DNA Starlett Impressions

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

  1. Magnetostatic_Tubephile

    Magnetostatic_Tubephile Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2017
    Likes Received:
    658
    Dislikes Received:
    44
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    GoogleChrome, EU
    Just to provide a point of view (sort of a reality check): HD650 on Stratus is still HD650 IMHO and will be on Starlett too.

    If you dont admire the headphone on something like Valhalla 2 / Project Sunrise, I highly doubt it would change much with Stratus and therefore the same most probably applies to Starlett. Dont overblow effect of amplifiers to headphones. I unfortunately see this happening all the time which only causes unrealistic expectations to others. It happened here too (see above from @ColtMrFire ) ...

    ... HD650 cannot have a deep, hardhitting bass on any amp on the planet. Take a look at its FR and distortion graphs to understand why. It gets a bit better with higher quality amps but still cant touch planar magnetics or even something like Auteur in this regard.

    HD650 is cool but wont magically transform into something else just because you plug it into something else.
     
    will_f, allegro, SoupRKnowva and 9 others like this.
  2. tommytakis

    tommytakis Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2018
    Likes Received:
    2,338
    Dislikes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    @Magnetostatic_Tubephile while I do agree that HD650 no matter what TOTL setup you put it through will never have that tight, extended bass like a typical planar (that’s just wishful thinking imo), but mids and upwards, HD650s still one of the best headphones on the market, no matter what price range it’s compared against due to how much it scales. i think it’s fair to say amps CAN enhance the inherent qualities That 650s excel in. For example, 6x0 series are often criticized for having small and intimate stage, and I believed that as well until I’ve tried them with the schiit Yggdrasil A1 + EC ZDS. No it didn’t turn my 650s with linear bass, but resolution, dynamics, stage significantly improved when compared to a lot of popular amps like Valhalla 2, zdt jr, etc. Don’t forget that Frequency response and bass extension isn’t everything that people care about. (micro/macro-dynamics, transients, timbre, headstage width/depth, clarity, resolution/plankton, etc.)

    While we shouldn’t exaggerate the effect to unrealistic degree (as you mentioned), we shouldn’t underplay its effect either as good synergy and resolving amp (DNA, EC, ECP, etc) can go a long way for scalable headphones like HD6X0s. Heck, I’m immensely enjoying my HD580 + 3F more than the Focal Utopia because the pairing aligns closer to my preference.

    (I apologize for derailing the thread)
     
    purr1n, obsiCO, alucart and 10 others like this.
  3. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2016
    Likes Received:
    3,819
    Dislikes Received:
    36
    Trophy Points:
    113
    With regard to bass, keep in mind we are comparing dynamics to dynamics and not planars. While planars will probably always have moar/better bass, my comments about the 650 via Starlett is in relation to amps I've heard with the 650. So yes, there is deep, hard hitting bass, relative to most dynamics I've heard on all other amps I've heard with the exception of the Verite and Auteur.

    I'm not interested in technical definitions of bass. I am giving honest opinions of what I'm hearing from a headphone that has almost never displayed this level of slam from my experiences with it.

    This is an impressions thread, not a sound science dissertation on the Starlett or bass. Impressions are always going to be closer to emotional definitions rather than technical ones. Grain of salt, read between the lines, etc etc.

    Impression:
    an idea, feeling, or opinion about something or someone, especially one formed without conscious thought or on the basis of little evidence.
     
    Claud, Ntbm3, msommers and 1 other person like this.
  4. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2015
    Likes Received:
    10,571
    Dislikes Received:
    47
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Wtf, when did this become an HF thread?
     
  5. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Gearmaster

    Staff Member Friend
    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2018
    Likes Received:
    3,412
    Dislikes Received:
    10
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    La Mirada, CA
    @fp627 contacted me asking me if I'd like to check out some extra 6CG7 tubes he had. I hate tube rolling, but I figured that it would at least be some experience that current and future owners of the Starlett can draw upon when considering some extra tubes (also @fp627 did ask that I provide some impressions).

