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Schiit Mjolnir2 Tube Rolling Thread

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by neoluddite, Mar 13, 2017.
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  1. neoluddite
    Greetings to the Community,
    I am starting a tube rolling thread for the Schiit Mjolnir2 headphone amp.  If the community prefers I merge all this into the Lyr tube rolling thread, so be it.  As the two amps are different, I thought a second thread made sense.
    I have the following tubes to play with in my amp:
    (in no special order)
    1 - Schiit 6BZ7's
    2 - Schiit LISST's
    3 - Black Sable JJ Tesla E88CC
    4 - Genalex Gold Lion E88CC
    5 - Philips Miniwatt SQ E88CC
    6 -AmpereX D-Getter 6922
    7 - Mullard RTC 7308's
    It will take some time to work though all these and share my observations.  I will be listening to jazz, "late night classical," and voice via HE-1000 headphones.
    iMac > Audirvana > Schiit Gungnir Multibit > Schiit Mjolnir2 > HiFi Man HE-1000 > EMOS (Ears Made of Stone).
    Let's see what comes of this! 
    econaut likes this.
  2. Argo Duck
    I agree separating this thread from the Lyr one makes sense. Tubes do not sound or perform the same in different amps, even from the same maker (IMHO of course!).

    Look forward to your observations. I have Decware's CSP2+ and Taboo (mk II, not the III you asked about elsewhere). They are superb amps, which perform great with the Schiit Yggdrasil. Yet I'm very interested in the capabilities - and flexibility - of the Mjolnir 2, a brilliant innovation of Jason's.

