Giving up on headmaster; What amp should I get?
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Gergor

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After waited 3 months, there's still no word about when my Sugden headmaster's going to be delivered. As much as I'd like to have the amp, I'm so fustrated that I'm ready to give up on the idea of owning it. I'm now shopping for another amp. I'd like to ask you folks for opinions. I'm not too crazy about headroom amp (other than the fact that there's no long wait to get the amp). I had bad experience with tube amp, so I haven't had another tube amp in 15 years, but I'm open to this idea of tube amp again since there isn't any SS option beside headmaster in this price range (or is there?)

Right now I have RKV Mark II + Impedancer and earmax pro on my list.

RKV Mark II + Impedancer is more expensive than headmaster. Also availability seems unpredictable (especially the impedancer). I'm afraid that I'll have to wait months again.

Earmax pro: I really don't know much about this amp, I only know it's about the same price range as headmaster. Does it have enough juice to drive low-Z phones? I have AT W2002 and Sony F1. Does anyone have experience of these phones with the earmax pro?

Please, any opinion on these amps or any other amp suggestion is appreciated. I mostly listen to classical music. And I'm not really into DIY/tweaking/tube rolling kind of stuff. I just want a decent amp that I can enjoy music with.

Thanks for your help.
 
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SumB

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If you'd like a tube amp that satisfies with the stock complement you can't go wrong with an EMP. Should you decide at a later date to roll out the tubes you can take this little gem a few notches further.

I have no experience with your cans, but it did an exemplary job with my RS-1 and V6. The dynamic range and bass response will do justice to the most demanding classical, remaining silky smooth and composed throughout. It really does a bang up job with all forms of music. Acoustic instruments, horns, vocals, ect, are the stuff dreams are made of.

The only weakness I noted was that the soundstage was not as wide as the Headmaster, and while ambience was superior, instrument separation was not.
 
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OneMalt

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Just out of curiosity, what's your beef with Headroom amps? You're ruling out a goodly chunk of SS amps in your general price range.
 
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RickG

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Quote:

Originally posted by Gergor
Earmax pro: I have AT W2002 and Sony F1. Does anyone have experience of these phones with the earmax pro?


Gergor, I use my F1's with my EMP quite often and I think it's a fantastic combination. You get the top end "air"/resolution that the Sony's provide along with the kick-ass bass and sweet mids of the EMP.

Just another
 
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Gregor
I'm told the impedancer will be available very soon.

You may also want to consider Jan Meier's new preamp. Functionally, it does everything the Sugden does (including an extra source switch), plus Meier's crossfeed.

I cannot yet confirm how it sounds, nor can anyone outside of Meier and his associates, but Meier has earned a certain level of trust from me based on his smaller amp, the Corda HA-1. If the preamp is able to maintain a similar cost/performance ratio, this will be an excellent product. We'll see. As much as I like Jan, I don't plan to go easy on him.


As I think you know, I bought and sold the Sugden. Overall, it is the best sounding solid state amp I've heard and I prefer it to the HeadRoom Max despite some flaws. However, it is not so much better than my Corda Blue which I'm keeping due to its small footprint to be used at work and the biggest flaws of the Corda Blue are shared with the Sugden - not quite as good bass performance or blackness as the Max. I'm hopeful the Meier amp will be better in these categories even if it doesn't match the extension and texture of the Sugden (the Sugden's true strengths). Regardless, I'd not wish to recommend the Sugden to people because of the difficulty of acquiring it, it's shoddy American distributor and having to deal with American boutiques to get it. For this reason, I opted not to do a full review.

The flaw that seemed exclusive to the Sugden was a glossy treatment of the furthest extremes of its high frequencies. The Sugden is the smoothest sounding solid state I've heard and perhaps this is the side effect of that. People call this amp transparent and I wonder if that word retains any meaning at all. The Sugden sounds natural, yes, but its basic personality is consistent between sources. That, to me, is a signature, even if it is a signature people prefer.

Sorry for exploiting this opportunity but I wanted to make my thoughts on the Sugden known without publicizing a difficult to acquire product in a full review. Call it my bias.

In your price range, if the RKV and Meier Preamp don't seem to suit you, you might also consider the Berning microZOTL. I've not gotten to hear it yet, but the most trusted folks on Head-Fi seem to think rather highly of it.
 
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Gergor...

...although I don't pay much attention to the Sony F1 most of my time, I was surprised how good it sounds with the Earmax Pro. Especially the bass power is astounding, but that's a characteristic of the EMP: the lower the load, the more bass. Whereas the Sony's 12 ohms are below the offcial 32 ohms limit. But it doesn't seem to care much. The ECC88/6DJ8's output impedance of around 70 ohms may contribute to that tolerance (OTL!).

