DNA Starlett Impressions

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by ChaChaRealSmooth, Sep 27, 2019.

  1. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Gearmaster

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    **Original DNA thread here. While that thread has some good posts and good information, now that there are more DNA amps out there with various models, I feel that specific impressions threads based on model are warranted to help organize some posts and keep signal-to-noise ratio high.

    My original post on the prototype Starlett can be found here, with some more pictures of my personal Starlett here. For more information on the Starlett, it is best to peruse @Donald North's website here.**

    20190927_150307.jpg

    From memory of having the prototype, literally nothing has changed sonically from the prototype to the production unit I have sitting on my desk, despite slightly different branded output tube on the production Starlett. And I have no problems with that; it's a damn good amplifier, and I daresay that it's one of the finest amplifiers for dynamic driver headphones.

    I'll mostly refer people back to the link to my impressions of the prototype amp above, but I'll summarize some points here. The Starlett is mostly neutral, slightly wet-sounding (wetter than EC/ECP stuff), has great macro and micro-dynamics while maintaining an easy-going, gentle presentation. It has quite a large stage, but feels natural with good depth. Extension on both ends is very good (I don't feel it's limiting any dynamic headphone in any way). Transients are quick, rounded in attack, with seductive decay. Biggest strengths are in its timbre (slightly wet, very smooth, very Donald North), sonic texture (something the Euforia is kind of epically bad at), and in its ability to separate and layer sounds while still sounding cohesive. Much more of a generalist than Euforia (which is a specialist to the extreme). I'd rate this amp as better than Euforia overall.

    What I'll focus on more here are specific headphone pairings. I'll update this post accordingly when Verite arrives if I remember (this is going to hold true if I get sent a headphone for a loaner, or buy some new headphone).

