Wells Audio - Impressions & Questions
Apr 22, 2022 at 5:21 PM Post #346 of 375

johnzz4

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so sorry if i didn't see much, but has anyone had experience with the looking glass 2 conditioner?
I have the Looking Glass 2 Level 2 and also had the older Looking Glass Reference. Both are excellent and tighten up the sound in a very natural way. I feel like the new Looking Glass has a bit blacker background and more body to the sound.
 
Apr 23, 2022 at 2:26 AM Post #347 of 375

Kereru

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Hi all,
Happy new Dragon Level II owner here. I was following the discussion here for a while and (inevitably) built up a bit of expectation…
I have to say that the Dragon met (and in some aspects exceeded) those expectations. What a fantastic piece of audio engineering!
I have one question though - I do get a little bit of hiss with some of my dynamic headphones (especially my ZMF VC) regardless of how I play around with gains and grounding. This is (almost) not noticeable with my Ether 2s. Is this just a matter of tube burn in? Sorry, my tube amp experience is very limited.
 

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Apr 23, 2022 at 9:40 AM Post #348 of 375

tawmizzzz

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Hi all,
Happy new Dragon Level II owner here. I was following the discussion here for a while and (inevitably) built up a bit of expectation…
I have to say that the Dragon met (and in some aspects exceeded) those expectations. What a fantastic piece of audio engineering!
I have one question though - I do get a little bit of hiss with some of my dynamic headphones (especially my ZMF VC) regardless of how I play around with gains and grounding. This is (almost) not noticeable with my Ether 2s. Is this just a matter of tube burn in? Sorry, my tube amp experience is very limited.
I unfortunately get that same slight hissing with my LCD5s regardless of gains, grounding, power cable and power conditioner swaps. Doesn’t bother me much as a lot of my genres are fast faced but also curious if Jeff and/or others have suggestions to remedy it.

I’ll check with Susvara and see if the hiss is there too.
 
Apr 23, 2022 at 10:21 AM Post #349 of 375

The Piper

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I unfortunately get that same slight hissing with my LCD5s regardless of gains, grounding, power cable and power conditioner swaps. Doesn’t bother me much as a lot of my genres are fast faced but also curious if Jeff and/or others have suggestions to remedy it.

I’ll check with Susvara and see if the hiss is there too.
More than likely it is a bit of tube hiss. If it is one channel you could swap the tubes and see if the hiss changes channels also.
 
Apr 23, 2022 at 10:59 PM Post #350 of 375

Kereru

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More than likely it is a bit of tube hiss. If it is one channel you could swap the tubes and see if the hiss changes channels also.
Thanks for the prompt reply. I played around with the tubes a wee bit (removed, re-inserted) and it did help with the hiss to a point where I can happily live with it. I’d also like to share how much I like the combination of Dragon lvl II and DCA Ether 2. I mainly listen to Electronica and the detail and spacious layering together with the wide soundstage that I get is next level. Thanks Jeff and Wells Audio
 
Apr 25, 2022 at 6:08 AM Post #352 of 375

Kereru

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My review of the Dragon Level 3


Hi and thanks for the the review.
Just wondering, did you try the Level III with IEM or any low impedence headphones as I do get quite a bit of noise with those on my Level II? It’s not a problem for me since I only use these with my portable gear but would be nice to hear from you / others about their experiences.
Cheers
 
Apr 25, 2022 at 12:29 PM Post #353 of 375

Monsterzero

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Hi and thanks for the the review.
Just wondering, did you try the Level III with IEM or any low impedence headphones as I do get quite a bit of noise with those on my Level II? It’s not a problem for me since I only use these with my portable gear but would be nice to hear from you / others about their experiences.
Cheers
The lowest impedance headphone I tried was the AKG K701. No noise for me.
 
Jun 30, 2022 at 4:22 PM Post #358 of 375

Zachik

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I had the chance to meet with Jeff Wells, and audition Wells Audio gear yesterday (June 29, 2022).
Jeff and I also had a long chat, discussing audio gear as well as his design goals and philosophy.

