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View Full Discussion For context, here's some notes about my audio system:
I'd say the most notable things about this amp are its:
- DAC: Schiit Gungnir Multibit (Analog 2 board)
- AMP: THX AAA 789 (fed through balanced and single ended)
- CANS: ZMF Eikon (balanced XLR), Audio Zenith Pmx2 (single-ended 1/8"), CA Andromeda (single-ended 1/8")
This makes for an incredibly transparent listening experience, with great dynamics. Infected mushroom never made me groove harder, and orchestral pieces never sounded so precise and real, with instrument sounds appearing ephemerally out of silence (a product of that super low noise floor).
It's really impressive how low that noise floor is, and I'd go as far as to say this is the most impressive thing about this amp to me. My Andromedas hiss with most amps I've tested (schiit lyr 3, schiit magni 3, oppo ha2se, xduuo xd05, Massdrop LCX, magni 3). The only amps I've heard zero hiss from were the es100, sennheiser hdv 820, and this THX AAA 789. There's no hiss even at high gain, which is absolutely insane to me.
Even though the amp isn't truly balanced (see discussion page), I did notice the sound seemed to get even more punchy and controlled out of the balanced out, probably due to the extra power output. I prefer using the amp balanced because of this.
Regarding sound signature: Others have mentioned concerns that this amp leans more on the brighter side. I honestly feel this amp is incredibly neutral, with superb subbass extension (slam!) and treble extension (air!). It sounds super natural and balanced pmx2 (which I regard as my standard of neutrality); it slams freaking hard on the eikon (which has a more warm/dark tilt), while giving it more air. Honestly, even though there's no hiss on the andromeda, the amp is way too powerful for that IEM, even on the lowest gain. I had to use my iFi IEMatch to turn the volume to a point where there wasn't channel imbalance, and after that it sounded great.
Why only 4 stars?
While the soundstage has good width and height, it lacks in depth and layering compared to my lyr 3; instrument separation is still good, but sometimes it can sound a bit flat. Also, while I feel the amp is neutral, it does sometimes sound bright on brighter recordings, and this can make the amp sound fatiguing when listening at louder volumes in extended durations. Warmer/darker headphones will synergize well with this amp on all recordings, but more neutral/brighter headphones may sound harsh and even sibilant at times. Also, the volume knob has very poor tracking from off to 8'oclock, and doesn't work very well for IEMs, even on the lowest volume setting.
Overall, this is an excellent solid-state amp for the money, with great slam, speed, and blackground. It lacks in soundstage, however, and at times can be a little harsh/bright with a more neutral/brighter headphone pairing.
P.S. Also, the packaging is some of the nicest packaging I've seen!
After extensive listening to this amp compared to other amps, I'm increasing the rating to 5 stars. The transparency, clarity, and speed are insane, the best I've heard. And I've heard many amps, including several thousand dollar amps when I visited Source AV. I think this amp trades blows with those amps at worst, and exceeds some of them at best.
That this amp cost me $350 is INSANE. While I do believe a good tube amp has more realistic/holographic sound-staging, I do believe this could be an end-game solid-state amp, and would recommend it now without hesitation.
- slam (sub bass extension and bass articulation)
- speed (transients are super crisp and articulate, with crescendos and decrescendos happening instantaneously)
- blackground (extremely low noise floor, allowing micro details to be heard more clearly)
None of your complaints about the sound are possible, since this amplifier is easily audibly transparent.
"this amplifier is easily audibly transparent." Really? How do you know this, have you compared it to a straight wire with gain?
These are based on my subjective listening impressions, not based on some marketing claims. When you receive your amp, you can provide your own listening impressions. (Based on your Massdrop comments in the discussion, it looks like you haven’t heard it yet)
He needs a better upstream DAC.
What DAC do you mean? I've tried the SDAC, sabre 9028 (in the ha2se), modi multibit, chord mojo, and the Gungnir (A2) is the best DAC I've heard by a long margin. I'd say the chord hugo 2 performs at a similar level. Do you mean something like the chord DAVE? And have you even tried any of these DACs (especially the gungnir mentioned in this review)?
It's a bipolar amp with a feed-forward design. It will be bright and a tad unforgiving. You can't say that when your up against others with limited experience. Love the Gungnir A-deuce.
As a matter of fact, I have listened to a Chord Dave + Blu MkII M-Scaler + Utopia set-up a few times. So what about the Chord Dave for you?
My personal DAC runs off an ES9038Pro, does it make me sound more credible in that regard ? ( FWIW, its doesn't make a difference to me, I only bought it because it was a good deal and the specs and measurements were excellent for it.)
Point is, Schiit's DAC's aren't exactly state-of-the-art when it comes to audio fidelity . They do exhibit audio artifacts under measurement, and "coloration" under subjective listening. If you want to maximise your 789, you actually don't have to spend a lot of money either. Something in the US$250 range like the SMSL SU-8 or in the US$500 range, the Topping Dx7S. Or if those are too "cheap", you go go one more level up with the SMSL D-1 at approx US$1200 for a dual ES9038Pro chip DAC system.
They are by all measures, audibly transparent DACs. If you want to listen to your audio with as little "augmentation" or "color" as it should be, then its really hard to do any better with them.
But if you prefer some coloration or so called " warmth" in you sound, then its quite pointless to have an almost perfectly linear measuring amp as the final line output.
Good write-up mate. Thank you!
Hey, thanks Volly! :) Glad you liked it!
I'm using the D1 with the LCX currently (balanced) and it's a great pairing. I'll be upgrading the LCX with the 789 in a day or so... can't wait for that pairing. I have a feeling that it's going to be addictive.
Let me know what your impressions are pslayer1! :)
great review thank you for that.
but what about this part of the review " it lacks in depth and layering " after you tried several amps ?