Massdrop CTH + SDAC DAC/Amp

Massdrop CTH + SDAC DAC/Amp

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Product Description
The Massdrop CTH + SDAC DAC/amp brings two of the community’s favorite designers together in one affordable, easy-to-use package. It features the Massdrop x Alex Cavalli Tube Hybrid Amp (or CTH), built from the ground up by the founder of Cavalli Audio—a legend in the world of headphone amps Read More
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All of our reviews are from verified customers.
4.5
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92%
would recommend to a friend
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SpoonRaccoon
30
Jan 25, 2019
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I got this the other day. I had to pay $33CAD(~25USD) for import taxes. I’m a noob that is trying to get into the audiophile world. I’m using this amp for my HD6XX. I can't really tell the difference from using my Sound BlasterX AE-5(SB) which already made my headphones sound great. Instructions said to use it for 50-100hrs so the tube burns and gets its sound signature. I'm currently doing that by leaving it on and playing a repeated playlist without headphones plugged in. Tube gets really hot. 80C or 176F. Hopefully, my cat won't get burnt. I mostly listen to rock, punk, and kpop(those girls…). Day 1: 0hrs burnt-in Sound is great but similar as my SB. I used it to play games(Overwatch) and it didn't sound that great. This is probably because I'm used to the equalization setting of my SB. There was some burning smell after a few hours but it went away after an hour or so Day 2: 24hrs burnt-in I can tell some difference between my SB and the amp. Mostly distortion. Paying close attention when the volume is up, my SB has some sort of distortion that is only there if you pay close attention to it. Day 3: 48hrs burnt-in I started to hear more notable differences. The music I listen to is more… rounded? If it was an image I would describe it as my SB is a bit washed off while this amp is fully colored. I listened to the Superman Return OST, the main Superman song, and that is the biggest difference I heard. It’s like the instruments were there where I was. I thought it was just the volume so I turned the volume up in my SB but it just made it sound louder. Nothing compared to this amp. I believe this is called soundstage? Day 4: I didn’t use it Day 5: 96hrs burnt-in Not much differences from day 3. I’m hoping to get the HD800S this year and compare with other amps. Overwall, happy with this amp.
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flashbackk
20
May 2, 2018
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Simply get this and the senn6xx and be done with it. Save yourself a ton of money . These are the good old days . Take it from an old man. Even your audiophile friends will want a listen.
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junki
325
May 1, 2018
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This is more a review of the MCTH than the SDAC. The SDAC, in short, sounds good, measures well, and is the perfect DAC if all you need is USB input. I'd buy it standalone if I could, but I couldn't. Moving on...
I got the SDAC+MCTH for my office to replace the Dragonfly Red, a particularly musical little thing I've been fond of for several years, which drove my HD6XX to satisfaction for all the work things I have to listen to. At home, I listen with the Sundara, and I have a hole in my chain that has been temporarily filled by the integrated DAC and headphone amplifier in my Audioengine HD3 powered speakers. I burned in the unit for about as long as Alex recommends. I left MCTH playing overnight and through the next day's work hours. This Amp is Picky
For my first night listening to the SDAC+MCTH, I used it at home with my Sundara. Long story short, I did not like the pairing of the Sundara with the SDAC+MCTH as much as (to my surprise) with the HD3. After quite a bit of A/B testing between the SDAC>MCTH and the SDAC>HD3, I've come to two conclusions. The Sundara is a can that is inherently slightly airy and soft but just enough to not hurt resolution and clarity. In fact it is the most resolving cans I've heard, and it's this balance of musical clarity that I really like. Paired with the MCTH, overall sound became too soft and too airy, such that it felt a little hazy and resolution, separation, and layering seemed to suffer. It's as if the overall picture became a bit blurry. Soundstage was slightly more expansive, but it did not make up for the worse imaging. More obvious to me, the bass, especially the lower end of it, just did not sound as extended, loud, or controlled through the MCTH as through the HD3, and bass is one of the main reasons I listen to planars.
