 which I still prefer for that reason, as with any planar headphone- they have a delicate planar membrane- so always handle them with care as you should anyway with any headphone, slightly heavy cup but balances nicely, Cups do not swivel
Kennerton Rognir Planar Magnetic Closed Back Over-Ear Headphones


Head-fi member Martinrm's Rognir Above​

If you are not familiar with Kennerton then you should be by now... they are based in Saint Petersburg Russia- a beautiful city with rich history with well educated people who enjoy the finest things in the world- be it food, construction or manufacturing- they know quality. The city is inspired by classic designs and the people have a very keen eye on the exquisite. As with most ironic companies in this world- it starts with a vision or an obsession. Kennerton's success comes from an owner with vision and obsession - bringing forth a product few have seen in our market even today - a living breathing epitome of what a hand made heirloom should be- a collectors dream- an honest to goodness treasure. Owner Valentin Kazanzhi set forth to create something not so readily available in the market place- a hand made non factory stamped out same old headphone. Kennerton brings all headphone lovers a treasure to own.



What is the goal of headphones? for me it's easy to explain. Isolation from the world and to loose myself in the music. And when I am done listening to the headphone- I love to put them back on their stand and admire the way they look. I love to show friends who never heard or seen a headphone like these before end possibly engage them in thought and conversation... I love sharing what I love with who I care about... watching their faces as I press play and watch their face light up!

Just looking at Rognir begs me to bring them closer to me and finally for me to put them on once again and melt into the music.


I can usually tell if I am going to like a headphone from the first few moments I put them on... with one exception, that being my Ribbon headphones from Gold Planar -GL1200 which honestly sounded dreadful before I broke them in for days on end. And as far as open backs - I seldom find myself gravitating to them first since they bleed sound from the outside in and vice versa. If I want to listen to headphones - they need to be intimate yet create an open wide expansive space and only for me to enjoy. That is the case with my IEMs and my closed backs - private sessions just for me to enjoy and not to disturb other people around me. That is not to say I will give up the open back feel in a closed back- I should not have to compromise. I need to feel transformed as if I am in a large open room as if listening to speakers... the closer I can get to my Magnepan speaker experience or my Vandersteen speakers but with a closed back the closer I know that is headphone I will love... and that's what I get with the Rognir Planar headphones... a private enthralling session with passion and love for music reproduction. Something that calls my name to slip them on and listen and get lost in the music... something that will scale up depending on the source, music and amp/dac. The Rognir Planar meets so many requirements for me as a headphone enthusiast that well its the reason I am obsessed with headphones in the first place - they check so many boxes for me.



The Rognir comes with a beautiful braided mini XLR to XLR cable and a hard very microphonic cable I would not suggest and could suggest to Kennerton to eliminate for this cable for this caliber of high end headphone.
Just a suggestion on that cable- the braided one is top of the line gorgeous and sounds amazing! The Rognir Planar comes with a practical carry case that most people would find useful to store them in.

They come with two ear pads one angled and perforated (pictured) and one solid non-perforated soft lambs leather ear pad. The solid ear pad is my preference (not pictured) since it allows the most isolation and deepest bass. The angled is a bit more expansive with stage and lessens the bass- most people may prefer the angled perforated pad though... They can benefit and handle eq'ing well but don't need it to sound beautiful and alluring.

rognir cupdown.jpg
If you think this review is going to compare a ton of headphones to this AND for me to ramble on sentence after sentence then you got the wrong review here- THIS REVIEW is the short and sweet - its a headphone that has redefined what a closed back planar design can do... music from the Rognir Planar is engaging and hypnotic and has the most satisfying allure of any similarly priced closed back and easily competes with 6K open backs in many ways... but this kind of sound in a closed back which says a lot! It's way more musical and soulful than the DC Stealth. The Rognir is a clear choice for me over the Focal Stelia as well- the Stelia for me sounds too harsh and not at all designed for long listening sessions at all- a headphone shouldn't give me a headache after 50mins pr fatigue me like the Stelia. Like I said it's a simple hard yes yes yes to the Rognir- if you love the looks - you will not be disappointed in their ability sound wise to make you smile from ear to ear each time you put them on. They satisfy without offending - they are smooth and enjoyable. The sound-stage is deep and wide and they captivate the essence of music and have soul. The bass is tight the mids are wonderfully buttery and the high end has just enough detail for you to get all the information you need to feel like you are listening to top of the line speakers privately in between your ears. WHAT THE HECK ELSE COULD YOU WANT FROM A HEADPHONE or a short and sweet review... I listened to hundreds and hundreds of hours with my Rognir - nearly everyday over the last 2 months- (my playlists are below) ... I also listen to a variety of CD, SACD and HighRes FLAC files, Amazon Muisc HD and Spotify. I used the Yulong DA1 with Separate Power supply, my beloved Ray Samules Apache Amp with upgrades and the $15K+ R2R Mojo Mystique EVO Pro and my trusty Topping D90 as well as several portable players such as the Cayin C9 (LOVE!) and Fiio Q5s. I tried the iphone but obviously that was my least favorite with the Rognir. They are a strong recommendation and can go head to head with headphones that cost 6K easily. My review doesn't need to be long now does it? That is my review- it's not longer and it doesn't need to be. The ROGNIR PLANAR are so good - if you have the money you should just buy them. You could thank me but it really isn't necessary. Just know you made a very wise investment and you will want for little else after you try them- they are love at first listen and will continue to excite you both in looks, construction and sound with soul. It offers everything a true headphone lover seeks.
- John Massaria

SUB BASS: 8.6/10
BASS: 8.9/10
MIDS: 8.8/10
HIGH FREQ: 8.7/10
BUILD: 9.8/10
SUPPLIED CORD: 6/10 and 10/10

Tested with Ray Samuels Apache 2021 edition and my Fiio.q5s and Cayin c9, Topping D90 and Mojo Audio Mystique Evo R2R and the Yulong DA1+Power Supply Upgrade

SIDE NOTE: So you know, I have 3 systems at my home- my speakers are Vandersteen 3a Signatures, Magnepan 3.6r and my desk top system which uses SEAS drivers in custom D'Appolito configuration. I edit videos and film on location for professionals- I mix sound for a living occasionally after I film them in person- sometimes I am handed tracks that are terrible masters but am asked to make videos from them without re-mastering the sound. My IMDB page is I am not a flake or hard of hearing at all-I get sound tested by my doctor each year or two. I grew up with sound engineers in the studio who were mixing albums at The Mix Palace and Platinum Sound Recording and The Power Station, Electric Lady Studios Studios in NY to name a few. When I like something I will review it such as the Kennerton headphones I reviewed on head-fi before. If I take the time to review something it has to be meaningful- it must have moved me and compelled me to do so- I do not get paid for any reviews. I do this because I care to set the record straight on what I hear and how I felt about a particular piece of equipment.

A Knock out performance that few headphones can do so well - a great recording with the best mics and mastering- AEA Mics and Pre-amps used here and no other mastering comes close to this perfection and the presentation but really accents and highlights the performance of the Rognir along with the GH50JM Edition which are both a perfect examples of what the track should sound like at it's best for me.


Planar Magnetic​
Driver Unit​
80 mm​
Frequency Response​
10-55000 Hz​
100 dB​
42 Ohm​
Cord length​
High quality 2 meters detachable copper cable 2 x mini-xlr / 6.3 mm​
Custom cable​
Custom litz cable 2 x mini-xlr / 4-pin balanced xlr​
4 pin balanced xlr / 6,3 TRS adapter​
436 g​

€ 3,250
custom colors are available only by request


Z Reviews says it all right here too -


  • 1647560274192.png
    9.2 MB · Views: 0
Last edited:
Thank you very much John, short but highly enjoyable! Any chance you got your hands on the new Dynamic version?
John Massaria
Much appreciated John!

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
Atlas Hyper 3.5 Speaker Cables
Pros: nearly as neutral as a speaker wire could be, does not call attention to itself- it is neutral, a near window into the recording itself unlike any wire I owned before under $600, switching out to lesser cable really makes you crave what these cable do for music and transparency
Cons: priced at $499 ($83.16/Meter 3Mx2) can be hard on wallet - but transparent and non colored sound does have a price, not a huge widely known brand (not really a con but some people like brand names that spend a ton on advertising and brand awareness), rubber Y feels cheap and jelly like not premium feeling at all but it is functional
Cables. They either accent one sound frequency or another. Some clearly hear how they 'eq' the sound so to speak in ways and many people use cable to tune their systems and some think its nonsense altogether. But once you hear different cable in a very revealing system- you will understand why cables are a "thing" and why so many people spend money on this step in their audio chain. And that is exactly what this is... an audio chain- a chain of custody so to speak. From one end to the other, music is transferred from the source to your ears... our wire plays a very an important role. From the DC power that comes out of our walls that supply our equipment with juice and the actual signal wire that transfers either analog or digital- our wire we choose has immense impact on how our system will come together. Cable I like to compare to light- some can tilt to hot or too cold, it could be warm or too dark. If it is too bright and in your face it could be too revealing and lacking any natural sense and actually be fatiguing. Think about when you shine a bunch of lights on a beautiful model and it could ruin everything- you will see just how flawed their complexion really is. Or wash details out in the sheer brightness- like an over exposed photo. Balance is key when pulling a system together- and this makes perfectly logical sense. Cable should not alter the signal one way or the other. We can use measurements to see how a cable performs... the Atlas Hyper 3.5 measures capacitance 53.52 pF/m (capacitance describes the ability of two conductors, separated by an insulating material, to store charge. Capacitance in cables is usually measured in pf/m (pico farads per meter) or pf/ ft (pico farads per foot). The lower the capacitance the better the cable performance). The Atlas Hyper Inductance is 0.592 µH/m (An ideal inductor is classed as loss less, meaning that it can store energy indefinitely as no energy is lost). And lastly the measured resistance is 0.0049 Ohms/m. Take it at face value or not those are just numbers that are measured BUT do take notice and realize this wire just sounds better for me and my system than other I compared it to under $600. Why? engineering I would think. The careful selection of materials to include how they crimp insulate and braid and of course the actual purity of the wire itself- makes complete sense to me.

If you value transparency above all else- to hear what you have been missing so to speak. It may be fun to EQ your sound with a cable - but it gives up certain things when you hear "the bass more" at the expense of higher frequency for example- most cables are trying to alter the sound instead of being honest. Some cables like silver plated wire for me sound detailed yet to harsh. Some copper wire sound too bassy and not enough detail as an example. What I value most in cable is to accent no one frequency or another but to be neutral- sort of like my Grimm SQM XLR wire and my Atlas Hyper Integra RCA wire - they are the most transparent wire I have heard in what I consider the affordable range- and the same thing apply for me here with the Atlas Hyper 3.5 speaker wire.

When I hooked the Atlas Hyper 3.5 to my Gold Planar GL1200 Ribbon headphones - the difference in total transparency and clarity was not small- I immediately smiled and said to myself, "man cable really can make a difference." What I hear is crystal clarity from top to bottom bringing my GL1200 that much closer to to source unlike my Vanden Hul Wire, The Cardas or the stock wire that came with the GL1200. This is what makes me want to write this review and explain briefly- if you value your music and your equipment like I do- you will want to see and hear for yourself what honest cable really does.
Atlas Hyper 3.5 Speaker Cables

Other Cables I have used/compared Van Den Hul MC Magnum Hybrid​


Cardas Crosslink


Stock Gold Planar Wire
Made in the USA CMC Gold Plated Speaker Cable Wire Banana Plug Connector with 100% OFC Copper wire


Gold Planar Speaker Junction BOX for the ribbon GL1200 Headphones


The B&K 125.2 I use with the GL1200 and the Atlas Hyper 3.5 Speaker Cable
If your system needs eq'ing or to be tilted one way or another yin or yang - then this cable would make little sense. It doesn't tilt sound. Its a smooth highway like the autobahn in Germany- a high speed flawless experience that will let your stereo excel if the performance is there. I am again, selling other lesser sounding wire from my collection and replacing it with the Atlas Hyper. Period.

Highly recommended as an near end game wire for a revealing system at a price that while high pays off when you really sit down and listen. I can not keep things like this quiet... its like good food I like to share when I have something really delicious... enjoy the music!

OH yes... I forgot- these wires do come with a CD to break the wires in more quickly with special frequency tones- I didn't really feel the need to use the CD but it was handy and I did use it for the 48hrs or so while the cable broke in. I can not say for sure if the CD or me just playing music made them sound smoother and more transparent but the end result was I preferred these cables to many others I had at my home and thought the CD was a nice touch to cut down the time during the break in period. Happy listening everyone :wink:

SIDE NOTE: So you know, I have 3 systems at my home- my speakers are Vandersteen 3a Signatures, Magnepan 3.6r and my desk top system which uses SEAS drivers in custom D'Appolito configuration. I edit videos and film on location for professionals- I mix sound for a living occasionally after I film them in person- sometimes I am handed tracks that are terrible masters but am asked to make videos from them without re-mastering the sound. My IMDB page is
I am not a flake or hard of hearing at all-I get sound tested by my doctor each year or two. I grew up with sound engineers in the studio who were mixing albums at The Mix Palace and Platinum Sound Recording and The Power Station, Electric Lady Studios Studios in NY to name a few. When I like something I will review it such as the Kennerton headphones I reviewed on head-fi before. If I take the time to review something it has to be meaningful- it must have moved me and compelled me to do so- I do not get paid for any reviews. I do this because I care to set the record straight on what I hear and how I felt about a particular piece of equipment.
Last edited:

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
Focal Radiance For Bentley Closed Back Dynamic Headphone
Pros: Included carry case is useful and practical, unboxing is a pleasant luxurious experience-, sound is mostly pleasing at nominal volume levels on most music, I like that these are made in France and not China, Pads and quality of stitching is second to none, precision craftsmanship, gorgeous design, accents of Bentley design are tasteful but the color of rose gold may be a turn off for some, removable pads are ez to access/change/maintain/clean
Cons: can have a fatiguing sound in mid to high frequencies, some female and male vocals do not sound accurate, high hats and cymbals sound off, clamping force is somewhat tight after an hour, cable is way to short ( 1.2meters/47 inches )and not that flexible (in this price range I would expect better for sure), cord stays oddly bent w/ memory shape reminiscent of the fold when new

Short and to the point review:

My review sample came to me on a tour from the very awesome and very classy Todd The Vinyl Junkie - I was the third or fourth to review the Focal Radiance- jumping right in and to the point-While it’s looks and construction are befitting of their selling price -initially I found the Focal Radiance sound signature well balanced for the most part- nearly but as I continued to concentrate more on details...

This track sounds nice on the Radiance however.... the next track

The Blade Runner 2049 Soundtrack is a torture test the Radiance barely receives a passing grade here

This track made me want to take off the Radiance and slap my GH50JM Edition on or my GL1200 or even the GL2000

Some tracks made me again give the harsh rating-
if you can not do Norah Jones with out fatigue or over extension- something is wrong

I found the Focal Radiance a bit fatiguing after one hour of listening- some mid to high frequency on female and some male tracks
seemed oddly off and exaggerated in some frequencies and under exaggerated and recessed in others- cymbals also sounded off and not true to the recording- I think these headphones were tuned to be impressive on first listen (first 15 mins I was really like wow these are nice and clear nice imaging with intimate stage etc) but as I continued to listen I realized the flaws- compared to my Kennerton GH50JM Edition- the Radiance also had a noticeable bass overextended distortion of the driver on some torture test tracks at moderate nominal volumes and got worse as I turned up volume- I attribute this to the driver hyper extending - something I rarely would expect from this price range- and this was also confirmed by Josh V recently in his video review describing it similarly -



At lower volumes or normal volumes the bass over extension is not noticeable at all even among my torture test tracks - so it may not be a concern for casual listening but something my Gh50s never do - and something once you hear it you kind of cringe.
If I never heard the Kennerton Gh50s I would say the Focal is among the better closed backed headphones for fit and finish and sound for short periods of time.

Few know how magical this recording really is unless you know the history of what equipment they used and the studio and even the engineer - this is and always will be a reference track - find it in FLAC or uncompressed to really test how drums and cymbals should sound- again the Radiance failed tonally here

The headband on the Focal is comfortable but the clamp force on my ears is a little much after an hour - which is ironically matched to how long I could tolerate the slightly fatiguing sound signature as well-these two major strikes against the Radiance make this a hard recommendation from me. The ear cups are comfortable as they are beautiful and I love the snaps to change and clean the ear pads/cups but nice stitching/construction can only go so far if the sound doesn’t measure up to the beauty.


As you may have guessed- I do not like the Focal sound signature- one reviewer wrote "the Focal house sound has thinned-out mids, uneven upper harmonics, peaky upper treble, perhaps even an oddly-tuned bass" I could not agree more... however that same reviewer also said he disliked the sample he had of the Gold Planar GL2000 which I already reviewed and gave a glowing review for my sample. Many people have discussed the sample problems with Gold Planar - my sample was spot on perfect. This is not about the Gold Planar growing pains of consistency in production and making them all sound like my sample- this is clearly their production issues and quality of control at the Gold Planar factory - but we are not talking about GP we are talking about Focal- an established well respected very precision company - who intentionally voices their speakers and earphones a certain way- the sound signature of all the Focals - consistency in production being paramount and something I really love about Focal. It's just that they are a tuned sound signature I do not agree with.

I recently wrote these words and I would like to share the quote:
"I just can not get into the Focal sound- not one Focal I tried back a year ago (Stellia and Utopia) or what I have at my house right now (the Raidance and the Celestee)... sorry Focal we love your marketing, your good looks and nice ‘image’ as a potentially great tool for listening to music so to speak- but Kennerton is king for me - more spacious imaging, better sound-stage impact, much better tighter and deep bass… and the mid to high blend is pure ear candy pleasure… and details are brought out without taking out one ounce of pleasure - I never experience listening fatigue….

I equate the Focals in the same group as the B&W sound camp vs the Magnepan and Vandersteen sound camp. One makes you continuously search for tweaks to subdue the issues of their strange frequency anomalies and the issues they run into with their ground up DNA design with in their 3rd and 4th order crossovers - when it comes to 3d space and timing- always searching for a way to make the Focals and B&Ws sound less harsh and always trying to make them sound more musical where the Vandersteens and Magnepans always sound great and even better with revealing cables amps and sources... my review is clear and I make no apologies for how I grade equipment.

SUB BASS: 7.3/10
BASS: 7.4/10
MIDS: 7.4/10
BUILD: 10/10
COMFORT: 7.5/10



PORTABLE USE: Can be used portably and sounds ok with standard iphone and dongle but sounds best with serprate amp and dac

AMP/DAC DEPENDENT: YES- YOU Will hear a benefit from higher quality amp/dac but will work acceptably with a cell phone

I used my Ray Samuels Apache 2021 edition and my Fiio.q5s and Cayin c9 for amps and the DACs I used were the Topping D90 and Mojo Audio Mystique Evo R2R

A Knock out performance that few headphones can do so well - a great recording with the best mics and mastering- AEA Mics and Preamps used here and no other mastering comes close to this perfection and the presentation but really accents and highlights the performance mishaps in the Bentley Radiance compared to other headphones I have used. The GH50JM Edition and the Gold Planar GL1200 with Enhanced/Gold Ribbons are a perfect examples of what the track should sound like at it's best. Even the HD600 sounds much more accurate here than the Radiance on high hats and drums.

SIDE NOTE: So you know, I have 3 systems at my home- my speakers are Vandersteen 3a Signatures, Magnepan 3.6r and my desk top system which uses SEAS drivers in custom D'Appolito configuration. I edit videos and film on location for professionals- I mix sound for a living occasionally after I film them in person- sometimes I am handed tracks that are terrible masters but am asked to make videos from them without re-mastering the sound. My IMDB page is
I am not a flake or hard of hearing at all-I get sound tested by my doctor each year or two. I grew up with sound engineers in the studio who were mixing albums at The Mix Palace and Platinum Sound Recording and The Power Station, Electric Lady Studios Studios in NY to name a few. When I like something I will review it such as the Kennerton headphones I reviewed on head-fi before. If I take the time to review something it has to be meaningful- it must have moved me and compelled me to do so- I do not get paid for any reviews. I do this because I care to set the record straight on what I hear and how I felt about a particular piece of equipment.
Last edited:
John Massaria
John Massaria
I added a play list to the review
John Massaria
John Massaria
just heard the radiance again and I stand by 100% this headphone for me is more of a looker and unfortunately less of a performer -

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
Atlas Hyper Integra RCA "Affordable" Genuine 6n OCC Copper RCA
Pros: clarity, transparency similar to my more expensive RCAs (at a fraction of price)
Cons: If $229 is a con - I do not think it is for performance at all, not a huge widely known brand (not really a con but some people like brand names that spend a ton on advertising and brand awareness)

If you are one of those people that like stock interconnects or wire priced under $30 for a pair of RCA cable I am here to say skip this article and review... if you are closed to the idea that cable can make a sound system a little bit more transparent, a little bit quieter, a little bit more musical or maybe even extract as much information between components as possible... I can say maybe you should just try some new cable like the Atlas Hyper Integra RCA - wire which is nearly at the pinnacle of performance for price performance.

My GL1200, B&K Amp, The Atlas Hyper Integra​
If you own very revealing equipment and are looking for a new reliable well engineered and well shielded wire that will never call attention to it self but will image and sound as good as some $500 cable then you may be inclined to read and consider if this wire is right for you and your home sound system. What I look for in cables is transparency. I don't want anything added or subtracted. If one part of the audio signal is being enhanced that could be because other frequencies are being attenuated. When reviewing music or gear or doing video and audio editing or mastering- there can be no chance that I am getting it wrong - I need neutral transparent wire always. And up until now I have been using the SQM reference wire from GRIMM and their very affordable TPR interconnects. I also use Z Cables Jazz 3a, Cardas Cross ($300+), Cardas Parsec Interconnect ($290+) , Cardas Clear Sky ($480), and my borrowed from a friend RCA Stealth Nanofiber Pure carbon ($3100) and Stealth Hybrid ($3000) interconnects. All of the Cardas that I own will be replaced now with the Atlas Hyper Integra it's that much more revealing clear and pinpoint accurate boarding so very close to my SQM wire which costs $700 vs the $229 - making this a no brainier for me- even as I continue to write switching between the cables I can say the Atlas Hyper Integra are a more honest rendition of what is in the recording - making the Cardas colored and veiled in comparision which I never thought I would say.

Looking closer at the pins inside the RCA on the Atlas Hyper Integra they utilize a Hollow Pin stuffed with wire conductor allowing more wire inside the pin and maximizing the conductivity. The more I listen to these cables the more I wonder how much better the more expsensive wire by them can truly be... but at $229 I am blown away on how close these come to my $700 SQM by Grimm.


I will also say I am testing different speaker wire to my Gold Planar Ribbon GL1200
converter box and will follow up on what I prefer.

The only other cable I own that has the open pin to allow the wire through the cylinder pin like the Atlas Hyper Integra is the Stealth Wire which costs over $2500 and I do think that helps it edge out the competition by allowing more wire inside the pin and making a better contact than just solder alone.

With little doubt the Atlas Hyper Integra RCA is my favorite used between my Topping D90 DAC, my Apache RSA Preamp and my B&K. I should mention -I just orded another set of Atlas Hyper Integra and am now selling my Cardas. I will use it now between my amp and my beloved Gold Planar GL1200 headphones and for the DAC to preamp section. I was looking to replace the Cardas but really haven't found anything close that wowed me for transparency until now- and the price is very good in relative terms- my Atlas Hyper Integra pair ran me $229 and yes they run circles around my lesser cables which actually cost me more. They are better than the Grimm TPR and the Cardas but not quiet as transparent as the $700 Grimm SQM - but are certainly very close. The image is slightly more vivid with the SQM, bass and timbre a bit more honest as well. The Atlas Hyper Integra RCA comes the closest to what I expect and for $229 I consider myself lucky to own these- and get so much for so little. Highly recommend.
I hope you have a chance to try these RCAs one day - you will thank me I think. I got mine from America HiFi a very reputable family owned business making real customers and making real products affordable again.


SIDE NOTE: So you know, I have 3 systems at my home- my speakers are Vandersteen 3a Signatures, Magnepan 3.6r and my desk top system which uses SEAS drivers in custom D'Appolito configuration. I edit videos and film on location for professionals- I mix sound for a living occasionally after I film them in person- sometimes I am handed tracks that are terrible masters but am asked to make videos from them without re-mastering the sound. My IMDB page is
I am not a flake or hard of hearing at all-I get sound tested by my doctor each year or two. I grew up with sound engineers in the studio who were mixing albums at The Mix Palace and Platinum Sound Recording and The Power Station, Electric Lady Studios Studios in NY to name a few. When I like something I will review it such as the Kennerton headphones I reviewed on head-fi before. If I take the time to review something it has to be meaningful- it must have moved me and compelled me to do so- I do not get paid for any reviews. I do this because I care to set the record straight on what I hear and how I felt about a particular piece of equipment.
Last edited:
Audio Addict
Audio Addict
I can't believe I read someone else has Z Cables Jazz. I have Jazz as well as Live and the dampening tubes Mark built.
John Massaria
I do like the look of these cables, need to check them out! Great review, thank you.

