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View Full Discussion tl;dr This amp is seriously good not even factoring in cost. THX and MD really hit it out of the park and made good on everything promised. Although this thing in large, I still pack it up bring it to work daily because it's just that much better than all my other portable options and has me giving them some side-eye for not sounding as good as the 789.
The DAC used was my humble iFi nano BL through my work laptop with Google Music (I know, how plebeian of me) using the same playlist. I’ll also list the input and gain that was used. Either way, on to the good stuff.
Full playlist used here. I can make a Spotify version if folks want one: https://play.google.com/music/playlist/AMaBXymtC_Bn48ZOhAzAZt929WBtbC5vSIMhdXkFNIzLkbD_eXFyrzYDDkB5GDeo7IVQ0Wz9LvvavZQEKJoHoRNdDP8qPoc1sQ%3D%3DA taste of the songs played (female vocals):
Sleepy Brown - Rayana Jay
SAILBOAT - QUIN
Tell Me (acoustic) - Sabrina Claudio
I Just Want To Love You - Blended Babies
Diary - Alicia Keys
Sweet Time - Raveena
He Loves Me (Lyzel in E Flat) - Jill Scott
Lavender and Velvet - Alina Baraz
Mad - Ayelle
Truth Hurts - Lizzo
Killing Me Softly - Roberta Flack
Smooth Operator - Sade
Special Affair - The Internet
Cans used & impressions:*Senn HD 58X (SE II or III) - Veil? What veil? These finally have a SQ that I really enjoy. Dynamic, fast, energetic with surprisingly good bass for an open back. A killer surprise. Shockingly did well on bass heavy tracks. Good mids and plenty of sparkle. All good things considering I was about to sell them and now want to keep them.
*AQ NightOwl (SE I or II) - Bass is very tight but loses some quantity. I prefer the change actually. Mids sound more prominent and balanced which is good as they can sound a bit "sucked out" to my ears. Overall, more consistent than previous listens I've had on other setups. I think I can safely say the NO doesn't "scale" quite like the others. They sound very close to what I hear on my other amps. That's not a bad thing per se but somewhat disheartening as I wanted more.
*CA Atlas (SE/I) - Still that same huge wall of sound and ear shattering bass. But much like a broken record, the bass is substantially tighter and lower in quantity (again, no complaints). Still delivers a wall of sound unlike anything else but there is more separation than before. Very easy to hear stereo panning effects and sounds appearing below or right behind your ears. It's an interesting sensation but I really enjoy the presentation with the speed, attack, and dynamics of the Atlas. For a V-shaped IEM they really do sound north of neutral at times.
*CA Lyra II (SE/I) - Very similar to the Atlas. Not as thick. Bass is much more tame in quantity and extension. Mids are more forward and treble spikes in a different spot that gives some air up top. A less aggressive Atlas that's more neutral with some warmth.
*Focal Elex (Balanced II) - This is the first time I found the Elex to be bright out of everything I listened to. Really though, I would say they are neutral-bright. With that said, I actually enjoyed the lighter, airier presentation from the THX amp. Still fast. Still hyper dynamic. Still Focal. Just, taken up a notch or two. One cool thing I noticed is I could hear exactly the point the drivers were just started to exhibit over-excursion. It was neat to hear the drivers holding on for dear life as they tried not to cross that point. Much better control out of this amp as they got EVER so close on some very bass heavy songs at a much higher volume than I normally listen to and they never clipped/popped on me. Out of my other amps, I would never be able to listen to them that loud, with that quality of bass with over-excursion. Another win in my book. Also, any reverb and echo effects came across more prominently than I have ever noticed before. At times it could be too intense as I wasn't used to how it changed the sound of some of my favorite songs. Not really a negative, but something that caught me off guard. I attribute this to the low distortion as more of the sound just makes it to your ears uninhibited.
*Focal Elegia (SE II/Balanced I or II) - Takes the tight bass of the Elegia and makes it even tighter. Ddin't think that was possible but I can physically feel the impact when a snare/bass drum is hit. They still lack the quantity but the extension and quality is so good I honestly don't notice. With this, the reverb/echo effect I experienced on the Elex is here as well, but better. With them being closed, the stage feels more contained and the effect comes off more dampened. It actually makes the Elegia sound huge (for a closed back). Same great imaging and separation just taken up a notch. With the already low distortion of the Elegia it's wild the minute micro/macro details one can pick up even when half paying attention. The amount of detail retrieval when truly listening is remarkable. With enough attention, everything from a track is laid bare in front of you (for better or for worse). I tend to trail off as focusing on songs makes me find their faults and lose overall enjoyment. I guess ignorance can be bliss sometimes.
Balanced, the Elegia is even more dynamic with one reaching for the volume knob on tracks with a lot of range. A really fun and enjoyable experience but one that is incredibly detailed and vivid. This may be my favorite combination so far of taking the already dynamic Elegia and truly turning things up to 11. Once the new toy syndrome is worn off, I dare say this will be my go-to setup for a very long time.
