Nitsch DSHA-3FN / ECP DSHA-3F Impressions
Aug 18, 2023 at 12:35 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 25

Aura

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Differential Stereo Headphone Amplifier, the 3rd version with Focal in mind”.

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It's odd there appears to have never been a dedicated place to discuss Doug's ECP DSHA-3F.

Now that Nitsch's version, the 3FN, is in the hand of first-run owners it may be useful to have a HF home for feedback and impressions. Especially given the original product's reputation with non-Focal headphones, namely ZMF, is exceedingly positive and could help others in the future.

Nitsch product page: https://nitschsound.com/products/dsha-3fn

I'll go first.
It very firmly does not suck.
Summit-Fi with OG Utopia indeed.
Can also report early success with ES Labs ES-R10 for anyone interested.

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Aug 18, 2023 at 7:33 PM Post #2 of 25
I’m absolutely loving mine! I was pleasantly surprised by the unboxing experience of Serial #4! Love the included flight case. Great idea!

Running it in my bedroom system through a Shunyata Denali 6000Tv2, Denafrips T2 12th, Lumin U2 and real Nordost cables driving my OG Utopia with Danacable Nirvana.

Sounds as good as I could have hoped. Dead quiet through the whole range via the volume pot with nothing playing. Great linearity and control with just a hint of sweetness.

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Aug 24, 2023 at 7:12 PM Post #3 of 25
This is a fantastic amp!! @CEE TEE is also a standup guy and can not say enough positive things about what NITSCH is doing and their customer service.

Here's my quick summary of impressions with my ZMF headphones (Bifrost 2 DAC):
  • Verite Closed: AMAZING!!! Brings out the best qualities of the headphones and dials it up to 11. Incredible sub-bass, soundstage, and transient/detail retrieval. Everything feels perfectly balanced with absolute control over the drivers. Very life-like and transparent reproduction of music. This is THE ZMF headphone to use with this amp*.
  • Aeolus: Great! These headphones have never sounded so detailed/technically capable. Still retains the warm/sweet qualities and everything the soul of what makes the Aeolus an enjoyable headphones. Makes for a great casual listen without being overly demanding.
  • Atrium Closed: Good - but I found it to be hit or miss with my chain. Some tracks sound fantastic, others not so good - can be a little too intense. Acoustic/vocal or more laid back tracks work well. However bass heavy tracks can be a bit too v-shaped. Can get a bit overwhelming and hard to follow with busy passages. Not sure if this is partly due to BF2 DAC coloring the sound or if different pads would help.
Suffice to say the VC work exceptionally well with the DSHA-3FN and will be staying on my head while using this amp.

* I wonder what the Caldera sounds like? I bet it's good.

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Aug 26, 2023 at 7:10 AM Post #4 of 25
While the sound is obviously most important, I do also feel it’s worth making a comment on the design.

The updated industrial design with the DSHA-3FN presents a fresh take on elegant simplicity. The wood panels brings a unique design element that immediately makes the enclosure visually interesting. I’m told the panel design was inspired by acoustic diffusers found in recording studios. The gray metal enclosure feels very premium with a high quality finish - noticeably soft to the touch. The gold knob and badge complete the color palette, which I think looks even better in person. The knob has a very premium feel and the pot is the smoothest I’ve experienced.

The single amber LED on the front is small and dim, which means it doesn’t blind you in low light. There are several red LEDs inside the amp which create a subtle glow through the vents. The lighting is easy on the eyes, even in a very dark room. It reminds me of the older BMW amber interior lighting, which was a chosen to minimize eye strain and distractions when driving at night.

The only (very minor) nitpick I would make is related to usability of disconnecting the XLR out. By habit, I press down on the front-left corner on top of the amp to create some stability when disconnecting the XLR cable. This causes the amp to lose its footing and lift off the ground on the opposite (back) corner. I’ve adjusted where I hold the amp when unplugging so this no longer happens so I wouldn’t consider this a problem.

Overall, I think NITSCH nailed the design of the DSHA-3FN. After spending a fair amount of time with the amp now, I’ve come to appreciate the many thoughtful design decisions that were made. The amp doesn’t get scream “look at me!” while on the rack. It does manage however to bring a modern and elegant presence that elevates it beyond the typical fare of silver or black components.
 
