Donald North Audio — Owners Thread

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

  1. bigfatpaulie

    bigfatpaulie Tried to screw other friends while playing victim

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    I agree with this. The Stellaris+Utopia is an amazing combo. I keep flip flopping between them and the HD800SDR's. I can't decide which I prefer which, typically, I much prefer the HD800SDR's.

    I will be curious to see how you find the K1000's with the DNA.
     
  2. Daveheart

    Daveheart Friend

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    Wow, I completely missed that. I still think they're inconsistent, but sorry that I misread the context.
     
  3. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    After spending some more quality time with Stratus, here's my impressions of how it matches with my headphones.


    K1000:

    My initial impression of this headphone wasn't really that positive, only lukewarm at best. I was over the fence on selling it, and was at one point determined to sell it, but now I realize I could not get rid of it. Sure, its drivers may be outdated and it may resolve nowhere as well as a modded HD6XX/HD800, but its unique driver placement and adjustable soundstage is something to die for. No headphone I'm aware of could simulate this, and it only gets better with binaural recordings or 3D DSP like OOYH. People who know me know that I use OOYH all the time when listening to headphones. The K1000 is arguably the best headphone that takes advantage of such DSP effects and present the most open, airy, holographic 3D sound close to that of speakers. Of course it's still not really believable as actual speakers, but for a headphone I think this is as close as it could get. What's interesting is that AKG did at one point sell a 3D simulator/amp called BAP1000 Audiosphere for the K1000.

    So how does it pair with Stratus? Very decent for a headphone that is over 20 years old. Although it's still brighter than, say, an HD650, it is less fatiguing because the drivers are distant from your ears. The only problem is that Stratus, while being relatively powerful for a SET amp providing 1.8W per channel into 32 ohms, it would feed less than 1W into the 120-ohm K1000, and with its 74dB/mW sensitivity, the max volume would cap out at less than 104dB when the volume knob is fully open. Normally this isn't a problem with 50% of my music collection made of rather brightly-mastered rock/pop/kpop/jpop recordings that have been subject to the Loudness War, as the music gets sufficiently loud before the volume knob is turned all the way. The K1000 is now my go-to headphone for such recordings because even with such bright music it doesn't get fatiguing like the HD800 or even the H6XX does thanks to the driver placement.

    The problem is with the other 50% made of so-called "audiophile" recordings. With such music, I still don't get satisfactory SPL even at max volume, and this is when I pull out the HD800. I could try adding some gain in the digital domain via software, but doing so often causes clipping and distortion. My main complaint is that if the Stratus were more powerful, I would be able to enjoy K1000 with all the music I have. But then again, I know this is as perhaps as powerful as a DHT SET amp can get; I would need to look for a push-pull, solid-state or speaker amp if I want moar power.


    HD800 [SuperBAF + SuperDupont mod]:

    Who said the Stratus works with stock HD800 out of the box? It took modding the HD800 with dual Super mods (dampener + resonator), thick copper cable, aftermarket Shuguang 2A3C-T tubes (known for their warm forgiving sound) on the Stratus, and a Sonic Frontiers Processor 3 multi-bit DAC with UltraAnalog R2R modules (again, slightly warmer and smoother treble compared to Yggdrasil) and Amperex 6922 PQ (again and again, a bit warmer and more euphonic than their European counterparts) to make it listenable. And even then, every now and then, I enjoy the guilty pleasure of reaching out to the Stratus's IEC output with its output Z of 120 ohms. And still, at the end of the day, it's an HD800. Ugh.

    Okay, at least it has become much more listenable than its stock form. So how does it sound? The best HD800 has ever sounded to my ears. Definitely better than every EC amp I've heard including BW, ZDS and Studio (haven't heard the ECBA yet). The HD800 manages to become tolerable to my ears while retaining all its redeeming qualities such as imaging/resolution/soundstage. There is little, if any, sacrifice or tradeoff in technicalities. As I mentioned above, the HD800 is my go-to headphone for my other 50% recordings: audiophile-grade, snobby classic, jazz, female vocal stuff.

