TTVJ FET-A loaner program
Feb 24, 2009 at 12:04 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 12

Todd

Headphone Vinyl Meister
Member of the Trade: TTVJ Audio
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HI All,

Here starts the TTVJ FET-A Loaner program. At the current time there are 2 members in line and I will take 3 more loaner candidates. I am going to start limiting the time the amps are out from TTVJ and look more for those who will write a review and take good care of the gear.

So I do expect that a review will be written here in this thread and that whoever gets the amp will take good care of it and ship it after 2 weeks of possession, at the loaners expense, to the next person. This is about having fun with some new gear and about the Head-Fi community and me getting your feedback.

I appreciate all those who have participated in previous loaner programs (with the exception of the one who has my TTVJ Millett portable and is not moving it, has not written a review, and is not responding to my communications) Thanks and hopefully this will be a successful adventure for all!!!

So if you want to be one of the three (it will come to you in 5-6 weeks) drop me an e-mail at todd@ttvj.com and I will put you on the list.

Ryan, you are up next. You should see the amp in a week or so. Give me a call or e-mail me your address so I make sure it goes to you.

Then the amp is off to sunny Florida to hang out with Mark.

Who is next???

Todd
 
Feb 24, 2009 at 8:59 PM Post #2 of 12
HI All,

I have 3 Head-Fiers who have stepped up to the plate and are now on the loaner list. Stayed tuned for reviews and impressions from them...

Todd
 
Feb 24, 2009 at 9:30 PM Post #3 of 12
Doing my duty, I have posted a full review in the Headphone Amp forum. Here is the text of the first post in the review:

Quote:

Originally Posted by Voltron /img/forum/go_quote.gif
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The Intro

Todd recently sent me a production model of the new TTVJ FET-A amp that he and Pete Millett have created. The amp went on sale this month for $649, and is available exclusively from TTVJ.com. Pete did the design of this fully discrete, Class A headphone amp and preamp, and Todd assembles and sells them. The FET-A has two pairs of RCA inputs and the volume-controlled preamp output on the back, and substantial Elpac wallwart provides the power. The front has a power switch, input selector, volume control and both ¼ and 1/8 headphone jacks. I happen to love the “no-opamps” logo in the corner, even though I am not inherently anti-opamps.

I consider both Todd and Pete to be friends, but I would also say that about a lot of amp makers and some other vendors in our hobby. I have tried to be objective in my listening and comparisons, and will be honest in this review like in any others I have done. I thought it worth mentioning, though, so take it for what you will. Recstar24 and another Head-Fier will also be hearing and hopefully commenting upon this same unit, and I encourage anyone else who has experience with this amp to add their thoughts.

My goals in listening to this amp were pretty simple. I was happy to get a chance to hear a new and interesting product designed by one of the best, so I first wanted to listen and get a sense of the amp in comparison to those I own and have heard. I also wanted to find out if the amp showed much change from burn-in because this unit was brand new. And lastly, I wanted to compare it to another amp I own and like very much, which is the Eddie Current EC/SS (purchased from TTVJ.com, btw). I chose the EC/SS because it is at a similar (but still lower) price point, and both are solid state and similar sized. [That made it easier to lug them both on the plane for a week’s vacation when I did a lot of listening.] The HeadAmp G-Lite or better yet GS-1 would be another nice comparison because those are discrete designs like the FET-A. I have heard them many times, but it has been awhile and I have never owned either, so I cannot really make any comments on how the amps would compare.

Anyway, as a preview I can tell you that I enjoyed this amp very much and think it should be a big hit with headphone lovers. It also developed and opened up with a hundred hours of so of use, what some call burn-in, so I do believe it benefited from some playing time. This is a fine amp that sounded great with lots of different cans, as well as speakers, playing lots of different types of music. Given the flood of new headphones in the market, it is nice to have another high-performing amp at a really reasonable price.

The Rigs

I used three different setups with the FET-A, for varying amounts of time. First, I put the FET-A into my HeadRoom audiophile desktop setup at work, using it primarily as a preamp. My docked laptop feeds the HeadRoom Desktop Amp/Dac via s/pdif cable, so I just took the preamp outputs into the FET-A at a set volume. The signal went directly from there into the HeadRoom monoblock amps and out the speakers, using Nugget Audio ICs and speaker cables made specifically for my setup. I played this rig for three days straight, logging about 25 hours or so. For a short time, I also used IEMs from the FET-A’s 1/8” output.

