Review: Analog Design Labs Svetlana 2 tube headphone amplifier

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by project86, Jul 6, 2011.
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  1. alvin sawdust
    Just had to read the review again as it is such a good read. Do you plan on tube rolling at some point?
  2. project86 Contributor


    Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it.
    Tube rolling might be in my future but I'm in no rush. Honestly there aren't a ton of options out there anyway. I'm hesitant to switch from the 6N1P to the ECC88 or 6922 options because they will likely be noisier. That leaves me with a few different brands of 6N1P like Sovtek or Svetlana (!) which are available for cheap, but the stock tubes (rocket label and OTK designation which means from the Kaluga plant) are probably hard to beat. The only thing I'd be interested in is finding this same tube from the 70s since those are supposedly very nice.
    For the output tubes I suspect there is no real improvement to be had (again, stock OTK rockets) unless I go to a 6N30P. Those start at $30-40 for the newer versions but the real magic is in the expensive 6N30P-DR "supertubes" which unfortunately go for a few hundred dollars each. 
    I'm busy with other toys at the moment. But I guess when I have some free time it couldn't hurt to spend $60 to replace all 4 tubes with cheap alternatives, just to see what happens. I'll update if I do.
  3. alvin sawdust
    Have you received the LCD-2s yet?  Eager to hear your impressions with the Svetlana.
  4. project86 Contributor
    I did get the LCD-2 and I've been trying to find time to listen through the Svetlana. Plugged in yesterday just for a short time and it sounded quite good - seems like adequate power too, which is something I was concerned about.
    The LCD-2 is tricky though because it sounds pretty decent through most of my amps.... but only certain amps make it really shine. So I need to spend more time to get a handle on its potential. But initial impressions for a single album (Eric Clapton Unplugged) are very positive indeed.
    Will update soon.
  5. alvin sawdust
    Thanks, look forward to your findings. I think the LCD-2 sounds great with 337se but I am sure it can be bettered.
  6. project86 Contributor
    Update about the LCD-2: I've borrowed one and am trying it with all my gear.
    My absolute favorite pairing is with the Violectric V200. Those two seem made for each other. But the Svetlana gives an excellent alternative take on the sound. The V200 makes the LCD-2 sound like an LCD-2. That sounds dumb but anyone who has heard the LCD-2 knows what I'm talking about. The Svetlana goes a different route. It sort of changes the sound to a more pleasingly sweet presentation. Someone who fundamentally dislikes the LCD-2 would probably still not like it, but for those times when you wish for just a bit more airiness and emotion from it, the Svetlana is perfect. 
    I find that I like to use it with vocal oriented music like folk and acapella groups. I LOVE the way it sounds on the 24/96 release of "Cantos De Agua Dulce" by Marta Gomez. Enchanting midrange, sparkling highs that remain smooth, deep impactful bass when called upon to do so. That album has a lot of little touches from rhythm instruments and they sound completely lifelike through the Svetlana - like there is a real percussionist in my room with me, rather than just floating in space somewhere. 
    I was unsure if the amp had enough power to properly drive the LCD-2. After listening to the combo a lot, I'd say that it should have enough power for most people in most situations. Listening to louder rock music, I'd usually have the volume cranked to about 60-70% of maximum. With some albums (like the Marta Gomez I mentioned) I could go up to 90% or so. I never ran into a time when I desired more volume. But I haven't tried a lot of classical music, which is the time when I sometimes need more volume than other genres. I would describe myself as being about average when it comes to listening levels - I'm sure there are people who would want to listen significantly louder than I do, and for those folks the Svetlana might not be ideal. Aside from that it is an excellent combo.
    If my family situation allowed for open headphone use more often, I think I could be happy with the LCD-2 as my only headphone. I would use the V200 to get the standard LCD-2 presentation and the Analog Design Labs Svetlana 2 for a more emotive version. 
  7. pigmode
    I had the $199. version from The Tube Store, but this has gotten good reviews.

  8. alvin sawdust
    Thanks very much for taking time to put down in words your findings with the LCD-2. I had a sneaking feeling the V200 would be the more ideal partner.
    Have you tried the LCD-2 with your 337se yet? Sorry to go a little OT.
  9. project86 Contributor


    I see it written both ways, but yes that seems to be a match. Thanks for the link - I may try a pair of those down the road. 