    I hope this thread gets support.
  3. winders
    I have a Lyr 2 now but my Mjolnir 2 should ship this week. I have XLR interconnects ready to connect it to my Yggdrasil. I also have an XLR cable ready for my Sennheiser HD 650 headphones.
    My tube inventory is as follows:
    3 sets early 1960's Siemens CCa
    1 set early 1960's Telefunken CCa
    3 sets 1975 Reflektor 6N23P SWGP Silver Shields
    If you made me choose, I would rank them in the order listed. But the first two are so close it probably doesn't matter. The Telefunken tubes have the warmest sound of the three but I would not call them warm. The Siemens tubes are warmer than the Reflektor tubes and have the most pleasing combination of clarity, detail, and musicality. The Reflektor tubes are close, very close, but don't quite match up to the character of the German tubes.
    It will be interesting to hear how the new Mjolnir 2 balanced setup sounds in comparison to the Lyr 2 SE setup. The tubes may sound a bit different, but I suspect they will perform similarly.
    Edit: I forgot to mention that I also have a set of LISST tubes. I like them quite well too but the real tubes are better. I often use them when I know the music that is playing will just be in the background.
  4. Charente
    I'd be interested in your experience with the LISST. How do they compare with the Schiit Stock tubes ?
  5. neoluddite
    OK Gang... here goes my first attempt at managing this process.
    Comparative Music Information
    To be somewhat systematic and disciplined, I compiled the below playlist for comparative purposes, played back in the following signal path
    iMac/Audirvana 2.6.8> Nordost Blue Heaven 2M USB cable > iFi iPurifier > Schiit Gungnir Multibit > Schiit Mjolnir 2 > HiFiMan HE-1000’s (V1) > my ears made of stone
    Once I am done with the tubes, I will then swap over to the LSST's and see how they are :)
    PLAY LIST (no sniping on the songs :wink: )
    Mark Knopfler  - Sailing to Philadelphia
    Pet Shop Boys / Dusty Springfield – What Have I Done to Deserve This?
    Dire Straits – On Every Street
    Marc Cohn – Silver Thunderbird
    Jackson Brown – Stay
    Warren Zevon – Lawyers, Guns and Money
    U2 – With or Without You
    George Winston – Longing /Love
    Steely Dan – Reelin’ In the Years
    Randy Newman – Dixie Flyer
    Chumbawamba – Tubthumping
    Bozz Scaggs – Lido Shuffle
    Everything But the Girl – Downtown Train (Acoustic)
    Kenny Rogers – The Gambler
    Tina Turner – Don’t Leave me this Way
    Ida Sand – Bang Bang
    America – Ventura Highway
    America – Don’t Cross the River
    Kim Karnes – Betty Davis Eyes
    Kodo Drummers HEARTBEAT – Kyosui (O-Daiko)
    Bob Dylan – All Along the Watchtower
    Sarah Menescal – The Game of Love
    Steven Osborne - Pictures at an Exhibition: Great Gate of Kiev
    Katia & Marielle Labèque – Rhapsody in Blue
    Nina Simone – Sinnerman (Live NYC 1965)
    Yo-Yo Ma – Air and Simple Gifts
    Roman Perucki: Bach – Air on G string (Ste #3 in D major BMV 1068)
    Lianne La Havas – Don’t Wake Me Up
    The Guess Who – American Woman
    George Winston – Riders on the Storm
    Jacques Rouvier – Pictures at an Exhibition: Great Gate of Kiev
    Don McLean – American Pie
    Roy Orbison – Pretty Woman
    Christian McBride – Car Wash
    Amber Rubarth – Sneak (NB: simply astonishing separation and huge sound stage)
    Amber Rubarth – Full Moon in Paris
    Jazz at the Pawnshop – “Limehouse Blues” and “I’m Confessin’”
    Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water (Live in Japan)
    Enzo Pietropaoli – Bridge Over Troubled Water
    Comparison 1
    Schiit stock 6BZ7’s and “Black Sable” JJ/Tesla E88CC’s
    The stock Schiit 6BZ7’s are certainly respectable tubes.  For me, they are a jumping off point for experimentation.  Overall, the soundstage is adequate and the bass OK, yet I feel the tubes are a bit too bright.  “S” sounds in a song (as in Kim Carnes “eyessssssss” phrasing) become far too sibilant and piercing to my ear.  The sense of the human voice and the flow of air when making such a sound is lost in harshness.  Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” harmonica was painfully sharp.
    The Black Sable’s offered a wider left-right sound stage sense and a better high frequency treatment, though could just begin slipping into that harsh sibilance mentioned above (for example in Sarah Menescal’s The Game of Love)  Bass was tight yet some of the very deep growly notes on a piano sounded a tiny bit muddied together (Rouvier’s Pictures at an Exhibition.  Overall, the Black Sable has an “average voice” that is a tiny bit too biased toward the higher frequencies.  I like warm rounded human voice as well as resonant bass with lots of overtones.  The Black Sables don’t quite deliver here as I would like.
    The Black Sables provided a clear and detailed sound stage without veiling; the Schiit 6BZ7’s were – comparatively – veiled with a sense of a lot of stuff packed on top of each other.
    Comparison 2
    “Black Sable” JJ/Tesla E88CC’s and Genalex Gold Lion E88CC’s
    The Black Sable’s seem a “hotter” tube the Gold Lion’s.  I had expected the opposite experience vs the descriptions and commentary elsewhere.  Compared to the Gold Lion’s, the Black Sables are bright, much as the Schiit OEM 6BZ7’s were bright compared to the Black Sables.  The bass in the Gold Lion’s seemed to provide a better soundstage dimensionality and resolution (sense of “where” the string or key is).  For example, in Rouvier’s “Great Gate of Kiev” and Winston’s “Riders on the Storm,” the lowest piano notes felt as if you could reach out and touch each of those gloriously vibrating cord-like strings.
    Perhaps the Gold Lion’s were also warmer and less “hot” on the high frequencies, yet detail in the bright notes was maintained.  Still, as an overall listening experience, the Gold Lion’s still are not as warm and mellow as I would like.  Perhaps the sound of the Gold Lion’s is closer to “neutral” compared to the Black Sable’s.  The tube is very friendly to both male and female voice.  Tracy Thorn’s voice in Downtown Train is beautifully presented and the tremolo in her extended notes simply beautiful and Dylan and McLean are portrayed in a natural way. 
    Both the Black Sable’s and the Gold Lion’s seemed a tad restrained.  Perhaps that is my sense of missing warmth that causes me to think that.
    Forthcoming: Next for listening and then commentary… the Philips Miniwatt SQ E88CC’s  (quick initial hint... huge soundstage and great sense of space and detail vs the Black Sable.. more to come)
    Happy listening.
    If there are any DECWare Zen TabooIII owners in the San Francisco Bay Area, I would like to connect with you so I might listen to the amp.

    econaut likes this.
  6. captkirk
    Love the comparisons....keep 'em coming.
  7. winders

    Where in the Bay Area do you live? You need to listen to the MJ2 with these tubes:
    Reflektor 6N23P SWGP (1975)
    Siemens CCa (early 60's)
    Telefunken CCa (early 60's)
    If you aren't too far from San Jose, I could bring these buy so you could listen to them.
  8. neoluddite
    Greetings all... Below are my remarks after listening to the Philips Miniwatt SQ's

