Don't Crucify Me! Gilmore Lite (DT880,..) Sounds Like a Very Fine 'TRANSISTOR' Radio!
Mar 31, 2006 at 3:34 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 117
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Having tested myself the Gilmore Lite amp with
the Beyer's DT880 and the Sennheiser's HD595 (50 Ohm),
to my ears, Gilmore Lite sounds like a
'Very Fine Transistor Radio' indeed. Period.

Welcome to the Wonderful World of the 'Very Fine Transistor Radio' Sound!!!

Mini-Meet:
Place/time: Dark Side of the Moon; 11 days in March this year.
Participants: Me, my faithful dog, and my UNfaithful girlfriend

Equipment:
I. Marantz CD5400 dedicated CD player with headphone circuitry/jack ($299)
II. Pioneer DV-578A-S universal DVD/DVD-A/CD/SACD player ($129)
III. Panasonic PV7665S Hi-Fi Stereo VCR player ($250 in 1998)
IV. CambridgeSoundWorks multimedia receiver ($99)

Cable: Standard RadioShack gold plated stereo L/R cable
Music: Dark Side of the Moon (SACD, CD, 24Krt Gold MFSL), Avalon (Roxy Music) HDCD,
The Rolling Stones (1964-1971), Joe Cocker, Deep Purple, The War Of The Worlds (rock album), ... , classical piano music, choral, ...

Tie Me Up Baby!
My UNfaithful girlfriend wrapped her non-transparent headband around my head to cover my eyes. Additionally, she wrapped her non-transparent scarf around
my head to cover my eyes again. As the result of this I stepped on my faithful dog a couple of times. Clearly, I was double-blinded!

'Double' Blind Test
My UNfaithful girlfriend was connecting my DT880s or HD595s to the GL's or Marantz's headphone jacks respectively. This was done many times and randomly.
Each time I could easily tell when my headphones were connected to Gilmore Lite, by the GL's unique - a 'Very Fine Transistor Radio'-like sound defined in the following way:
Definition
(1) bright
(2) thin (bass light)
(3) dry (devoid of 'juice')
(4) metallic

When my DT880s or HD595s were connected directly to the Marantz's headphone jack the sound was noticeably better:
(a) darker (less bright)
(b) bass
(c) juice
(d) not metallic (with HD595s)

We did those tests over the course of eleven days. My UNfaithful girlfriend confirmed my observations and my faithful dog was the witness.

Note
I was not interested in the extreme loudness of the sound which GL could deliver. Usually I was listening at the level- 9:00-9:30-10:00-10:30 with the DT880s,
and 8:00-8:30-9:00 with the HD595s.

Imprtant Info
My DT880s and HD595s underwent 1,000+ and 1,250+ hours of burn-in period, respectively. The GL amp also underwent many hours of burn-in time,
but this did not change its 'Very Fine Transistor Radio'-like sound signature.

Intermission
Working hard I needed a break. I was thirsty. Common, I needed a b..r.

After the Intermission
We also compared the sound of the Pioneer DV-578A & Receiver with the DT880s or HD595s to the sound of Pioneer DV-578A & GL & headphones.
The sound of the system: Pioneer & Receiver & headphones was better than the sound of Pioneer & GL & headphones, namely: less bright, less thin, less dry,
and less (with DT880s) and not (with HD595s) metallic. We also repeated the tests for the Panasonic VCR player. The results were similar.

Medals Ceremony
Medals in (a)-(d) Category for Amplification
Gold: Marantz CD5400
Silver: CambridgeSoundWorks Receiver
Bronze: Gilmore Lite Amp

Medals in (a)-(d) Category for Best Sounding System
Gold: Marantz CD5400 & HD595s
Silver: Pioneer DV-578A & Receiver & HD595s
Bronze: Pioneer DV-578A & GL & HD595s

Bronze medal should go to the Panasonic VCR player & Receiver & HD595s system, but this would have been a distraction to our considerations:
(analogue) VCR tape (Dolby compression , ...) vs. digital aluminum CD.

Observation
Notice the absence of the DT880s on the podium and the favorite, i.e. the GL & DT880s combo! This is because the DT880s, as some of us acknowledge,
are inherently somehow bright, somehow shy on bass, ... perhaps some other time. And in the case of the GL & DT880s combo, GL was feeding
the already somehow bright, shy on bass, ... DT880s with a 'contaminated milk' by adding more brightness, not adding bass, introducing or adding dry
and metallic components (attributes) to the DT880s sound signature!

