Ampsandsound Kenzie Encore-impressions

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by Mithrandir41, May 9, 2017.

  1. Mithrandir41

    Mithrandir41 Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2016
    Likes Received:
    598
    Dislikes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Ridgecrest, CA
    Home Page:
    Being a previous Kenzie owner, I thoroughly enjoyed the original amplifier, but wanted preamp functionality. Just over a year later, I now have the Kenzie Encore,which is a customized version of the Kenzie headphone amplifier. It has two RCA inputs, and one pair of outputs to pair with a set of desktop monitors. It still has the standard 32 ohm and 600 ohm 1/4" headphone jacks.
    My Encore comes with optional input transformers and upgraded Auricap capacitors. I'm not qualified to talk about this stuff on a technical level, as I'm not an engineer. But I decided to do the upgrades for shits and giggles. I was able to compare with/without the input transformers at the latest Canjam, and I think it sounds decidedly more dynamic with the transformers, compared to the original Kenzie. The Westinghouse tube that shipped with the amp is a very lush, romantic sounding tube. I rolled in a vintage siemens 12at7 to compare and contrast . The Siemens tube is a tad brighter, but not objectionably so. I think it makes the amp sounds slightly more subjectively neutral. I have lots more listening to do ...
    IMG_1746.JPG IMG_1742.JPG IMG_1741.JPG
     
    Zesty, Elnrik, Luckbad and 3 others like this.
  2. gbeast

    gbeast Mighty Moral Power Ranger

    Friend
    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,660
    Dislikes Received:
    16
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Phoenix
    Home Page:
    • Knobs are in the front!!
    • Preamp!!
    So yours has input transformers? Does the Encore sound better than the original?

    Is that switch in the back an input selector or a function (preamp/hp) selector?
     
  3. MattRG

    MattRG Almost "Made"

    Contributor
    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2017
    Likes Received:
    231
    Dislikes Received:
    10
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Location:
    Taylorsville, Georgia - USA
    Thanks for the impressions. What DAC and what headphones are you using with the Kenzie Encore?
     
  4. Mithrandir41

    Mithrandir41 Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2016
    Likes Received:
    598
    Dislikes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Ridgecrest, CA
    Home Page:
    I LOVE having the headphone inputs on the front, instead of draping the cord around or over the transformers.
    I do think it sounds better than the original in that it is both quieter (less tube noise)nd more dynamic (with the input transformers). Comparing my original Kenzie with my Mjolnir 2, I preferred the tone of the kenzie, but the M2 was more dynamic to my ears, and hit harder with transients and bass impact. Comparing the M2 to the Encore, the Encore kicks like a mule! I'm actually a bit surprised. I also got the upgraded caps option, but I'm not sure what difference that makes tonally. I'm currently running a current-run Sovtek 12AX7 for the input tube; to my great surprise, it sounds more detailed, smoother in the treble, and all-around better than the NOS Westinghouse 12SL7 or my Siemens 12at7. I was hearing a bit of grain in the treble with the latter two tubes, and a lot of microphony particularly with the Westinghouse.

    The toggle switch on the back selects the input. When headphones are inserted, it mutes the rca output.

    My dac is a Gungnir MB, and i'm listening with 2016 revision LCD-3s: very warm headphones. That being said, I've never found the Kenzie to be an over-warm amp even with very warm, or dark, headphones. At Canjam, when i first auditioned it, I was able to listen with the HD650, Aeon, Ether and Ether C, and Eikon. There was great synergy with all of these. My one caveat with this amp is that I don't recommend using very efficient headphones with it. The output impedance is 32 Ohms and I find it works best with planars and higher-Z headphones (probably 250 and above). I'm probably going to pick up another HD650 and an Aeon as well to pair with the Encore.
     
  5. gbeast

    gbeast Mighty Moral Power Ranger

    Friend
    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,660
    Dislikes Received:
    16
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Phoenix
    Home Page:
    Using the original
    On the Kenzie, the 600ohm output for high impedance headphones is like a whole other tier of performance compared to using the 32 ohm output on some headphones. When I plug my Atticus in on the Kenzie 600ohm the midrange opens up like no other amp I have really heard. Yet when using the Atticus on the 32ohm output it is similar to the Mogwai in performance from it's 32ohm output. The same Also using my Odin, or even lower impedance dynamics the 32ohm output on the Kenzie sounds the same level of performance as the Auris and Mogwai.

