New amp by Lehmann Audio: Rhinelander
Nov 30, 2008 at 5:24 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 49

smuh

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I have heard about that amp like a month ago and while checking for the Black Cube Linear found that nobody posted about this amp before...

That's what Lehmann Audio writes about the Rhinelander headphone amp:

In the highly competitive target group of ambitioned
entry level audiophile listeners the
Black Cube Rhinelander headphone amplifier
will find its place. This is based on the
heritage of the Black Cube Linear.

- Two line inputs, one of them jumper selectable
as line out for preamp function
- Relais source selection
- Line stage ready to drive long cable runs
- discrete Zero Global Feedback Buffer
- Burr-Brown gain stage
- Maximum gain jumper selectable (6dB/20dB)
- External AC power supply
- Original Neutrik headphone jack with gold plated contacts

Price around 350 Euro

rhinelander_800.jpg


http://www.lehmannaudio.com/download...ews_screen.pdf
 
Apr 30, 2009 at 6:09 AM Post #4 of 49

ADD

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I am just bumping this thread to see if there is any love Rhinelander love amongst the membership here.

A forum search just now indicates the amp has only been made mention of a mere 4 times, but seemingly with no input at all from anyone who either owns one or has heard one.

I am hoping to go and hear one tomorrow. It seems like I might be the first person here to see and hear one in the flesh?!

It has come to Australian shores at a very reasonable $750 AUD (XCan V8 by comparison is $1000, Naim Headline is around $1400 with iSupply).
 
Apr 30, 2009 at 6:53 AM Post #5 of 49

ADD

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Well if Lehmann's amplifiers are anything like their customer service, they ought to be great
L3000.gif


I just shot off an email to them not an hour ago to verify whether the default jumper configurations needed any changes for normal headphone usage (they don't).

Got an excellent answer from them just now. Amazing! Anyway, here is what they said for anyone wondering:

"...You don't need to adjust anything upon purchase, The Rhinelander works fine as a heaphone amp. You can configure two features
- maximum gain (default: 6dB) can be configured to 20dB, usually not needed
- mode: (default 1 input, 1 line out) can be configured to "headphone only" meaning that the second pair of RCA connectors will act as a second input and not as a line out. The switch on the face plate then changes functionality from "mute" to "source 2"..."
 
Apr 30, 2009 at 11:46 AM Post #7 of 49

ADD

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I'm hoping to hear that as well as the XCan V8, Rega Ear (just for interest's sake) and possibly the Black Cube as well. Though the latter might be a worry because it will show me what is achieveable when I blow a strict budget.

Depending on how the day goes I might be able to travel across town to hear a Naim Headline 2 as well, but that is looking a bit iffy.
 
Apr 30, 2009 at 12:29 PM Post #8 of 49

fkclo

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With the emergence of Auditor from SPL, I guess the Rhinelander from Lehmann Audio will face stiff competition. Both solid states are from Germany, same high build quality, similarly powerful.... and the sonic performance will be the ultimate differentiator.... Can't want to see if there are any brave souls out there to do an A/B audition soon.
 
May 1, 2009 at 6:36 AM Post #9 of 49

ADD

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Hi all,


I am back from my trip to audition both the XCan V8 and the Lehmann Rhinelander. Unfortunately the store did not have the Lehmann Black Cube on demo, but then again, my budget does not stretch that far to begin with.

To give you all a bit of background, my current amp references are the XCan V3 and my Xonar Essence soundcard. Of the two, I find the sound from the Xonar to be preferable to that of the XCan V3. Although prone to be a little uncouth and unsophisticated compared to dedicated higher end gear, the Essence in my opinion remains a superb audiophile headphone amplifier / soundcard within the constraints of a PC environment.

So what I have been looking for is something that gives me an equivalent (or better) listening experience to the Xonar Essence, but in the quiet of a bedroom well away from a PC.

