Eddie Current - Black Widow, Solid State Headphone AMP Impressions Thread

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by barra, Aug 7, 2015.
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  1. Barra
    [​IMG]
     
    Eddie Current has recently released a new solid state amp called the Black Widow. If you know anything about the famous Eddie Current products, you will know that their claim to fame comes from tube amps, so this is quite a departure. Having personally heard the Balancing Act, the Zana Deux (original and new versions), and the 2a3 I know that Craig is able to perform feats of magic, as no amp should be able to sound this good, let alone both Audeze and HD800 signatures simultaneously. Being curious, I contacted Craig at EC and requested a demo to see what he has created and wanted to post my impressions. Feel free to ask questions, but I only have the BW for a limited time.
     

    First Impressions:

    Craig loaned me his Black Widow demo unit which arrived last night and I am listening to it right now. Still trying to wrap my head around the sound, but I can say it sounds awesome. Compared to my Mjolnir, it is much more musical and enjoyable providing the same impact, but without the aggressiveness and brightness that becomes apparent in a direct comparison. The sound is smoother and easier on the ears like a tube amp, but the clarity and speed are SS. I have not heard the Four45 personally, but it sounds like the description that I hear of it.
     
    I just sent back the demo new version ZD so this is not a direct comparison, but the ZD as you would expect is a different beast and a definite step up, but it is a big step up in price too. Unfortunately for me, the tube amp is too much of a temptation for my 1 and 4 year old forcing me to lock them out of my office where the BW is easy to keep discreet. The high end and separate power supply seems to be the same one that is used with the ZD and is probably a good portion of the BW's SQ magic as it does sound really good. So far, I am just listening to SE, but will try balanced later today to see if I can hear further SQ improvements.
     
    Listening Chain:
     
    NOTE: Per my chain detail below, please be aware that I am double tubing with the tube amp so your mileage may vary.
     
    itunes > optical > Havana 2 tube DAC > BW > LCD2.2/HD700
     
    Pictures:
     
    IMG_1027.jpg IMG_1028.jpg
     
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    IMG_1033.jpg  

    Build:
     
    The Black Widow scream quality from the casing, to the heft, to the gynormous umbilical cord, to the satisfying click when plugging in a HP cable. The power supply weighs a ton and feels tremendously solid. I cannot see anyone being disappointed in the build quality.
     

    Sound Quality:

    I/P
     
    Balanced vs. SE:
     
    As defined in the Audeze pairing below, there is a definite step up going to the balanced out if your HP scales well. This is not a doubling of power, but it is significant. This is not to say that the SE doesn't amount to much as it does. My best pairing was with my HD700 which I don't have a balanced cable. However, whatever it does well in SE, IMO it does better in balanced.
     
    Vs. ZD:
     
    If I could only have one, it would clearly be the ZD as I recently discovered that I am a tube kind of guy. However, I have a 1 and a 4 year old that are dying to touch those glowing tubes and play with them. That points me toward the BW. But I would miss the romantic evenings with the glowing tubes. In the end, it is all about SQ for me and like the price indicates, the ZD is a clear step up from the BW. But while the ZD may be the ultimate, the BW is still an end game amp that would make anyone happy.
     
    Vs. Mjolnir:
     
    The Mojo is a fun amp and makes the Audeze family sing, but with all the power it has on tap, it tends to push my LCD2.2 into bright territory. While it is engaging and has me on my desk playing air guitar, I can only listen for so long before fatigue sets in. Therefore it has not gotten a lot of use lately. My Havana 2 DAC was a recent upgrade to a tube DAC to try to compensate, and it has worked wonders. But I am finding the BW to be much more refined, especially in the treble. Plus the BW has that liquid sound quality that I like so much. The only other obvious value of the BW is a better, tighter impactful bottom end. However, in a short week audition, I will be hard pressed to give more specific reasons other than to declare a definite winner. 
     

    Headphone Pairings:

    For those like me that want to support both the Audeze and the HD800 signatures with one setup, you probably know how hard that is to accomplish. For some reason, each Eddie Current amp that I have listened to has been able to accomplish this difficult feat with ease and class. The BW is no different making everything that I throw at it sound intensely good.
     
    Audeze LCD2.2:
     
    Being a planer, the Audeze is supposed to require some ridiculous amount of power to drive it properly - however, I have found that with power comes brightness that can be fatiguing, but with the benefit of a bigger sound stage. With 3.6 watts driving the LCD2.2, the BW is not lacking in any way and definitely makes the LCD sing.
     
