CEntrance Ampersand balanced portable headphone amplifier
Jan 21, 2022 at 2:18 PM Post #32 of 131

newworld666

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Pure Class A and battery powered don't mix, lol. Maybe it could be done, but either a massive battery pack would be needed ( making the device barely portable) or it would provide a very limited amount of amplification. I do have another portable amp that has a Pure Class A mode, but it can really only work with iems and easy to drive headphones. Even many mains-powered "Class A" amps really only stay in Class A for just a small percentage of their total rated output, then switch to AB as the load demands.

I think my portable amp Less BX2plus is pure/full time class A with 6W too .. a bit too bulky and less than 4 hours working time with my HEDDphone and DCA Stealth.
I like Centrance M8V2 form factor, so I expect the ampersand to be a nice replacement for the Less BX2plus, though it's a class AB
 
Jan 21, 2022 at 5:30 PM Post #33 of 131
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Pure Class A and battery powered don't mix, lol.

Right, exactly. I just wanted to get a quick clarification because the web site mentioned Class A at one point, and some people have been wondering.

I like Centrance M8V2 form factor, so I expect the ampersand to be a nice replacement for the Less BX2plus, though it's a class AB

Yes, they pair especially nicely together. I've got both of them strapped back to back ATM, and it largely looks like I have two of either unit.
 
Jan 22, 2022 at 12:53 AM Post #34 of 131

HeadphoneAddict

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I had to go out of town for a few days, and should be back home tomorrow night, and then I can finish trying all those other headphones I mentioned with the Ampersand. I really don’t expect to find any surprises.
 
Jan 29, 2022 at 9:20 AM Post #35 of 131

BasilFawlty

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CEntrance have always been an innovative company. II fell in love with the company when I bought my first HiFi-M8 2015.Great sound and very affordable. At my desk I still have the DAC Mini CX with beautiful speakers. Right now I am waiting to get the Ampersand - great complement to the V2. And again CEntrance shows its “thinking outside the stack” by this:

https://centrance.com/store/Commander-Console-2U-p438256867

When traveling I use my Audeze IEM but at home I am planning to use the horizontal console with my Audeze LCD-4.

Very smart and at a great price.
 
Feb 4, 2022 at 11:32 AM Post #36 of 131

SDBiotek

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I received my Ampersand yesterday! I have not had much time to spend with it yet, but even just using my Cayin N3Pro as a source ( line out or headphone out), there are no issues driving the Dan Clark Audio Stealth or Hifiman Ananda. High gain isn't even needed to comfortably drive the Strealth, but that may change when I try different sources. I will leave it to @warrenpchi and @HeadphoneAddict to weigh in more eloquently than I can, lol! So far I am very pleased with the neutral sound signature and power.
 
Feb 4, 2022 at 7:33 PM Post #37 of 131

HeadphoneAddict

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I would like to add that the sound signature does not seem to change, to my ears, when switching between high gain, medium gain, or low gain. I have experienced sonic changes with some amps in the past when changing to a different gain level, but not this one. The only amp to come to mind right now is my Schitt Audio Magni (OG) which does Not sound as good when you go to low gain, and we prefer to keep that one in high gain.

Also, with HiFiM8 V2 4-pin output at 80% volume as source feeding the Ampersand, the only headphone for which I wanted to use high gain tonight was the HE-6; and I still would never go above 2 o’clock for my personal listening. High gain was fine with the other headphones, but I could not use the last 30-40% of the volume knob with them.

In high gain with the HD800’s and HE-1000se, I usually listened with the Ampersand volume knob at or below 12 o’clock. At medium gain, with these 2 headphones I was not turning the volume higher than 2 o’clock.

I do think it would be quite possible to use the Ampersand in low gain, medium gain, or high gain, with the HD 800 or the HE-1000 SE; but I would not use low gain with the HE-6.
So, it seems that I don't have any headphones that this Ampersand cannot drive well, with more than enough power for even the Original HiFiMan HE-6. However, as a "wire with gain" it sounds just like whatever source I use. So, if you pick the wrong source then the ampersand can sound as bright or as dark as the source. I find it to be utterly transparent, and a viable replacement for most desktop headphone amps as well.

My PALAB M1 Mini is not a good choice as the source when listening to HD-800/800s, as it is a little too bright for those; but wow does the M1 Mini + Ampersand sound good with my darker sounding HD-600 and HD-6XX!! Even the slightly brighter Grado HF-2 LE sound good with the M1 Mini alone or via Ampersand. But not so with the brighter HD-800/800s.

