My reality of the Reality headphone amp by Sonic Adventure
post-198027
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acidtripwow

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This is my take on the Reality headphone amplifier by Sonic Adventure.

Disclaimer: I am God and everything I say is written in stone.

Associated equipment:
Sony SCD-C333ES SACD/CD player
Sennheiser HD600 headphones with Equinox cable (on loan from Tuberoller)
Grado HP2 headphones
Beyerdynamic DT 770 headphones
Pioneer Monitor 10 headphones
Grado Reference headphone ext cable
Kimber Kable Silver Streak interconnect with RCA
Cardas Neutral Reference interconnect with RCA
Virtual Dynamics Power 3 power cord
Balance Power Technology BPT Jr. balanced power conditioner

Pics

I will do this review by listing what I listened to during my evaluation. My point of reference is the Audio Valve RKV II headphone amplifier. Kelly has already talked about the build of this amp so I won’t repeat it here.

Patricia Barber – Café Blue SACD
I started my review with this SACD and the track “The Thrill is Gone.” I have seen and heard Patricia Barber several times live at The Green Mill here in Chicago. She is one fantastic Jazz musician and you haven’t really heard what she can do until you go see one of her live performances. This is one of my favorite tracks on this SACD and what I heard was a relaxed and smooth presentation. Remember those two words because they will come up time and time again. From top to bottom there seemed to be a balanced sound. Nothing really stood above anything else. Patricia’s voice along with the bass, piano, and drums all seemed to be equally emphasized. I didn’t really hear a frequency bump anywhere. My first impression of this amp was that it had more of a tube character. It was clear and focused but not overly warm or rich sounding. It did not sound bright or fatiguing on top. Like I said smooth and relaxing.
I then moved on to the track “Too Rich For My Blood” from the same SACD. It was here where I started to think that things were sounding too polite. The first part of the song sounded fine with bass that was plentiful and Patricia sounding clear. It was towards the end of the song where things started to sound different from my reference amp. At about the 3:40 point Patricia’s voice starts to ascend and keeps getting a little louder as the song continues. At about the 5:20 point she’s really soaring and this just didn’t have that same impact as it did through my reference set up. It was like she was holding back a little and not allowed to really get to the highest peak. Another thing that I noticed was that at the 5:48 point the drum player starts pounding away on his drum kit. Through my reference amplifier this pounding hits you in the chest like a ton of bricks while through the Reality the sound was too constrained and was more like a light tap on the shoulder. You might say well why don’t you just turn the volume up. Well, I did do that and the sound didn’t get any richer or any more three dimensional, it just got a little louder and a little constrained like I was pushing the amplifier too hard.

Shostakovich Symphony No. 5/ Tchaikovsky Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture SACD
I had a feeling that this amplifier would sound really great with classical music and so my second selection was a classical one. It was here where I think the Reality felt most at home. This SACD sounded great with violins sounding especially rich and fully textured. The sound was again relaxed and smooth which is what I want when listening to classical music. At about the 8:38 point you hear the lower registers of a piano being played and through the Reality the sound was full and rich. The Reality was very good at separating instruments and not sounding congested when things got complicated. At the other end of the spectrum you will appreciate the Reality with the softer passages too because of the very black background that it has. Of course, using a good power cord and power conditioner will also help. I think this amplifier will work really well for those that live on a steady diet of classical music.

Eva Cassidy – Live at Blues Alley CD
In my opinion Eva Cassidy is the greatest female singer I have ever heard. There is nobody that can send shivers down my spine like she can. On this CD I picked the track “What a Wonderful World.” Every time I listen to this track I just can’t listen once, I have to keep hitting the repeat button several times. No, this is not the best recording, but the emotional factor is off the scale. On this track her voice is just so powerful which is as it should be. The bass, drums, acoustic guitar, and piano all take a back seat to her voice. This is what I usually hear through my reference. All the instruments are there if you listen keeping perfect time with her voice. It’s that sweet voice that will keep you coming back for more and through the Reality it sounds very sweet indeed.