    In no particular order:
    • ZMF Auteur: Tied with Verite as my favorite pairing with this amp. In my opinion, the ZDT Jr sounds a little wetter and doesn't come close in the technicalities department (this is with the green-labled JAN tubes in the front), the Euforia is too rich and loses in layering and tonal balance. Timbre with Auteur + Starlett is very nice (obviously still ZMF timbre), layering in mids and treble are top-class, and really shows off the resolving ability and overall prowess of the Auteur. Transients are well-defined with pleasing roundness in the attacks. This is the amp that made me feel that the Auteur might be slightly underrated in terms of its technical ability; this combo is musical and technical in ways that hit my fancy.
    • ZMF Verite: Insane levels of separation and layering, yet maintains cohesiveness in stage and instruments. Plankton and little details are finely defined. Verite timbre + Starlett timbre is richer and yet not as "liquid" or wet as Auteur (my guess is that this is due to Auteur having a significant degree of 2nd order harmonics in its sound, whereas the Verite naturally has a rich timbre that isn't shown via measurements). Really fills out the depth of the Verite's stage. Gentle presentation of Starlett does not interfere with Verite's speed, but transients are definitely rounded with superb microdynamics. Also, more athletic and dynamic than Auteur pairing (Auteur is more gentle and rounded). Tucks at the heartstrings; hard for me to fairly say if Auteur or Verite is more emotionally involving on Starlett. Vastly different presentations, although Verite is technically superior. Toss up whether I choose this or Auteur for listening.
    • ZMF Verite Closed: Essentially the same as above, with slight differences. Treble might have been a touch smoother, and female vocals clearly recessed in comparison. Reverb effect, which is present on the Verite, is very obvious on the Verite Closed. However, still very much a Verite; worthy of consideration and praise.
    • Sennheiser HD 6XX: Not far behind the Auteur. It doesn't quite have that "magic pixie dust" that the Euforia has with the 6XX, but it's synergistic in different ways. The Starlett does seem to have better control over the driver and allows you to hear just how much the 6XX can resolve; layering ability is on par with the Auteur, transients are maybe just a touch behind, and the familiar 'greyground' is still present on 6XX with Starlett (it's not as present on Euforia). Timbre seems more accurate with Starlett. I got to admit that I like the Euforia with the 6XX a bit better because of the smoke and mirrors effect that amp has with this headphone, but I think the synergy factor here is equal between both amps. With the Starlett, I don't have the urge to go move the Euforia from its place in the turntable/speaker system to my desk for my headphones. Toss up really.
    • JAR HD 650: Essentially the same as the 6XX, but improved or the same across the board. A little blacker, more controlled, and slightly smoothed out. Most notable difference is bass; somewhat tighter and more controlled, with more extension surprisingly enough. Very good synergy; it's very apparent Euforia is different with much different vision when using either the JAR HD 650 or the HD 6XX. Interestingly, with the JAR I preferred Starlett.
    • Focal Clear: Similar story to HD 6XX above. The Starlett surprisingly does a good job in getting rid of some of the metallic timbre and blunting the sharp transients of the Clear. Once again, very good resolving prowess, and fleshes the timbre just a bit. Compared to Euforia, once again doesn't have the magic sound, but the Starlett is better in most technical ways. WIth the Clear, I prefer the Euforia, probably because the Clear has always sounded a touch lean to me and the Euforia's bloom and warmth do a lot to fix that. The Starlett plays things pretty straight, but still does let the Clear shine.
    • Focal Utopia: The Clear+ analogy I alluded to in my impressions on the Utopia thread applies here. The Starlett doesn't hold anything back in terms of technicalities and allows the Utopia to truly shine. Just rounds the transients a touch, and gets rid of some of that metallic timbre while adding just a touch of that tube magic and bloom. Won't really touch the tonality, so if you find Utopia too bright the Starlett isn't going to fix that. However, extremely synergistic and in my opinion endgame-worthy. I prefer the Starlett + Utopia over Euforia + Utopia (yes, the opposite for the Clear. Funny how that worked out). The Utopia + Starlett belongs in the same echelon as the Auteur and Verite for my tastes, and finds itself in the regular rotation with Auteur and Verite.
    • Thinksound On2: Shocking. To be clear, these don't have the resolving power of the HD 6XX, nor are these anywhere close to neutral. Vocals are forward (can be almost piercing), lots of mid bass, and some extra sparkle in the treble (with some treble roughness present), but remains engaging with Starlett. However, the Starlett is clearly a bad match in terms of a gain/power standpoint; the On2 is meant to be an efficient portable. I'm using the low impedance out with the gain on low, and I can't move the dial past 1 without killing my hearing.
    • AKG K7XX: Wasn't sure how these would get along since this headphone seems to synergize randomly with certain amps. With Starlett, despite the K7XX's airy presentation, can still hear its resolve and decently good at layering mids. I'm beginning to feel that this headphone just sounds a bit disjointed in sound to me. Something about it just doesn't draw me in from the bass to mids presentation.
    • Hifiman HE560: I paired these for shits and giggles. I'll have to take a second listen and compare it to Asgard 3 when it comes back, but actually not nearly as bad as you'd think. Compared to Lyr 3, a little wetter, but better technicalities and strangely does NOT sound underpowered. The Starlett really isn't meant to power planars and doesn't output that much power, so I'm curious as to how much of this is due to the fact that the HE560 is just not that hard to drive compared to other Hifimans.
    • Rosson Audio RAD-0: Efficient planar, so Starlett has no problems driving. Very good resolve almost on par with Utopia. Tonality is overall neutral, with one or two minor treble peaks. Transients are quick and hits decently hard, hits harder with simple Marv mod. If you like the Audeze tonality this is like that but with none of the B or C grade shit timbre and inconsistent manufacturing. Worthy of consideration even against the ZMFs and Utopia.
    • Verum 1: The Verum 1's very low impedance seems like it would be a poor match for the Starlett unless used SE with the gain switch on low, which turns the output impedance down a bit (I think down to 6 ohms?). However, I actually liked the Verum 1 on the high gain, low Z out or the XLR balanced out. Touch of looseness present in the lowest of bass notes (probably because the damping just isn't as good), but music sounds more lively and the drum hits really stand out. DNA character imparted through the Verum for better or worse. Actually a big fan; not far behind RAD-0 and I prefer this to HE560.
    It should be noted that on the HD 6XX, Auteur, and Verite, I used the IEC setting (120 Ohms). For all other headphones I used the low Z output or the XLR output, which is 9 Ohms. I experimented with both settings with the high impedance headphones and I find the IEC sounds better to my ears. Low impedance headphones obviously sound better with the low output z. I did not notice any difference in sound quality using SE or XLR in balanced drive mode (you can toggle balanced or unbalanced drive through the XLR with a switch, and the balanced drive sounds slightly better to me. The balanced drive XLR is equivalent to the SE out to my ears, so I just use the amp SE).