From a Different Perspective
Another way to look at this phenomenon is through the relations between fundamental and harmonic waves of the sound. GL, and some other amps,
improperly 'process' fundamentals and/or harmonics, and also destroy the natural relations/proprotions between them.
Example:
Cutting off the higher order harmonics or mishandling them would make the famous Stradivarius violins sound like a 'Transistor Radio'!

Good Point
Some might argue that because I used inexpensive sources (although their sound was good) GL revealed their weaknesses and the poor quality sound. -
I don't think so. This is not always true. In our case, as described above, connecting the headphones directly to the Marantz's headphone jack produced
noticeably better sound than the sound of the Marantz & GL & headphones system!
(I also used low-end cans Sennheiser PX-100 and Sony MDR-CD280 with GL and without GL and the results were similar.)

Corollary
It seems that with sources and headphones I used, GL transformed the pleasant sound of the sources, in terms of (a)-(d), into a 'Very Fine Transitor Radio'-like sound, (1)-(4).

Good News
Of course, GL produced a very fine sound in terms of: air, transparency, 3D, soundstaging, etc., but so was the Marantz CDP.

Discussion
To many people, including myself, these sound attributes (air, trensparency, 3D, soundstage, ...) are rather optional and not essential. Of course I like them very much
but only when the sound is not devoid of its essence, by being too bright, thin, dry, metallic (1)-(4).
(Of course, there are other essential sound attributes, but here I only focus on (1)-(4).)

Comparing the sound of the Marantz CDP (via its headphone jack) to the sound of GL, in terms of just mentioned attribiutes, air, transparency, 3D, etc
I actually heard (almost) no difference. Perhaps a little more air, perhaps more transparent, .... just perhaps ..

It is conceivable that if one puts the Marantz CDP and GL through some 'torture' tests, e.g. very demanding music (CDs, SACDs, ...), blackness,
separation between notes, attack, decay tests and all those audiophile tests GL would score better than the Marantz CDP. But to many of us, oridinary listeners,
this does not matter at all! We might not even notice the difference.

Also, perhaps one needs to recable the DT880s and HD595s, add power supplies and expensive cables, connectors, etc. add a $1,000 source,
then GL might score better than the Marantz CDP. But how many of us can afford this craze? This in unrealistic!

But then again, for such a 'luxury entourage' one would better buy a much better headphone amp, say in the range $1,000 - $2,000.

A Bit Of History
While looking for some reviews about GL on this site I found a hint about GL's sound signature. One experienced Head-Fi memebr noticed and said in
'Gilmore Lite vs. HeadRomm Micro Amp' thread that GL sounded like a 'transistor radio'.
I loved this expression so much, and I was also puzzled by the statement, that I personally started a thread asking:
'Gimore Lite Sounds like a TRANSISTOR Radio with the DT880s?' (Note the mispelled name: Gimore)

A Voice From the Heaven
'The DT880s and Gilmore Lite - this is the worst match!'
Actually, this was a voice (quoting from memeory) of an experienced Head-Fi member on one of my threads.

Disclaimer
Let me emphasize once again that the statements I have made here apply to my (under $300) sources, my DT880s and HD595s (50 Ohm). I don't know
how GL would perform with better sources, say in the range $800-$1,000. Also I don't know how it would perform with other headphones: Beyer's DT770 (a lot of bass),
DT990 Pro, Sennheiser's HD580-HD650, HD555. How about Sony's SA5000 and Grado's SR325? It would be very interesting to hear about any successful marriages of GL
with other sources and headphones. This amplifier is very popular on this site! I don't know how other headphone amps in the range $200-$400 perform?
Do they all sound like a 'Very Fine Transistor Radio'?

Grand Finale
With the setups (sources & GL & headphones) GL's, and perhaps other amps', sound can be succintly described using the following euphemism:
'Very Fine Transistor Radio'-like sound.

If you don't like this euphemism there's another way to describe GL's, and perhaps other amps' sound. This is the sound of under-$150 5.1 sytems
(5 speakers & sub & receiver) from the Radio Shack, Target, etc
How would you describe the sound of such sytems? This is a no-brainer. The sound is simply bright, thin, dry and metallic (and more).