*TR-X00 Ebony - (SE I or II) - Possibly the best presentation I have heard from the Ebony while playing music. This is another can I have been hard on due to cost vs performance. While always fun, the Ebony lacks the refinement of my other cans. Through the THX, they are so much better controlled. Like a broken record, the bass is tight (which the Ebony needs more than any other can here). However, bass quantity is increased. This was a pleasant surprise as I normally felt the Ebony was bass-light for a Fostex. Turns out, they just want gobs of power. Arguably, the most fun cans of the night, but with the lowered distortion of the amp and better control of the drivers, the Ebony's actually sounded high-end for once. Mids are forward enough, a ton of sparkle up top without being hot, tizzy, or sibilant. (1st time ever for a Fostex?). The other kicker was the amount of stereo separation and imaging. I've always thought Fostex sucked in this regard, but I am backtracking on that statement now. Truthfully, I thought I had a different headphone. These Ebonies have NEVER sounded this good. They sounded quite neutral with a tasteful bass boost. And I don't think I've quite heard the Ebony's presented this way before. It was nice. And the first time I didn't regret the $500+ purchase of them. Note, I do use TH900 sheepskin pads so take that for what it's worth.
Well, so far, lots of great things to say and I am incredibly happy with this purchase. It's to the point now I am using the carry bag and bringing it to work with me daily. It's that good that my other amps sound pretty shitty in comparison. Now, just in need of a better DAC and more balanced cables and I should be set. Mind you, the iFi Pro iCAN is still my favorite amp but at $1,700, it's alarming how many blows this $350 THX trades with a beast like the iCAN. While I still plan to purchase the Pro iCAN and iDSD in the future, the THX has lessened my hurry to do so. I think that in and of itself, is as high as a recommendation one can give for this amp given this hobby.
Yeah. Makes my ebony fostex's sound incredible. Just ordered a balanced cable for the tr-x00 to see if I can get more performance.
how much hiss are you getting with the solaris just plugged into the amplifier without any music playing?
None whatsoever. It's background is vantablack. Even from my phone that has an OI around 3-4 ohms, they don't hiss that bad to be honest. It sounds a bit frainy if anything. Out of say my Xbox/ps4 controller then yeah, they hiss pretty bad.
Thanks! I'm actually planning to update it with additional impressions of all the other headphones and IEMs I own (Solaris, 6XX, 4XX, etc).
Great review. When you post the Solaris impressions, do you mind providing some direct comparison to the Atlas? I have the Atlas now, which I really enjoy, and I have the Solaris coming shortly. Also, can you provide a comparison of the THX versus the built-in amp of the iFi nano BL?
Will do! I also have the portable Monoprice THX dac/amp ordered and it should be here tomorrow so hopefully the DAC on that performs better than my iFi nano.
Do you have the latest firmware on your ifi nano? The GTO filters now in use for PCM are very hard to beat.
Yup, version 5.3C which I believe is the latest. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my nano and use it daily but as a standalone desktop DAC it falls a bit short and is the weak link in my chain. Really, just some stop gaps until I pull the trigger on the Pro iDSD.
Yeah, I think you've already done a great job. Running updates will only enhance your review even further. Easy to read but deep with personal thoughts and opinions. I find amps are hard to give an opinion on as they are like 'cats' but you've done really well.
Looking forward to hearing more about 789 THX amp!
Hi friend please could you make a spotify play list for us thank you so much
I joined the last drop for the THX 789(shipment end of august planned)
and will probably buy the SMSL SU-8 as balanced DAC for it.
But I wonder if the following chain would work balanced:
my ifi xDSD line out(3,5mm s-balanced TRRS)
with my adapter from 3,5 TRRS balanced male to 2,5mm TRRS balanced female
would work as solution/connection
with 1x 2.5mm TRRS male to 2x 3 PIN XLR male cables into THX 789.
Does that sound right? should work balanced, don´t you think?
Love the ifi xDSD for it´s clean sound and the MQA support. Bluetooth is also sometimes nice to use while on the go...
So I could also use the setup with me at the office and leave the SMSL SU-8 connected at home.
I am pretty sure that will not work for the xDSD, sadly. The lineout level for the xDSD is set at 2V. It does work pretty great via RCA as I use the unit sometimes with the iTube2 and enjoy that setup for a smooth, warmer performance.
you are right. I forgot about it. The 2Volts are correct. So I will keep on using the xDSD as it is.
No problem with that. Later next year I get the ifi xCAN or maybe as surprise I get it in august as birthday gift... who knows.
the iTube2 is on my list for next year.
First comes my DT 177x Go Drop in fall this year, before that I buy the SMSL SU-8 for the THX 789
and for christmas I get myself the Focal Elegia finally... if nothing comes across saving up for it like last months the 177x and the 789 THX hahaa
what a rabbit hole this audio hobby is...
How does it sound? The monoprice THX portable amp?