Black Widow [Update] - Second round official, 100 amps total, single chassis

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by purr1n, Oct 5, 2015.

  1. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    it’s no transformer, but maybe the new iFi Powerstation would fix the issue if it’s ground hum related?

    in USA, DC offset could be solved by using Emotiva CMX-2. unsure about international version.
     
  2. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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    Yanked the XLRs to the GoldPoin/Genelecs from the Soekris and the buzz is gone. Annoyingly a set of ground lift XLR adapters doesn't help any.

    A little more testing:

    Unplugging the Genelecs from the power strip makes no difference. So that eliminates a ground loop on that front.
    Soekris-->XLR-->Genelecs causes buzz.
    Soekris-->XLR-->GoldPoint-->Genelecs causes buzz.
    Soekris-->XLR-->GoldPoint causes buzz (with no connection to Genelecs at all). This is pretty weird, it's completely passive. The tone is slightly different though.
    Soekris--XLR is clean as a whistle (nothing connected to the XLRs, just the short leads that go to the GoldPoint)
    Soekris-->No XLR is clean as a whistle of course.

    In all cases of course Soekris-->RCA-->BW2 is connected.

    Maybe Soekris doesn't like both XLR and RCA connected at the same time? It's like any sort of common ground on the connected XLRs causes a buzz, but I know this stuff can be voodoo, though. The GoldPoint does seem to be complicit as well.

    For now I have the Genelecs being driven balanced by GO2A SE and listening to DAC1541-->RCA-->BW2-->HD600. Even my sibilant nemesis track "Bruce Hornsby's "The Western Skyline" doesn't grate on this combo.
     
  3. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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    I have a strange behavior with BW2. Using 2 different DACs I get the same issue where the left channel will be weak and distorted or drop out completely. If I mess with it - swap input chanels and swap back, or unplug/replug the output from the source it will come right. Once I've done this, if I leave the amp powered up it seems stable, but power it off and on again and the same thing happens.

    Interestingly the distortion sounds similar to that when you power off teh amp and the last power bleeds out of the caps (I presume). What is weird is it's always the left channel.

    What might this be?
     
  4. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    @Gaspasser might this be similar to the slight left channel distortion we had in our BW2 and you fixed by soldering the...?
     
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  5. JK47

    JK47 The Beer Houdini

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    Bad karma
     
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  6. sheldaze

    sheldaze Friend

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    I never had the issue with my original BW2. The issue first occurred during the summer of 2017, after I purchased a used BW2. I sent it to Craig, who replaced the board. However the next summer, 2018, I encountered the same issue. I sent it to Craig, who tightened up a few pieces. But he was unable to reproduce the issue. He said it was likely due to DC from the source.

    Until I spoke to @Ice-man, who suggested I simply leave my amplifier on 24/7, I was not able to use my BW2 (now with replaced board, and certified 100% functional) for longer than an hour. This is with common DAC sources such as Bifrost, Gungnir, and Yggdrasil. I have no problems once the amplifier has been running for 24-hours (not with a source playing, just sitting idle). And I have also been successful taking it to meets, off for an hour of travel, and immediately back on for the duration of the meet.

    Short story - Craig suggested I sell to someone who has a better source, with no DC offset. Long story - I just power the amplifier on 24-hours before use, or just leave it on. I suspect it has a thermal stability issue, which becomes stable after a day.
     
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  7. Gaspasser

    Gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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    On that particular BW2, which if I remember correctly is the same one @GoodEnoughGear has now, had a molex connector that must have wiggled loose during shipping. I opened the case (after about 36 hours powered off) and followed the left channel and removed and reconnected the molex connectors for the boards. It was a crackle in the left channel for me that resolved fully after the remove and reconnect. I would try that and hopefully that will resolve your issue. Good luck.
     
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  8. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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    Cool, let me check that out. Thanks!
     
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  9. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I've heard of these issues. They seem to amount to when the amp hasn't been used for a while. The distortion occurs when it's cold, but goes away when warmed up. Might also be regional, temperature, humidity.

    50% of the boards were bad from the board house. The culprit was usually solder splash. The components were put so close together, and thus the design is more susceptible to this. I figure board expansion and contraction is the cause of the issues.
     
  10. brencho

    brencho Friend

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  11. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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    May be worth having someone local take a look for anything obvious. It doesn't sound like very reassuring o_O but if it's solder splash maybe it can be cleaned up.
     