    The tubes sent was a Westinghouse, Sylvania, and a CBS. All the tubes are NOS, with the Westinghouse made in Japan, and the other two made in USA (someone who is more knowledgeable about tubes can correct me if I'm wrong). The tube I got with the Starlett is a NOS Westinghouse made in USA.
    • Westinghouse (Japan): Better layering than the other tubes, perceived depth of sound roughly equivalent to Sylvania. A little bloom in the bass, but no big deal and I found that I prefer a touch of bloom here. Speedy transients (no tube changed the Starlett's slightly round transients, but I like this so...). Interestingly, the Japan Westinghouse I was sent is a little louder in gain than the USA, and sounds a little more "bold." The USA one I have has longer lasting decay and is a bit more laid-back in direct comparison. Other than the noted differences, either Westinghouse tubes share the same sonic traits and similar tonality, and also have the same timbre.
    • Sylvania: A little more "bold" sounding than both Westinghouse tubes, and the sound is a bit more blended together versus layered and separated. Maybe a touch more upper midrange emphasis than Westinghouse. Also has some bloom in the bass, and I think it's a slightly bassier sound, with a little bit more roll-off on the top.
    • CBS: Out of the three, the most solid-state sounding. The least bassy, but the bass tightens up. A little bit mid-centric, but retains good technicalities. A touch slower on the transients than the other two, and a bit more loose here despite the fact the bass sounds tighter and more controlled. Still an even-sounding, good, musical tube I enjoyed listening to.
    My overall thoughts can be nicely summarized here:

    Honestly, none of tubes sounded that different; the difference between Westinghouse and Sylvania is small enough that if you didn't say anything I'd never notice a difference. CBS is the most different of those three, but differences are not huge. I wouldn't say any of the tubes I tried is better than the other. That being said, it does seem to make enough of a difference that if you have a headphone you just really love with the Starlett, I can see rolling some of these tubes as a way to squeeze a few extra percentage points in tuning your system to exactly how you want it to sound. Me however, I'm just happy that @fp627 sent me tubes that work that don't suck (I bought these tubes from him at the end because I'm stockpiling backup tubes; I want to have this amp up and running for years and years to come).
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2020
  6. Claud

    Claud Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2018
    Likes Received:
    694
    Dislikes Received:
    39
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    North Carolina
    That's the best tube to roll in the Starlett since its the input tube. If I were you, I would look for a nice old NOS RCA clear top and an old NOS Mullard , Amprex or Toshiba then call it a day. I think Donald said that tube rolling would not affect sound that much. You seem to have a good ear for tonal differences.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2019
  7. fp627

    fp627 Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2018
    Likes Received:
    648
    Dislikes Received:
    7
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    SouthernCA
    Different amp, different parts, most likely different topology nope same topology, etc. but FWIW here are impressions from when I used the same 6CG7 tubes in Stellaris mentioned by @ChaChaRealSmooth : https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/donald-north-audio-—-owners-thread.2586/page-22#post-278923

    RCA clear top is also a good 6CG7 (on Stellaris) and I've heard the same many times about Amperex and Mullard. Only problem was my RCA clear top has some intermittent oddities and did not want to send Chacha a potentially bad tube.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2019
    Ntbm3 and gridmaster like this.
  8. lagadu

    lagadu Acquaintance

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2019
    Likes Received:
    52
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    13
    Location:
    PT/DK
    Well, Donald saved Christmas in my home, I got my Starlett delivered late last week and while I'm obviously still in the honeymoon period, I've spent a lot of time these past few days listening to it so I can at the very least give some impressions when comparing it to my daily driver, the Mjolnir 2.

    [​IMG]

    Chain is: Gungnir multibit a2 gen5 > Starlett > verite open and auteur

    I'm unsure whether they all come with the same tubes but my Starlett came with an Amperex input tube, two Sylvania output tubes and a Genalex rectifier tube. Also it's a 230v version. For comparison purposes, the Mjolnir is using my favourite tubes for it: Ericsson 2c51, which are pretty damn warm for reference.