Second, I put the FET-A and the EC/SS head-to-head in my home rig. The EMM Labs CDSD/DCC2 SE combo was the source with Crystal Cable ICs swapped back and forth to the two amps. I used this setup in the evenings and weekend before my trip, and spent a fair amount of time going back and forth between the amps. I am also using the FET-A in this rig while I write the review, but I am not doing any more comparisons. I am just enjoying the FET-A and trying a number of different CDs and SACDs that I didn’t have on my iMod in the third setup that got the most playing time.

Third, my travel rig was simple and used my iMod as a the source, again with both the FET-A and EC/SS. The iMod had an ALO female iMod dock connected to a Wyvern Audio AG-8 mini-RCA cable that I switched back and forth some more. The files used were Apple Lossless, except at one point when I listened to mp3s of a Neko Case live recording that was on my laptop but not my iMod.

The FET-A, like the EC/SS, scaled well and performed its best in the home rig fed by the EMM Labs combo. It was the quietest and most revealing of the music when fed the best signal, which is a good thing, but it did not sound lacking in the iMod rig. In fact, I was impressed by how good a setup that combination made.

The FET-A gets warm to the touch after playing awhile, although it is not hot like a tube amp. I assume it is the Class A operation of the amp that throws off the greater heat. The EC/SS always stays cool.

The Cans

I used a bunch of cans with the FET-A. Here are the ones I remember specifically:

Sennheiser HD650 with Equinox cable
Sennheiser HD600 with Blue Dragon cable
Ultrasone Edition 9
Grado PS-1 with Equinox re-cable
Grado HF-1
AKG K340 with Headphile mods and Black/Gold re-cable
Crossroads IEMs

I used the HD600s, Ed. 9s and HF-1s the most in comparison with the EC/SS.

The Tunes

I tried to listen to a pretty broad spectrum of music, but I made no effort to hear every type of music for completeness’ sake. I listened to a lot of music I know very well, to some I just recently bought so I would be hearing it pretty fresh, and also to a recording I just received of a show I attended because I had a pretty good idea of what it should sound like. I did not find one genre or style that the FET-A preferred or any that sounded bad from the amp. Here is a sample of things that I listened to, with an emphasis on the ones I listened to closely and in comparison with the EC/SS:

Cowboy Junkies – Whites Off Earth Now (MOFI)
McCoy Tyner – Guitars
Ron Carter – Dear Miles
Nick Drake – Pink Moon
Manitas de Plata – Manitas de Plata and Friends
Rachael Yamagata – Elephants . . . Teeth Sinking Into Heart
The Pixies – Surfer Rosa (MOFI)
Buster Williams Trio – 65 Roses
SF Jazz Collective – Live 2008
Dave Alvin – Black Jack David (MOFI)
The Bassface Swing Trio – Plays Gershwin
Jose Gonzalez – In Our Nature
Enrico Rava – The Third Man
Lee Morgan – TomCat
Radiohead – Kid A

You get the idea. Rock, jazz, flamenco, piano, guitar, lots of upright bass, horns, female vocal, male vocal, live, studio, fast, slow, etc. I didn’t listen to any classical music mostly because I seldom do so on headphones and it wouldn’t have been particularly enlightening to me.

The Impressions

So, what do I think after all this maneuvering and listening? I think that this is a great amp that far exceeds its cost in performance. I never thought of it having a “solid state” sound to it, and if anything has a more full-bodied and natural sound I more often associate with tube gear. It has a very detailed and fast presentation, but is so non-fatiguing that I was happily listening for long periods and never experienced harsh or glaring sound.

The FET-A is a very quiet amp overall, and with Senns or AKGs it was hard to hear line noise at all without turning the volume almost all the way up. With Ed. 9s and HF-1s in the iMod rig, I was able to hear line noise at lower volumes and no music playing. When the music was playing, I did not hear any noise in between the notes that I can recall. When I was using the FET-A as a preamp, I was very impressed by how quiet it was, especially given that I was going from on amp to another because the DAC is in the HeadRoom Desktop. In fact, I felt that the FET-A livened up the desktop rig and had a sound that I liked quite a bit. It was hard to compare and I was wishing I had a different source so I could just compare them as amps, but I was impressed by what sounded like a quicker, more engaging sound than the HeadRoom Desktop amp.