I made a newbie mistake, not bringing my own headphones, so I used Jeff’s HiFiMAN HE-1000 v1. Next time we meet, and I am sure we will (Jeff lives 15 minutes from me), I will bring my own cans!

Here are some notes I took after getting back home:
  • I started auditioning what I would call the “Wells entry level setup”:
    • Windows laptop -> Wells $800 DAC prototype -> Dragon Level 1
    • Noise floor test: no music playing, volume at MAX - silent!!! WOW!!!
    • Price: DAC + Dragon L1 combo is selling for approx. $2300 (final price of DAC may vary a little when going to production)
    • My thoughts: VERY impressive, especially keeping price in mind. Musical, detailed, and natural sounding. A tiny bit on the warm side, but very tastefully and pleasantly so!
  • I then asked Jeff to go from this setup to the other extreme…
    • Zen mini music server -> Cipher L2 DAC -> Dragon L3
    • Noise floor test: with the HE-1000, I could not hear a difference. Maybe more sensitive headphones (or IEMs?) would demonstrate an improvement? With HE-1000 both setups are equally dead silent and free of audible (to me) noise floor.
    • Price: Cipher L2 is $13K + Dragon L3 is $5.5K for a total of $18,500
    • My thoughts: it was really cool to experience the BIG improvement from the entry level setup. How much of it is due to the better DAC vs. the better amp? I do not know, but unlike a lot of other improvements in this hobby, that are subtle and hard to be sure are really there - this was NOT subtle and very very easy to observe!
    • To describe the improvement in a word, I would use Grandiose! Trying to use a musical analogy, it is like moving from a medium size room with a piano playing, to a musical hall with a grand piano playing. More details. More natural. Smoother (in a good way, without ANY detail loss, quite the opposite). Bigger and wider soundstage.
    • Other thoughts: Dragon L3 had the Khozmo Opto Sensor attenuator, which I personally did not like. Do not get me wrong, it works perfectly and no noise AT ALL when playing with the volume, but I do not like volume control with no tactile feel (or resistance) and not a fan of turning infinitely.
  • Now, time for my surprise… 3rd setup I auditioned:
    • Zen mini music server -> Cipher L2 DAC -> Headtrip 3 L2
    • Noise floor test: with the HE-1000, getting close to the max volume (no music playing) - I could easily detect the noise floor. Keep in mind that this amp outputs 10 times the power (25W into 32 Ohms vs. Dragon’s 2.4W into 32 Ohms). Also, with the HE-1000 even at very very high listening volumes the noise floor is still NOT audible (when music stops).
    • Price: Cipher L2 is $13K + Headtrip 3 L2 is $15K, so total system cost: $28,000
    • My thoughts: this system is very expensive, but it is at summit-Fi level (and Jeff’s top of the line, for headphones at least). Personally, once I had the taste of tubes - I could not find a single solid-state amp that I liked more than tube amps! This is the reason I titled this setup “my surprise”... :wink: To my surprise, I liked this system better than the Dragon L3 setup. Now, keep in mind that is true for the HE-1000 headphones, and I might like the Dragon L3 better with other headphones. Still, this solid-state amp showed me that being solid-state does not mean cold / clinical / analytical. Maybe it is the amp itself, maybe it has to do with synergizing perfectly with the Cipher DAC that has a tube output section? 🤷‍♂️ All I know is that this is a hell of a setup. Something to aspire to, and a worthy cause for starting a savings plan :laughing:
    • Other thoughts: this amp was fitted with a Goldpoint stepped attenuator that I MUCH preferred over the Khozmo Opto Sensor of the Dragon L3. The tactile feedback of the little steps was very pleasing, and at no point I heard any noise while changing volume.

In the future, I will be interested to A/B Dragon L3 and/or Headtrip 3 L2 with vs. without adding the Commander pre-amp in between the DAC and the amp. I have been told by Jeff and by friends of mine who tested it at CanJam Chicago recently, that the Commander takes the sound yet another step up!
 
Jun 30, 2022 at 4:57 PM Post #359 of 375

jurumal

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I had the chance to meet with Jeff Wells, and audition Wells Audio gear yesterday (June 29, 2022).
Jeff and I also had a long chat, discussing audio gear as well as his design goals and philosophy.