    I think you will be smiling really hard once you get a high impedance headphone on that 600ohm output. Also I am not finding the Kenzie especially punchy from the 32ohm output. It is good but not nearly as punchy as my Auris HA2 SE. the 600 out gets closer but sounds more open.

    Really want to hear an Encore. Hopefully I get to compare one to the Taboo MKIV. I may have that one on loan in June'ish.
     
    Elnrik likes this.
  6. Mithrandir41

    Mithrandir41 Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2016
    Likes Received:
    598
    Dislikes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Ridgecrest, CA
    Home Page:
    Thats really interesting, I figured the damping factor would be way off for 300 ohm headphones since the the 600 ohm tap is actually 600 ohms. But I guess the proof is in the hearing! I heard the Eikon and Atticus in LA on Zach's Taboo MK IV and on the Encore. I listen mainly with planars, but I would like a dynamic back in my setup.

    So you don't find the bass loose or "wooly" using the hi-Z tap on the ZMFs?
     
  7. MattRG

    MattRG Almost "Made"

    Contributor
    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2017
    Likes Received:
    231
    Dislikes Received:
    10
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Location:
    Taylorsville, Georgia - USA
    @gbeast I've heard very good things from Zach at ZMF about the Tabook MKIV as far as it being one of his favorite amps. I would definitely be interested to your hear your thoughts on it and the Encore.
     
  8. ButtUglyJeff

    ButtUglyJeff Stunningly beautiful IRL

    Friend
    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Likes Received:
    2,380
    Dislikes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    May I ask where you got this iteration of the Kenzie? There's no mention of it on the site...

    edit - found this video

     
    Last edited: May 11, 2017
  9. Mithrandir41

    Mithrandir41 Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2016
    Likes Received:
    598
    Dislikes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Ridgecrest, CA
    Home Page:
    I'm not sure why Justin hasn't put it up on the website yet. As it is a different product than the original Kenzie. I actually saw he was working on it from Twitter and Facebook a few months back. Then I had a chance to hear it at canjam in LA.
    Mine is the first production unit.
     
  10. gbeast

    gbeast Mighty Moral Power Ranger

    Friend
    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,660
    Dislikes Received:
    16
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Phoenix
    Home Page:

    What did you think of the MKVi in comparison?
     
  11. Mithrandir41

    Mithrandir41 Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2016
    Likes Received:
    598
    Dislikes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Ridgecrest, CA
    Home Page:
    It sounded great. It's always been on my short list of tube amps. I just could never put up with the multi month lead time. I'm too impatient... That being said, I don't feel I'm missing anything with the Kenzie, and especially the Encore.
     
    gbeast likes this.
  12. ampsandsound

    ampsandsound MOT - Ampsandsound

    Joined:
    May 12, 2017
    Likes Received:
    149
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    33
    Location:
    Aliso Viejo
    Home Page:
    Hey Guys I worked a ton on the site tonight.
    I need to change over/write the text for the encore tomorrow.
    That said, there are some pretty pics of the amp posted.
    I can answer questions here if easier for some. That said, Im super reachable by cell/email whichever is easier. (Im dyslexic... not typos via phone).
     
    daniellistens, Aeron, Luckbad and 5 others like this.
  13. Mithrandir41

    Mithrandir41 Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2016
    Likes Received:
    598
    Dislikes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Ridgecrest, CA
    Home Page:
    Welcome to SBAF, Justin!
     
  14. ButtUglyJeff

    ButtUglyJeff Stunningly beautiful IRL

    Friend
    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Likes Received:
    2,380
    Dislikes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    Thanks for signing up here Justin!!!

    Whatever you would like to share about @Mithrandir41 's amp would be greatly appreciated. It seems you're going for more custom upgrade options with the Encore, is that true? And bravo on the ergonomics correction on the layout. I've seen your amp at meets, but never listened, and always scratched my head at the layout. I bet those simple changes will attract more customers alone. But this thing seems to tick so many boxes for me...

    edit - new link is up http://ampsandsound.com/products/headphone-amps/kenzie-encore-headphone-amp/#prettyPhoto
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2017
  15. MattRG

    MattRG Almost "Made"

    Contributor
    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2017
    Likes Received:
    231
    Dislikes Received:
    10
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Location:
    Taylorsville, Georgia - USA
    I'm looking forward to more impressions and information on the Kenzie and your other products. I'm in the process of saving for an amp that will have great synergy with my new Eikon and the Kenzie is at the top of my list. I appreciate you being willing to answer questions for us and making yourself available. I look forward to the updates on your website.
     
