here we go again... best tube amp around 1K budget
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CFC

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headphones being in use : HD580/equinox, CD3K

source(s) : Philips DVD 963SA DVD/SACD/Upsampling CD player, maudio revolution

possible candidates:

RKV/Impedancer
ZoTL
Carey 300SEI
Twinhead

neither cans get heavier usage, and i must admite i am a sucker for sweet midrange
 
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CFC

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yeah it IS a blind faith purchase, there is no way i could audition a single one of listed amps cuz i would have to fly over to the states if i wanted to
 
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taoster

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isnt the cary 300sei ALOT more than 1K?

that leaves you in the realm of twinhead, rkv and zotl.
if you dare to brave the supposedily improved workmanship of ASL, the twinhead is meant to sound like gold.
 
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SumB

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What!? No Earmax Pro?
 
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taoster

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Quote:

Originally posted by SumB
What!? No Earmax Pro?


oh yeah.. forget the rest, get the best. get the Earmax Pro.
 
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CFC

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well excuse me for my ignorance, never knew how much the cary cost anyhow


as for the EMP, if memory serves me right, is known for leaner SS-ish sound compared to the RKV. not that i am dying for portability either...

so how is the twinhead in comparison with the other two amps? general consensus is ZoTL has better highs and RKV has better lows...
 
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SumB

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Quote:

as for the EMP, if memory serves me right, is known for leaner SS-ish sound compared to the RKV.


Perhaps you have it confused with the Sugden Headmaster?

By all accounts the EMP is one of the most lush, organic, tuby sounding amplifiers regardless of cost.

Using the abbreviations "SS" and "EMP" in the same sentence around here can be hazardous to ones health
 
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Hirsch

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Quote:

Originally posted by CFC
headphones being in use : HD580/equinox, CD3K

source(s) : Philips DVD 963SA DVD/SACD/Upsampling CD player, maudio revolution

possible candidates:

RKV/Impedancer
ZoTL
Carey 300SEI
Twinhead

neither cans get heavier usage, and i must admite i am a sucker for sweet midrange


OK, the Cary is way out of budget, and the Twinhead is over budget by a bit, however, based on others' posts, not personal experience, QC issues would make that problematical for me until reliable units were out in the field. The Earmax Pro should be on the list. That, along with RKV and ZOTL are the main contenders I'm aware of in your price range. An upgraded Melos might also be in your price range, however, a stock SHA-1 is not a happy combo with CD3000.

RKV without impedancer is good but not great with low impedance cans. Get ready for a high noise floor. With impedancer, it would depend on just how good the transformer is (and they can be very good indeed). I'd characterize the RKV as one of the smoothest amps I've heard. Bass response to die for. Solid midrange, but loses it at the top end. Not unpleasantly, just rolls off prematurely, so there's am impression of a high-end ceiling, rather than a response that just goes up into infinity. The ZOTL owns the highs. It has an airy presentation unlike any other amp I've heard. There's a sense of delicacy about the way it presents high end information that has to be heard, as I can't really describe it. In some sense, it's not as substantial as many other amps, even though everything is there. It still has an incredible attack, is capable of playing any kind of music, and an unmatched sense of air. The weakness is the low end. Careful tube selection can minimize this, but if the ZOTL has a major weakness, it's the inability to tightly control the lower octave of bass response. I suspect that the lack of control over these fundamental frequencies are what drives the airiness of the sound. For a fully solid impact, the low frequencies are critical. The Earmax Pro should certainly be considered in this price range, but I haven't heard it enough to say much more. It's a shame the Wheatfield HA-2 is out of production, as that is another amp in this price range that would have deserved a listen.

I can highly recommend the ZOTL, and also the RKV. My personal preferences lie with the ZOTL, but it took me a lot of tubes to find a set that delivered the sound I wanted. Tube selection does not seem to play as big a role in the sound of the RKV, at least so far.
 
