Niimbus Ultimate Series US4/US4+/US5/US5 Pro Headphone Amps - by Lake People
Jun 19, 2018 at 11:34 PM Post #77 of 1,274

omniweltall

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Very true. To that end, I'd run Roon ROCK on a NUC, feeding a Cayin iDAC-6, then out to a Rupert Neve RNHP, driving HD6XX and maybe a 64 Audio A3e CIEM. The whole system costs less than a V281, or a DNA Stratus for that matter. It makes excellent sound and covers all the bases.

We could go even lower using Massdrop Cavalli stuff, and their little SDAC, or Schiit's lowest models, etc. All great values.

The fact that they exist doesn't necessarily have anything to do with statement-level gear on the other end of the price spectrum. Is the Eddie Current Studio a terrible value because the Black Widow exists? Nope, apples and oranges.
I think you misunderstood "values" with "price". Great value can come irrespective of price. For example, Modi Multibit and Yggdrassil are both great values despite their price difference.
Wait, you need groundbreaking new technology in your amps? But you are a fan of Eddie Current designs? I'm confused.
No need to be confused. Eddie Current doesn't charge USD5-6k for their solid state Black Widow. Nor does Headamp or Schiit charge that much for their GSX and Ragnarok. Cayin IHA-6 is a good value at USD600-700.
I think you may be underestimating the complexity of the Niimbus amp. 60+ transistors on board, 7 Watts and 30+ Veff output capabilities, a custom 256-step attenuator using magnetically operated reed relays (which is indeed ground breaking in terms of audio products, as far as I know)....
Really...nothing groundbreaking. The problem is NOT with the product itself, BUT with this pricing. I'm sure it sounds nice and overall a good product.
Not sure why you say that. I owned and loved the Balancing Act for a while, and the Super 7 was great too. I definitely prefer EC amps to DNA amps, based on a reasonable sampling of different models over the years.
They are apples and oranges. Different takes for different peeps. I like both. EC does have a more aggressive sound in general. Is that why you prefer it? Apologize, I had the impression you like solid state amps.
Whether or not the price is justified remains to be seen. But it seems your mind is already made up, based on experience with the V281. And again, that's totally fine, we all have different preferences.
I actually like the V281. They do nothing wrong, powerful, and a reliable German product (which Violectric deserves). But they are still overpriced for what they are.

No, I haven't made up my mind. But I do have my doubts whether a solid state amp can stand tall at this price range. A lot of great competition with much lower price tags.

Good day y'all.
 
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Jun 20, 2018 at 1:44 AM Post #78 of 1,274

project86

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I see your point a little more clearly now, thanks for explaining.

Still, have you heard all of these amps and DACs etc? And if so, just at meets, or have you spent actual time with them to really flesh out the experience? I ask because I find my perspective shifts a bit when A) I audition a thing in my own home, for a longer period of time, and B) when it's my actual money on the line.

Very easy to dismiss something until you've done A above... then sometimes you find yourself with a product you don't want to be without, despite the high cost. What happens if it has a bad reputation on the forums but you end up loving it?

Also B above comes into play as well - stuff like Yggy and other almost universally praised (at least around these parts) gear is easy to advocate for.... until it's your own money on the line. That's when you start second guessing and feel the need to maybe demo the competition just to be sure you aren't falling for group think.

Not picking on Yggy at all, it's just an example. I auditioned one and very much enjoyed it, but in the end didn't feel it was worth buying. It did outperform several of my more expensive older DACs (Esoteric, Calyx, Metrum) but was not able to displace my favorites.
 
Jun 20, 2018 at 4:23 AM Post #79 of 1,274

Fegefeuer

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I find price/value discussions to be endless, who are we warning here anyway? Customers of 5000€ amps who purchase blindly most likely don't have a problem with money. Why would we need to educate them? Someone that compared and still bought it perceives its value different than us.
I'll never be able to afford a Niimbus amp but loving the V281 I am always curios where they improve.