When I was first comparing the FET-A to the EC/SS, I thought that they were more similar than not. I have always liked the EC/SS for its lack of solid state glare and its relatively detailed and clean sound in a small package. The FET-A and EC/SS were pretty similar with HD600s going back and forth on the home rig the first night, and I thought that my experience in the office rig might have built up my expectations too much. I let the FET-A play all night the next couple nights such that it was playing almost 24 hours a day because it was in my office rig all day.

It became apparent after three days plus of doing this that the FET-A was opening up and headphone output really improved over that span of time. Once I was on my vacation, I was playing the FET-A pretty much constantly, other than when the EC/SS was having its turns. I am not one to clock “burn-in hours” or spend a lot of effort with test tones or pink noise, but the first good chunks of playing time showed me that the amp needs some breaking in when new.

I may add some more detailed listening experiences as I have more time, but the FET-A excelled – and in my opinion exceeded the EC/SS – in several ways that are key to me. It is an amp that has PRAT down pat. I started to notice this going between the amps on Ron Carter’s Dear Miles, album, and then I couldn’t help but notice how the FET-A presented music in a cohesive way. Pace rhythm and timing mean different things to different people, but to me the FET-A made Ron Carter’s combo sound like a unit and drove the tunes with more life. This was not a question of being warm or rolled off anything of the sort, it just sounded more “right” and more like the interplay and timing of the real deal.

The PRAT effect of the FET-A also stood out in the Cowboy Junkies and Enrico Rava. The Junkies were flatter and less vigorous out of the EC/SS, and the Enrico Rava sounded too much like it was just a piano player and a trumpet player, which don’t often get thought of as duet material. I don’t want to overstate this, but the FET-A had the bounce and the life on these recordings that made them sound more like they should.

Another thing that stood out about the FET-A was the level of detail and clarity, which is one reason that the PRAT is there. The Buster Williams show was a trio recording in a small theater “in the round” where the audience was all around the musicians. It was a show I attended and it was recorded by Jim Merod and mastered by Steve McCormack, both guys who know how to capture live jazz recordings. I only just got this disc recently, but I have now listened to it several times intently. The sound of Buster Williams’ bass is striking and the FET-A really conveyed it. The sound of him fingering the frets and sliding down the strings is not exaggerated but it is there. The ambient noises and sound of the room also come through better on the FET-A and made for a more engaging musical experience.

Speed and dynamics also contribute to PRAT, and the FET-A was impressive on these criteria. Manitas de Plata, a flamenco guitarist, is one of my standard torture tests for gear, speakers, and cans, and the FET-A got the treatment as usual. I just listened to this tonight so it is fresh in my mind. The cans were HD650s, and the FET-A drove them fantastically. Very fast guitar and clapping in a small echoey chapel take some good speed and dynamics to pull off, and this recording sounded great. The atmosphere was there, the hand claps were crisp and almost startling, and the nuances of the nylon string guitar playing were really nicely portrayed. In some different contexts, Radiohead and the Bassface Swing Trio also sounded great from the FET-A for similar reasons. Fast and energetic, without sounding off. Lee Morgan’s trumpet can be a challenge on headphones, but it had bite and dynamics without being blaring or piercing out of the FET-A.

The last thing that comes to mind is something I mentioned earlier on: naturalness. The FET-A has a very natural tone to it, and falls into the neutral category to my estimation. Solid state gear can sometimes be neutral to a fault in my book, but I didn’t think that the FET-A was boring or flat. It just seemed pretty true to the source. Female and male vocals were both nicely rendered and the singers sounded like themselves to me. Dave Alvin’s fat, rich tone had good body and Rachael Yamagata sounded nicely plaintive. Jose Gonzalez’s guitar or McCoy Tyner’s piano were portrayed like I think they should be without being thin or artificial.

The End

This is an amp with a lot of positives, and I admittedly did not come across much in the way of negatives. It doesn’t match up to the same level as my SinglePower SDS-XLR or even to the Luxman P-1 that I just bought from Todd, but those amps are much larger “full-sized” flagship products that had damn well outshine a ~$700 amp. The FET-A is very nice amp with a whole lot of bang for the buck, that handles a wide variety of cans equally. I look forward to hearing other people’s impressions of it soon.