I've reported in the past that the Palab M1 Mini can drive the HD-6XX with authority by itself with the balanced output, while in that review I had found that the HD-600 sounded better with the HiFiM8 V2. But, now I found the HD600 were also very good with the M1 mini if I feed the M1 Mini into the Ampersand first and then plug the HD-600 into that.

My BlueDAC is a warmer sounding amp with slightly more bass, but it's great as the source/DAC for feeding the Ampersand with just about any headphone. I prefer this BlueDAC and my HiFiM8 V2 as the source, because the combo is more versatile and I can listen with anything via the Ampersand. I think the Ampersand is a bit much power for the HE-1000se and Edition-X V2, and I turn the gain down to medium for the 1000se and low for the Edition-X.

The BlueDAC can drive the above on its own without the Ampersand, but when it comes to HD-800/800s or HE-6 then YOU REALLY NEED the AMPERSAND. The HD-600/6XX sound good via blueDAC balanced 2.5mm output, but even better and more punchy when feeding the BlueDAC into the Ampersand first.

The HiFiMan R2R2000 is also a good source with the HD-800/800s and is necessary to properly drive the HD800/800s when you have the R2R2000. But as I said, the HE-1000se do not need a stronger amp than the R2R2000, HiFiM8 V2, or BlueDAC. Still, the HD-800/800s sound much better from the Ampersand than directly from the R2R2000 built-in amp (which is fantastic without an external amp for my easier to drive headphones like HE-1000se, Edition-X V2, or IEM like Westone W80 and Westone ES60, etc).

The HiFiM8 V2 can easily drive the HE-560 V1 balanced, but the Ampersand gives them more punch and authority as well, like with the HE-6 V1. Again, the Palab M1 Mini is not a good source/DAC for the HE-560 V1 as it makes them a little bright, while the BlueDAC or HiFiM8 V2 + ampersand pair with them much better.

I have not tried easy to drive full size headphones like CEntrance Cerene dB or V-MODA M-100, as it would be pointless based on my experience with the Edition-X V2 which are easily overpowered by the Ampersand.

I am amazed.
 
Feb 4, 2022 at 8:01 PM Post #38 of 131

syazwaned

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So, it seems that I don't have any headphones that this Ampersand cannot drive well, with more than enough power for even the Original HiFiMan HE-6. However, as a "wire with gain" it sounds just like whatever source I use. So, if you pick the wrong source then the ampersand can sound as bright or as dark as the source. I find it to be utterly transparent, and a viable replacement for most desktop headphone amps as well.

My PALAB M1 Mini is not a good choice as the source when listening to HD-800/800s, as it is a little too bright for those; but wow does the M1 Mini + Ampersand sound good with my darker sounding HD-600 and HD-6XX!! Even the slightly brighter Grado HF-2 LE sound good with the M1 Mini alone or via Ampersand. But not so with the brighter HD-800/800s.

I've reported in the past that the Palab M1 Mini can drive the HD-6XX with authority by itself with the balanced output, while in that review I had found that the HD-600 sounded better with the HiFiM8 V2. But, now I found the HD600 were also very good with the M1 mini if I feed the M1 Mini into the Ampersand first and then plug the HD-600 into that.

My BlueDAC is a warmer sounding amp with slightly more bass, but it's great as the source/DAC for feeding the Ampersand with just about any headphone. I prefer this BlueDAC and my HiFiM8 V2 as the source, because the combo is more versatile and I can listen with anything via the Ampersand. I think the Ampersand is a bit much power for the HE-1000se and Edition-X V2, and I turn the gain down to medium for the 1000se and low for the Edition-X.

The BlueDAC can drive the above on its own without the Ampersand, but when it comes to HD-800/800s or HE-6 then YOU REALLY NEED the AMPERSAND. The HD-600/6XX sound good via blueDAC balanced 2.5mm output, but even better and more punchy when feeding the BlueDAC into the Ampersand first.

The HiFiMan R2R2000 is also a good source with the HD-800/800s and is necessary to properly drive the HD800/800s when you have the R2R2000. But as I said, the HE-1000se do not need a stronger amp than the R2R2000, HiFiM8 V2, or BlueDAC. Still, the HD-800/800s sound much better from the Ampersand than directly from the R2R2000 built-in amp (which is fantastic without an external amp for my easier to drive headphones like HE-1000se, Edition-X V2, or IEM like Westone W80 and Westone ES60, etc).