    I'll start with the two biggest differences that I noticed immediately: soundstage depth and treble.
    The depth was pretty surprising that it was that noticeable; I'm not saying that the instruments are further back or even further spaced (they are a little but it's minor), I mean that it sounds like there's a lot more space in between where they are being played and the back of the stage with the Starlett. Also this applies specifically to the depth, width isn't that far apart.
    The treble was also very surprising because based on the impressions already posted I wasn't expecting it to be as different as I heard it to be. Going back to the Mjolnir, the treble sounds less crisp and most importantly, somewhat compressed or congested, I get the feeling that it has a lot more "room" around it in the Starlett and is crisper.

    Other things I noticed that weren't as surprising as the previous two: vocals (well, mids in general) are more forward and, I imagine as consequence of it, they sound more intimate. I dislike describing things as "liquid" but there's an overall flowness to it that I couldn't help but notice. I think they sound more delicate/emotional but I suspect that's because of the forwardness of the mids. They're a pleasure to listen to though, which made taking notes down significantly hard. I tend to like my sound a little warm but despite the Starlett not being as warm it seemed not to make a difference for me.

    Bass is not as aggressive as the Mjolnir's, this could be good or bad depending on taste. One thing I was afraid of was that I'd miss out on the Mjolnir's dynamics but the Starlett is plenty punchy as well so I'm very happy that my concerns were unfounded. The Mjolnir tends to sound very taut with the bass, the Starlett is definitely softer to my ears but it doesn't seem to skip any details that I could notice.
    I also noticed something interesting: the Starlett tends to make macrodetail more noticeable. I'm not saying that I heard anything new with it compared to the Mjolnir but it definitely makes macrodetails more noticeable. Unfortunately it also is more unforgiving of recording artifacts, there's no not noticing them.

    Tonally, using the tubes I mentioned, the Starlett is less warm, a little brighter and most importantly, the mids are more forward.

    That's the sum of the notes I've been taking for the past few days I know I'm suffering from new toy syndrome but I'm really happy with it so far.

    Merry Christmas and thank you @Donald North :)

    edit: forgot to mention: all these impressions are from the XLR out, I haven't had the chance to test the TRS connection with the 120ohm impedance so no clue there.
     
  9. Ntbm3

    Ntbm3 Wow, I made it this far without being a friend?

    Contributor
    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2018
    Likes Received:
    258
    Dislikes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    53
    Location:
    Cbus
    It has been about a month with my Starlett, my ticket out of mid-fi purgatory!

    I am only echoing what you guys have already covered and described well. here is my attempt to explain what stood out the most to me.

    Chain:
    EITR -> AES adaptor Neutrik ->Sonic Frontiers SFD1-MKII or Gungnir A2 -> XLR -> Freya S 1x mode -> Starlett
    HP: HD650, 800s, LCD-X, Aeon 2

    This thing is gorgeous! I love mechanical things, especially when they are solely designed to an extreme! Fit and finish is impressive and matched my expectations. The volume knob feel is amazing.

    Quick and dirty… and most importantly:
    Can’t stop listening….. knocking out whole albums when I would normally want to jump around.

    Power and finesse… there is an intangible magic that is intoxicating… everything I throw at it just works.

    I was a little worried about bass performance with an all tube amp. My standard is LCD-X + Mjo2, which is an epic paring in itself. But the Starlett performs flawlessly, strong resolving bass performance.

    Mids/highs are exactly what I was hoping for. The only way to describe is everything sounds right. HD800s and HD650 are just outstanding with this amp.

    My favorite attribute of the Starlett's is I feel like the space it conveys. Each note is a puff floating effortlessly in the air around you… Listening with this amp is an experience!!!