My headphones are the Sennheiser PXC300 model - a headphone I fell in love with midway through 2008 at a time when I had been finding some very nice full sized models to be quite uncomfortable to wear (I suffer from fybromyalgia and have problems with my jaw joint - possibly from years of playing the violin. I was finding the full sized models never did me any favours as regards my chronic pain).

I have found the PXC300 to be a real sleeper for my favourite genre - chamber music, baroque and early classical music. It provides excellent texturing, detail and clarity without any of the bass bloat and tubbiness that seems to plague so many larger models of headphone. Sennheiser rates this model as having 300-ohm impedance and a sensitivity of 107 dB.

The music I used for the audition was as follows:

Haydn, J : Symphony No. 37 in C - Academy of Ancient Music (L'Oiseau-Lyre 436428)

Handel arr. Harty :Royal Fireworks Music (Mercury 434398)

Beethoven, L : Violin Sonata No. 7 in C minor - Anne-Sophie Mutter, Lambert Orkis (DG 457619)

Haydn, J: Violin Concerto in A, HobVIIa:3 Christian Tetzlaff, Northern Sinfonia (Virgin7590652)

Mendelssohn, F : Violin Sonata in F - Linus Roth, José Gallardo (EMI 7243587011)

Schmitt, J : Symphony in G - New Dutch Academy Chamber Orchestra (PentaTone PTC5186039)

The audition took place using a Cambridge Audio 840C CD player using Chord Crimson interconnects. Of course, the Cambridge player has an extremely good reputation and has garnered significant praise owing to its superb sound quality. I can fully understand why. I can now understand the $2000 asking price as well. It could be argued that this was not the most sensible product to use as the source for the audition, however I did not want the audition compromised owing to any possible shortcomings at the source end.

First up was the XCan V8. I have noticed some reviewers have heaped significant praise upon this latest MF headphone amplifier in comparison to the one that preceded it (V3). As regards the physical build quality, I do not understand why people have said the build quality of the V8 is better than the V3. The principles of the construction itself seem to be more or less exactly the same in both models. Both have a similar quality metal rear panel and external casing, the same type of non-countersunk hex screws and a nice aluminium front panel. Sure, the actual cosmetics are nicer in the flesh on the V8, as the front panel brushed finish is more finely etched on the V8. Also, the volume control on the V8 adds that certain trendiness to the design that I believe comes under the guise of "bling" (as opposed to the more mundane but practical "hooter" on the V3). Nevertheless, in my opinion, in terms of the actual build quality in the true sense of the word, I do not think the V8 is any better in this respect than the V3.

Sound wise, I am afraid I found the V8 to be quite disappointing relative to the $1,000 AUD asking price. Certainly it had an inoffensive sound, a certain richness and creaminess that suggests the use of a tube stage. But as I have found with all Musical Fidelity hybrid designs, it is the sonic equivalent of looking at the world through a sepia tinted window. In return for the richness and laid-back sound, there is a clear loss of texture transparency and detail as compared to a very good all solid-state design. This is particularly noticeable on violins, oboes and horns. This seems to manifest itself in a desire to turn the volume up to hear what one is missing, but when one even tries to do that, there is always this feeling that certain details and subtleties are being glossed over. Whilst Musical Fidelity might always be a viable choice for less than stellar source material, my preferences these days is to seek out source material with minimal flaws to begin with. This tends to make the sonic attributes of the V8 (and earlier V3) somewhat superfluous.

To be perfectly frank, I think one can get a better deal on a Musical Fidelity amplifier by purchasing a used V3 amplifier and then buying some Tungsram "red label" tubes to replace original JAN Philips 6922 tubes. By doing that, I feel you will end up with pretty the same sound as you get with a stock V8, but at around 35 - 40% of the price.

To add insult to injury, the left channel tube on the V8 died during the audition. Deja Vu. The valves on my V3 died two months into ownership in the exact same manner. It's hard to enjoy an amplifier when you hear a loud whooshing sound in one of the channels.

