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Audio GD SA-31 head amp/ preamp . A powerfull Head Amp with Diamond Difference design .

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by havoc-28, Jul 8, 2012.
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  1. Clemmaster
    I sold my 701's a while back but I still own the 601's (which I ended up preferring, it's more fun to listen with).
    I might give it a shot with the Metrum Quad + SA-31 but I don't have high expectations. I didn't listen to these since I got the HE-4s, a year and 2 months ago...
    I didn't listen to the 4's since I got the 500s, 6 months ago and I'm receiving the 400s on monday (for the fun factor).
    Going back to dynamics headphone will certainly hurt but if you want some inputs I could make an effort :p
    Any particular aspect of the sound you want me to focus on?
  2. elipson73
    Hmm ... I don't know K 601.
    But you can do me a small review ...
    There's no serious review about audio-gd sa 31
    On the paper it seems to be a very interesting amp.
    Should be compared to Burson Soloist, Meier Classic ... with different headphones.
  3. WiR3D
    I dont think so, the Soloist is neutral if I'm not mistaken? The SA series is meant to be musical, so actually you should compare the Soloist to the other AudioGD products, from what I gather
  4. Clemmaster
    The listening session did not last long, sadly...
    I see no reason for going with SA-31 vs. the cheaper Matrix M-Stage I used to pair the K-701s with.
    Long story short: I cannot bear the K-601s treble anymore, it seems, even with the "smooth" SA-31 (though I did not tried the SA-31 on "warm 1" and "warm 2" position). From memory, the K-701s were even more fatiguing that the 601s so for me it's a no go.
    From memory, again, I think the M-Stage (w/ OPA627) did a pretty similar job in driving the AKGs.
    I could not find any strong point in the presentation when compared to even the lesser Hifiman's planar (HE-4). On complex passages, the sound is "mid-centric", masking pretty much every side information in the sound-stage and making the whole passage, well... blurry!
    I think the extra power is very welcome for planar headphones (when compared with the M-Stage) but it did not add much in the 601s case.
    My source is a Metrum Quad, which is neutral. I don't own the warmer NFB-3.1 anymore so I cannot tame the ear-piercing/artificial treble much now...
    If I ever wanted to give these another chance (I'm pretty sure I never will), I would go for a tube amp  (Bottlehead crack maybe?).
  5. conquerator2
    Did you have a chance to try the NFB 3.1 with plannars?
    I own its latest iteration, the NFB 3.32 and am planning to use it with the HIFIman (HE-6), along with a neutral speaker amp (the Mini-X) so was wondering if you had any experience.
    It might not do it complete justice but it should be fine until I update my gear again :)
    Thanks! Best wishes, Luke 
  6. Clemmaster
    Yes, my former rig used to be NFB-3.1 + M-Stage + HE-4. This was truely great back then. The sound was really intimate (which might be a downside for some music genres, e.g. classical), the background was black, which was the biggest improvement over the internal DAC of the Squeezebox Touch. The soundstage was three-dimensionnal and I could "feel" the layering in depth when I focused on it. It is less "easy" sounding as my new Metrum Quad (with which I don't need to focus at anything, it just comes at me, which is extremely relaxing yet engaging!) but it is nonetheless detailed, dynamic yet smooth!
    The NFB-3.1 is the reason why I keep upgrading my rig: I discovered there was so much more to get, even with as little as $300.00.
    Back then, I was feeding it through the coax output of my SBT. I realized lately I was missing quite a lot by doing so. The Coax output of the SBT is not that great and I got better sound through the integrated USB input (Tenor 7022L on the NFB-3.1). I always felt something was missing in the bass department, to the point I was actually thinking my DAC was faulty. I tried a XDA-1 with the same setup and it was clearly better in the bass, much better!
    It's only when I received my Stello U3 (USB->Coax converter) that I discovered nothing was wrong with the unit, the bass was here and hitting hard! I suppose the lack of jitter reduction mechanism in the NFB-3.1 and the poor SBT's coax output was the cause of the lack of bass. By comparison, the XDA-1 has an asynchronous SRC in the input stage which reduces jitter.
    Anyway, the NFB-3.32 with its good USB input should be a great improvement over the former NFB-3.1 and I would recommend it anytime for people on a budget!