I bought the MSI 1080 for 520€ when I could get a 1060 for half the price. Objectively graphics cards are horrible in value compared to DACs than can last you years and not degrade your experience (you know you upgrade anyway). Plus their price spiked since 2011 by about 40%.
It's value to me though as I want high framerates on 1440p resolution and having limited time for gaming I want it to be as good as possible because a (I am single player focussed) game I play is best experienced on the first time. That's why I never go for mid tier cards. Being able to play them with my quality standards is the best value to me.

V281 beat the Schiit Ragnarok, Mjolnir 2, GSX (the owner paid a lot of german tax for this and found the V281 to be better in bass definition and overall dynamics - he didn't regret it but price/performance succumbed already after having to pay customs), SPL Phonitor, Auralic Taurus and a few others to me. I have no need to upgrade or sidegrade unless Eddie Current ships and warranties in Europe like Schiit does and I would have the chance to try out one of their higher end tube amps and really like it.
Other than that I don't see anyone beating the V281 for me. It has better value than any competitor around its price range and nobody needs to pay MSRP.

I am not comfortable anymore with exchanging gear though so all I really want is a high end DAC.

I get the value with the Schiit DACs as they are the best in that regard in my experience. There's also a bit of hype involved in well-reviewed products though so we have to put the value into perspective. Having owned the Modi Multibit since the beginning
there were really a lot of sentiments where people declared them to be the best DAC unter 1k. Huge confirmation bias fodder and purchase validation which basically spread all over these places.
The RS06 DAC in my signature costs double a Modi without the highest USB Xmos card. It's better as in less veiled, better definition on both ends and less congested, but it's not two times better. It has AES/EBU, coax in, optical in though of which I use everything (DU-U8, RBPI3 transport, Gaming PC). I wouldn't be able to do all that with the modi. Sure there are switches for optical, coax and all that stuff but clutter devalues my experience.

I see your point a little more clearly now, thanks for explaining.

Also B above comes into play as well - stuff like Yggy and other almost universally praised (at least around these parts) gear is easy to advocate for.... until it's your own money on the line. That's when you start second guessing and feel the need to maybe demo the competition just to be sure you aren't falling for group think.

I agree with this very much. 2500€ is a lot of money to recommend blindly just because it reviews so well. I trust everyone who advocates for the Yggy because I heard the Gungnir Multibit and it's a superb DAC which unfortunately never ends up used in Germany.

I'm very sure 99% of all people could easily live with the Gungnir MB for half the price of an Yggy and never look back. Yggys value in that regard is most likely abysmal. Why make an exception?
 
Jun 20, 2018 at 5:33 AM Post #80 of 1,274

omniweltall

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Very easy to dismiss something until you've done A above... then sometimes you find yourself with a product you don't want to be without, despite the high cost
Value is a function of price to performance. The issue with audio gears is if same or better performance can be had for less price. And a lot of times, for much less price.
What happens if it has a bad reputation on the forums but you end up loving it?
Actually I never pay attention to forum opinions or most review sites for audio gears. I do listen to a few trusted ears (whom I understand their preferences and trust their impressions) to get a bearing on something, and combine with my own.
Not picking on Yggy at all, it's just an example. I auditioned one and very much enjoyed it, but in the end didn't feel it was worth buy
Noted. I just used the Yggy just as an example of a great value dac.
I bought the MSI 1080 for 520€ when I could get a 1060 for half the price
Can't compare an amp with a graphic card. Graphics cards are purely objective gears, whereas dac/amp/headphones have objective and subjective elements on them. The subjective part is where the problem is, where people are subject to biases and hypes.
V281 beat the Schiit Ragnarok, Mjolnir 2, GSX
This is an example of the subjective part. I think Rag and GSX have more exciting sound than V281. Synergy comes to mind. The Rag and GSX sound great with warm planars, but not a fan of them for most dynamics. I find V281 to be an all-rounder with nothing exceptional but really nothing wrong.
Having owned the Modi Multibit since the beginning
there were really a lot of sentiments where people declared them to be the best DAC unter 1k
I think the Mimby is a great bargain for what it is. It is slightly warm and veiled compared to Gumby for example, but amazing value proposition for its price. My Delta Sigma dac is clearer, cleaner, and has better low-end extension. But soundstage feels flat and boring, and it gets tiring after an hour (for me) if I listen to trebly tracks. YMMV.
 