    My opinion of this amp hasn't changed since the prototype; I still love it and acknowledge that a large portion of this is that it fits my sonic preferences quite well, especially when paired with Auteur. That being said, it's performance is top-tier no matter how you spin it, so if you like tubes and like the DNA presentation (a touch gentle, slightly wet, mids and treble focused), I'd recommend giving this a try.

    Endnote: I admit that I've been quite the chronic gear-cycler and have gone through a whole bunch of gear, changing stuff in and out as I please. I have since been suitably reminded by @zerodeefex that I should slow down and be happy listening to music. I do plan on sticking with the Starlett and rest of the chain. Lingering curiosity hopefully will be taken care of by loaners, or perhaps I'll wise up and be happy with my stuff.

    P.S. If you're wondering how this is out this quickly, it's because I had an extended loaner of the prototype where I did spend a lot of time with my headphone stable and taking some notes. I took a listen with each headphone when the production Starlett got here and since nothing changed, there wasn't much of a point in waiting. You'll also note that there's no mention of packaging; that's because I met with @Donald North and funny enough, he didn't receive the packaging stuff yet. Perk of being local.

    Edit: Potato pic included with a sliver of my right leg for lolz
    Edit 10/20/2019: Added Verite pairing thoughts. Once again, honeymoon period warning. IEC is preferred when using Verite pads, and actually I prefer this combination. Delivers great slam and immediacy while still being slightly dark, although it needs to be mentioned that I'm just not treble sensitive (but I do prefer sound tilted slightly dark).
    Final note: this post will be updated as I gain more experience and try more stuff.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2020
  2. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

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    The Auteur pairing so well with Starlett is music to my ears as I was considering selling it for an HD800, but I'm definitely keeping it now. At least until I can hear the combo myself.

    I'm #2 in line and couldn't be happier. Always wanted to own either an EC or DNA amp and Starlett was perfect timing.
     
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  3. Ntbm3

    Ntbm3 Friend

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    Thanks for sharing impressions and breaking out a dedicated thread for the Starlett!

    I also took the plunge on this amp, should be done in December, can’t wait.

    like Coltmrfire, I have been waiting to get a big boy tube amp for some time. The Starlett checks a lot of boxes for me so I went for it!

    Anyone know a decent source of info for what tube types are compatible with the 5AR4 rectifier? My google search efforts have been underwhelming.

    I have a collection of rectifiers for my woo wa6-se which is 5U4G based. The woo rectifier comparability list is pretty extensive. I assume the Starlett should be similarly flexible?

    Maybe getting ahead of things but getting curious.
     
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  4. Claud

    Claud Friend

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    Welcome to DNA and tube rolling guys. The most critical tube is the input tube, the 6CG7. I have bought a few lately on Ebay. You only need one. Try to buy individual tubes with matched sections.( balanced) If you do not see what you want, message the seller.
    The rectifier is your next critical tube. Looking at well known and reliable tube vendors, Tube World and Tube Depot, you will have to fork over any where from $150 to $600 for one high grade tube, ( Dario Miniwatt or Mullard.) do not waste your money on new rebranded /reissued Russian tubes. There are NOS Mullards for $150 and New ones for $30. Once again since it is only one tube for two channels, get one that has balanced sections. Ebay is a good place to look. Buy used tubes to save money.
    Be nice to your fellow owners. If you find a good tube combination, post it here in this thread.
    Above all, have fun and try not obsess over it.
    Last but not least If you have a question about your amp or tube compatibility, just email Donald. You are one of the family now.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2019
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  5. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Gearmaster

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    I've slightly tweaked the first post to hopefully read a bit better and also provided a small summary on its sound with some comparisons included. Feel free to ask questions/give constructive criticism/ask for more comparative notes.