I made a newbie mistake, not bringing my own headphones, so I used Jeff’s HiFiMAN HE-1000 v1. Next time we meet, and I am sure we will (Jeff lives 15 minutes from me), I will bring my own cans!

Here are some notes I took after getting back home:
  • I started auditioning what I would call the “Wells entry level setup”:
    • Windows laptop -> Wells $800 DAC prototype -> Dragon Level 1
    • Noise floor test: no music playing, volume at MAX - silent!!! WOW!!!
    • Price: DAC + Dragon L1 combo is selling for approx. $2300 (final price of DAC may vary a little when going to production)
    • My thoughts: VERY impressive, especially keeping price in mind. Musical, detailed, and natural sounding. A tiny bit on the warm side, but very tastefully and pleasantly so!
  • I then asked Jeff to go from this setup to the other extreme…
    • Zen mini music server -> Cipher L2 DAC -> Dragon L3
    • Noise floor test: with the HE-1000, I could not hear a difference. Maybe more sensitive headphones (or IEMs?) would demonstrate an improvement? With HE-1000 both setups are equally dead silent and free of audible (to me) noise floor.
    • Price: Cipher L2 is $13K + Dragon L3 is $5.5K for a total of $18,500
    • My thoughts: it was really cool to experience the BIG improvement from the entry level setup. How much of it is due to the better DAC vs. the better amp? I do not know, but unlike a lot of other improvements in this hobby, that are subtle and hard to be sure are really there - this was NOT subtle and very very easy to observe!
    • To describe the improvement in a word, I would use Grandiose! Trying to use a musical analogy, it is like moving from a medium size room with a piano playing, to a musical hall with a grand piano playing. More details. More natural. Smoother (in a good way, without ANY detail loss, quite the opposite). Bigger and wider soundstage.
    • Other thoughts: Dragon L3 had the Khozmo Opto Sensor attenuator, which I personally did not like. Do not get me wrong, it works perfectly and no noise AT ALL when playing with the volume, but I do not like volume control with no tactile feel (or resistance) and not a fan of turning infinitely.
  • Now, time for my surprise… 3rd setup I auditioned:
    • Zen mini music server -> Cipher L2 DAC -> Headtrip 3 L2
    • Noise floor test: with the HE-1000, getting close to the max volume (no music playing) - I could easily detect the noise floor. Keep in mind that this amp outputs 10 times the power (25W into 32 Ohms vs. Dragon’s 2.4W into 32 Ohms). Also, with the HE-1000 even at very very high listening volumes the noise floor is still NOT audible (when music stops).
    • Price: Cipher L2 is $13K + Headtrip 3 L2 is $15K, so total system cost: $28,000
    • My thoughts: this system is very expensive, but it is at summit-Fi level (and Jeff’s top of the line, for headphones at least). Personally, once I had the taste of tubes - I could not find a single solid-state amp that I liked more than tube amps! This is the reason I titled this setup “my surprise”... :wink: To my surprise, I liked this system better than the Dragon L3 setup. Now, keep in mind that is true for the HE-1000 headphones, and I might like the Dragon L3 better with other headphones. Still, this solid-state amp showed me that being solid-state does not mean cold / clinical / analytical. Maybe it is the amp itself, maybe it has to do with synergizing perfectly with the Cipher DAC that has a tube output section? 🤷‍♂️ All I know is that this is a hell of a setup. Something to aspire to, and a worthy cause for starting a savings plan :laughing:
    • Other thoughts: this amp was fitted with a Goldpoint stepped attenuator that I MUCH preferred over the Khozmo Opto Sensor of the Dragon L3. The tactile feedback of the little steps was very pleasing, and at no point I heard any noise while changing volume.

In the future, I will be interested to A/B Dragon L3 and/or Headtrip 3 L2 with vs. without adding the Commander pre-amp in between the DAC and the amp. I have been told by Jeff and by friends of mine who tested it at CanJam Chicago recently, that the Commander takes the sound yet another step up!
This just got me stoked for CanJam SoCal. Still have my fingers crossed for a Wells Audio appearance there this year.
 

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