I would like to make one final comment, however, regarding the output power of the V8. I have read quite a lot of criticism (and from one member in particular), regarding the inability of the V8 to drive high impedance Sennheiser models to decent sound pressure levels.

If I compare my PXC300 to the Sennheiser HD650 for example, I find they have the same rated impedance. I also note from looking at the Headroom graphs, that the PXC300 can be anywhere from 5 dB to 10 dB lower in efficiency (depending upon frequency) than the HD650. Nevertheless, I was able to drive the PXC300 to more than fulfilling volume levels with the volume control on the V8 set to around 9 o'clock. All I can therefore surmise is that Musical Fidelity have either changed the design of the amplifier since introducing it late last year, or that people who feel it has trouble driving high impedance, low efficiency Sennheisers at low settings on the volume control are attempting to listen at dangerous sound pressure levels - for one reason or another
wink.gif



Next up was the Lehmann Rhinelander audition. I had some pre-conceived notions regarding this little amplifier, having read the recent 5-star review in the April 2009 edition of What Hi Fi. In that review, they described the amplifier as an "imposing piece of kit" with a "weighty feel". Whatever images that may conjure up in your mind, my experience upon first acquaintance was quite the opposite. Cute, understated and discreet were three words that came into my mind. And as far as weight is concerned - well it is actually quite the featherweight. Powered as it is by an external 24 volt DC wall wart, it is actually the lightest headphone amplifier I have come across apart from the ubiquitous lolly-tin CMoy. This should not be construed as the unit possessing anything less than excellent build quality. Build quality is indeed excellent, as is my experience with anything built in Germany. The casing is a nice, black, all metal affair with a textured matt finish throughout. The case hex screws – unlike Musical Fidelity’s – are all countersunk, adding an attractive sleekness to the design. The front panel is a relatively thin brushed aluminium affair in comparison to the thick panels used on many other brands, but it is actually befitting of the unit's subdued, understated and unpretentious character.

In a rather novel approach compared to other manufacturers, the rear RCA jacks are almost completely countersunk into the back panel, yet with ample space around the shield connections for awkwardly sized RCA plugs of any description (designers of the M-Audio Microtrack II - are you reading this?
rolleyes.gif
). A possible disadvantage of this design is that if used in a dusty environment, dust could get into the casing in comparison to a "closed" design. The front 1/4" phone jack is incredibly sturdy. It’s very robust and has an industrial feel about it. There is no floppiness or free-play here. The insertion and removal of a phone plug has a nice, satisfying, precise Germanic feel to it.

Perhaps the only real criticism I have regarding the physical build of the unit is the choice of rubber feet. The four rubber feet have a concave base to them and are made of a very hardwearing but ultimately gripless rubber. You would not want to make car tyres out of this stuff. For practical purposes, this means that unless you place the unit on particularly grippy surface, the unit will slide around with the least provocation - not aided of course by the very light weight of the unit.

And now we come to the sound. I am firmly of the Jimmy Hughes school of auditioning hi fi components. What this means is that I don't believe in "growing into" a sound, "getting used to" a sound, taking a month, week, day or even minute to "learn" a new hi fi system or component. No, I believe that something should sound good and "right" from the first few seconds you hear it. I believe that if something does not sound good immediately, then it is not good. Furthermore, I believe that if you purchase a component having to "acclimatise" yourself to it, what this really means is that your brain has to recalibrate itself from a default setting to whatever you are listening to. And the more your brain has to work to reconcile the reproduced sound to what you hear at a live concert, then the more ill-matched the component is to your ideal one.

The Rhinelander is one of those components that just sounds "right" by the time the first bar of a symphony has been played. It does not draw any attention to itself, apart from the very essence of the music itself. You are not drawn to the treble, because it sounds like it does in real life. You are not drawn to a bloat in the bass because there isn't any. You don't think about how difficult it is to record the sound of a piano, because the piano sounds like the one that was played to you 1000 times as a music student. You aren't thinking about the grain in the violins, because the grain does not exist. You don't even feel you have to separate the bass, midrange and treble, because it is all so completely homogenous.