    Meanwhile, a few more notes on the Starlett, mostly unrelated to sound:
    • Even if it weren't for my conversations with @Donald North, I honestly have zero urge to roll tubes. Speaking with him only confirmed this thought. Perhaps you could tailor the sound slightly to suit your preference by rolling, but performance improvement by this route is probably less than 5% if it exists. Honestly, I plan on just picking up some backup tubes of the same variety and calling it a day.
    • Stock power cord was a little short for my use case, but I think length should be more than sufficient for most.
    • While the tubes themselves get hot enough to cause burns, the amp itself doesn't run too warm. Most of the chassis is cool to the touch, with the only warm areas being around the tubes. Power transformer only gets warm; not even close to being enough to being burning hot to the touch in case of accidental contact when trying to switch the Starlett off.
    • The pot is really smooth. Also, doesn't seem to exhibit any channel imbalance, even on the higher gain setting with Clear (had me around the number 1 on the knob).
    • This amp is beyond transparent enough to show me deficiencies in source. If I were to want for an upgrade, the next step would be somehow pulling better signal from my desktop pc, perhaps using something like a Lynx. That being said, this is NOT going to happen anytime soon and I'm very happy with the sound.
    • This might be my personal preferences talking, but I'm guessing Starlett has great synergy with ZMF dynamics in general due to my experience with Auteur. I'll see if Verite will backup my guess (update: yes, it does synergize well). Also, this might be a good amp for HD800 users (I'm extrapolating from @purr1n's thread on HD800 amps).
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2019
  6. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

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    What's this? Santa came early?

    [​IMG]

    Give me some time with this beast and I'll gather some thoughts...
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2019
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  7. Pogo

    Pogo Friend

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    Thanks for including the Thinksound impression thru a high end amp, mine are my travel cans out of Samsung/Fiio K17/Tidal . Plug the ON2's into an MCTH on occasion, best $100 I've spent on a pair of headphones. Nice to know they can scale well.
     
  8. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Being realistic somewhat in a crazy hobby and having been all out and back, I will say that this is all one really needs. Yes, side-by-side, the Stratus is better, and the Stellaris even better than that. This amp is a flat-out steal at the price in 2019. The only other candidate just above the $2K would be the semi-OOP EC ZDS (which has a different sound).

    As far as DAC, if you like the pairing with @Donald North's Sonic Frontiers SFCD-1 because of the open deep soundstage and tone, then get a Sonic Frontiers DAC or CDP. These ancient things are still being serviced by PCX - for reasonable costs. I'd skip the NOS stuff. The Holo actually has thinner tone colors than even the mid-bass cool Gungnir A2 and it stages way up close. The higher-end Metrum... well, you can get buy a TOTL hot-tub with that kind of money.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2019
  9. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    TKD pots: those things are awesome, and not cheap.
     
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  10. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    who gets invited to micro meets where TOTL hot tub quality is above the DAC value?
     
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  11. Claud

    Claud Friend

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    I think Cha Cha has damn good equipment now. He and I have the same DAC, the Matrix X-Sabre Pro MQA which even you thought was a good DAC when you tried it. He could at a later date upgrade to Stratus or Stellaris. Just depends on the satisfaction factor of the Starlett. He has nice headphones but there are always better ones if you get the itch and have the funds. ZMFs though are very satisfying.
     
  12. BlizzardiCleric

    BlizzardiCleric Rando

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    I suspect the point here is that, generally, finding something that makes you happy, or gives you that warm feeling of just being the right for you, is a joy that should be cherished. Yes, it is easy to keep looking up at more expensive equipment or what the latest hype-train brought this time, but it can unintentionally spoil some of that joy and cause unnecessary and ultimately distracting anxiety. As in many, many other hobbies, these are simply tools with which to explore something that you really care for - music, in our case.