The (Really) Good
I decided to take the SDAC+MCTH into my office and pair it with the HD6XX. In short, I like this pairing so much that I've decided this is the end-game for me for this headphone's signal chain. The MCTH's lack of deep bass resolve actually pairs well here because it asks the HD6XX to focus on bass its drivers actually do well with. The extra airiness that I heard through the Sundara adds to HD6XX's sound stage, and it sounds like the presence and treble is slightly more liquid and smooth. As a consequence of the bigger headstage, sounds aren't as congested and separation seems to have improved. To further qualify how much I like this combination: up to this point in time I've always viewed my HD6XX as the bottom performer in my collection in any snapshot of my collection history. I liked my E-MU Teak better, my HE4XX better, my Noble K10 better, my modded M1060 much better. Most cans I've owned at various points in time were able to give me an overall more enjoyable experience than the HD6XX. But I decided not to sell my HD6XX because it still, in the grand scheme of things, sounds very good, has very well known sound characteristics, and makes for a useful baseline to evaluate new purchases with.
With the MCTH, I'm sitting here thinking maybe the MCTH+HD6XX sounds maybe better than anything I've heard with my Sundara. And I think the Sundara sounds better than anything I mentioned above. The Bad
Relatively minor negative points about this amp are that it doesn't have the most quiet background, and it's quite picky with the headphones it pairs well with. My main issue with the amp though is that the volume potentiometer is horrendous and obviously where Alex/Massdrop decided to save money. It's so scratchy in the left channel when adjusting during an active signal, and it suffers from huge and widely reported channel imbalance before 7-8 o'clock. The MCTH also has a fixed gain of 8x (+18dB), which means, if I want to maximize my dynamic range and input into the amplifier a digital signal at 0 dBFS (100% windows volume), I'm at literally the 7-8 o'clock on the volume knob with the 300 ohm HD6XX. This often meant surprise drop-outs on the right channel, but even when things did manage to sound more or less correct, I'm still plagued by neurosis that the amp is not treating my left and right cups equally. So, I'm forced to lower Windows volume to 70%, incur the penalty to dynamic range, and thereby keep the MCTH's volume knob around the safer 9 o'clock position, because frankly the MCTH does not let me trust it. Conclusion
By itself, the MCTH is a decent option, but when paired with the HD6XX, they're like the lions of Voltron joining dicks and creating a sound that's as good as the very best, with only sub-bass and resolve coming in a little short, but you'll never notice because it sounds so good. The MCTH will literally wrap your HD6XX in magical blanket and send it into the stratosphere of sound quality. Five stars if used in this pairing.
By itself, though? Three stars. I'd recommend the Arcam rHead, a much higher quality amplifier you can find at a few UK online stores that once MSRP'd for $599 but now you can find for the same price after shipping to the US.
(3+5)/2 = 4 stars
junki
325
Jun 12, 2018
I have really no complaints about the replacement unit. Channel imba and scratchy volume knob were basically resolved.
Gain is still too high, but I listen at 50-70% Windows volume, which allows me to keep the knob around 9 o'clock.
DuaiDuai
16
Oct 15, 2018
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Amazing DAC/AMP !!!
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WillysWonka
13
Apr 20, 2019
This picture looks like it was taken back in the 1970's !!!
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Sounds good straight out of the box.