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
Pros: Tasteful Sound Curve for earphones- some headphones costing 3x more don't do what these do so well, not over done bass or treble- no siblance, incognito low key design with high fidelity sound that will satisfy young and old because they are so well balanced for the price, remote control is very handy, microphone for phone quality makes it a worth while purchase all by itself! comfortable/lightweight, approaching the sound very close to the 1More triple drivers that cost over $99 for just $40, images similar to more expensive earphones
Cons: looks like & feels like a no frills head set, non interchangeable cables, wire can get tangled in it self

Strauss & Wagner EM205 Earphones

3.5mm Connection And High End Mic With Remote


Up front and always honest in all my reviews...
I am a customer of Audio46- just a guy who loves their service... so the owner reached out after reading some of my high end reviews... and said hey you want to test a few affordable in ears? I said, "sure, why not..." so here we are.. these were sent to me for review without incentive for my honest review from Audio 46. For more information Strauss&Wagner.



I received these in earphones and wasn't expecting much. Boy was I wrong and pleasantly surprised. As soon as I unboxed these and removed them from practical cloth pouch, I was like... 'ok... this will be interesting. Maybe they will sound pretty good...' and well they do. Better than many other similar priced earphones I have bought; some examples : Better than: iPhone EarPods $19, AKG Ear buds $59, RHA MA750i (Ear buds priced at $120 at the time). Bottom line I actually prefer these over the other Strauss & Wagner SI201 sound signature which tends to be a bit bassier- while the EM205 have a much more even hand and are great for all genre of music from classic to rock to EDM to Jazz. The goal of the company was to provide triple the price performance in an affordable package - and I can say these have their place in anyone's go bag. If you commute on public transportation they provide excellent seal so no sound leaks out or in- they are excellent for teleconferences since their quality mic is better than even AKG headphones I have - which to me is a a real head scratcher since AKG makes mics for a main line of business in the professional recording world. The sound from the sEM205 is really close to an ideal sound signature making music coming from portable devices such as phones or daps sound like much more expensive ear phones.


A bit on the company: "Strauss & Wagner embodies two of the Western music’s most celebrated composers - Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner. Strauss, known for his nuanced compositions and advanced harmonies, championed a technical approach that echoed Wagner’s emphasis on a work of art in its totality - in other words, “the big picture.” Both musicians’ approach to art was with fine attention to detail and immaculate sound, lending itself to big picture products that prove durable, comfortable, and valuable in every facet. Based in New York, this American brand offers a comprehensive one-year warranty on every product. Our hardline attention to nuanced, immaculate sound lends itself to a unique listening experience you won’t find anywhere else."

Over all balance is good for this range. Bass and mids female vocals as well as male vocals sound like much more expseive headphones while the treble could be a tad bit more detailed - I think they tuned them to sound best with everyday streaming services such as 320kbps music from Spotify and even high res flac files from Amazon Prime HD Music- and yes even though tehse hp's cost only $40 bucks you can certainly tell when the recordings and sample rates are better sourced. These really are a perfect ez to drive affordable set of headphones that should remain a audiophile's secret but at the same time- word should sent out to those in the know... these are that good... no wonder the owner of Audi46 asked me to review these...

These are a worry free earphone- affordable enough to have a few pairs around- to 'lend' to others even (and never to be seen again because they will "forget" to give you them back).... Often you don't get fidelity with lower priced earphones like these UNTIL you stop and listen- With the S&W em205 they sound full even at low and medium levels- which really defines them as well engineered. Again- they will play loud without a problem, but you don't need to in order to hear the details. These are not detail kings nor were they designed for that- they are tuned to be musical and enjoyable something not requiring analytics or thought - just close your eyes and enjoy. Solid bass gives tons of oomph to pop and funk music and plenty warmth to big rock tracks. There’s also some nice sub-bass response, making it suitable for hip-hop as well. But despite its thickness and depth, acoustic instruments, like double basses, still retain a natural timbre and tonality for this price point. Still, classical fans may find this even more appropriate since it is really a subtle peak- neutral low-end with more detail. So, although they present a relatively versatile sound signature, the low end is most ideal for modern genres. These are not analytical or cold- they are warm and musical. If you have a friend or family member using lesser earphones- this makes a great gift to quietly say, "I care about you and your music- try these and hear how good well designed earphones can sound." Technology has gotten to a point now where $40 ear phones sound better than $100-$120 earphones form just a few years ago (case in point the the RMA's I used to own and forgot all about since I got more serious about this hobby). What a great time to know your can actually stretch your dollar to get better quality sound for less when it comes to products like this... This company is as I said making sensible products at sensible prices and I can find nothing more common sense than to say a these are a sure bet. I can recommend them for bargain seekers who want more higher end performance for adorable pricing. These earphones have absolutely no business sounding this good for this kind of coin - and I am lucky to not be a audio snob and judge everything by price or looks or name brands- these are a sure winner for the money. I should add Audio46 is my go to store because they offer free shipping and returns if I don't like it within 30 day so I can not loose. I can also add my set is not going back to Strauss&Wagner or Audio46 since I decided to keep them ... recommended.
Last edited:

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
UPDATED 8/9/21 Gold Planar GL1200 Full Frequency True Ribbon Headphone -TWO RIBBON SETS TESTED
Pros: Very comfortable and light, TWO SETS OF RIBBONS TESTED- THE 'silver' and the 'gold'. Amazing sound stage, after break in- amazing image, amazing bass of any ribbon or electrostatic, amazing placement details and 3-D space. Like no other headphone I ever heard... Seriously like describing nothing else you have ever heard from headphones- Out of the box cold- they should not be judged until at least 20 hours of play time. These could test the limits of your hearing and all of your gear, music and recordings. These could test your living arrangements with others. You have to be slightly insane to own these... these DO make crazy worth it in every way... just know what you are in store for here... the rewards DO pay off as being the best sounding headphone at this time of me typing, creating space and dimension and involvement like no other. Another pro is the fact that the Ribbons are removable through a hatch door and can be swapped out for different sound signatures or repairs! (All this and more AFTER break in of 75hrs - the ribbons need to loosen up and yes it takes that long.) Two sets of ear pads are included- alcantara/velour and the other one is perforated p-leather. The amplifier junction box is constructed out of very thick aluminum case. This includes a set of 5ft speaker wire with very high quality "Made in the USA CMC Gold Plated Speaker Cable Wire Banana Plug Connector with 100% OFC Copper wire." Comes with 2 meter 6N OCC silver-plated cable (3.5mm left/right to 4 pin male XLR). Excellent Pelican style Cary case is icing on the cake here- all manufactures should include this kind of case since it not only protects the headphones during shipment but after can be used to store the headphones or cold cash when you sell your Stax or RAAL headphones. Not the last word in detail or microscope clinical sound like a Abyss Phi or Lcd4- these are more fun. These are song dependent and will be a love hate relationship with some material. You can now change ribbons out for one of two designs- silver or gold. Silver= brighter more detailed sound with tighter bass. The gold ribbon is more dynamic, fuller in lows to mid bass and slightly more even highs than the silver- my #1 choice is gold ribbon.
Cons: not ez to set up, not designed at all for portable use, tremendous sound leakage so bad that you may as well listen to speakers, size of headphone, look of headphones while on - these are ridiculous looking 100%, the construction on top where ribbon can be removed looks like someone cracked the plastic instead of a flush door without seems, ribbons are delicate and can break if you drop them or put too much power to the driver (no worse than a dynamic or planar headphones I would think), can sound a bit harsh if you make volume too loud BUT ah dah! just don't do that... like any headphone. Needs a separate amp (I am testing 3 different kinds right now) - all of these things mean zero when you consider the sound could make it all worth while... These are song dependent and will be a love hate relationship with some material- for the silver ribbon. The gold ribbon is more forgiving and universal. Begging Gold Planar for selling both sets of ribbons for all consumers for now and the future

Ribbon Headphone Review by John Massaria

THE 'silver' and the 'gold' Ribbons Both Tested


"Nothing comes being this crazy good"
I was not paid for this or any review I ever wrote-
I do all my reviews with passion and love for this great hobby... I do it for the love of music...




FIRST DAY: 4/20/21- I just updated this review- as they break in for what has to be a mandatory period of nearly 100+hrs for ribbons to loosen up and sound like music I would enjoy... I have to question why I bought these (Z reviews may really owe users full disclosure here) - many new owners need to know all the quirks of these very strange headphones and I will explore them here in this review)
Right now I am trying to break them in without annoying my my wife and kids who also live here and are no where near these headphones - we have a nice sized home but they kept complaining how loud they were while trying to break them in. First I put pillows in between the drivers and on either side and covered them in multiple layers of blankets- and they still leaked through!... Then I tried using the plastic case they came in with several blankets over the nearly closed case and I can still hear the music screaming inside the black box, like I buried some poor musician inside a Pelican replica case... I can not understand this kind of headphone if it's not close to being a semi-private intimate listening experience... I may as well use my near-filed monitors I am thinking- there is so much sound escaping I am perplexed as to a remedy during break in period- maybe if I lock myself in a padded room when they come and get me. Just me and these headphones inside a padded room... yea. That may work... How is this practical unless you live alone... and then there is the sound signature- they need to be broken in... an absolute must as I remember with all ribbons when they are new- my Magnepans needed at least 150 hours to sound like they did in showroom and my friends Perfect 8 The Force use a ribbon tweeter which sounded harsh when they were installed for at least 100+ hrs... they all need break in for the ribbons.
First impression: A absolutely ridiculous and crazy purchase with a potential to turn the headphone industry on it's head... if break in does what it did for my Magnepans and for my buddies Perfect Eight.

DAY TWO AM 4/21: AT 18hrs break in- yup too much sound leakage is a con in my review. I own open backs, the HD600, Kennerton Thekks and Kennerton Wodans, the Gold Planar GL2000, maybe my SR-Lambda Stax's leak three quarters as much... none of them sound as loud as a speaker like these do... I should repeat... "nothing even comes close to how insane these headphones are" when it comes to sound leaking in the room... yes I consider headphones somewhat of an intimate instrument for personal use - some leakage is acceptable of course... as I break these in more and more I will say maybe the sound benefits could make all the negatives of this crazy headphone a worth while purchase- BUT as a reviewer I feel the need to keep it all in balance- pros and cons... and so far the break in period nearing 18 hours they are already making me feel like I need to update the review further- they sound unbelievably good... and may just make crazy make sense...

DAY TWO PM: 4/21/21 - Like any headphone review- some sound nice right out of the box and some do not... these fall in to the... umm no they do not sound good at all out of the box- they make burn in a mandatory practice and anyone looking for right out of the box pleasure look else where- you will be disappointed and maybe like I was nearly angry at how bad they sounded out of the box.. Out of box these get a 3 star rating. At 20hrs they moved up to 3.5-4 stars... So I reserve my star rating to change as I near the 100+ hours needed for typical ribbons to stretch and become musical... but know this review will be an explorative explanation of time - from the moment I unboxed them and first plugged them in... always updating what I see, feel and more importantly what I hear as they continue to break in -just stay with me...

DAY THREE 4/22/21- The continuous break in over the last 3 days has paid off and the once harsh sound is now nothing short of amazing. Bass, mid range and tremble all blend with a speed I have never heard before in any planar electrostatic or dynamic driver- a perfect blend of timing and acoustic bliss.
Are they worth the money, time to break in, the excessive amount of sound leakage? Yes the money part seems fair for what you get here. These are not precision made like the HEDD German headphones or like the RAALs- the construction is better than the STAX SR-Lambda for example, but not a robust build made with exacting construction- The door which gives users access to change the ribbons for different tuning or repairs is poorly designed and looks like you cracked the area on top where the door is visible. The space of the door and the headphone itself is large and feels cheap once removed. The silver plastic/metal like feel of the headphone is light but you know they are not metal- rather a plastic coated in silver paint. They do make the headphones light and comfortable however- some may like to use more padding such as Dekoni Nuggets at the top part of the headphone band which touches the cranium frontal and parietal area. Right now I am using the perforated leather like pads and they could be 'hot' if worn for a long while, unlike other genuine leather from Kennerton or Spirit headphones. I can say the soft velour may change the sound and I will report on that latter. The pads come off with Velcro so changing them should be ez. For now I am just sitting back and enjoying what I am hearing like nothing else I have ever put on my head. They do not need a ton of volume to hear the clarity and near perfect sound... bass and the entire midrange and tremble blend well at low-medium to medium and even loud volumes. There is a sweet spot for volume which is mid though I wills say for ideal listening over long periods... These will play loud but like any headphone go too far with them and they will let you know.. If you turn the volume up to much they will strain the ribbon - but at that volume level you would go deaf and probably blind at the same time anyway so just don't do that... They are truly like my Magnepan 3.6r fully broken in... I am using my Adcom Mosfet Amp which drives a 4 ohm load to 125watts cleanly. My Ray Samules Apache is acting as a preamp and my DAC is the Topping D90 with the Mojo Mystique R2R EVO Pro else where in my home. I can not wait to hear how these sound with the Mystique. All I can say is this is one crazy headphone that does make it all worth the trouble price and time it takes to break in, the leakage will varry among households... I know my use on these will be much less than say my closed back Kennerton GH50JM Edition which for me is my #1 go to for private listening sessions... but GL1200 may just be a top pick for the rest of the time...

You may not be able to split your ear drums with large amounts of volume
but these do go very low and are 100% on the money for satisfaction and creating 3d space

4/26/21 - After some 75 hours of break in - these are truly a 5 star reference anyone with the knowledge base of it's limitations and quirkiness allow- I can say my copy of the GL1200 is far superior to any headphone I have ever heard to date in every aspect except perhaps very complex bass passages such as those on the Blade Runner 2049 track #23 Blade Runner or the grueling torture track#20 called Sea Wall but I am fine with that limitation (I just have to turn the volume down and it's fine) as most music is not that demanding and for those tracks I fall back on my GH50JM Edition if I need it to be louder or more impact- the GL1200 sound is utterly addicting and over the top for everything else- after some 75hrs of break in- they have finally transformed into something I treasure - the out of head experience is like that of my Magnepan 3.6r speakers while my closed back Gjallarhorn GH50JM Edition is like my Vandersteen 3a speakers- both I truly adore for what they do right - the leakage into the room through the GL1200 is something I need to live with or should I say my family needs to be absent for me to truly enjoy - I can not imagine it getting any better than this visceral utopian experience. Comparing the GL2000 to the GL1200 - where by the GL2000 is very wide sound stage and image among the largest I ever heard for a planar design the reduction in sound-stage is apparent when switching over to the GL1200. It's akin to listening to my Magnepans 3.6r's or as close as one can expect while wearing headphones. Insane detail that immerses you in the full mastering of the recording- without any hint of listening fatigue. I will say do not attempt to use these headphones at all with a sterile amp such as some Class D's or very linear amps like a Rotel 1050 which would be a terrible match. I would stick with Class A or Mosfet as I have done here. I have not tried a tube amp but I would expect it to do fine so long as impedance matches the headphone- forget an OTL if you need to use tubes try Push-Pull, SET or Ultralinear. Using the Adcom Mosfet I am all but 100% satisfied- the GL1200 is always composed. The amp needs dynamic range power reserves- but at that point the amp will not be the fault when trying to reproduce very complex bass passages at loud volumes- the GL1200 nature of being a ribbon will be tested most here... bass is tight 99% of the time except when the bass track is overly complex like those "artificial"recordings of Hans Zimmer in Blade Runner 2049- don't get me wrong many tracks from the soundtrack sound sublime - and don't think hard hitting bass is not done well- it's just that you may need to turn down the volume to enjoy it like a dynamic driver... As I explore more with this I will add more in next update... but I can say this is truly an insane piece of equipment that does so many things so well the faults and quirks make it all worth while... an absolute addicting sound like nothing else I ever heard in a headphone.


BEYOND MY FAVORITE ON THE GL1200 - too good to be true
the closest I can come to listening to my Magnepans for nearly one fifth the price

I didn't think Worms or Ain't Nice would play nice with the GL1200 but they did
they are complex compilations with high energy and high BPMs - just remember to truly enjoy these complex passages with the GL1200 volume adjustment is key

SUB BASS AT PROPER VOLUME LEVELS IS EXTREMELY WELL CONTROLLED HERE WITH THIS INSANE SUB SONIC SUB BASS TRACK WITH THE GL1200 you can feel it and it's very satisfying in a way I can not describe except as "finally real bass" not club bass. The Gold Ribbon sounds fuller and rounder with less parkle but more even handed and fun. The Silver ribbon is a bit more tight yet unable to go down as deep yet has more sparkle in the higher registers.

This is a very difficult track for ribbons and I have to say it's confusing- Jacks voice sounds great but the pounding drum with electric guitar make for a difficult job for the GL1200 so while done very well here- I would say I would switch to my GH50JM Edition for this track...
The gold ribbon tackles this track much better than the silver ribbon.

Well done with the GL1200 but still my GH50's do it better for sub bass/bass
it's not to say the GL1200 silver ribbon don't perform well- they do but to reach deep down and keep up dynamic drivers
do it better... however the gold ribbon makes this track sound awesome. There are extremes such as the Spirit Torrino which are over the top exaggerated bass but the GH50 again brings it home for me more with track like this... which if anyone knows me is always my go to HP

I use the high res flac but this YT video will give you an idea of the mastering here- guitar rift with Chris's deep voice will challenge any system for accuracy and distortion if there is any faults with your DAC/AMP/PREAMP and Speakers/HEADPHONES-
If You turn it down and you will be fine with the GL1200- the track is very well done here...
but go too loud and Chris's Voice will let you know. The gold ribbon tackles this track much better than the silver ribbon.
A torture test for most Planar and Dynamics alike... the Spirit Torino failed here with too much over done bass while the GL1200 plays nice at low volumes and my GH50's top off this track with my favorite playback...

You can just stop here- the GL1200 does tracks like this better than anything else period- you may weep with silver ribbon.

Forget getting any kind of volume with tracks like this from a ribbon like the GL1200
except when using the gold- The gold ribbon tackles this track much better than the silver ribbon.

Bass Plucks are so well done here with the GL1200- tempo pace and vocals are as good as headphones can go with silver ribbon.

Again same thing the GL1200 will be fine BUT again mind your volume
except when using the gold- The gold ribbon tackles this track much better than the silver ribbon.

Not the best track for the GL1200 silver but the gold does it better for sure. awesome.

What the GL1200 does better than anything silver...
the gold just sounds juicy and meaty and well evened fun.

You either buy the GL1200 w/silver ribbon installed for tracks like this or you just will never experience it so well.

IN HIGH RES YOU WILL LOOSE YOUR SH!T when played back with the GL1200 silver ribbon.
The gold ribbon tackles this track much better than the silver ribbon.

Sub Bass here is done so well I have no issue with recommending these at all for EDM Lovers
The gold ribbon tackles this track much better than the silver ribbon.

Review continues:
The included Pelican type hard case which is very well made and certainly practical to use after the unboxing for keeping your headphones safe and well protected or can be used for stacks of money you will save when you sell all your Stax or RAAL headphones....

(left the outer box) (center: inner box) (right the case inside the box) CLICK TO ENLARGE

3d space video test


Two different types of ear pads are included. One is a sort of alcantara/velour and the other one is perforated leather.
The 2 meter non-microphonic high quality soft fabric insulated headphone wire is constructed from 8 strand 6N OCC silver-plated wire. Connectors for each ear cup are 3.5mm left/right (marked red-thank you Gold Planar) and a 4pin XLR wire which connects to the amplifier junction box. CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE


AN EXTREMELY WELL DONE ALBUM/MASTERED VERY WELL- THE SOUND IS VERY IMPACTFUL including the bass- this is a very addicting sound with the GL1200 - the sub bass is magnificent here- so do not read into the GL1200 can't do sub bass they can and do very well- its just a handful of crazy hyperactive high BPM tracks I mentioned like the ones from from Blade Runner 2049 that need to be played lower than a dynamic... Arpeggi or On or Melt! by Kelly Lee Owens are perfect examples how sub bass play perfectly with the GL1200 - unlike anything else I ever heard... very addicting. These are gentile giants and will never ever beat your heard up with bass pounding sound like the Spirit Torino Radiante Ragnarr I reviewed before.
The GL1200 is how bass should sound for me... balanced...

The amplifier junction box is constructed out of very thick aluminum case.
This includes a set of 5ft speaker wire with very high quality
"Made in the USA CMC Gold Plated Speaker Cable Wire Banana Plug Connector with 100% OFC Copper wire."


SUB BASS: 8.0/10 (silver ribbon) 9.5/10 (gold)
BASS: 8.5/10 (silver ribbon) 9.5/10 (gold)
MIDS: 9/10 (gold/silver)
HIGH FREQ: 10/10 (silver) 9.5/10 (gold)
SOUND STAGE: 10/10 (silver) 9.5/10 (gold)
IMAGE: 10/10 (silver) 9/10(gold)
BUILD: 8.5/10
COMFORT: 8/10 (suggest
Dekoni Nuggets for long listening)
(Note: has some trouble playing really loud if the track is filled with too many complex fast BPM subass and bass notes from 20 to 60 Hz - you may need less volume than a dynamic driver to enjoy it more)









Measurements from The HEADPHONE Show youtube channel screen shot. CLICK TO ENLARGE
I will say that I never measure my satisfaction of headphones with graphs or consider myself to hang out with graph "people." "Measurements" for STAX should be an epic fail but they have their cult following for more than 40 years because they do things no dynamic can do and that's timing, image, sound-stage presence and sense of real space. The GL1200 for me do more right than the STAX and most other headphones. Are they perfect? No but they truly are unlike anything else I have ever heard- the stage images and localization is simply unmatched.

Can you EQ them yes- my question why would you want to- they sound fine and don't really require EQ... with that said you can EQ them to even them out in mid and higher frequency to your taste but not so much in bass region and frankly the bass doesn't really need any eq'ing at all, something Andrew and I both can agree on. But according to Andrew- the GL1200 aren’t the most detailed headphones but I 99% disagree - they are detailed enough for pleasurable listening and reveal just about everything one needs to have for pure enjoyment after a good break in period of at least 75 hours... And Andrew said he has a hard time recommending the GL1200 unless you have a speaker amp already- and certainly thinks these would be better choices if you didn't: LCDX (no way), LCD2 (not even), Sennheiser HD800s (which I personally have a strong disgust for due to their artificial stage and strange upper mid and high frequencies that boarder on harsh and shrill) or the FOCAL CLEAR (are you serious? this is a nearly a detail monster but not an all day driver for pleasure)- these recommendations by The Headphone Show should tell you everything Andrew looks for in a headphone and how different peoples tastes differ. For me its all about the music and loosing yourself the emotion of bliss and euphoric sound that makes you want to listen all day... where times stops as you melt in the musical magic- goose bumps and smiles on passages for god sake man! EMOTION! the clears never are emotional headphones they are sterile... And about the frequency graphs... they are and never will mean anything to me other than a guide- if frequency response matters all that much and that were the case we would all own JBL LSR305
desk top monitors or B&W speakers which I LOATH! B&W put frequency response over time and phase coherence and for me I can not stand that kind engineering. The graphs never tell you about image and timing, space and image- two thing the ribbons on the GL1200 do better than anything. Go listen to Magnepans and you will see why they are loved and never forgotten once you hear them. If they are set up properly the Magnepans will go down deep enough in the bass without the need for a sub yet send you to the place no dynamic driver speaker will ever- the sense of liveliness and space and timing unlike any other. The exception would be a ribbon/driver combo like the Perfect Eight The Force which one of my friends owns. I also don’t really look for or like detail monsters like the Focal Utopia for everyday listening unless I am into S&M on most recordings....Be like water my friend flow... balance is a virtue in any system. Detail/frequency is only ONE part of the multiple 3d space equation that is music. Give me the GL1200 which detail plenty... any more detail would bring them over the brink and would be too much- they wouldn’t be an all day driver without listener fatigue - the way they are now is nearly ideal... can you tweak them more to get more out of them - I think the next big thing for these headphones may be tweaker pad mods- we will see... but like I said for all the quirkiness of these headphones - they do more right than wrong... they set the bar for immersing you in the mix unlike any other headphone...