    It's nice to see people questioning and resisting the idea of the hunt for better gear itself being the source of joy. That's positive peer-pressure in my opinion, a rare thing.

    And finding peace with what you have should be attainable even with a pair of HD650s and a Cavalli Tube Hybrid, etc. It's actually something that the folks here at SBAF are really good at communicating. :bow: Sorry for the off-topic rant.
     
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  13. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

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    CDP / PC > NAD C510 (borrowed from @famish99 ) > Starlett #002 > HD800 (SDR mod)

    It doesn't take me long to get a good impression of gear and I like to write stuff down quickly while I'm still inspired. Kind of like how reviewing a movie doesn't take me several rewatches. I know what's up soon after leaving the theater.

    First I just wanna take a moment to acknowledge the experience of receiving this amp and my positive dealings with @Donald North , and
    how pleasant and professional the entire process was... from his patience and thoroughness of answering my questions to the speed of shipment once everything was ready, to how safely the items were packaged, even the thorough instruction manual... all of which gave the impression that this wasn't some fly-by-night charlatan throwing together junk, but a professional who takes his work seriously and treats his customers with respect. Like Schitt, DNA is a real deal business that appears committed to delivering the goods in all steps of the process. You seem to be in good hands with Donald.

    With all that shameless gooeyness out of the way, this is a serious amp for serious people who want the best out of their sources and music. An amp that doesn't fuck around, and pumps out tunes like nobodies business. A definite step up from my maxxed Torpedo 3, which was no slouch. The Starlett actually reminds me of the Gungnir Multibit A1. A DAC that was extremely dynamic and striking but had a laid back, easy going nature and organic tone. This is the Gungnir Multibit A1 of amps IMO, but don't mistake that DAC's A1 demotion to mean Starlett is lacking in any way. It's not. Only if nitpicking and obsessing over what are likely inconsequential differences to people who enjoy music first.

    Aesthetically it's by far the most beautiful amp I've ever owned or laid eyes on. The Eddie Current and ECP/DSHA stuff looks fabulous but Donald's design is bold and risky. The Smurf blue could've easily backfired but damn it if it doesn't just work. His amps have a retro, almost 50s Chrysler thing going on that is strangely appealing and a welcome alternative to the black and grey utilitarian design schemes you often see in this hobby.

    Sound-wise the word that first comes to mind is elegant. There is a sophistication and grace in the Starlett that threatens to capture the heart (and wallet) of unsuspecting audiophiles. Definitely a house sound I've come to expect given the DNA reputation and it's a house sound that I can see being easy to commit to long term. But a sound that might make you late to work from staying up all night listening. Paired with a schiit Multibit DAC (yeah I'm a fan) it could be a dangerous combo. Only the brave need apply.

    Organic is something that feels strange to call a bunch of electronic components but the overall tone of the sound has a rich, earthy quality that I don't think I've heard before. The schiit Multibit DACs might be a match made in heaven here.

    There is an ease and effortless quality to summit fi sound and Starlett is no different. This ease tends to make sounds easier to focus on and follow, making listening a more relaxing and rewarding experience. For anyone still in mid-fi and skeptical of the benefits TOTL gear can bring, I suggest you seriously reconsider your stance. These kinds of amps are worth saving for. The level of musical enjoyment you get from these jumps in SQ are exponential in my experience.

    With Starlett this ease extends into the imaging, soundstage and layering aspects, and most notably with classical, the stage feels very grounded and has a gravity to it lacking with lesser gear... a fairly enveloping stage without feeling claustrophobic or jumbled. Quite open without being exaggerated and has pinpoint imaging. The way instruments are spread out across the stage feels more "correct", as if you are hearing a more accurate representation of the space.

    There are some wonderful macrodynamics on display. It doesn't have the aggressive mack-truck impact of the T3 but feels more solid, earthy and grounded. And not to worry... the slam is there-o-plenty when called for. It just doesn't fall out of line with the amp's overall stately nature. It is James Bond to the T3's John Wick. It slams hard without spilling the drink in its hand.

