Massdrop x Alex Cavalli Tube Hybrid Amp (CTH)
Massdrop x Alex Cavalli Tube Hybrid Amp (CTH)
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Product Description
Built from the ground up by Alex Cavalli, a legend in the world of headphone amps, this hybrid amp combines a solid state section, a tube amp section, and an entirely new circuit design. It delivers the current required by planar magnetics, along with the voltage drive that dynamic headphones need to perform their best Read More
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4.4
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109
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70%
would recommend to a friend
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tieuhuynhtrieu
6
Feb 12, 2020
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No comment
I think it good.
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Would recommend to a friend.
Feb 12, 2020
SoundAboutTown
51
Feb 9, 2020
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Good Headphone amplifier. Tremendous 5 star bargain as a preamp for Active Montiors.
In one of the discussion threads, there is comment / review about using this as a tube pre with Mackie active monitors by Array1138 that I agree with entirely which made me want to post this. As I type, I'm listening to Pat Metheny through a pair of active Mackie hr624 mk1 speakers run from the output of a Cavali CTH. The sound is stunning in ways I took for granted until just recently when I had the Cavlli out of the mix for a brief spell. The Cavalli pairs with the Mackies so well as a sort of pre-amp with master volume that I started searching online to see if anyone else was using the amp in this way. That's how I found Array's post, and why I thought I'd say a little more about this use case. I use the Mackies in a smallish bedroom purely as listening speakers and not as Monitors. The 624s, like the 824s, have great built in filtering and attenuating switches to help tailor the sound to a difficult listening environment. With smaller bass drivers, the 624s are a great choice for smaller rooms particularly given how affordable these are on the 2nd hand market. Anyway, to focus more on the CTH, since first receiving it about a year ago I've had it setup in this bedroom as a headphone amp and easy to reach master volume for the Mackies. A few weeks ago I finally received a THX 789, and I was eager to compare the two amps. When it came to headphone listening, it was no contest. I was floored by how much of a leap up in quality I enjoyed with the 789 from a pair of 6xx headphones in particular. Mid range syrup, and slowed transients present on the Cavali were banished by the 789. Shockingly the 6xx started to sound fast and precise, not that far off from planars in the bass region, again without some of the low-mid bump that is often associated with the 6xx (650), and shouldn't be thought of as emanating from the CTH. Rather the CTH didn't tame this. Next up it was time to plug in the Mackies. There I found the matter utterly reversed. For the first time I started hearing the Mackies as the supremely flat monitor speakers they were intended to be. The only thing is, they sounded limp. The sound stage collapsed. Without the Cavalli they went from sounding dazzling to dull. The difference was subtle but very substantial. I was extremely surprised. I picked up the Mackies for casual listening when I found a pair for little money after receiving the Cavali, and had never listened to them without the Cavali in the mix. For months after getting them I was floored by what underrated gems I thought the Mackies were and how fantastic they sounded. Low and behold it turns out the sound I was adoring was deeply indebted to the touch of tube harmonics being imparted by the Cavali. The CTH, it turns out, was a magical ingredient transforming their presentation from somewhat sterile, to something lush, euphonic and addictive. So now I have a little stack in my bedroom and am making effective use of the RCA pass through on the 789. I use the CTH just as a tube pre for my active Mackie 624s and I'm so impressed by the combination that I went searching online to see if anyone else has written about this. Would I recommend the expenditure to transform a pair of active monitors from soulless to fun and euphonic? Yes. I think the transformation of the Mackie's into supremely enjoyable listening speakers is very noticeable and well worth the investment. My experience is the tube harmonics do wonderful, wonderful things to the depth, height and width of the soundstage for these active speakers. The combination of the flat monitor response and solid state character of the CTH keep things from getting out of hand and becoming un-resolving. Instead the transformation is from clinical and dry to utterly fun and engaging while still being tight and clear. As per Array1138's post, it sounds as though this is an experience that can be repeated. I enjoy the results enough I wanted to share the findings along for others who might be interested