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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would recommend to a friend
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t3fla
44
Jul 6, 2018
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For reference I am using hd600's and my previous amp/dac setup was Schiit Magni 2 + Modi 2. Currently this CTH amp + Modi 2 DAC.
Thoughts after burn-in and about 50 hours of use. First of all, this amp destroys the Magni 2 in my subjective listening. I did an informal A/B test with the help of a friend (volume matched, roughly) and I could differentiate between the Magni and CTH 20/20 times. I'll try to avoid the typical audiophile jargon but this amp has pretty dramatically changed the listening experience with my HD600's for the better. Better clarity throughout the range, bass has more kick and depth to it, most music sounds "warmer" which is subjectively better for me (at least compared to the magni). Honestly I was surprised by the difference. This was an impulse purchase and I had every intention to re-sell it after testing it out, but now I don't think I'll be able to let go of this amp. Overall, I'm very happy and don't think I'll be looking at amps for quite a while with this setup.
Jul 6, 2018
Helpbot
271
Jan 26, 2019
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This amp with a hd600 can definitely save your wallet a lot of pain
Jan 26, 2019
AllegroMaestoso
100
May 13, 2018
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The Massdrop x Alex Cavalli tube hybrid is my first headphone amplifier, but just by a bit. My brand new Magni 3 arrived a week or two later. Since I use different sources with each amp and can't easily switch sources without moving furniture, this review won't compare the two amps. I will say that the Schitt really delivers the "doing it to me in my ear holes" sound that I crave.
After listening casually to the CTH for a couple of weeks, I got serious about testing. My source is an Onkyo C7030 CD player, and my headphones are 32 ohm Beyerdynamic DT-880 Premiums. Sweet cans that I've had for over a year, but I'm practically wetting my pants with anticipation waiting for the delivery of my Massdrop x Focal Elex phones. No external DAC required for this rig - the Onkyo's DAC is perfectly capable of performance signal processing.
For the first test of the CTH, I listened to three harpsichord suites by Handel, recorded in 1991 by Anthony Newman. I felt that the sound was a bit veiled and slightly distant. This impression was quickly overturned when I bypassed the amp and listened to three more suites from the same disc directly from the Onkyo's headphone output. Without the amp, the harpsichord seemed less distinct, less present, less lively. The second test on the next night (detailed below) supported the amp's ability to clearly define and enhance the sound.
Test two left me with mixed feelings. Tests like these are necessarily highly subjective, and we as listeners are preconditioned to believe that quality equipment will produce vastly improved sound. In short, I was prejudiced to hear amazing results from the CTH. That said, I fell into the trap and fell in love with this amplifier. It's definitely a winner. Going forward, I will undoubtedly have a tough time enjoying headphone listening without an amp.
This test consisted of the following selections, played one after the other through the Onkyo's headphone output, then again through the CTH.
"Weird Al" Yankovic: Craigslist J.S. Bach: Sonata in C, BWV 1033 for flute and continuo, performed by Maxence Larrieu, Rafael Puyana, and Wieland Kuijken in 1967. EMF: Unbelievable - House mix C.M. von Weber: Overture to "Der Freischütz" with Antal Dorati and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, recorded in 1959 Led Zeppelin: Rock and Roll
Actually not much to say about Craigslist. Al to me sounds great pretty much all the time under most conditions.
The flute sonata was a different story. While the flute sounded good both times, Kuijken's viola da gamba was the star with the CTH. Rather than being muddy and melting vaguely into the harpsichord's left hand, with the amp it came forward and was a clear and unique equal in the ensemble. Also of note was the stopped harpsichord's upper register - it was pleasingly bright and clear, with a nice pop.
EMF was the highlight of the program. This was the mind-altering listening experience I have been seeking. The keyboards, percussion, and bass were outstanding. Normally I pay little attention to vocals, but this time they were so clear and natural that they totally grabbed my attention. The best part, though, was the left-right channel oscillation effects that left my head gently and happily spinning.
Dorati's Weber recording suffers from more than the average level of ambient noise. Random rattles and shuffles appear to emanate from the orchestra - loud page turns and other non-scored sounds, possibly horn slides being removed to empty condensation, random tapping of shoes, music stands being moved, etc. The noise is audible with most rigs, but obviously with a performance amp like the CTH, it became extra clear and somewhat of a distraction. Other than that, the significant difference from the first to the second audition was the woodwinds, particularly the oboes. They came forward and participated with more charm and life.
