Niimbus Ultimate Series US4/US4+/US5/US5 Pro Headphone Amps - by Lake People
Jul 23, 2018 at 1:24 AM Post #91 of 1,274

Malcolm Riverside

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@fdg,@ArthurPower, please tell me you guys will have both versions at NYC CanJam next year!? First heard the V281 at last year’s fest and it was a game-changing experience for me. Not that I’ll be able to afford one of these new amps for ages, but there’s always something to aspire to with this hobby. On the other hand, I thought I’d reached my solid state endgame with the V281 and now this! :weary:
 
Jul 24, 2018 at 6:32 AM Post #93 of 1,274

Fegefeuer

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@fdg,@ArthurPower, please tell me you guys will have both versions at NYC CanJam next year!? First heard the V281 at last year’s fest and it was a game-changing experience for me. Not that I’ll be able to afford one of these new amps for ages, but there’s always something to aspire to with this hobby. On the other hand, I thought I’d reached my solid state endgame with the V281 and now this! :weary:

Better is the enemy of good. I know that feeling, especially after I listened to the US4+ extensively during the High End Show in Munich.
Fortunately it's too expensive.
giphy.gif
 
Jul 24, 2018 at 7:23 AM Post #94 of 1,274

FumblingFoo

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Better is the enemy of good. I know that feeling, especially after I listened to the US4+ extensively during the High End Show in Munich.
Fortunately it's too expensive.
giphy.gif

I can't wait to see what the Niimbus DAC's will be like as well. Despite my satisfaction with my Violectric gear, I can't help but feel a bit of envy, like there's a new itch that can't be scratched to have the best of the best again. Something for me to drool over for the next 3 or 4 years :p (unless my family and I pool our money together for a Niimbus stack :D :D :D). If not, I hope Arthur / Fried won't mind if I wait until the successor of the US4 / first Niimbus DAC.
 
Jul 26, 2018 at 4:32 PM Post #95 of 1,274

roskodan

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I'm not a fan of balanced amplifiers, nor of anything bigger than a v200 for driving headphones. And if what @fdg said (headfonia interview) still stands, the output section is the same :flag_jp:nakamichi based :flag_de:v200 design.

So, @fdg , was it really possible to get such an improvement just by enhancing the power supply?

Also the 2 models are priced really close actually, makes the prices look legit, like they are not overcharging the extra features.
 
Aug 12, 2018 at 3:31 AM Post #96 of 1,274

project86

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A few people have asked me for an update on my review. I may have mentioned this already, but if not... it has turned into a much larger project than initially planned. About a dozen DACs and competing amps in the $2k to $6k range, tons of headphones (had to borrow a few like Abyss Phi CC and Susvara), and many hours of listening.

I'm just wrapping up the text now and will grab a few pics when I can, then post. Not too worried about pics as the prototype design isn't finalized yet, so what you see won't necessarily represent the final product anyway. Fried is still working on some interesting ideas but so far he isn't happy with the way they have turned out, so who knows where it will go or how similar it may look by the time it's done.
 
Aug 16, 2018 at 1:26 PM Post #97 of 1,274

project86

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LINK to my review thread - I figured it would be best to start a brand new one from scratch, as this thread is more about speculation, discussion, etc. We can keep both threads going though, as they both serve a purpose. Note that uploads are not working very well right now so I have a ton more pics that will be added later.
 
Aug 24, 2018 at 10:01 PM Post #101 of 1,274

project86

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Are you implying that the US4 does not have a pre-amp function?

Jeff.

I was under that impression for a brief moment, but I don't believe it is true. The US4 has a rear-panel selector for fixed or variable output. That implies pre-amp functionality right there. Granted, it is limited to one each of balanced and SE connections for both input and output. Also I don't see an IR window up front for remote control.

So that means the US4+ adds an additional SE input, front panel controls for input and output selection, remote control capabilities, and the option for independently turning off/on the headphone out and line outs. Not sure how US4 handles that last bit - headphone output always active, perhaps? That would get annoying in my system but I bet some people wouldn't be
 
Aug 24, 2018 at 10:04 PM Post #102 of 1,274

project86

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Is it what became the V284 project ?

Fried did talk about an even higher end project many years ago. Not sure which one is closer to the V284 that was once discussed. That amp was crazy expensive (maybe double the US4+) and seemed fairly impractical - not sure it will ever actually get built.

Next in the Niimbus line will probably be some really nice DACs and maybe a speaker amp.
 
Aug 24, 2018 at 10:09 PM Post #103 of 1,274

project86

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By the way, I got word that the Niimbus will likely be available towards the end of September. There was a lot of conceptual work on the enclosure, some crazy ideas tried (one involved plexiglass...), but ultimately none of them satisfied Fried. So the final result will look like this prototype, with a few behind the scenes tweaks. I'm told it will be "better" overall, but basically look the same.

I've grown to love it anyway so I don't mind.
 