Gov’t Mule – The Deep End Volume 2
I just picked up this CD this past week and give it two thumbs up. I’m a huge fan of these guys and this CD doesn’t disappoint. If you want diversity then this is the CD to get. If anybody is familiar with the Gov’t Mule story you will know that they lost their regular bass player Allen Woody so for the last couple of CDs they have had a host of famous bass players fill in. This CD has so many good and diverse songs I don’t know where to start. This CD has that typical Southern Rock/Blues sound that is trademark Gov’t Mule but also has some different and interesting stuff. It has a song that reminds me of old Styx and Kansas. It also has a song that reminds me of old bluesy Led Zeppelin. Another song that is a little Country and even a song that sounds like classic Jazz. It is here where I want to talk about headphone matching with this amp. Some headphones just did not want to work well with this amp like the Beyerdynamic 770. The Beyer’s just sounded too thick and muddy through this amp. I then switched over to the Pioneer R10s and things cleared up considerably and these are the headphones I kept on while listening to this CD. Track 6 “World of Confusion” starts with the pounding of a bass drum which sounded deep and powerful. Warren Haynes voice sounds a little gritty and rough which it should. The only complaint I have is that when I listen to Rock I usually listen at louder volumes then other types of music and the Reality just isn’t a Rocker’s amp. It can go plenty loud but sounds a little congested and things start to cave in if pushed too hard. This is where I really like my reference amp a lot more. It will Rock when it needs to and pound your chest.

Conclusion
I could go on and on but I think you get the general idea of what this amp sounds like. What I really liked about this amp was that smooth and relaxed sound. With the right type of music and headphones it can really impress especially for its price. For me though, I listen to a lot of Rock music and this amp just didn’t want to get up and boogie for me. But if your diet usually consists of light Jazz, Classical and soft Pop then this amp is worth serious consideration.

I’d like to thank the guys at Sonic Adventure for letting me review this amp and also Tuberoller for loaning me his Senn HD600s.
 
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post-198068
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kelly

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Excellent write-up, Acid. I like it when you cover the same equipment I do because our styles are so different. I don't give reference recording stuff for my own reasons and I realize some of the readers very much want this. I definitely think our reviews compliment one another and I'm not in the least surprised with any of your findings. Thanks for taking the time to post it.
 
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post-198119
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ServinginEcuador

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Acidtripwow,
Thorough, in-depth, and well done review!! I am really enjoying the comments of others about this wonderful amp. If this is the original amp with the Solen caps, I wonder what your impressions of the updated amp with WIMA caps would be??

I whole heartedly agree with the female vocals being so well done thru this amp. I have never heard Enya's wonderful voice come across so silky and well done before. And the bass is punchy with plenty of authority, without every getting sloppy. It goes deep and is always well behaved.

I also noticed the separation of instruments you noticed. There is a wonderful soundstage and an airy quality to this thing that is just breathtaking.

I wonder if the "constrained sound" characteristics are now gone with the new caps?? Or can it be due to the fact that these are the really cheap STOCK Sovtek 6H23-EB tubes?? So far no one has tuberolled this thing. Including me!!
I won't have any replacement tubes for almost a week, so I can't give any impressions or thoughts on what it can really do until then. I'm sure no one bought the MG Head or any other tube amp to keep it loaded with stock tubes!!

Has anyone else bought one of these things?? I ask as I haven't heard of anyone else buying one, and I am really curious to see if anyone has one with the WIMA caps and done any tuberolling in it to see what they think with something other than $12 tubes



Lord Bless,
doug p.
 
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acidtripwow

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Thanks guys, I will be bringing this amp to tomorrow's meet in Chicago and will ask people if they would like to review this amp. They just have to do the same thing and write up a review and post it here.
 
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Dan H

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Thanks Acidtripwow, nice review. Kelly's a hard act to follow. You both gave us very useful information.
 
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