Led Zeppelin's best benefit from the CTH was John Paul Jones's bass playing - the amp really cleaned up the bass line, making it more articulate and musical.
A word on cables - I had ordered an Audioquest RCA-RCA cable to connect the CD player to the amp. When the amp arrived and I hooked things up, I was dismayed to discover an intermittent fault in the cable's left channel. I initially thought I had done something wrong with the tube and removed and reinserted it several times, but no, it was definitely the cable. I had to send back the AQ and swap it for a gimme cable I had lying around. The cheap one works fine, but I would like to upgrade at some point. I do have an AQ that connects my Magni to my FiiO X3 2nd gen, and it is awesome.
A word on burn-in/run-in - I was mildly surprised and amused that this unit ships with burn-in instructions, and that the designer himself goes into detail on the drop page. I'm personally convinced that audio equipment does not magically improve by being used a certain way over a certain period of time. The ONLY things that change are the listener's ears and mind and how they process the sound.
Listening to music -really listening - often requires serious effort. The more one practices, the more the skill becomes second nature. I have found that the CTH eases the burden, making the listening effort easier and the payoff even more rewarding.
May 13, 2018
AllegroMaestoso
100
May 17, 2018
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Here's an early comparison. I hope it's helpful!
Since my sources and cables were different, comparing Schiit's Magni 3 to the Cavalli tube hybrid was almost comparing apples and oranges. I did use my DT-880 Pros again for this comparison.
I used the first four tracks from the Play That Funky Music compilation album: Wild Cherry's Play That Funky Music, Brick House from the Commodores, Lady Marmalade by Labelle, and Lipps, Inc.'s Funkytown. First I listened through the Schiit, playing the FLAC versions with the FiiO X3 2nd gen. I then listened to the FiiO directly with no headphone amp. Finally, I played the CD audio versions with my Onkyo CD player connected to the CTH. To be thorough, I should have tried the CD player without the amp, but I was tired and wanted to go to bed.
The risk of repeated listening of the same music on different equipment is that the listener may be conscious of more details on each repetition, essentially "learning" the music and what to listen for.
Having voiced these caveats, my initial impression was that the CTH totally blew away the Magni. This is not extremely surprising, as the CTH gives the sense of being more substantial: heavier, bigger, runs hotter, and most impprtantly, is 2.5 times the price. Again, we are conditioned to believe that pricier equipment is better.
The CTH effortlessly rendered without fatigue full, widely spaced, rich, musically engaging sound. The instrumental separation was outstanding.
The FiiO's output definitely benefitted from the Magni in the strength, depth and width of sound the amp has to offer. Strangely, the Magni actually seemed to mask some of the details, especially in the percussion and low brass - sounds that were more conspicous through the FiiO alone, and were downright attention-grabbing with the CTH. Also problematic was Lady Marmalade - Magni's performance was almost cluttered and jarring, bordering on fatiguing. Even so, no regrets whatsoever about the Schiit. This session with the Beyers was a little shaky, but I still love the way this amp really makes my HE 150Pro earbuds come alive.
May 17, 2018
helicopters
2
Jun 24, 2018
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You typed that out forever ago, but thanks for this! Meant to say so before. I ended up getting a CTH and you were spot on, it sounds great.
Jun 24, 2018
SoundAboutTown
60
Feb 9, 2020
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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. Using the CTH in this way is certainly a whole heck of a lot cheaper than investing in (and finding space for) another pair of listening speakers to complement active studio monitors. So to sum up, as a headphone amp the CTH is fine but perhaps a little "in the middle". As a tube amp it isn't as transformative as an OTL 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 OTL, like the Dark Voice here on Drop, or a Bottlehead Crack produce amazing results. The difference between solid state and an OTL tube design is a bit like the difference between daylight versus stage light. A hybrid is a bit like using some stage lights outdoors on a sunny day. Nice. But you won't get the full dramatic effect of being in a theater, which I'm suggesting is like having a full OTL tube amp, and the touch of color does take away from being analytical, which can be achieved with a super linear solid state amp. The CTH... IS... a very nice headphone amp, especially at the price. To be fair, THX amps weren't widely available when this first appeared. In a pre 789 world the CTH offered a hint of tube on top of a quality solid state amp, which gave it a leg up on other solid state amps in this price range. Now the options exist to get a truly stellar solid state amp for under $500, the THX, or stellar OTL tube amp for under $500 (the Dark Voice or Bottlehead Crack). 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. Again it is very good and you will enjoy listening to it, particularly as an additional amp in your collection. 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 OTL, 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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Feb 9, 2020
nived
4
Mar 7, 2020
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There is no pass through on the cth, how are you connecting the cth to the monitors?