It's all too easy to get carried away and go on listening and listening to this little marvel, because it's one of those hi fi components that simply lets you forget about the technology and concentrate fully on the music. You might think it sounds a little light in the lower midrange, but what you are hearing is actually the truth, as opposed to the colouration of something like the XCan series and even the Xonar Essence. You then hear Haydn's Symphony No. 37 and you sense a tremendous control and definition in the bass instruments that is missing with the other designs. Instrumental textures and micro details are faithfully executed as one could hope for given the price point. Whilst I am sure this amplifier is not the last word in this respect, it would surely have to be amongst the last word at least in this price range. If I had to be hypercritical, perhaps the blackness around the instruments and the imaging is not up to the esoteric standards of the high end, but then again we are talking about a $750 AUD amplifier powered by a humble wall wart.

At the default setting of 6dB gain, it was very easy to achieve a satisfactory volume when listening to the Rhinelander as well. With the PXC300 headphones and their rated 107 dB efficiency and 300 ohm impedance, I never had to turn the volume control past approximately 8.30. Mind, you, when the hifi salesman took a listen himself, he turned the volume up to around 11.00 AM. I suspect I tend to listen to headphones a little less loudly than most hi fi buffs, but then again, the Rhinelander offers a clarity of presentation that makes higher volume listening unnecessary.

When What Hi Fi wrote that the Rhinelander has an "accomplished sense of neutrality" and than one will not be disappointed during an audition, I have to agree 100%. So much so, that decided to buy one there and then
L3000.gif











 
May 1, 2009 at 6:49 AM Post #10 of 49

fkclo

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Thanks ADD for the detailed write up and first hand impressions. I agree that it was a pity that you did not have the opportunity to compare the Rhinelander versus the Black Cube Linear, or otherwise we will have a much better idea of what Lehmann has kept in his sleeves for the Rhinelander.

F. Lo
 
May 1, 2009 at 7:00 AM Post #11 of 49

ADD

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You are right and we definitely need a Black Cube veteran to give us their own rundown on the Rhinelander (for all the good and the bad). The salesman did say that one concern about the new Rhinelander is that it might steal sales from the Black Cube.

I told them I did not really think this could be the case. If I had a $1500 - $2000 budget for a headphone amplifer, I would be in the market for the Black Cube stuff. If the Rhinelander did not exist and I only had a $1000 budget, I would not have bought a Lehmann model - period.

As with all things it is horses for courses. I tend to think that discriminating audiophiles can tell the differences between a $2000 product from a company and a sub $1000 product from that same company. That being the case they are more than happy to shell out the money if that is their budget.
 
May 1, 2009 at 7:22 AM Post #13 of 49

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These retail prices which includes a 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST) for purchases within the country:

Rhinelander: $749 AUD

Black Cube Linear: $1,549 AUD

Black Cube USB: $1,849 AUD
 
May 1, 2009 at 7:33 AM Post #14 of 49

fkclo

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Thanks ADD. I would say this is very competitive pricing at US$520 (based on current exchange rate). The only candidates that can complete is probably the Headphone Pro from Goldpoint or the Graham Slee Solo SRG (without PSU1) - not counting the Chinese or Taiwanese made.

F. Lo
 
May 1, 2009 at 7:49 AM Post #15 of 49

ADD

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Yes, we tend to get pretty fair pricing these days, even notwithstanding the GST. There was a time when we used to have to pay $500 AUD for £100 pound pair of British Speakers. Unfortunately though we still seem to pay through the nose for CD players. I really thought that Azuer 840C was superb today. I see it sells in the UK for £750. Over here it retails at $2,100. I guess I might have to lower my sites to a DACMagic, or otherwise see what the demo / second hand prices are like.
 

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