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Massdrop x Alex Cavalli Liquid Carbon X Amp

Massdrop x Alex Cavalli Liquid Carbon X Amp

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Product Description
Made in collaboration with Alex Cavalli, a legend in the world of headphone amps, the Liquid Carbon X is a solid-state, fully balanced, bridged amp with a clear, transparent, non-fatiguing sound. It has the same topology as the celebrated Liquid Carbon, along with updates to the form factor, switching power supply, and input and output jacks Read More
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All of our reviews are from verified customers.
4.6
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98%
would recommend to a friend
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theMillerDave
179
Jul 18, 2020
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The gateway drug?
I wouldn't call myself an audiophile, nor could I use the correct language in describing the characteristics of this amp that set it apart from anything else I've tried in the price bracket - but I can say definitively that this thing is a f******g bargain and is likely the piece of equipment that I will look back on as the one that got me hooked. A little personal history: My first "real" audio purchase was here on Drop - the initial release of the AKG 7XX - a solid pair of open-back cans that made me realize why anyone would need to purchase a headphone amp. So I took the bait and picked up a piece of Schitt: an Asgard 2. The local seller threw in a decent USB-DAC, and off I went re-ripping my CD collection to lossless format - cursing my former self for thinking a 160kbps eMPty3 sounded fine. Fast forward a couple of years, and I find myself getting that itch again, justifying another purchase for an upgrade to my portable gear (a modded iPod classic and a FiiO Alpen E17). I picked up a FiiO Q1 MKII, a modest bump over the E17 - because I didn't think spending hundreds on a nice pair of balanced IEMs would really make that much of a difference... I couldn't resist the HiFiMan HE-4XX at the then price of $130, picked up a budget LinSoul 2.5mm terminated balanced cable, and finally used that "other" output jack on the Q1. I won't say I was blown away, but there was a huge difference in sound (not necessarily better, definitely not worse) between that pairing and my aging desktop setup of the 7XX and Asgard 2 - enough to kill the cat and start to see what else was out there. I have always been a "go big or go home" enthusiast of many cultish hobbies, and I am a firm believer in the Hunter Thompson mantra, "If something is worth doing, it's worth doing right"... Enter the v2 Campfire Audio Andromeda iems and an iBasso dx200... By this point I'm thinking I've reached my personal portable endgame, and it was high time I started looking into the next desktop stack upgrade. Rather than jump in the deep end, I figured I'd be a LITTLE more frugal - and that takes us to today: the Cavalli Liquid Carbon X amp... I did my homework and basically gave myself an ultimatum: if I'm not blown away, I will go back to throwing money into my wardrobe and watch box. To make sure I didn't sell Alex short, I picked up another piece of Schitt: the new Modius DAC, some decent XLR cables, and the perfectly timed 2.5mm to XLR adapter here on Drop (fortunately, as a result of the Q1,) allowing me to give both the Andromedas and the HE-4XX cans the full balanced experience they crave. For less than half the price of either of my CA iems or the DAP ($200 for the Modius, $200 for this bad larry, and $20 for the adapter), I replaced my desktop stack. I don't know if my ears aren't quite as refined as the folks who wax poetic about sound stage and the nuances of different frequency ranges across the sound spectrum that comes from truly high-end audio equipment, but for the money (I've heard of cables costing more - and bless any of you who can justify the cost difference between a $50 cable and a $500 cable) - I have been blown away with this setup driving either the CA iems, the balanced HE-4XX, or the AKG-7XX for any genre from Jazz, to Hip-Hop, Metal, Classic Rock, House, Pop, Funk, Classical and everything in-between (can't speak to country music, unless you count bluegrass and/or Johnny Cash). Given the literal fortune one can spend on audio equipment, if this kind of (mid-range?) budget is within your reach - consider this a resounding endorsement from a relative noob who thinks he knows what sounds "good"... and my poor wallet is going to have to come with me on more adventures to see what else is out there. Thanks again, Drop, for putting together yet another amazing product offering at an irresistible price point, putting fanatic-level performance within reach of the masses. Ooooh, how about changing your name to "MassDrop"... ever consider that ;) ?
DrNima
19
Sep 2, 2019
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Unlike 789 it will color the sound.. in a pleasant way.
Love it. I’m both glad for the 789 and LCX. Each serves in own role and each to its own. Get one as you won’t regret it especially at this price.