The HiFiM8 V2 can easily drive the HE-560 V1 balanced, but the Ampersand gives them more punch and authority as well, like with the HE-6 V1. Again, the Palab M1 Mini is not a good source/DAC for the HE-560 V1 as it makes them a little bright, while the BlueDAC or HiFiM8 V2 + ampersand pair with them much better.

I have not tried easy to drive full size headphones like CEntrance Cerene dB or V-MODA M-100, as it would be pointless based on my experience with the Edition-X V2 which are easily overpowered by the Ampersand.

I am amazed.
Nice. I am getting my Chord Mojo 2 soon.. Think to have Ampersand as an amplifier as Mojo 2 output is not that powerful
 
Feb 8, 2022 at 1:27 PM Post #39 of 131

ChrisLN

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Received my Ampersand yesterday! Had a short listening session with the Susvara today and I am impressed. The setup is from a LPGT 4.4mm line out on medium gain (2V rms) into the Ampersand 4.4mm on high gain (on medium gain it does not sound as full as on high gain), then to the Susvara with the 4-pin XLR out. The sound is full and satisfactory, although the bass is not up to the authoritativeness of a Bakoon 13R. With this setting my normal listening volume is at 10-11 o’clock. Very impressive power indeed from such a small amp.
 

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Feb 8, 2022 at 2:27 PM Post #40 of 131

mgoodman

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We just got these and there is plenty of power. With Ampersand, in a balanced configuration HEDD can get uncomfortably loud, so you will need to turn it down. Another one checked off the list.

So far, we have confirmed reports of great performance with Stealth, Susvara, Ananada, HE-6, HD-800/800s, and HEDD.
Should have more DCA cans coming later in the week. Will report then.

Ampersand with HEDD.jpg
 
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Feb 8, 2022 at 3:08 PM Post #42 of 131

newworld666

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We just got these and there is plenty of power. With Ampersand, in a balanced configuration HEDD can get uncomfortably loud, so you will need to turn it down. Another one checked off the list.

So far, we have confirmed reports of great performance with Stealth, Susvara, Ananada, HE-6, HD-800/800s, and HEDD.
Should have more DCA cans coming later in the week. Will report then.


My sample is on the way for one week now... I hope to get it next week, as it seems it arrived in my country.

But that's already a promising good news, if HEDDphone One and DCA Stealth are perfectly powered by Ampersand. Though, it's usually not really a matter of available of volume level, but much more concerned with providing enough juice for the low and ultra low frequencies to get real deep kicks in the throat, both headphones need monstrous power for this...

If so, I really expect to give a try with my Sony WM1A and M8V2 .. It can be a more versatile solution on the way than my bulky M17 (difficult to carry in a pocket even with IEM plugged in).
It could be nice to use Vision Ears EXT + WM1A for street/underground/trains, and use the DCA Stealth + WM1A (or M8V2 plugged to my galaxy Zfold3) + Centrance Ampersand for trains/overseas flights/hotels/family/ ....

I have to wait a bit more now..
 
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Feb 8, 2022 at 3:09 PM Post #43 of 131

HeadphoneAddict

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All pre-ordered units will be out the door by EOD tomorrow. This feels good.
I didn’t know they were going to be shipping this soon. Nice.

ChrisLN mentioned a change in sound between medium and high gain, sounding less full. But I did not spend a lot of time listening for changes, because I typically stayed in hi-gain most of the time with harder to drive headphones; except for when switching to extremely efficient portable headphones (Edition-X), where I had to turn the gain down to be able to use the volume knob past 9 o’clock 😂

I briefly tried the HE-1000SE in medium gain and found it to still sound good with gibs of volume, but did not do any extensive listening in that setting. Typically I have not been hearing a change the sound quality with CEntrance products as the gain is changed, so it wasn’t something I thought needed to be tested. But he did this with Susvara Headphones which I imagine would not be properly driven with the lower power levels available in medium gain.

If it really doesn’t sound as full in medium gain, as he stated, then it would be advised to just set the Ampersand volume to a fixed level at 12 o’clock in high gain, and control the volume with the source; or just use high gain with the volume knob set lower. I still suspect it was possibly a factor of the headphone that was chosen, and with Susvara in high gain you’d still have a wide range of volume knob travel to explore.