    1. Single Ended: Of my headphones, the Audeze are the hardest to drive, but with a single ended cable a slight twist of my wrist with the volume - and I mean slight - and the volume is matched with my other headphones. Loud is about a third of the volume range, too loud is half way. It is not the widest of sound stage I have heard with the LCD, but it is full sized, thick beefy textured and detailed notes and a very refined treble. None of that brightness that gets fatiguing. The only reason that I am not singing ultimate praise from the top of every tall mountain for this pairing is because I have just heard the ZD that takes it that step further - but at a significant price increase.
    2. Balanced: Ok, this is much better. Now I hear a better more defined sound stage with more room. I also hear more treble definition, but with the same refined smooth quality that makes it easy to listen to for long periods. I definitely needed to turn the volume down a bit going straight to balanced from SE. I am also hearing more of that liquid sound that I like sooooo much from the ZD.
     
     
    Senheiser HD700:
     
    This may be my best pairing with the BW. For those that do not know the HD700, like its bigger brother the 800 it shares a rather large sound stage but has a much more intimate presentation and a fatter bottom end. It also shares the 800's brightness that benefits from a smoother treble presentation such as the ZD or the BW provides. The BW shares the ZD's treble magic providing a very refined and listenable treble that is defining, but the BW also bolsters the 700's bottom end to provide a nicely thickened and textured presentation throughout the frequency range. When not paying attention, I forget that I don't have my LCD's on which is quite a statement in SQ. However, again like its big brother, the 700 is one of the most comfortable HPs in existence.
     
    Hidition NT6pro CIEMs:
     
    The NT6pros have continued to surprise me on how well they scale with superior source and again, the BW brings them up to TOTL HP SQ that is out of my head and shockingly natural sounding. They have the transparency and resolution of the HD800 and the kick and thickness of note of the Audeze when paired with the BW. Having just gotten some new adaptors from Ted and Headphone Lounge, I went straight to the balanced out and the BW took an iron grip and made the NT6pro's sing. My cable is the Silver Litz Reference to AK 2.5 balanced for my AK100ii. The adapter is a 2.5 to 4pin XLR of the same silver litz. I would say that this is my best pairing, but because all the pairings sounded great, I thought i would award the honors to the HD700 which is the hardest to get right.
     

    Conclusions:

     
    I/P
     
    Justin0505 and Luckbad like this.
  2. Barra
    Reserved for Review/Impression Links:
     
  3. AppleheadMay
    Subbed!
     
  4. ButtUglyJeff
    Did your unit have the separate power supply?
     
  5. AustinValentine
     
    They decided not to sell them without the separate supply, so all of them do :wink:  It was a good choice IMO.
     
  6. Barra
    Yes, it comes with what appears to be the same separate power supply that comes with the ZD. However, I don't get the wall wort that plugs into the additional 12v power input plug to try swapping to test the difference. The power supply is heavy and well built and the umbilical cord is stout. The BW feels light in comparison, but has an equally impressive build quality.
     
  7. ButtUglyJeff
     
    The first few didn't.  I just wanted to know if the review unit had the first PS, second PS, or without...
     
  8. CEE TEE Contributor
    Price, footprint, practicality, sound.  Winner.  Impact/control/musicality- touch of liquidity that helps with digititus/graininess.  Seems very resolving but not etched/harsh.  
    The slight bit of liquidity helps my PWD DAC and also the treble on the phones by refining the sound during decay or release just that little bit.
    Balance:  I can still hear the clipping on Norah Jones' vocals in Come Away With Me, but the BW is helpful with digititus and is pleasing.
    Where I needed to switch back and forth between Vali (less resolving) and Magni2U (doesn’t help my DAC and phone treble as much), this amp hits a sweet spot and is an endgame amp in my opinion.  I’ll keep some tube amps for tunability, full presentation, fun…but I could live with just this amp. 
     
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  9. pieman3141
    Anyone looking into DAC pairings? I'm looking into pairing this with the Sony UDA-1 sometime in the future. I really don't want to overspend on DACs, and the UDA-1 isn't super-pricy, especially for what it has to offer. A few questions: Does the BW have XLR inputs? What kind of power does it need (i.e. is it just a power cord or is there a separate PSU needed)? It looks plenty powerful, so I think it'll work with anything I'll ever get my hands on.
     
  10. ButtUglyJeff
    I think just RCA inputs...
     
  11. pieman3141
    Cool. Good enough for me. The UDA-1/BW pairing seems better and better. I do suspect that most people who get the BW will get pricier DACs, though, but I'm not a big believer in uber-pricey DACs. $500 or less is reasonable for me.
     
  12. vhsownsbeta
    Wait, balanced? I had thought BW was SE only, albeit with XLR output for convenience/awesomeness...
     
    PS: subbed. I have a massive crush on this amp.
     
  13. rated1975
    Subbed:D
     
  14. AppleheadMay
    Barra, since you heard the Zana, BA and 2A3, how would you compare them?
     
  15. audiofrk
    Glad to see that you were able to get a black widow loanar.  Ditch the hd700 and get a hd650!
     
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