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CFC

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how much of added cost are we expecting with ZoTL tuberolling? and btw, i noticed you seemed to praise the x-can v2 / cd3k combo highly. yet i suspect it falls short to ZoTL

how are the mids on ZoTL? your reply gives me an impression RKV has the edge when it comes to overall smoothness. at first i was leaning toward the RKV, but after reading your post i might give a second look at the ZoTL. isnt the RKV considered a product of higher realm compared to the EMP?
 
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Nick Dangerous

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1. TwinHead - Twin 2A3 triodes. Remote preamp. Enough said.
2. RKV - Soft highs, but otherwise utterly spectacular.
3. EMP - Roll-able, flexible, and most significantly, *portable*.

Haven't heard the Zotl.
 
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Hirsch

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Quote:

Originally posted by CFC
how much of added cost are we expecting with ZoTL tuberolling? and btw, i noticed you seemed to praise the x-can v2 / cd3k combo highly. yet i suspect it falls short to ZoTL

how are the mids on ZoTL? your reply gives me an impression RKV has the edge when it comes to overall smoothness. at first i was leaning toward the RKV, but after reading your post i might give a second look at the ZoTL. isnt the RKV considered a product of higher realm compared to the EMP?


If you read the MicroZOTL tube rolling thread in the amps area, you'll get some idea of what tubes you're looking for. If you're willing to take a shot at ebay, you could get away with under $100 for a pair of Sylvania 12AT7WA's and a pair of Syl VT-231's (a NOS pair of these from a good dealer will cost over $100 alone, but only if you can find them). Great combo, and the grey plate Syl 12AT7WA's (50's or so) are a stunning midrange tube. Ken-Rad VT-231's add greater high and low extension, but at a slight cost in the midrange. There are much more expensive 12AT7 variants, but I don't think the sonic improvement is there. The Syl's are relatively common and as good a tube as any 12AT7 I've found.

If I was looking at low impedance headphones (Grado, Sony, Audio Technica) only, I'd look at ZOTL and EMP before RKV, if only because I don't want to put that transformer in unless it's absolutely transparent. Both ZOTL and EMP can drive low impedance headphones without a transformer. The impedancer isn't absolutely necessary, and the RKV sounds good without it, but there is a higher noise floor with low impedance cans.

I did this comparison of the ZOTL and RKV before purchasing an EAR HP4.
 
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after i had a pleasure of reading thru your comparison thread, its clear which of the two is more favorable...

now there are few more questions to be answered before i take the plunge...

firstly, you paired up the amps with R-10 which i would suspect shares much of sonical properties with the cd3k, meaning i could expect similar traits with either amps. however, hd580 being a much different bag of trouble, does it have any known issues with the ZoTL?

secondly, where is a good place to shop around for a ZoTL?

last but not least, i would most appreciate any input on the highly regarded EMP in comparison with the ZoTL. thx in advance!
 
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Hirsch

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The R10 and CD3000 are very different headphones. They are both closed, and made by Sony, but after that things get very different, and have very different sonics. Actually, the ZOTL combines with the CD3000 much better than it does with the R10.

I don't like Sennheisers with the stock 6SN7GTB's that come with the ZOTL, and actually never found a 6SN7GTB that I liked with Sennheiser's at all. However, the older 6SN7GT/VT-231 works wonderfully with Sennheisers.

I must admit that for driving Sennheisers alone I'd take the RKV over just about anything else (even the ZOTL, possibly).

The ZOTL is sold direct by David Berning (www.davidberning.com).

I've heard the EMP, but haven't actually done a direct comparison with the ZOTL, so I can't really address that.
 
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markl

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If your choice is between an EMP or a ZOTL, the ZOTL is a much more robust amp that combines better with different headphones. You have a CD3K and an HD600 so you have two phones at the extreme opposite ends, and not many amps can do justice to that kind of range. The ZOTL does, and the Melos Gold Reference/Maestro does. You can find melos Gold References or Maestro's for $950-$1200 used. This is a pre-amp so you get multiple inputs and a remote. You have to research the Melos to make sure you're getting the one you want (the variations are endless) with maximum internal parts quality.

That said, I like my Maestro better than the ZOTL, the EMP or the Headroom amps of yore. You can find my reviews here, too if you want more info.

Mark
 
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