Just got the Ultra Micro Amp...
Mar 18, 2008 at 1:27 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 13

xFih2

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Don't expect an in-depth audiophile review, more like questions/concerns
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I just got the HeadRoom Ultra Micro amp, uprgrading from my Total AirHead, and am using them with my AKG K701s, with hundreds of hours on them, so they're fully (or almost fully) burned in.

I'm going to be adding the Ultra Micro DAC with 2 Astrodyne power supplies at some point, but don't have the money to get the rest of the set up at the moment.

I'm running music from my laptop, yes, MP3 files, anywhere from 128 to 320kps, with some other formats, also, and using foobar2000 to play them. There is an improved sound difference between the two amps, but not as big as I thought it was going to be. Was I expecting too much from just computer -> amp quality? When I run a certain song at 320 kbps with ample bass in it, it distorts the words quite a bit with my AirHead, and I expected it to be fine with the Ultra Micro, but it does the same thing.

This is what I'm thinking of as the sources of lack of big quality increase:
-running it from my headphone jack (which I'm assuming is low quality esp. with a laptop)
-using cheap mini to mini cable from my TotalAirhead...assuming a Cardas (does length make any difference? one would have better quality
-lack of the upgraded power supplies
-no DAC
-burn in time for the amp
-mp3 files

I was told that a DAC is quite important when running from a computer. Was I assuming too much improvement with just the amp without the DAC and bigger power supplies
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I'm hoping I get more of an improvement when everything's completed. How important are all the things that I listed in terms of the sound quality, especially burn in, power supplies, and the DAC?

Thanks for the help, I was just hoping for more of an improvement than what I got
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Mar 18, 2008 at 1:57 AM Post #2 of 13
When you were using the Airhead, were you connecting it to the laptop through a USB cable or mini-phone out of the laptop's headphone jack? That is the problem with the new amp. You're getting all of the problems in the soundcard and internal amp in your laptop, and amplifying them. The Airhead, through a USB connection, would probably sound better. I'd put the Ultra Micro away until I could afford the DAC. Sorry. I know that's a really bad answer.

Tim
 
Mar 18, 2008 at 4:07 AM Post #4 of 13
Your digital file format isn't very inspiring either. 128 kb/s and 160 kb/s are pretty bad from an audiophile point of view. 192 kb/s is a pretty big step up. 256 kb/s is even better tho, and you should use that as a minimum for any kind of revealing setup.

I'd guess the Ultra Micro Stack would more than revealing enough of 256 kb/s though and you'd probably have to step up to 320 kb/s or lossless.
 
Mar 18, 2008 at 4:21 AM Post #5 of 13
You definitely need the dac. And I agree with Asr. I'd say 320kb/s minimum preferable FLAC (lossless). 320kb/s sounds decent on my rig but you can still tell the difference in quality when things are in lossless format. I suggest you use lossless as much as possible to truly appreciate what the ultra rig is capable of. I have a micro dac and think it sounds very nice. The ultra should be even better.
 
Mar 18, 2008 at 4:35 AM Post #6 of 13
I have the ultra Amp and Dac. I also purchased the DPS which I used to power both units. I connect the Ultra stack to my computer through toslink. I use itune and apple lossless format. It sounds extremely good. Great sound separation. Bass is deep and tight. Great image. I think your problem is clearly you are amplying all the bad stuffs coming out of your sound card, computer amplify and headphone jack. Sounds like your are amplifying all the bad things upstream. You have a great amp. It is just revealing the bad stuff in your system.
 
Mar 18, 2008 at 5:04 AM Post #7 of 13
Quote:

Originally Posted by Jalo /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I have the ultra Amp and Dac. I also purchased the DPS which I used to power both units. I connect the Ultra stack to my computer through toslink. I use itune and apple lossless format. It sounds extremely good. Great sound separation. Bass is deep and tight. Great image. I think your problem is clearly you are amplying all the bad stuffs coming out of your sound card, computer amplify and headphone jack. Sounds like your are amplifying all the bad things upstream. You have a great amp. It is just revealing the bad stuff in your system.


I doubt you have compared using 2 astrodynes that headroom has for sale verse the DPS, but do you think the DPS is overkill for it? Not overkill, but maybe more power than it needs, whereas the two single ones would be sufficient enough? Opinions?

Yeah, I was assuming the way it was going out threw the headphone jack/using the soundcard and what was killing the SQ somewhat, along with the quality of some of the songs.

Also, just wondering, when using the amp as a pre-amp for speakers, would running it through DAC -> amp -> speakers make it have better sound quality than just a USB from my laptop to computers, or does it only work to amplify the volume/power? And would running a 500w system with say the DPS or a similar power supply be too much for the power supply, or would it help it some?
 
