HiFiMan Susvara
Jan 29, 2022 at 1:43 PM Post #14,026 of 18,840

DeweyCH

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Something for a snowy day
 
Jan 29, 2022 at 3:04 PM Post #14,027 of 18,840

jlbrach

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like today lol
 
Jan 29, 2022 at 3:39 PM Post #14,028 of 18,840

FLTWS

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True
 
Jan 29, 2022 at 4:57 PM Post #14,029 of 18,840
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Whoa - I just hooked up the Susvaras to my new Gryphon Diablo 120 integrated amp's speaker outputs. Gryphon is known for massively powerful bass, and it is a great combo with the Susvara. The bass is pretty thunderous compared to other power amps like my Chord Ttoby that I have on hand.
No EQ necessary!

Products by Gryphon are always pretty to look at and their latest (Commander and Apex) even more so :)
 
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Jan 30, 2022 at 3:16 AM Post #14,030 of 18,840

Ninja Theory

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My Kinki Studio EX-M1+ arrived about 2 weeks back. Pretty incredible amp for the money. The Sus sounds just fantastic on the Kinki (after about 50 hours burn-in). Plenty power on tap, superb dynamics, improved stage, separation etc. But it has also made it rather evident that the Sus stock cable is the weak link. I recently upgraded my Empy cable to the Meze PCUHD copper and it transformed the Empy on my chain.

Does anyone have experience with the FAW Noir HPC MK2 with the Sus? I really am not interested in a silver cable for the Sus. I want the best copper cable I can afford (I am willing to spend up to around $350).
 
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Jan 30, 2022 at 3:37 AM Post #14,031 of 18,840

Roasty

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My Kinki Studio EX-M1+ arrived about 2 weeks back. Pretty incredible amp for the money. The Sus sounds just fantastic on the Kinki (after about 50 hours burn-in). Plenty power on tap, superb dynamics, improved stage, separation etc. But it has also made it rather evident that the Sus stock cable is the weak link. I recently upgraded my Empy cable to the Meze PCUHD copper and it transformed the Empy on my chain.

Does anyone have experience with the FAW Noir HPC MK2 with the Sus? I really am not interested in a silver cable for the Sus. I want the best copper cable I can afford (I am willing to spend up to around $350).

I agree, the ex-m1+ is a great integrated and pairs well with he Susvara. I borrowed my friend's unit for a while and it wiped the floor with my own integrated (audiolab 8300). the m1+ and Susvara give a nice dense tone and awesome dynamics. top end is smoothened out nicely too.
 
Jan 30, 2022 at 4:01 AM Post #14,032 of 18,840

Sajid Amit

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I agree, the ex-m1+ is a great integrated and pairs well with he Susvara. I borrowed my friend's unit for a while and it wiped the floor with my own integrated (audiolab 8300). the m1+ and Susvara give a nice dense tone and awesome dynamics. top end is smoothened out nicely too.
Interesting. I want to try one now.
 
Jan 30, 2022 at 4:14 AM Post #14,033 of 18,840

FooFighter

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Jan 30, 2022 at 7:59 AM Post #14,035 of 18,840

ufospls2

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I really enjoy/ed my Kinki EX-M1 with the Susvara and also the Abyss. My Boulder is better, but for the money, I can recommend the Kinki. It also has a fairly low gain setting compared to other speaker amps (I believe mine is 24db on low gain) which works well.
 
Jan 30, 2022 at 9:51 AM Post #14,036 of 18,840

SCBob

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Kevin Gilmore CFA3 vs Bakoon 13R

Now that I’ve had some extended listening and A/Bing, here are my thoughts on the two excellent amping options for the Susvara. Out of all my electronics, amps, DACs, preamps, whatnot, I’ve owned the Bakoon the longest – it being my reference amp and I’ve used over 20 DACs and 5 tube preamps with it.

The Susvara is my favourite headphone and like many other owners, I found myself on the seemingly never-ending journey of finding the right amp to power it and squeeze every ounce of performance and bass out of it. I’ve tried a handful of the most popular amps both Solid State (Formula S + Powerman, HPA4) and Tubes (WA33EE, Auris Nirvana, Manley Absolute) and I greatly preferred the Bakoon over both the solid states and over all 3 Tube amps when the Bakoon is fed by transparent Tube preamps.

The 13R Susvara combo has been deemed by numerous reviews both there on HeadFi and review platforms as one of the best pairings so I was curious if the CFA3 could overthrow it.