in bringing a bit of fun and delight to an active monitoring setup. It's certainly a whole heck of a lot cheaper than investing in another pair of speakers. So to sum up, as a headphone amp this is fine but but perhaps a little "in the middle". As a tube amp it isn't as transformative as an OTA design like a Bottlehead Crack (I have one). As a solid state amp it lacks the ability to truly master and drive difficult headphones the way the 789 ironed out my 6xx. It definitely won't disappoint if you are looking for an additional amp to power dynamic headphones in an additional listening space. It also won't disappoint if this it the absolute ceiling of what you can spend for a single amp. On the other hand, if you are looking to get a single headphone amplifier and can increase your spending range, the praise for the 789 is absolutely justified for headphone amplification. Alternately an OTA, like the Dark Voice here on Drop, or a Bottlehead Crack produce amazing results. The difference between solid state and an OTA tube design is a bit like the difference between daylight versus stage light. For people interested in a touch of both solid state and tubes the Cavali has something to offer, but the phrase "jack of all trades, master of none" also comes to mind. This is why I'm giving it 4 stars. As a tube pre-amp, however, for a highly accurate set of powered monitors I highly recommend the CTH. It provides truly unique value for such a use case and is, IMO, a 5 star product when leveraged in this way. When trying to use a headphone amp as a pre-amp for monitors the added depth of an OTA, like the Bottlehead crack becomes a liability, loosening the low end. Meanwhile the strict linearity of the 789 brings nothing new to the mix, just adding a redundant clean solid state amp in front of clean solid state monitor amps . Used in tandem with active monitors the Cavalli brings something unique to the table at its price point. The tube harmonics impart a very noticeable, musical and desirable vibrance to the sound stage that is highly engaging. As an incredibly cost efficient option in the boutique category of tube pre-amp for powered monitors the CTH truly lays claim to mastering a very niche domain with the added extra of having a quality headphone amp already baked in.
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Would recommend to a friend.
(Edited)
Feb 9, 2020
dudlew
1
Jan 31, 2020
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I have had this amp now for close to two years, and it has been a solid dependable product. I have had non of the issues so far that have been reported and I love its sound. I use it with my laptop fed through a Schitt Eitr and Modi 2 Uber and I use the Massdrop 58X or the Audioquest Nighthawk with it. Is it plenty powerful for these headphones and I find the combination with either very satisfying to listen to. I also have a Burson Soloist SL and in comparison I think the CTH is more musical, while the Soloist has a bit more slam and sparkle on the top end. Both good products. I still have both. As to its ability to drive hard to drive headphones.... I don't know, I don't have any. My only wish was that it had a signal passthrough. I use this by the computer, and if I need to use speakers as well I would need a separate preamp or something along those lines. But otherwise pleased.
Jan 31, 2020
jerryboysad
6
Jan 3, 2020
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Sad ending to a great product. BUYERS BEWARE.
Bought this wonderful tube amp more than a year ago. Wall wart died. Warranty has long gone. ( 1 year ) Drop told me there is no way I can purchase a replacement wall wart. There is no other place to get this unique 28V , 1.25A wall wart. David Q from drop.com said. " Thank you for getting back to us! Regrettably, we do not sell individual parts for any of our material. I do again apologize for any inconveniences that this may have caused.  If you have any other questions or concerns I would be happy to assist. Best Regards, David " So now I am looking at a dead amplifier with no help. I deeply regret it and to those people with a functioning amplifier. Good luck to you and pray it never dies or buy something else which has more common aftermarket replacements.
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Would not recommend to a friend.
Jan 3, 2020
Firestorm7
5
Jan 24, 2020
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https://www.thetubestore.com/6h23n-eb-6922 - I just received it ...and it is like I have other AMP...with the HD 6xx that have bass and sub-bass and not only...wow! Sorry, I'm just listening and I'm amazed! (P.S. I just did my research and I'm a novice - my first changed tube!)
Jan 24, 2020
Cike66
1
Feb 5, 2020
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Check in amazon they have 28v power supplys, amps are higher (3amp hours). But thats fine because that is power it can provide. It wont harm unit just make sure the polarity on the plug matches the original center tip + and side - or other way around, that the more critical part.