A Knock out performance that no headphone I ever heard can do so well - a great recording with the best mics and mastering
AEA Mics and Preamps used here and no other mastering comes close to this perfection and the presentation by GL1200 does it better than anything else- every other headphone sounds like a headphone - the GL1200 sounds like being at the venue more than anything else- not at the recording studio at the console BUT rather to be clear- as if you are in front of the guy playing the drums live - the hits are so dam tight and the cymbals sound so realistic again like NO OTHER HEADPHONE I EVER HEARD.


Lastly: I should mention-The one that ships with the Linsoul version is a silver type ribbon at this time (NOW WITH BOTH RIBBONS as of 9/12/21- )

I am reaching out to find out more details on what else is available for buyers in the future and as of yet they are still not clear on how buyers can purchase or update to try both ribbon styles- but they are working with Gold Planar to have both available from what I understand. They are removable and that makes them interchangeable in case one gets damaged. The gold and silver ribbons are tuned slightly different--the gold is more bassy at the 'expense' of the extreme micro detail the silver one does slightly better. The gold is still light years ahead in detail compared to anything else I ever heard be it electro static, planar or dynamic - it's only when comparing itself to the silver version is the slight detail edge apparent. The detail from the gold and silver are never ever not even close to fatiguing- they are just very detailed. They are not piercing like a Utopia either. They are always accurate to the recording- and the engineers who mastered it. The gold is fuller and warmer and the better of the two for me- the silver is very revealing but not as dynamic and fulfilling for sinking into the music and loosing yourself. The silver is more expressive and expansive into the recording. What a good life to have both to choose from. Both are unlike any headphone I ever heard I can not pull myself away from listening. I think I prefer the gold for most songs but the silver has it's place... I find myself listening way too much lately (as of 7-29-21) and am growing to think these are legends in the headphone world few if none can compare. The new LCD-R - Audeze is the newest ribbon being sold and already sold out ( although only 67 units were offered- they do plan on making a new style and should be a great comparison to review to the GL1200.


Current contenders for sound quality in sound stage may be the LCD-R - Audeze and the CRBN. The facts are the LCD-R is not a true ribbon design, but rather a flat mylar ribbon similar to a planar design- and the CRBN is an electrostatic using new film materials developed this year that reportedly sound better than the top offerings from STAX . The LCR-R and the CRBN do not have tunable replaceable cartigdes like the GL1200 giving the edge to the GL1200 hands down in my book. The LCR-R and CRBN may be much more bass shy and less full than the GL1200 w/Gold Ribbons according to reviews out right now.
As far as I can tell nothing can match the true ribbon design for stage, clarity, life like sound quality, and pure organic deep bass like the GL1200. The current reviews of LCD-R and the CRBN so far both compare them to the STAX 009Mk2 and 007Mk2 - and they basically say the Audeze beat the STAX offerings in many ways but still both Audeze lack full satisifying bass unless eq'd- I can say the GL1200 beat the STAX from top to bottom in nearly every way with out eq'ing. The sound stage of the GL1200 has never been beat according to my ears - nothing is as much a sound treat that I look forward to each day. The only down side for me is the extreme sound leakage. The dealer Linsoul has since sent me two sets of ribbons as back ups (one extras silver and one extra gold ribbon). I am extremely satisfied like no other headphone I ever heard - I look forward to any rivals at any price. Again I prefer a closed back but for open back this thing is beyond words. (updated 8-9-21)


The new Audeze CRBN - The $4500 Electrostatic headphone by Audeze CRBN. Electrostatics are also prone to electrically charging particles to the film diaphragm (clinging things like dust and hair) which can affect sound over time and make them distort. Extreme daily care for storage of the electrostatic headphones usually requires special plastic bags to prevent static build up on drivers. The price of $4500 does not include a electrostatic headphone amp.

GL1200 Ribbons allow for tuning unlike any other headphone I know... the gold or silver ribbon- if you want nice sparkle and nice tight lighter bass the tighter stretched thinner aluminum material 'silver' ribbon may be for you however if you like more warmth and body and over all roundness with deep punchy pleasurable but never over done bass -try the 'gold' ribbon installed. I am truly amazed at what this headphone can do... the sky is the limit... becareful not to touch the ribbon or blow on ribbon- you may just ruin it when you take it out to change. Luckily if ribbon does get ruined you can get more from Linsoul or your distributor and change them easily. Uncertain of replacment ribbon costs but you wil need a set of two at a time since they need to break in together. My suggestion is get a pair as a spare for the future.


My test gear is Mojo Audio Mystique EVO Pro R2R DAC, Topping D90, Sony CD Transport, TrippLite Medical Grade IS1000HG Isolation Transformer for my PC. Ray Samuels Apache as a preamp for the amps, B&K Mosfet Amp, Adcom Mosfet Amp.
I may be getting a VTV Class D Amplifier if the manufacture wants to send one for this and their own review... and I may be getting a test review amp from Schiit Audio called the Vidar, maybe even a Jotunheim R which is designed for ribbon headphones like the Raal and the GL1200... we will see what this Shciit does for the GL1200...
I am set with teh B&K and Adcom - I think Schiit knew they were better amps than the Jot R but not as convenient - I still would test the Vidar since it's smaller- but Schiit never followed up... so instead I am... and as for Class D the GL1200 are way too good for such nonsense amps since most sound artificial/cold in the affordable range.

Update you can now buy separate pairs of either gold or silver ribbons from Linsoul for $310 USD


review by JM
(bought @ full price)​
SIDE NOTE: So you know, I have 3 systems at my home- my speakers are Vandersteen 3a Signatures, Magnepan 3.6r and my desk top system which uses SEAS drivers in custom D'Appolito configuration.
I edit videos and film on location for professionals- I mix sound for a living occasionally after I film them in person- sometimes I am handed tracks that are terrible masters but am asked to make videos from them without re-mastering the sound.
My IMDB page is I also do IT support for Hospitals all around the NY Area.
I am not a flake or hard of hearing at all-I get sound tested by my doctor each year or two. I grew up with sound engineers in the studio who were mixing albums at The Mix Palace and Platinum Sound Recording and The Power Station, Electric Lady Studios Studios in NY to name a few. When I like something I will review it such as the Kennerton headphones I reviewed on head-fi before. If I take the time to review something it has to be meaningful- it must have moved me and compelled me to do so- I do not get paid for any reviews. I do this because I care to set the record straight on what I hear and how I felt about a particular piece of equipment.
Headphone user, music lover and professional video and audio producer
I wasn't paid by anyone to write this - so honesty for me is the best policy!

Last edited:
it seems a really interesting Headphone, could it work with Raal's adapter?
John Massaria
John Massaria
I don't know about them being compatiable with the ribbons in Raal - they look similar - more like a copy but the execution here is better since they aren't flaps but headphones which are extremely light on the head
John Massaria
John Massaria

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
Mojo Audio Mystique Evo Pro R2R Dac non over sampling Direct Coupled DAC
Pros: You may cry when you hear how good this DAC sounds, widest sound stage I have ever heard of any system, image and pinpoint accuracy is beyond anything I have heard to date- organic sound that nearly surpasses even the best record players I have heard (that includes Rockport and Walker turntables without record drawbacks like clicks and pops, plus of course digital has no wear and tear like LPs so in my book I would sell all my records/players and stylus finally! and live happily ever after with this Mojo Evo Pro- I never felt this way until now), Lives and breathes like nothing I ever heard, rhythmic and engaging like no other piece of audio gear I ever heard in any show room or home or studio, staccato is beyond words- not missing a beat a pluck of a string or strum of a guitar- everything sounds as close to being there than anything I ever heard - how can this be? revealing and organic all rolled into one that has so many layers I can not begin to describe it- musical and organic take on new meanings for me, no words can explain the hair raising experience, sonorous while composing bass like no other DAC I ever heard period, sweet, clear and full of detail that the newest cutting edge delta sigma DAC can never produce, jeez this is going to be a long review or really short- either way I am emotional over this DAC and need to stop typing and just listen and loose myself in the music
Cons: You may cry when you hear how much this DAC costs- pure analog organic digital free sound perfection does have a price, when my Ray Samuels Apache volume is more than 1:00 the DAC has some slight hiss coming through when not playing any music- I am checking into this anomaly as the owner of Mojo says there should be no hiss what so ever and I know my RSA is dead silent. CORRECTION the hiss is from the high gain input of the settitng I used on the Apache - I since set it to LOW gain and there is no hiss what so ever. The Sound Devices hooked directly to the Mojo Mystique Evo Pro proves the DAC is silent and it was my fault 100%. This DAC only one draw back and that is the price... nothing else.. SOME people may say no blue tooth, no Is2 or no digital display and no remote is a con and to that I say you just do not get it man until you hear this... none of that will mater when you just listen to this.... you will just imagine ways of coming up with cash to buy it so your journey for ultimate musical bliss is finally over the buck stops here... impossibly good


Mojo Audio Mystique Evo Pro R2R
non over sampling Direct Coupled DAC

"Because algorithms can't appreciate music.

With no pre- or post-digital filtering, digital noise shaping, upsampling, oversampling, or error-correcting algorithms, our digital signal path is the purest possible. This is not true of many so-called R-2R designs that still incorporate algorithms for noise shaping and error correction."

It's only been at my home for 48 Hours and I will add to this as I try different streaming services, streamers, CD players, transports from Esoteric and CEC and at other locations to include "The Mix Music Palace" in Garden City NY and in/at a few friends homes in NYC and around Long Island - please book mark this as I continue.

I also plan on capturing the sound and do direct comparisons recorded by a Sound Devices professional recorder.
I will also be doing a video review to come much latter...

-John Massaria



Some of my headphones/IEMs I am using for DAC Review

4-19-21 9:28pm - I have been struggling to convey the emotion of sound and my impression of what I am hearing- so I devised a laborious test -it will be up soon...


I am using the direct XLR line out of the Mojo Mystique EvoPro (using the Grimm SQM XLR cable) connected directly to my Sound Devices Professional Recorder - considered one of the finest professional recorders on the planet even today. I set the SD recorder to 24bit 192k however- I have not recorded anything yet- I am selecting music for the test carefully and methodically while enjoying the F$CK out of this DAC... way beyond words and thats why I am pulling out all the stops for this review...

I briefly hooked up the Topping D90 directly to the Sound Devices Recorder and wanted to throw it (the D90) in the garbage. The differences are not subtle. I hope to convey the differences in the recording.... stand by as I perfect this and the song selections...




-John M

Headphone user, music lover and professional video and audio producer
I wasn't paid by anyone to write this - so honesty for me is the best policy!
Last edited:
My Mystique X SE will arrive home this week, soooooo looking forward
John Massaria
John Massaria
Awesome!!!!! Post a review please

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
You Had me at $99, Class A, Red Knob, Sandblasted Chassis With Holes, Sound
Pros: Cutest thing on my desk top, great sound, works well with high impedance HPs HD600 and my lower Ohm headphones as well, pre outs are very useful (wish everyone did that-quiet pass through + transparent preamp), solid buy at this price (a real bargain for sound and coolness factor), powerful amp, can be used with sensitive IEMs but adjust gain for optimum volume control, makes music romantic and fun, details are clear while never being clinical, slightly warm to touch bit never hot, some bright headphones or sibilant headphones may just become your favorites now... and your favorite headphones may get used even more with this amp, a compliment to solid state amp owners -you may find yourself using this more, tube rolling goodness but not needed as stock sound is very satisfying
Cons: I am not a fan of power warts (but it works and it is quiet), wish it had XLR conn, not a transpartent detail monster like THX or Topping A90 nor should it be- this is smooth tube sound at a very reasonable price, only one input, can benefit from tube rubber damper rings if using speakers near by, at super low volume a very slight imbalance- but after turning volume up one little notch- it corrects itself


xDuoo MT-602 Tube Hybrid Headphone Amplifier

"You Had me at $99, Class A, Red Knob, Sandblasted Chassis With Holes, Sound"
The amp is beautifully adorable!!! Nicely finished, wonderful sound and with an output power of 1.3w... a real treat for $99. Hard not to fall in love with the romantic sound and price, looks etc you get me- I am loving this little amp! The class-A amplifier is very powerful - the MT-602 outputs up to 1300mW (32Ω) of power so high volume without distortion is easily achieved.


(Photo Credit XDuoo Facebook)
Sensitive easy to drive IEM's need very little volume- you may want to lower the volume on your pc to compensate with those IEM's. With HP's like the Sennheiser HD600 I achieve full volume bliss around 11:00-12:00 which is really awesome. The amp really shines with my GoldPlanar GL2000 and Kennerton GH50 JM Edition and of course truly a match made in heaven with HD600. High praise for here especially for price...

You Had me at $99, Class A, Red Knob, Sandblasted Chassis With Holes, and of course the sound. I feel like making all my friends try this and you will hear what I am talking about- what do you have to loose?

At $99 bucks I feel like I stole this -
I am captivated like the horses in this video:

(photo credit from Apos)

Nice feature all amps should have if including a preamp... like a Built-in mute circuit.... Anyone who’s ever plugged in their headphones before turning on their amplifier knows that many amplifiers make an ear-splitting “pop!” noise when turned on. Thanks to a built-in mute circuit, the MT-602 prevents this from happening, saving your ears and your patience. A very nice touch for sure.

Rolling tubes with the Sylania JHS 6AK5 may make the stage/depth a bit more focused but the stock tubes seemed very good and it really isn't a requirement to change or roll tubes here... but it is devilishly good fun to know that I can have the freedom to try different tubes latter in future.


I wish I knew about earlier... I wish I had this in my home sooner and well... I can whole heartily recommend with zero regrets. I strongly recommend this for anyone who may want to use tubes to enhance their musical pleasure- to add a dimension of sound you really can not expeience with solid state- really for me this MT602 is a must have for anyone with solid state amps.

For the price this is a no brainier purchase as a first, second or third teir in any system. I see myself buying more than one for my home (one for my bedroom, one for my desk top and a third for my office)... this was a 100% guilt free purchase where I got 10x the purchase price back in musical fun- and it's a good looking piece of kit on my desk... I got mine from APOS here - they shipped really quick and offer some crazy additions to why I use them when ever I make a purchase- this is a huge part why I trust them- they allow a 30 day return policy which honestly I think all dealers should do especially since we need to try before we buy these days- anyone not offering this as as dealer I would never use or recommend. Oppps! my bad... just checked their site and now they say it's a 45 day return.... my mistake! They clearly say they offer Free Shipping, Price Match Guarantee, Apos 2-Year Warranty and a 45-Day Return.


#MT-601 and #MT-602 are the same in design and configuration materials, only the tube are different. Sound performance also has its own characteristics. (Facebok XDuoo)



Product highlights
  • 2 x tube + transistor power
  • Class-A amplifier
  • Allows for tube swapping
  • Amp can be used as preamplifier
  • Power supply: DC12/1A
  • Output power: 1300mW (32Ω)
  • Frequency response: 10Hz-60kHz (+/-0.5dB)
  • Suitable headphone impedance: 16-600Ω
  • Gain: +15dB
  • Size: 4.7 x 3 x 1.5” (12 x 7.8 x 4cm)
  • Weight: 0.83lbs (0.38kg)
  • S/N: >115dB
  • THD+N: ≤0.01% (1kHz & 32Ω)

What’s included
  • xDuoo MT-602
  • AC cable
  • Adapter
  • 6.35 to 3.5 converter
  • User’s manual
  • Warranty card
Where to buy? APOS


From XDuoo Facebook page:
So you know, I have 3 systems at my home- my speakers are Vandersteen 3a Signatures, Magnepan 3.6r and my desk top system which uses SEAS drivers in custom D'Appolito configuration.
I edit videos and film on location for professionals- I mix sound for a living occasionally after I film them in person- sometimes I am handed tracks that are terrible masters but am asked to make videos from them without re-mastering the sound. My IMDB page is
I am not a flake or hard of hearing at all-I get sound tested by my doctor each year or two. I grew up with sound engineers in the studio who were mixing albums at The Mix Palace and Platinum Sound Recording and The Power Station, Electric Lady Studios Studios in NY to name a few. When I like something I will review it such as the Kennerton headphones I reviewed on head-fi before. If I take the time to review something it has to be meaningful- it must have moved me and compelled me to do so- I do not get paid for any reviews.
I do this because I care to set the record straight on what I hear and how I felt about a particular piece of equipment. -JM


enjoy the music always everyone - a thing that unites us all as a world and planet .... bottom line if everyone owned a sweet sounding tube amp like this I really do believe war and poverty would end... what a happy world it could be for all... (maybe over the top but this thing sounds so darn good for the price I feel like I stole it)​


  • Untietled.png
    2.2 MB · Views: 0
  • Uentieteled.png
    254.3 KB · Views: 0
  • Untitled4.png
    313.8 KB · Views: 0
Last edited:
Update: I did bought it
You were right it helped smooth out the mt beyer peak and a good alternative from my solid-state amp kudos for the review
John Massaria
John Massaria
And that cute thing on your desk top
I wonder how this compares with Vali 2+

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
Strauss & Wagner SI201 Sound Isolating Earbuds w/Certified Proprietary S&W DAC +HQ Mic
Pros: nice deep punchy bass and decent blend into mid tones with V shape present nearing Harmon curve, warm, better alternative than iphone ear buds or skull candy ear buds, nearly as good as KZ10/HiFiHear BLON BL03 but has built in dac/remote - really a great choice for one cable solution for iPhone users, high quality microphone for calls- better mic quality than EarPods with Lightning Connector, does not fall out of ear- better for activities/workouts, nice cloth quality useful carry pouch, mids and highs are warm yet polite to most recordings, better DAC than Apple dongle, remote built in on cable, very effective sound isolation without deep insertion (SI The SI stands for Sound Isolating), nice long cord
Cons: slightly micro-phonic cable similar to iPhone cable, but because the SI201 isolates a little more than the iPhone EarPods the micro-phonic cable is somewhat more noticeable, mids and highs are not the last word in detail, low key feel/construction- BUT maybe a positive since they will not draw unwanted attention (stealthy good sound with plain Jane looks), wire may take a while to unfold memory, decent but not class leading in detail, imaging and soundstage are decent but not class leading for price (KZ ZS10 & Blon 03 are better but both require a dongle making them less convenient and more expensive)
Strauss & Wagner SI201
Sound Isolating Earbuds
With CUSTOM Certified S&W DAC Certified Cable

Up front and always honest in all my reviews...​
I am a customer of Audio46- just a guy who loves their service... so the owner reached out after reading some of my high end reviews... and said hey you want to test a few affordable in ears? I said, "sure, why not..." so here we are.. these were sent to me for review without incentive for my honest review from Audio 46. For more information Strauss&Wagner.

I received these in earphones and wasn't expecting much. Boy was I wrong and pleasantly surprised. As soon as I unboxed these and removed them from practical cloth pouch, I was like... 'ok... this will be interesting. Maybe they will sound pretty good...' and well they do. Better than many other similar priced earphones I have bought; some examples :
Better than: iPhone EarPods $19, AKG Ear buds $59, RHA MA750i (Ear buds priced at $120 at the time). The si201 are nearly as good as HiFiHear BLON BL03 $39- which requires a dongle for DAC so not as good for convenience. The si201 are nearly as good as IEM from KZZS10 Pro with the same disadvantage of separate required dongle for DAC for KZ.

I do believe the company claim of "superior less compressed DAC” built in blows away the Apple dongle dac... and is a better one piece solution...
No more worries such as my everyday thoughts "where did I leave my dongle today?"
These are a simple grab and go solution for casual listening that generally makes all recordings sound warm and fun. Are they last word on detail - no. That's not their goal for design either. These are a real treat for bass heads and for those who don't like deep insertion to get deep bass. Just lightly touch these into your ear canal and you get very decent noise isolation and nice bass. Do I prefer deep insertion ear tips like my loved Penon Orb or my Etymotic ER4P/S or my absolute end game IEM the Kinera Nanna 2.0? Not always....

One of the reasons I think these sound better than other earphones w/iPhone dongle
in this price range is the better designed dac built in to the cable-
"proprietary dac for less compression" is what S&W say... I tend to believe this when listening.


These are a worry free earphone- affordable enough to have a few pairs around- to 'lend' (and never to be seen again) to my kids and even for me when I am walking or exercising. My wife likes them too and well, I am glad since she knows good sound when she hears it. She said, "how much are these anyway?" I told her and she was like, "give these to me when you are done reviewing I want them for work outs and calls I make from work..." My response, was, "ah you like them... ha I told you they were pretty good..." I think I will just buy her a new pair and keep these for myself... anyway... She and I liked them probably because the sound is easy and comfort is so nice you barely notice them when you have them playing. I don't even know they are in my ears compared to the other IEMs I just mentioned. They just are good fun for the price and I really don't expect much else in this price range. They are not offensive in any frequency range- they are tuned warm and pleasing to the ear and to almost any genre of music I could throw at them. They drive very easily, as I was happy with volume on my iphone set around 60%. Do they get supper loud -yes at 75% they sound composed without distortion but not better- I remember listening to Vandersteen speakers which I wound up buying, but the dealer said you can always tell a good set of speakers not by how loud you can play them but how low you can play them and still hear all the details. Case in point here- these sound great at low, medium or high levels - all of these are a good sign. Often you don't get fidelity with Earpods- just decent sound at low volume and you need to turn them up to hear them sound some what decent. Same thing the Skull Candy - they like volume to come alive. With the S&W Si201 they sound full even at low and medium levels- which really defines them as well engineered. Again- they will play loud without a problem, but you don't need to in order to hear the details. These are not after all detail kings nor were they designed for that. Forward leaning bass gives tons of oomph to pop and funk music and plenty warmth to big rock tracks. There’s also some nice sub-bass response, making it suitable for hip-hop as well. But despite its thickness and depth, acoustic instruments, like double basses, still retain a natural timbre and tonality for this price point. Still, classical fans may opt for a more neutral low-end with more detail. So, although they present a relatively versatile sound signature, the low end is most ideal for modern genres. These are not analytical or cold- they are warm and musical. If you have a friend or family member using lesser earphones- this makes a great gift to quietly say, "I care about you and your music- try these and hear how good an iphone can sound." Technology has gotten to a point now where $49 ear phones sound better than $100-$120 earphones form just a few years ago (case in point the the RMA's I used to own and forgot all about since I got more serious about this hobby). What a great time to know your can actually strech your dollar to get better quality sound for less when it comes to products like this...

My conclusion:
A sure bet in this price point for a 'one box' solution for iphone users. Well done and recommended for warm fun sound, ease of use and comfort.


  • Built-in lightning connection for compatibility across iPod, iPhone, and iPad devices
  • Three-button remote with volume and playback adjustment, as well as a microphone for calls and voice commands
  • Integrated microphone allows for clearer audio quality thanks to a sensitivity of -48 dB
  • White Apple-style aesthetic with stylish yet durable aluminum housing
  • Large and powerful 10 mm dynamic driver for better bass response
  • Stainless steel mesh nozzle
  • Includes: three sizes of silicone ear tips for personalized comfort plus a carry pouch
  • One year warranty
Frequency Response20Hz-20kHz
Cable Length47"
Warranty1 year


A sure bet purchase buy for any iphone owner- grab and go solution I recommend​
Last edited:
John Massaria

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
Spirit Torino Radiante Ragnarr Professional Closed Back Dynamic Driver - A Collectors HP
Pros: basshead’s wet dream...bass king, very well made functional beautiful Italian art, comfortable for long periods of time, the end game HP for bass heads, a specialty headphone really made for heavy metal, rock and EDM- like a live concert performance sitting very close to stage monitors, especially excellent for drums, classical can sound wonderful, jazz and blues sound nice so long as pitch of any singer doesn't glare in recording (it will show up here as these will not hide the poor choices sometimes some engineers or recording masters make), The Spirit Torino Radiant Ragnarr Professional is a one of a kind - unique collector headphone- no “bass” collection should be without, cable is the among the highest quality I ever seen in a headphone, pride of ownership, sounds best with high performance amp and dac - very resolving
Cons: The professional version is way too heavy for portable use since cable is attached permanently, sound signature is unique and may not be for those seeking flat line neutral sound signature, short on being an all rounder headphone- this is a very targeted sound made for extended impactful bass presence- it's best strong suit, case while very nice for unboxing experience is useless after unboxing
Spirit Torino Radiante Ragnarr Professional
Closed Back Dynamic Driver


Lets get right into this... I am Italian- and these headphones are from Italy. BUT I promise there is no allegiance or preference given here due to my heritage at all. I am 100% unbiased as in all my reviews- I will tell you as I see's it or in this case hears it. But lets get real... The Italians typically are known for many great things on our planet after all...awesome food, beautiful architecture, beautiful paintings/sculptures, amazing super cars sought after and lusted after the world over, beautiful fashion, to name just a few and well of course... beautiful audio gear. Think Unison Research, Sonus Faber, Zingali Acoustics and Pathos... gorgeous looks and what really counts... amazing sound. With the Spirit Sound Designs company they certainly do continue this tradition.