Mar 7, 2020
SoundAboutTown
60
Mar 7, 2020
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For output from the CTH I use a y cable, from the quarter inch single ended jack of the CTH to dual xlr. (I use the RCA pass though on the 789 to feed the rca inputs on the CTH.) The amp is single ended from the balanced output as well, so the sound should be the same from there. It's a bit ad hoc, but of course the use case I'm describing is for active monitors, with built in amplifiers. Monitor speakers often get signals from active mixers many of which apply some clean gain to the main output . Active monitors will not be adversely impacted working with the bit of boost from the CTH. If all mixer outputs were created equal, and applied output at the same level, there wouldn't be a need for gain settings on the monitors themselves. Think of the bit of gain from the CTH as coming from the output stage of an active mixer and this all lines up with use cases active monitors are deigned to handle. Granted a home stereo preamp circuit topography wouldn't apply any amplification, but again this is a use case for active monitors which are designed to handle signal from a range of sources. I've found that if one is open to repurposinig the CTH slightly and using it this way the results are extremely enjoyable.
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Mar 7, 2020
timothom
73
May 25, 2018
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This amp is one of the growing number of choices we have these days for a hybrid tube amp, meaning the output stage (the part that interfaces with your headphones/speakers and deals with 100 ohm, 300 ohm, etc) is solid state, and the amplification stage is a tube. A dual-triode tube, one side of the tube for left and right.
Sometimes, you can tell an amp is a hybrid amp when it only has one or two tubes. Amps like this one, and the Schiit Lyr 3 are hybrid amps. Amps like the Dark voice with 2 tubes (kind confusing, it is not solid state), and the little dot and Valhalla 2 have 4 tubes. Amps like these will give you 'more' of the tube sound, more or less. But they are also less consistent than hybrid amps and tube rolling is much more expensive.
I really like the way this amp sounds with my HD 650. It's like Goldilocks of amps, it's JUST right in the amount of warm, blended sound that tubes induce. When I A/B this amp with my Magni 3, the difference is clear. It's less surgical than the solid state. You can especially hear it on heavy guitar/metal songs. The feedback from those loud amps is more resolving and detailed on the Magni 3. Does it sound better? I dunno..maybe. Kind of depends on my mood.
I prefer the way the CTH sounds for almost everything. I listen to my cans most of the day, and the CTH gives a great, non-fatiguing experience. I usually listen at 9:00, and I rarely go past 12:00. The protection does kick in near the top, but I can't even have my HD 650 on my ears at that point it is so dangerously loud.
I think Hybrid tube amps are going to become more prevlant in the future. Cavalli was one of the first on this train with the Liquid Crimsion. People were paying thousands of dollars for the sound this $250 amp makes 5 years ago.
May 25, 2018
jerryboysad
11
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
Cike66
3
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
chris.yw
83
Mar 26, 2020
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A bit late but there are many 28V wallwarts on digikey and mouser. Just type in 28V power supply and pick AC/DC desktop, wall adapters. Then you manually select output connectors that filts your socket. Make sure you check that. SL power is very good if they are in stock.