Yet another way to (partially) describe such a sound is: tinny!
From the 'Illustrated Oxford Dictionary:
tinny - ... 3.b. (of reproduced sound) thin and metallic, lacking low frequencies.
Add to the tinny sound two more attributes: bright and dry and we're getting a 'Very Fine Transistor Radio'-like sound again!

Such a sound is very artificial, unpleasant, and devoid of 'juice' and life. This is not the way the music is supposed to sound through the high-end headphones!

What I have said, I have said. Amen!

See you,
580smile.gif


Adam
 
Mar 31, 2006 at 4:00 AM Post #2 of 117

recstar24

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While I respect your opinion and appreciate the time you took to write up such a colorful response, you may want to consider a couple of things before you start condemning a product.

First off, there are other aspects of the sound you are hearing that can't necessarily be attributed to the Gilmore Lite by itself. Systems work together and the whole sound is more determined by the synergy of components working together vs. one component speaking for everything.

The biggest effect on sound and ultimately the biggest source of distortion will come from the transducers themselves. What you have described is basically what I feel about the Beyer DT880's and Senn 595's. They are bright and tinny to my ears, that lack body and warmth, and that is through various sources and headphone amps and the signature is pretty much consistent.

The next biggest source of distortion and effect on sound signature is the source - hook up that Gilmore to a source like my Meridian, or Wadia, Naim, and you would probably have a ompletely different perception on the Gilmore Lite.

Big thing too is the synergy between the amp and headphones, as well as amp and source. The headphone amp does double duty as preamp (volume control) and power amp, it is the heartbeat and center that will drive your music and is vitally important, however its effect on the overall signature is to a lesser degree than your headphones and source. The Gilmore Lite as well as the gilmore designs in general are very good at revealing source capabilities, when I first heard the Gilmore Lite it was hooked up to a Sony SCD-1 and I heard the beauty of air and warmth that SACD can offer easily transferred to my ears through the Gilmore Lite. When I reviewed the GS-1, it was a beautiful match with my Meridian and drove my Grado RS-1, HP-1000's, and Sennheiser 600 and 650's with ease, warmth, openness, dynamics, and incredible bass drive. Of course my source and headphones had the most to do with that, but the GS-1 (a beefed up Glite) did its job just fine; it got out of the way and let me hear everything else (for the most part as I believe nothing really is truly neutral).

So, I appreciate your opinion as stated above but before proclaiming that a product is a transistor radio you may want to hear it through a couple of different systems first
 
Mar 31, 2006 at 5:30 AM Post #5 of 117

Jahn

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i think i need to sleep. on the front page i read "Don't Crucify Mel Gibson" and thought *AdamCalifornia's at it again!*
evil_smiley.gif
 
Mar 31, 2006 at 5:33 AM Post #6 of 117

seacard

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Tachikoma
IIRC, didn't you post a thread like this a couple months back?
confused.gif



I think the post a couple months ago was something like "I heard this combo will sound like a transistor radio. Is this true?"
 
Mar 31, 2006 at 5:53 AM Post #7 of 117

granodemostasa

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Quote:

Originally Posted by gpalmer
Have you considered buying a new source lately?
very_evil_smiley.gif



This is why i don't ever give a full answer to what i really think of some products...i'd get burned alive. But while we are at it:
1. I'd rather have a bose triport than any ATH headphone! (except the L3k, which sounds lovely).
2. the micro amp's gain and power was correct! it's dynamic range/freqency response does not match the Meier's! (but it is smoother).
3. The Cardas upgrade senn cable sounds worse than the stock!
4. I use Itunes!
Thanks for the info on the G-lite, i'd have to give it another, and this time extended, listen...but i trust you.... some engineers/diy'ers and people who know about the insides of stuff have said things agaisnt this amp in the past...the criticisms are out there; one just has to go find it.
To be evil: could it have been the RCA cables you were using?
 
