ZMF Atrium - new open-back co-flagship
Jun 22, 2022 at 7:31 AM Post #1,336 of 3,197

Thaddy

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The comments and suggestions are much appreciated!! It's apparent that 300B is much more suitable for my preferences. As much as I like the idea of a custom OTL, I can't really say that 6AS7 or 6080 is really my cup of tea when it comes to triode power tubes. I do enjoy them from time to time, but I want something on a different plane all together. Now to decide which 300B or perhaps even something with 45 tubes.
Perhaps look into UltraSonic Studios? I'm in the queue for Tomas to build me a custom SET amplifier using KT66/EL34 power, 6SNL/6SL7 pre, and a single 5U4G rectifier. It'll be very nice, Sowter transformers, Mundorf caps...
 
Jun 22, 2022 at 9:27 AM Post #1,337 of 3,197

helljudgement

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I typically prefer a slightly warmer sound with tight bass and a sweet sounding midrange(at least that's where I always seem to end up with my tube rolling).
Based on your requirement and the sound preference you can consider getting the Studio B. It's main draw for me is it's sheer dynamism and staging. This amp packs a powerful punch and doesn't sound as rounded and loose as most other tube amps with regards it's low end. This dynamics of this amp synergize incredibly well with headphones that have exhibits great dynamic range like the Atrium and Utopia. Midrange is smooth, clear and engaging, not overly lush or bloomy. Couple this with possibly the widest soundstage I've heard off a headphone amp and we have a recipe for a great time. Barring custom route with exorbitantly expensive transformers I think there's very few amps that can match this and possibly none at this price range.
 
Jun 22, 2022 at 10:23 AM Post #1,338 of 3,197

ColSaulTigh

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In case anyone is interested in an excellent 300B amp, @Bonddam is selling his Woo Audio WA5-LE, and has it marked down to a heck of a price!
 
Jun 22, 2022 at 12:30 PM Post #1,339 of 3,197

heliosphann

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Yea they both are lambskin - I know, I was told Universe was a better slamming pad (at least for the VC). I was pretty surprised that it pretty much took the slam away compared to the Auteur pads. Universe provided more detail and expanded the soundstage where-as the Auteur's emphasized the mids and pumped up the bass slam
I actually feel the Universe pads slightly edge out the Auteur pads in regards to slam on the Atrium. You're not the only person I've heard mention similar feelings about the Auteur/Uni pads. That's one of the reasons I recommended the Auteur Lambskin be the 2nd pad choice when buying an Atrium.

My public schooled, semi-educated guess would be an individuals HRTF increasingly comes into play with the significant ear-to-driver angle difference you get from the Uni and Auteur pads.
 
Jun 22, 2022 at 3:02 PM Post #1,341 of 3,197

Xcalibur255

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I come seeking recommendations/advice. I have several SS and tube amps already, but for now I'm trying to decide which tube amp to add next. I ask here because I prefer ZMF Headphones over all and there has been quite a bit of discussion here about amplification. I currently have a Cayin HA-1A, a Darkvoice OTL, and an A&S Bigger Ben. I am on the waiting list with Mischa to have a Blue Halo OTL built, but lately I have been wondering if I should go for a 300b instead. I have about 7-8 months before my OTL build would start. I could do both, but I'm considering only doing one or the other. If I go 300b, I want something with speaker taps. I was considering the Cayin HA-300B mkII from ZMF, since I could likely get the discount there.

I don't like noise and not sure what level of noise to expect from a 300b. I've only ever heard one with speakers.
I listen to Rock/Classic Rock/Metal, Acoustic, and some Jazz.
I typically prefer a slightly warmer sound with tight bass and a sweet sounding midrange(at least that's where I always seem to end up with my tube rolling).

With all that said:
1. Would I be better served with an OTL or 300b?
2. What amp/options would you suggest?
3. Is there another type of all-triode or SET amp that you would recommend instead?

Any suggestions or advice are greatly appreciated!!
I would let how badly you want speaker taps decide this for you. The truth about OTL and transformer coupled tube amps is that, as you go up in price and parts quality, the difference between them sonically narrows quite a lot. At the more affordable end of the spectrum I find transformer-coupled and OTL designs to often sound very different from each other, which causes people to ruminate over which one they might prefer. I feel cheap OTLs have a clear advantage over cheap transformer-coupled amps because the designs usually have fewer parts in the signal path and when you are budget constrained and using cheaper parts this has a major affect on the resulting sound. As parts quality and cost goes up the gap closes.