  12. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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    I sent the amp in to a reputable local builder Karel Mars who's seen some solder cracks on some joints and a wonky volume pot. He's resoldering the cracked joints and replacing the pot, and we'll see what we get after that.
     
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  13. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Gearmaster

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    ***Thanks to @insidious meme for allowing me to borrow this while he's away. A true SBAF friend***

    The Black Widow does seem to have faded a bit from memory since the release of the DSHA-3F. However, like with any other piece of good gear, it hasn't turned into poo because of something new. To be succinct, I like this amp a lot, and choosing between the Black Widow and 3F is going to be a matter of preference rather than relative sonic performance.

    I mentioned in my impressions on the 3F that the 3F sounded almost like a tube amp. Compared to the Black Widow, the 3F sounds decidedly solid state; the Black Widow is even closer to replicating the stereotypical "organic" sound of a good tube amp. Just a touch rolled on the top, warm, organic, with a touch of dryness is how I'd describe the Black Widow's timbre, with the 3F being slightly more solid state sounding and neutral. Do not overblow my statements; the difference in timbre between 3F and Black Widow is not huge.

    Dynamics and transients is where the comparison between 3F and Black Widow favors the former. The 3F is very lively and athletic, and is very zippy. The Black Widow backs off a bit from this and is more laid-back in comparison, although it's not what I'd call a laid-back amp. Black Widow is a little more rounded, the 3F is sharper. I'd give the 3F the edge in ultimate nuance, microdynamics, and macrodynamics. The 3F slams harder, is faster, and is able to hit the spaces between notes with startling accuracy; all things that make the 3F best in class for dynamics and transients. The Black Widow is still good here; it's just not the 3F.

    Compared to Starlett, it's clear the Black Widow has a different vision and house sound. In comparison, the Starlett is wetter, a touch more rounded in transients, and a touch bloomy. I think the Starlett might be a touch less-rolled on top, but I'm not sure since the Starlett does lay things on thicker on the bottom end and mids. Due to their different house sounds, they still manage to remain a complementary pair, although I'd say the 3F is a better complement to Starlett.

    Brief notes on headphone pairings:
    • ZMF Auteur/Verite: Lumping these together. Both work very well with the Black Widow. It should come as no surprise; ZMFs do go well with a lot of good tube amps, and the Black Widow's timbre is a great match. I'm convinced that the choice to match a ZMF with either Black Widow or 3F (if you can find one) comes down to source; a richer-sounding source will do better in front of 3F, a leaner one in front of Black Widow.
    • Focal Utopia: I think it's good, but not something I prefer. I think the Utopia needs a wetter-sounding amp to really bring out the best qualities and hide its metallic timbre.
    • Sennheiser HD 6XX: Very apparent that the Black Widow is a bit rounder than 3F. Some may complain of fatigue with the 3F's borderline relentless athleticism; the Black Widow doesn't go to that extent. That being said, better amps exist for the Sennheiser HD 6x0 (Starlett, Euforia, heck I really liked the ZDT Jr).
    • Hifiman HE560 v1: I'm not sure what the power output is on the Black Widow, but it does seem to have enough for the HE560. Actually a great pairing; does a good amount fleshing out the (in my opinion, "weird") Hifiman timbre. Shaves some glare from the highs. The HE560 is actually surprisingly resolving, and so the Black Widow's talents aren't wasted.
    • Verum 1: Great pairing, especially with the perforated pads (which make the Verum brighter). Much nicer timbre than the HE560, good zip to transients. Layering gets a little better with Black Widow.
    It's a little sad that both the Black Widow and 3F are OOP amps now. That being said, if you've saved some money and one pops up on the classifieds, neither are a bad choice and both would be able to provide many hours of happy listening.

    Ending thoughts:
    • I'm lucky to be able to audition all these great amps and this community enabled me to do so. Keep being awesome SBAF!
    • Starlett, 3F, and Black Widow all pass the "oh shit was I supposed to be critically listening" test. They all made me forget what I was doing lots of times.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2019
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  14. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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    Update for posterity on my BW2 left channel wonikess - after a reflow of solder on the boards the issue seems to be resolved after a week of solid use. Given we know these boards had some bad apples this might be reassuring that a servicing can bring them back to operation.
     

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