Excellent source if you can get in hires or flac- but showcases the Spirits dynamics vocal pleasure from Lana's Voice here

The review today is for the specialized Spirit Torino Radiant Ragnarr Professional Edition. A solid milled aluminum cup system accented by all leather hand stitched headband. These are a closed back designed with a passive radiator driver on the exterior of the cup- featuring a rubber surround accented with a star pattern. The radiator adds to both beauty and functionality of the unique bass sound signature. The laser etched engraving of the double dragon (Viking King) is part of the Ragnar Edition and the wiring is part of the Professional Series denotation - a specialized high end company (Portento Audio) from Italy supplies the high purity silver wire which is directly soldered to the drivers and the cable without removable connectors usually found on the non professional series- you can order them either way. This is is a highly customizable headphone design in many ways but lets talk sound...

Showcasing the Spirit's dynamic bass driver unparalleled from any other HP I ever heard- I am at the club transported next to the monitors

Giggs soundcheck- insane bass with the Torino - lyrics w/overlays of the track heard clearly- a tour de force for your adrenaline one you will never forget with these HPs

The sound here is unforgettable... One you will dream about when you are using any other headphone thinking to yourself always - I wonder how the Spirit Torino Radiant Ragnarr would let me experience that track... This headphone is an experience like no other, a ride or driving experience similar to being in a Ferrari- one that exhilarates and excites. The touch of materials and the touch of the sound seem well matched. Spirit Torino the Radiante highlights bass and sub-bass especially. The special tuning is very similar to how the human ear hears frequencies at the same volume when sound pressure changes in any given frequencies. The theory that attempts to mimic bass appears to need more sound pressure to be perceived by the brain as being at the same volume as the other frequencies. Most of the time recordings lack this compensation of bass- that's where the idea for their special tuning comes in to make that difference up so to speak.

White Stripes showcasing thunderous drums and insane lyrics and balance on the Spirits- cymbals a bit too hot, sibilance a tinny bit obvious in this recording but adds to the distortion which is intentional and adds to the complex recording

The blues and some amazing bass guitar track here- the electric guitar sounds equally great- a nice blend- well suited across the full spectrum- Joe's voice sounds so good- I encourage those to find the better recordings of this track for sure...

Bass is written in the DNA of Radiante’s signature. Depending on the track you are playing -It is sometimes overpowering but always controlled. The bass sits above everything else in most recordings- with sub-bass playing a prominent part, with peak volume around 30 Hz and a slight decrease at 20 Hz. This bass domination leads one to think this a slightly dark sound signature but it hardly dark at some ranges of the upper mid and highs... Bass is large, relentless, rich, detailed... It is a basshead’s wet dream. I think of a live event standing next to studio monitors at the club or venue. Some Tracks such as House of God by Chris Cowie are amazing as they make you feel transported to the live event at the club. It’s massive experience few if any headphones I know of can match. Spirit Torino goal of achieving the impact of a live event is unchallenged. For me the mids are not really suffering here because it is not leaking over the mids. In the Torino it does not suffocate the mids like some other dynamic drivers HP's tend to do when they try to re-create tons of bass . Bass stays well-controlled and lets midrange blend naturally. Detail and layering is present and really a breath of fresh air and openness for such a closed back headphone. Stage surrounds my head nicely - probably due to the design around the ear cups and synergy of the driver and customizable tuning but we will get into that further...


From the manufacture web site: "The motor of a Spirit headphone could only be exceptional, the basic unit is made to our specifications by driver wizard Jaco Burger and then prepared at the Spirit lab depending on the intended use, with a series of vibration damping, ventilation parameters variation and magnetic enhancement.
The optimization of the aerodynamic flows and the elaborate composite structure make it possible to reproduce the musical message with extreme timbre fidelity."


at 34:12 her voice WOW!
Awesome track showcasing the amazing dynamics and full pleasure the Spirit Torino Radiant Ragnarr Professional - an experience you will never forget and yearn for if you ever hear these amazing dynamics headphones- exhilarating tingles in the back of your neck and up and down your spine...


Shown Above Standard Spirit Torino

SOFT SERVE anything but soft here...
tremendous thunderous sub bass and left right imaging- pure smiles from this track
wow what a great experience!

Ventilation Pad System (VPS)
Spirit Torino Cuffie Hi-Fi Ventilation Pad System VPS

Shown above is multiple vent holes found on the open back versions- my version/closed back came with only one vent hole (see image below)- a new design for the Torino Radiante Ragnarr Professional. The variable ventilation system is used in the Spirit range. This system has two distinct purposes- one to increase soundstage outside your head and to control bass. By covering the hole- bass can increase even more! I preferred it left in stock mode but its nice to know it gets even crazier if one prefers...


Find this CD or best version- here Chris seduces your sense with the guitar and deep voice - can sound overwhelming so you may need to turn down the volume... be prepared ... exciting and again unforgettable- a bit chesty here though and a perfect example of sometimes engineers over do the bass ...maybe you need to eq this track and dial it back a bit for the Torino experience


A wonderful live recording here showcasing female vocal extravagance by London Grammer- and the performance sounds addicting on the Spirit Torino here... some of her higher registers sound a little shrill but again that could be the recording and not the fault of the headphones. When using my Kennerton GH50 the glare is not on the reproduction at all-again the reason why I love my GH50 JM Edition more than any other headphone bar none and at any price...

Passive radiator Spirit System
1x drives Spirit
1,2 m -2,2 m detachable cable by Portento Audio
2.000 mW
32 ohm
Closed circumaural
18-32.000 hz calibrated on isophonic curves
WEIGTH (without cable)
370 gr
0°C to 50°C
Leather/Alcantara + Ventilation Pad System



Different cables for different fields of application. The Standard and Torino 1706 fittings include detachable cables made in collaboration with Portento Audio that combine lightness and flexibility.
All the termination standards on the market are available and it is possible to choose a double section version to improve performance with high current amplifiers.
Detachable cables can be configured to further customize the sound signature.

The Ragnarr version and all Twin Pulse units, on the other hand, feature uncompromising silver wiring directly soldered on the drive, avoiding two soldering points and one contact point for optimum current transfer.
The wiring includes a 4 strand braid of coaxial cable of quadruple cross-section compared to the one usually used in headphones.
Connectors and sleeves of the highest quality complete a high-end construction that will last over time.


Dekoni pads

In a headphone, the pad has a fundamental function because it delimits the chamber in which the sound takes shape to reach our ear, but it is also the element of contact with our head, so its design must take into account technical/acoustic and comfort aspects. Spirit Pads are made with a combination of fine leather and Alcantara to offer breathability and comfort. Each pad also includes a careful study of the pressure relief flow channeling to make the driver workload symmetrical in compression and decompression of the chambers. This is a new design feature updated now in the line up.



The headphone comes with a rotate-able soft felt die cut pad that fits in the headphone after removing the ear pads. I prefer it installed and rotated so all holes are in unobstructed view as opposed to slightly rotating the felt disc to covering the metal underneath. For me-the the non-blocking one to sound best, as the other one places a larger emphasis on upper midrange and slightly veiled at other frequencies.


Bottom Line: The Spirit Torino Radiant Ragnarr Professional is a unique collector headphone in my opinion, a headphone so unique in it's unparalleled aluminum construction of the ear cups and laser engraving, the hand stitched headband made of soft Italian leather and real genuine suede - a headphone so well made in fact I dare to say it is a statement in it's own right and worthy of a purchase as functional art. While it is built like a tank, it falls a little short for me on sound for the asking price. I might suggest the company Spirit Sound Designs spend less on whats in the box and even the box itself. The well crated wooden box must cost a small fortune to make. And the included box is so heavy, I can imagine shipping costs are very high to ship such a heavy large box. Why? The included box is just a place to store the headphones for shipping, not really a display box of sorts- not here anyway. It's not functional for carrying around either. As a comparison- the portable pelican box like the one I received with my Gold Planar GL2000's is everything every single manufacturer should ship their precious headphones in. Why? Its all the things a person wants: cheap, light sturdy, portable functional and wicked cool to boot. The GL2000 includes a carry case and shipping case that is so so light and functional after the shipment. I get it every unboxing should be special and the Spirit Torino Radiant Ragnarr is just that, a very special unboxing experience. But keep the costs down if it's not adding anything to after the sale.-eliminate that heavy useless box please! Ok- lets keep going on how to make the Spirit Torino Radiant Ragnarr even cheaper- by eliminating the included USB drive card, while unique and very generous by offering Spirit's own wonderful high resolution (FLAC/DSD) recordings and instruction manual all on one USB card- that card must cost something- eliminate that card and put everything on line for owners to register their headphones and receive after ownership. Next way to cut the price to keep these headphones more competitive- offer a plain all copper 6nocc cable that is not mircophonic and not by some super high end company like Portento Audio. To be clear- Spirit includes the craziest wire with the Professional Raggnar- I get it its their top model. But even with their base models the cable is made by the same crazy high end same Portento Audio. Offer the other high end cable separately as an option. Enough about keeping costs down or the box... bottom line I put the Spirit up against the closed back of my own personal dreams. My Kennerton Gjallarhorn GH50JM Edition that I tuned myself which you can read about in this link and that eventually went into full production after the tuning... this is my end all be all favorite HP so far- and I say that very sincerely and with a lot of thought through my many many years of listening (to IEM's, conventional over ear dynamic, electrostatic and or planar drivers, and of course even to speakers).

I know it may not be fair for me to say ' keep the costs down', 'do this' or 'do that' so more people can enjoy the Spirit Torino hard hitting bass juggernaut of a headphone with few if any peers in that relm- how dare I suggest Spirit cut corners. Ok maybe I am wrong... but I wish they were in the $1500-1800 at most- then I would say worth it 100% but based on price alone I have to be honest and shaved one star (half) off for the price vs performance and practicality.
If deciding to
EQ these headphones, they compete with open backs on soundstage, imaging, separation, and clarity. If not, you really would only need these if you enjoy bass heavy music. These are the undisputed kings of heavy drums and heavy bass like metal, edm and organic bass drums and guitars- which is a resounding win in my book. If I leave you with one impression, I will certainly miss the Spirit Torino Radiant Ragnarr Professional when it ships from my home back to the distributor. It's a like a beautiful sports car - like a Ferrari- not really all that practical for everyday driving - but a truly once in a lifetime kind of experience to drive, very memorable, a show stopper and a collectors piece. Recommended for all of that and more. -JM

More tracks I think make the Torino sound unforgetable and over the top amazing fun- something no other headphone I ever heard can do
These headphones will work your ears out- and will beat to a pulp all your other headphones like the champ they are...not unlike a Mike Tyson punch... once experienced you will know why Tyson is the king of one punch knock outs...
two words- "unforgettable experience"

UPDATE FROM SPIRIT SOUND DESIGNS/Andrea Ricci: "I appreciated your criticism for the packaging, for the standard versions we offer a simpler boxes and you can actually save money. The wiring of the Ragnarr version is not produced by Portento but we at Spirit do it and it is an integral part of the acoustic project. The portento cable is a fallback to guarantee versatility but the welded cable sounds much better."

So you know, I have 3 systems at my home- my speakers are Vandersteen 3a Signatures, Magnepan 3.6r and my desk top system which uses SEAS drivers in custom D'Appolito configuration.
I edit videos and film on location for professionals- I mix sound for a living occasionally after I film them in person- sometimes I am handed tracks that are terrible masters but am asked to make videos from them without re-mastering the sound. My IMDB page is
I am not a flake or hard of hearing at all-I get sound tested by my doctor each year or two. I grew up with sound engineers in the studio who were mixing albums at The Mix Palace and Platinum Sound Recording and The Power Station, Electric Lady Studios Studios in NY to name a few. When I like something I will review it such as the Kennerton headphones I reviewed on head-fi before. If I take the time to review something it has to be meaningful- it must have moved me and compelled me to do so- I do not get paid for any reviews. I do this because I care to set the record straight on what I hear and how I felt about a particular piece of equipment.


TESTED WITH MY RAY SAMUELS APACHE Version 4 with quad Sparkos ss2590 + ToppingD90
among other amps/dacs


Last edited:
I had comfort issues with the 1266. I miss the TH900 but i wanted to see if there was a headphone out there with better build quality so i decided to purchase the 1706 version from Headamp. There was a good deal on an open-box model. Based on your answer, I look forward to hearing them :D
John Massaria
John Massaria
szymonsays- I think you made an excellent choice- I was contemplating buying that very one from Headamp as well - or the regular
Spirit Torino Radiante. The 1706 version has that ltd edition engraving but the regular one is plain + is more my style/pricing - it has pretty much the same sound signature as the Ragnarr Pro but w/ differences- w/o special engraving on the side of the dragon of ear cups- no big deal for me maybe for a collector... and of course the more pricey Ragnarr does come with the upgraded unboxing experience which kind of impracticable after opened- so no big deal there for me-and of course the permanent wiring of the 'professional' is very limited and not a thing I would look for for me personally- I much more prefer the ability to swap cables- but the Professional permanent wiring according to SPIRIT /Andrea Ricci provides ultimate sound..
John Massaria
John Massaria

sooo loving it... all of it
the video the band the sounds

A mixed bag of genre

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
Gold Planar GL2000 Planar Magnetic Open-Back Headphones YES WORTH THE HYPE
Pros: The price and quality of sound is a no brainer, this is an end game headphone for budget price, Comfort is great, build is solid, headband adjusts nicely and nearly like German car (yolk screws are not an issue any longer), two pads both great but I like the fuller design over the D shaped pad, bass is among the best I ever heard - lightening fast and no planar noise at all at higher volumes, plays excellent at low medium and high volumes, superb sound stage and placement around my head, timbre is among the best I ever heard, tremble is spot on and sounds sweet and organic- a pleasurable purchase I have zero regrets recommending to anyone looking to get in to planar or even over most dynamics as a stand alone go to open back headphone, cable is non micro-phonic but is only for 4.4 balanced, cary box is like a pelican carry case with custom foam cut outs and that is amazing at this price range
Cons: lots of sound leakage- everyone around you will hear your music louder than most planar's, comes with 4.4 balanced cable only, may not have pride of ownership like other headphones (like Kennerton for example) since this is made in China BUT the sound signature makes all that nonsense in practical terms- these are an amazing headphone no matter where it comes from... Buyer beware Drop / LINSOUL offers no returns on GOLD PLANAR which is unacceptable- Ordered second copy from Drop and tried to cancel before it even arrived or was shipped and Drop said after you click buy now order is not refundable - totally unacceptable in today’s market place - I am trying to work this out - but my advise on DROP / LINSOUL 3rd party offers do not buy from DROP / LNSOUL at all - life is too short for bad service like this




Gold Planar GL2000 Planar Magnetic Open-Back Headphones


review by JM
(bought @ full price)

Buyer beware Drop / LINSOUL offers no returns on GOLD PLANAR which is unacceptable- Ordered second copy from Drop and tried to cancel before it even arrived or was shipped and Drop said after you click buy now order is not refundable - totally unacceptable in today’s market place - see below- my advise on DROP / LINSOUL 3rd party offers do not buy from DROP / LINSOUL at all - life is too short for bad service like this



SIDE NOTE: So you know, I have 3 systems at my home- my speakers are Vandersteen 3a Signatures, Magnepan 3.6r and my desk top system which uses SEAS drivers in custom D'Appolito configuration.
I edit videos and film on location for professionals- I mix sound for a living occasionally after I film them in person- sometimes I am handed tracks that are terrible masters but am asked to make videos from them without re-mastering the sound. My IMDB page is
I am not a flake or hard of hearing at all-I get sound tested by my doctor each year or two. I grew up with sound engineers in the studio who were mixing albums at The Mix Palace and Platinum Sound Recording and The Power Station, Electric Lady Studios Studios in NY to name a few. When I like something I will review it such as the Kennerton headphones I reviewed on head-fi before. If I take the time to review something it has to be meaningful- it must have moved me and compelled me to do so- I do not get paid for any reviews. I do this because I care to set the record straight on what I hear and how I felt about a particular piece of equipment.


Unlike my other reviews this will be straight up and to the point...
From the moment I plugged them in I was hooked- very unique for me- I usually have to burn things in to love ‘em a bit more... not these... it was love at first listen... and yes the wonderful hype surrounding these are 100% warranted...
forget the single magnet version- THIS IS about the double magnet version only mind you... don't get side tracked... stay focused ADHD fellow people...
Short and sweet-



So to jump right into this- wow. Impressed as soon as I unpacked and opened case... Two huge (yes huge bags) humidifiers included to keep moisture out. The wire is a 4.4mm balanced silver wire with dual 3.5mm connectors to the cups. Two ear pads included- one is memory foam (comes installed) and the ear "D" shaped pads is not memory foam- just regular foam but has a suede like material touching the skin. I preferred the larger memory foam ear pad without the D shape for both sound and comfort. The D shaped pad also has small perforated pin holes which diminishes some sound for me. Now for the sound- yes. Sound stage huge. Bass - soooo yummy and accurate with my Apache RSA amp with Sparkos quad SS2590 Pro single class A modules. Tremble is sweet, smooth and articulate. The mids are amazing as well with both male and female vocals. I will be keeping these and of course really love them for all they are- and everything they aren't- they aren't expensive but feel like they should be or maybe just maybe these put other more expensive designs to shame in many ways - maybe everything else is way over priced. This is a deal and a half even at full asking price of $639. Well done is all I keep saying with my inside voice every time I hook them up and sit to listen. I feel very happy - almost like I stole them. Truly a huge value setting a new performance bar. The proverbial cherry on top here is the practical high quality carry case which is unheard of in this price range. It looks like a “Pelican” type case with custom foam cut outs. Each driver is shipped with foam inserts to protect the planar drivers during shipping.

The Goldplanar GL2000 double magnet planar headphone are excellent and even way beyond the asking price... I can sit here all day and waste pixels and your time printing more words... I suggest stop reading all reviews on this headphone... trying to figure out why these have me and many other owners hooked -just get your hands on a pair and listen and hear for yourself. I feel complete when it comes to buying Planars after these- they really do check so many boxes for me. They meet my needs and my price perfectly. I should mention- I have owned the amazing heirloom quality Kennerton Thekks and Wodans but found myself coming back to my GH50JM Edition- I always seem to grab these closed back HPs since I love the solitude of closed backs and they (GH50 JM Edition) offer me a huge soundstage nearly as wide as open backs. I loved the more expensive Kennertons- their build quality and sound BUT I wound up hardly using them- why? My closed back GH50 always won me over- when it comes to open backs these (GL2000) changed my mind completely.

My question- why did I stop listening to open backs? I guess I always felt guilty- my house is full of people- and well, I again like my privacy when I listen and I like to be cordial. If I am going to listen to open backs it will be on my desktop monitors and not typically HPs. Until now that is... yes this meets and exceeds my expectations- and makes me throw my arms up and say I could care less who hears my music - and everything about privacy goes out the window. They are worth the trouble from my kids and my wife complaining they can hear my music. They image so well I can care less what anyone else thinks. These set a very high bar. Pure pleasure. You need to be careful of amp matching- do not expect an OTL or mismatched similar high impedance amp to mate well with these. The GL2000 they will sound best with a powerful Class A amp. Under powered amps will not make the cut here with the GL2000. Feed these the best amp you can afford and they will pay off huge dividends in superior performance.

SUB BASS: 8/10
BASS: 8.5/10
MIDS: 8/10
BUILD: 9/10
COMFORT: 8/10 (suggest
Dekoni Nuggets for long listening)




Conclusion: This open back planar (ONLY THE DOUBLE MAGNET VERSION) will make you re-evaluate this hobby- why spend more and why listen to anything else??? unless you need a closed back and then I suggest listening to my own tuned HP from Kennerton called the Gjallahorn GH50JM Edition. My take on these is simple: awesome buy for asking price and even double or triple- save the D pads with pref holes and use full ear cups pads that come pre-installed instead for best sound- headband can feel a bit thin on middle part of skull while wearing for many hours - so maybe suggest Dekoni Nuggets- some reviewers love these some not so much- my thought there is some GL2000 left factory with some issues - no other way to explain the polar reviews. These are top tier and my copy is amazing.

Last edited:
John Massaria
John Massaria
just updated further
John Massaria
John Massaria


John Massaria
John Massaria
Buyer beware Drop offers no returns on GOLD PLANAR which is unacceptable- Ordered second copy from Drop and tried to cancel before it even arrived or was shipped and Drop said after you click buy now order is not refundable - totally unacceptable in today’s market place - I am trying to work this out - but my advise on DROP 3rd party offers do not buy from DROP at all - life is too short for bad service like this

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
UPDATED 3/26/21 Kinera Mount Nanna 2.0 Hybrid Electrostatic IEM (non Pro)
Pros: The highest praise is warranted, sublime sound signature from top to bottom, construction of IEM is nearly flawless, the packaging is complete and useful with classy leather type carry case, 22 (final edge series tips included: memory foam ear tips, typical rubber like tips), premium 3.5mm TRS stereo copper cable - no microphonics, uncanny front to back depth- wide deep sound stage, bass frequencies between about 60Hz and 250Hz top and blend well from top to bottom, I'm not sure how they managed to captivate me but they do -very much addicted to listening to these like few other IEMs, a sense of cohesion and subjective "rightness" in the sound- addictive, decay (stop start of notes) is near perfect, did I mention the left and right space 3d like with lots of depth, Easy to hear tiny details in the music; articulate. Pleasant high frequency response but never sibilant. Energetic and wide dynamic range
(Did you see their frequency specs of 5-50KHz? WTH) Perceived speed as well as contrasts in volume both large and small. resolving the music seems spot on with tip swapping, engaged me the longest of any IEM I ever tried, love you long time is my thought as I giggle with pleasure- nearly illegal in it's pleasure, (On first listen- mental note: Sell all my other IEMs I never use and put it towards this purchase)
Cons: $900 is a lot of money but warranted and pays off with exceptional SQ and stage above and beyond even double it's asking price making it a bargain for price vs performance. Cable kind of plain Jane looks especially the connectors, cable marking for phase and left right is difficult to figure out/see- so be careful to make sure you mark them, instructions as sparse in explaining wire/tip match- how hard would it be to mark L and R with deep BLUE AND RED PAINT and same on cable? They don't show how special they are unless you have a good amp and good dac (iphone +lightening adapter dac is not an ideal match)
Kinera - Mount Nanna 2.0

I was not paid one penny for this or any other reviews I do - these are my genuine opinions and thoughts based on my experience being a video and audio producer in the film industry, my experience of being an audiphile since I read my first Stereo Review Magazine and heard my first stereo and of course my love for live concerts so many years ago and plus the fact that I grew up with sound engineers in the studio who were mixing albums at The Mix Palace and Platinum Sound Recording and The Power Station, Electric Lady Studios Studios in NY to name a few. .. the good the bad the ugly all laid out for all to see and for me to be as transparent as possible. I do this and all my reviews for the love of music nothing more.
I should mention right off the bat these IEM's were loaned to me from Audio46 for my honest review- the reason they loaned them to me is because a) I buy a ton of stuff from them usually and b) they read some of my other reviews and liked how I wrote from the heart- so Audio46 for me, are a trusted dealer/store and always treat me so well- especially with returns if I don't like something. I thought why not. Plus I listened/watched Z Reviews on YT a few times on the Kinera Nanna 2... and he went on and on with how much he loved these. Z Reviews for me in the past never was a serious reviewer since most of the time he lacks the vernacular to prove to me why he feels a certain way. So many times I got burned by buying what he claimed was the best for the money or the very best etc ect. To name a few that I can recently recall; I bought the BasX A-100 on his ecstatic emotional review, and after trying it- I wound up returning it within a week. The amp was way too noisy and not sophisticated in stage or sound, it was like a pile of weights. Useless without all the other components to make it useful. It lacked musicality and it wasn't analytical - just brute power and mostly noisy. So neither good for joyful blissful relaxing or suitable for critical reviewing. Same thing goes for Z Reviews enthusiasm with the Monolith Portable Headphone Amplifier and DAC- I wound up returning that because of the same reasons, but more important - it wasn't special and it was just ordinary, plus it had some issues with picking up RF/EMI noise from different phones I used it with. I thought, "a bad suggestion" by Z Reviews- I said at that point, "no more will I buy based on his excitement alone"- but I still love watching his entertaining reviews- and won't stop- he is still awesome in so many ways. But I will be very cautious when buying from now on- I will do my due diligence.
The bad news is as I type these words with these IEMs in my ears and listening to Elton John Someone Saved My Life Tonight and having listened to so many other tracks with the Mount Nanna 2- I am going to blow my mental load and spill the beans- right up front all over this page for all to see- no wasting time right? Yes they are as good as Z Reviews says and then some... I now have to buy them. Okay not such bad news for me or Audio46, or Kinera... but bad news for my pocket. I really was expecting to bang out a review and be done- ah no. Not with these. As many of my followers know from my previous reviews- I only review gear I am interested in or compelled me to spend time in writing my thoughts. It's like really bad food or really really good food- if you are with someone dining out especially family- since I am Italian we always share our verbal thoughts and then absolutely insist they TRY the food. If the food is bad- I usually say 'oh my gosh this food tastes terrible- you have to try it'... and usually my family says 'nah thanks', or some of my more curious family members say ok, let me see if you are crazy- and most of the time if not all the time they say yea that food stinks. It's sometimes a human condition to take ones trusted word for preferences right? Or is it our curiosity to see if it really is that bad, just because they are curious. In this case- my mouth (or ears) are exploding and having what one girlfriend used to say small orgasms in her mouth after trying some delicious food. These IEMs are like dining at a 3 star Michelin Restaurant... Now just when you get that look on your face 'ONLY 3 Stars' - yes 3 Stars is the highest rating by Michelin. To illustrate my point there are just over 120 restaurants across the globe that hold three stars, five of which are in New York. If you knew what it takes to earn 3 stars you would be astonished. When it comes to sound these IEMs are hitting all marks for me. These are not at all your typical IEM at all despite what one other reviewer said- these excel with my Ray Samuels Apache- an example of how amazing these reveal the music when paired with exceptional source and amp. For pure musical bliss and engulfing yourself into the music- these IEMs are my GOAT for now... and haven't found anything this pleasurable at any price for an IEM. Period.

