September 14, 2021 § Leave a comment
With more intimate recordings, such the Oyster Duo’s Stolen Pearls [Channel Classics CCS 43121; DXD], the ‘zoom’ effect of this control was more comical than satisfying. More useful here was a little increase of crossfeed, dependent on the ‘phones used, to create a more speaker-like impression of an ‘out of the head’ sonic image.
More likely to be set and then left are the two DIP switches built into the underside of the chassis which are marked 1 and 2. Switch 1 increases the gain of the headphone amp, while switch 2 increases the gain (sensitivity) of the analogue line input. I’d suggest these are best left in their ‘off’ position unless you have a line source with a truly feeble output. Moreover, the Phonitor xe has a prodigious output capability, particularly with high impedance headphones, in no small part due to its proprietary VOLTAiR op-amps that operate at a very high voltage.
With this extra headroom on tap, those DIP switch boosters really won’t be needed. I found the Phonitor xe more than capable of driving cleanly well beyond the pain level even with these switches ‘off’.
September 5, 2021 § Leave a comment
I’m not really a powered speaker kinda bloke – I love the more ‘pure’ experience of a dedicated pair of hifi passive speakers, and having the freedom to be able to mix/match/tinker with upstream source gear and amplification. This brings us back to the clutter conundrum – speaker amps, for the most part, aren’t exactly tiny. I have to stack my monitor on either a vintage NAD 3020e receiver or a custom NCore500 stereo power amp (yes, 400 watts per channel is a little overkill) to play my KEF LS50 speakers in my nearfield setup. This is in addition to having a DAC, a proper headphone amp, and occasionally a CD player (sorry, CD’s are awesome) or a turntable (yes, I’m that guy) also fighting for desktop real estate.
August 23, 2021 § Leave a comment
The EX5 reproduces the treble range skilfully, the treble feels accurate, transients are fast and snappy. Just like the rest of the spectrum, the treble range feels dynamic and agile. Detail-retrieval is excellent here as well. This range boosts the perceived clarity of the signature and the EX5 reaches the top octave without getting harsh. The treble carries good detail and definition while presenting the harmonics brilliantly. The EX5 shows great balance throughout the spectrum. The extension is just as good as it is at the lowest notes. Overall, the EX5 has excellent tonality and it stays true to the mastering.
July 25, 2021 § Leave a comment
What’s immediately apparent is how the Atom HE’s presentation opens up over the Atom, allowing for greater separation of instruments and extra space for even more superb levels of detail to fill. More refinement takes away some of the original Atom’s comparative crudeness and directness, and that goes hand-in-hand with a greater sense of control to create a more sophisticated soundstage. The headphones we use in testing have different characters and demands, and the Naim confidently feeds each with power and poise.
We play The Tallest Man on Earth’s There’s No Leaving Now and the Atom HE offers a notably wider window into the recording. Compared with the original Atom, there is extra subtlety to get under the texture and dynamic lilts of the piano keys, while also peeling another layer or two from his nasal vocals. Its extra insight better communicates the atmosphere of the production – the distant creaks of the space he’s recording in and the slight echo around his vocal. And the piano chords that later join to ride beneath his delivery are that bit more shapely, too. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable headphone experience.
June 16, 2021 § Leave a comment
I discovered that in addition to a wide soundstage, definite strengths of the Bartók are transient attack and driving rhythmic energy, so I cued up Winds of War and Peace [Wilson Audio WCD-8823], with its (in)famous bass-drum explosions during “Liberty Fanfare.” The monstrous bass drum at the 1:00 mark was ultra clean and powerful. With the Bartók, I was hearing better separation of mallet strike, the drum head and bass-drum body resonance than I’d heard before, maybe even better than in the rooms using Wilson speakers at AXPONA. My modest system will never match the big Wilson speakers’ bass power, sheer volume or unflappable dynamics, but with the Bartók in the system, I was able to re-create a better impression of bass-drum tone. As an aside, I play trumpet in some local concert bands and I’ve performed “Liberty Fanfare” for several patriotic concerts. I’m always disappointed when our bass drum isn’t as awe-inspiring as the crushing whacks Lowell Graham and the National Symphonic Winds produced on this great Wilson Audio recording.
June 10, 2021 § Leave a comment
The balanced amplifier circuit is a variation of the 2009 design, although it is now compatible with lower impedance loads. The PRE-GAIN stage implemented in the Violectric headphone amplifiers ensures not only a low noise floor, but also precise control of output levels due to the ability to tailor the sensitivity of the pre-amplifier stage. The volume control is an impressive piece of engineering, as the ability to execute a 256-step volume control with .4 dB increments is nothing short of amazing. Finally, the HPA V550 PRO is a solidly designed preamplifier, and can function equally well in a traditional two channel audio system. If you are searching for a high-performance headphone amplifier then give the Violectric HPA VM550 PRO serious consideration, as there are very few products in the audio world that are built to this level of sophistication.
May 29, 2021 § Leave a comment
The xDuoo XA-10 has Qualcomm’s flagship-tier CSR8675. It supports LDAC and aptX HD. LDAC is currently one of the best Bluetooth codecs, in terms of performance. It is good to see that the XA-10 supports this codec. You can hook this DAC & AMP directly to your active speakers and control the playback through your phone, over-the-air. Bluetooth is always nice to have on these devices. Bluetooth range is also quite good, I had no drop-outs or any stability issues during my time with it. I want to say a couple of bits about controlling the device here. You already know that I can trade sluggish navigation for aesthetics but I wonder why xDuoo did not implement remote support to this beautiful-looking DAC. It would make things easier for us. In the menu, there are two subcategories only. Filter and gain setting. Upon spending around 2 hours fiddling with the filters, I can say that I haven’t heard any difference at all. Note that I am using the balanced output and streaming MQA files. There is no auto-standby setting either.
May 28, 2021 § Leave a comment
The HA2-SF can drive as good as all headphones on the market and because of the gain switch option, the VU meters now more easily dance around no matter what headphone you connect to it. With the Nirvana this is one of the downsides as it’s so powerful that the meters only move with really hard to drive headphones, or when you’re deaf and up the volume way too much. It’s nice to see that Auris listened to the market feedback, and know we have lovely moving VU meters on the front for most of the headphones you hook up to it in low gain.