Mar 31, 2006 at 6:10 AM Post #8 of 117

radrd

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Quote:

Originally Posted by granodemostasa
This is why i don't ever give a full answer to what i really think of some products...i'd get burned alive. But while we are at it:
1. I'd rather have a bose triport than any ATH headphone! (except the L3k, which sounds lovely).
2. the micro amp's gain and power was correct! it's dynamic range/freqency response does not match the Meier's! (but it is smoother).
3. The Cardas upgrade senn cable sounds worse than the stock!
4. I use Itunes!
Thanks for the info on the G-lite, i'd have to give it another, and this time extended, listen...but i trust you.... some engineers/diy'ers and people who know about the insides of stuff have said things agaisnt this amp in the past...the criticisms are out there; one just has to go find it.
To be evil: could it have been the RCA cables you were using?



Do you and AdamCalifornia feel better now that you've gotten this off your chests? You've both certainly opened my eyes to the reality of our misguided ways in the audio world. Thank you for your sacrifice! Maybe as soon as I get done forking over $2,000 on a power cable, I'll join you both in the padded room where Adam most likely exists with his faithful dog and UNfaithful girlfriend. I'd imagine that it is located somewhere on the Dark Side of the Moon.
 
Mar 31, 2006 at 8:43 AM Post #9 of 117

granodemostasa

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????
confused.gif

neh...my bit with ATH isn't about performance but sound sig, and on the microamp i'm talking about mintaure differences, nothing that is actually noticable if one is not looking for it.
And.. I do believe in some of that audiophile stuff...just not the cardas cable when it plays Beethoven, if you look at my sig i do have upgraded cables and want a larger power supply/and upgraded power cord for my amp.
after rereading: i think that maybe it was just the couple.
 
Mar 31, 2006 at 9:47 AM Post #10 of 117

fewtch

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Why don't you try comparing the Gilmore to other headphone amps, rather than built-in jacks. It's likely you're getting a high output impedance with those jacks, resulting in an artificially 'full' sound that is non-neutral and does not sound like the original music. Some folks will prefer this sound, but it doesn't cast any aspersions on the Gilmore.
 
Mar 31, 2006 at 3:16 PM Post #11 of 117

hciman77

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As a former Gilmore Lite owner I felt that it was just a bit too bright for me - especially with the AKG K501s. I would not describe it as transistor radio like sound and it did a lot of things right and was very detailed but I was never really comfortable with it especially with the Onix as the source, just a matter of personal preference, I liked it more with the DT990s and their unholy bass but in the end a humble Pimeta was more to my taste - ho hum. Life would be dull if we all liked the same things.
 
Mar 31, 2006 at 4:07 PM Post #13 of 117

sgrossklass

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Quote:

Originally Posted by fewtch
Why don't you try comparing the Gilmore to other headphone amps, rather than built-in jacks. It's likely you're getting a high output impedance with those jacks, resulting in an artificially 'full' sound that is non-neutral and does not sound like the original music. Some folks will prefer this sound, but it doesn't cast any aspersions on the Gilmore.


Agreed. An amp is supposed to be a "wire with gain" after all, thus all good amps should at least have a similar frequency balance if not even a similar overall sound. A quick check of output impedance would be connecting some oldschool 600 ohm 'phone (maybe a K240M) and seeing whether the difference persists.
 
Mar 31, 2006 at 7:24 PM Post #14 of 117

fjf

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Source is VERY important. Your amp will only amp what you feed him. My Corda HA-2 (not the best, but a very decent amp) connected directly (you know, to the RCA analog out) to my cheap DVD player sounds WORST than a cheap radio. Nasty, nasty!. But taking the time to connect its coax digital out to a good DAC and this one to the amp, music comes and makes me happy!. An enormous difference!. I had to try to believe it. You should try a better source. I bet you Glite would sound much, much better!.
 
Mar 31, 2006 at 9:20 PM Post #15 of 117

Pars

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Quote:

Originally Posted by granodemostasa
... some engineers/diy'ers and people who know about the insides of stuff have said things agaisnt this amp in the past...the criticisms are out there; one just has to go find it.


Where do you find this? I hang out mainly in the DIY forum, and can't recall anyone questioning the architecture/design of the Gilmore Dynalo at its price point. Granted, the Lite with an Elpac wallwart powering it is not quite the same as a Gilmore with the dedicated Gilmore PSU, but still.

My self-built dynalo (Headamp V2 pcb) sounds really good (IMHO) with my DT880s.
 

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