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Got my amplifier in yesterday. Works perfectly. Haven't tested the balanced inputs but it's working well so far. But...when it arrived, I got a bit of a scare.
Bwuh? I didn't order a CTH + SDAC! I already have a CTH! I don't need another one!
Oh. The amplifier was packaged in the wrong box but it was the right one in the end.
Anyway, I plugged it in, turned it on and began my listening. The first word that springs to mind when trying to describe this amp's sound is..."effortless". I've listened to a variety of headphones on this thing and it's everything I hoped it would be. I don't want to bog these impressions down with too much flowery audiophile terminology but I'd describe the THX AAA 789 amplifier powerful, clear, resolving, and natural in tone. Some of this might be attributable to "new toy syndrome" but I truly believe this amp sounds amazing and has all the power and technical ability of an endgame-tier amplifier, in my opinion, at least. Pair this amp with a good DAC and you've got a killer setup that you'd be hard pressed to beat without leaping well into quadruple digit territory.
That's all I wanted to say. Obviously, I'll want to put a lot more time in listening to this baby before I write too much more about it but, suffice it to say, so far, so good.
Personally I've listened to mine about 5 hours since it arrived yesterday...
I cannot tell any difference between it an my O2 even with critical listening.
I went through my whole playlist of test songs and I can't seem to find any part that really has cleaner output via the THX AAA.
But I mean with the O2 being 100+SINAD and my A30 being 106 SINAD and my DX7 likely being around 106-110 SINAD... I think that I don't have much more room for improvement here.
But that isn't to say that I don't like this amp, other than its annoying RCA configuration (vertical vs horizontal) and its overly large size (bigger than the DX7, meaning it doesn't fit right on my desk) it is very nice.
I haven't detected any output impedance issues with my 3 headphones I've tested it with so far (Oppo PM-2, mrspeakers Aeon Closed, 1More Triple over Ear)
Now my debate will be if I keep it in the long run just due to its size or not.
The gain switch is nice. I can't wait for Amir to be able to test it and see how it really performs.
It drives all headphones nicely unlike my A30(the A30's high output impedance aswell as the DX7 output impedance means only certain headphones will work well).
An update after a couple more days of listening...
It allows for greater clarity at higher volumes, although I don't listen too loud most of the time.
I was able to use some EQ with Equalify without any perceivable increase in distortion despite higher bass.
I will buy it if you no longer want it.
How much was this amp when it was on sale? Drop has ended for the time being so the price is not listed.
@Jimster480 - Is your observation based on the unbalanced/SE, as opposed to balanced/XLR 4-pin?
I don't have anything balanced, but Amir tested the SE performance now and its identical to the balanced performance.
I think the real power of this amp would be to drive any headphones to any volume without any audible distortion (from the amp atleast).
I have noticed clearer tones in high volumes (just used briefly for testing) but none of my headphones seem to have any change vs an o2 at the lower volumes that I listen at.
The takeaway here is that I can drive 2 headphones at the same time without any distortion, and to any volume I desire.
The thing is that with amp's that have such High SINAD such as the o2 and the A30, the reality is that its very tough (if not impossible) to tell the difference in 90%+ of songs. Since you would need something with the maximum dynamic range and the clearest possible recording to be able to tell a difference in critical listening. Since the o2 for example already achieves 100 SINAD, most music doesn't even hit that level of clarity.
Now the AAA 789 would for sure make a difference on really heavy headphones (300-600 ohm) where the o2 would struggle to deliver the power you might want.
But on lower impedance / power draw headphones such as the ones I have.... it is perfectly fine to use an o2 to any reasonable volume.
I do plan to sit down and do some more critical listening tests between the two amps again (maybe even against the A30 also) and see if I can hear any audible difference in any of my high quality songs.
Objectively it is definitely clearer than the o2 and A30... But I think that my DX7 is probably only capable of 106-108 SINAD (still waiting on Amir to test the original DX7 again on his new analyzer) so when using something like the A30 (other than the high output impedance) there wouldn't really be a difference vs using an Amp with 117 SINAD like the THX AAA :)
Thanks for sharing that Jimster. That's very informative.
