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Pairing notes: Cavalli LL, Woo WA-5 w/ WEE, First Watt F1, HE6, Jade, Stax SR-007 mk I, SR-009, SR-507, Lambda Nova Sig.

Discussion in 'High-end Audio Forum' started by mwilson, Jul 4, 2012.
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  1. mwilson
    Notes reflect audition during a mini-meet in Boca Raton on 6/30/2012. Audiogalore, Sridhar3 and Mwilson in attendance.
    1. Esoteric X-03SE as CD player
    2. PS Audio PWD w/ Bridge
    3. Resolution Audio Cantata Music Center as CD player
    1. Cavalli Audio Liquid Lightning
    2. First Watt F1
    3. Woo Audio WA-5 (EML rectifiers, RCA 5692 red base, Shuguang 300B)
    4. Woo Audio WEE as energizer for WA-5
    1. HiFi Man HE6
    2. He Audio Jade
    1. Lambda Nova Signature
    2. SR-007 mk I
    3. SR-009
    4. SR-507
    1. WireWorld Eclipse series interconnects
    2. WireWorld power cords
    1. Patricia Barber: Modern Cool
    2. Bombay Dub Orchestra: eponymous album
    3. Gino Vannelli: Powerful People
    4. Arne Domnerus Group: Jazz at the Pawnshop (FIM)
    5. Chesky records compilation
    All audio equipment connections were balanced excluding the Woo Audio WA-5 that was single ended. Most of the listening was done from Esoteric as a source, with a Balanced Audio Technology VK-51SE line preamplifier. The Pass Lab First F1 was active stage from the VK-51SE and the LL was pass through the tape loop out. The Woo WA-5 was directly output from the sources.

    SPECIFIC NOTES by Sridhar3
    HiFiMan HE-6 via First Watt (9wpc/8ohm, pure Class A): Thin, bright, bass-light when first powered on.  After 45 minutes, the amp was scorching hot.  Bass filled out significantly, no longer thin-sounding.  Excellent.
    HE-Audio Jade via Woo WEE + Woo WA5: Hadn’t heard these in a while.  First pair of Jades I heard belonged to Ray Samuels. Heard them out of an A-10 Thunderbolt and the Cavalli Liquid Lightning (CanJam@RMAF 2011 CLL prototype).  No bass to speak of.  Revisiting these headphones, and they sounded completely different.  Somewhat similar to the HE90, though perhaps a bit less romantic.  Good bass and warmth, though not as detailed as other stats.  Build quality leaves something to be desired.  A pleasant surprise and an absolute sleeper hit.
    SR-007mk1 via Cavalli Liquid Lightning (production version): Not good.  I suspect this is a case of “too much of a good thing”, given the somewhat warm sound signature of the SR-007 and the liquid smoothness and warmth of the CLL.  Too rounded, too warm, slow and syrupy, too much bass, shelved back mids and highs.  I was not impressed.
    SR-007mk1 via Woo WEE + Woo WA5: This combination made the SR-007 sound great. Smooth, with decent treble and detail, excellent bass quantity with decent quality.  Far better than SR-007 out of the production CLL.  Lacked some of the aggressiveness in treble I like with rock music, but incredibly pleasant-sounding with no ear fatigue to speak of.  Very laid back.
    SR-009 via Cavalli Liquid Lightning (production version): Here is where this amp shows its chops.  My concerns from the prototype were addressed.  Better soundstage, excellent bass quantity and quality (tight, articulate), treble crisp and “crunchy” without ear fatigue.  Good musicality, an absolutely fun amp.  Detail, dynamics, but with some liquid warmth.  If the 007mk1 sound their best out of a BHSE, the SR-009 with the CLL is a match made in heaven.
    SR-009 via Woo WE + Woo WA5: Very laid back and pleasant sounding.  No treble harshness, but treble also not as aggressive as I like it to be.  Smooth, great bass in both quantity and quality.
    Also heard the SR-507 and Lambda Nova Signature out of the production CLL.  Both are good phones, but nothing to write home about, at least in my opinion (and given the other stat phones listened to at the meet).  Mwilson would probably disagree with me though, as he seemed rather taken with the LNS.