I don't know whether the RKV nor the MicroZOTL, but as far as the EMP concerns, the F1 sounds great with it.

JaZZ
 
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from the title of this thread, i thought you didn't like the sugden.


i had no trouble getting my sugden, but i got mine before the "big push" that seemed to happen in the immediate time right after, mainly post-Christmas 2001.

if you're looking for something in the price-range of the sugden, i suggest the maxed out home from headroom. it will drive any headphone well (unlike the rkv) and should cost near the same price and be extremely available (headroom is awesome to deal with).

my rkv took over two months to get, but i did pre-order it and realized there would be plenty of waiting time.
 
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Hirsch

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The Berning MicroZOTL does a fantastic job with the Sony F1, possibly the best of all of my amps. That headphone surprises me sometimes. My initial impression wasn't all that favorable, but the right amp really brings it alive. If you want a *really* good amp for the F1, the EAR HP4 is great with that headphone, but the price can be a bit much.

The W2002 is good with the ZOTL, but the Melos SHA-1 is better, IMO. That combo is one of my favorites.

I have very limited experience with W2002 and Earmax Pro (one afternoon's worth), but I really liked the combo the one time I heard it. Tubes for the Earmax were critical.
 
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Gergor

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So far, there are a couple positive recommendations about Earmax pro, which is very encouraging. I hope it's relatively easy to get. If any of you can pm me pointers on contact info of the dealer/distributor, I'd appreciate it.

One more question about Earmax pro driving low-z phones: Does it raise the noise floor like some complain about RKV without Impedancer?

I don't really mind RKV being a little more expensive, but I'm really worried about the long wait. I think I should check with Dr. Meier about the wait time...

I had a short listening session with a headroom amp long ago (forgot which one), and I wasn't impressed. The texture was a little coarse. And I'm not crazy about the crossfeed. This's why I haven't been considering headroom amps.

EAR.... Now I'm drooling... I considered getting a used one (and I never buy anything used), and it's still a lot more expensive than the headmaster.
Now I want to cry. ~sniff~

I haven't paid too much attention to MicroZOTL and Melos. I'm going to do a search on head-fi about these amps....

Thanks for all the help here, and please them keep coming.
 
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Quote:

Originally posted by Gergor
EAR.... Now I'm drooling...


If you spend most of your time with W2002, don't. This is not a good combo.

Cannot comment on the other amps mentioned here though, because the only one I've heard with W2002 was the Sugden (and it was real good).
 
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Gergor

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Quote:

Originally posted by zzz
If you spend most of your time with W2002, don't. This is not a good combo.

Cannot comment on the other amps mentioned here though, because the only one I've heard with W2002 was the Sugden (and it was real good).


Oh... really?... Thanks for the tip...


zzz, could you be more specific about the good (Sugden) and bad (EAR) with w2002, please?


What are you using with your w2002 now?

Thanks!
 
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Hirsch

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zzz is right on about the W2002 with both the EAR and the Sugden. EAR + W2002 is not a great combo.

I didn't hear a rise in noise floor using Earmax Pro with low-z cans, but my experience is limited.
 
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Gergor

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Quote:

Originally posted by Hirsch
zzz is right on about the W2002 with both the EAR and the Sugden. EAR + W2002 is not a great combo.

I didn't hear a rise in noise floor using Earmax Pro with low-z cans, but my experience is limited.


I see, Headmaster good with W2002.... How about headmaster with F1? I use both headphones a lot, I wish I don't need 2 amps... one for each?
 
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zzz

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Quote:

Originally posted by Gergor
Oh... really?... Thanks for the tip...


zzz, could you be more specific about the good (Sugden) and bad (EAR) with w2002, please?


What are you using with your w2002 now?

Thanks!


Yeah, I guess sometimes I should try being a bit more specific
.

W2002 with HP4 has virtually no bass and is very rolled-off on top. There seem to be more problems but that atrocious frequency response is a show-stopper already.

On the other hand, Sugden/W2002 pair gets all the basics right, is incredibly smooth, and has the best texture I've heard from headphones. YMMV of course but I liked it a lot.

Right now W2002 is in its box standing next to EAR HP4 in the closet. I'm planning to try it with some other amps in the future though.
 
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Quote:

«One more question about Earmax pro driving low-z phones: Does it raise the noise floor like some complain about RKV without Impedancer?»


Gergor...

...there's a tiny bit of hum using the Grado SR 80, but barely so with the F1. Not really bad. And no hissing at all.
 
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