Help choosing upgrade
Apr 15, 2002 at 8:40 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 13

dparrish

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Hi all,

I've remained silent and have enjoyed reading the comments here for some time. Now, I need some advice!

First, my current setup:
HeadRoom Cosmic (2yrs old--not the new version)
Kimber Select 1011 interconnects (I make them work by taking off the WTB connector outer sleeve on the Cosmic end)
Sennheiser HD600s
"Big Red" extension cable (15ft)
Sony XA777ES SACD/CD player

I am not totally pleased with this system yet.
To my ears, the system is pretty revealing, yet somewhat lacking in low end puch/slam/extension and a little too bright in the midrange to upper regions. I hear a certain stridency at times in the upper mid region. Sometimes it seems as if the headphones and/or amp could be clipping. I DON'T listen very loudly, and I listen to mostly classical and jazz music. I am a musician by trade and have pretty critical hearing.

I have considered the possible upgrades:
1. Get a Base Station One--this is supposed to give a little better low end and more open soundstage, @ $299. I have heard it suggested that the overall tonal balance might improve and the stridency as well to some degree. Correct?
2. Have my Cosmic upgraded to the reference electronics (@ $425 or so--only the electronics module would be upgradeable--I couldn't get the new Cardas connections, etc.)
3. Upgrade both electronics and get a Base Station One--this option doesn't really make sense to me from a cost point of view.
4. Keep the Cosmic as is and, since I use the amp 99.99% of the time in the home system (I have a Total Airhead anyway), get a completely new amp--I'm thinking that the most I could afford (and that's stretching it) would be the Maxed Out Home Reference (Sounds like the Max might be to my liking, but $1149 is already stretching it!).
According to the review I read on "Enjoy the Music", the new HeadRoom amps are a little smoother in the midrange and a tad more revealing on top, right (New Maxed Out Home, New Cosmic, etc.)?
5. Other suggestions?

For reliability and overall frequency extension reasons, I don't think I would be interested in a tube amp. I don't want a colored sound at all--I just want the sound reproduced as intended on the HD600s. I really enjoy HeadRoom's crossfeed circuit, so I would want this feature as well.

Has anyone out there been on a similar journey? Even if you haven't, what are your thoughts?

Thanks in advance!

David
 
Apr 15, 2002 at 9:37 PM Post #2 of 13

chych

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I hear the Audiovalve RKV (~$1200 new), the Wheatfield HA2 ($800ish), the Melos SHA-1 (~$600 used) do a great job on the HD600s. They all are tube amps though... and I'm pretty sure I've heard that the HD600s were best suited for tube amps. I do not really like the "tube amps aren't accurate" mentality or whatnot, the point of the matter is that the music is supposed to sound good to your ears, not how accurate it is or not, thus you should not rule out tube amps, even if they color the sound (another argument is that the HD600s themselves are quite colored, according to some, and ruling out tube amps on the basis they color is not strong).

Take my suggestions with a grain of salt though, I have not even heard the HD600
smily_headphones1.gif
 
Apr 15, 2002 at 9:47 PM Post #3 of 13

kelly

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While I'm an RKV/HD600 afficianado...

Have you considered upgrading your CD player? I know it sounds ludicrous since it's the most expensive link in your system, but IMO, the Sony SACD players err on the bright side. Modwright provides several upgrades including upgraded power supplies that will probably help restore your bottom end. He also offers a tubed output stage that would probably give you smoothness without sacrificing detail, but I understand if you're flatly against putting a tube in the chain. You should at least email Dan at Modwright before writing anything off. Fellow HeadFi'er Markl has an upgraded 555ES SACD player and can vouch for Dan's work--though he also has a Melos and Sony R10 that are on the smoother side.

The Headroom amps are not characteristically bright. That you found them to be so is why I'd think about affecting your source first. I found the bottom end of the Cosmic to be damned good for a portable, but I'm sure the Base Station One will get you a little tighter bass than it current has. Word on HeadFi is that the Cardas cable will help you out a little there, too.