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Would recommend to a friend.
ShaneCan
35
Aug 10, 2019
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Better than I thought.
I must admit that I was very surprised about this amp. I really couldn't find much info/feedback about the MassDrop version. When I first started using it I wasn't very impressed. It didn't sound "right" at all. It seemed noisy, bright, something I couldn't put my finger on. I kept playing for hours without paying much attention. Within a few days burn-in must have occurred (mental or physical). I started to find the sound very full and even bassy. Everything on the amp works perfectly and there is more power than I will ever use. Most of my headphones are very efficient and it works great. Depending on the headphone used, my volume ranges from 9:00 to 12:00 in low gain. The Loxjie P20 will definitely be moving on. This is giving my Burson Fun-Classic a good run for its money. Nice to have a balanced amp and an SE amp (with a Schiit Loki in the chain). My chain is a Sony ZX300 DAP into SMSL SU-8 and balanced out to LCX. Today I am using a recently purchased set of used HD58X's. Another great combo. I got this amp on a Prime Days sale and could NOT be more satisfied. I have bought a lot of stuff that was overpriced or just plain crappy in the last five years. This one was a win. And it really is getting better over time. Maybe that's just a mental thing, but it's working for me. This and the used HD58X's were huge value wins for me. I haven't said that about audio in a long time!😁 Shane D
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Would recommend to a friend.
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Spyder1
21
Dec 20, 2018
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The Liquid Carbon X is a great headphone Amp. I use it with balanced input, balanced output, and Audeze LCD2, Sennheiser HD650 headphones. Single ended with Fostex TH900 headphones. Great SQ with Jazz and Classical music.
Moonsand1
471
Apr 7, 2019
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I have used this amp for about four months now. My dac is a Modi 2 Uber using FLAC files. The headphones I currently own are the Audeze LCD-2C, LCD-X, Sennheiser 6XX, 58X, Hifiman 4XX, and Fostex TR-X00 Ebonys. I have balanced 4 pin XLR cables for each of these headphones and have used them in both modes. I can say that after all these months, I'm disappointed in this amp and wouldn't recommend it to most people. It has a darker sound signature then say a Schiit amp that I have used in the past. Some might say "smoother", but that problem is that the 6.3mm jack was an after thought and really lacks power. You can also hear distortion at higher levels on the Audeze models and the Fostex X00's. If your going to use the standard 6.3 mm jack then I would only recommended it for headphones that are really not very resolving. It doesn't even sound that great with the 6XX, but it is also not a good sound signature pairing. Using the XLR does give the "sense" that it sounds better with the increased power. The problem is that you start to hear that it is just not very "clean" sounding. My cheap Schiit Magni 2 that I have laying around sounds cleaner. I just ordered the SMSL SU-8 to see if running the dac in fully balanced will do anything to help the sound. If it does, then I will update a star. The bottom line though, is that you can do better for cheaper and it is not a good pairing for the headphones that I own. Update: Just got a new pair of Denon D7200 headphones. These sound really good on this amp. Treble is really extended and can be a little too bright on my Magni 2. However on this amp, it takes off just enough that it is not as bright. Unlike my other headphones, this is a really good pairing. Update 8/25/19 LCX vs. THX 789 I got the 789 two days ago. I have logged in about six hours now. I don't claim to be an expert, but I will try and describe the differences that I'm hearing. There is a noticeable difference in the clarity between the two amps. The distortion I was hearing on the LCX is gone on the 789. I can also hear a noticeable difference in neither the dynamics or the ability of the amp to separate the right and left channel on my two higher end headphones, the Denon 7200 and LCD-X. The best way I can describe it, is that It sounds more three dementional or has another layer of separation to the instruments. The LCX sounds more congested in its presentation by comparison. This amp really is worthy of the hype it has received.