    Note: the intimate sound I described above is due to the HE-4 (with old velour pad), not the NFB-3.1. 
  7. Mad Lust Envy Contributor
    Anyone know what to set the SA-31 as a pre-amp to another amp? I assume low gain, max volume? I would prefer the SA-31 had a line out, but gotta deal with what I have.
  8. runswithaliens
    Is the display on this amp always on, or can it be dimmed and/or disabled for night time listening sessions?  If always on, how bright is it? For bright blue LEDs I would just use electrical tape, but wouldn't necessarily want to do that for the whole display if you see what I'm saying. Thanks in advance.
  9. Clemmaster
    It cannot be dimmed but it's not really bright :wink: (At least, it never annoyed me so far).
    It's in my bedside rig which I use in bed, eyes closed and lights off for full immersion.
  10. tim3320070
    I use cut to fit tinted sheets found at hobby stores- it is too bright for me (not the sound though!).
    Some months in and this amp is wonderful- transparent, dynamic but smooth, my perfect combo.
  11. JWahl
    Just thought I'd mention that I've now had an SA-31 for about 2 weeks that I picked up from MLE.  Certainly my favorite amp I've owned so far.  I feel this is a really special amp in the current Audio-GD lineup at an excellent price/performance point.  I think a lot of people looking for a powerful single ended amp will overlook this one though, just because of the price.  I'd really be curious to hear it compared to something like the Burson Soloist, or dare I say, the Luxman amps?  I haven't heard either of them so I can't compare but I really can't imagine them being superior, maybe a different flavor.
    The SA-31 didn't wow me right from the get go, but over time I've come to enjoy it more and more.  I find the strongest trait of the diamond differential topology to be the sense of space and depth that it draws from recordings.  It's too bad I don't still have my SA-1 DAC to try with it though.  I'm currently using a Schiit Modi as a budget fix for the time being.  I'm considering buying an Audio-GD NFB-2.32 to pair with it since it's not too expensive.  
    I'm also currently using AKG K702 65th anniversaries and Audio Technica A900X but I'm toying with the idea of buying an HE-6 once again or maybe HE-500.  I think the SA-31 could drive the HE-6 well and would complement the signature, though I may have the add the resistor mod MLE had done before to increase the gain to HE-6 levels.  I'll see how it is once I get a new DAC.  I'm very curious to see how it well scale up with better source and headphones.
    One thing that is completely unique to the SA-31 from other Audio GD headphone products that nobody seems to have pointed out is the 4 Massive output transistors that seem to be similar or the same as used in their larger speaker amps.  I'm assuming this is to help drive the more difficult planars like the HE-6 given everyone seems to say they sound best on a speaker amp.  The 8w @ 50 ohms of the SA-31 would be about equivalent to 50w @ 8 ohms in a speaker amp.
    Master 3 Speaker Amp
  12. WiR3D
    Not quite.
    Something I am curious of, how coloured is the sound on this amp?
  13. FauDrei
    I am joining in praise of this headamp.
    It took some time to "open", "burn-in", "form capacitors" or whatever you want to call it, but at the present state of it - I prefer it in it's "plain" single ended RCA "voltage" mode to the "neutrality" of my full differential ACSS "current" mode headamp. It is so detailed, clear, "spacious", dynamic and "rich". Very seductive.
    It is excellent with HE-500. SA-31 was the factor that tipped my preference scale from LCD-2 (V1) in HE-500 direction. It forces you to search for better aftermarket cable for them though. But HE-500 deserve better OCC cable (and better connectors) and this headamp unequivocally presents the difference.
    ...as for output transistors - they are not "the King of transistors" On Semiconductors MJL4281/4302  as in A-GD Master series poweramps. They are Toshiba power counterparts and the Man says this on the topic:
  14. WiR3D
    I keep getting the impression that this is an amp for low impedance headphones that need some juice and you want to add some colour - AKG's, low impedance planers, most probably Grado.
    Not for already coloured headphones like the Denon D7000. 
  15. tim3320070
    This is AGD colored, as in very slight warmth. This is 95% neutral to my ears. Plus you can dial in the "warmth" with those jumpers. It's all pretty subtle. It's an excellent amp.
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