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I've been doing some blind testing and various A/B tests with this amp using Voicemeter (program for outputting audio to multiple sources I.E Solid state and Tube) and a Little Bear Audio Switcher. Neither myself or 4 of my friends can hear a difference between the Little Dot MKIII and my solid state through multiple headphones, mainly the LCD2C, HD 6XX, AKG K7XX, and Aeon Flow Closed in blind tests. This is with stock tubes and about 30 hours of burn in. I'm starting to wonder where all of these impressions of a warm, tubey sound for this amp are coming from.
I'm curious, has anyone else here done a blind test with the amp and, if so, can you tell a difference between it and a solid state? We sure can't.
Edit: I also tried JAN 5654W power tubes and couldn't hear a difference.
Edit 2: Take everything you read online with a grain of salt, including myself. My test was not a scientifically done test. I just think it's important to set your expectations low and I believe a lot of praise this amp gets is hyperbole and that it isn't making the difference that people claim. I have no doubt this amp measures differently and is making a difference but I do quesiton how much of the difference it makes is audible, especially to an untrained listener. I think that's important to know going in and if you're new to audio or haven't spent a lot of time with critical listening that it's something to consider. Form your own opinions through what you read and what you know, I'm not claiming anything what I've said as fact and audio as a whole is subjective and different from person to person.
Expectation bias and placebo are strong, I've experienced it myself and I think everyone should be aware of that and do testing when possible to make sure they're getting what they want for what they paid.
Wow if that's true that's pretty... wow. I heard the HD 6xx should pair well with these tubes.
The only thing that makes sense to me is their solid state amp isn't up to snuff and has enough 2nd order and 3rd order distortions to sound more "tubey." Or, maybe there are DAC filters in place doing the same. I also can't find specs for that passive preamp so there's no way to know if there any issues and noise being introduced from that unit. More questions than answers but I think the setup sounds suspect. Even if they didn't A/B, they could subjectively listen and see if they could hear a difference. I have tube hybrid's that sound like SS, but tubes sound like tubes. I've only sampled the 6XX out of a tube amp and it sounds nothing like coming out of the THX 789 for example. A night and day difference.
Blind test it. Expectation bias and placebo effect are incredibly strong and everybody is subject to it, the only way to tell for sure is a blind test. It can be done for around $30 (nothing compared to what we spend on gear) and a free program called Voicemeter. I urge everyone to do their part and reduce the amount of snake oil and placebo-fueled opinions in this hobby so people can know better what to buy and what exactly it will do for them. When I first got the MK III I agreed with everyone on the warm, tube-y sound, it was night and day for me, until I blind tested (with myself and 4 other people mind you) and nobody could hear a difference.
Also I can promise you my solid state amps don't have serious distortion or anything else that would cause them to sound like a tube amp.
Edit: I also did subjective non blind tests and after I did the blind test I still couldn't hear a difference. I tried giving it a full day of listening then switching back as well and there was still no difference. I highly recommend caution to anyone looking into this amp looking for the tube sound because so far I've only heard that it has the tube sound from people who haven't bothered to do a blind test. As another note, the other people who blind tested with me are familiar with audio and either have high end gear themselves or have spent extensive time with my gear.
Since this drop came back, I just realized you didn't mention ABx testing nor volume matching with an SPL meter.
Also, what SS amp are you using? Since we're being scientific, we could easily look at measurements and determine their level of distortion and other things. Same with your DAC and knowing what filters are in place along with the files used and the source. That information should be readily available since you're running an objective experiment. Otherwise, your test environment is so flawed no legitimate conclusion could be raised, logically.
Hell, if you're not even volume matching nothing matters since we're not testing at 1:1. Your results will be schewed no matter what.
Is this what you would say goes best with the HD 6XX? Or is there another out there maybe better suited?
This or the Dark Voice would be a good choice starting out. There are plenty of guides that go over tube rolling for each so if you want to go down that path as well, it's well documented at this point.
I did do an A/B blind test matched with an SPL meter. I'm not trying to be scientific, I'm trying to warn others that based on my experience that this amp isn't doing much. If i need a scientific, flawless environment to hear a difference that brings a lot into question like is this amp worth it at that point? Shouldn't people know that environment is required to hear a difference before buying? The notion that this amp increases soundstage, warms up the sound, etc. is inaccurate based on my experience and wanted to let other know. Besides, if all of those things are happening then id imagine you wouldn't need a perfect setup to hear it.
I also have 12 years of being a musician, 6 years of producing music and 5 years of owning higher end audio gear and have spent a lot of time training critical listening. I'm obviously not an expert or the pinnacle of a good tester but if, with my background, cant hear what people claim to be such a noticeable sound (and neither can the 4 other people i tested with, mind you) i think it brings into question how much this amp actually does.