Feb 5, 2020
bballbeep
5
Dec 12, 2019
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I really like this
I am using this with 2 different headphones, HD6XX's and HE400i's along with the massdrop SDAC and a Dragonfly 1.2. It allowed the HE400i's to open up and sound the best I have ever heard them, a hugh upgrade from just the Dragonfly. I didn't notice that level of increase in sound with the HD6XX's, but they too sounded great. The SDAC was an big upgrade from the Dragonfly. A hugh upgrade from the HIFIman EF100 amp it replaced.
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Would recommend to a friend.
Dec 12, 2019
NaraukoFNH
14
Oct 19, 2019
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A great amplifier when it works.
*Edit* I have since bought a replacement EH6922 tube to test, and it turns out that my imbalanced noise floor issue (hissing) appears to have been a defective tube. The new tube also "snapped" into the socket instead of being a steady pressure until the tube was socketed, so I am unsure if this makes the difference or not. I now have had a very slight return of the intermittent electronic buzzing that i experienced with the first amp, but I will keep monitoring and this may just be a compatibility issue with my HD 700. I have added 2 more stars to my review, as the amp is now usable again, but am still very disappointed with overall Drop support for their manufactured devices. *Original Review* I really enjoyed the CTH, and it paired very well with my Sennheiser HD 700, imparting some great tube coloration with plenty of power. The only issue is that quality is just not there, and my CTH's have malfunctioned permanently after about 6 months. I have been through 2 CTH units, and have had showstopping issues with both. My first CTH developed an intermittent loud clicking/buzzing in the left channel approximately 6 months in, and was replaced under the default 1 year Massdrop warranty a few months later as it got worse. My replacement CTH then developed a running water style hiss on the right channel, this time before the 6 month mark, which has gotten progressively louder to the point that I no longer want to use it. Unfortunately, no warranty is provided on replacement units beyond 30 days. Judging by the majority of reviews, I may have just been unlucky enough to get 2 lemons in a row, but with the lack of warranty support I cannot recommend the CTH anymore. For the price, 6 months of ideal functionality is just not worth it. Maybe the solid-state amplifiers are more reliable, but without warranty support I am not sure the gamble is worth it. Very limited warranties are not unique to Drop, and I assume I am an outlier with my experience, but it is a factor to be aware of.
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Would not recommend to a friend.
(Edited)
Oct 19, 2019
NaraukoFNH
14
Jan 16, 2020
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The tube store is a great place to get tubes, and that is a good price as far as I am aware. I got my replacement from Amazon, and it was a bit more expensive. If you got your MCTH from Drop then the tube falls under their 1 year warranty, but if not or if outside the warranty I'd say go ahead and try the replacement tube as it very well might fix your problem. I'd lean towards your tube being bad like mine was. You can shine a light in the hole and look through the back vents to see if the tube is fully seated, but my defective tube also did not firmly "snap" into place like my replacement did. I also believe I have traced down my buzzing issue to be EM or radio interference, and moving the source away appears to have eliminated that problem. At least a bad tube is a cheap and easy fix, all things considered.
Jan 16, 2020
Firestorm7
5
Jan 24, 2020
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https://www.thetubestore.com/6h23n-eb-6922 - I just received it ...and it is like I have other AMP...with the HD 6xx that have bass and sub-bass and not only...wow! Sorry, I'm just listening and I'm amazed! (P.S. I just did my research and I'm a novice - my first changed tube!)
Jan 24, 2020
WillysWonka
8
Sep 25, 2019
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I am using this with my HPA4 and it pairs great with my 660s's It actually sounds great with all my lower end headphones as well. I am using the XLR output the 1/4 out with my old Koss PRO 4a's is insanely articulate! Really lacking bass even with good aftermarket deep leather pads, but on almost every song I hear something new in the upper registers. The older I get the more I appreciate headsets that excel in the upper and mids. I'm sure it's because the highs and mids disappear with age. I sure wish I'd have made better use of earplugs when I was younger @ all those concerts!!!! Glad I went with this and not the one with the DAC combo. almost forgot to mention but it really did improve after 60-80 hours or so. I have never bought into that Amp "Burn in" stuff but something changed with this amp. I have had lots of Guitar tube amps and never had any major "Burn in" changes I have tried a couple other tubes but there is no reason as the included tube is a perfect match. fire and forget with this one. I have the THX 789 coming so we will see how it stacks up to that.