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mcabriel
177
Jan 19, 2020
Updates pls. Thanks
Enkonto
19
Jun 18, 2020
Can you compare magni 2 and THX 789? Is 789 much more clear and worth the price?
chilofthehorn
210
Jan 10, 2019
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Its not as clean as similarly priced or even cheaper amplifiers. I have personally noticed channel imbalance at times (especially in the lower 1/4 of the potentiometer) and it is likely due to the pretty inexpensive potentiometer that isn't calibrated properly. I know other manufacturers who use these on portable amps and even they have to test them all and usually only half pass the mark. Price is high enough to justify an Alps Blue or reasonable clone, honestly. Output impedance is VERY good and the balanced output is so much stronger than the 1/4' that is a joke. Amp actually runs better in short sessions with less distortion when its relatively fresh than being left on a few days which is weird because the amp is not warm.... For a DAC, I am running a fully balanced dual-mono unit from TEAC which reveals some flaws here. The very top end gets shrill. I LOVE sparkle, but this is not sparkle and unlike any other amp I have. Perhaps, the design was compromised by cost-cutting or QA here as Cavalli is generally known to produce nice stuff. Save money and get an Aune X7s. This sounds no better than many of the dual TPA chip balanced amps that can be had for half the price. I had high hopes, just disappointed given the pedigree. Its not horrible, but it isn't great and its certainly not "a great $$$ deal". I might rip the thing open and see if replacing a couple parts fixes anything. 🤷‍♀️ Meh.
A community member
Feb 7, 2019
I completely agree with you on it not being clean. It honestly has a weird distortion in the volume pot, where the sound will be grainy. It’s really evident on Hd 600s. my dap never makes noise that badly.
A community member
Aug 2, 2018
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It sounds good, but I prefer the CTH by a wide margin.
The LCX sounds a little faster, as if the slew rate is better. It has the positive traits of a solid-state amp without the glare, glassiness, or coldness often found in inexpensive transistor-based amplifiers.
But, it does not provide the fun of the CTH. The CTH's smooth, round punch at the bottom and tubey sparkle at the top are missing here.
But, it does have a pleasant, smooth character about it.
The only real gripe I have about the LCX is that the bottom end sounds strained. If you are listening to music with sharp transients on the kick drum for example, or music mastered with a lot of compression and low-end presence, the amp sounds like it struggles slightly to deliver on the bass notes.
I am surprised by the power rating and wonder about its accuracy. Even with the LCX's gain set to high, and with the hardware volume on my USB DAC (Hifime Sabre 9018 USB) all the way up, I can get louder levels before distortion with the CTH than I can with the LCX, and the bass is more impactful and powerful-sounding on the CTH than the LCX. Maybe the gain stage is insufficient to drive the output stage to full power?
Note that the strained bottom end I mentioned is something with the LCX and not the USB DAC's output op-amp being overdriven, because it is still there when I throttle back the hardware output on the DAC, and I don't have this issue when I use the same DAC and same headphones on the CTH.
For comparison, the balanced HP amp on the SMSL DP3 provides a notably more impactful and solid bottom end than the LCX despite having a much lower power output rating, but the rest of the spectrum definitely sounds better on the LCX.
Also note that thus far I have evaluated the LCX with single-ended inputs and balanced outputs only, using the HD6XX and HE4XX headphones.
Bottom line is, I like this amp, but I don't love it like I do the CTH.
BobJS1
27
Dec 15, 2018
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I've gone through a ton of headphone amps, some of them embarrassingly expensive. Who knew my favorite would be among the (if not THE) least expensive.
ludachris
314
Dec 14, 2018
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I would actually rate this 3.5 stars. I hear slight distortion when I'm not playing anything at all and I burned in about 100hrs into the amp within 5 months. The amp powers up any headphones but lacks crisp detail for the lower bass and upper mids and highs for me. I ended up selling mine to fund for a monoprice liquid platinum and the mass drop thx 789 (distortion free amp). I don't regret at all, I would only recommend this amp if it was cheaper and if people are on a budget. Build quality and tonality is a 3.5 star for me. Price should be $225 at most because there are better amps priced at this range.
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ciber
178
Jul 22, 2019
I am thinking about JDS Atom. What about this one compared with JDS Atom?
abvolt
5
Dec 21, 2018
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I was honestly awed by the sound I was getting from this amp, I've been used to listening to amps far more expensive then the LCX. Overall, it is a thumbs up on design, look & feel plus on balanced side you have all the power you'll ever need for most any headphone, simply put this amps sounds wonderful it is well worth it's low price, get one you won't regret this buy..
abvolt
5
Jun 15, 2019
awesome I look forward to hearing impressions..
Mark_M
229
Jun 16, 2019
Saw this amp here for sale used. Good option for the price (Canadian)? https://www.canuckaudiomart.com/details/649514426-cavalli-liquid-carbon-x-headphone-amplifier/
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