Singlepower MPX3 vs. Extreme: My Impressions
Mar 5, 2007 at 1:46 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 31

panyncor

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I’ve been comparing the MPX3 Slam to the Extreme Platinum for a couple months with the intention of selling whichever came in second. It’s been hard -- I never intended to take this long making up my mind. I don’t really have the expertise to construct a “proper” review, but I do want to share my observations.

First, a disclaimer: The distinctions here are relative. If you say that your Porsche has better acceleration than your BMW, no one should conclude that the BMW is sluggish. When I say that the Extreme of MPX is better than the other at one thing or another, I usually mean that one is, say, 95% of perfection, while the other is “only,” say, 91% of perfection.

I connected the amps to the Channel Islands VDA-2 with identical interconnects. Most of the time, I also used identical input tubes (either Sylvania VT-231 or Ken-Rad VT-231). The outputs on the Extreme were RCA 6080s. The Outputs on the MPX3 were Philips 5687s. I used the Sennheiser HD-600 with Cardas cable, Grado RS-1, and Beyerdynamic DT-880.

The “winner” in various categories . . .

Appearance: MPX3
On the MPX everything is sheathed in the same piano black. On the Extreme, the Piltron transformer is covered in a different, non-shiny material that isn’t bad looking but which does make for a less consistent appearance. Also the MPX benefits from being larger, which means more gleaming surface.

Connectivity: MPX3
This is obvious. The MPX has two inputs and a loop out. The Extreme has only one input.

Impact: Extreme
Believe what you’ve read. It’s most noticeable on percussion, where there’s amazing snap.

Tone: MPX3
This is close, but there’s something incomparably smooth about the MPX.

Soundstage: Extreme. (But it’s a trade-off)
Note that soundstage is not one of the attributes I value most in headphones. For instance, I sold the K-701’s because I found that their spaciousness came at the price of limited intimacy. Grado RS-1’s, by comparison, don’t spread the sound out as much but they do have an everything-in-its-right-place naturalness to my ears. In the Extreme vs. MPX comparison, it’s a bit genre-dependent. On music that’s meant to sound “big,” the Extreme’s larger soundstage is very nice. On music that’s meant to sound “cozy,” the MPX presents a denser image that feels a bit more precise.

Detail: Tie.
I kept changing my mind on this one. For busier music, give the edge to the Extreme. For more open music, it might be the MPX.

Treble: Tie.
I found this to be pretty headphone-dependent. On the HD-600’s the Extreme has the edge for treble. On the DT880’s, I think I prefer the MPX.

Mid-Bass:
Extreme
That impactfulness really shows itself here.

Deep Bass: MPX3
This surprised me. There were times when I found low acoustic bass notes sounding more defined and prominent on the MPX.

Mid-Range: It depends. The Extreme is more forward in the mids, which often sounds very sweet, but sometimes this can make it sound slightly harsher than the MPX.


Random thoughts

My favorite MPX3 tubes weren’t always my favorite on the Extreme. The Ken-Rad is my favorite tube in the MPX, but in the Extreme I was liking the Sylvania more. The Westinghouse (rebranded?) that Mikhail sent with the Extreme was nothing special when I tried in the MPX, but I really like it in the Extreme. Go figure.

I never knew that headphone jacks loosen up. The first time I inserted the Cardas plug on my HD-600’s I had to really push, and when I pulled it back out there was actually a split-second of fear that it was stuck. Now it’s about the same as the MPX.

The white tube bases are more raised on the Extreme than on the MPX. On the latter, the base of a 6sn7 is right on top of the chassis and you can barely see the white base. On the Extreme, the tube plainly sits on top of the base. I don’t prefer one over the other, just thought I’d note it.

I know that a lot of people, including Mikhail, have raved about the RS-1’s on the Extreme but I thought the MPX held its own very well with the Grados. Interestingly, the differences between the amps were easiest to hear with the HD-600’s.


Conclusion

The Extreme produces notes with a bit more impact, but impact is not the same as body, and here the MPX comes out slightly ahead, with a very pleasing density. In terms of the tube/solid-state stereotypes (which, yes, really is a caricature), the MPX is ever so slightly more “tube-like” than the Extreme. Drums sound a tad more energetic on the Extreme; saxophones sound a tad more sultry on the MPX. As I said at the beginning, these differences are relative — neither amp is a slouch in any department.

