Conundrum, replacement for dead Sustain84
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New Head-Fier
Jun 29, 2020
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Jun 29, 2020
I spent the last weeks browsing the forums, but i couldn't find answers to my conundrum.
I had a CypherLabs Sustain84, and was using a Burson Play DAC (with v6 vivid opamps), and Audeze EL8 (planar) headphones.

With electronic music, dark ambient music, the bass was a bit muted. In fact tracks such as Sleep Research Facility's Nostromo deck-A on a ATH-50X and iFi nanoDSD sounded better in a way, since the bass was more present, albeit less detailed.
Not really suited for that combination. Other ambient, electronic artists, such as Steve Roach, Robert Rich and so forth, were more suitable, think tribal ambient, ethnic, didgeridoo, synth, and so on. Lots of detail there. Still in spite of somewhat castrating the bass potency, it revealed such detail and presence, that i accepted that trade off.

Where this combination shined though is the vocals. Cowboy Junkies, Dirty Three + Low (in the fish tank), Isobel Campbell, had intimacy almost, it felt like being there, in a small concert room with fantastic detail. Smooth treble, gorgeous vocals, and absolutely black background. No hum, no hiss, no noise, pitch black.

Fast foward a couple of years and the Sustain84 went the way of the Dodo. No way to contact CypherLabs, so i took it to a repair shop, only to find out there's a PCB entombed in centimeter thick layers of epoxy. Irreparable.
I'm searching for a replacement and after much searching, it seems far more experienced users than me in the realm of audiophile equipment are in some sort of agreement when it comes to the (un)suitability of OTL tube amplifiers for low impedance planar magnetic headphones and seem to recommend coupled transformer amplifiers. The information i could gather shows 32ohm impedance and 102dB sensitivity for the EL8 (i think i got it right).

After narrowing the list, it seems the contenders are now the WooAudio WA6-SE (2nd edition), the Analog Design Labs Svetlana 3SE, and the Quad Pa-One+. I considered briefly the Feliks Audio Elise, or even the Espressivo, the Microzotl MZ2.

Information about the Svetlana 3SE seems nonexistent, though it seems to be a good reputation (South) Korean company.
Anyone here has any information on the Svetlana 3, 3SE amplifiers?

The WA6-SE seems interesting too, but i fear falling into a tube rolling trap. I don't want to spend thousands of USD only to have to spend hundreds more at least searching for the right tubes. The possibility of tube rolling is interesting, but it would be great to have a good sound from start, and having the possibility of trying a different kind of (100% compatible) tubes at some later date, without going broke.

The Quad Pa-One+ seems good, the company has a good reputation, but it ends up adding yet another DAC to my setup (another 9018 it seems), yet if the amplifier is suitable, it could be an interesting proposition.
The grill to prevent tiny hands from touching the glowing bulbs is a much appreciated bonus.

Regarding the Feliks Audio, and the Microzotl, i'm not sure they would be suitable for the Audeze.
Anyone with experience with the Sustain84 found something similar elsewhere? Specially, anything with its entrails not encased in epoxy please.
Much appreciated
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