Don't get me wrong, I still don't think you can touch the RKV/HD600's lower mids with a Headroom amp, but that's outside the scope of your question.
smily_headphones1.gif
 
Apr 15, 2002 at 9:54 PM Post #4 of 13

markjia

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I agree with chych entirely, not all tube amps color the sound. Furthermore, just because an amp is solid state, doen't mean that it won't cause any coloration. You also expressed concern about the midrange, and tube amps are especially good in this frequency range.

But, if you still don't want a tube amp, I'd suggest getting the Maxed Out Home. The new crossfeed circuit is quite an improvement from what I hear.
 
Apr 15, 2002 at 9:58 PM Post #5 of 13

markjia

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Oh ya, you could also add a seperate DAC to help. This can also be much less than any of the other options. An Art DI/O is only ~$125 (it also sounds better than other much more expensive DACs).
 
Apr 15, 2002 at 9:59 PM Post #6 of 13

jopi

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This is probably not going to help you, but I almost bought same SACD player half a year ago to find out that old fashioned vinyl beats even SACD (at least the recordings I've heard).

You could get yourself a Musichall turntable with arm and cartridge for about $500. There's a ton of high quality classical records out there for a couple of bucks per piece available, so you can get yourself a nice collection with a small budget.
I've played music all my life and to my ears nothing beats vinyl in respect to tonality of non-electrical instruments.

(Hey, you've asked for help in this crazy forum, so you knew what you would get!)
 
Apr 15, 2002 at 10:00 PM Post #7 of 13

kelly

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Quote:

Originally posted by markjia
But, if you still don't want a tube amp, I'd suggest getting the Maxed Out Home. The new crossfeed circuit is quite an improvement from what I hear.


Is this not the same circuit as in the Cosmic?
 
Apr 15, 2002 at 10:07 PM Post #8 of 13

markjia

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Quote:

Originally posted by kelly


Is this not the same circuit as in the Cosmic?


Headroom updated the circuitry, so the ones from 2 years ago (like dparrish's unit) are different.
 
Apr 15, 2002 at 10:59 PM Post #9 of 13

dparrish

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Thanks to everyone who's advised so far. I suppose I really shouldn't rule out tubes, as I've heard some say that tubes and Senn 600s make a great combo. I just assumed that reliability would be more of an issue with such equipment.

Kelly, I really SHOULD audition the Audiovalve. Since you're in the Dallas area, I assume you auditioned/purchased locally (I live in Richardson)? Any idea who the local distributor is?

Regarding the Sony XA777ES, I may have misled you with my first post. Well-recorded SACDs (ala Telarc, etc.) sound fantastic on it. CDs are a great improvement also over what I've had in the past, and indeed LESS bright than any other front end I've heard. Certain recordings tend to be brighter than others. OVERALL, I'd say the tonal balance seems to be okay with the processor IN (perhaps even on the dark side in the mids), but slightly lean/bright with the processor out. On some recordings, the upper mids to highs seem to have something of a harshness. Although the midrange is OKAY, it is not quite as warmly real as I'd like it (and as I perceive real music to be).

You all will probably laugh when I say this, but the XA777's own headphone jack seems to have a better tonal balance--more warmth, more bass, and a more open soundstage for sure (the soundstaging is definately better than the Cosmic's, even without the crossfeed engaged). The only thing the Cosmic seems to better it at is top end extension/overall resolution. This is why, however, I tend to believe that the problem is not mostly with the XA777. Is it possible that the more massive power supply in the XA777 (compared to my Cosmic's walwart)can account for the difference in sound I'm hearing?

If I could get the tonal balance I'm hearing from the Sony's output jack plus the upper end resolution of the Cosmic, I'd be in seventh heaven! Is this asking too much? Do you still think I need to look into modding the Sony? Or is this just my ears hearing imperfections in the recordings?
 