So which am I going to keep? I find myself changing my mind every couple days, and if I were to experiment with different tube combinations I could no doubt nurture my indecision for months. But I really can’t afford to keep both and need to make a decision. In a way, I almost wish this dilemma had never come around — I was perfectly happy before, and now I’ll always be recalling the superior qualities of whichever amp I no longer have.

I think I’m going to part with the MPX3. The Extreme’s smaller size gives me a bit more precious desk space (it’s pretty cramped here), and I'm feeling the urge to experiment with different output tubes. (I made a deal with myself -- and my wife -- that I wouldn't buy additional tubes until I sold one of the amps.) I’ll be posting the MPX3 for sale with a host of tubes, if anyone’s interested.
 
Mar 5, 2007 at 2:31 AM Post #2 of 31

luvdunhill

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panyncor:

Thanks for the review! I haven't had much time with the Extreme myself, and I hope others who have had more experience can offer more comments than I can. I would however like to ask if you've ever heard any other of the Singlepower amplifiers and if so, it'd be interesting to sorta weave your other Singlepower impressions into the mix.
 
Mar 5, 2007 at 2:45 AM Post #3 of 31

newguru

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Good review man! I like to hear different peoples thoughts on amps. No one is right or wrong on these things. It is all subjective. Some things you thought were in favor of the MPX, someone else might have seen in the Extreme and vice versa.

Good stuff man!
 
Mar 5, 2007 at 2:48 AM Post #4 of 31

edisonwu

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Thanks....this is the review I have been looking for..Have heard a max out MPX3 long ago and rencently always wonder if the Extreme platinum do any better or worse while they cost almost the same. It would be more perfect if the output tubes on each amps being used to compare were the same.
 
Mar 5, 2007 at 5:11 AM Post #5 of 31

augustwest

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panyncor -

Fascinating read!

I was curious, how is your MPX amp outfitted, options, etc. I noticed that you referred to using the 5687 output tubes, so you must have a "SLAM" version?

- augustwest
 
Mar 5, 2007 at 6:12 AM Post #6 of 31

panyncor

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Quote:

Originally Posted by luvdunhill /img/forum/go_quote.gif
panyncor:

Thanks for the review! I haven't had much time with the Extreme myself, and I hope others who have had more experience can offer more comments than I can. I would however like to ask if you've ever heard any other of the Singlepower amplifiers and if so, it'd be interesting to sorta weave your other Singlepower impressions into the mix.



Unfortunately, I haven't heard any other Singlepowers. Considering how hard this comparison was (in an "I want both" kind of way), I think maybe I should avoid any others for a while. They're addictive.
 
Mar 5, 2007 at 6:23 AM Post #7 of 31

panyncor

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Quote:

Originally Posted by newguru /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Good review man! I like to hear different peoples thoughts on amps. No one is right or wrong on these things. It is all subjective. Some things you thought were in favor of the MPX, someone else might have seen in the Extreme and vice versa.

Good stuff man!



Hey, I love your avatar, newguru -- Sennheiser and Singlepower are an unbeatable combination.

Well said about how subjective all this is. I drive myself crazy with how inconsistent my own tastes are. A quality that I love during one listening session is suddenly less compelling the next time I put the headphones on. So much of listening is psychological and influenced by factors that can't be identified, let alone controlled.
 
Mar 5, 2007 at 6:32 AM Post #8 of 31

panyncor

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Quote:

Originally Posted by augustwest /img/forum/go_quote.gif
panyncor -

Fascinating read!

I was curious, how is your MPX amp outfitted, options, etc. I noticed that you referred to using the 5687 output tubes, so you must have a "SLAM" version?

- augustwest



The different Singlepower designations can be a bit confusing, but I believe Mikhail refers to an MPX3 with the supra transformer and 5687 tube adapters as an "MPX Slam." The advantage over the earlier "hard-wired" Slams (whether PPX3 or MPX3) is that you can also use 6sn7's and 6bx7's simply by removing the tube adatpters.

If I've mis-stated the differences, hopefully one our Singlepower gurus will speak up.
 