Jumping right into it- these Kinera Mount Nanna 2 IEMs are truly a euphoric experience, a pleasure like very few experiences I can compare, joyful from the very first time I plugged them in. If I had to start off with the first thing that hits me is wow- these are so right so well balanced and quiet. Gorgeous sounding. I can suggest you go find the highest quality recording of Damien Rice 9 Crimes. Use this link below for an example if you like this song- then grab the Amazon Music or Tidal or better yet the actual CD if you can with at least 16bit 44.1khz and you will thank me and you will get it when using the Kinera Nanna 2 compared to anything else I ever heard for this kind of money or even up to $2000 or more- I am truly elated. I could go on and if head-fi allows me I will continue to add to this review as the days go on. For now let’s just enjoy the music- I included all sorts of YT links but suggest you find higher quality if you like these songs- remember it’s all about the music and for right now - I’m in it with these IEMs...

ADDITIONAL: I did try the memory foam tips and preferred the Final Edge Ear Tips which are included- the isolation with the size of the nozzle and the type of tip I used seemed like the best fit for me, and made a nice mate for sound - which is unusual since I always seem to gravitate towards the memory foam as my preference.


Technical Specifications:
  • Four Driver Hybrid Setup, including one 7mm Dynamic Driver, one Balanced Armature Driver and two Electrostatic Drivers.
  • Sensitivity: 110dB at 1mW
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz-50kHz
  • Connector : 3.5mm/ 6.35mm
  • Frequency response range: 5-50KHz
  • Distortion: <0.8%
  • Impedance: 60Ω
  • Cable Length: 1.2m
  • Detachable 2 Pin 0.78mm Connector Copper Wire
The driver setup provides good extensions at the lower and higher-end, providing good quick bass and smooth instrument details.


Unique Look available in Blue (shown) and Blue Red (Below)




Pure Copper braided Wire: The Kinera Mount Nanna 2.0 comes with a pure copper braided wire which gives smooth sound reproduction and also ensures crisp and wide soundstage that terminates at a 3.5mm plug.
The wire uses a 0.78mm 2-pin connector type.


More forthcoming.


  • Tips (22)
  • Cleaning tool
  • 3.5mm to 1/4″ adapter
  • Magnetic 'vegan' leather case (feels like real leather)
Cable: single-wire copper cable. Good amount of softness, no micro-phonics-- no complaints.

Connection: flush 2-pin. Very slightly recessed

Build: standard resin build, solid build and look high end

Fit: similar to a custom fit for me; fits very well for my ears - love the colors

Isolation: excellent. Good nozzle length makes for a nice and secure insertion depth.



Company Spec Freq (above)


TESTED WITH MY RAY SAMUELS APACHE Version 4 with quad Sparkos ss2590 + ToppingD90
And with iphone + FIIO Q5s

An Excellent Video to mark down- truly reference recording with one of the finest microphones in the world - Playback in 4K

Choose 4K Again for A Drum Solo Extremely Well Recorded by Top Engineers and Mics and Preamps:




What is included in box (8 tips more not pictured)


In Ear (not my ear)




Fit and Finish- 9.8/10
Bass- 9.8/10
Mid- 9.8/10
Comfort in EAR-9.8/10
Packaging/presentation- 9.6/10
Clinical Sound: 9.7/10
Pleasurable Sound: 10/10
Revealing of Source: 9.9/10

NOTES: These IEMs are Amp/DAC dependent to excel and show why they are among the best. Using them with an Iphone and lightening DAC makes these IEMs ordinary. You need to feed them some power like an external amp to get the most from these IEMs.
The stock cable is kind of plain jane looking and the connectors could be more premium looking for the money. I did some wire swapping and they do open up more and benefit from better wires. They can benefit from silver wire for a bit more air- it does prove things just get better when you feed these IEMs the best you have to feed em... so there is lots of room to grow- but out of the box- they certainly do impress even with stock cable BUT I need to stress this- the Nanna 2.0 do require an external amp to strut their stuff- so be forewarned garbage in garbage out here- no magic pill here to understand good pairing.

Some equipment used: Fiio Q5s, Cayin N3PRO for portable and the RSA Apache 2020 version w/ 4Sparkos Pro 2590s, Topping A90, Pass Class A Custom Amp, DAART Yulong Aquila II but my favorite was with the RSA Apache as it is my fav to date - DAC is a Mojo Mystique R2R DAC and Topping D90.

So you know, I have 3 systems at my home- my speakers are Vandersteen 3a Signatures, Magnepan 3.6r and my desk top system which uses SEAS drivers in custom D'Appolito configuration.
I edit videos and film on location for professionals- I mix sound for a living occasionally after I film them in person- sometimes I am handed tracks that are terrible masters but am asked to make videos from them without re-mastering the sound. My IMDB page is
I am not a flake or hard of hearing at all-I get sound tested by my doctor each year or two. I grew up with sound engineers in the studio who were mixing albums at The Mix Palace and Platinum Sound Recording and The Power Station, Electric Lady Studios Studios in NY to name a few. When I like something I will review it such as the Kennerton headphones I reviewed on head-fi before. If I take the time to review something it has to be meaningful- it must have moved me and compelled me to do so- I do not get paid for any reviews. I do this because I care to set the record straight on what I hear and how I felt about a particular piece of equipment.
available from: audio46

(now in 2022 called the Kinera - Imperial Mount Nanna 2.0 Pro)

thank you! -JM



Just got tested yesterday and I am positive w/ Covid19 - still recovering but I can tell you through the worst of this virus- you know when my temps ran 101 and higher - I can stress do not take anything for the fever - monitor your temps and make sure it doesn't go above 103 - if it does then you need to take something for fever- but if you let the fever run it's coarse- you will drastically limit it's ability to multiply and take over quickly- your higher temperature is key to fighting this off in first 48 hours- just my quick advice. Stay in bed sweat it out. Have some good music about and try and tune out like I did.
For me as I mentioned - The Kinera Nanna 2 beat all my less and more expensive IEMs - bottom line they are the most enjoyable fluid and dreamy sounding. I smiled the most and didn't want to stop listening with the Nanna 2. I know this may sound weird- but ears are highly acute with COVID19. Let me try to explain= my ears seem very sensitive to all kinds of details- my dog licking her rope or bone irritated my senses so much since it was amplified like never before. Even her walking across the floor sounded amplified and exaggerated- almost like being on a Foley set. The sounds from the winter storm as I type right now- louder and clearer than I can ever remember- this COVID makes you very sensitive. If that makes sense. So when I plugged in other IEMs for comparison - their faults became apparent or glaringly apparent or if their were no faults at all but rather they just lacked say the realism or 3d vertical and width interest or stage like the Nanna's do - it is apparent. Why do I like the Nannas best of all my other IEMs? Musical involvement. Musical bliss. Muscal engagement and forgetfulness - I lost my self the most in the Nanna's. They are not detail kings and thank goodness for that- the 64Audio U12t are the IEM
's you should want if detail is paramount with their great width and extension- but I never lost myself in the music like I did with the Nanna.The Kinera just seemed more like home. No work required - all genres of music seemed perfect for loosing yourself with the Mount Nanna 2.0. As I type I am struggling to make sense- this COVID has a way of changing on you on day three- I can just say- take it for what it's worth- I am in quarantine for 10 days- limited to one part of my home with one bathroom and bound not to come out except when only truly necessary- I can say it's not so bad. This IEM hobby- having the ability to compare so many IEMs while in my bed - and explain all this with intimate detail - you know this journey so to speak- well all I can say is I am blessed. I can tell my body is fighting off the COVID just fine- just a little ups and downs like a mild-severe flu for me- but could have been so much worse. I consider myself very lucky and blessed. Having the ability to mentally escape and 'get away from it all through music' is making it all bearable. Im going to try and sum it up ez-If I were stuck in bed with just one IEM it would be the Kinera for shear pleasure and enjoyment and escapism.
Hope this helps... -JM
Last edited:
John Massaria
John Massaria
I am using Carbon Graphene wire as my go to
@John Massaria About power, do you think the xduoo xd-05 bal can push it well?
John Massaria

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
Pros: A very well executed all in one box solution, solid build and I liked the three isolating feet, excellent Preamp, a very fine head amp, a fine DAC with DSD conversion and PCM conversion, convenient TRS 6.3mm or balanced TRS very unique! I loved the balanced 4.4mm bravo on that choice, blows away Wyred4 Sound Intimo, remote control, bluetooth, easy to use, great menu, solid as a tank
Cons: A fine DAC- but some may like a more precise sound, not the last word on headamp transparency, slam or bass comparing it to other Amps, but for the price this thing is VERY close to state of the art

USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier $1699-$1,999.00USD (Depending on where you buy it)
Todd F. Green President
Todd The Vinyl Junkie

  • Hi-Res audio playback supporting DSD512 (22.6MHz) and PCM 768kHz/32-bit PCM
  • Dual monaural circuit design with a high-end AKM VERITA AK4497 DAC on each channel
  • 5 types of PCM digital filters and 2 types of DSD digital filters
  • Up-conversion up to 24.5MHz DSD and 384kHz/32-bit PCM
  • Dual on-board clocks for 44.1kHz and 48kHz frequencies, and 10MHz external clock input
  • Bluetooth? receiver supporting LDAC? and Qualcomm? aptX? HD
  • TEAC-HCLD output buffer circuit and TEAC-QVCS volume control for high quality sound
  • 4.4mm 5-polar Pentaconn jack and dual 1/4″ TRS jacks for balanced and active-ground drives *1
  • TEAC’s patent registered pin-point feet in three positions for the perfect installation *2
  • “Bulk Pet” USB transfer technology, with four transfer modes to vary sound character *3
  • Free TEAC HR Audio Player for DSD512 and PCM32/768 playback


  • Hi-Res audio playback supporting DSD512 (22.6MHz) and PCM 768kHz/32-bit PCM
  • Dual monaural circuit design with a high-end AKM VERITA AK4497 DAC on each left and right channel
  • 5 types of PCM digital filters and 2 types of DSD digital filters
  • Up-conversion up to 24.5MHz DSD and 384kHz/32-bit PCM
  • Dual on-board clocks for 44.1kHz and 48kHz frequencies, and 10MHz external clock input
  • Bluetooth® receiver supporting LDAC™ and Qualcomm® aptX™ HD
  • TEAC-HCLD output buffer circuit and TEAC-QVCS volume control for high quality sound
  • Dual toroidal-core power transformers
  • Digital Isolator for separated digital and analogue sections
  • 4.4mm 5-polar Pentaconn jack and dual 1/4” TRS jacks for balanced and active-ground drives*1
  • TEAC’s patent-registered pin-point feet in three positions for the perfect installation*2
  • Bulk Pet USB transferring technology with four transfer modes for various sound characters*3
  • USB audio port for Hi-Res audio input from Windows/Mac
  • Coaxial and optical digital inputs on both front and back
  • Convenient analogue LINE input to use the UD-505 as a pre-amplifier
  • Analogue outputs with balanced XLR and conventional unbalanced RCA outputs
  • High-contrast full-graphic organic EL display with dimmer
  • Full-metal body with an A4-sized footprint
  • Free TEAC HR Audio Player for DSD512 and PCM32/768 playback
  • Compliant with RoHS
The UD-505 is also a pre-amplifier - using an analogue processing; a wide range of analogue/digital inputs, and fixed/variable level XLR (balanced) and RCA (unbalanced) outputs. You can build a hi-fi system around the UD-505 with a stereo amplifier/pair of monaural power amplifiers and floorstanding speakers, or a simplified system based on a pair of active speakers The TEAC-QVCS (Quad Volume Control System) which is claimed to be a precise volume control design. This circuit employs four sets of variable gain-amps controlling volume for left, right, positive and negative (L+, L–, R+, R-). Each variable gain-amp is located on a simplified signal path which helps eliminate interference noise by creating a shorter signal path. In addition, the TEAC-QVCS provides precise volume control in 0.5dB steps in ‘dB’ display mode, or 100 steps in ‘step’ display mode.


The UD-505’s headphone amplifier circuit provides balanced-drive by using the TEAC-HCLD circuit, – comprised of four output transistors for each left and right channel – for headphone output. The amp uses transistors which are in parallel when a single-ended headphone is connected, the UD-505 delivers stronger driving power than most ordinary single-ended headphone amps provide. When listening to conventional headphones, it also operates in Class-A (by expanding the Class-A range of operation), despite using a Class-A/B amplifier. With challenging 600Ω high-impedance headphones the amp seemed to work very well in deed beacuse of this amp set up. Is it better sounding than my Bottlehead Crack With Speedball? Its not as musical but it certainly is faster and more precuise- meaning in many ways depending on your mood- you may want more accurate sound then it would be a clear winner for the UD505- but if you want romance in sound then using the Bottlehead is your ticket- still using the DAC in the TEAC UD-505 but bypassing the internal amp of the TEAC and RCA leads out to the Crack. Of course the 300ohm or 600ohm headphones are made for the Crack esentially and exclusively- and the Crack fails at anything under say 150ohms as an amp...Contrary - The TEAC Amp section can drive 32ohm IEMs all the way up to 600 ohm headphones- making it logical choice for both sound and convince as a one box solution.

Comparing the UD-505 as one box solution - it is a better sounding DAC and amp both judged seperately- when comparing it to the $1499 Wyre4Sound Intimo or the YULONG DA-ART Aquila II. YULONG DA-ART Aquila II is a fine cheaper solution to the one box delema and even managed to beat the Wyred4Sound Intimo... but fell short in performance when comparing the YULONG to the TEAC. The overall performance of the UD-505 puts it near state of the art honestly. They really did do an excellent job over at TEAC- again being a one box solution this punches way above most one box systems and rivals some of the best separates out there for performance and sound. It's operation flawless, whisper silent, volume as smooth as silk- a joy to use and listen to and operate.


Comparing the amp section of the UD-505 to my PASS WHAMMY the winner goes to the PASS WHAMMY by far. The dynamics and stage using the dual OPA627 on browndogs along with the excellent engineering of the WHAMMY put this amp ahead. Kit price for WHAMMY is $200 plus the box and plus assembly, plus OPA627 on browndogs make this a $700 offering from engineer builders like the Amp Builder on etsy- if this WHAMMY design were more commercial like the TEAC with all their fancy laser etching, box construction, marketing and shipping costs the Whammy would be triple that price coming in somewhere around $1500- $1999. But kits already assembled can be bought for $800 or there abouts on ebay without hyped up boxes or silk screening.

Moving on- I wanted to isolate the UD505 as a DAC alone- Typically I use the Topping D90 which is brutal in it's ability to transfer the zero's and ones into beautiful precise music and hides nothing- I use all copper wire including the power cords from Signals Magic Power Power Cord which makes the DAC honest yet warmer than say silver or typical double or quad braided PC wire. Some may poo poo at the idea of cables. I did a long review on cables here on head-fi ( where I basically determine pure copper 6n or 7n works best for me and my gear. With that being said I used the refference wire by GRIMM called SQM XLRs for the UD505 by passing the UD505 amp - therefore using it solely as a DAC. I also used the GRIMM TPR XLR wire which is slightly more warm and fun. Hooking both the Topping D90 and the UD-505 to my Ray Samuels Apache - I was able to switch on the fly. The DAC on the UD-505 utilizes the VERITA AK4497 D/A while the Topping D90 uses the 'higher' AKM chip AK4499EQ- the most expensive AKM to date. Bottom line they are close- but the D90 edges ahead in detail, bass slam and stage- but by a small margin.

The Apache is in another league when comparing head-amps to the UD-505. Everything is more transparent, 3-d and holographic when music is mastered in that way. Vocals and things like cymbals and string instruments are all great with the UD-505- but switching to the Apache- you realize why it costs $3000. Is it a fair comparison? yes. The UD-505 holds it's own and it is close. The Apache is two box system (fully balanced preamp/amp which is connected by an umbilical cord to the regulated balanced separate power supply) and adding a DAC makes it a three box system. More desk space and more money- is the pay off worth it- yes for me my combo ssystem seperates have not been beat. But the TEAC UD-505 does deliver for less ruppies (cashola AKA bread) and very close to the performance of the three box setup.


More details: Loved the dual function Pentaconn, a totally new single-plug connector for balanced headphone drive
In addition to the dual conventional 1/4” TRS jacks for balanced connection, the UD-505 employs a newly designed single headphone jack for balanced drive. The Pentaconn jack is a new 4.4mm 5-pole jack that has been developed by NIPPON DICS Co., Ltd, and complies the RC-8141C JEITA Standard, providing a single-jack solution for balanced headphones (Which I used with my IEMs and my favorite headphone of all time... the Kennerton GH50 JM Editions; with great results I might add). More Pentaconn jack-equipped headphones and cables are expected in the near future. Along with the Pentaconn jack, two 1/4” TRS jacks provide three driving modes: balanced, active-ground, and parallel drive (for two pairs of single-ended headphones).


More features:

“Bulk Pet” USB transfer technology for enhanced audio quality. When transferring large volumes of digital data for Hi-Res audio sources through USB cables using conventional isochronous transfer mode, large variations can occur in the processing loads of the sending computer and the receiving USB DAC. This can cause sound to drop out and other problems to occur. However, with our new USB transmission technology – dubbed “Bulk Pet” – a fixed amount of data is transmitted constantly, levelling out the processing burden on both devices and contributing to stable data transmission. Changing the processing burden on the computer directly affects audio quality so users can select the setting they prefer (from four transmission modes).

PCM digital filters :
  • Sharp Roll Off: FIR filter with a steep roll-off that sharply cuts signals outside the audio band
  • Slow Roll Off: FIR filter with a slow roll-off that gently cuts signals outside the audio band
  • Short Delay – Sharp: Short delay filter with a steep roll-off that sharply cuts signals outside the audio band
  • Short Delay – Slow: Short delay filter with a slow roll-off that gently cuts signals outside the audio band
  • Low Dispersion: Short delay filter with low dispersion that cuts signals outside the audio band.
  • Off
The USB software loaded without me having to install drivers- a huge plus and all functions worked flawlessly without issue. The preamp is whisper quiet and extremely intuitive to use. The remote is a nice touch, it is solid and controls just about everything one could want- more company's should be so thoughtful in providing this much control remotely. I tried the different filters and settled on the slow short delay for me as sounding best. Sometimes I preferred no filer so I left it off and then realized - off was maybe a tad bit more revealing but still not as musical. It depended on the tracks I used honestly.

Summery: A great buy at the price, the UD-505 is and has many features and performance few can match. I know the TEAC blew away the $1499 Wyred4Sound Intimo DAC/HEADAMP I reviewed months ago which is a very similar price to the UD-505. And you get a remote and preamp function with the TEAC. The DAC the sound is balanced, smooth and extremely detailed. If you want a very solidly built tank like desktop headphone amp, DAC and Preamp; the UD505 is a logical solid choice. It's near state of the art without having to fork over double or triple the price for just a slight sound improvement. Highly recommended as a one stop box solution that should serve owners well into the future.


  • IMG_4890.jpg
    1.9 MB · Views: 0
  • IMG_4888.jpg
    2.2 MB · Views: 0
  • IMG_4878.jpg
    1.9 MB · Views: 0
Last edited:

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
Tripp Lite IS1000HG Medical Grade Isolation for your Gear
Pros: Price is cheaper than many other alternatives, provides excellent dead silent backgrounds and clean power, gets rid of ground hum if you have one or two pieces of gear and need to safely lift the loop, protects your precious gear, built like a tank
Cons: VERY HEAVY at nearly 40lbs
Tripp Lite 1000W Isolation Transformer Hopsital Medical with Surge 120V 4 Outlet 10ft Cord HG TAA GSA


  • Complete line isolation and noise filtering
  • Hospital-grade plug and receptacles
  • Lowers cumulative leakage current of connected equipment to under 100 μA
  • Floating AC output prevents noise coupling
  • TAA-compliant
Isolator Series UL 60601-1 Listed Medical-Grade Isolation Transformers offer line isolation and continuous noise filtering. An internal low-impedance isolation transformer component offers 100% isolation from the input AC line. Full UL 60601-1 medical-grade listing with hospital-grade plug and outlet receptacles makes Isolator medical-grade transformers ideal for protecting sensitive electronic equipment in patient-care areas. Faraday shield reduces the cumulative leakage current of the Isolator and connected equipment to levels less than 100 microamps. Removes EMI/RFI noise, utility switching transients and harmonics generated by other on-site loads. Reduces impact of utility- or lightning-related surge conditions. Transformer filtering provides continuous common-mode noise rejection with no wearable parts. Reduces 6000V IEEE587 Category A & B ring wave and combination wave test surges to only 0.5V common mode. Includes four widely spaced NEMA 5-15R hospital-grade output receptacles, 10-foot power cord, hospital-grade input plug, circuit breaker overload protection, lighted power switch and rugged all-metal housing. Ships ready for placement in any industrial, medical, office or network environment. PLUG/OUTLETS: Input - NEMA 5-15P Hospital Grade; Output - 4 NEMA 5-15R Hospital Grade ELECTRICAL: 120V AC, 60 Hz, 8.3A (requires NEMA 5-15R wall receptacle).
The Standard Grade Tripplite IS1000 uses two toroidal transformers. It has 4 5-15R standard grade outlets. It can be had for $272 on amazon (plus shipping?). It comes with a 6ft cord. It weighs 25lbs.

Mine is a IS1000HG which costs about $412 (+ship?) on Amazon and uses a traditional wound transformer- Magnetically shielded with magnetic core. Tripp Lite describes it as “Medical-grade, low impedance transformer-based line isolation transformer” which is suppose to be actually more precise but not as efficient as a toroidal . It comes with a 10ft cord, has 4 medical grade outlets and weighs 38lbs.




  • Offers line isolation and continuous noise filtering
  • Internal low-impedance isolation transformer with Faraday shield offers 100% isolation from the input AC line
  • Full UL 60601-1 medical-grade listing with hospital-grade plug and outlet receptacles for the protection of sensitive electronic equipment in patient-care areas
  • Reduces cumulative leakage current of the Isolator and connected equipment to levels less than 100 μA
  • Floating AC output prevents noise coupling from noisy hospital ground circuits and meets agency requirements
  • Inexpensive alternative to dedicated circuits and site electrical upgrades
  • Removes EMI/RFI noise, utility switching transients, load-generated harmonics and ground loops
  • Transformer filtering offers continuous common-mode noise rejection with no wearable parts
  • Reduces 6000V IEEE587 Cat A & B ring wave and combination wave test surges to only 0.5V common mode
  • Includes 4 widely spaced NEMA 5-15R hospital-grade output receptacles, 10 ft. power cord, hospital-grade input plug, circuit breaker overload protection, lighted power switch and rugged all-metal unit housing
  • Ships ready for upright tower placement in any industrial, medical, office or network environment
Before we start to get into this- BUY something like this to check your outlet receptacles and make sure its all 100% wired correctly! PLEASE! This one costs $5.