    From what I understand, the latest revision of Stratus gained an improvement in overall technicalities at a small trade-off of the liquid warmth that the amp was known for, somewhat moving toward the direction of Stellaris. Maybe this change in tonality has made it not as synergistic with the HD800 as it once was?


    HD6XX [DIY mod]

    HD6XX is essentially a sub-$200 HD650 with a dark blue tone. I thought I failed to grab one at Massdrop but got lucky enough to receive an email giving me a chance to buy one. It has replaced my modded HD650. I applied the coin mod (cutting a coin-sized hole through the foam), foam disc removal mod and dampener mod using Second Skin Audio's Damplifier Pro. Unlike my HD650, this time I didn't remove the spider cage and managed to apply DP underneath the cage by cutting it into fine pieces. It was a PITA but I got the job done.

    I didn't think the HD6XX would sound good on the Stratus, but it did. However, I still prefer it on the likes of ZDS and Studio. The Stratus/HD6XX sounded a bit too polite for my tastes. It was also surprising to see how technically superior the HD800 was on the Stratus than the HD6XX was. From my previous experience, a properly modded HD6XX was close to HD800 in terms of resolution, but on the Stratus, the modded HD800 was far ahead. With K1000 and HD800 doing their respective jobs, the HD6XX didn't really have a place here. Heck, as blasphemous as it may sound, I think the modded HD6XX has sounded better on the Schiit Jotunheim.

    On a side note, Yggdrasil/Studio driving modded HD650/6XX still remains the best headphone setup I've heard to date. Not even the Stratus driving K1000 or modded HD800 could touch that. Stellaris is probably another story.


    Code-X

    Just kidding, but I want to try this headphone SO BADLY on the Stratus! Anyone? :headbang:
     
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    Last edited: May 12, 2017
  4. brencho

    brencho Friend

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    @songmic yeah man send me your stratus and I'll plug the CodeX right into it! ;) would love to hear that combo (and with utopia for that matter).
     
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  5. bigfatpaulie

    bigfatpaulie Tried to screw other friends while playing victim

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    Great write up @songmic! Thanks for taking the time and sharing.

    I actually had the Stratus and Code-X's. It was during the same time I also had my SuSy Dynahi. The Code-X and Stratus were a better combo than one might think, but the X's were better fed by the Dynahi. I had Sophia Mesh 2A3's at the time and perhaps my feelings would have been different if with a newer/cleaning Stratus and a pair of something like EML mesh plates.
     
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  6. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    Speak of the devil. You know that last part was meant for you.
     
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  7. bigfatpaulie

    bigfatpaulie Tried to screw other friends while playing victim

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    I have a pretty stupid question, but I want to be sure. Are ORIGINAL Western Electric 275A compatible with the Stratus/Stellaris? I'm not talking about the Psvane tubes.

    I think the answer is 'no', but I want to be sure. 5v and 2.5v and all...
     
  8. ogodei

    ogodei Headphone Heaven Gatekeeper

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    Haven't used that tube but it looks like its rated for a lot less power than the stock 5U4G or any of the alternates. It might go poof.
     
  9. ogodei

    ogodei Headphone Heaven Gatekeeper

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  10. steve

    steve Rando

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    I've contacted him since I'm looking for a stratus for long, and was about to pull the trigger. Seems like his first sale was marked sold and he got another for sale too (??). Will have to confirm this...

    BTW does any one know if it's hard to set the 230v stratus to 110v? Involving any transformer change or a jump wire could do it?

    Sorry for jumping into this owner thread but if anyone is selling a stratus plz let me know...

    Thanks a lot!
     
  11. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    Don't buy that Stratus. I wanted to buy the Dave from him and a lot of things were out of place especially when he said he wants to sell the dave to get the blue mk2. Also his 009 sale uses pictures from a different sale from last year.
     