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Mar 26, 2020
dm94aq7
36
Aug 28, 2018
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This amp reduces high end fidelity, both volume and transient response. The frequency response is overall pretty flat with what I perceive as a slight rise in the <100hz bass, which lines up with the (not so great) review and measurements posted on Audio Science Review https://audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/review-and-measurements-of-massdrop-alex-cavalli-tube-hybrid-cth-and-jds-o2-headphone-amps.3928/ - the only realistic/objective review of this amp I've found. Anecdotally the amp does sound a bit noisy / grainy / distorted, and the above linked measurements show that's noisier than the amp they compare it too. I don't know if this is all in my mind though. The music just feels a little grittier with this amp, but I'm not confident I could say this in a blind A/B test. More about the high end: The high frequencies are slightly but noticeably lower in volume, and there's a more rolled off transient attack on high end notes, meaning the high end isn't as sharp/crisp/"fast". This is my first tube amp, and apparently this is par for the course with tube amps? I don't know why you'd want an amp that removes audio fidelity ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Sometimes this can be pleasant for songs that have high frequency drum hits that hurt your ears at high volume, but that just means you're hearing less of the song. You're definitely going to hear fewer snares, cymbals, and very well mastered electronic kick drums that span the whole frequency spectrum. This is especially apparent when comparing to the pictured Samson QH4, which is clear/transparent as day to my ears. Anecdotally the sound stage seems slightly increased with this amp, compared to more neutral amps, but this is also something I'm not confident I could discern in a blind A/B test. If you want hearing damage, I'd suggest this amp. If you accidentally unplug any part of the system, audio source > amp, amp > headphone, or as I just learned, bump the tube reaching for something, it will send a very loud distorted signal through. It's really quite scary. None of my other audio equipment has sent such a blast of audio when a component is accidentally disconnected. I now always turn down the volume all the way before doing anything, which is probably good practice anyway for audio equipment. The build quality of the amp seems good to great, especially considering this is a generic outsourced build. Operating temperature seems fine. Volume knob is satisfying to turn, but it has a very subtle marking, making it difficult to see what volume position the amp is in (which is especially important for the above problem). It looks as sleek as it does in the pictures. It's the biggest amp I own of four, and the tube does reduce stackability, but that's something I expected up front. I think the more amps I use, the less I believe in them. Amps aren't supposed to change the sound signature, but everyone talks about how they do, as if it's positive. They're supposed to make your cans louder. The cans define the sound signature. Whatever. Maybe tube amp aficionados hear / prefer something I don't! Compared to all the amps I have in rotation, the Samson QH4, the Fiio E6 (little liquid garbage POS), the Massdrop Objective 2, the C&C BH, and this CTH, I'd say the Massdrop Objective 2 amp is my favorite, even though the build quality of this hybrid amp is much better. Despite the flaws, I don't regret buying this amplifier. It's my first tube amp (and probably last, frankly) so it has that appeal, it looks great, and it sounds "good enough." It's a true Massdrop item, an impulse buy you don't need, that looks cool. And as mentioned, the reduction in audio fidelity can reduce listening fatigue some songs that have very well produced, crunchy high ends. Even though the QH4 is better in almost every way except looks, I'm still turning to the CTH for some listening.
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Aug 28, 2018
PhucHPham
15
Aug 29, 2018
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regarding the high end, I do agree with you, it is not sharp/harsh/fast as solid state amp; I have magni 3 before getting mcth (my first tube amp also) and I haven't used...magni 3 since then; I found myself enjoy mcth more, especially pairing it with HD58X.
Aug 29, 2018
Helpbot
271
Jan 26, 2019
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If you want better measurements out of your CTH, Consider getting a linear power supply to replace the one it comes with.
Jan 26, 2019
Swan86
40
Jul 13, 2018
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Lovely product, using it for my HD6XX and it's as advertised (by the community), delightful sound signature and much more capable of unlocking my HD6XX's potential compared to my portable dac/amp (oppo ha-2se). My current setup is Samsung galaxy S9 -> usb C to micro USB cable -> oppo ha-2se (dac only mode) -> lineout via 3.5mm to RCA -> mCTH -> HD6XX. What a match made in heaven. I feel that the sound is fuller and richer compared to before, and I get a general sense of increased musicality as result. If anything I want to complain about, it is that HD6XX truly is lacking in bass a bit, but it is at no fault of the amp. I actually deferred my plan to purchase a headphone upgrade (focal elex) simply because the upgrade will be relatively more marginal with my headphone's new found performance. I'll update this review if I ever try to pair this amp with another headphone in the future. Edit: I'm now a proud owner of Audeze LCD-X as well as Focal Clear. Here's my two cent on the pairing with mCTH: LCD-X: Not my cup of tea. This headphone is basically somewhat dark and has extremely good soundstage, with mid sounding a little recessed. Its delightful when paired with my Schiit Jotenheim listening to accoustics and live recordings, the bass also feels very impactful with Jotenheim. However, when paired with mcth the bass becomes relatively less impressive and the already recessed mid becomes even "softer" and warmer, makes it feel like the singer is standing 20 feet away while all instruments are only 10 feet from you. The amazing soundstage and warm sound actually becomes a negative thing. Focal Clear: Whoa! What a matching!!!! Focal clear by itself has relatively small soundstage and EXTREMELY crisp and clean sound with ridiculous clarity and humble amount of bass. It has a neutral and slightly bright sound signature in my opinion. Pairing with mcth is very delightful as it softens and warms up the sound signature a tad bit which makes the music sound extremely crisp and clear but sweet sounding. It can be extremely revealing of bad recording but if the recording was done well, it is simply superb. In short, it adds musicality just enough that it makes the headphone to hit the sweet spot for me. In contrast when I pair this headphone with Jotenheim, it becomes overly analytical and dry sounding, with relatively little musicality that made it slightly hard to focus on enjoying the music. I hope this update will be helpful for some of you out there that's considering the above pairings. Cheers!