    No problem. In one respect you are right about the V200 - it is ideal with the LCD-2 in so many ways. But that doesn't take away from the absolutely stunning presentation of the Svetlana. Different, but still very very good.
    I get the feeling this amp is going to take me on a journey of discovery with some new headphones. I haven't yet tried the Audio Technica W1000X or the Beyer T1, but I feel like I must when I get a chance. The Svetlana does an amazing job with the W1000, W2002, DT880/250, and DT990/600. AT and Beyer headphones seem to be among its strong points. So it makes sense that I should try the newest flagships from those two companies.
    My 337SE is about 100 miles away from me, being auditioned by a potential buyer. If all goes as planned I will never see it again. It was a great amp and I got a lot of listening enjoyment out of it, but I am ready to move on. Unfortunately that means I can't try it with the LCD-2 though.
  10. cky8
    I'm anxiously waiting for Analog Design Labs to release their English website for direct ordering. But it'd be great if you somehow manage to acquire a W1000X and test it with the Svetlana 2. Of course I have much confidence in your statement that the Svetlana 2 should pair well with W-series ATH headphones. Still a very happy D1 owner but I'm also looking for something that really lets me involve on the essence and flow of the music depending on mood. The Svetlana 2 seems to be just the right candidate.
  11. project86 Contributor

    I haven't heard any updates about their website but hopefully they are on track. They did mention that they were working on a DAC, to be released within a few months or so. All I know is that it will use the high end Sabre DAC chip and of course will have tubes. Sounds intriguing. 
    I've added the W1000X to my list of "try to audition SOON!" headphones. If the old W1000 sounds this good on the Svetlana, I can't imagine the W1000X sounding anything less than brilliant. I also want to try the W11R but those are hard to get a hold of. 
  12. WarriorAnt
    Well I have been looking for one tube amp around 1K to compliment my V200, LCD, W4S DAC-2 rig.   This one is definitely going on the list.  I'm not too keen on tube rolling so it's nice to hear that I may not have to do that at all..  I just contacted Analog Design Labs about their english website and they said a few more months.  Well I have a few things I need to sell first anyway.   The only headphone I will be using with this amp and the V200 is the LCD-2 rev.2.  I'm curious which version of the LCD did you audition the Svetlana 2 with?   
    I noticed that in your comparison with the V200 you wrote concerning the Svetlana 2 and the V200  "Both are almost completely free of glare or grain".  I'd have to remove "almost" from the V200 because I have yet to find any sense of grain, glare, stridency  or congestion to the V200. It's just so smooth and effortless.    That is not to say I had not heard these things in my rig to some small degree but when I found them and eliminated them is has always been the case the artifacts were not coming from the V200.  For instance I was experiencing some small amount of congestion and stridency in the upper region during high energy passages when listening with the LCD. I switched out the stock headphone cable that comes with the LCD-2 for a 3 meter Q Cable from Steve Eddy and the very slight congestion and stridency was completely removed, not to mention an increase in overall clarity and respective transparency.    Then I switched out the stock USB cable that came with the Wyred4Sound DAC-2 for a WireWorld Starlight USB cable and the upper frequencies seemed to straighten out and extend, and there is simply more depth and weight to the soundstage. Bass is slightly richer and better textured.
    So with every new tweak the V200 has shown is has yet to be bested. When I brought in the Starlight USB cable that sense of a slightly subdued top end to the V200 was gone.  Not that I felt it was subdued before but afterwards there was a little more of a clear and upward reaching sparkle in the V200.    
    Thanks again for you reviewing efforts.  I know it's a lot of hard work and you do it well.  You sold me on the V200 awhile back and it seems perfect for the LCD-2 r.2 and so I hope you update this thread every once in a while concerning the  the Svetlana 2 but not too much. I need to save some coin first! [​IMG]

  13. project86 Contributor
    WarriorAnt, I sent you a PM.
    The LCD-2 I've been using is the original version (well, not the ORIGINAL version but still using the rev.1 drivers). I'm also borrowing the HiFiMan HE-500 and have been going back and forth with both headphones on the Svetlana 2. Wow! I think the Violectric V200 is the king with the LCD-2, but the Svetlana might have the edge when driving the HE-500. They both sound really great from both amps though, and I'd easily choose either over my more expensive Sennheiser HD800, Grado PS1000, and maybe even Lawton LA7000 lite. It's a good time for headphones I guess. 
  14. snappyd
    Just came across this amp and then found this review. Extremely helpful one too! Thanks for writing it up.
    Looks-wise it reminds me of my Pathos Classic One MkII: Though that is a valve pre and solid state power hybrid amp.
    Just bought a pair of Beyerdynamic T70s and waiting for those to arrive, and got the urge to go down the valve amp path. If I can find this one for a good price I'll be jumping on it for sure. If that doesn't work out I might go for the Schiit Lyr. Seems a fair step down though.
    The only problem I'll find with this is making space on my desk for it...
  15. project86 Contributor


    Thanks for the comment! 
    It does have some similarities with the Pathos amp. That looks nice with the wood accent on front. 
    Someone told me that they felt the T70s worked best with tubes. They felt the same with the T1, and many people say the same, so the T70 comment may be true as well. Not enough owners out there to know for sure yet.
    I don't know that you will find this amp on the used market anytime soon. They really haven't started their push into global sales as of yet. The new website should supposedly be ready shortly, which will allow direct purchases from the manufacturer. After that I suspect more people will get to try it out.
    In other news, the Audio Technica W1000X paired with the Svetlana 2 is a match made in heaven. I don't care what else happens to my system, this combo is a keeper. I'll post more detailed impressions when I've logged more time with the pair.
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