    SPECIFIC NOTES by Mwilson
    HiFiMan HE-6 via First Watt: mostly flat and uninspiring. Sound exhibited orthodynamic characteristics, but closer to HD 800 and electrostats in terms of soundstage and presentation of mids. Big caveat here: I only listened for a brief period and the amp wasn’t warmed up yet, so please take this in the proper context. Comfort was better than any LCD product, despite a rather noticeable clamping force.
    HE-Audio Jade via Woo WEE + Woo WA5: a very pleasing sound. Somewhat deep bass, not as detailed as the SR-009, but then again, it’s not in the same price bracket either. Mids were pleasing, interestingly textured, but I found the highs a bit too polite. Extremely lo-fi fit & finish. Like Sridhar3 said, a sleeper hit. I’d buy one if I could find it. I really wanted to try it on the LL, but alas the plug wouldn’t fit.
    SR-007mk1 via Cavalli Liquid Lightning: the closest to LCD-3 I’ve heard an electrostatic headphone, for better or worse – short of a larger soundstage, very similar in sound, including glossing over details in all frequency ranges.
    SR-007mk1 via Woo WEE + Woo WA5 feels like a different headphone than when connected to the LL. I don’t know whether it’s a pullback of bass quantity, but for some reason the mids and highs seem much better controlled in this setup, almost to the point of not making sense. Definitely an enjoyable listen, and at this point Sridhar pretty much monopolized them for the rest of the audition session.
    SR-507 via Cavalli LL: a brisk sound, fun and engaging, though falling flat on the comfort aspect - so much so that it made it impossible for me to objectively ascertain their sound characteristics.
    Lambda Nova Signature via Cavalli LL: Now that’s quite some headphone! I thoroughly enjoyed listening to them as paired with the LL – deep and thunderous bass, detailed and plenty highs, almost to the tune of overshadowing mids. Pretty comfortable too, but in all fairness I put them on right after the SR-507 and I’d wager that even a chainsaw would have felt comfy thereafter. There was something about the highs coming from the LNS; they definitely seemed like too much, but not at all bothersome or harsh. None of the other headphones had this amount of treble during our audition. 
    SR-009 via Cavalli LL: a very good match. From all the phone and amp combinations, this one stood out for all three of us like a perfect match. I’m not saying this because I happen to own both the SR-009 and the LL, but rather I’m considering myself lucky to have hit upon this combo. If I hate something even more than having ants in my phones, it’s spending what seems like a Sisyphean effort to find a combo that sounds to my liking; that’s why I said I lucked out with the SR-009 and LL. Together they strike what my ears would think the perfect balance of frequency response, soundstage and detail.
    SR-009 via Woo WE + Woo WA5: the sound is very similar to what I had experienced with my Resolution Audio C50 amplifier + Woo WEE – a bit flat, less bass in both extension, quantity and detail, very natural mids though and a somewhat larger soundstage than the LL.
    AS IT PERTAINS TO THE LL – Mwilson’s 200-hour follow-up
    The most noticeable change, by far, was from 100 to about 130 hours. I cannot say that I detect any improvement now that the amp is at the 200-hour mark, but I’ve carefully listened, along with two other pairs of ears, and we all agree that the LL is one fantastic amp. Having listened through two different amp setups (a third one, if I counted my Resolution Audio C50 + Woo WEE setup not present at the meet) and five different electrostatic headphones, it helped to isolate traits that are specific to the LL and not the amp + headphone as a whole. The LL packs a powerful punch; drum kicks are immediate and very tactile, mids are vibrant and textured, and highs have every bit of minutia expected of them. Lifelike is one word that comes to my mind when trying to describe its sound, and I know I’ve said it before but it really takes me closest to a live performance as headphone listening can afford. 
    Here is my full review of the LL:
    SPECIFIC NOTES by Audiogalore
    AKG K1000 with Apuresound recabled:K1000 are basically better known as “speaker phones” were the physical phone transducers are pivoted assembly that does not physically come in contact the ear and can be angled for near field or angled for a wide sound stage. The sound is not as imitated as the tradition headphone. However accuracy is the closest if compared to two-channel room speaker setup.
    Our test was done with the Pass Lab First Watt F1 and I found the frequencies very even and extremely liquid without listening fatigue. Great with classical genre. 