    [​IMG]

    Temporal aspects of sounds seem more sophisticated than T3, with greater positional and timing accuracies, ie. where sounds are coming from, the specific way they travel from one spot to another... songs I thought I knew well betray different aspects of themselves, especially any music with electronic elements... sounds starting in one spot, moving places I previously didn't think they moved, and stopping somewhere else...

    The HD800 is the perfect headphone to capture all this glorious resolution and madness with its by now well known world class imaging and staging capabilities. Previously the best amp I ever heard with the HD800 was my T3. Starlett seriously threatens to take the crown. I miss the Auteur and eagerly anticipate the incoming Verite Closed loaner, but I feel buying the 800 for this amp was the right move. The Auteur is the best headphone I've ever heard tonally, but the 800 is a technical beast and preferable for all the classical I listen to. If future funds allow, I'd still like to have one of the ZMFs in my stable... as their organic tone could be just what the doctor ordered to pair with this similarly rich, organic sounding amp.

    I've grown more and more fond of vocals the further up the gear ladder I've gone, since a talented singer's vocal chords and technique is alot easier to appreciate with better amps and sources. Fiona Apple's melodic screams on The Idler Wheel's second track are more emotional and impactful. This is a strange thing I'm about to write, but her screams on that track sound more... well, scream-y. Or rather the emotion she is trying to communicate in those screams is more apparent... same for the little breathy exasperations at the end of those screams that is lost on lesser amps. Same for the staccato rhythmic waves of her voice on the same track. And her unique quivery vocal spasms. And on and on... you get the idea. Subtle melodic inflections, previously unheard note transitions and decays... the little stuff that separates the men from the boys, it's all here with the Starlett. The NAD DAC does a great job of capturing these moments but this is the kind of amp that may need the top tier resolution of an Yggdrasil or Convert 2 level DAC to really do these things justice (I will never forget the sound I heard coming out of the Convert2).

    These revelations are not unique to voices. Piano takes on the same kind of fleshed out dynamic range of volume and melodic inflections. Where the inner resonance of the instrument becomes shockingly accurate and viscerally musical to the point of manbaby tears. You start to understand why people have pianos in their homes and why it is such a unique instrument that is often the centerpiece of a large scale orchestra. Or the gritty, coarse nature of a bow across strings... how a string section's individual notes resonate with each other and bounce around the room and interact with other sounds. All much more obvious now without any straining to hear it.

    A nice segue into microdynamics which are... superb. The best I've heard probably outside the Aficionado. Better microdynamics do add up to a more enveloping experience... the greater range of volumes creates a richer musical picture, kind of like how OLED televisions seem richer and more detailed because the noise of light pollution from LED backlighting has been eliminated, allowing one to see deeper into the image. Starlett definitely bumps me up a level from the T3 here. Exciting stuff.

    Something I didn't expect was the scaling ability of this thing. In total agreement with ChaCha on this. I tried three different sources into the NAD (my laptop, my 4K Blu-ray player and my Onkyo CD player) and the differences were stupidly obvious, much more than I'm used to. Doubly so with the HD800 and its magnifying glass approach to gear. Even differences in recording techniques from track to track on the same album was obvious (different mics, mic placement, recording equipment, mastering, etc). I did not hear differences this pronounced with the T3/HD800. So a better source is probably going to pay huge dividends down the road. This makes the Starlett quite the investment.

    And finally... while I wouldn't call this a criticism, it needs to be said, and took a little while to adjust to as I'm used to aggressive amps from the Schiit line and the T3. There is a slightly rounded, polite quality to the Starlett. If you're looking for a more incisive, aggressive sound you are probably better off looking elsewhere. The Starlett has a more natural and stately presentation that is not going to be for everybody. It still has plenty of slam and is very lively... but it's laid back about how it presents itself. Composed. I feel like tube rolling is not going to change the overall nature of the amp either (Donald correct me if I'm wrong). It's possible that a more incisive DAC like the Convert2 could mitigate things, but why bother fixing something you are not interested in to begin with? And be warned... while the amp is stately and laid back in nature, it does ruthlessly reveal sources... harsh upstream gear isn't going to be smoothed over. This is an amp that seems to pair well with brighter headphones like the HD800 but probably needs careful source matching.

