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Massdrop x THX AAA™ 789 Linear Amplifier - Impressions Thread

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by XERO1, Mar 1, 2018.
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  1. MikeW
    RME's got a custom DSP, alot of R&D go's into a product like this. You think a DAVE has 6000$ in parts? hah hell no, your paying for decade of R&D. DS is complicated because implementation matters very much. Same DAC chip in 50$ or 1500$ dac, implementation varies wildly. ADI-2 has an exceptional power circuit and usb input as well, far above average. That stuff's not free man, they arnt using bog standard off the shelf XMOS parts, custom solution. The OP is looking for XMOS because he has a device that requires that chip to interface properly, probably a DAP or some other specific piece of gear.

    With regards to the ADI being an "all in one unit".. uhh almost all 1000$+ DS designs are by that definition. Comes with the territory of high end DS. There are far more 1k+ DS dac's that have a headphone amp thrown in then not. So if you somehow believe that because it's got a great headphone amp thrown in that it's somehow lacking as a dac, you are mistaken. Most high end DS products are often times used in studio and the headphone amp is an expectation.

    "Sharp zing of DS"... your confusing what a terrible input circuit does to DS.. your also assuming that all DS dac's sound like Sabre..

    Edit: and before you say "ADi2 just has a walwart switcher, there's nothing special about it" dig a bit deeper. It's excellent measured performance, and the fact that it gains nothing by hooking a 1000$ LPS to it says otherwise. Same go's for it's USB input.. world class. Performance is outstanding, measured and subjective. No difference in feeding it with a end game transport via optical/coax or hooking it up to a noisy laptop usb. All three perform exceptional. Compare this to pedestrian crap like Schiit GEN2 or xmos gen1... no freaking comparison, those devices can't reach this level of performance with ridiculously expensive USB decrapifier's and a 15 foot rope of every ifi purifier made.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2019
    music joe likes this.
  2. BrotherKathos
    A $99 modi 3 has the same chip as the Adi 2 and nips at its heels in measurements. Other than bragging rights, and the added customization what does the rme actually have different? Each designer has their own level of expertise they decide to charge for. If you want years of R&D into a product you might as well save some money and get a $400 Metrum flint. R2R tech has been here over a century now and has had way more time to be refined that the new cheapo D/S dacs.
  3. MikeW
    Im not going to continue going round and round with you. I've owned various products over the years, been doing this a long time. NOS, Multi-Bit, and DS. The differences between the ADI-2 and Modi 3 are too numerous to even cite, i'd have to write a book on it. An excellent dac's an excellent DAC, i've enjoyed all three of the above DAC's. However, the flexibility and customization of a product like ADI-2 has been game changing for me. The power circuit and input implementation have a great impact on DS designs, and the modi 3 is simply not even remote comparable in this regard. The input section of the RME is world class. The input on most schiit products is less then desirable. GEN2 is particularly aweful. Say this as an owner of multiple Schiit dac's and products over the years. You speak as someone who has read alot and is parroting. Not someone who has actually tried the products.

    Also, you got to go pretty far up the Schiit Amp tree to even match the head-amp in the ADI-2. I prefered it over my Joutunheim. Assuming it meets your power needs. (Jot's alot more powerful) As an all in one, there's no contest for me. The ADI-2 is dramatically better then Jotunheim in any configuration. I also wouldent bother to pair it with the THX789, as if it meets your power requirements the two are very similar in performance and sound signature. Slight edge to the ADI2.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2019
  4. Kamurah
    I don't know how many Head-Fi-ers are actually musicians or recording engineers.... But RME is a well-respected company within the professional recording industry. Their ASIO implementation is bespoke, and they have custom designed drivers that give their interfaces the lowest latency and greatest stability over USB and PCIe in the field. EVERYTHING they do is hyper-engineered, and in my experience, their products are very well built.

    Now....a 1ms round trip ASIO latency number is certainly not needed when just listening to audio at home with headphones....but as I said, RME equipment (like Benchmark) has a reputation in the recording industry. I have not heard the RME ADI DAC...but I would trust it to sound better than a Schiit Modi....regardless if the two use the same chipset.

    Until you have actually worked with RME equipment, it is hard to explain in a way that conveys the whole picture. In a professional environment I have owned and used Apogee, Universal Audio, Focusrite, Avid (Digidesign), and RME equipment....and the RME stuff is some of the best out there....bar none.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2019
  5. BrotherKathos
    I’ve spent enough money on ‘end game’ products to understand the difference in sound you get from source components is rife with severe diminishing returns, followed by amp, then finally speakers or headphones. This hobby can easily make people spend way more than necessary to get the same performance as someone else spending less. I’ve got no doubt the rme is an awsome dac, but its still going to sound like a delta sigma dac at the end of the day and be very similar in sounfpd to even a modi 3, whether people want to admit it or not. I’d bet money if you had someone in a blind room, and had 5 dacs in there switching to the same headphones with the rme in the mix, it would be extremely difficult to pick the rme out consistently.
  6. MikeW
    It would be quite easy to pick out my rme, with it's custom EQ curve tailored to my taste, that "just works" on all input signals, rather they come from Tidal, Spotify, Qubuz, Chrome, Battlefield 5, or foobar.. that said, I do agree with most of what you posted. Also understand value is subjective. Very subjective, as much or more than sound itself. A 1k device is a big f'kin deal to the family of 4 who makes 25k a year. Not much a thought for a 80-100k household. That said... I see alot of people on wellfare walking around with Iphone 10's but don't get me started.