    Philips Miniwatt SQ E88CC’s – Thoughts in Listening
    These tubes followed the Genalex Gold Lion’s (above) in listening order
    The differences the Philips Miniwatt’s and the Genelex was substantial in comparison to the differences heard between the Genalex and Black Sable.  I was quite surprised by the degree of difference in terms of detail, tonality and sound stage.
    On the downside, these tubes were microphonic as heck until well warmed up.  Any touches or taps near the amp for the first minute or so were quite audible.  Once warmed up, I noticed no further microphonics.  Weird, huh?
    The other oddball behavior seemed to be the way female vocalists’s voices were reproduced compared to male voices.  I know that may sound nuts, but Tracy Thorn’s, Kim Carnes’ and Ida Sands' voices seemed restrained and somewhat subordinate to the instruments surrounding the while male vocalists’ voices punched through.
    The Philips were great at capturing the dynamics of the hard piano key strike, the percussion of a stick on a cymbal or drum.  The bass was crisp and the sound stage more noticeable.  In particular, the sense of front-back depth among instruments seemed greater.  In Air and Simple Gifts, the instrument positions seemed to be moving through space.
    The opening few moments of Sneak caused me to look to the left as the initial chords seemed to be so far away.
    The odd thing about these tubes was the sound –to my ears – of the female voice.  The presentation seemed restrained and formal whereas the male voices sounded fine.  The exception to this was Nina Simone’s voice in Sinnerman where there was a clear warmth and a great sense of spatial presence for the live recording. 
    These tubes were quite revealing in that occasionally I heard fine “new details” in the music I had not noticed before: the sounds of fingertips on keys, the sounds of arms moving and piano pedals moving.  For once, I could actual hear the correct lyrics in Smoke on the Water as “….Funky Claude was pulling kids out the ground now…”
    Overall, I felt these tubes were markedly superior to the Black Sables or Genalex tubes:  they were comparatively warmer where I like it and less strident in the top end.  The sound stage differences were the biggest positive surprise and the weird treatment of female voice was the biggest downer. 
    Stay tuned for Amperex D-getter white label 6922's.....

    econaut likes this.
  9. winders
    How long did you let them burn in? I always give tubes at least 50 hours and some tubes don't come into their until after 100 hours (Reflektors).
  10. neoluddite
    Thanks Winders, i appreciate the advice.  I normally won't judge the tubes until they have had a solid 4-5 days of run time on them (as in 4 - 5 days @ 24hrs/ day playing looping tracks)
    In this case, the Philips had sounded harsh and bright early on, but after 80+ hours they sounded good enough to listen to critically.  
    Certainly, as they age and change, I will be obliged to update my comments - maybe after there are 150--200 hours of use on the tubes.
    What surprises me is that there really are differences in sounds of tubes among different brands/types.  I never would have expected to have found the marked increase in sound stage that I heard in the Philips.
    The Amperex have been cooking now for about 36 hours.. by the weekend, I hope they will have settled in so I can listen to them.  So far, they sound quite appealing, but that is just quick "peeks."
    Then come the Mullards, then some Mazda's and finally some Amperex CCa Valvo's........lots of listening ahead.
  11. Argo Duck
    These are really good notes. And very useful for anyone considering this amp, even given hearing and preference differences.

    I too have been surprised by "differences in sounds of tubes among different brands" of the same tube. I've been pleasantly surprised by some less expensive tubes too (with my Decware amps).
  12. neoluddite

    Thank you Sir... Hope users find the comparisons useful, or at least a bit interesting.  All our ears are different, so I expect other folks to have very different views...
  13. SashimiWu
    Great thread!  Waiting to hear about the rest of your findings.
  14. neoluddite
    Greetings All.. the next installment: Mullard 7308's