    In closing... in case you haven't noticed, I really like this amp and feel it delivers on all fronts for anyone looking for an end game amp with an organic, laid back, composed but still lively, punchy and extremely engaging sound that will unreservedly reveal quality upstream gear (or lack thereof).

    Thanks again to @Donald North for creating a winner.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2019
  14. Claud

    Claud Friend

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    Well written and as advertised. That's without much break in. It should continue to improve for the next 150 hours or so. I broke my Stratus in playing digital music from my IBasso 220 DAP for 125 hours and it continued to improve after that.
     
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  15. gridmaster

    gridmaster Acquaintance

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    The audio world needs more affordable SET amplifiers. I'm glad DNA is offering such a thing.
    Top build quality with known brand that produces exceptional amps.

    @ColtMrFire Good write up. I'm sure HD800 excels with that amp, as SET is its wheelhouse.
    Congrats!

    I notice the amp takes 5ar4(gz34), I wonder if it can take a 2amp-dh (such as 5r4), or maybe even 3amp (5u4) rectifiers?
    I love 5r4 because you can still get exceptional ones for cheap.
     
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  16. Donald North

    Donald North Friend

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    Generally speaking, it’s not recommended to use directly heated rectifiers with indirectly heated signal tubes because the rectifier will heat up faster and start conducting sooner than the signal tubes during power up. I tested a 5U4G and it does not over voltage the input capacitor of the power supply network at start up. The 5V heater winding is rated for 3A so that won’t be a problem. Have not tried the 5R4 yet.
     
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  17. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

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    [​IMG]

    @Joshvar is here picking up his SB Crack and it was fun watching him geek out with this amp.

    I think the word he used to describe it was "confident".
     
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  18. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

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    A bit of a follow up after this has settled in (burned in whatever) over past few days.

    The stage has fleshed out a bit into a more three dimensional experience. Front-to-back layering is quite extraordinary. This is most noticeable with lively electronic/hip hop/pop music that has complex layering effects and movement. For example... instead of plain left to right, something will make a slight semi circle on its way across the stage. A drummer's drum kit being hit in different spots near or away from the mic being much more obvious. Stuff like that. Going through all my music again and discovering these subtle revelations has been a real pleasure and something I've never really experienced in this hobby.

    The sense of individual sounds/instruments/voices having their own propulsion independent of other stuff is very cool. To clarify, the energy of say a string section going bonkers in Vivaldi's Four Seasons... you can feel the pressure being applied to the strings by the musicians and the forceful grind of instruments propelling acoustic energy without any bleed into other frequencies or sections. This is hard to describe without hearing it. Relates to the ease and effortless way the amp puts out music. No strain, no grain, no shoutiness.

    Speed! It almost reminds me of when I had the Jotunheim with the HD800... Starlett is a much better amp, but Jot's quicksilver sense of speed with the 800 was extraordinary and something I'd been hoping to recapture at some point. Starlett definitely captures that same high velocity... having supreme control of the drivers. It's a tube amp but it has that beefy solid state grip, without any of the downsides of that topology.

    I've had to really be careful not to stay up too late listening so I'm not a zombie the next day at work but it's been a struggle! A good problem to have for sure.

    The Verite closed loaner is one stop away so I'll report back in a little while.
     
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  19. Ntbm3

    Ntbm3 Friend

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    ColtMrFire,

    Thanks for your detailed impressions! The pictures you took captured the color really well, looks great.

    Mine should be here December some time, can't wait.

    Have you only used your HD800's? Tried anything else?

    Hoping this amp makes everything sound great, struggling to resist picking up some ZMF or Clears until I can try all my current headphones on it.
     
  20. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

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    Yes only have the 800 now but like I said Verite is coming and I'll likely pick up the 650 at some point.
     

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