Initial impression with the stock EH 6922 is favorable, not AMAZING, but definitely good enough at the price. The amp works perfectly fine, doesn't hiss, and doesn't appear to have very much (if any) imbalance between the left and right channels. It is pleasantly warm and tubey. I plan to replace the EH 6922 with a JAN Sylvania 6922 (from the 70s). The EH is not the worst on the market, but I can do much, much, much better with Joint Army-Navy NOS. The SDAC does what SDAC does, sounds good enough. The AMP sounds just as good with the Airist R-2R. All DAC sources are being driven by Roon set to upsample to max PCM via power of 2. Initial testing playlist was comprised of The Alan Parsons Project, Genesis, Electric Light Orchestra, and Supertramp. Cans used were MassDrop HD6xx and E-MU Teak. I'm happy enough with the product. I'd give it more of a 4.5 stars, because cheap tube and generic wall-wart. Edit: Dropped to 4 stars. That power-off thump. Not ok. 2nd Edit, 2 weeks in: Been using the amp a lot in the past few weeks. It is absolutely great for driving most of my cans. Is a big nopefest with the MD x Meze 99 Noir. Them cans is just too sensitive for that thing. All my other cans is loving it; and surprise surprise, it handles the Fostex T60RP extremely well, with more than enough power to spare. After the initial <3 fest with the E-MU Teak and HD6xx, the T60RP has been exclusive on it. Swapping the tube was the best thing I did. The JAN Sylvania 6922 arrived ( https://tubedepot.com/products/jan-sylvania-6922 balanced/high gain/low noise ticked) a few days after the CTH, and after a bit of high temperature CAIG DeoxIT ( https://caig.com/product/deoxit-gold-vacuum-tube-survival-kit/ this shit is magic) it has been rocking. Absolutely zero imbalance between the channels (none from the tube or the volume pot), comfortably warm sound that is amazing with strings and vocals (throw classical or progressive rock at it), no crackle or pops (this tube, YMMV), just delicious audio. It has been doing a great job for TV and movies. I'm making use of a socket-saver to... well... save the socket (and the tubes). The default of having the tube down in the chassis kinda sucks. It is somewhat difficult to roll tubes without potentially damaging the markings on the tube, or the socket itself. Tube sticks out rather far, but I can live with that. Sadly the CTH only has one input, so I found a use for the Nobsound Little Bear MC2 ( https://www.amazon.com/d/B07255VHZS ) I nabbed to use as volume control for the MD x JBL LSR30x. Seeing it is a passive RCA & XLR to RCA & XLR preamp, I can source from XLR and have it unbalance it for the CTH or just pass through to the LSR30x. The Airist is chained through the RCA input, and can also drive the speaker or the amp. This lets me continue to source my audio from my preferred DAC without having to do the cable swap game. I'm definitely considering a Schitty Freya for my listening stack. I do not regret buying this amp, not one bit. I do regret not jumping on the first drop. While it may not be my absolute favorite amp out of the MD lineup (that honor goes to the MD x THX AAA 789), it will definitely continue to get a lot of use. If you're on the fence about it, buy it. It is a great single-ended amp. Update 1.5 months in: New tube. Got thinking, why am I scrounging around and paying stupid prices for NOS JAN 6922... when I could get a premium NOS JAN 5670W with adapter for crazy cheap ($22.95 with options maxed). So... tube ordered (high gain, low microphonics, balanced), deoxit applied, converter installed, tube rolled. Verrrry nice. Highly recommended. Still like the amp, even if the ZDT Jr. sounds better.
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Old images with old tube:
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Would recommend to a friend.
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Nice stack my dude!
I dig the MassDrop gear greatly. Figured since it was within means, I might as well have most all of it. I've minimal regrets over that decision and likely will continue to add to the stack as new toys become available here. Now if I could just get y'all to come up with a basic pre-amp with I/O select (like the Schitty Freya S but with more output) or a fully kitted out DSP with both balanced and unbalanced I/O (like the freeDSP Aurora with the Add-on B). I'd love to be able to use any of my amps with any of my sources without having to swap cables or resort to using a digital mixer like my Behringer XR-18. Cable swap is annoying, and the mixer... does everything at 48kHz.
xrscott
10
Nov 2, 2019
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Sounds great paired with HD6XX
Two things I wish I knew before buying the amp: 1) The 4-pin connector is not balanced - They say it's for convenience but I'm probably not the only one who thinks balanced when they see the 4-pin connector. They really need to make that clear on the web page. It's single ended, not balanced 2) The DAC power is supplied from the connected device - Some Apple devices (iPhones/iPads) can't provide enough power. There are work arounds such as using a powered hub or camera adapter but results vary. If you plan on using an iPhone or iPad, this probably isn't for you. That being said, when DAC/Amp is connect to a computer and a decent set of headphones, it sounds great.
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Would recommend to a friend.
WPERC
11
Mar 13, 2019
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Just purchased this unit. I read few subjective, on-line reviews, before purchase, but was disappointed with the result after listening. With headphone amp, I want something that I may listen to for long period of time without feeling fatigue by the sound. After the purchased, I read an objective measured review on: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/review-and-measurements-of-massdrop-alex-cavalli-tube-hybrid-cth-and-jds-o2-headphone-amps.3928/ The review covered the headphone amp section. It is consistent with what I heard. Low level noise. Not as transparent. Granted, everyone has different taste, and different hearing abilities due to age and training and audio equipment. But noise is noise. It is just hard for me deal with something that is not in the music. As far as a tube breaking in, it is a myth regarding noise. Electronic noise is not a feature of musical sound that tubes can make better. That is not science. I want to return it because the distortion indicated in the review is higher than what was advertised. Also, I do not understand the purpose of a headphone balanced-out on a single-ended topography. Two stars for the DAC.