Chain, Music Choices

Chain: Roon (Flac) > Tidal Camira DAC > ARC Ref 5 Tube Preamp > CFA3 / 13R > Susvara
Genre: 80% Electronic (EDM, Techno, Synthwave, Trance), 20% the rest… (Pop, Hip hop, Rnb, Rock, Metal, soundtrack/instrumental)

Personal sound signature preference: warm side of neutral, full bodied vocals, strong bass/dynamic impact, sparkly treble, and ‘musicality’ over ‘correctness’

Power & Size

Bakoon: 25W into 8 Ohms or ~3.333W into 60 Ohms for Susvara
CFA3: 16W into 50 Ohms or ~13.333W into 60 Ohms for Susvara

Bakoon: 230 mm (W) x 230 mm (D) x 55 mm (H) / 9” (W) x 9” (D) x 2.165” (H)
CFA3: 450 mm (W) x 415 mm (D) x 100 mm (H) / 17.7” (W) x 16.33” (D) x 3.93” (H)

Frequency Response

Bass


The Bakoon has a slight emphasis in the mid/upper bass region, giving it the signature warm tonality and full bodied sound. The lows on the CFA3 is more linear without any particular range emphasized. Due to the more neutral bass, the sub-bass is more prominent on the CFA3 and appears to have greater extension. The overall bass quantity is about the same but CFA3 demonstrates slightly superior control. Texturing & detail on the CFA3 is also superior whilest the Bakoon appears slightly veiled by the warmth, though in a pleasant manner. Bass hits on the Bakoon are more rounded in character while the CFA3’s are more distinct and sharp.

Mids

Both amps present excellent, lifelike vocals, tonality, and instrument reproduction. Bakoon has a slightly fuller, richer sound due to the elevated mid/upper bass, giving the vocals a warmer, breathier sensation. Female vocals are especially seductive, though male vocals can lack a bit of grunt at times. CFA3 is equally full bodied, but without any additional colouration. Like the bass, detail and texture in the midrange is better on the CFA3 as the warmth again does hinder and veils the trailing ends of tones a bit on the Bakoon. However, what I personally find is that the warmth adds more emotions and engagement to the music. The vocals on the CFA3, while can been seen as more accurate, weirdly feels almost indifferent and aloof at times.

Treble

The highs on the CFA3 are better extended than the Bakoon, which presents the treble in an almost tube like fashion with its liquidity and non-fatiguing nature. Both have excellent sparkles when called for but the CFA3 is just ever so airier and treble appear more effortless and free flowing. The liquid, smooth, and easy to listen to treble of the Bakoon is a double edged sword in that some of the finer grains of detail are glossed over but can be made out on the CFA3.

Overall, the CFA3 excels at accuracy, resolution, transparency, and detail. The Bakoon is a step behind but makes up the ground with its extremely unique, almost SE tube like presentation. It has a fuller, warmer, and richer sound while still retaining most of CFA3’s positive traits.

Soundstage, Imaging, & Instrument Separation

The CFA3 has a notably wider and slightly deeper stage, see diagram for how I visualize the difference.


Picture1.png


The stage on the Bakoon Susvara combo feels somewhat spherical, like you’re in a bubble of music and in the middle of the performance with the musicians. The depth is excellent but doesn’t go very wide. Listen to the same song on the Bakoon vs CFA3 is akin to a small jazz club vs a larger outdoor stadium. This does mean, however, that you feel “closer” to the music and have an on-stage experience with the Bakoon and on the CFA3, you feel more like you’re in the audience, watching the performance. Imaging is excellent on both, albeit presented differently due to the stage size. Instruments also have more air in the CFA3 due to the stage size, leaving more “space” for the instruments to be spaced out and A/Bing the two does leave the Bakoon feeling more intimate. The Susvara & CFA3 is also quite a bit more “out of head” feel, almost approaching Abyss levels. I definitely had more of those head turning moments where I went wow that literally felt like it came from the other side of room on the CFA3 than the Bakoon.

Attack & Dynamic Slam

Despite the warmer, softer nature of the Bakoon, it hits deceptively hard and kicks like a mule when called for. However, the CFA3’s more linear bass and subsequently more prominent sub-bass does leave the listener with the sensation of greater slam and impact, not only in the bass, but across the entire frequency range. Musical notes and attack are extremely explosive, quick and authoritative. I think the reason the Bakoon falls slightly behind here is due to the warmth, which almost act as bit of a resistive force. The CFA3’s combination of the crystalline like transparency and explosive nature transforms the Susvara into an absolute animal while tastefully tiptoeing the line of too in your face, fatiguing or forward. The Bakoon, on the other hand, still has plenty of force and grunt, but presents music in a more laid back, relaxed fashion. These two traits alone implies listening to the Susvara on the Bakoon and CFA3 are two very different experiences.

Overall Experience – Synergy

Objectively, the CFA3 bests the 13R in just about every category mentioned above. It is more resolving, refined, transparent and detailed across the entire frequency range. The soundstage is bigger, speed is faster, and slams harder. One would naturally conclude then that it is the better amp for the Susvara but that’s not exactly the case for me personally.