I could not hear a difference between this amp and a solid state in blind or visual testing with the HD6XX or any headphone. I'm not going to say it doesnt do anything but I couldnt hear anything.
Right, AB and ABx are different testing methods, why I was specific to ask as I was genuinely curious. I never mentioned anything being flawless, you just never mentioned volume matching so again, I was curious. Tube amps also tend to need warm-up and burn-in from the nature of them being tubes. Again, I didn't see any of this mentioned. Nor it being used as a preamp which could impart its tube sound in your chain.
Also, don't know why you feel the need to bring in your credentials as again, that was never questioned. It really doesn't matter. I was in band, and can play (putting that lightly) multiple instruments and sit in on as my wife practices cello. None of that matters. I was curious about the your equipment and process. Threads like this get old when people don't really share what the hell they're doing to come to these conclusions. You made a very firm claim and are getting combative.
Also, I'm still curious as to what gear you're using (DAC, source, etc.) which you still seem to be skirting around. This is an old amp. Quite old to be fair, so your experience just lies in the minority and I am curious as to how you got there. Just my morbid curiosity in effect here is all.
I'm not saying this is a super-tubey, warm and full-bodied sounding tube amp. It isn't. But it still sounds like a tube amp IN CONTEXT to an incredibly clean SS amp. I think that's the point that's being missed. The same is typically said about most hybrid amps but people tend not to temper their own expectations. I enjoy the iFi iCAN Pro for this very reason as it contains both tube and SS stages in the same device and you can definitely tell a difference between the two.
"Right, AB and ABx are different testing methods"
I actually did not know that.
Sorry if I'm getting defensive, I'm used to people assaulting what I've said first thing so my natural response is to get defensive. You're one of the few people who have approached with genuine curiosity. IIRC I also did a blind test without the audio switcher, positioning the two sources as close as posisble but most of them were using the audio switcher, if that's at all relevant. I don't an audio switcher in the signal chain would effect anything but to be sure I did to a test without it.
I used an Audient iD4 interface for blind tests and did comparisons with a Magni 3, used a Modi 2U as my DAC hooked up via USB. Spotify Premium was used as a source, mainly listened to higher quality recordings and well engineered music. I will say the test was flawed, it was my first time really attempting a test like this and it could have been done better in a lot of aspects. I am definitely a minority and I'll edit my intial post to add some skepticism to my own post and to encourage forming your own opinion. I just think it's important to set realistic expectations and it seems like a lot of the effects of this tube amp are a victim of hyperbole. I personally have no doubt there is indeed a difference, especially in measurements, with this tube amp, just how much of that is audible is what I'm questioning.
"But it still sounds like a tube amp IN CONTEXT to an incredibly clean SS amp"
This may be true, I do admit I don't have a high end SS amp to test it with but in my experience I haven't been able to hear much of a difference, if at all, between different amps or DACs. That could be because I haven't heard amps over $600, I don't know.
It's all good, really. I was legitimately just curious as I have done and do AB, ABx, and other multivariate tests for my day job in digital marketing (but my degree is in engineering), so it's just a point of interest in general. You'd be amazed at how much behavior and ethics come into play in both of my backgrounds and the effects it can have on an end result when context is removed or skewed. Not saying you were doing that but it's wild how easy it is to do. (There are many scientific papers on this especially in the "audiophile" and wine community.)
And I'm sure my tone could have easily been misread. This is the internet after all. So really no ill intent from my part whatsoever. I'm always interested in these sorts of tests no matter what, sadly.
If you're curious about the specs of your gear, you can check here : https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/review-and-measurements-of-topping-a30-and-schiit-magni-3-headphone-amps.4024/ and https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/review-measurement-and-comparison-of-schiit-modi-2-uber-and-topping-d30.3207/.
There are other measurements floating out in the wild but unless you're really into the technical jargon, I don't know how much context it would give you. If you're curious, I can drop the links here for you to pour over as I think it's interesting, nonetheless.
I only mentioned the quality of your switcher as I couldn't find specs on it so I didn't know if it was possible to rule out anything going on with it. Wasn't trying to downplay your gear or anything, but was just trying to view this under an objective microscope.
And an expensive amp doesn't mean shit to be frank. Lots of expensive equipment is just that; expensive. Just like cars, watches, clothes, etc. it's easy to sell a brand name to the masses (that is my job, afterall). Still, that doesn't equate to quality. I was trying to refrain from linking to the more subjective arguments of this as it does play a huge role and just muddies the waters more. Sadly, if a person truly believes that expensive X item is better than cheaper Y item, despite X being the exact same product as Y, then nothing will beat what they have conjured in their brain. And, this has been measured quite extensively via brain scans which makes it even more interesting (to me at least). Sorry for the long-winded response, but thanks for not being close-minded and thinking I was shitting on you or anything to that effect.