Donald North Audio — Owners Thread

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by Huxleigh, Aug 12, 2016.

  1. Huxleigh

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

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    Figured that @Donald North deserved some recognition on SBAF for his exemplary handiwork. I own the original Sonett, and have feelings toward it that are distinctly, ahem, inappropriate for a piece of audio equipment. :oops: To date, it's the most perfect amplifier that I've ever heard with the HD 600. Simplicity, midcentury modern, minimalist... each of these descriptors can be applied to Don's unique design aesthetic with equal veracity.

    I know that I'm not the only person with an abiding affection for these beautifully retro headphone amps. Who else is out there? :)

    Here's a daytime shot of Sonett #27 for your enjoyment. Captures the "Holy f**k, that's blue" quality. It shifts with the light.

    Photo Aug 13, 11 59 43 AM.jpg

    Edit: Newly arrived Sonett 2, serial #15. :cool:

    Photo Dec 04, 1 47 23 PM.jpg
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2016
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  2. Pyruvate

    Pyruvate Friend

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    I believe @No_One411 has a DNA stratus that he brought to the Bay Area meet on March.

    Was your Sonnett from a HF listing? I remember seeing one earlier this year and was really tempted...
     
  3. insidious meme

    insidious meme Ambivalent Kumquat

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    A craftsman at work.

     
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  4. Xecuter

    Xecuter Brush and floss your amp twice a day

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  5. Huxleigh

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

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    I posted a WTB listing on HF for a Sonett, as I was eager to ditch the Woo WA7 that I had (briefly) tried. Arranged a no-cash trade for a minty fresh Sonett. Unmodded, too, which is something of a rarity. Needless to say, I came away from that deal quite pleased. ;)

    I'd actually first listened to the Sonett back in 2010 when I owned HeadAmp's GS-1. Being inexperienced, I preferred the crispy, slamming presentation of the GS-1 at that time to the Sonett's more evenhanded approach. So I passed on it... but never forgot its pristine sound. Fast forward to this year and, having had the opportunity to perform the same side-by-side comparison again, I wound up keeping the Sonett. To be sure, there was still some vacillation on my part. I'm just lame that way. :rolleyes: But patience revealed that the Sonett was the better amp of the two with the HD 600.

    Now I have an objet d'art that I enjoy on a daily basis. Pretty sweet, I think.

    Edit: Paging back through my purchase history, I noticed that I joined up on SBAF at about the same time I received the Sonett. Interesting...

    @insidious meme: Looks to be the upcoming Stellaris that he's tinkering with, there. Honestly, I'm surprised/impressed that Don's still able to find the time to foster DNA given the considerable demands on his time and energy that RIVA likely requires.

    You can't see it in my picture, but there's actually a Turbo X in the room. :p It's my go to device for casual listening. Fanboy, much?
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2016
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  6. Huxleigh

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

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    The aforementioned happy couple.

    Photo Aug 12, 10 47 33 PM.jpg
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2016
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  7. Priidik

    Priidik Friend

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    @IceUul has a Stratus.
    Glorious sounding amp, and actually pretty in real life.
    I was not sold on it's appearance in pictures, tbh.
     
  8. bazelio

    bazelio Friend

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    Yeah, you know, I never "got it" with the DNA color schemes until this picture. What a fantastically executed retro/50's look that has. I'd love to hear it some time.
     
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  9. RKML0007

    RKML0007 Friend

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    [​IMG] Reminds me of a nice Lista or Snap-On cab
     
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  10. insidious meme

    insidious meme Ambivalent Kumquat

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    That was Donald at the last SBAF meet. He brought the pre prod Stellaris to have people listen and give some feedback on it with the tubes that he brought. Listening to he and @Marvey talk audio was fascinating. I would expect Donald to be at the next SBAF meet if he wasn't busy with work.
     
  11. RAZRr1275

    RAZRr1275 Acquaintance

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    I do have a Stratus. Using Shuguang 2A3C-T Natural Sounds, a KR VT-244 and a Pearl Cryo Reflektor 6N1P. It's absolute magic with the HD800s and it's also fun to use with the LCD-2s and HD650s when I want something on the warmer/smoother end of things. Contrasts very well to the ZDT I have.
     
  12. Huxleigh

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

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    That's cool. :) Don seems like a hobbyist himself, which is something that I appreciate. Doubtless his and Marv's casual audio convo would've been far beyond my ken.

    Speaking of tubes, does anybody have a recommendation for a relatively affordable 5AR4/GZ34 rectifier for my Sonett? I've tried the Mullard reissue, but didn't feel like it offered any improvement over the stock JJ, just a different flavor. NOS Mullards strike me as overpriced, although I'm not averse to spending a decent chunk of change. I've already replaced the Sovtek 6H30 with the NOS Reflector 6H30p-DR, which is the only "upgrade" that I'm aware of for that type.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2016
  13. No_One411

    No_One411 Fired by Jude

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    That is correct. I do have a Stratus, and it's awesome.

    I'm currently happy with the stock tubes. I'll probably upgrade the output tubes to KR 2A3s in the future. I got 2 bad batches of EML Mesh tubes and decided against pursuing those further... The 6BQ7A substitutes are infinitely rollable, and I haven't found a rectifier that wasn't mechanically noisy other than the Sylvania 5931.
     
  14. Xecuter

    Xecuter Brush and floss your amp twice a day

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    I would recommend against KR 2a3. Unless you can find NOS blue glass.
    The quality control is apparently appalling at the moment (from inside source).

    I just got a quad of nos avvt 2a3m which will land soon. Hopefully i get a few years out of them.
     
  15. SingSing

    SingSing Facebook Friend

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    that pertttty blue, classic dna
     
  16. Huxleigh

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

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    Here's a few more (old) glamour shots for you gents. These are the most color accurate of the lot. The blue has more of a pastel hue, as you can see.

    Photo May 07, 7 28 15 PM.jpg Photo May 07, 7 27 40 PM.jpg Photo May 07, 7 27 49 PM.jpg Photo May 07, 7 29 40 PM.jpg Photo May 08, 8 36 32 AM.jpg

    Come on, fellow DNA owners! Step it up. ;) Outside of Eddie Current, amps don't get much more photogenic than Don's gems.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2016
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  17. deniall83

    deniall83 Acquaintance

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    [​IMG]

    Loved my Sonett. Unfortunately there wasn't enough gain for my purposes but the sound was sublime. It was the amp that finally made me understand the appeal of tubes. Eventually I'll get another DNA amp.
     
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  18. Smitty

    Smitty Too good for bad vodka - Friend

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    I've got a Sonett and a Stratus, both are very nice amps. The Sonett is nice, but the versatility of the Stratus is amazing.
     
  19. Huxleigh

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

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    Versatility isn't the Sonett's strong suit. But it rocks with high impedance cans! :headbang: In that narrow field, how far behind the Stratus would you say it falls, @Smitty? And I'm curious, what mods have you given your Sonett?
     
  20. Smitty

    Smitty Too good for bad vodka - Friend

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    Haha, I actually meant to write stratus there, that's what I get for multitasking while on a conference call :oops:

    My sonett has PSU mods from @MisterRogers , who is the previous owner. Mostly some bypass caps, there's not really room to shove some NOS oil cans in that chassis. I think it might have a special tube for the gain stage, can't remember off the top of my head.
     

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