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Jul 13, 2018
Jiv_au
100
Jun 28, 2018
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I'll keep this short as I am an audio noob...
I was a sceptic after reading John Grandberg's review on InnerFidelity. To me it seemed that he was implying that this mCTH was comparable to the more expensive amps. Really? At this price, how good can it be? C'mon...
Mind. Blown.
It brings music out in a more thicker and meatier way. The power one feels when listening to a live classical orchestra is more there. Didn't think I'd ever say this, but I ENJOY my classical music much more with this gear, with both my HD6XX and HE4XX.
And now the negative... My tube initially didn't seat properly in the socket - it would stick out much more from the body compared to the picture here. So I used a screw driver that was only slightly larger than the tube pins to widen the socket holes, and that fixed the problem.
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Jun 28, 2018
bfitz
557
Mar 9, 2019
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Having gone through a fair share of audio gear in the past 10 years I can honestly say this is the one purchase(not headphones) I am 100% satisfied with. The sound! I don't know why I never tried tube or hybrid before(co$t/fear of co$st?) Started with; > Fiio e11/iPod classic. > Schiit stack, then Modi+Asgard, ASUS Xonar SC/Asgard. > Android phone/mojo > V20(mojo, e11,modi , magni all sold off) > Enter Shanling M3s. >Desktop kit limbo for a long while.... Very long time deciding if I want to be chained to desktop or have a comfy chair side listening station. Decided on the latter. Pulled the trigger and got the CTH, about 35+ hours on it now, being fed from M3s LO mode. Flac 16/44 and 24/96. Favorite combo right now is 4XX with ZMF oval cowhide pads and TO400s 😜. This is my first bit of Tube gear and I am very happy, almost makes me want to grab HD6xx(only ever heard 650 through SS gear, K701 was preference at that time) and hear them again through this amp. This is now my go to music source with 4XX zmf oval pads. Absolute fun!
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Rig Update: Foobar2000 from PC to Mono THX-AAA which also feeds CTH w/Matsushita PCC88, vintage HD600 w/ new ear and headband pads🤤. *He4xx and HD800 sold off to fund either MDxMrSpeakers ethers or LCD2c closed. Now thinking of maybe 3*LCD1. A pair for me and a pair for each for kids👍
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Mar 9, 2019
G3n3r1c
127
May 24, 2018
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I'd give this 5 stars for sound quality. I highly recommend the CTH overall. I'm being picky about the design for possible future revisions.
Strengths: 1. Superb sound quality: extremely clear with a noticeable touch of tube character. Tested with Focal Elex, Sennheiser HD-600, AudoQuest NightHawk Carbon, and Grado SR-80e headphones. The HD-600s in particular have never sounded better. 2. The regularly used controls are on the front (e.g., no blind reach-around for power) 3. Twin headphone jacks are a nice convenience 4. Built like a tank 5. Great shipping box and great out of box experience
Weaknesses: 1. It's huge and flat. It hogs a whole lot of surface space and the input jacks on the back require even more clearance. I'd prefer a 25% reduction in size Left/Right and Front/Back. 2. There is a naked (but fashionable) tube sticking out the top. While definitely eye-catching, this limits stacking options and will make me forever worry about snapping it off. It's particularly sad because many have indicated the CTH doesn't benefit from tube swaps. I'd rather have the tube mounted flat inside the chassis with an access window. I never plan to swap tubes, only replace when the factory tube dies (or when accidentally smashed by my phone or a stacked DAC). 3. The volume knob has only a tiny dent to indicate its position. It totally disappears with any shadows at all. I was forced to put a small piece of tape on the knob -- a permanent solution is a single drop of white paint.
May 24, 2018
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