Why?

For myself at least, there is a level of ‘good enough’ in terms of performance when reached, I no longer crave more. Admittedly, it took an amp with the calibre of the Bakoon to satisfy my desire of searching for better. Purchasing the CFA3 was more out of curiosity than me feeling the Susvara wasn’t well driven from the Bakoon. So even though the CFA3 beats the Bakoon in all those areas, when I went back to the Bakoon, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on those extra details and whatnot because the Bakoon was already so good.

At such high level of performance which both the CFA3 and Bakoon possesses, personal sound signature preferences, I believe, play a much bigger role than the bass hitting slightly harder on one amp. How well a particular amp synergizes with the headphone and the final sound signature, be it warmer, more analytical, etc. will ultimately decide what the better amp is for you personally.

The Susvara is a fairly neutral headphone with a slight warm tilt and laid-back presentation which I quite like. What I find is that the CFA3 contrasts the Susvara – hardens the edges of musical notes, noticeably improves slam and forwardness of the music. It adds no colouration, euphony, sweetness – it is the poster child of neutral. On the other hand, the Bakoon complements the Susvara with its equally laid back, slightly warmer sound signature. The romantic, lush presentation reminiscences that of a SE tube amp.

The technical performance of the CFA3 is a notable step up from the Bakoon and Formula S, but it is more of a direct upgrade over the Formula S and other similar neutral amps instead of the Bakoon due to 13R’s unique tonality and presentation. If you’re familiar with the Focal headphones, the best analogy I can think of is the following: the CFA3 is like the Utopia and the Bakoon/FS is like the Stellia for technicalities. Following a similar path of metaphoric descriptors, if you’re familiar with the 1266, which also has a neutral tonality, at least slightly more neutral than Susvara IMO, I A/B’ed the Susvara + CFA3 vs the 1266 + Bakoon and found that the tonality & warmth of the Sus + CFA3 and 1266 + Bakoon to be extremely close.

So what’s my conclusion? I like both EQUALLY. I like the Bakoon for its seemingly magical synergy with the Susvara and I like the CFA3 for when I want a more technical, reference listening experience. To me, these two amps complement each other well for the Susvara and presents music in very different fashion that it is not at all redundant to have both in the arsenal.

In summary….

You might prefer the CFA3 over the Bakoon if you:
  • Like neutral, reference sounding amps (Formula S, HPA4, etc) more than warmer, softer amps
  • Find Susvara a bit soft & lacking dynamic slam, and too laid back
  • Care more about technical performance and accuracy
  • Listen to bass heavy music, any music where soundstage size is important, any genre where a forward / aggressive presentation is preferred
  • Are not bothered / constrained by the physical size of the amp
  • Are not bothered by the fact you are likely unable to demo it as it is a build to order DIY
You might prefer the Bakoon over the CFA3 if you:
  • Enjoy a more laid back, coloured, lusher, almost SE tube-like presentation from a solid state
  • Want an amp with similar strength as the Susvara
  • Are after synergy with Susvara than squeezing every ounce of technical performance
  • Are looking for a more emotional, easier to listen to, engaging presentation
  • Are space constrained / care about the physical amp size
  • Are not bothered by the fact the Bakoon is SE only with no balanced input/output
Lastly, for anyone interested in CFA3, @Dukei is the man! He's an awesome builder and an even more amazing person, would highly recommend.
Great review. Thanks. Have you tried the Bakoon vs CFA3 without the tube preamp in the chain? I have a Bakoon and use it with a Chord DAVE and no preamp. I am wondering how changing to the CFA3 in this setup would compare.
 
Jan 30, 2022 at 1:07 PM Post #14,039 of 18,840
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Does anyone have experience with the FAW Noir HPC MK2 with the Sus? I really am not interested in a silver cable for the Sus. I want the best copper cable I can afford (I am willing to spend up to around $350).

FAW Noir Hybrid HPC is the one to get for Susvara and it's silver-plated copper, so it remains balanced without leaning more towards details or warmth.

I wonder how the Kinki Studio EX-M compares to the Enleum 23R.

Due to different power outputs they're not really comparable, but if you're asking about their performance with Susvara, that's the best I could find:

http://hifiknights.com/reviews/amplifiers/susvara/
 
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Jan 30, 2022 at 8:12 PM Post #14,040 of 18,840

DeweyCH

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I should have some proper amplification soon. Ordered a Flux FA-10 and then got some decent classifieds deals on a Burson Conductor 3XP and an OG iFi iCan Pro. I’ll probably end up keeping two - one for bedside and one for main office listening. Really looking forward to the experience.
 

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