If you guys and gals who can live up to the loaner program's criteria, then jump on this opportunity and try to get in line. This a very fine amp.

Cheers.
 
Feb 25, 2009 at 10:56 PM Post #4 of 12
Thanks Todd and Al for getting this thing kickstarted - I also appreciate the opportunity of having this amp to listen to, as what I heard at the chicago mini meet for the 15 minutes you had it hooked up, I was impressed. Looking forward to adding some more impressions.
 
Mar 14, 2009 at 4:43 PM Post #5 of 12
Todd was cool enough to let me borrow the FET-A for a week and take it to the SoFlo meet with me. Here are some of my thoughts:

I listened in a few different environments in my home set up through the duet, in Boomana's rig with the exemplar cdp and at the SoFlo meet with the philips cdp that was APL modded. Phones were the AT AD2000s, Sony R10s and W2002s.

Across all of the set ups I felt as though the fet-a was very transparent and had a fast leading edge with great dynamics. Details were well presented as Diana Krall and Jacqui Naylor's live releases had plenty of hall presence complete with spacial information as well. It rocked out well with plenty of PRaT as previously mentioned by Al, Led Zeps Ramble On had me air drumming couch/air drumming as did Rage Against the Machine's Killing in the Name Of. The next test for me was could it present small combo jazz well as that is 50% + of my listening content. The fet-a did well presenting Kenny Burrell's Chitlens Con Carne with smokey goodness as well as presenting the interplay between Scott LaFaro and Bill Evans on Waltz for Debby well.
Is it the perfect amp, well no I'm not sure one exists and certainly not in the sub $1000 category but the TTVJ Fet-A punches well above its weight and represents a great value. I would also like the aestics to be better but at this price point I'd take the plainer looks to save a few hundred. Overall I highly recomend this amp.
 
Apr 28, 2009 at 9:22 PM Post #6 of 12
Hi,

Those of you who have signed up for the FET-A loaner program will be receiving them in a week or so. Thanks to Voltron, Recstar and jp11801 for your impressions on the amp. If you want to get in line for the loaner program please send me an e-mail at todd@ttvj.com and we will add you to the list.

We are very pleased with the sound quality of this amp and though it could have been packaged in a much more expensive box and panels, we elected to keep the cost under $700 and this is what we came up with.

Todd
 
May 6, 2009 at 6:21 PM Post #7 of 12
If you signed up for the loaner program please e-mail me again - my computer crashed and I lost that info. I will have 2 amps to loan for a short time so sign up now or forever wish you had
wink.gif


Todd
 
May 11, 2009 at 9:33 PM Post #8 of 12
HI All,

The amps are in play and 2 of you should be receiving them in the next 2-3 days. I look forward to your impressions - HAVE FUN!!!

Todd
 
Jun 18, 2009 at 9:39 PM Post #9 of 12
HI All,

Where are the reviews??? I sent 2 of the FET-A out for the loaner program and nothing so far...

The amps should be moving by Monday to the next recipients. If you would like to get on the list e-mail me with your info and I will get the amp in your hands for 2 weeks.

Todd
 
Jul 22, 2009 at 1:49 AM Post #11 of 12
First I would like to say THANKS to Todd for giving me the opportunity to participate in the loaner program!! I was supposed to have it for 2 weeks, and it wound up actually being 3,
wink.gif
. The third week came in handy, it gave me a chance to give it a final listen, after becoming more familiar with it. As you know,the amp is a solid state discreet design by Pete Millet. I believe it now retails for, approximately, $700.00. The only amp I had on hand to compare it to was the RSA HR-2 (old faithful), since I am in flux right now with my setup, still trying to decide if I should go fully portable or speaker based.

The following is a list of gear that I used to sample the TTVJ FET-A:

Source: Rega Saturn
RCA Cables: Analysis Plus Solo Crystal
Power Cables: van den Hul The Mainsserver;Shuyanta Viper
Headphones: AKG K702\SAA Equinox cable

Comparative amp: RSA HR-2

Music:

Eternal; Brandford Marsalis
Elvin; Elvin Jones Quartet
McCoy Tyner Quartet
Impact; Charles Tolliver
Cowboy Junkies
and some Hendrix...