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Aug 26, 2023 at 8:20 AM Post #5 of 25
The wood panels do not appeal to me at all. I'd still like to listen to one though; shame we are still waiting for 240V versions...
 
Aug 28, 2023 at 9:18 AM Post #6 of 25
I recall the original only having Bal in/out. Are there differences in using the SE input as opposed to the Bal input? The form factor is excellent and would love to have one on my desk.
 
Aug 30, 2023 at 1:17 PM Post #7 of 25
While the sound is obviously most important, I do also feel it’s worth making a comment on the design.

The updated industrial design with the DSHA-3FN presents a fresh take on elegant simplicity. The wood panels brings a unique design element that immediately makes the enclosure visually interesting. I’m told the panel design was inspired by acoustic diffusers found in recording studios. The gray metal enclosure feels very premium with a high quality finish - noticeably soft to the touch. The gold knob and badge complete the color palette, which I think looks even better in person. The knob has a very premium feel and the pot is the smoothest I’ve experienced.

The single amber LED on the front is small and dim, which means it doesn’t blind you in low light. There are several red LEDs inside the amp which create a subtle glow through the vents. The lighting is easy on the eyes, even in a very dark room. It reminds me of the older BMW amber interior lighting, which was a chosen to minimize eye strain and distractions when driving at night.

The only (very minor) nitpick I would make is related to usability of disconnecting the XLR out. By habit, I press down on the front-left corner on top of the amp to create some stability when disconnecting the XLR cable. This causes the amp to lose its footing and lift off the ground on the opposite (back) corner. I’ve adjusted where I hold the amp when unplugging so this no longer happens so I wouldn’t consider this a problem.

Overall, I think NITSCH nailed the design of the DSHA-3FN. After spending a fair amount of time with the amp now, I’ve come to appreciate the many thoughtful design decisions that were made. The amp doesn’t get scream “look at me!” while on the rack. It does manage however to bring a modern and elegant presence that elevates it beyond the typical fare of silver or black components.
Love the design! The length and heft of the 4-pin Furutech connector on my Nirvana cable is worrying to me. I might get a small block of wood or something to put underneath to support so I don’t end up with any bent connector/plug issues. Not a fault of the amp…it’s more the cable design, but I do notice the plug holds in a little better on my Pathos amp.
 
Sep 7, 2023 at 2:40 AM Post #8 of 25
I'm loving this thing so far. Easily the most detailed SS headphone amp I've heard by a country mile. Now, have I heard the HM-1 or Mass Kobo 465? Nope, sadly.

Runs all my cans just fine, but they're all 300ohm dynamics, or easily driven planars. I've pre-ordered the HEDDphone TWO and we'll see how that thing fares. Since it's similar specs to the Hifiman HE-500 that our little beauty was tested on, I'd imagine it'll be alright - but I'm nearly certain it's going to be at the end of usable wiggle room. Good thing I listen at around 75-80dB!

My only small gripe with the amp (and I mean SMALL) is that I wish the 4pin XLR in the front had some bracing around the connector to keep it from flexing the PCB.

Apart from that, brilliant recreation/resurrection Christian and Nitsch!
 
Sep 8, 2023 at 2:12 PM Post #9 of 25
. . . My only small gripe with the amp (and I mean SMALL) is that I wish the 4pin XLR in the front had some bracing around the connector to keep it from flexing the PCB.

Apart from that, brilliant recreation/resurrection Christian and Nitsch!

Thanks for the impressions. Re: the XLR jack, have you personally experienced any issues relating to PCB flex or anything? Or does it just seem flimsier than other amps you've used with an XLR jack?
 
Sep 8, 2023 at 8:52 PM Post #10 of 25
Thanks for the impressions. Re: the XLR jack, have you personally experienced any issues relating to PCB flex or anything? Or does it just seem flimsier than other amps you've used with an XLR jack?
It wasn't a big thing, really.
It's just that I'm using a particularly chonky 4pinXLR->4.4 adapter that needs a little coaxing. Using standard neutrik style XLR ends go in and out more smoothly.
 