Mar 5, 2007 at 4:56 PM Post #10 of 31

panyncor

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Quote:

Originally Posted by fkclo /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Thanks very much. Great read. This is exactly what I wanted to know. I am struggling with a decision to get a SLAM Extreme and incidentally, I also have MPX3 in mind.

F. Lo



F. Lo,

I'm glad you enjoyed.

Would you mind giving some background on the SLAM Extreme? I'm accustomed to "SLAM" referring to 5687 output tubes, which I wouldn't think (but then what do I know?) the Extreme could handle, since it's optimized for the 6080 type tube.

Not that I'm in the market (Lord help me) -- just curious.
 
Mar 5, 2007 at 6:00 PM Post #11 of 31

robm321

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Good read. Answered some questions that I had. Thanks
icon10.gif
 
Mar 5, 2007 at 7:21 PM Post #12 of 31

sacd lover

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Quote:

Originally Posted by panyncor /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I’ve been comparing the MPX3 Slam to the Extreme Platinum for a couple months with the intention of selling whichever came in second. It’s been hard -- I never intended to take this long making up my mind. I don’t really have the expertise to construct a “proper” review, but I do want to share my observations.

First, a disclaimer: The distinctions here are relative. If you say that your Porsche has better acceleration than your BMW, no one should conclude that the BMW is sluggish. When I say that the Extreme of MPX is better than the other at one thing or another, I usually mean that one is, say, 95% of perfection, while the other is “only,” say, 91% of perfection.

I connected the amps to the Channel Islands VDA-2 with identical interconnects. Most of the time, I also used identical input tubes (either Sylvania VT-231 or Ken-Rad VT-231). The outputs on the Extreme were RCA 6080s. The Outputs on the MPX3 were Philips 5687s. I used the Sennheiser HD-600 with Cardas cable, Grado RS-1, and Beyerdynamic DT-880.

The “winner” in various categories . . .

Appearance: MPX3
On the MPX everything is sheathed in the same piano black. On the Extreme, the Piltron transformer is covered in a different, non-shiny material that isn’t bad looking but which does make for a less consistent appearance. Also the MPX benefits from being larger, which means more gleaming surface.

Connectivity: MPX3
This is obvious. The MPX has two inputs and a loop out. The Extreme has only one input.

Impact: Extreme
Believe what you’ve read. It’s most noticeable on percussion, where there’s amazing snap.

Tone: MPX3
This is close, but there’s something incomparably smooth about the MPX.

Soundstage: Extreme. (But it’s a trade-off)
Note that soundstage is not one of the attributes I value most in headphones. For instance, I sold the K-701’s because I found that their spaciousness came at the price of limited intimacy. Grado RS-1’s, by comparison, don’t spread the sound out as much but they do have an everything-in-its-right-place naturalness to my ears. In the Extreme vs. MPX comparison, it’s a bit genre-dependent. On music that’s meant to sound “big,” the Extreme’s larger soundstage is very nice. On music that’s meant to sound “cozy,” the MPX presents a denser image that feels a bit more precise.

Detail: Tie.
I kept changing my mind on this one. For busier music, give the edge to the Extreme. For more open music, it might be the MPX.

Treble: Tie.
I found this to be pretty headphone-dependent. On the HD-600’s the Extreme has the edge for treble. On the DT880’s, I think I prefer the MPX.

Mid-Bass:
Extreme
That impactfulness really shows itself here.

Deep Bass: MPX3
This surprised me. There were times when I found low acoustic bass notes sounding more defined and prominent on the MPX.

Mid-Range: It depends. The Extreme is more forward in the mids, which often sounds very sweet, but sometimes this can make it sound slightly harsher than the MPX.


Random thoughts

My favorite MPX3 tubes weren’t always my favorite on the Extreme. The Ken-Rad is my favorite tube in the MPX, but in the Extreme I was liking the Sylvania more. The Westinghouse (rebranded?) that Mikhail sent with the Extreme was nothing special when I tried in the MPX, but I really like it in the Extreme. Go figure.

I never knew that headphone jacks loosen up. The first time I inserted the Cardas plug on my HD-600’s I had to really push, and when I pulled it back out there was actually a split-second of fear that it was stuck. Now it’s about the same as the MPX.