The SQ of the CDs ranged from audiophile level to `bright and compressed as hell'!


[Build Quality]

I was supposed to take some pics, but time constraints and lack of a decent digital camera prevented me from doing so, feel free to visit TTVJ.com to check out look! I was surprised by the heft, and solid feel of the amp. It's built like a tank. The one nitpick is the look of the volume knob, yes I know I know, it's been mentioned before. Ignoring the aesthetic appeal of the knob, it feels solid, and turns very smoothly. It's something I could live with, this is definitely a function over form design! The RCA jacks feel secure, I didn't have any trouble disengaging the WBT nextgen connectors on my RCA cables. One thing I noticed during use, was that it became HOT, very HOT. I assume this is due to it running as a class A device. I didn't notice any vents\heatsinks for the heat to escape, but after being on for 4+ days it cooldown somewhat, although it was still warm. I prefer a two box solution, power supply and amp section completely separate. It also has a small\medium footprint, overall it is a very well built amp. I wasn't able to view the internals, not that I would know what the hell I was looking at
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.

[Sound Quality]

I would like to approach this section from the `synergy' viewpoint. So with that caveat out of the way let's begin.

The first thing I noticed was the separation of instruments and layering. It was a very clean presentation, it also made the soundstage appear slightly larger than when I was using the HR-2. Each player had their own space and 'air' around them, this created a near holographic effect with certain CDs, this was very apparent on the Branford Marsalis Eternal CD, I think I played this CD once after having it for years, and by chance I pulled it out to test the FET-A and was unable to stop. I think I played this CD for 3-4 days!

Along with the impressive separation, I heard DETAILS.. gobs and gobs of details. With this particular setup, I didn't feel I was missing anything on the tracks. The HR-2, albeit it was introduced 5 or so years ago, was slightly as detailed (I believe the HR-2 is discreet in the output stage), which impressed me also. I think the low noise floor of both amps helps in this category, both the FET-A and HR-2 were dead silent for me, with nothing playing. Music seemed to emanate from a blackground. The only issue I noticed, was a tracking error, with the knob turned down to 0 and music playing, you could still hear it, if you listened. With no music playing and the volume maxed out, I could hear some hiss on the FET-A, not so much with the HR-2, but who listens at those volumes anyway.

Taking the good with the bad, here's the darkside of system synergy. Even with all of the detailed separation and low noise floor, the TTVJ FET-A was missing something. When I switched back to the HR-2 I realized that instruments didn't come across rich and full, I think since the HR-2 is geared towards sounding `tubey', this helps the AKG 702s, with the FET-A it sounded more flat. And at times sibilant with a sheen on certain tracks. Perhaps the FET-A is accentuating a flaw with the headphones (?). There wasn't enough warmth present. I think the FET-A would be better mated to HD-650s, or D5000s, etc... This is where it's important to properly mate components.

Overall I think the TTVJ FET-A represents a good value in the 500-1000 price bracket. If you get a chance to listen to one at a meet, please do. If I had a darker headphone, I would seriously consider this amp!

Once again, thanks Todd!
 
Oct 1, 2009 at 12:20 AM Post #12 of 12
Todd was gracious enough to send me a loaner of the TTVJ FET-A amp for a few weeks and I just wanted to go out and say thanks to Todd for the opportunity to audition this great little amp!

Gear Used:
FLAC/ALAC Files
Headamp Pico DAC
Grado HF-2 Headphones

Brief Impressions:
Being used to a tube amp (SP Extreme) the FET-A sounded like it had a little much treble energy at first but after a few hours of getting used to this new amp, I actually realized that treble reproduction was actually one of the strong suits of this amp. High frequencies are reproduced with excellent extension without any sibilance (unless your recordings have it).

Midrange is good and lower frequency reproduction is nice and TIGHT, extending very low without sounding flabby. However, the number one strength of this amp is its uncanny ability to portray every single instrument/voice into it's own unique space in the soundstage without mixing these images up and muddying the sound. I was actually able to hear a few nuances in certain that I've never picked up before.

Overall, it's a great little SS amp that does most things great and provides killer imaging. I'm still a little bit of a tube whore - I like the "roundness" and midrange magic that tubes bring but if I was in the market for a sub-$1000 SS amp, this would be on top my my very short list.

Thanks again to Todd for the chance to listen to this amp!
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