All things being equal in terms of build budget and parts quality an OTL will usually still have a small advantage in transparency and resolution due to the absence of the output transformers. Transformers are in the signal path and are subtractive to sound quality just like caps and resistors will be. Very high quality transformers make the impact very small but they are still there in the signal path. What you get in exchange for this tiny hit to performance is greater flexibility to drive different loads (i.e. speaker outputs). There are tricks that can be used to make high impedance headphones play nice with speaker transformers too.

Don't feel like you have to be locked into 300B if you want to do an all-in-one speaker/headphone SET amp too. My amp from Mischa uses KT150 or EL34 operated as triodes and I'm very happy with the sound. Don't buy into the myth that strapped pentodes don't have the same "pure tone" as a real triode. The circuit design and quality of the parts and transformers affects purity of tone far more than tube choice does. I have a "true" DHT headphone amp using 45 triodes to directly compare to and my amp from Mischa is the better amp in almost every way despite "only" using strapped pentodes. The difference between a pair of EL34 or KT150 and a pair of good 300B in terms of cost is not small, so if you are going to own the amp for many years the difference in operating cost can be pretty big here.

tl;dr I would choose based on how badly you want the speaker outputs. If you really want them then go for the transformer coupled design, otherwise if it's just a "maybe would be nice" feeling then I would stick with your Blue Halo build.

edit: clarified some terminology I was using incorrectly.
 
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Jun 22, 2022 at 3:44 PM Post #1,342 of 3,197

KcMsterpce

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I have a somewhat similar situation. I currently have an Aeolus and an HD800S, with an Atrium on order. I wonder whether I'll want to keep the Aeolus once I hear the Atrium. I figure I'll hang onto the HD800S either way.


I think it would be a great addition to your collection.
Depending on your mood, one set of headphones can be more "right" for the moment. Nevermind how things can change pretty significantly from one change in the audio chain/gear.
I find that certain types of music (or even just an album - or a song!) always have me reaching for a specific headphone. I like that variety. ZMF does great being true to the taste in calibration, yet has subtleties from one model to the next to help accentuate very specific aspects of the audio, and it meshes well with my differing "moods".
 
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Jun 23, 2022 at 9:52 AM Post #1,343 of 3,197

dfiled

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We will not be working with ampsandsound anymore.

We have a collaboration with Decware for a reference OTL as well as with JDS Labs upcoming, release dates TBD. I have Cayin HA300 MK II in stock and it will be listed shortly. If you bought an atrium and are interested in a bundle price send me an email at support@zmfheadphones.com.
Any updates on when the OTL will be available?
 
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Jun 23, 2022 at 1:25 PM Post #1,345 of 3,197

WillieB

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I would let how badly you want speaker taps decide this for you. The truth about OTL and transformer coupled tube amps is that, as you go up in price and parts quality, the difference between them sonically narrows quite a lot. At the more affordable end of the spectrum I find SET and OTL designs to often sound very different from each other, which causes people to ruminate over which one they might prefer. I feel cheap OTLs have a clear advantage over cheap SETs because the designs usually have fewer parts in the signal path and when you are budget constrained and using cheaper parts this has a major affect on the resulting sound. As parts quality and cost goes up the gap closes.

All things being equal in terms of build budget and parts quality an OTL will usually still have a small advantage in transparency and resolution due to the absense of the output transformers. Transformers are in the signal path and are subtractive to sound quality just like caps and resistors will be. Very high quality transformers make the impact very small but they are still there in the signal path. What you get in exchange for this tiny hit to performance is greater flexibility to drive different loads (i.e. speaker outputs). There are tricks that can be used to make high impedance headphones play nice with speaker transformers too.

Don't feel like you have to be locked into 300B if you want to do an all-in-one speaker/headphone SET amp too. My amp from Mischa uses KT150 or EL34 operated as triodes and I'm very happy with the sound. Don't buy into the myth that strapped pentodes don't have the same "pure tone" as a real triode. The circuit design and quality of the parts and transformers affects purity of tone far more than tube choice does. I have a "true" DHT headphone amp using 45 triodes to directly compare to and my amp from Mischa is the better amp in almost every way despite "only" using strapped pentodes. The difference between a pair of EL34 or KT150 and a pair of good 300B in terms of cost is not small, so if you are going to own the amp for many years the difference in operating cost can be pretty big here.

tl;dr I would choose based on how badly you want the speaker outputs. If you really want them then go for the transformer coupled design, otherwise if it's just a "maybe would be nice" feeling then I would stick with your Blue Halo build.
Thanks. I really appreciate your time and thoughts! Very good points indeed.
 