The Tripp-Lite IS1000HG isolation transformer serves as a key building block in a high performance Distributed Power System. The unit is especially useful for headphone amps (maybe), tube amps (maybe), AV processors, DVD/CD Players, and HDTVs. But the most profound best use for the IS1000HG for me is when I connect my DAC and computer to it. As I compare my Tripp Lite Power Strip IBAR12 and IS1000HG - I do notice much better dynamics from the DAC and much more bass punch when it's connected to the IS1000HG. Instruments seem to pop out more from a 3d like black background more than than the IBAR12. Maybe it separates a bit more of the instruments creating more stage illusion. Music sounds a little more realistic and I find myself toe tapping more and grooving a bit more when connecting the DAC to the IS1000HG. The computer also seems quieter supplying music to the DAC but it takes so long to boot-my auditory memory doesn't really remember hearing a huge difference- but my initial and long term thought is music is just a tad bit cleaner with blacker backgrounds- but not the huge difference I heard between connecting the DAC to the IS1000HG. I figure the two data crunchers need that isolation more and benefit most from it.

I have no reason to use the IS1000HG with my headphone amp, as I have no grounding noise and now that the source components are treated (the DAC and the PC) I have nothing but quiet backgrounds and perfect data being amplified. All the information I have gathered proves that a simple connection to a properly wired dedicated socket with a solid power cord provide the best sound for amps. When it comes to amps keep it simple and as straight powered as possible with no chokes or filters if possible.

For power cords- I am using a Signals Magic Power Cord for both DAC and Power Amp. I should note I have compared many other power cords over the years (TG Audio is one of my favorite but no longer made, Z Cables, Stealth Audio Cloud, and some various Viborg cords- and yes they can make a DAC or AMP and even your PC sound better. Lets talk power cords for a moment- The Signals PC are reasonably priced and provide the best sound for the Topping D90 and my PASS amp for the money (even for triple the money). Price shouldn't really matter when comparing- it should be all about synergy with your gear. For example- I find the cheaper pure copper Signals Magic Power Cord (twisted design for shield) better than the more costly MagicPower Digital Reference (which uses double shielding but hinders sound-stage a bit) for the Topping D90. Copper works best for Topping D90 all around (XLR and RCA)- you can read more about my cables and reviews on what works best with the D90 here.

Anyway... I did have to try the PASS headphone amp with the Tripp Lite IBAR12 and the IS1000HG - my conclusion? I prefer the IBAR12 for the PASS WHAMMY Class A amp running dual OPA627s as I suspected. Straight power for amps is what I remember as a kid and it still holds true today. I have not used my Ray Samuels Audio Apache on any of this gear - but I may update this if I do. For now the RSA Apache is nearly perfection with its own separate linear power supply- and I really can't imagine it getting much better since their is no hum or hiss or reason for a isolation or a kind of conditioner at all- I feel it would just restrict the flow of power and so does Ray himself - as we just spoke about it today by phone.

Application Notes:

The IS1000HG could be an audiophiles dream ... Power is very strong for instantaneous energy storage and delivery and silent noise free performance for audio gear- and in the room noise - both IS1000HG and non HG units should both be silent- with no transformer hum really at all. I understand the older ones can suffer from some hum but the newer ones like mine are nearly silent- put your ear to it and you will hear a ever so slight hum. Some people with the non HG version claim they hear noise from the aluminum box- I can not comment why some have it and some do not. Mine is nearly dead quiet as it sits on the floor away from other gear. Please remember any power supplies should be as far away from all other gear as much as possible for best quietest black backgrounds. Try not to stack power supplies and keep gear clear of a monitor (LCD or LED or Plasma) if you can - avoid these things as they always have some consequences on the sound performance. When in doubt separate gear as much as possible or experiment with placement with sensative IEMs connected to your amp as you move the gear around. You will know where to put it and where not to put it... let's continue...

Larry Deniston from Sanfrancisco Audiophile Society in CA wrote:

"In a search for clean power for my system, I remembered a suggestion from Vince Galbo of MSB Technologies during a wide-ranging discussion about the MSB Analog DAC and the importance of clean power. Vince had recommended the Tripp Lite IS500HG, which is a 500 watt, hospital grade isolation transformer. I opted for the IS1000HG which is the 1000 watt version of the Tripp Lite as I was plugging everything except the subwoofer into the isolation transformer and more is better, right? While the Tripp Lite doesn’t have fancy case-work, an audiophile reputation or an audiophile price tag, it does noticeably lower the noise floor and improve the clarity of the music. The improvement is also demonstrable with an Alpha Labs Line EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) Meter (recommended by Stirling Trayle) or an Entech Wide Band Power Line Noise Analyzer which measures RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) which is a subset of EMI.

The pictures below are a little difficult to read, but on the left is a reading from the Alpha Labs meter from the wall socket in my listening room and reads 112.4 mV. The reading on the right is 25.6 mV out of the Tripp Lite isolation transformer. Readings from the wall socket in my listening room generally range from the 50’s to 120 mVs and out of the Tripp Lite are always in the low to mid 20 mVs. The Tripp Lite provides a measurable and audible improvement in line noise. I also have a Richard Gray’s 600 RM Pro and a Synergistic Research Powercell 10se III power conditioners, neither reduce that amount of EMI from the wall socket. As a side note, I have two 20A dedicated lines running to my room; the other rooms in the house range from the 200’s to over 1,000 mV readings
– some very noisy power!"



I will be testing this with more headphone amps such as my WHAMMY and RAY SAMUELS APACHE and update review


List on this is $680 BUT You can buy these from dealers for around $390-600 shipping included maybe... Some super deals on used medical supplies houses may even have them much cheaper - but be mindful of what to look for... make sure you get one that looks like mine or newer (without circuit breaker on front is the newest IS100HG- mine was unit right before that one and these are good to count on for noiseless box performance) . Be careful not to get a noisy one and ask seller to check with a load before you buy if the transformer inside hums- if it does have noise with a load on it- certainly my suggestion is to PASS on it. If they say no hum what so ever as in the case with mine- buy it!

I hope this helps people realize you don't need to spend a ton on PS Audio Re-generators - this is a great solution for a ton less. In two different videos - the Power Regen seller PS Audio says that SOME Isolators may or may not work well- that they may do some shelving of power frequencies and makes the connection even longer between circuits- and maybe even degrade power- lol. I don't think so - not so with this Tripp Lite IS1000HG Isolator at all.

Alternatives that are "audiophile" or A/V grade such as Richard Grays Power Sub Station price at $2995 -
like I said the IS1000HG is probably the best deal out there for what it does- especially used as we discussed above be alert what to look for when buying used.


Do not confuse this with a simple power strip or just a simple surge protector or even a conditioner filter which are designed to work on certain noisy frequencies which choke your sound performance. This is not a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supplies) with battery back up- those will choke your system even more- they may be ok for computers for a certain purpose (Uninterrupted Power) but not for dedicated audio equipment like a DAC or AMP or Player. But this is a great simple solution for curing not covering up issues in power and when it comes to grounding issues- the single best solution without compromise for the price.

Some people may want to isolate the power with super clean power- some may run a dedicated line with it's own circuit breaker- that is the best solution. BUT if you can't do that, this is the next best thing- and even if you did have a
dedicated line (see below after review for more on electrical suggestions) - this still makes that dedicated line even better. If you have computer noise (most are very noisy environments and leak noise in to your headphone/stereo systems) and use say USB OR COAX OR TOSLINK (yes they too can be plagued with noise) to your DAC - this should make it dead silent...
or maybe you just want a safe ground isolation- to break the ground loop noise. Usually your amp will have some ground noise if any other components are not grounded properly or have an issue like COAX, USB or maybe there is RCA and XLR ground noise somewhere in the chain- which the amp will just amplify it - and this eliminates it by breaking the ground loop and worth the price of admission. Plus it protects your gear...




How to wire your house for good power?

The gauge of the wire is FAR MORE IMPORTANT than the fact that the line is “dedicated”.
Updated 2022 3-230
Improving your Listening Room Wiring – By Vince Galbo
NOTE: Please note that the details of these recommendations are written from the perspective of the American market – 120V system. Please make the appropriate adjustments for a 240V system.
WARNING: Please read this recommendation fully and then get an electrician to agree to do the work. If you decide to do this yourself then decide if you have actually done this kind of house-voltage electrical work before and are competent to do so and accept the risks of doing so. MSB or Vincent Galbo makes no guarantees or accepts any responsibility for any injury or the results or any damages caused by considering or performing the procedures outlined below. MSB or Vince Galbo make no guarantees the information is correct or complete. Rely only on the services of qualified personnel to interpret the information and perform it safely. The reader of this document is responsible to decide who is qualified to perform the work. The reader of this document is responsible to determine if any of these recommendations are in violation of any local codes.
How to wire your house for improved audio and video performance – What is the Goal?
In many cases depending on the oxidation of connections, age of the breakers, length and gauge of the wall wiring, the above wall power changes in your home system are often a bigger improvement than any component that you can buy, especially with solid state amps. But even people with tubes report improvements if not big improvements.
People often tell me “I have 20 amp dedicated lines”. By US electrical code definitions, a 20 amp dedicated line will have 12 gauge wire in the wall. So while you may have a “dedicated line”, 12 gauge wire is absolutely insufficient for high end audio systems. We are recommending ten gauge or thicker wire here. It is the subject and goal of this paper. The gauge of the wire is FAR MORE IMPORTANT than the fact that the line is “dedicated”. The subject of this paper works on the theory that the varying musical demands of your amplifier are actually modulating the incoming power line, divorced from the utility (power company) by some resistance (12 or 14 gauge wall wiring at some length from the breaker panel has too much resistance for audio purposes). The noise coming from your utility is probably much lower than you suspect and the gauge of the wire is far more important. The amp demands current up and down with the music at audio frequencies that are of course above and below the 60 cycles from the power company. These demands are impressed on the line wavering the incoming voltage and so the amp is re-ingesting its own noise and also making the line dirty for itself AND the audio front end. This is possible because the wall wiring back to the breaker panel has some degree of resistance depending on the length of the run and the wire gauge (12 gauge or sometimes even 14 gauge). Power conditioners and certain power cord designs help because they make an effort to “shunt” this noise (short it out and kill it) and consume the unwanted frequencies. A better answer is to reduce the resistance back to the breaker panel making it difficult for the amp to modulate the power at all and also at the same time getting maximum power for the amplifier power supply. And so there are two benefits to reducing the resistance back to the breaker panel.
The Main Goal – Lower Resistance
The single biggest goal in improving audio is to install heavier gauge wire using the following guide.
  • 1 to 40 feet: 10 gauge wire
  • 40 to 60 feet: 8 gauge wire
  • Over 60 feet: 6 gauge wire
Everything else in this paper is there to be sure you get the maximum benefit from the lower resistance of heavier wire! Skipping any steps is false economy.
Silver Paste Selection

Silver paste is important to reduce contact resistance. These pastes are called ‘grease’ but be wary of any that are actually that fluid. I have reports of migration of at least one audiophile silver grease that, because of voltage potential across the Line and Neutral attempts to migrate and close the gap between the hot and the ground. In one local attempt it burned up an outlet. That is why I use the McMaster Carr product. It is almost crumbly and never migrates upon inspection years later, nor does it seem to oxidize over time. There are reports of audiophile silver pastes that do oxidize and so the oxidized silver becomes worse than not applying silver at all. DO NOT try to use this stuff on interconnects, etc. While it could be a good thing, it is impossible to control it and it smears around in use because it never really dries. The result is a partial or complete short across signal hot and ground. I added this comment based on one audiophile who tried it on his interconnects, got no sound in one channel, weak distorted sound in the other, and spent hours washing his RCA plugs and cleaning his input/output jacks on his components. I don’t think it can be completely cleaned out and he should have replaced the jacks and plugs. In other words just don’t do it. Here is our first and second recommendation.

  1. McMaster
  2. Amazon
The McMaster is a pure silver paste in a minimal amount of carrier. This is the best of the silver products to use at about $85. It will last for years since you only need a very small amount. The second choice is a possible, less expensive alternatives.
Silver Paste Application
You will use the silver paste at every AC power connection that is made starting by removing the breakers and applying it to the inside of the clip on the back of the breaker. No need to apply it to the buss bar connection especially since these are always live!!! The clip will transfer the paste to the buss bar. You will also use the silver paste on the wires where they enter into the screw terminals both at the breakers and the duplex outlets. A thin film is all that is needed on all these connections and the silver actually performs better as a thin film. This stuff tends to get on the fingers and then everywhere else so be sure to clean up with Goo Gone or some such solvent since it is like liquid wire. It can be a finger-shock hazard if you are sloppy with it, so be sure to clean up any excess or smeared film with a solvent like Goo Gone even if you can’t see it. Your electrician will have a non corrosion paste that he always uses to preserves the copper connection but does not reduce the resistance of the connection anywhere near as well as the silver paste. The electrician’s paste is not suitable for our purposes. The silver or a silver-loaded copper compounds are the only choice.
Circuit Breaker Replacement

I recommend new breakers if they are older then one year or so. (they are cheap). If you get the original equipment circuit breakers (like Square D, Siemens, etc.), from an electrical supply house (not Home Depot or Lowe’s), you will likely get silver-tungsten contacts inside the breaker. Cheap replacement breakers are likely to have copper contacts which have higher resistance and will oxidize over time raising the resistance further. Research with your local electrical supply and ask them to look up the breaker contact material to confirm it is silver or silver tungsten.
New Circuits
I recommend at least two 20 amp 120 volt circuits sized based on the distance of the run.
  • 1 to 40 feet: 10 gauge wire
  • 40 to 60 feet: 8 gauge wire
  • Over 60 feet: 6 gauge wire
The 8 gauge (or 6 gauge) requires a jump-down back to 10 gauge using a junction box, somewhere just before the outlet because the largest wire that will fit in an outlet is 10 gauge. Install one dedicated line for all front end equipment, and one for each amplifier. If you must feed old branch circuits off one of these outlets, it is not absolutely necessary that your audio lines are dedicated lines as long as the wire path at the outlet you are using goes directly back to the breaker panel using 10 gauge or heavier wire. The circuit can branch to other outlets from your audio outlet if necessary. (some people won’t agree with this).
Select Same Phase

For 120 volt circuits: MAKE SURE ALL EXISTING AND NEW CIRCUITS THAT YOU USE ARE ON THE SAME ELECTRICAL PHASE. I have had several direct experiences with an audio system connected on both electrical phases and the dual 120 volt feed from the electrical grid seems to make a good antenna to pick up RF. Connecting your system to only one electrical phase seems to prevent any RF issues that can damage equipment in areas with high RF. (No� you have no way to know if you are in a microwave path, or TV/radio transmission path, just do it!) Usually, every other breaker in the stack is the same phase. In other words, starting at the top (first) breaker in the left column you will have ‘A’ phase. The next breaker down (second) will be ‘B’ phase, and then the next (third) will be ‘A’ phase again, etc. So the two dedicated lines should be spaced one breaker apart to be on the same phase. Some newer panels may have one phase all on the left, and the other phase all on the right. If you don’t know have an electrician help or do the work. Decide if you are competent with an AC voltmeter and you will not be dangerous to yourself. If you have experience with an AC voltmeter measuring wall power and you feel you are competent then you can test between any two outlets to prove they are on the same phase by testing for AC voltage across the two shorter slots in the respective wall outlets. (the longer slot is always the neutral). Measuring between the two outlets probing their respective short slots you should have a reading near zero volts and maybe floating around several millivolts (mv). If your reading is 220-240 volts then the two outlets are on opposite phases and should be corrected.
Tighten Up the Connections
It is a good idea to ask your electrician to go around the breaker panel when he is done and tighten all of the set-screws that clamp the wires. This is especially important on the heaviest cables that feed the panel. These screws will be LIVE! so ask the electrician if he has the proper voltage-rated insulated tools to do this and if he is comfortable doing. Electricians will often do this any time they service a panel. DO NOT pick up the tools you own with the plastic or rubber grips and think you can do this yourself. Your tools are not rated for this procedure and it is fatally dangerous if you make a mistake, so DO NOT be tempted. Let an experienced, qualified, licensed, insured, person do this.
Replace Outlets

Try to find Hubbell hospital grade outlets with isolated grounds or something like the PS Audio Power Port, or Furutech. Generic commercial grade outlets are not a good substitute. Low and medium priced audiophile outlets are a good investment since they are heavier copper, better plated and really grip the blades of your power cord plug. I have no opinion about the very high priced cryogenic, etc., outlets. The isolated grounds can be run back to the panel individually.
About Power Conditioners
I don’t recommend line conditioners on amplifiers when the system is done as described above. It is generally better to go straight into the wall. But if you do use a line conditioner be sure it has NO CURENT or WATTAGE LIMITS and it is a straight-through design with any filtering elements ACROSS the line. If it does have a wattage or current rating then it would indicate some sort of treatment in SERIES with the line which is almost never, ever good for amplifiers and may even choke off lower power gear like front ends depending on the design of the conditioner. I do recommend conditioning for all front end equipment. For front ends which tend to draw little power compared to the amp, you might pursue a clever conditioner that does have elements in series but do be concerned about power limiting. (use your ears). If you only run one wall power line, plug the amp direct into the wall and then the front end into your line conditioner. It is better to install two lines (which must be on the same phase) because the amplifier will modulate the wall power fluctuating by the demands of the music and actually make noise on an otherwise quiet wall power line. Plug the amp direct into one and a line conditioner into the other which you will then plug your front end into. The Shunyata line conditioners and the Richard Gray are two good ones that I have used for amplifiers because they are straight through. I prefer the Richard Gray because they actually lower the impedance by storing some power on every AC cycle and they correct an error on the line known as ‘power factor error’. So the RG 400 is the best for amplifiers. Unfortunately 2 or 3 RG 400s are needed ‘star clustered’ together to get the collective impedance low enough to be effective for an amplifier. One RG 400 alone doesn’t do much for big amplifiers. The amp should be plugged in the wall with the RG 400s. This requires a quad box or a high quality audiophile power strip. (Since this paper was written in 2001 many line conditioners have come on the market. I believe the general theory above still holds true. Look for straight-through unlimited current-wattage for amps, then high current excellent filtering for front ends). Shunyata is another company that is dedicated to straight through design. They seem to concentrate more on shunting the noise that has already been generated and may do this better than the RG 400. Lately I am using both types together at the audio shows where I cannot do anything about the wall wiring. The RG400s provide low impedance behaving more like the system is connected closer to the breaker panel, and conditioners like the Shunyata quiet the high frequency noise from both the amplifier-modulation and the wall power noise.

Even more recently I have had success with BIG isolation transformers. They should have a VA rating at least double the ‘va’ (volts-amps) rating of your amplifier transformers. Triple the rating is better, so if your amp has a 1000 va (which is 1 kVA) transformer, the isolation transformer should be 2000 (2 kVA) minimum and may be marginal, 3000 to 5000 va (5 kVA) is better. I only mention the subject of line conditioners and isolation transformers to be complete. I prefer the amps straight in the wall and try line conditioners on the front end before you buy one.
The 240V Option

Some high end amps can be switched over and run on 220 volts and I recommend it may sound better. The transformer primaries and the core seem to run slight more efficiently yielding lower impedance so the supply might appear slightly ‘stiffer’ to the amp’s audio circuits (always a good thing). Because the amp is now running at twice the voltage but half the amps (current) the wall wiring looks twice as thick to the amp as it does at 120 volt (ohms law). Now the amp makes even less audio noise on the line and it then rejects its own line noise better. The 220 volt outlet can be a standard 15 amp with 10 Ga.. Wire up to 80 feet then 8 gauge beyond that.
For the 220 volt lines, the electrician may, or may not know about a NEMA receptacle and plug number that is the same size and form as our common Edison duplex 120 volt receptacle but the wide blade of the plug is on the opposite side as the 120 volt duplex. Hubble or commercial Leviton works fine for 220 volt, and the 6-20 series looks less industrial in your home.
It is Nema plug number 6-20P. ‘Stay on line‘ is a good source but your electrician may like a local supplier.

Last Trick – Twist the conductors
Lastly, you might ask him to twist the conductors one twist every 6-8 inches or so. Each line should be alternately twisted relative to the one next to it. This prevents any coherent coupling between them. Keep them away from each other by minimum 4 inches. It is perfectly OK to cross them at a right angle.

Final Word
If your electrician has any concerns about all this, be aware he is always concerned about CONTINUOUS current draw and rates everything and splits up the loads like the air conditioning and the electric dryer for the available amperage. Please explain to him that we are designing for incredibly short peak current pulses and we need the resistance back to the utility as low as possible for best amplifier performance. The continuous draw is negligible from an electrical standpoint. 10 gauge wire is the largest size that will fit into a wall outlet and as far as I know does not violate any codes but you and your electrician are responsible to be sure this is true in your state, county, and city.
Be sure that your speaker cable is at least 10 gauge. You should consider 8 or 9 gauge for speakers that are below 87db sensitivity, and/ or 4 ohms. Some manufacturers say, ‘our 14 gauge behaves like 10 gauge, etc.’, this could be true but I go for the real measured gauge.

Now, without exception over the last 12 years, comments from those that have done the above heavy gauge wire wall power mods say there is audible improvement in dynamics while making the sound even more detailed, yet much more relaxed with dark backgrounds leaving only the notes and music. I was very surprised the first time I did this house power mod. I did not expect the mid-range and the highs to clean up and get more coherent as much as they did. Of course bass and dynamics are better as you would expect with better current delivery.

link to page:…e-for-good-power/


  • t1umbnail.jpg
    72.6 KB · Views: 0
Last edited:
John Massaria
John Massaria
nice to hear sir thank u!
Very beautiful review. I just discovered how important this is, and I went for searching for a 230V version but did not succeed. However I found this:

Is this enough if I am going to connect:

Computer I think it will use around 70Watt max
DI20HE 220-240V AC 50/60 Hz 20W
R7HE MK2 220-240V AC 50/60 Hz 61W
HE9 LE 220-240V AC 50/60 Hz 54W
John Massaria
John Massaria
just realize this is not an end all soultion- I only found it usefull to quiet the PC and DAC - I would never suggest hooking an amp or preamp to it-

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
UPDATED 1/10/21 Ray Samuels Apache Revision 4 Limited Newest Version 2020
Pros: Absolute State of the Art Design, function, control, whisper quiet background, separate included dual mono fully regulated linear power supply, very high if not the highest quality circuit boards and layouts, iconic engineer Ray Samuels original design will be a classic decades and decades from now, unbridled personal service by Ray Samuels, Suitable for IEM and low and medium to high gain headphones, full functioning state of the art pre-amp with 4 inputs (2 balanced 2 single ended), truly monaural design from end to end leads to zero cross-talk and huge open spacious sound-stage.
Cons: If perfection costs zero then price may be a negative but in this case you get what you pay for and then some, if having special left and right XLR cables made for a dual mono amp is a negative then so be it- but this is one of the reasons for the amps sound-stage magic above and beyond other 4 pin designs, a gripe is there is no 4.4mm balanced cable connector, spiked feet can scratch if you are not careful. When they are all sold out likely there will be a huge price increase
UPDATED 1/10/21

Ray Samuels Apache Revision 4 Limited
Newest Version 2020



When thinking about the term classic - what comes to mind? How does something become a classic? Is it the lines, the functionality, the rareness? The performance? How do they exist in our world, even from the day of conception to manufacture- some people know or try and guess what car, what watch, what piece of furniture, what wine will be an invariable icon for decades to come. Some people preclude or guess what will be ordinary and what will separate to the extraordinary based on merits of all factors included - usually; performance, the nature of true rarity, attention to detail and of course desirability.

With audio equipment- there are designers who will go down in history for breaking the mold, perfecting the mold, breaking new ground and just plain creating state of the art designs that will be challenged but not bettered. Few things in audio are long lasting and highly desirable years after release- I can count a few. Think: Nakamichi Dragon Series by Niro Nakamichi, PASS Amplifiers designed by Nelson Pass, Mark Levinson designed by Mark Levinson himself, Krell amps by Dan D'Agostino. The remarkable crafted Kennerton headphones by Valentin Kazanzhi. The stratospheric creations like Audio Note Japan Ongaku series by Hiroyasu Kondo, or Lloyd Walker who went to the ends of the earth for perfecting the turntable. These designers and products we get to have grace our homes for the exchange of some cash is quiet incredible. If you are lucky enough to afford such designs - you actually have a useful functioning piece of audio memorabilia that exemplifies the state of the art for a period that transcends time. The Dragon Cassette deck is and will always be one of the best performing decks ever- no mater the time or place in the future. Same thing with Walker turntables- there will be few if any future designs to challenge his designs and flawless performance. Thus the term state of the art. Iconic for generations and highly desirable for anyone who truly knows what they are looking at or listening to. Enter Ray Samuels. I will not go into length on who Ray is but only to talk about his iconic state of the art highly desirable amplifiers. The myth the legend- the man who is known for extraordinary service and CARE! I can personally attest being a customer and acutely aware of his unbelievable care. Care in talking and dealing with customers matched by the perfection of a truly state of the art product. Beholding the units in person- you know you are in the presence of greatness- engineering that satisfy both the need for beauty and performance- his designs are beautiful to behold inside and out. Do not take my word for it- just look for yourself:


But looks alone are no reason to call a designers products iconic if it lacks in performance. It needs to exemplify the essence of what most people look for in buying audio- to sound nearly if not clearly the best of the best in the product segment. To set new standards. To break ground or surpass the ones before it and after it.... I believe the top performing, top tear products by Ray Samuels does just that, and here we are focusing like a laser pointer on The Apache.