    It would also be stupidly easy to pick out my RME when hooked up to my LSR305's, performing room correction and removing a huge 12DB bass spike at 60 hz, across all input methods, without any additional software or tinkering.

    You might also be able to pick me out of the crowd when im holding the remote for the ADI-2, controlling it from 20 foot away, on my couch across the room.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2019
    Jearly410, Kamurah and BrotherKathos like this.
  7. BrotherKathos
    I’ve thought about getting the rme for the eq and other features. Even with the amp section I don’t need its still decent value on a balanced dac from the Germans. I’ve held off though because I tend to like the soumd from r2r dacs much more and even have much less desire to eq when listening to them. I’ve got a balanced akm 4490 dac like the rme, but much cheaper. Its my least favorite I have paired with my 789, but finally got into my strike zone when I added a tube buffer between it and the thx. Took of the d/s razor edge. Now all i eq is bass up a bit.
  8. MikeW
    That's a very fair statement, and totally cool. However, understand that much of "DS glare/edge" is the result of poor input method. Jitter/noise and other crap on sub-standard/cheap/no R&D/off the shelf input circuits, particularly USB. Also, ADI-2 has a "slow filter" that takes the edge off, and obviously excellent highly configurable 5 band PEQ for the hail mary.

    789 is not the most forgiving amp on the high end either. It's a tad bright. Combine this with headphones that might be a tad bright, with a flat DS chip, vs a rolled off R2R.. I can see why you prefer R2R. One must consider source, amp and phones, im treble sensitive too, but Im using HD650 and Liquid Platinum with the ADi2.. a very not treble situation. EQ is the path, tubes too, but I like them for other reasons, pleasing distortion patterns, full body, and 3D, things that can't be replicated with EQ. Though one could argue the DSP filters in adi are basically distortion filters. It's better to call tubes by what they are, they dirty things up a bit, add distortion, in pleasing ways. As they can't be measured and found superior. Im ok with all this though, people just have to accept that the best measuring is not always the best sounding.

    But I 'get" that you like R2R, I do too, and I respect that. I'll tell you one thing, I'll never be without hardware tone control again, I've got an also excellent, but far less flexible Loki Mini in my stash for the day I move on to something else, without EQ. (possibly yggy)

    My previous dac was a Gen5 Bifrost that I enjoyed quite abit. GEN5 made a bigger difference then the dac itself. Im also a bit of a Schiithead, and can't wait to see what they do with Gen6... competitive with RME's input? hmmm tough one, we'll see what they can cook up. They are doing now, what RME did years ago.. custom solution. No more reliance on cmedia's mediocrity.

    Edit: We've thoroughly derailed this thread, my apologies. - Gives the room to THX crowd.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2019
  9. BrotherKathos
    My setup right now is smsl M9 dac with dual akm4490s using slow linear filter and ifi ipower as psu, schit eitr and loki and fx audio tube buffer going into thx with sennheiser hd6xx. only the tube buffer took the glare off the hd6xx enough to keep me from bumping the treble down. i’ve also got another thx that’s got a modi multibit and eitr hoocked to it and its aswome. By far my fav rig of all the one I own.
  10. MikeW
    Sounds like a really good setup. Eitr is excellent, and I'd say required when pairing with most mid-fi DAC's. It's not perfect but damn good and an excellent value. I can't speak to your particular treble issues. I don't have this problem at all with the ADI-2 and HD650. Either though the Liquid Plat, Jotunheim, or built in Head-amp. You may be particularly sensitive, or that SMSL dac is doing something bad to treble energy. The 4490 is far more relaxed with less treble energy then say, most sabre dac's. The HD6xx does have a fairly significant spike at 8K that you may find irritating, and some have EQ'ed this out in a very narrow band, it's part of my custom curve.
  11. BrotherKathos
    I think you are right about the treble spike. Its a good thing that the loki’s adjustment targets 8k so I only need to turn it very slightly when I get irritated. Plus I thin this dac is just a bad implementation. My Topping D50 with sabres is much tamer on the thx. I just got some Audioquest nighthawk carbons today, so will be listening to them on the thx ro see how they mix. Have them on my frankenstein’d portable setup atm and LOVE them instantly. I feel like they are headphones made specially for me. Can’t wait to try them on the thx 789
    Jearly410 likes this.
  12. MikeW
    Here's my EQ curve for HD650, I modified it slightly when I got the Liquid Platinum, as I feel the stock tubes needed a bit more midrange. Hard to imagine a sabre anything being more tame then AKM4490. Might be a clue to some funny business. I hate to beat a dead horse, but the volume control on the RME is very well implemented and quite useful with the Liquid Platinum in particular, as it has very high gain and no gain switch. Lots of people in that thread trying to figure out the best way to attenuate signal for LP.. no such issues here.

    Last edited: Mar 1, 2019
  13. BrotherKathos
    Now i might have to get the rme for this thx, and the Onyx for the other. Why are you doing this to me?
  14. MikeW
    Nah man, you like what you like. Im not trying to sell you anything. But I did notice you had particular complaint with treble in your setup and just trying to help. If you did own the Adi-2 you may find the thx 789 redundant, as hd650 is an easily driven load by it's excellent headamp.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2019
  15. BrotherKathos
    Hehe, its all good. Just playin :)
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