Jun 23, 2022 at 3:44 PM Post #1,346 of 3,197

mvneufeld

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I would let how badly you want speaker taps decide this for you. The truth about OTL and transformer coupled tube amps is that, as you go up in price and parts quality, the difference between them sonically narrows quite a lot. At the more affordable end of the spectrum I find SET and OTL designs to often sound very different from each other, which causes people to ruminate over which one they might prefer. I feel cheap OTLs have a clear advantage over cheap SETs because the designs usually have fewer parts in the signal path and when you are budget constrained and using cheaper parts this has a major affect on the resulting sound. As parts quality and cost goes up the gap closes.
Thank you for this great explanation! I have one question, though - when you say SET here, do you mean transformer coupled tube amp? It's my understanding that SET amps can be either OTL or transformer coupled.
 
Jun 23, 2022 at 5:05 PM Post #1,347 of 3,197

Xcalibur255

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Thank you for this great explanation! I have one question, though - when you say SET here, do you mean transformer coupled tube amp? It's my understanding that SET amps can be either OTL or transformer coupled.
Right you are, I used the term in a way I shouldn't have in that context. Transformer coupled is what I was meaning there. I tend to write stream of consciousness style and sometimes these things get past the proofread. :)

SET means single ended triode and both a transformer coupled and transformerless OTL amplifier can have an SET output stage. Output stages can be single ended triode, single ended pentode, a push-pull configuration, or parallel single-ended configuration all with their own advantages and disadvantages. And you can wire a pentode such as an EL34 in a triode-strapped configuration and operate it as a triode and this is also a SET configuration even though the tube itself is technically a pentode or kinked tetrode.
 
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Jun 24, 2022 at 4:47 PM Post #1,348 of 3,197

fuhransahis

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I have been enjoying the Atriums with my Tor balanced amp. Lovely combo to my ears. That little amp keeps amazing me. The Atriums strike a wonderful balance. Musical and ergonomic comfort. Pure enjoyment.

20220624_164531.jpg

You're not wrong :)
 
Jun 25, 2022 at 8:23 AM Post #1,349 of 3,197

Phantaminum

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I agree the prices are high, but there are a few tube types that sound great by most accounts for a reasonable price. I wonder where the diminishing returns set in on those or what price range of 300B delivers the best bang for the buck. I know the Takatsuki and the Sophia mesh plate both get a lot of mention, but they are over 1k apart in price. Then there is the WE new prod. as well as NOS. I am most definitely a tube roller so adding a 300B to the lineup could require a side hustle on my part. :ksc75smile:

There are many choices when it comes down to choosing an amp. After going through a journey I can say that I prefer SET amps compared to most other type amps. Few things you want to consider is that amps topology and build can make them sound so much different from each other.

For example: The Glenn OTL and Feliks Audio Euforia are both OTL designs but those two couldn’t sound further apart from each other.

Alright, to get to the point. Few suggestions.

SET amp: ZMF Pendant. This amp is great if you’re looking for a more solid state sound while still keeping most of the tube magic. Great attack, speed, linearity, bass, clarity. Tons of NOS ECC82 tubes out there and new production tubes. It’s hard to move up from here as you get diminishing returns.

300 SET Amps: Don’t worry about the tubes so much. JJ power tubes will run you around $175 per tube and depending on the driver around $100 to $200. Later if you want to play with the big boys you can buy a $1500+ pair of 300Bs.

If you want a cheaper alternative the Elekit TU-8600 is a great 300B amp BUT you have to build it and solder it together. Little elbow grease you can save yourself some good money ($2200). If you want the better transformers and upgraded internals then you’re looking to spend around $3K. Not including tubes. It works well with all high impendance headphones but needs some drastic mods for low impedance headphones.

I’ll let everyone else cover the OTLs as I’m out of touch on those.
 
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Jun 25, 2022 at 1:19 PM Post #1,350 of 3,197

Monsterzero

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I’ll let everyone else cover the OTLs as I’m out of touch on those.
I love OTL amps with most high impedance headphones, including all ZMFs. I've been pretty fortunate having owned a legendary amp, the Glenn OTL and another amp that unfortunately less than ten people on the planet will ever own unless something changes, the Airmid, which I like so much that it made me sell my GOTL. Ive also owned the WA2 as well as the La Figaro 339, both of which are nice sounding amps.

While many amps can sound good with ZMF headphones, OTLs are the only amp type I've heard where a near religious experience can be had. The right music, the right pads and the right tube roll can bring the wow factor unlike anything else ive heard.

Last night I dropped a different rectifier into my DAC and a different pair of power tubes into The Glacier, plugged in the Atrium, set my "Headsets" playlist to shuffle and knew immediately that I had a winning tube combo. Fire on High came on and it simply rocked my world. Fantastic mids, incredible texture, goosebump raising staging, and deep, tight hard hitting bass.

 

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