    Also the adaptability of this amp is very cool. High/Low impedance headphones are no problem with the adjustable output impedance. I have spent a surprising amount of time with the LCDX on this amp.

    Synergy:
    Starlett + Sonic Frontiers SFD1-MKII is amazing, it make the Gungnir seem very forward and in your face. The SFD moves everything out in the space around you + the space the Starlett gives. Very appealing experience.

    My goal when purchasing this was I wanted to stop jumping around with gear so I took the plunge and am very happy. I look forward to just enjoying my gear as is for a long time.

    Happy New Year :)

    Edit: After adding the Pi2 AES as a source it is clear that the Starlett is incredibly resolving. There is a surprising amount of low level detail coming thought. Maybe first time really experiencing plankton.


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2020
  10. KaiserTK

    KaiserTK Acquaintance

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2018
    Likes Received:
    39
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    13
    Location:
    Irvine, CA
    I’ve had the pleasure of trying the DNA Starlett for a few weeks now, courtesy of @Donald North

    I’ve got a similar setup to one of the above posts (Usb->GungnirMB(a1)->Starlett) using Elex, Auteur, HD800S, HD6XX, and Arya. The Starlett I’m using has Gold Lion rectifier, Westinghouse branded output tubes, and Orange Globe driver.

    I had the chance to try the Stratus (v2+stock tubes) a couple months ago with the same system, and the thing that immediately stood out to me with the Starlett was that it has a more intimate and warmer sound. Of course this is off sketchy audio memory, but so far I’ve enjoyed my time with the Starlett than the Stratus. I’m on the slightly treble sensitive side, and the Stratus while ridiculously expansive in its head-stage especially using the HD800S, the treble would cause my ears to fatigue over long listening sessions. The Starlett doesn’t cause that fatigue with any of my headphones, has more mid-bass presence which I like, but retains a very similar level of clarity and detail in the mids. Still the Starlett doesn’t sound clustered by any means, and images exceptionally well with very good width (especially noticeable with the Auteur).

    My favorite headphone pairing is with the Elex. The Starlett conveys that juicy macro-dynamics of the Gungnir very well while keeping the treble and upper mids from sounding abrasive. I find the mids/vocals to be the weakest point of the Elex, but somehow on the Starlett I don’t sense that at all.
    The Auteur is a very close second, and HD6XX third.

    *I had my friend’s RME Adi-2 (v2) for comparison as well, but I preferred the Gungnir by a long shot due to how well macro-dynamics are presented on the Starlett. That being said I do like the Adi-2 the best out of all D/S Dacs I’ve tried.

    [​IMG]
     
  11. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2016
    Likes Received:
    3,819
    Dislikes Received:
    36
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Threw an RCA clear top driver tube in the mix and it's a welcome change of pace for the HD800, which was becoming a bit sterile with the Westinghouse tube that came with the amp (I also did not like the Westinghouse pair in my old T3 with said headphone). The RCA is pretty sweet. Also a slight step up in technicalities; a bit better microdynamics, resolution, more extension on both ends... and more natural/organic/wet sounding. More balanced, with a warm blanket feeling without losing clarity... in fact slightly less hazy overall. Feels like it plays better to the amp's strengths.

    Not bad for $25.

    Gonna see what swapping to a NOS Mullard rectifier does at some point...
     
  12. Claud

    Claud Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2018
    Likes Received:
    694
    Dislikes Received:
    39
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Mr. ColtMrFire heading for the slippery slope.
     
    ChaChaRealSmooth and Gaspasser like this.
  13. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2016
    Likes Received:
    3,819
    Dislikes Received:
    36
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Naw, I always swap the stock tubes because I usually find it to be an improvement. After I find something I like, I stop. Never tube rolled much with my T3, Valhalla 2 or Lyr 2. I don't see the sense in it really. Just listen to music.
     
    Jinxy245 and RobS like this.
  14. Ntbm3

    Ntbm3 Wow, I made it this far without being a friend?