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  12. IceUul

    IceUul Friend

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    For me interesting is that the same Stratus headfi user "arrr" is selling (on photos), i bought it (same unit) one year ago from him and now it is sold to @songmic
    From headfi thread:
    "In perfect condition, what you see in the pictures is either dust or reflections"


    I have proof that this Stratus on these photos was mine:
    https://www.head-fi.org/f/threads/fs-dna-stratus-europe-230v.850938/

    As you can see from second thread, i sent the PM and bought it:
    https://www.head-fi.org/f/threads/donald-north-audio-dna-stratus-230v.803982/

    Anyway, nobody did not allow him to buy another one and use same photos from previous thread.
     
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  13. Donald North

    Donald North Friend

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    The original WE 275A has a 5V filament whereas the Stratus and Stellaris are designed for triodes with 2.5V filaments. Thus the original WE 275A is not compatible with either amp.

    http://www.tubecollectors.org/we/archives/275a.pdf
     
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  14. alucart

    alucart Facebook Friend

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    [​IMG]

    I finally received my pair of EML 2A3 mesh tubes from Jac Music - burning them in tonight, but here is my preliminary comparison to the stock tubes, essentially mirroring what others have said here and on HF:

    - Soundstage is wider, deeper and more layered - i.e. more three dimensional, much more noticeable on the HD800s, whereas the increased effect on the Utopias is less noticeable and more of a right - centre - left imaging rather than a cohesive stage like the HD800s,
    - Resolution (macro and micro) is increased on both headphones,
    - Clarity is increased (less warmth in the mids though),
    - My fear of increased brightness was unfounded - cymbals sound lovely, sparkling and extended without pain, even on the HD800s,
    - Bass is tighter - this is much more noticeable with the Focal Utopias (on the IEC setting, but on the low setting, the bass is still tight but not overwhelming) than with the HD800s, such that I'm now enjoying the Stratus with the Utopias...
     
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    Last edited: May 30, 2017
  15. sorrodje

    sorrodje Carla Bruni's other lover - Friend

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    @alucart : Am i wrong or you're using the IEC mode on your Stratus (and Utopia I guess ? )
     
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  16. alucart

    alucart Facebook Friend

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    I wasn't using the IEC mode with the above comparison, though with the stock tubes, I confess to using the IEC mode with the Utopias to see if I could increase the bass.

    My HD800 listening was with the Sennheiser balanced cable with the switch on balanced.

    EDIT: You're right @sorrodje - I was using the IEC mode! No wonder the bass was so much on the Utopias lol. I've switched it back to the low setting, and found that the bass is still tight, but not as impactful, which in retrospect was a good thing, because the mids are more noticeable now.

    In summary so far, the HD800s sound great with the EML mesh, which really show off the soundstaging properties of the HD800s, while the Utopias have a slightly less claustrophobic soundstage. Both demonstrate tighter bass to the benefit of both. Much recommended upgrade!
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2017
  17. sorrodje

    sorrodje Carla Bruni's other lover - Friend

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    Yea . IEC mode For Utopia is likely a no go. Huge impedance bump + High Z output = boombox
     
  18. bigfatpaulie

    bigfatpaulie Tried to screw other friends while playing victim

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    All the tubes finally arrived. It's going to be a late night I think.
     
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  19. ogodei

    ogodei Headphone Heaven Gatekeeper

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    Ok:

    Ok, my guess is a WE422A and Sylvania 2A3s with coil spring filaments. (Cheating, I know ) How do you find them?

    Here's my entry, going out of town next week so getting in some listening time this weekend. I havent learned how to do the 'dramatic tube lighting' images with my digital camera yet obviously.

    [​IMG][/url][/IMG] [​IMG]
     
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    Last edited: Jun 2, 2017
  20. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    WE422A for sure as it lights up the same as mine. I'm thinking psvane 275 for the power tubes with a 6N1P single wire getter.
     

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