Sep 10, 2023 at 2:28 PM Post #11 of 25
Mine arrived Friday. I was hesitant to order, but when Christian told me it was the last one in this production run, I couldn't resist. I was able to spend a few hours with it last night, and I'm glad I pulled the trigger. It's both liquid and layered, with the blackest background (almost everyone mentions this, but it is pretty striking when you first plug in). It's maybe a little softer at the edges and a touch warmer than than the Ferrum Oor + Hypsos (not in a bad way) it currently sits next to and I was able to catch a little of the holographic experience with the right music. Interestingly, I didn't get any holography out of symphonic music, but did out of smaller jazz ensembles and rock outfits that followed. That said, everything sounded excellent and I'm looking forward to getting to know this little marvel better over the next few weeks. Initial impression is that this is well worth the price.

For reference, last night's listening was via Roon Nucleus+ --> Lumin U2 Mini --> Schiit Yggy LIM+ --> Schiit Kara --> DSHA-3FN --> ZMF Auteur Classic (Marblewood).
 
Sep 23, 2023 at 3:07 AM Post #12 of 25
Would love to see pics of the circuit board please. I love my ECP DSHA-4/Ravenswood and L3.
 
Oct 28, 2023 at 4:20 PM Post #14 of 25
Finally got my DSHA-3FN, after a bit of a journey. The unit was damaged during shipping, and Christian was AMAZING. He handled everything with such care and professionalism - always updating, explaining, taking accountability. Can't say enough good things about the Nitsch customer service experience.

The unit arrived finally arrived this week -- fixed and fantastic.

And the SOUND... Wow. I wasn't fully prepared to like it as much as I did.

Some background: I'd been using a Topping A90/D90 AKM stack with Focal OG Utopias and felt like there was something I wasn't quite getting from the sound. I tested a bunch of Summit-Fi equipment at a dealer: Chord Dave, Feliks Euforia, Pathos InPol, and NAIM Uniti HE. I was stunned by how uninspired the Chord and Feliks sounded after the buildup. The Chord sounded thin, the Feliks bloomy. I was expecting to hear magic, and found myself more impressed with my Shanling M8 DAP when I A/B-ed them.

The Pathos was the biggest improvement on my home system, but I just couldn't bring myself to pull the trigger. I ended up using the A90 as a pre-amp and plugging the Utopias into an X-Duoo MT-604, which got me 70-80% of the way to the Pathos tubeyness for under $200 bucks. (I still think that little hybrid wonder is one of the great audiophile bargains, and is not taken seriously only because it is TOO affordable.)

So the Nitsch was a big leap of faith and finance, and for the first time I experienced the audiophile cliche: "I heard things in my music I never heard before." Here's an example. In Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion," about two thirds of the way into the song, a new instrument is introduced. It sounds like the world's tiniest cymbal or someone gently striking a tambourine chime. I've listened to that song for the past 40 years, and this is the first time I've noticed that sound. Clearly I've always heard it, but the DSHA-3FN pulled it out of the mix, and I NOTICED it.

What's fascinating is that, in principle, I thought the ASR crowd had a point -- that something as transparent as an A90 should have revealed everything in the music and that any digression from that design philosophy was simply introducing pleasant distortion. So to hear ADDITIONAL detail, plus bigger soundstage, clearer bass/sub-bass separation, punchier bass, smoother treble, and overall, just a more enjoyable, immersive presentation... well, it's an awakening. (probably an expensive one, unfortunately)

Fortunately, I finally hear the sound I was hoping to get from my Utopias.

As for a DAC, after seeing the Mass-Kobo designer auditioning his new $17,000 amp with my exact same Topping D90 MQA DAC, I think I'm good.

Summit Fi has been reached with these cans. Thanks, Christian & Doug!

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Oct 28, 2023 at 4:27 PM Post #15 of 25
The Utopia/3F pairing is simply one of the best and most synergistic pairings in TOTL headphone sound. There is different sound, not better. I'm so glad Christian and Doug collaborated to bring this back to life.
 

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