Helpbot
311
Dec 7, 2019
XLR for XLR cables? And tube burn in is real. You seemed to have barely listened to you unit, but you discredit burn in because 'science' even though you bought an Amp that wasn't based on 'perfect science'. You can improve the measurements and the sound (imo) with a Linear Power Supply. Try a non fatiguing tube and your ears and dynamic drivers headphones will thank you.
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TheIzzardKing
356
Dec 7, 2019
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2 years ownership. very happy for what it is, great blend of warmth and precision.
at this point there is not much i can add that hasn't already been said, i just want you guys to know that this is a purchase that will last for years to come, funnily enough my one of mesa guitar amps uses the same tubes as this amp does, i've had great results using different tubes in this thing and really does make a difference, i check in on this site every month or so, if you want the product info on the mesa tubes i'm using let me know and i'll get back to you. you won't regret buying this if you're into mid-fi and budget minded audiophile gear, i have yet to find fault with this and the fact i've gotten years of use out of it, in my dusty workshop none the less, i can do nothing but sing praises about how well it's built and that this may truly be a product that lasts normal people a lifetime. just very well constructed and solid....i've also very happy with the sound but suck at relaying that sort of experince as it's so subjective, I'll leave the flowery descriptions of sound to the other guys....i do have a bunch of audio gear in or around this price range and is certianly in the upper echelons in this price range imo.
TheIzzardKing
356
Apr 19, 2020
i'd suggest getting a set of the beyerdynamic DT series, they're kind of a studio standard and as such a lot of things out there are recorded based on the sound that comes through these, they are a really good base/starting point that cover a lot of various types of sound, everything from podcasts/broadcast media to music....from there it'll be a lot easier to decide which way you want to go with new headphones since they are a standard of sorts, you can say more or less x,y,z from the beyerdynamic's and most people in this scene will be able to point you in the right direction to something entirely different. i would say that when your first starting out you'll really want the senny's you already have, a beyerdynamic DT and a Akg701 or the like, then from there maybe give the hifhiman planars a shot....by the time you get to this point you should have a pretty good idea of the scene and various sounds out there and should truly be able to dial in what suits you from there....it's worth it to buy all of these, just make sure you take care of them and you can resell them for almost what you paid if you don't like them, they sell pretty quick on fb marketplace and CL and as long as they're clean and well taken care of you don't take too much of a hit and can roll the money over into something new....but you would have owned them long enough to know how you feel about them and if that type of sound is what you're into. hope that helps in someway.
cezary
5
Aug 20, 2021
I have the Beyerdynamic DT177X GO - great and easy to drive. I recommend.
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Mr.Nosely
8
Oct 25, 2019
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I truly think DROP should offer an Alex Cavalli Tube pack for like $50 and put a few NOS Russian, Chinese and maybe an American mil spec tubes I replaced mine with a NOS JAN Sylvania 6922 For $60 or So..... Ordered it with the following upgrades Balanced Triodes (add $2.00 each) High Gain (add $2.00 each) Low Noise & Microphonics DOUBLE Burn in and SUPER LO noise requested.... will report back once it has 100 hours on it  -Sucky that there is no balanced output and the XLR is for convince/False and NOT BALANCED.... NO Bueno!! Not cool guys!! JUST SWAP THE TUBES from http://tubedepot.com/ for it..... I hope drop comes out with a Cavalli sampler pack.
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Would recommend to a friend.
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BobMc
6
Mar 7, 2019
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This made a noticeable difference in the sound quality of my HD 6XX headphones. I was using the Fulla Schiit for reference. The bass is fuller, and the detail is much more pronounced. I could hear details like breaths and scooting chairs that I've never heard before.
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T4Deals
334
Jun 1, 2019
You mean musical chairs? ;)
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