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Jul 21, 2018 at 2:43 PM Post #81 of 1,274

FumblingFoo

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As a fan of my beloved Violectric brand, I hate to be a critic, but I feel I have a still good opinion worth saying. I must say myself that I was somewhat let down by the Niimbus casing photographed, especially the US4 front. I like the Spartan look, but its more industrial, like a typical laboratory, high-powered multi-watt red-beam laser, than Spartan, like the same components being adapted to a rugged, aircraft-grade aluminum hand-held laser. There's no design beauty to the exterior. It looks like great care was taken for the internals, while the exterior was rushed.

On a more optimistic take, I know the exterior is not final but it could use some significant development. Maybe this is a prelude to a subsequent revision / version that will be as Spartan as the internals are :wink:.
 
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Jul 22, 2018 at 1:02 PM Post #87 of 1,274

FumblingFoo

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The Niimbus appears to have over 2.5x more power circuitry, huge radiator fans, and more circuitry and board elements, so I'm optimistic about its performance. I would say, comparing its internals to the v281, the its $5k price tag is to be expected based upon the extra physical cost of the components.

Well, as exquisite as the internals are in the Niimbus, I will definitely have to see more measurements and perhaps a couple of reviews before I consider buying it. That's not because I am doubting its potential excellence, but because as a v281 owner the v281 is still a state-of-the-art amp.
 
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Jul 22, 2018 at 1:20 PM Post #88 of 1,274

FritzS

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The Niimbus appears to have over 2.5x more power circuitry, huge radiator fans, and more circuitry and board elements, so I'm optimistic about its performance. I would say, comparing its internals to the v281, the its $5k price tag is to be expected based upon the extra physical cost of the components. ....

How many power needs a headphone really?
Or are amps, as Niimbus, only a overkill?

Or headphone amps with a price range about: ‘Price is €10,000 (about $12,400).‘
http://www.soundstage.com/features/2006_headfi/
 
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Jul 22, 2018 at 1:33 PM Post #89 of 1,274

FumblingFoo

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How many power needs a headphone really?
Or are amps, as Niimbus, only a overkill?

The Niimbus does have some extra filtering capacity for signal purity, but it does seem to offer more power too. I myself have thought it cool to have the gain at minimum and still have the tight volume play of the powerful Lyr 2 at minimum gain. Its like having a concept-grade v12 engine in v6 mode and still enjoying the hell out of the ride, and the Niimbus appears to be even better than that. Overkill? Probably, but that's why I'll be waiting on the reviews and measurements to see how much of a tangible improvement there will be :).
 
Jul 23, 2018 at 12:05 AM Post #90 of 1,274

project86

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How many power needs a headphone really?
Or are amps, as Niimbus, only a overkill?

Or headphone amps with a price range about: ‘Price is €10,000 (about $12,400).‘
http://www.soundstage.com/features/2006_headfi/

Ha, good stuff on that link - Rudistor charging $12k for what was very likely a poorly designed/implemented amplifier (as most of their stuff was pretty awful). And Singlepower charging even more for their highly questionable stuff.... it might sound amazing, but could also burst into flames at any moment. Or Mikhail might just take your money and disappear... good times!

Anyway, yes the Niimbus amps are surely extreme overkill. Which is exactly what some folks are looking for. I'm still doing a ton of listening and comparisons to flesh out how it performs. This little project has really snowballed into a huge undertaking. I've got over a dozen top headphones to use with it, a bunch of custom IEMs, seven of the best DACs I've heard in a long time, all in an effort to nail down the capabilities of the US4+.

I've also been rotating through a bunch of competing amps to see how it stacks up - so far I've had a XI Audio Formula S with the external PSU upgrade, EC Balancing Act, DNA Stratus, Pass Labs HPA-1, ALO Studio Six, Questyle CMA800R Monoblocks, Woo Audio WA5LE, and a few others. Working on getting an Apex Pinnacle or Teton as well. And of course the V281. Obviously I won't be able to try every single potential competitor, or else this project would never wrap up.

Sneak preview - The Niimbus acquits itself very well in this field. It is definitely at or near the top of the heap. More soon.
 

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