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Sep 25, 2019
WillysWonka
8
Jan 18, 2020
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After having the 789 for a couple months now I can now state without hesitation that my initial purchases into the game were damn close to "MY" perfect set up. I love how I can now use the clinical cleanliness of the 789 to compare headphones and amps to each other with a set baseline. Like others have said the 789 takes headphones and highlights their strengths and weaknesses. Since I'm not one of those lucky ones who will ever buy any of the ultra high end amps or headphones, I can dabble in the mid range gear. My favorite combo is easily the Senn HD660's and the A.C. Hybrid, They just compliment each other SOOOO damn well! the 660's thru the 789 is really good as well but brings the mids up a but too much for my liking. the A.C. hybrid just thickens up the sound so much more pleasing to my ears. When A/B ing the two the Hybrid is my choice every time. The HE-4XX's match with the 789 better as their mids aren't as pronounced as the 660's. Sub's and high's are both different and have to be experienced to make sense, It really comes down to listening to the engineers mix and sound before picking which pair sounds better for a given song. So my first suggested combo would be the Senn HD660's and the A.C. Hybrid amp. and a close second would be the 4XX's and the THX789 at least for my tastes. Either way, if I just had the 789, I would be more than content. as I sit here listening to Operation Mindcrime thru both amps and switching headphones the differences would quickly vanish if you listen to one combination for any longer period of time. I just listened to "Time" and "Money" from Mr. Floyd thru the 789 and the 660's and GOOD LORD I really need to keep from switching the gain to level 3 for my ears sake !!! MUSICAL BLISS !!!! I love how the snare drums POP and the horns growl before the lead kicks in!!!
Jan 18, 2020
Firestorm7
5
Jan 24, 2020
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https://www.thetubestore.com/6h23n-eb-6922 - I just received it ...and it is like I have other AMP...with the HD 6xx that have bass and sub-bass and not only...wow! Sorry, I'm just listening and I'm amazed! (P.S. I just did my research and I'm a novice - my first changed tube!)
Jan 24, 2020
Strawberry_Cough
13
Sep 21, 2019
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Perfect For Me
I love the minimal features, form factor and quality. PLEASE DROP, MAKE A CD TRANSPORT IN THIS FORM FACTOR TO COMPLETE THE STACK! I have a 5tb hard drive full of flac, but will never give up my two decade CD collection. A matching CD player to stack with this would make everything okay with the world.
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Sep 21, 2019
Srniv
2
Jul 24, 2019
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Smooth operator
It was initially a little underwhelming but over time the sound opened up and got to appreciate the smoothness, especially with bright IEM’s. Just need to be patient and you will rewarded with an uncoloured and smooth rendition of your favourite music.
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Would recommend to a friend.
Jul 24, 2019
chame1i0n
49
Jul 19, 2019
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Nice indeed
Was very pleased to receive the Alex Cavalli Tube Hybrid AMP. Right out of the box the Amp is very well-made, sleek sharp and pleasing on the eyes. My 'PC Audio' box daily chains via a USB to a FiiO X5(1st gen) in DAC mode, then 3.5 out to RCA in. Left it running for about 90Hours no headphones at 10 o'clock. Then started up firs 'Foobar'then'Plex'and listened to a few 'Flac's for a couple of hours using a few IEM and a pair of mid-range Sony open ear headphones. All sounded great with a touch of warmth. The Mr Speaker Alpha Dogs with new Periapt with XLR Connector sound fantastic. My plan is to grab both the Airist Audio R-2R DAC(purchased) & THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier (THX AAA™) 789, for the PC... fingers crossed. Will update soon
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Would recommend to a friend.
(Edited)
Jul 19, 2019
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