Apr 15, 2002 at 11:22 PM Post #10 of 13

kelly

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DParrish

I didn't realize you were in Dallas. You should come to the next meet, maybe bring your Cosmic, maybe bring your 777.
wink.gif


The RKV is not available locally and in fact is mostly unavailable in North America. I blew mine up via a power spike (I'm now using a Brick Wall, thank Jude for my little custom title :p). Mine is getting shipped off for repair so you won't be able to audition it until I get it back. The way I figure it, between my RKV coming back (which no one in Dallas has yet heard), the McCormack amp I've got on its way to me and the Maxed Out Home I'm planning to borrow, Nick's new K1000 and newly acquired Melos and tubes, we'll probably be due for a Dallas meeting about then.

I'd strongly recommend we do find a way for you to audition mine as the RKV is neither cheap nor easy to get hold of.

Meanwhile... the electronics in the headphone jack of the 777 are probably better than Sony's other components but I doubt that it'd compare to a good home seperate amplifier if you had all your other issues worked out. I'd still be willing to bet you could get more smoothness out of your 777 if you were willing to have it upgraded but I'd be hard pressed to provide you a source to compare it to any time soon.
 
Apr 16, 2002 at 12:34 AM Post #11 of 13

dparrish

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I guess my hearing memory isn't quite as good as I thought. I just went back and compared the Sony's headphone out to the Cosmic. My overall comment about tonal balance stands. However, the Sony's resolution isn't NEARLY as good as the Cosmic's (although the Sony's IS quite good for a "gimme" headphone jack).

What I hear in the Sony jack that I like is a certain weight to the sound, or presence, if you will, that I don't hear to the same degree in the Cosmic, particularly in the mids and lows. I think this is why I sometimes hear the Cosmic as "brighter", because its tonal balance is a bit leaner. All of this REALLY makes me wonder if my real problem is a power supply issue.

Kelly, thanks for the listening invitation. I must admit, I didn't realize there WAS a Dallas-area group. This sounds EXCITING!
Being that I am pretty well corralled by my wife and two young daughters into listening almost EXCLUSIVELY by headphones (I even have a computer/dolby headphone setup for watching DVDs on the big screen), I think I would very much enjoy talking with the group and listening to all of the toys (I mean, uh. . .amps).
How do I sign up?

David
 
Apr 16, 2002 at 3:28 AM Post #12 of 13

kelly

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It's not really an organized group per se, but there have been two meetings both hosted by Flumpus. I attended the most recent one and it was pretty damned cool. Headroom sent us a Max and a Cosmic, I brought the Corda, Flumpus had the Melos, a couple people brought MG Heads and one guy brought a Creek -- all that along with some sources and tons of headphones. Search the forum if you want to read about it.

Other than that, I've gotten together with Chris and Nick a couple of times outside of that to go audition this or that. If anyone ever wants to grab me to go hit audio shops on Saturday mornings before they get busy, I'm almost always good.

As for your lacking weight in the Cosmic, the Base Station One probably would give you a lot of what you're looking for, but if you do meet up with us, I can almost guarantee you'll end up upgrading again, so up to you how long you want to wait. Meanwhile, be sure to go to the Headroom World Tour thing on May 18, too. That's a good opportunity to hear a lot of different headphones and amps.
 
Apr 16, 2002 at 9:12 AM Post #13 of 13

darkclouds

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I'd say definitely try out the Zotl and the Melos. Both unit are excellent and does not have that thick tube sound to it. It has a lot of the characteristics of a good solid state amp. As for the cosmic, I have and older supreme upgraded with a cosmic module. I rarely, if ever use it. The sound is definitely lacking when compared to either my Zotl or Melos in every respect. Although I do like the crossfeed on the headroom unit. But I find that I only notice the crossfeed if I play with the switch while listening.
 

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