when enough is enough
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indihka

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Please foregive the ignorance of this question, but, as I'm seriously looking to audition the Headroom Max I was wondering how critical spending the additional $300.00 on the stepped attenuator is. Is the sound quality affected to such a degree that one truly cannot live without it, or is it pretty much equal to getting the ashtray light in the "jag" because it looks nice.
I don't wish to appear cheap but dropping $1500.00 on a headphone amp should knock me out without all the bells & whistles.

Please help a confused audiophile who is looking for that ultimate purchase for the space between the ears. (my old lady would thank as well.)
 
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kwkarth

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I have a Max with the standard pot and it sounds wonderful! Todd at headroom says the stepped attenuator sounds ever so slightly better still.
 
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zzz

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BTW, I remember someone here buying Max with stepped attenuators and really not liking that the volume control was, well, stepped
.

I am more inclined to think that stepped attenuators on the Max is more of a `sand under the power supply` kind of tweak. After all, there is Blockhead with regular pots and I presume it is still better than Max w/ SA, so the pots must be good enough not degrade sound all that much.
 
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Nick Dangerous

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I believe the hype. I noticed a significant difference when I swapped my preamp's potentiomenter for a stepped attenuator.

Someday I'll stuff a stereo 10K DACT into a Corda HA-1 if it will fit. Whee!
 
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kwkarth

Electronics guys... we have our plusses and minuses. With advent of digital everything, we're being phased out
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Yes, as I recall the thing that was disliked was that there is a switching noise in the audio signal as you "step" the control from setting to setting. I guess a necessarry evil.
 
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Mic

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For what it's worth I have the Max with the SA. It sounds good. I guess the difference isn't night and day but then again at this price range it simply isn't. I do like being able to count clicks and know that I'm not blasting music too loudly without looking at the dial.
 
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kelly

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I was not able to AB the Max with SA to without, but it had a really nice feel to it. I would certainly spring for the SA if I were going to spend so much as to buy a Max, especially knowing the craftsmanship they put into it.
 
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morsel

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One of the reasons for using a stepped attenuator is to give precise balance between left and right channels. A potentiometer has at best a guaranteed tracking of 2db between left and right channels, and most are 3db. A stepped attenuator uses precision resistors for each setting, so channel balance can be within an inaudible tiny fraction of a db.

The better audio pots like Alps Blue or Black Beauty may be rated at 2db but typically track much better than that. Still, they do not compare to a stepped attenuator, for those of you who are really fussy about channel balance.

In a stepped attenuator, the wiper of the rotary switch is contacting metal pads. This metal to metal contact is probably easier to make reliably and keep clean than the wiper to resistive element contact that occurs in pots. I will hazard a guess that a good stepped attenuator will stay quiet longer than a pot, and would be easier to clean if it got dirty.
 
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Ken

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The Max is a great amp. Stepped attenuator by logic is on the list of deminishing returns. If it was critical it would be in the amp. I expect in future years as the price comes down they will be included.
 
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grinch

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i too felt that i noticed a difference between the max with a stepped attenuator and the max with just the pot. i found that i really liked the way the stepped attenuator felt, as oppose to how a pot generally feels. i really really hate the feeling of a loose pot, but even worse i hate a scratchy pot. if i was going to get a max (fingers crossed) i'd definitely save up the extra week/month/lifetime and get the stepped attenuator. i just like it more. wish my sugden had a stepped attenuator..
 
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