For those who think Ray is retired- in a way he is, he may not go to the headphone shows anymore and may only have very limited amounts of inventory but he still assures me and others his products are still being serviced when need be and sometimes perfected and offered to those who seek them out. My Apache is an example of how Ray is still creating and perfecting his own product. Originally created and release in 2007, The Apache is an all solid state, truly dual-monaural design from end to end headphone amp and full functioning pre-amp that Ray just updated to Revision 4 using state of the art chips, resistors and caps for me in 2020. Before shipping out any units- Ray burns your gear in and listens to it before he ships it. WHO in the world then and now still does that? Ray is a designer who truly cares- after all... his own name is on each product. It is so clear to me Ray is one who pays attention to the art of creating, updating and maintaining his equipment so that they perform at their best. Think about it- putting your own name on a product says a lot of who you are- same thing goes for editors or reviewers I think. When a reviewer uses his own name like myself- I hide nothing and hope people get it- that by using my real name it is an expression of my sincerity to what I write and how accessible I am for critiques and comments and improvements. I suspect Ray is no different.


Building state of the art equipment means mapping out cucuit boards, choosing the right mix of components - choosing your parts carefully and managing to make it all work together- the synergy of design is an art like building blocks to something truly great. But in the end how does it all work together as a whole and of course how does it function and sound.
When it comes to choice components used inside the Apache - lets talk about the volume pot or in this case a balanced attenuator which is a Swiss made DACT CT2-4. A quick search for prices on the that part alone now cost $475-$567 and lowest price I could find was $405+ (some Lithuanin dealer on ebay- who knows if they are spec parts)...anyway lets talk about this attenuator....​

DACT description: "The audio volume controls CT2-4 is a high quality stepped 24-position attenuator. It was designed for maximum sonic quality, accuracy and reliability. This makes it equally suited for audiophile applications and for professional applications. The series resistor networks consist of 23 non-inductive, low noise, SMD metal film resistors. The layout of the PC board and the choice of SMD resistors have reduced the signal path to a minimum length (typical five times shorter than conventional stepped attenuator designs with leaded resistors). The PCB design combined with the special resistors also account for the very low series inductance and the very low stray capacitance. The result is a bandwidth beyond even the most demanding audiophiles requirements."

A few searches for reviews on a similar DACT's CT1 (which is cheaper) concluded:
"With its clear, natural sound, superb specifications, compact size, and high quality standard, I highly recommend the CT1 for consideration when you need a volume control. After listening to it, I'm compelled to upgrade my system." And another said- "Another bonus with the CT1 was an increase in the boogie factor. Rhythms had greater conviction and transients were that bit more precise and snappy. Subtle details previously overlooked made themselves felt - tonal colours were more realistic and sound staging that much more focused, with images firmly located."

And another search of the geek forums said this-
"Lately I've also been doing a stack of searching and asking lots of questions re various attenuators, as I am thinking about upgrading a standard pot in an active pre-amp.
From all I have read, it seems almost unanimous that the TVC's (transformer volume controls) are the best, but they are expensive and need a lot of physical space.
Theoretically the ladders are better than the shunt type and both are better than the series type. However, I can find *very* little direct comparisons of these types in a particular piece of gear, so it is difficult to gauge the scale of difference between series/shunts/ladders. Despite being series type, the comments on the DACT2D5f7T9d0Q CT1 and CT2 seem to be all positive and indicate that they are *much* better than *all* the carbon/plastic/cermet type pots..."


RIGHT SIDE: Internal view of Apache and the DACT CT2-4 balanced Volume/Attenuator

Well.. seems like Ray Samuels chose to make a foundation built on the most solid of footings if we can single out just one component so vital to sound. I know I am truly impressed on the "Volume knob" choice and if you aren't, know that most sub $3000 retail integrated amps/preamps use $50 volume controls vs Ray's $450+ choice.

There are at least two known main ways of amplifying a signal for music: vacuum tube and solid state. Solid state is very varied- such as bipolar junction transistor (BJT) and latter metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET), and further technologies that incorporated negative feedback and global feedback or lack of feedback altogether. Circuits which incorporate transistors or integrated operational amplifier chips, and distributed amplifiers. Common terminal, switched mode, negative resistance, unilateral inverting or non inverting, servo, linear, nonlinear excreta. Class A, Class AB and Class D and variations of these all for one goal- make the most efficient best sounding affordable amp possible. Some designers omit efficacy and omit the practice of affordable designs in lieu of absolute best performance regardless of how much energy it takes and at no spared expense.

The Audio Engineering Society Convention Paper entitled Audibility of Linear Distortion with Variations in Sound Pressure Level and Group Delay written by Lidia W. Lee and Earl R. Geddes and their paper entitled Auditory Perception of Nonlinear Distortion- this is a great place to learn more about why things are designed the way they are and what is best for sound... let's move on....

The Apache is an Op amp based amp. And before you get that look on your face like "oh, an OPA based amp can never sound as good as a fully discrete" I challenge that thought and bet the whole house you are 100% wrong- it's like everything else-it all depends on execution and engineering and that is where The Apache proves it self among one of the best sounding amplifiers of our day and age. Why? Because it was taken to the extreme of what is possible... the very limit of perfection in execution.


Just look at the inside of the preamp (LEFT SIDE). And the linear power supply (RIGHT SIDE)

Let's get busy...

If the US Government builds state of the art best in the world sonar, radar, radio equipment for the military industrial complex (make peace not war is my saying) and they have unlimted budgets why do they use operational amps and chip based equipment? Why ineed...

Operational amps are one of the applications of transistors. We can say that an opamp is a combination of multiple transistors. So comparing a transistor with an opamp is like comparing a brick with a well made house. So, in a way we can say that transistors are the building blocks of an opamp. Opamps are built as an extension to transistors with an intention to perform better and provide more applications. Comparing them again brings us back to the basic reason why opamps were developed in the first place.


Ideal op amps

An ideal op amp is usually considered to have the following characteristics:[4][5]
Operational amplifiers are the basic building blocks of analogue electronic circuits. They are linear devices with all the properties of a DC amplifier with the help of resistors or capacitors to the Op Amp. Op-Amp’s may be single, dual, quad etc. They have excellent performance with very low input current and voltage, The output signal is the amplifiers gain multiplied by the value of the input signal. A linear amplifier like an op amp has many different applications. It has a high open loop gain, high input impedance and low output impedance. It has high common mode rejection ratio, It is used for different applications such as Inverting amplifier, Non inverting amplifier, Voltage follower, Comparator, Differential amplifier, Summing amplifier, Integrator etc.

An Op Amp is often a much better quality amplifier using discrete components and most wide variety of application then transistor. In comparison with a transistor it is a building block, it needs to bias itself and put it into a gain configuration. A single transistor can not give you differential gain. However, a single transistor gain stage does have limited gain and can be degenerated to give you the gain required without any multi-stage feedback. This means it won't oscillate and give you a very high frequency response so it has limited application than Op-Amp in electronics circuit.

Countless papers and books have been written on why OPA based stereo equipment can be ideal - the main reason for me selecting OPA state of the art designs like The Apache is the ability to switch out OPA's in and out - you do need four chips- and you should consult Ray Samuels before changing them in and out to make sure they are 100% compatible with voltages and loads and sometimes require a Browndog adapter to slip into the mil spec circuit boards on The Apache.

If a stereo manufacturer states as a selling point it features "discrete analog stages without any opa curcuits" that means you are stuck with that amps sound and forever will not be able to tweak it so easily as a OPA based amp. Simple as that. You are limited. With audio equipment it's all about pairing. Speakers/headphones need to match well with amps and dacs and synergy with even cables and of course your particular taste for sound and music. matching your gear now and in the future is a balancing and fun part of this hobby. With OPA Amps you are all set with the worry of pairing in the future should you chnage your DAC or headphones latter on down the line and feel the need experiment. With a properly designed OPA based amp, you can bias it to meet what ever flavor you want. The options are limitless. Class A, make it MOSFET, JFET and all the other variations permitted within the socket and design parameters. Very cool and very exciting. Again- when you find that one OPA you love- you can use it until something else better in the future comes along. Ray has been testing which OPAs sound best and his latest version 4 includes 4 OPA211 chips or 4 OPA1611 installed on four Browndog adapters ((SOIC-8 to DIP Adapter – BrownDog 970601). This, in Ray's opinion, is the best offered for his amp currently in 2020 period. He said once you hear it you will never want to try another OPA ever again- it's that good he said. But who knows maybe in 10-20 years new OPAs will exceed this- but for now and the foreseeable future- this is as good as it gets.


If an amp is suppose to just amplify and inject no sound of it's own - ok... lets talk about it. That is the goal right? Or is it? Lets talk water and bringing it down to zero ppm... If you want water filtered by ZERO Water filter company it filters out all the impurities down to 0 parts per million (PPM) and tastes like nothing really. I used Zero water filters for a few years and I always felt like maybe its lacking... lacking what? I don't know, thirst quenching effects of just carbon based water filters like the ones offered by Pure or Brita? Our water where I live on Long Island is among the best out the tap (54ppm to begin with which is very low for contaminants). So filtering it down to Zero ppm makes the water as pure as anything or is it? Is it lacking nutrients if there is such a thing in water? You know minerals naturally occurring in water that probably should be in there to begin with but was washed out with the Zero filter water system. Same with music, who wants a DEAD neutral lacking in spaciousness amplifier? I recently did an article on cables (LINK) where I compare cables to light and frequency of light which is based on Kelvin. The Sun is a natural barometer of what light should ideally be- but sometimes, I maybe not you... but I want it a little more warm than the natural sun. I wrote: "Before we get started - What does reality and things like human faces look like under different light colors in the range of kelvin? Me personally I like people and my music to be around 4000K to 4500K- a little warmer than dead neutral or natural. I like my light bulbs around my house to resemble the actual sun temperature of kelvin which again is between 4500-4900K. Some rooms look best in more blue light like a hallway or bathroom and some rooms like the bedroom look better in a warmer light. But no place looks good under blue light over 6K in my opinion." Are they accurate to reality? well sort of. Based on what frequency tendency? Should Sun light be the reference... some amps sound cooler and some warmer- ok- lets go from there...

If measured performance was that simple in stereo equipment we should all buy an amp that has the lowest total harmonic distortion (THD) and highest slew rates and best dynamic range while honoring the human hearing levels of 20khz-20hz signals and perhaps beyond that of human hearing for some. Go buy a top rated SINAD rating like the Tom Christiansen Audio HPA-1 (no Opas to switch in and out- the TCA uses a non removable TI LM4562 which has already been updated/rebranded to a Texas Instruments LME49720. I should mention both have a reputation of being a bit glaring in sound- not my words but directly from the people who have actually used it claim) The TCA HPA-1 is modeled similarly to the DYNALO Class A kit amps and very similar to my WHAMMY and many other amps. If looking for specs alone you could go much cheaper than that ... Go buy a Topping A90. They all measure extremely well... but really how well do they engage the listener after listening. I know and let me share.. I did just that, I bought the Topping A90... and I returned it after 26 days. I did extensive listening and comparing to my PASS WHAMMY (w/Dual Opa627's installed). The Topping A90 which by all respects is one of the best measuring amps of our time- especially when it comes to price. Stop here go buy one- or maybe return one after like I did... and keep searching as I did... it should have bested anything in it's path- did you listen to other reviewers who said it's nearly as good as the Benchmark HPA4 amp? Nonsensical hyperbole. In Russia (I'm Italian but my wife is Russian) there is a saying, "Вы не получите ничего для вас", or in English- "You won’t get any, there’s none for you." Another is "ты получаешь то, за что платишь" or in English - "you get what you pay for." My wife also said that's rude and do not print that- but hey here we are.... Sorry but most of the time it's true. We all want to buy the best of the best for dirt cheap. Yes the A90 is very good for the money but it will never be an iconic piece of gear that is handed down from generation to generation with a highly desirable factor attached to it. It's a fine amp, offering plenty of features for the price no doubt. Don't get upset when I say its not an end game amp. It doesn't approach the dynamics the breath the warmth and beauty that the Class A Whammy had at all - not even close. It's sound stage was not as deep or as wide and the Whammy was the clear winner. My friend who has all sorts of high end gear and could afford just about anything high end said the same thing when he auditioned the two amps side by side. He simply said the A90 was good but couldn't hold a candle to the WHAMMY. How can it? The whole amp is priced at $499 with marketing, shipping, parts and case all retailing at $499. More than half that number that for dealer cost. Half that for parts and a large portion for case, box and all the other things included with the A90. The parts alone probably cost $50 -$75 bucks at most. Then include labor to make it. Ok so its China but last time I checked they still have labor and warehousing expenses. The WHAMMY is a parts only build it yourself amp - starting at $200 just for raw parts and pc board, no case no marketing no box no shipping and no markup for retail, no labor. And it does not include a $80 Opa 627 set on Dogbrown board. My friend who is an engineer said that amp should cost $1500 maybe even $3000 retail for what you are getting in sound quality. Does it measure nearly as good as the A90 - yes. But I don't listen to measurements when I play music- I listen with my ears and my emotional senses. Does it sound musical and beautiful- does it make me say without any question this sounds so damm good it should be illegal. You see music is my drug of choice. Put the right track on with the right speakers/headphones and you are transported to that time and space like a trip. If an amp is unemotional- its as clear to me as zero water. Sure the amp may be super black quiet but so is my WHAMMY- it's a dead black silent background without any hiss or distortion. But who cares? any amp I audition or review or most of all KEEP for myself should be all those things. I don't want to bring up the absolutely horrible Wyre4sound Intimo I reviewed (LINK)- but I will. It was horrendous and the owner and creator of Wyred4Sound said there was nothing wrong with it. It sounded cheap and plastic compared to my WHAMMY and my retired Gilmore amp. I will not even go into the DAC they included in that unit- simply to state- it was something from the bad days of digital audio- again plastic sounding. Go read my review. Just because it was made and built like a tank- it literately had nothing to offer except a glamor box. Even the display was terrible and old fashioned. It has no place in my home at all. Am I brutal? ummm yea... and I will always be critical when it comes to medium to high priced gear. If the Intimo was $499 it still is a poor performer and at $1500 it should be ashamed of itself. They need to go back and re-design from the ground up. And for all the reviewers who said it was decent or (gulp) even said it was better than good... you should immediately discard them as legitimate reviewers period. Shills is a term I like to use. You see I do not shill - I am completely and 100% independent and say what I think and what I hear.

To clarify who I am and what I am about- so you know, I have 3 systems at my home and I do not have a unlimited bucks to spend on equipment. I only buy what I feel is the best of what I can afford after I exhaustively research and listen for myself. I simply won't buy and many times I return a ton of gear if it is not a stand out product. What do I own? My speakers are Vandersteen 3a Signatures, Magnepan 3.6r and my desk top system which uses SEAS drivers in custom D'Appolito configuration - similar to the Kinoshita Monitor Rey audio KM1V. I edit videos and film on location for professionals- I mix sound for a living occasionally after I film them in person- sometimes I am handed tracks that are terrible masters but am asked to make videos from them without re-mastering the sound. My IMDB page is

I am not a flake or hard of hearing at all-I get sound tested by my doctor each year or two. I grew up with sound engineers in the studio who were mixing albums at The Mix Palace and Platinum Sound Recording and The Power Station, Electric Lady Studios Studios in NY to name a few. When I like something I will review it such as the Kennerton headphones I reviewed on head-fi before. If I take the time to review something it has to be meaningful- it must have moved me and compelled me to do so- I do not get paid for any reviews. I do this because I care to set the record straight on what I hear and how I felt about a particular piece of equipment.

What do I want from my amplifier? Richer timbre, wider sound stage, a clean quiet power supply that is isolated from the audio circuits, astonishingly neutral and truthful to the source, with very little coloration to the music. I want a very proper and wide sound stage, dimensionality, and spacial presentation. Toe tapping, head bopping, dancing to the music good- you know... a good time like when I was a teenager. I want it to take me back to the best times in my life and make new memories of just how good a song I have heard over and over now makes me nearly weep with emotion. Is that all? Nope, I want an amp to make me dream of it when I sleep, long to listen to when ever I have the free time. And the amp should not waste any of that precious time with lackluster performance. The amp should create emotion and admiration towards what ever genre of music I listen to with it. I want a party in my head. I want my third eye to nearly open as I transport mind, body and soul to a new plain of existence. I want goose bumps, I want my neck hairs to rise up and my head to tingle. I want to know with near certainty, this is probably as good as it gets - this is my end game amp and probably will be satisfying me for the very near and late future. I want to know this was an investment I take immense pleasure in owning. I want an amp I can look at and admire it's construction and know the maker wasn't some assembly line worker. I have no time to wait around on junk or almost as good products. I want it all and I want it now...

no really I just want all of that and more or at least as close to that as I can get with out forking over a fortune...

It reminds me of some of my favorite stand out parts in the film Amadeus (1984)...

Some amps are forgettable, some passable and some set the bar and exceed and break the bar of excellence- they are iconic and never are forgotten....classic through and through...they are lusted after even.

Does The Apache meet and exceed my expectations in a classic iconic piece of audio gear that will be cherished for generations to come? What do you think at this point?

UPDATE 11/8/20

The Apache does not need any power conditioner or similar devices, just a good power cable from your wall outlet - I tested a few a few inexpensive 10AWG all copper PC from China that looks like a red and black snake- and a TG Audio wire designed for amps- The TG Audio HSRi power cord sounded best with the Apache. I just completed a review on the Tripp Lite IS1000HG Medical-Grade Isolation Transformer designed for very sensitive equipment- I the IS1000HG worked best with my computer and my DAC both connected and isolated on different outlets on the unit. I continued to test and I listened extensively to the IS1000HG while connected to Apache and with my PASS amp- and exactly as Ray Samuels told me by phone- "you don't need a conditioner or isolator with my power supply - do not use a conditioner or anything. Just connect the umbilical cord to the preamp and power supply then connect it to the outlet directly" - he said, "the power supply will regulate what it needs perfectly and no noise should be heard... you will have maximum performance when you connect it to the outlet direct", he concluded. And sure enough it does sound best this way. I should mention with very sensitive equipment like this - precision demands separation from other power supply’s - so to avoid any possibility of interference, keep mindful of placement. Another words- if you want best performance do not stack the power supply on the top or on the bottom of preamp unless using the all metal spikes and supplied disc shaped protectors for a nice air dielectric separation, they also provide some vibration reduction and look really cool if you have the room. Stacking may look pretty but to go one step further for absolute best performance- it is best to keep the two separate by taking advantage of the long umbilical cord - find a physical isolated spot just for the linear power case. This will yield the quietest performance and bring out the best sound- "it was designed this way for a reason" according to Ray.

Additionally- Please make sure when you get your Apache or any other equipment that has an umbilical cord for connecting a power supply and preamp- make sure you connect the umbilical cord first to the preamp/amp and then to power supply. After confirming both power and preamp are connected together the last thing to do is connect the power supply to the outlet. Linear power supply's like the Apache have large capacitors that are designed to charge up and stay charged- so connecting the units in any other order is never recommended. Speaking of staying charged- The Apache as no power switch for reasons Ray Samuels explains as: its always warmed up and ready to go- never getting hot and never drawing more than a LED light bulb in a night light. Like the original light bulb that has been on since It's built - it was designed to be on always and shouldn't have any issues even at 50+ years old- its that well designed. Reminds me of this article: "Time will tell. Located near San Jose California, in the town of Livermore, Fire Station #6 is now the home of the oldest, still working incandescent bulb in the world: The Centennial Light Bulb. The lamp was first installed in 1901 in the old fire station where it stayed for 75 years and always on." If built properly - the very notion of turning on and turning off is the killer of circuits and capacitors and resistors. And I should also add - heat and energy is not a concern here- it should last longer than a circuit with an on off switch which stresses all internal components.


In 2020 - Ray Samuels is still offering unbelievable service and products. The newest Apaches, and for those who have older models can have all the resistors, caps are all upgraded to state of the art best available. And listen to this- Ray says old owners can send their units for upgrades at no charge! what? yes thats what I said- check with Ray for details. You do have to pay for shipping there and back. If you want the best chips added to the older models it's $100. What unbelievable care! This is a hand made amp and takes Ray more than a month and half to complete. He does have them ready to ship as I write this - but only has about 5 or 6 ready to ship- however- understand they truly are very limited. When they are gone - that is likely the end of production for the Apache without a huge price hike. I should also note- Ray always burns the equipment in before shipping out for 48+ hours (usually 72+hrs) and rechecks before boxing it up and shipping. I am doing additional break in with my 1st original Kennerton GH50 Modded by me... the Thekks are on their way from Russia next week after a complete check up at the factory in Saint Petersburg. They were concerned about my review having the crinkle noise when I first plugged them in cold- Kennerton 100% stood behind their headphones and did whatever necessary to make sure they are operating as the reference headphones they truly are. Ray is the same way with product line and customers.

Right now I am absolutely loving the combo of RSA and my original GH50Modded now into Mk2 Status by me- the clarity and whisper black grounds are unlikely found in any so called state of the art 'modern amp' with out spending a ton more than the $3K Ray is asking for these amps... as discussed above- the "volume knob" alone is after all worth $450-500 all by itself right now!

I am enjoying the music like never before with all my headphones - my usual rotation lately is - the planar Indgio Thekks, GH50sModded Version and The JM Edition, Sennheiser HD600 and even my IEMs. Of course usually connected is my modded GH50 - which is still my number one favorite headphone across the spectrum bar none for me (I just completed testing the brand new production model by Kennerton Gjallarhorn GH50 JM Edition made to honor my mod). The new JM Edition is shaping up to be my favorite headphone even surpassing my original mod and seems to be plugged in to my Apache all the time! The Apache really does do sound stage and depth much better than my beloved hard to beat WHAMMY. The Whammy is still slightly - ever so slightly more bassy due to the dual OPA627s vs the more exact sound signature of the OPA1611. I find myself always preferring the Apache.

If you have a desire for the latest and best and want to own a piece of iconic memorable state of the art- classically designed and built by hand by a living legend in our time- this is your next headphone amp and pre amp- I can safely say you can stop reading and go forward with immediate purchase from Ray Samuels right now before they are gone. You can rest assure knowing for sure this is as good as it gets. No wondering, no buyers remorse- this will be a lifelong companion. A joy to look at, to use and listen to in every sense. Highly recommended. -JM


EDITED HERE: 12/31/20

I am loving the APACHE more and more each month. Recently I bought a bunch of OPAs and have been mainly comparing the SPARKOS SS3601 Single Discrete Op Amp - and I can say it sounds great on top end (if a wee bit too much sparkle on high spectrum frequencies- a bit too much - think hyper Analytical on top end. It's not exactly sibilant but close- The 6kHz to 16kHz range controls the brilliance and clarity of sounds and seems very highlighted here on Sparkos ss3601 ) - this is the truth of what I hear for me but lower end is not close to OPA1611 - the 1611 for me sounds best so far- with Attack much more refined. I do plan on buying a few more OPA's and updating. For now the SS3601 x 4 is not as musical as the OPA1611 x 4. I do plan on trying the SPARKOS pro SS2590 discrete op amp.

I am now using the OPA627bp and it is an amazing warm loving amp now- more impact than Sparkos BUT I need to continue tests. For now- there is no doubt the Apache is a complete chameleon and truly a state of the art design - so quiet and so powerful with no matter the chips installed- but its like getting a new amp sound- very appealing to me. I love the OPA627bp for all it's musical presence and bass impact. It's a lovely sound and it deserves high praise and should be regarded as one of the best OPA's ever made in the last 30 years and probably will stay that statement for the next 30. But I need to continue testing-

I just ordered 4 Sparkos Pros - SS2590 will be here next week I would think... so very fun times!