Of all the headphones that I tested and reported on above, the only ones where medium hain would be a consideration, even though high gain works very well, are my Grado HF-2 and HE-1000se. My Edition-X are a low gain type of headphone. They don’t really need an amplifier more powerful than the typical portable DAC/amp, and even medium gain was overkill.

I want to remind people that the source you pick for feeding the Ampersand has an impact on the overall sound, and I found that the Ampersand sounded very much like the source that I selected. But don’t forget that some sources that are designed to sound their best with between 16 ohm and 600 ohm impedance headphones may sound different when feeding a high impedance amplifier input.
 
Feb 9, 2022 at 2:44 AM Post #44 of 131

ChrisLN

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I didn’t know they were going to be shipping this soon. Nice.

ChrisLN mentioned a change in sound between medium and high gain, sounding less full. But I did not spend a lot of time listening for changes, because I typically stayed in hi-gain most of the time with harder to drive headphones; except for when switching to extremely efficient portable headphones (Edition-X), where I had to turn the gain down to be able to use the volume knob past 9 o’clock 😂

I briefly tried the HE-1000SE in medium gain and found it to still sound good with gibs of volume, but did not do any extensive listening in that setting. Typically I have not been hearing a change the sound quality with CEntrance products as the gain is changed, so it wasn’t something I thought needed to be tested. But he did this with Susvara Headphones which I imagine would not be properly driven with the lower power levels available in medium gain.

If it really doesn’t sound as full in medium gain, as he stated, then it would be advised to just set the Ampersand volume to a fixed level at 12 o’clock in high gain, and control the volume with the source; or just use high gain with the volume knob set lower. I still suspect it was possibly a factor of the headphone that was chosen, and with Susvara in high gain you’d still have a wide range of volume knob travel to explore.

Of all the headphones that I tested and reported on above, the only ones where medium hain would be a consideration, even though high gain works very well, are my Grado HF-2 and HE-1000se. My Edition-X are a low gain type of headphone. They don’t really need an amplifier more powerful than the typical portable DAC/amp, and even medium gain was overkill.

I want to remind people that the source you pick for feeding the Ampersand has an impact on the overall sound, and I found that the Ampersand sounded very much like the source that I selected. But don’t forget that some sources that are designed to sound their best with between 16 ohm and 600 ohm impedance headphones may sound different when feeding a high impedance amplifier input.

I tend to believe the differences between high and medium gain with the Susvara is most likely due to the Susvara’s notoriously pickiness on amps. This is well documented in the Susvara thread. I am satisfied personally with the way Susvara sounds on high gain, plus that was with the sources LPGT on only 2V rms output. I haven’t tried the high gain on LPGT line out with this. It may behave differently.

Ampersand is indeed very much source dependent. So far I have tried feeding it with the LPGT, Cayin N8, and IBasso DX300 max. Ampersand sounded different with each source. For some reason DX300 max paring has made male vocal somewhat thinner. The N8 paring sounds warmer. LPGT paring is more neutral. So pairing is definitely important.
 
Feb 10, 2022 at 6:19 AM Post #45 of 131

newworld666

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I just got my sample (I expected it only next week, so that's good).... It'sso tiny and light compared to the best competitor I already own => the Class A Less BX2+.

Of course, I can't say much about the Ampersand, as I just plugged in the DCA Stealth and the FIIO M17 in pure balanced line-out mode......

I just tried to see what happens when I try to play the monstrous "Cradle to the Grave" from Max Richter => clearly it's still clipping a little between 49" to 1'10" ... as both Ampersand's led indicators turn on Red, I guess that input level is too high with 4V input.
I will try with the Kann Alpha as I can fix the voltage of the balanced line out (I can not on the FIIO M17).

Anyway... everything else I could listen in a pair of hours, really sounded promising !!! even very promising, though battery seems to drop really fast (probably more or less 3 hours ?).
I intend to use the Ampersand with the Sony WM1A (unfortunately with double amp mode), Centrance M8 (BT receiver 2.5mm Line out mode ) or Kann Alpha (4.4mm Line out mode 2V).... For my future trips (Job or Holidays), I still hope it should be the lightest and the best way to enjoy my DCA Stealth when I not at home or office (FIIO M17 is probably more adequate with a desktop stand and external 12V3A power supply) .
 
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