Good to know that it's powerful enough to drive two headphones at once.
I do feel that my HD 6XX is a little underpowered by the O2, especially when listening to classical. Although I have no complaints about the sound being very clean and detailed it seems to lack a bit of 'omph'.
It could definitely be a bit underpowered. Especially if you like bass at higher volumes!
What gain's do you have on your O2? Because mine is custom at 1x/3.3x.
My O2 is the same - 1x/3.3x. I use 3.3x for some classical music and it does get loud, but it appears to me that a bit of distortion kicks in at higher volume.
For me, it's all about peace of mind. The THX AAA 789 might not offer a truly revelatory experience over something like an O2 as that's already good enough for 99% of listeners but it is objectively superior in terms of SINAD and has the capability to drive just about any headphone on the planet (electrostats not included, obviously), maybe even the notoriously hard to drive HE-6. So, even if I can't hear a significant improvement over my previous amps, I still got exactly what I was looking for in this new one.
True that. I like the idea that I can fearlessly look at trying out 600ohm heaphones.
Well that's not good. I'm currently using Sennheiser HDVA600 and Beyerdynamic A20 and both amps are revelatory over an O2, which to me is a fine amplifier but nothing remarkable about it. Should I spend $350 for a potential disappointment? decisions.
What is with Amir?
amir this, Amir that.
He is the owner of AudioScienceReview who happens to be an honest and trustworthy guy who does measurements on various audio products.
Amir does really good work and gives really good insight into current audio trends. Unfortunately he is seen as a god to sad little tools like Jim who can neither think nor hear for themselves.
Did you end up buying the THX789? How does it compare with the O2 with your 6xx’s? I have the O2 and think it sounds great with my 6xx’s at high gain. I wonder if buying a separate DAC and Amp is really worth the $750 or so cost? I picked up the R2R Dac and am waiting for the 789.
You should sell the R2R DAC as it has horrible performance and would only hold an amp like this (or even the O2) behind significantly.
The 789 compares favorably to the O2 as it provides more power (if you need it) and better overall performance. I am happy with driving 2 headphones better than I can drive a single headphone using my 789 vs my O2.
What DAC would you recommend to pair with the 6xx and THX789? SMSL SU-8?
Or even the Grace Balanced which is only $150?
Check out audiosciencereview.com there are tons of dac's ranked.
SU-8 is good, D50 is good, DX7/S is good D70 is good, DX3 pro is good, Grace Balanced is pretty good too, JDS EL DAC, etc
Basically the 789 has a SINAD over 110 so really you should have a DAC that is somewhere in that range in order to be able to get the best from it.
I would recommend that you ignore jimster's advice in general as he is one of these people who cannot make his own opinions and relies only on numbers to tell him what is good and bad. he can only form an opinion after he's seen how something was tested. he's a true member of amir's cult.
personally I would recommend that you keep your airist and see how you like it. you will probably find that it's a pretty damn good sounding dac. and while you're at it why not pick up an su-8 which is also a pretty damn good sounding dac. the two dacs measure quite differently, but 99% of listeners would be unable to determine which one has the higher sinad - certainly not jimster. the THX 789 is a pretty transparent amplifier and is going to let you hear the difference between the dacs. numbers are only part of the story. these clowns will go on and on about placebo effect and what the engineers wanted you to hear etcetera...
it's great to have all the info, but ultimately you have to trust your ears. don't be an objectivist drone like jimster.
Yes I did buy the THX789, and quite happy with it having both power and transparency. I've made my own balanced cable for the HD6xx to enjoy the power it offers through the XLR.
It is a step up from the O2. I feel that the O2 is slightly underpowered for a 300 ohm headphone, especially when I'm try to enjoy a full orchestra (e.g. John Williams - Summon the Hero, Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture). But for its price and size it definitely punches above its weight and I would have no problem recommending it as a great entry level amp.