    Listening Notes – Mullard 7308 RTC’s (1972 E188CC)
    Listening to these tubes took place after evaluating the Amperex PQ D-Getters; it has been a bumpy ride.
    Perhaps naively, I installed the Mullards  and gave them a day to warm up, looping music, before beginning listening....and was shocked at how bad the tubes sounded.  Imagine listening to a 1970’s vintage portable transistor radio sitting outside on a picnic bench – thin, anemic, harsh..  Basically, so awful I pulled them out and repacked them to return to the vendor. 
    The following day I spoke with the vendor who, while agreeing to accept the tubes under the 30-day warranty, pleaded with me to give them an extended break-in period.  He doubled the “you can return them if not happy” period to 60 days, so I popped them back in and let them play into my headphones, unlistened to, for three days.  They were improving.  After four days of cooking, the tubes were astonishingly different.  The harsh thin sound was gone, replaced with a sense of space and warmth closer to what I had sought.  The tubes were, however, a bit noisy (a steady “shshshshsh” sound) noticeable during the quiet passages of pieces.
    In light of the impact ~80 hours of run time had on the tubes, I decided to hold off critical assessment for another two days.  So by 130+ hours, it was time to really listen. 
    The tubes continued to improve and, most noticeably, the “shshshsh” noise level dropped materially so that even in the quietest passages, the background hiss was not unwelcome.  Rather it was more like the grain in a traditional black and white film-based photograph, simply adding character and atmosphere.
    Let me pause to say I am quite surprised. I never put much stock in the “burn in “ notions I read about.  Not that others are wrong, but it made little sense to me, until now.  Had I not had physical custody of the tubes, I would have sworn someone had swapped them on me, the difference in sound was so dramatic, to pleasant from dreadful.  So, memo to self: there may be something to the break-in notions.
    Not knowing the nuances of audio-speak, pardon me if I use visual and photographic analogies.  At first, the bass was shallow, flabby and unresolved… like an image drunkenly shifting in and out of focus.  Just terrible to listen to initially.  Now, with 130+ hours of elapsed time, the bass is precise, warm and tight.  Left half of piano keyboards in Mussorgsky, Winston and Gershwin pieces well-spoken, powerful and tight.  Kodo Drummers (a really tough bass test given the impulse nature of large ceremonial drums) was fine – explosive percussion with lots of overtone resonance I hear at live performances. 
    Treble and upper range also mellowed, moving from harsh and sharp (like overly sour lemonade) to smoother and more graceful sound that remain clearly etched, but not overly bright (like an oversharpened digital photograph).  In comparison to the Amperex, I think the Mullards are a tiny bit brighter.
    Given the challenges I experienced with the Mullards, I began going off-piste from my comparative listening list and I learned a few other things in the process. 
    The Mullards are a bit airier and more open than the Amperex – maybe not as “clubby” as I had expected.  The Mullards are also merciless – just merciless – on poorly engineered recordings.  They reveal many technical and instrumental “oops,” glaringly so.  Consequently, as there is a lot of dross out there, pick and choose your source music carefully when listening with “my" Mullards (YMMV).
    Early Denon digital pieces show recording artifacts.  “Bright or hot” mics will not be tamed by these tubes; rather their acid character will burn through; singers’ “mouth wetness” sounds will also pop and snap unpleasantly.  Piano voicing is also more apparent with these tubes.  Steiways sound like emasculated castrati.  Bechstein, Boesendorfer and Bluethner sound better – full, round rich tones - on these tubes.  Cellos sound nicer, too, than violins.
    On Air and Simple Gifts, it sounds like you can hear the texture of the string and the bow material in the opening chords.  It is really pleasant.  Try John Holloway’s ECM recording of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Violin: he uses traditional gut strings on a baroque violin, recorded in a church, so lots of reverberation, acoustic texture and resonance. 
    Enough commentary:  Let me wrap with the following points:
    1 – Mullards need LOTS  of break-in time;
    2 – Vs. the Amperex or other preceding tubes, they are tremendously revealing;
    3 – The Mullards are a bit airier than the Amperex and NOT as warm as I thought;
    4 – They are great tubes and I will NOT return them.  Do not pair them, however, with lousy quality recordings and clinically clear headphones;
    5 – Given their slow break-in period, they may continue to change, so I may report back further;
    6 – At the moment, I prefer my Amperex tubes to the Mullards.  This surprises me given all the commentary about the Mullard “sound.”  Of course, your ears may be different than that's just fine by me.  The Mullards are nice, but the Amperex, so far, are simply "easy to listen to" while the Mullards are, to my ears, more like diagnostic tools rather then easy to listen to.  They do not suck the life out of the music, but they are so revealing it is hard for me to slip into just enjoying.  (Comparatively, I dislike Sennheiser HD 800's and 8800S as they are too cold and clinical.)
    Next up on the listening list… 1966 Large O-Getter Mazda 7308 Miniwatts.. they are now in the 3 day break-in period - then I will listen.

    Argo Duck likes this.
  15. captkirk
    Great post!  I continue to appreciate your comments and comparisons.
    Who's the vendor?  Sounds like they might be worth a bookmark...
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