Aug 25, 2018 at 12:12 AM Post #104 of 1,274

fdg

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Just chiming in to answer a few questions.

Is Niimbus the V284 we talked about some time ago?
Yes and no. We had plans to relase an amp over V281.
As V281 turned out to be our most successful amp we analised customers demands and wishes the past years.
The results - even to questions never asked before but significant enhancements for us - is Niimbus US 4 and US 4+.
As all this turned out to be more costly than intended we also created a new brand name under which features are covered which are, well, more than standard ...

Also we wanted the owners of Niimbus amps to not any more open the case to install options or set dip switches.
The result is:

Niimbus US 4 which can be seen as the enhanced Violectric HPA V280.
- Two inputs, unbalanced and balanced, to be activated from the back.
- Volume control via Alps RK27 attenuator
- balanced and unbalanced line-out connectors on the back, switchable to pre- or post-fader operation.
Thats all - a headphone amp with some basic features but outstanding sound signature.

Niimbus US 4+ can be seen a the enhanced Violectric HPA V281 with remote control and relay attenuator.
- three inputs, 1 x balanced, 2 x unbalanced, switchable from the front
- motorized volume control via 256-step reed-relay attenuator
- balanced and unbalanced line-outputs on the back, switchable to pre- or post-fader operation via software
- headphone outputs and line outputs can be de/activated from the front panel
- remote control for volume, input select, output select, mute

Despite the outstanding sound you get much more features you maybe have never thought about or asked before:
- delayed switch on, instant switch off during power on/off to protect your expensive headphones from DC issues during powering on and distortions during powering off.
- DC control of the outputs to protect your headphones from unhearable DC currents which may come from the amp itself (malfunction) or the inputs
- Overload control to avoid heavy distortions generated by the amp due to too large internal signals
- enhanced Pre-Gain settings with a range of 36 dB (-12 ... +24dB) to cover virtually all possible input voltages and all headphone impedances / sensitivities and provide a large travel of the volume control
- line-output voltage adaptable within a range of 24 dB (-12 ... +12 dB) to ensure a matching output voltage to the following gear
- adaptable brightness of the LEDs and the illuminated gap of the volume control (only US 4+)

... and yes, after the launch of the upcoming Niimbus DACs and 2 or 3 other nice analog items which are a bit secret by now ... there will be probably even more.
But if and when this will come true is surely not to be answered in 2018 or 19 or 20.

Cheers, Fried
 
Aug 27, 2018 at 10:32 AM Post #105 of 1,274

fdg

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Some words about the upcoming D/A converters under the Niimbus brand.

The cases will be as those from HPA US 4 /4+.
There will also be the prominent large illuminated volume knob.
A big point we thought about was to implement a display or not.
If yes, it would have been a black/white OLED display.
Finally we voted against a display out of the following reason:
The past showed that our gear lasts for at least 15 – 20 years of hassle free operation.
We cannot guarantee that for any display. What, if a display fails which is essential for operation after let´s say 12 years and we are unable to supply a spare part because its not produced anymore.
Shall we say to the customer: Sorry, put your DAC in the bin?
That’s not our way to deal and so we will employ some buttons to control the DACs.

The DACs will have “analog” generated supply voltages coming from two oversized toroidal transformers. Also there will be Nichicon capacitors in the power supply as well as mains voltage filters to keep high frequency noises away.

The digital architecture from both models will be the same.
Some PCM inputs, balanced, unbalanced, optical. One or two UBS inputs capable of at least 384 kHz sample rate and, yes, DSD. Most of you know that I am an admitted DSD hater because that format is good for nothing and most time the files are at least cheating if not fraud. But, give them people what they desire …
The activated input is then connected to a 32 bit resampling unit with over 170 dB theoretical dynamic range, The clock supply for the resampling is taken from our well introduced Femto-Clock from Lake People DAT RS 05. We will have 4 x D/A converter (32 Bit types) per channel to smooth the conversion process.
This is what we learned during the development from our DAC V800 to V850. An enhanced clock supply counts, as well as a converter array.

The lower positioned Niimbus DAC will have a digital 32 bit volume attenuator and re-engineered fully balanced analog output paths.

The higher positioned Niimbus DAC will have some additional analog inputs (1 x balanced, 2 x unbalanced) to use it as a combined analog and digital pre-amp.
Because of the analog inputs, the volume control is also analog and taken from HPA US 4+ (256 steps with reed relays).

The analog output signals will end in a balanced output (XLR) and an unbalanced output (RCA) which again can be used simultaneously due to independent drivers. Of course we will have the intelligent and low impedance adjustable output voltage know from DAC V800/V850, but with dip-switches on the back and not inside.

We hope to release the prototypes during the high-end show in Munich in May 2019.
Suggested prices are 3500 EUR/USD for the lower positioned DAC and 5000 EUR/USD for the higher positioned DAC (EUR prices including VAT, USD prices excluding VAT).

Cheers, Fried
 
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