    HiFiMan HE-6 via First Watt: Again like the K1000 this Ortho-dynamic  headphone really requires a Class “A” high current amp to truly appreciate it sound signature at its best. When cold I found the frequencies flat til the amp was up to it's coefficient heat curve. Sound signature very much the same as a stat signature but not as liquid; also a fairly wide and deep sound stage.
    HE-Audio Jade via Woo WA-5/WEE: Extremely light and comfortable fit, sound wise it has a warm and more of a dark presentation with great control of the bass. Sound stage is wide and deep and not stat bright. More of a polite presentation like the HE90 in sound signature. Finish is handcrafted without that typical noted production look.
    SR-007mk1 via Cavalli Liquid Lightning: IMO I do not fell there is enough power and makes the phone sound more collapsed and thin in sound definitely not a match.  
    SR-007mk1 via Woo WA-5/WEE: Better matched in term of power, still had a considerably small sound stage but definitely and allot of dynamics. Sound wise the most forward compared to the rest of the phone in the meet.
    SR-507 via Cavalli LL: Par very well with the LL; involves you musically and a fun phone with lots controlled bass. Fit wise is tight and makes you fell uncomfortable over a period of time.   
    Lambda Nova Signature via Cavalli LL: Definitely Lamba best phone with a very liquid and lots of detail and resolution. Sound wise, very transparent and allow you listen with no ear fatigue. Nice fit and matches well with the LL.
    SR-009 via Cavalli LL: Extremely well matched; LL synergy between the two were meant and if I did not have my present setup and wanted a well balanced  headphone system with a overall best sound this would be the one.
    SR-009 via Woo WA5/WEE: Again as mentioned above the 009 matched well with more dynamics which is contribute to the power of the WOO. The LL had a slight more detail for the critical listener.
    Conclusion: Overall I would say the choices of headphones used in this meeting all sound great and as a clear winner I would give it to the 009 with a slight edge over the HE-Audio Jade. As far as the phones in general the AKG K1000 is not headphone and being a speaker phone is more matched to a decent 2-channel room speaker setup. I would give it the clear winner if someone taste is not more inclined to the intimacy of a true headphone setup.

    Some photos
  2. sridhar3
  3. Elysian
    Nice impressions guys, and generally matches what I've thought for the specific pairings I've heard.  If the SR009 was my favorite Stax headphone, I would get a LL for it.  I prefer the SR007 presentation, though, and I did not care for the LL+SR007.  I find the SR007 to be more demanding about chain than the SR009, from source to preamp to amp.  So, based on meet impressions, BH + SR007 > LL + SR009, but YMMV with all things.  I'll probably give the SR009 another shot once the BHSE comes in.
    If you guys have some top-tier preamps, I suggest experimenting with them to tune the sound of Stax.  I tube rolled to some EML 300Bs with Sylvania 6SL7WGTs to drive the EMLs (6SU7 are cleaner but not as exciting) and the SR007A bass is even better than the LCD-3.
    The First Watt needs a minimum of 30mins (preferably 60min) to sound its best.  My J2 + HE-6 is spectacular but it needs to warm up fully.  The HE-6 sounds like I have a pair of Magnepans on my head, though the bass presentation is different.
  4. Arnaldo
    Sridhar3 seems to prefer the combination of the CCL with the SR-009 over the SR-007mk1. I wonder though whether his choice kind of suggests that the CLL has somewhat soft(er) highs, which in turn, could be taming the 009's brightness. On the same vein, could the 007's more laid back sound maybe benefit from a brighter/aggressive amp? But then Mwilson says that the CLL/009 combo strikes the "...perfect balance of frequency response..." The reason for my concern is that extended high-frequency reproduction is essential to the high-rez SACDs that I listen to. In the meantime, thank you all so much for putting all this together!
  5. Elysian
    The LL at the Bay Area meet sounded like a more powerful 323S to me, which isn't really what the SR007 needs (maybe the production version is different?).  There are certain elements of the 323S+SR007 signature which I am lukewarm about, and the LL didn't take any major strides in that area.  The LL was doing more of what the 323S and my tube-rolled GES does, rather than fixing the deficiencies of both those amps in driving the SR007 to its full potential.  I'm not saying that the 323S or GES /didn't/ sound good with the SR007, but the SR007s can be pushed harder than what both those amps can do.  323S/GES+SR007 still destroys most non high-end dynamic rigs.