    Contributor
    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2018
    Likes Received:
    258
    Dislikes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    53
    Location:
    Cbus
    I will have to look out for a decent clear top. I have read good things.... and am curious...

    General Starlett thoughts after spending another month or so with it.

    Still enjoying as much as the first time I listened to it!

    I spend most of my time using the 800s on it.

    It recently re-read the manual and noticed that SE with -6 db selected has an output impedance if 3 ohm. I have been using my lcd-x in that setting and honesty is sounds great!

    Hard to fault this amp
     
  15. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2016
    Likes Received:
    3,819
    Dislikes Received:
    36
    Trophy Points:
    113

    The RCA really fills out the bass too and adds some meat in the mid-range. All beneficial for the 800. It's a great tube.
     
    Ntbm3 likes this.
  16. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2016
    Likes Received:
    3,819
    Dislikes Received:
    36
    Trophy Points:
    113
    While I continue to pine and lust after Verite (you'll be mine soon my sweet), I've come to appreciate the HD650 on the Starlett more than I had been. Yes, the imaging still sucks, it's grainy, slow and lacking bass at times... but low level information, microdynamics are all TOTL...and it perfectly showcases the Starlett's world class layering abilities... the guitarist being in front of and to the left of the singer, who is in front of and to the right of the drummer, with each having its own sense of space, with plenty of air... that's all crystal clear and gives the performances a sense of realism, musicality and connectedness. All this is greatly aided by the Bifrost 2 with its superb staging abilities, effortless liquidity and organic naturalism.

    I had to dial back alot of the dynamat on the modded HD650, because it was becoming too lean, and I felt its thick, lush midrange magic was being lost. And that synergizes really well with Starlett. This is without a doubt an endgame amp for the (still cheap) HD650, no mods needed. The Verite is still quite a bit better, but anyone unable to afford it and "stuck with" the Sennheiser really probably wont miss the ZMF. The two actually do share a bit of dna and I can see why the 650 was an inspiration for Zach's lineup.
     
    Ntbm3 and Jinxy245 like this.
  17. Benjamin Fong

    Benjamin Fong Rando

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2020
    Likes Received:
    3
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Location:
    Singapore
    Hi, anyone have try Starlett with Yggdrasil n holo springs 2? How is the synergy like ? Would love to hear your experience. Since Starlett is warm will Yggdrasil ( more bright ) make less warm ? As for holo spring 2 ( which is warm too ) make the sound of Starlett more warmer ?
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2020
  18. famish99

    famish99 Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2017
    Likes Received:
    950
    Dislikes Received:
    7
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Dude there just aren't that many Starlett owners yet. Just buy one of the DACs Marv recommended or find a way to get a demo unit through a local dealer man.
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...-venus-r2r-dac-review.4792/page-2#post-289915
     
  19. YMO

    YMO Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2018
    Likes Received:
    2,293
    Dislikes Received:
    21
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    DUVALLL-904
    I'll say this, if you can wait for a "me love you long time" I can give another impressions of Bifrost 2 > Starlett later in the year.

    With instance gratification becoming common, not too many people are going for the wait times of getting a DNA amp.
     
    atomicbob and Ntbm3 like this.
  20. famish99

    famish99 Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2017
    Likes Received:
    950
    Dislikes Received:
    7
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    @ColtMrFire runs that setup already, but reading his thoughts probably hasn't comforted @Benjamin Fong enough or something. I think colt left thoughts on what he thought the Starlett sounded like with my NAD C510 as well, which I thought was a good pairing since the NAD runs a bit on the dry side but lacked the microdyna of the MB stuff.

    FWIW, another friend of mine, who's borrowing the NAD with the Stratus, is also liking the pairing since it helps wake it up a little.

    Edit: @Iagadu above has a good writeup of the Starlett with Gungnir Multibit a2 above. Just read the thread a little and go try some stuff.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2020
    Jinxy245, RobS, ColtMrFire and 2 others like this.

Share This Page