The white tube bases are more raised on the Extreme than on the MPX. On the latter, the base of a 6sn7 is right on top of the chassis and you can barely see the white base. On the Extreme, the tube plainly sits on top of the base. I don’t prefer one over the other, just thought I’d note it.

I know that a lot of people, including Mikhail, have raved about the RS-1’s on the Extreme but I thought the MPX held its own very well with the Grados. Interestingly, the differences between the amps were easiest to hear with the HD-600’s.


Conclusion

The Extreme produces notes with a bit more impact, but impact is not the same as body, and here the MPX comes out slightly ahead, with a very pleasing density. In terms of the tube/solid-state stereotypes (which, yes, really is a caricature), the MPX is ever so slightly more “tube-like” than the Extreme. Drums sound a tad more energetic on the Extreme; saxophones sound a tad more sultry on the MPX. As I said at the beginning, these differences are relative — neither amp is a slouch in any department.

So which am I going to keep? I find myself changing my mind every couple days, and if I were to experiment with different tube combinations I could no doubt nurture my indecision for months. But I really can’t afford to keep both and need to make a decision. In a way, I almost wish this dilemma had never come around — I was perfectly happy before, and now I’ll always be recalling the superior qualities of whichever amp I no longer have.

I think I’m going to part with the MPX3. The Extreme’s smaller size gives me a bit more precious desk space (it’s pretty cramped here), and I'm feeling the urge to experiment with different output tubes. (I made a deal with myself -- and my wife -- that I wouldn't buy additional tubes until I sold one of the amps.) I’ll be posting the MPX3 for sale with a host of tubes, if anyone’s interested.



Since I have multiple MPX3's and two Extremes I want to add some input here. First, given the tubes you have at your disposal I think your impressions are very close to mine. I have a hard time placing one over the other using only the 6sn7 types for gain. I had pretty much decided I thought the Extreme was very, very slightly better all round with the 6/12sn7gt or 7n7 types emphasized .... which is quite a feat. But, once I started playing with some of the new gain tubes I found both these amps will definitely scale even more. If you like the Extreme now, I suspect with the addition of a tube socket adapter and some of the 5965/6414/6829/7062/12av7 series of tubes, you will be pleasantly surprised how different and better (IMO) the amp can sound.

How? The ECC type #1 adapter series have much better dynamics and give the amp a faster, punchier sound. The 6as7/5998/6080 need some serious voltage drive and ample current drive to fully wake them up. The ECC tube types seem to provide this requirement in spades. The senn 580/600/650's will especially benefit from this change.

Some of the tubes also have exceptional soundstaging; like the GE 5965 or the GE 6829. For some other examples .... the Amperex 7062 is a nicely refined tube that also gives the amp more snap. The RCA 12av7 is a rich and refined tube with dynamics that still exceed those of the 6sn7gt types; atleast in my setup. So, the Extreme is fully capable of keeping the present set of attributes while adding or enhancing some aspects of the presentation.
icon10.gif


But, when I was experimenting I put a TS 2c51 in the MPX3 with the 6bl7-6bx7 output tubes and I was completely taken back how good the MPX3 can sound. In fact, the MPX3 with this tube combo is absolutely stunning. So now I am not so sure which amp is the "best". I guess the good news is that they both can sound even better than excellent. The only downside is the MPX3 was never designed with these high gain tubes in mind for people like me with very high output sources. So, I have sent my SLAM SE back to have a texture control added that will allow me to manipulate the amps gain. So then I can use them without any hum or power supply noise breaking through with my very high output sources. This problem will not affect most of you as my source is my problem. Therefore, adding a simple adapter for a 2c51 plus the 6bl7gta-6bx7gt output tubes that plug right in ANY MPX3 WITH OCTAL SOCKETS and you have a completely different and again IMO .... better amp.

I have been holding off to see if I still felt this way with the 2c51/6bl7-6bx7 tube combos after several weeks since the improvement is so pronounced. But I read this quote from bozebuttons at the NY meet and I feel more confident mentioning this awesome combo ....