    The SR007 needs something clean and powerful.  The LL+SR009 presentation was fun, but the BH has the LL flat out beat in sheer articulation and detail (with both SR007 and SR009).  It's possible to tune that sound with source and/or preamp, but I think a 'SS amp and be done with it' solution will be popular with a lot of SR009 owners who want more low-end grunt and a tamed high-end.
    I agree with most of your assessment.  The SR009 is shrill and bright to my ears, but the LL made the headphones fun and listenable, and tamed the SR009 aspects I find difficult to live with.  It really depends on what you're going for.  It's great that we have a lot of stat rig options now, and we still need to hear the Electra.
    I don't know anyone who thought the LL sounded better with the SR007 than SR009.
  6. sachu
    wow impressions are all over the map with regards to the SR007 with the LL .. the only thing that seems to be a constant is the excellent pairing of the LL with the SR009.
    Disagree with Elysian on the LL impressions regarding the 007. But it is what he heard.  My own take on it is completely opposite and very favorable, although this is after having lived with it for 6 months with a FAR better source than he heard the combo with.
  7. mwilson
    The LL doesn't have rolled-off highs. It controls them excellently, but not at the expense of shelving. I'd say the highs of WA-5 and Resolution Audio C50 as powered by the WEE don't come across as more in quantity when compared to the LL.

    Moreover, both the 507 and LNS (especially the latter) had considerable more highs than the 009/007 from the same LL.

  8. Elysian
    Source differences may have made up some of the difference, though I don't remember it being a bad source.  I want to say it was a Cambridge, but I could be misremembering.  The BH had an Accuphase which has, well, quite the reputation :)  Source alone would not have accounted for what I was hearing.  I compared notes with someone else afterwards who had a similar assessment, though I think they liked the LL+SR007 a bit more than I did.
    To my ears, the SR007+LL was ok, but for the asking price, way overpriced if the SR007 is the buyer's endgame headphone.
  9. MacedonianHero Contributor
    Great write up Nick. Thanks for the impressions. 
  10. Looks like a great meet and nice pictures as always.  I've been trying to arrange something similar in MKE but so far nothing has fully materialized.
    SR-007mk1 via Cavalli Liquid Lightning: the closest to LCD-3 I’ve heard an electrostatic headphone, for better or worse – short of a larger soundstage, very similar in sound, including glossing over details in all frequency ranges.
    SR-007mk1 via Cavalli Liquid Lightning (production version): Not good.  I suspect this is a case of “too much of a good thing”, given the somewhat warm sound signature of the SR-007 and the liquid smoothness and warmth of the CLL.  Too rounded, too warm, slow and syrupy, too much bass, shelved back mids and highs.  I was not impressed.
    Without trying to sound like a shill:
    Just to counteract the 007MK1/LL not being good as a "thing" (as I've seen this sentiment shared by more than just you guys) , I've had the combo for the last two weeks (along with a KGSSHV) and these were not my findings at all.  I only heard the 009's with these amps for a short time at a recent micro-meet so don't want to say too much about that combo, but I do think the LL worked well with the MK1's.  Nick, do you own one or was this just heard at a meet?  If you own the combo it may grow on you.
    Oh, and if I had to pick a dynamic headphone the MK1's sound closest to, (non-iem) it would be the LCD-3's.  I only have a problem with the LCD-3's details at lower volumes - at medium to around 85dB (which is usually about the loudest I'll go) I think the LCD-3's have some great detail to them, among the best of the dynamics.  Only problem with the 3's is there was a lot of tweaking involved to get it "right." (Well, that and it's price.) 
    Nice write up!  I need to listen to the 009 / LL.  I'm fairly happy with my system right now, but I have to admit I'm tempted to go down electrostat lane.
  12. mwilson
    Audiogalore just sent me his listening notes, which I've appended to the first post, right before the photos.
  13. alota
    i´m really jealous of this meeting[​IMG]
    well done
  14. sachu
    Elysian, fair enough. Different set of ears, brief meet listening conditions, so its all good :)
    Nick, any reason why the Cantata was not used as the source instead of the Esoteric. 
  15. mwilson
    It was, but most listening had the Esoteric as a source. The Cantata provided a little bit more crispness and detail to the sound while still managing to sound analog; the Esoteric had a more self-confident, laid back presentation.
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