Mar 18, 2008 at 6:50 AM Post #8 of 13
Also, would using a USB 2.0 port to DAC to amp somehow be better when using a USB 1.0 port instead? I definitely don't see how it can hurt, but can it actually help?
 
Mar 18, 2008 at 7:21 AM Post #9 of 13
Quote:

Originally Posted by xFih2 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Also, would using a USB 2.0 port to DAC to amp somehow be better when using a USB 1.0 port instead? I definitely don't see how it can hurt, but can it actually help?


It's very likely (though I can't say for certain) that the DAC is only using a USB 1.1 connection anyway (12Mb/s is enough bandwidth to support 96KHz/24bit stream), so any difference b/w your 1.0 and 2.0 ports is unlikely, and if it exists is likely due to something else inherent to the line itself.
 
Mar 19, 2008 at 1:58 PM Post #10 of 13
Quote:

Originally Posted by xFih2 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Also, would using a USB 2.0 port to DAC to amp somehow be better when using a USB 1.0 port instead? I definitely don't see how it can hurt, but can it actually help?


If and when possible and available, I would suggest the following priority in terms of sq coming from the computer to the DAC: Coaxial or Optical, then USB connection. There is a lot of discussion as to which one is better between coaxial and optical. I choose a good optical because I can avoid electromagnetic noise from the computer to the dac. I do not think the difference between usb 1.1 and 2.0 is that much, but it certainly won't hurt to go 2.0.
 
Mar 19, 2008 at 2:06 PM Post #11 of 13
Quote:

Originally Posted by xFih2 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I doubt you have compared using 2 astrodynes that headroom has for sale verse the DPS, but do you think the DPS is overkill for it? Not overkill, but maybe more power than it needs, whereas the two single ones would be sufficient enough? Opinions?

Yeah, I was assuming the way it was going out threw the headphone jack/using the soundcard and what was killing the SQ somewhat, along with the quality of some of the songs.

Also, just wondering, when using the amp as a pre-amp for speakers, would running it through DAC -> amp -> speakers make it have better sound quality than just a USB from my laptop to computers, or does it only work to amplify the volume/power? And would running a 500w system with say the DPS or a similar power supply be too much for the power supply, or would it help it some?



When I first bought the Ultra Stack, I purchased the Astrodyne with it. But since the DPS can power both the DAC and AMP, I decided to go with the DPS. I believe the MAX component can sound better with more stable and cleaner power supply.

Besides, if you plan to buy the Ultra DAC down the road, you will have you power supply ready to go. I don't think it is an overkill especially with MAX component. Besides I have an old HR Cosmic reference that I am running out of the DPS also. So it make sense for me to use the DPS to drive all of my HR gears.
 
Mar 20, 2008 at 5:42 AM Post #12 of 13
Quote:

Originally Posted by Jalo /img/forum/go_quote.gif
When I first bought the Ultra Stack, I purchased the Astrodyne with it. But since the DPS can power both the DAC and AMP, I decided to go with the DPS. I believe the MAX component can sound better with more stable and cleaner power supply.

Besides, if you plan to buy the Ultra DAC down the road, you will have you power supply ready to go. I don't think it is an overkill especially with MAX component. Besides I have an old HR Cosmic reference that I am running out of the DPS also. So it make sense for me to use the DPS to drive all of my HR gears.



I purchased an Ultra Micro amp today (not the DAC, as I already have a supremely excellent one, the DAC1-USB), and had a discussion with the HeadRoom folks about Astrodyne vs. DPS for it. He said that the Max amp board requires less current than the Max DAC board, but he also said that with the Ultra Micro stack, because the units are powered separately, a dedicated Astrodyne PS for each one will likely yield no difference in sound as compared to a DPS; certainly not for the amp, but likely not for the DAC either. It's when you start powering two Max modules, one for the amp and one for the DAC, in the same unit that the Astrodyne can't provide optimal performance for both.

The one other area where the DPS is superior, in smoothing out noise in the A/C current, I'm guessing can be mitigated by plugging the Astrodynes into a quality power line filter, like a Monster or something. Not cheap, but certainly less than $200 difference between two Astrodynes and one DPS.

Then again, if you ever plan to upgrade in the future, you won't have to chuck your Astrodynes and purchase a DPS; you'll already have it. So $200 might be worth it for future-proofing.
 
Mar 20, 2008 at 1:39 PM Post #13 of 13
Computers have an incredible amount of interference in them sometimes, and to me it wasn;t very obvious until I did an A/B test. Get a 2nd source, even if its a cheap dvd player, and compare it to the sound of the headphone out jack. I think you will be in for a shock.
 

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