"SINGLEPOWER had a full range of amps, I listened to the Bling amp first with the balanced 650s & was blown away with the impact, detail & expansive soundstage the 650s had. I had heard this amp the first time Mikhail debuted the amp in NY. I turned to Mikhail & asked him if he made any upgrades to the amp, his answer was no. The amp has 2c51s as drivers with adapters & 6bl7 as outputs as well as more breakin time, boy this amp hit the sweet spot."

So what is the verdict? Well ... my take is you cant lose with either amp.
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Mar 5, 2007 at 8:18 PM Post #14 of 31

luvdunhill

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I'd like to interject one comment on Earl's excellent addendum, which I was holding off on after reading this review the first time. The MPX3 SE, which allows the (proper) use of the 6BL7/6BX7 output tube is in my opinion a different animal altogether than my previous PPX3 SLAM and the Extreme that I have listened to, which one would expect from it's nearly double price tag (retail). I don't feel comfortable enough with the Extreme to launch into a full-scale review, but I would like to note that this review compares the base MPX3 to the Extreme, and I'm assuming that edisonwu was referring to a souped up MPX3, not an SE as well. My guess is on the other hand, that Earl is referring to his SE when he talks about the 2c51/6bl7-6bx7 combo. I just wanted to level set for those who are confused by the Singlepower nomenclature.

In my humble opinion, (and my pocketbooks opinion) the MPX3 SE is worth 2-3 times the price tag on the Extreme... easily. I absolutely love the 6bx7/6bl7 tubes and cannot imagine any other output tube in the MPX3 SE. I don't know much about the Supra, Maestro, SDS, etc. but if they didn't use these tubes, I'm not sure I'd be interested in upgrading from the SE... seriously.

I really don't want to take this thread in another direction any more than I just have, so I'll refrain from (further) gushing about the SE ... Trust me, I had to show exceeding restraint thus far!
 
Mar 5, 2007 at 8:37 PM Post #15 of 31

sacd lover

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Quote:

Originally Posted by luvdunhill /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I'd like to interject one comment on Earl's excellent addendum, which I was holding off on after reading this review the first time. The MPX3 SE, which allows the (proper) use of the 6BL7/6BX7 output tube is in my opinion a different animal altogether than my previous PPX3 SLAM and the Extreme that I have listened to, which one would expect from it's nearly double price tag (retail). I don't feel comfortable enough with the Extreme to launch into a full-scale review, but I would like to note that this review compares the base MPX3 to the Extreme, and I'm assuming that edisonwu was referring to a souped up MPX3, not an SE as well. My guess is on the other hand, that Earl is referring to his SE when he talks about the 2c51/6bl7-6bx7 combo. I just wanted to level set for those who are confused by the Singlepower nomenclature.

In my humble opinion, (and my pocketbooks opinion) the MPX3 SE is worth 2-3 times the price tag on the Extreme... easily. I absolutely love the 6bx7/6bl7 tubes and cannot imagine any other output tube in the MPX3 SE. I don't know much about the Supra, Maestro, SDS, etc. but if they didn't use these tubes, I'm not sure I'd be interested in upgrading from the SE... seriously.

I really don't want to take this thread in another direction any more than I just have, so I'll refrain from (further) gushing about the SE ... Trust me, I had to show exceeding restraint thus far!




I was referring to my old point to point MPX3's and the SLAM SE. All the MPX3's improve noticeably with this tube combo. But the SLAM SE when set to high votage is definitely another notch up .... especially the bass impact and soundstage air. The SLAM SE sounds paricularly good with the MS2i. All of these amps have to much gain with my sacdmods 555es. But, I didnt want to send them all back so I picked my best one .... the SLAM SE.

When I responded to this thread I got an idea and hooked up one of my older p2p, standard 300 volt operation, MPX3's with the 2c51-6bl7gta combo to an Eastsound E5. As I said, my problem, is to much gain. But the E5 is a standard 2.0 volt output. This combination with the MPX3 is DEAD QUIET and just excellent using senn 580's .... which is the only headphone I tried. My sacdmods 555es is my preferred source and I didnt really think to try the E5. Even though the E5 is not as good as my 555es there is nothing to criticize with the sound. When I get the SLAM SE back with the texture control I will be able to use this combo @ high voltage with my 555es .... so
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