I bought a Topping D50 to pair with the THX789, I think it's a good pairing as both are very transparent. I also bought a HD800, and I feel I've reached my budget audiophile nervana.
Thanks for taking time to respond.
Thanks for the response. I agree with you - and, though I have only been interested in audio equipment for a very short time, it hasn’t taken me long to pick up that there is a lot of toxic behavior centered around Amir and his test equipment. Hearing, much like pain or any other sense, is a perception and is highly individual...especially in the way we perceive and experience music! An extremely high percentage of listeners can’t detect what they are claiming - either the distortion is masked by the music or simply isn’t biologically detectable. Those who claim that the R2R sounds like junk either (most likely) have confirmation bias, are overcompensating, or maybe have trained their hearing to such an extent they now have a super power and do detect something. But to have such a narrow view of what music enjoyment means and to criticize others....really????
agreed. there's also this element of people just wanting to belong to a group that can point to tenets or series of principles that help them understand reality or feel better than or Superior or holy or... you know...like a CULT.
I'm still waiting for the counterpoint to audiosciencereview.com, audiomagicreview.com... heh.
Sorry but I have made my own opinions before I ever found ASR and funnily enough my ears agreed with future testing done at ASR.
Numbers don't lie, garbage performance audio devices are scams. You are getting scammed if you think otherwise; dont try to push your flawed ideology on others.
Its hilarious that you don't think I would be able to tell the difference between garbage measuring equipment and well measuring equipment since I was literally banned from HeadFi for doing exactly this. Arguing with schiit who was claiming their devices sounded so great when I could clearly tell they sounded like crap. Testing done almost a year later confirmed every suspicion I had about 4 different Schiit products...
I was even able to discern that the SMSL M8 was a bit better than the Topping D30 despite them having comparable performance numbers..... again on testing done 6+ months later from my initial thoughts.
You can hear the difference; you just have to know what you are listening for.
There is no toxic behavior; its just a group of intelligent people trying to save other people money from all the scams out in the audio world.
The reality is that the science backs up what we are doing; mfg's know that you can settle your mind with trash sounding equipment so they don't even bother to engineer it as engineering costs money and hurts profit margins.
All the subjectivists who claim their new trash-measuring gear sounds "magical" or "worlds better" have never done real A/B testing or they listen with their eyes. Pretty box = great sounding, big price = great sounding, BS story about magical audio tech = great sounding.
Most subjectivists listen with their eyes and wallet rather than the science that this entire industry is based on...
Its like people buying celerons and claiming they are faster than i7's and then other people beliving them so Intel starts making $1000 Celeron CPU's with 2 cores and i7's are still $300..... Despite scientific testing to show otherwise; subjectist claims that Celerons are faster still persist.
Nevermind that most of these celeron claimers would be people upgrading from 2002 pentium 4's and talking about how its "so much better" and "worth the money".
Sorry man but its just not the case.
I got along just fine before I found ASR. But ASR is a great site, there is no grey area. Only tards who like to get scammed (or just simply don't know anything yet) and those of us who understand that everything to do with audio recording and reproduction is scientific.
Those who want to claim that sound isn't science are just pathetic (or scammers).
You really are pretty special man. Literally no brain to think for yourself; yet you are spewing garbage on a message board.
The internet really isn't for people like you; there is just too much information for your small brain to handle.
I'm not sure what kind of pathetic 3 way trolling attempt this is but there is no cult.
Nobody is being told how to think.... most of the users of ASR are just interested in the hobby but not interested in wasting thousands of dollars on scams.... That is afterall how I Found ASR in the first place.
Latter dac's just suck. If you can't think for yourself then its your own fault.
Also if you aren't a trump supporter then you are clearly part of the problem. Considering this pathetic 3 way trolling attempt; its clear we have some snowflakes here throwing temper tantrums just like the babies we have in office right now.
My advice is for you all to grow up. Once you are mature enough to have an adult conversation we can revisit this topic.