UPDATED 1/10/21

Just installed 4 SS2590 - and my impressions are complete bliss- warm impact definition and authoritative- a very very great match inside the Apache. The OPA627bp was one of my favorite OPAs for it's shear musicality and ability to loose yourself in the music- never hyper analytical or soft from one end to the other- BUT the SS2590 brings the Apache to a new level of pleasure- past the OPA1611 I originally tested throughout this article. I am listening to Damien Rice and astonished at the pure synergy of matching- this fully discrete high powered Class A Opa is the bees knees-
I am loving each and every second with this combination (SPARKOS PRO SS2590x4 + RSA Apache). Sparkos writes this when comparing IC OPAs to discrete OPAs, "Discrete op amps do not have these limitations, and are a vastly superior upgrade over their IC counterparts. They can run much higher power, have much deeper class A bias, and deliver a much more realistic and detailed sound. Discrete op amps also permit the use of high quality compensation capacitors, and allow for two pole compensation schemes which are impossible to implement in IC designs. All of this translates into a more detailed and engaging listening experience with better imaging and sound-staging than IC op amps can deliver." I 100% agree- this combination is VERY much my ideal set up bringing the Apache to the brink of perfection and I think it's very limits of performance - truly amazing sound. Again, track after track this SS2590 combo is so good I can not stop listening. It's a pure addiction where there are are zero calories, zero chance of anyone getting pregnant, literality zero side effects and no repercussions for inducing a drug like stupper endorphin rush and injection of pure bliss - all my senses tell me this is the ultimate combo I will like the most. And it's only been a few hours since I installed this OPA. I will be doing more comparisons in this review to the other OPAs- namely going back to the 627bp and the 1611 but it may just be futile as my first impressions usually are my best- but we will continue to test...

How lovely this Apache truly is...
Thank you Ray Samuels for making such a statement piece of gear able to continually impress me day after day!



INSTALLED- the 4 single channel SS2590 Discrete OPA



  • A167F916-FF6A-426E-ADEE-E6FA44B729BD.jpeg
    1.9 MB · Views: 0
Last edited:
John Massaria
John Massaria
Just spoke with Ray he has sold through on Apache but is taking those interested in a type of cue for the next possible production run - for now those lucky enough to own the Apache or any other Ray Samuels gear are certainly among the audio-privileged
@John Massaria , is there a GH50 JM Edition discussion thread? íd like to join, thanks.
Excellent review as always btw...

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
UPDATED 11/24/20 GRIMM SQM Ultimate XLR or ??? GRIMM SQM
Pros: Very neutral, true to source, not yin not yang but nearly centered in sound, depth in stage is slightly better than TPR, bass and toe tapping excitement exceed price point expectations, they should be called truth cables
Cons: If looks mean anything- some one may confuse these with TPR except the SQM are slightly thicker, connectors are exactly same as TPR
UPDATED 11/24/20

Is the GRIMM SQM XLR worthy of our hard earned money?


I will be using:

The Ray Samuels The Apache Fully Balanced Dual Mono Amp paired with GRIMM SQM XLR wire

I will be testing it against the two winners of my last review

and the Custom Cables from

Capistrano Cables Diamond 16 XLR

This is a follow up review to my first XLR shootout


CapistranoCables "Copper Diamond 16"- Custom hand braided copper 6n OCC 99.9997 cable with male 4 pin XLR cable to 4pin female mini XLR - 8 strands per conductor, 16 conductors total. This is a main cable . Shielded only through braid
as shown. Price $150 .5m pair

: Initial sound impressions of the "Copper Diamond 16" for day 1 seems like it has all the benefits of the GRIMM TPR with a slight rise in the higher frequencies- bass seems solid and faster as well. The weave of the wires must be shielding it physically as intended - and it works. The sound is completely open and transparent so far after several songs and comparisons.
Very solid performance here and the Copper Diamonds sound amazing! Songs like "Who Do You Love" Absolutely Live by The Doors played back at 16bit 44.1Khz is a great test for vocals and harshness since the recording is so raw filled with intended distortions of electrical instruments swaying back and forth with silent transitions between- the snap of the drum is spot on and the cymbals sound so damm nice- a refreshing balance of warmth and focus into the performance unlike the GRIMM- the GRIMM is a bit more polite.

Riders On The Storm by The Doors from Riders On The Storm on Amazon Music
One of my favorite tracks by the Doors is this particular one- issued only to Amazon Prime users as far as I know. The one issued by Spotify with same name is not the same- the Prime version has a lot more ambient and back up vocals added devoid in the Spotify version. The dynamics and added special effects are a treat to the ears through headphones especially. Using my Kennerton GH-50's modded by me- I want to absolutely stop writing and immerse myself into the music- I am diving into the recording as the rain drops fill my head with tingles of the undeniable beat and percussion- the cables are truly reference quality - extremely music- much better than I would have ever though possible in this price range. Do they beat the GRIMM TPR- whole heartily yes. The next level. The "Copper Diamond 16" provide micro details at all frequencies without a hint of fatigue or harshness- remarkable. So this is what it is like to have your cake and eat it too- with the Topping D90+A90 the Copper Diamond 16 is a match for sure that will bring out every single last detail while still being warm. Where do they fall on the kelvin light scale? Well if the Grim TPR is 4500-4700 the Copper Diamond 16 is 4800-4900 making it a tad bit more open. Retaining all the great things I love about the TRP but ever so slightly more revealing with more open wider stage and pin point accuracy with instrument placement and excitement. This cable keeps on making me want to find new and old tracks---dam this sounds sooooo right- Good Stuffby Griff from Good Stuffn Amazon Music

the way this girl dances (after 2mins 55 seconds in) and feels the music is how I feel when i listen to this Copper Diamond 16... Aurora is pure music, her body and soul is pure music. She's always leaving the real world, when she is performing. Her other songs are really deep stuff.


Grimm TPR- ‘Twisted Pair Reference’ cable was developed for the rejuvenated Wisseloord Studios in The Netherlands. Their design focuses on high RF immunity and low microphonics. The symmetry of the cross-section and heavy shielding contribute to high RF immunity. Low microphonics is provided by a special interface layer under the shield and other construction details.
Price $68 Pair 1m

: GRIM TPR is my favorite and highly recommend XLR and RCA wire bar none for price to performance.
The GRIMM TPR- The first thing I noticed was the bass- wow. These are a pleasurable bass, tight and musical. The mid range is juicy and ripe with organic feel. Treble region is as smooth as tube amp- not really to say rolled off but very pleasant like a tube sound. So smooth as I listen as I type. Dam these cables sound nice. No harshness what so ever. Musical. Groovey. Toe tapping joyful. Vocals sound so smooth- like a finely smoothed and polished piece of wood with a lacquered finish of satin or semi gloss sheen- smooth and wonderful to the touch. On the light scale of kelvin I want to say it shines like the sun, nourishing and refreshing after listening to the Chifi wire. Is it as good as the control in my system a now discontinued Hybrid Nanofiber Pure Carbon wire by Stealth? no. Its not as revealing into the recording but what wire could be especially at this price range. The Stealth Audio Nanofiber Pure Carbon is lightening quick where the Grimm TPR is a tad slower- which is okay. It's very enjoyable wire. I like. This is a match made in heaven with the Topping D90+A90 for sure. truly a blissful pairing warm & engaging . It proves that plain Jane looks when it comes to "cable jewelry" means zip, 'nada', zero and nothing in the world of sound... Makes me wonder why... or care less... I'm just listening to the music and I can say yes, yes yes. This is a great pairing... For all those into the mathematics of it all...
(GRIMM TPR + Topping D90 + A90 = BLISS÷Cost = INSANE DEAL)

Do I have to keep testing wire now? Am I done? Can I go now? Nope.... we march forward in reviewing more cable...


SQM is a balanced cable offered with Neutrik gold plated XLRs. Low microphony requires a meticulous choice of materials to minimize friction induced noise, plus a mechanically tight physical construction. SQM goes a step further here by using carbon doted sheaths around individual conductors and beneath the braided screen. To optimize immunity from electric and magnetic fields the screens are tightly woven (no ‘see-through’) and the conductors are well twisted. Magnetic shielding is further improved by the so called ‘star-quad’ construction after which “Star Quad Master” was named. 475.00€ 1meter pair ( $558.10 at time of review)
: After using the SQM for a month now, I have nearly forgotten about them- that's how good they are... They are nearly dead center neutral, perfect for studios and those who review equipment- these are 'not tube warm' nor 'Class D boring' or solid state 'cold.' The SQM are like taking a snap shot with a top of the line perfectly white balanced camera - a near perfect render of the music in and out. I did not really notice but these are very grown up cables when you think about it- how? Well when you played the field and tested dozens of cables- this is the cable that will always be dependable. Depend on it to be real- not inflated, not good on some music but good on all music. Neutral is not always natural- is a true statement- but that is because these cables aren't really anything but truthful- of the source of the amp and of the recording. This cable is honest- don't expect it to color your music silly- that's not the intent. The intent is to be an adult. Serious and responsible. A cable that does not speed through 55MPH zones, but stays the limit with tempo tight and accurate. Timing is very tight- ever so slightly tighter than the TPR and this is a good thing of course. With TPR, the R stands for recording- yes excellent for recording indeed. But SQM is even better for those critical components that need every last ounce of detail. So with SQM, the M stands for Master (Star Quad Master). And yes it does indeed represent the name SQM perfectly... made for recording check, master cable check, and shielded from any noise what so ever - check. All boxes are checked- what else do you want from a cable designed from the ground up to accomplish these very traits? You want warmth- only if your song or dac or amp has it. You want stark details from the very depths of Helheim to Valhalla? You will get it here with the SQM if the recording has it and your amp and dac can pull it out and to your ears through your monitors. Its quite clear - because the SQM is clear- like Starphire glass if you will. Highly recommended. Even handed at all frequencies and true reference wire.
SQM hear the music not the wire...

See The Beauty, Not The Glass



CONCLUSION: The DIAMOND COPPER 16 sounds best with the Topping D90+A90 for me, and for the on the Ray Samuels Apache I actually am split between the SQM and the Diamond Copper 16. If I am reviewing equipment critically or mixing recordings the clear winner is SQM. If I want to hear every last drop of sound/music of what is recorded exactly as it is- the SQM is king. But if I want to sit back and just forget where I am and listen for hours- the Capistrano Copper 16 wins. The CapistranoCables offer the best sound over the Grimm TPR XLR- BUT for the money though the toe tapping fun of the GRIMM TPR is a sure winner above beyond anything I heard by other companies of similar nature by leaps and bounds (Canare, Pig Hog, Mogami Gold Studio, Hosa Edge etc) and a safe bet- you will not be sorry you bought them. If you want slightly more detail and slightly more sound stage and all the details without a hint of harshness the CapistranoCables Copper Diamond 16s are state of the art from what I heard- they even bested my Hybrid Stealth wires that are insane in price- but they do not sound as honest as the SQM. The SQM is a winner for transparency and true to source range enhancing nothing but the truth- they should have called these truth cables as what you feed them is what you get in return without embellishments lies or coloration-the SQM is truly a reference XLR.
Last edited:
John Massaria
John Massaria
I am now testing the $16K USD DAC by Mojo and I would ONLY trust the neutral Grimm SQM over any other wire - its like having no wire at all - the best compliment when absolute resolution hides NOTHING- I LOVE THIS WIRE and this DAC is beyond words... nothing gets between the musical truth
  • Like
Reactions: remoss

John Massaria

Member of the Trade: JM Audio Editions/Headphone Modifications
Kennerton Thekk version W (1.2 latest version) 2020
Pros: Full bodied, revealing, not especially warm but more warm than bright- while still being extremely revealing, unbeatable dynamics of many other planar’s in attack and decay, beating most of what people call the best dynamic drivers with all the benefits of planar technology; the air of electrostatics and attack like dynamics-nearly best of both worlds! the combination of PURE SOLID WOOD BLOCKS CARVED & Carbon Fiber integrated redefines so called state of the art in 2020, sublime vocals, neutral, accurate sound, nearly beats some of the best electrostatics-certainly better tight tuned bass, revealing of source and maintaining composure, gorgeous looks And heirloom quality, 30 day money back, comfortable, light on the head, ear pads do not need upgrades at all, comes with very useful eco leather bag, 3 year warranty
Cons: Cups do not swivel- but they don't really need to since they sit perfectly on my head, same headband as other Kennerton Models (but it works- with expandable leather headband, comfort is spot on), cable is same as other lesser models like Magni and GH50 stock but again- the cable sounds great, not the best example of a pure Harmon curve, their are more detailed headphones out there but that is not the goal of the Thekk
Kennerton Thekk version W (1.2 latest version) 2020

Thekk Indigo Stabilized Maple

(NOTE: I am from New York with no affiliation to Kennerton, the KGB or CIA or similar agencies - I made my own purchase here without motivation or compensation. What I say is truthful and sincere)
Let me start with... My headphones are now finally warmed up after some 100+ hours of break in. For NAY SAYERS out there who think the need for drivers to break in or "warm up" is questionable let me put that to rest right now - you just don't know how important break in/warm up is for drivers, planar or electrostatics ... case in point...

My door bell rings, I open the package very carefully- my Thekks have arrived! (which only took 5 days to arrive from Russia to NY by the way-pretty awesome). I was like a kid in a candy store... or a teenager receiving his first kiss... I was like... well you get the point. I was excited. So excited I didn't think...I didn't think or wait for them to acclimate to my room. Upon removing them from the box and within the first 1 min of me hooking the cold Thekks in I freaked out! The planar drivers were certainly cold from being outside and in the UPS delivery truck and I thought something was wrong with the planar film as it crinkled when I turned up the volume! "OH MY GAD I GOT A BROKEN PAIR!" I THOUGHT...
At this point I was talking out loud really.... "CR&P! can they be broken? but they are so pretty! oh no please don't be broken! " but alas after just five minutes of playing music nervously- the planar drivers stretched out or stretched in and sounded perfect- no weird noises what so ever- even when turned up- I was freaking but then figured it out. I realized they really do need to flex when they are cold. I surmised it’s like the strings on a guitar and then tuning it up. The sound initially after some play time- they hit me with all the musicality and oomph I expect at this price range.
NOW I AM SAYING "Oh WOW" .. but for different reasons- "THESE SOUND SUBLIME. HOW THE HECK DOES KENNERTON NEVER CEASE TO AMAZE ME!" and then in my inner voice... I am thinking to myself... "Why isn't he (owner of Kennerton - Valentin Kazanzhi) a gazillionaire by now! or world wide famous?? he still answers my emails... who is this nutty professor and where did he come from? I hope he/Kennerton never changes or sells out!" I am thinking all this pretty much at the same time.
As I am exploring the contents of the soft eco-leather matterial zip carry case- looking for Russian Rubels but all I see inside are the cables, headphones and carry strap - better than rubels I think... I'M SMITTEN ALL OVER AGAIN LIKE THE FIRST DAY I BOUGHT MY KENNERTON MAGNI and opened the box... and yes I still very much think Kennerton is the best thing out right now- best looks, best prices and best custom heirloom quality - nothing like the mass produced "plastic" or "heirloom type quality" headphones... these go beyond heirloom headphones- they are a statement in what and how people decide to live and buy with their dollars/ruble /euros etc...'I like bespoke hand made one at a time stuff with out being taken to the cleaners price wise, and I want cutting edge technology.' That's what I think Kennerton offers beyond other brands.

As I type I am thinking.... 'How the heck didn't I ever hear of this brand before,' what if I never tried my first Russian made Kennerton some nearly 9 moths ago when CoVID-19 just started- what if CoVID19 never was around (wouldn't that be a better world), would I have found Kennerton at all? I'm not sure and I do not want to think of it other than I am ever grateful and thankful I did find Kennerton- I digress...

These Thekks are coming close to exceeding anything I have heard to date in this range ... I think I covet them already (less than half a week old). I see these THEKKS as one of my top go to headphone for listening and when I am not using them; proudly display them in my home on the fireplace mantel for all to see. They are like a TROPHY of excellence and great engineering with remarkable good looks. I feel like these were made just for me and fit me perfectly both in appearance, and in sound. How can I put a price on that achievement so few things I buy fail to do?

Like fine food you do want to share with family- at least that would be my upbringing as an Italian. So share and let others in my family listen I did- my daughter listened, my mom and my wife... all of them said the same kind of thing I am thinking- "I like these best" daddy, son and honey (you try and figure out who said what to me)... and this at only at 20 hours in...

I do prefer the Thekks without EQ since they are balanced and I like the stock sound but some people may want to know how the Thekks handle EQ. I experimented with the PEACE APO plug in EQ - and unlike my cherished Sennheiser HD600 (paired with the very necessary Bottlehead Crack OTL w/sb) or Stax SR-Lambdas w/ The SRM1Mk2 - which can handle only a little bit of push or pull of EQ - the THEKKS can handle very good amounts of EQ I would say similar to dynamic headphones or even speakers if one so desired- sometimes I like to EQ poorly recorded songs or news/pod casts and the Thekks will let you eq as much as necessary without a problem in high medium and low regions- remarkable.

NOT ALL IS ROSEY: I will say I do not particularly love the cable- I may plan on buying a new one that is more flexible- ask Kennerton which cable would fit the bill if you felt the need for more flexibility. I cannot however, recommend a better sounding cable at this time- as the included cable that come with the Kennerton is very musical and I see no need to change or alter the sound right now since they sound fine stock. The headband is microphonic IF you touch it or play with it while they are on your head- so don't try to play your headphone band instead play the headphones through your amp and stop touching the metal headband- unless that's your thing. My wife clinks on it to get my attention - so there is that feature. Comfort- I can easily wear these for many many hours without any part of my head, neck or ears hurting at all- its balanced and light, easy to wear and comfortable.

I do my research before I buy anything. I am never the first in to a trend (remember Google glasses or 3-d TVs- not for me). I still have mostly 1080p TVs in my home because Pioneer Kuro Elites still can not be beat by most TVs today- and I don't like 4K on many programs I watch- way too much detail- I do not want to see all the wrinkles/blemishes and hair on actors faces, nor do I want to see the FX they applied in post that somehow look so fake on 4K but not on 1080p. Am I alone in that?

Before I buy- I wait, I read and I study before I plunk down my cash. And in doing so I managed to collect some of the must have classics audio and video products of their time and somehow remain classic and desirable for years to come way after they went into production, and I wouldn't sell them unless I really had to... Why? I don’t like buyers remorse. Some examples are my Magnepan 3.6r speakers with special sound anchors that hold the speakers in place so their is zero rear-front flex and ultimate control. I bought the Vandersteen speakers that still have the most sweet sound I ever heard for the money-even today.

I proudly own the Sennheiser HD600 and when I pair them with the Bottledead Crack OTL w/ SB- it really is heaven for the money. The Stax SR-Lambdas are classics and a must hear if you never did - considered by many as the best Stax ever made- unless you buy the original Stax SR-Omegas (without any extensions on that name)- those may be better than the SR-Lambda original- but good luck finding one in great shape and pray it really was well taken care of and remember you just bought a Gremlin to take care of and occasionally use when you take it out of the "hermetically" sealed bag with moisture sponge and static discharge ball-bearings. I also put the Modded GH-50s in that league of never going to part with headphones and now I have a special place for the Thekks in there as well.

The problem with electrostatics ear speakers is the care you need to give them- they are almost like having a gremlin- you can't perspire (sweat) or get them at all moist or leave in a humid environment or they could be ruined. You can't have pets any where near them- as the fur/hair will distort and cause issues if not somehow surgically removed carefully once fully discharged and so long as they aren't caught inside the mesh and the stat driver. Don’t try blowing the fur/hair away- you could wet the driver and maybe crack it by blowing on it. Electrostatic headphones attract dust and hair like a hair salon pre-covid. Electrostatics need special amps and you may not like the amps you can afford with those electrostatics - the amps for electrostatics have always been their weakest link in the chain. A decent amp for electrostatics these days new is like $2.5-6K. And they only work with electrostatics. Or you could buy old used and worry about out of print stock items when they fail. If my SR-Lambdas fail on one side they are toast. Do not get me wrong I love my Sr-Lambdas. I was lucky to have found one pair in pristine like new condition- but they are very needy and demand the ultimate care when using and storing them. Way too much work. The Thekks are nearly as transparent and airy with all the other areas I look for in a headphone being met or succeed over the electrostatic conundrum



My Thekks are straightforward to own - I don’t see a need for much else in my stable at this time for an open back statement piece - at least by looking at other headphones on the market at present. They may not have as much bass as the Meze EMPYREAN but they are very close to their bass yet beat them in nearly all other criteria. The THEKKS may not be the stark crazy detailed of a Focal Utopia - and thank goodness for that - these are much better at listenability and sounding like pure music at its best. You do hear the details nearly as clearly as the Focal but you don’t focus on that alone and you definitely don’t get any listener fatigue at all with the Thekks- you just sit back and listen- and know it really doesn’t get much better than this- very satisfying.
For me- The Rubel aka "the buck" stops here.
(Для меня.... доллар здесь останавливается)

Lastly: I get it if some people think I am a bit too amorous - but I stand behind my every word- if you ever get a chance to experience Kennerton even just the Magni's to put your feet (ummm ear) in and test the waters- you may just get it - other wise you are taking my and others who have tried and expressed their views on what it is like to own a Kennerton.


Recommended Devices/Amps To Drive Thekks

Thekks are easy to drive with phones or daps, portable dac/amp, or solid state home amp/ dac, extremely revealing of source but easy to drive- exactly why I acclaim these so highly.
These will work with single ended connectors but are balanced headphones by nature so they should sound best with balanced power. The wire that comes standard is a TRS single ended and works just fine. I hear no real difference if both TRS and Balanced amps are of equal quality and similar matched outputs. Save your money- these headphones are easy and don't require much to sound good.


"For all those who would think that the Thekk may lacks bass and extension in the sub-bass, here are measurements of the Kennerton Thekk versus the Thror and the Odin mk2 (credit eric65)
(click to enlarge)


For Months- I Read What I Needed And Researched What Made Me Feel Comfortable
And Now I Knew What Was Going To Be My Next Purchase...The Thekks
But I Still Had To Choose....
Shown below the Karelian birch (red with yellow) and Indigo Stabilized Birch


Choices Choices- A Few Weeks Ago I Had To Make A Color Choice...
The Indigo Blue Over The Red Yellow Seen Below In This Picture...
Originally When I Seen This Picture I Asked If They Would Make Me A Red And Blue One (You Know The Red Cup For Right And Blue For Left-
But They Said....

thumbnail (3).jpg

" I could do that if I bought two pairs"- lmao, i said, "ok I think blue suits me fine...."
and I absolutely... love that color its like a chameleon... always changing colors of deep ocean blue and a bit of yellow and deep purple then dark blue again- it depends on how the light shines and reflects on it- did i make the right choice in color- yea I think so...

Classic styled Laser Engraved Kennertron Logo On Leather Headband
Premium Genuine real leather/ lambs skin (CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGE)
No Need for rolling pads for me here but the ECL-02 will give you a bit more bass at the expense

of stage width and depth. The ECL-01 have plenty of bass with the Thekks.


The frequency response of Abyss and Focal Stellia
vs Thekk ECL-01 (standard pad) Thekk ECL02



Russians are known for sending the first man to outer space


Russian's are Known for their Vodka



Russians are known for their very pretty woman

I think Russians will now be known for creating heirloom quality and cutting edge sound with Kennerton Headphones... there really is nothing else like them in the world. We live in a time and are witnessing the growth and shift in the headphone world... not mass produced, not rushed or compromised in anyway...

Thanks for reading my review on this headphone. If you couldn't tell to sum up-
This is my personal open back near end game headphone- you could spend more but you will not get more.

Peace and be safe. Message me anytime.


-John M

Headphone user, music lover and professional video and audio producer
I wasn't paid by anyone to write this - so honesty for me is the best policy!

UPDATE: I just ordered Ray Samuels Emmeline The Apache REVIEW HERE (LINK) with dual balanced dual mono Class A Design and that is all because I want to extract the most from my modded Gh50 & 2020 Thekks Version W - they both deserve the best I can afford- and since my search for headphones is pretty much over for now...
this is where it counts for me next...
I will update if there is a huge change or not- but like I mentioned these headphones are both easy to live with and easy to drive....
we will see if I can squeeze more from them (10/9/20)
Last edited:
hm...interesting...I might have to reach out to Kennerton team and ask..haha in my case I wanted a "bassy" Thror that's more "Thekk-like" and got the W w/ the serial #
Hi! Now a new series of Thekk is being released with a new headband, is it any different from 1.2 except for the exterior design? The speakers and ear pads are the same, and has the sound signature been preserved?
John Massaria
John Massaria
the headband has a cover over it and I think the tuning is same same sound signature -