  16. dpump

    dpump Rando

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2015
    Likes Received:
    5
    Dislikes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    8
    Justin,

    Thinking of replacing the coupling caps on my Kenzie. What is the value and voltage rating I need? Have you tried different coupling caps or just the Auricaps?
     
  17. ampsandsound

    ampsandsound MOT - Ampsandsound

    Joined:
    May 12, 2017
    Likes Received:
    149
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    33
    Location:
    Aliso Viejo
    Home Page:

    The Kenzie was meant to sit on a shallow shelf and thus was designed on a top-plate. We used to just and drill Hammond chassis, but no 2 were ever exactly alike and lot of time was spent. The idea re inputs and outputs follows standard thinking... that said its not the best for cable management of course and take more thought re: routing of wire. We were able to get the Kenzie so quite impart because of how we positioned components and routed wire. The Kenzie would not be able to move the jacks upfront without getting larger... same for the Mogwai, but as Ive tried to revisit each design for small changes... moving the jacks is 1st on my mind. The Encore with its larger chassis makes the 1/4" jack movement possible.
    That said, most owners when they settle the amp into there system make the adjustments to keep the wire far away. Ive use small extension cable for this purpose. If used, you have to disconnect the cable from the jack, not just unplug the cable from the extension. As the 1/4" enters the jack, it removes a loading resistor from the circuit. With a extension cable the loading resistor is removed, but may not have a load in place. Ive taken to ordering 10ft cables so I can leave my headphones in place without needing an extension.

    The Encore will have more options for customization... Auricap and Jupiters have been tried with fantastic results. I still prefer my larger Wimma as I think they are the most neutral. The Auricap is an inexpensive true upgrade. The Jupiters are bonkers good but price is a serious consideration.
    Additionally we have the option of inclusion of input transformers. In time we will likely offer 2 versions of this as well. Id like to try to include stepped attenuators but there is simply no room. I have a small handful of Mogwai and Kenzies out there without volume pots as the owners wanted to use the DAC/Pre.

    We are happy to offer Cap upgrades on any model, but its more of 1:1 conversation for that while ordering.
     
    ButtUglyJeff and Dino like this.
  18. ampsandsound

    ampsandsound MOT - Ampsandsound

    Joined:
    May 12, 2017
    Likes Received:
    149
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    33
    Location:
    Aliso Viejo
    Home Page:
    They coupling caps are Wimma currently and I LOVE them but if you were to chose differently, Jupiter and Auricaps have been tried with fantastic results.
    You will need .22uf @ 600V/630V

    You can send back to us for install if makes you feel more comfortable. Would need less than a week for install.
     
    ButtUglyJeff likes this.
  19. ampsandsound

    ampsandsound MOT - Ampsandsound

    Joined:
    May 12, 2017
    Likes Received:
    149
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    33
    Location:
    Aliso Viejo
    Home Page:
    Matt,
    Thanks for the kind words. I was with my body who does the website last night for 3 hours... Started to get double vision. We added pics at the bottom of each amp page...A nice addition. The Kenzie is a great pairing for Dynamic headphones... esp the ZMFs. I was in love with them at CanJam. The Eithers and Kenzie are heavenly as well. I had to step away from Ethers to Ether Cs as my wife kept running in and giving me the stink eye.
     
    MattRG, ButtUglyJeff and Dino like this.
  20. ampsandsound

    ampsandsound MOT - Ampsandsound

    Joined:
    May 12, 2017
    Likes Received:
    149
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    33
    Location:
    Aliso Viejo
    Home Page:
    Russ's Encore has the upgraded choke... (stock to a Encore), input transformers, and Auricaps... its a monster. Its a bit quiter than a stock Kenzie...
    We built our 1st Encores and they sold pretty quickly, for SoCal can jam I was assessing the desire by customers for cap upgrades and input transformers. We had a stock Kenzie to compare, and had the input transformers outboard so we could switch them in and out for people. Everyone, ~22 people agreed that input transformers were way better. The cap tuition was more subjective but still most wanted more boutique caps. Rather than fight the tide, Im trying to embrace it. :).
     
    ButtUglyJeff and Dino like this.

Share This Page