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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    Hah @ogodei ! You are cheating indeed!

    [​IMG]

    But can you guess the 6N1P?

    What are you using?
     
  2. ogodei

    ogodei Headphone Heaven Gatekeeper

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    Can't see actually it in the picture so it must be a Pearl Cryo Voshod 6N1P with a slanted getter. ;)
     
  3. a44100Hz

    a44100Hz Friend

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    Nice thread. These amps are beautiful. Aesthetically they massively appeal to me. Where would those of you with experience rank the DNA amps for high Z cans like the HD650 for sitting down and listening for an extended period (say, 4 albums?) Where would they rank when compared with the EC amps a la ZDS? I saw a few comparisons noting ZDS was preferred to Stratus but how about the Stellaris? Thanks!
     
  4. ogodei

    ogodei Headphone Heaven Gatekeeper

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    The Stratus, and even more the Stellaris, keeps a tight control on headphones even when using the high output impedance (either 120 or 115 ohms depending on gain). You can loosen it up a bit depending on the tubes, but, stock versus stock, the ZDS sounds more liquid overall.

    With the HD650s the ZDS sounds amazingly luscious, just a great pairing. 650s sound great with the Stratus as well but don't have the 'wow' factor for me. If those are your main cans I think ZDS is the wiser choice not only for the sound but also the cost and availability of the amp.

    I haven't done extended listening with the 650s on Stellaris but I have listened to ZMF Eikons on high-impedance out for LP listening over a few Sunday mornings. Fantastic sound, not at all fatiguing.
     
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  5. Thenewerguy009

    Thenewerguy009 Friend

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    Is it the opposite for the HD800?
     
  6. bigfatpaulie

    bigfatpaulie Tried to screw other friends while playing victim

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    You're still cheating :)

    But yes!
     
  7. ogodei

    ogodei Headphone Heaven Gatekeeper

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    Pretty much. HD800 sounds much better (to me) on the Stellaris\Stratus, retains the speed and precision its known for while taming a lot of the glare and rigidness.
     
  8. Mystic

    Mystic Mystique's Spiritual Advisor

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    Been meaning to post some brief impressions here for the last couple of weeks. I was extremely fortunate to have an extended in home demo of the Stratus last month.

    Please excuse the mess, took this literally the day after moving into my new house (which was also the day the Stratus showed up), looks much cleaner now. First thing I set up was my audio equipment naturally.
    IMG_20170903_203829.jpg

    This was the stock tube configuration with up to date upgrades. Eitr or disc player -> Gungnir Multibit -> Stratus. Primarily used my 800s and a little bit of my 650 and 600.

    Compared to my own Sonett 2 (stock tubes, all upgrades), the Stratus was a step up across the board.
    Bass - Hit harder and deeper, where the S2 was a bit more soft. Tighter bass control.
    Mids - I didn't really notice my S2 has a small depression in the upper mids until I heard the Stratus. Vocals had more realistic texture to them. Well integrated and smooth transitions from bass-mids-treble.
    Treble - More quantity and quality. Didn't sound as rolled off as the S2 can tend to sound sometimes.

    The space between instruments was more noticeable. Easier to pick out faults in the recording. Soundstage was larger, but not huge. It won't change the small soundstage of the 650 but doesn't hinder the large soundstage of the 800.

    One thing I really wanted to get out of an upgrade to my S2 was a little bit more energy and that is exactly what the Stratus delivered. Faster, tighter, more immediacy while improving clarity across the board. A definite upgrade from the Sonett 2. This was the best I have ever heard my 800 and 600. (650 was good but my preference for the 600 has been growing ever since I first got a DNA amp)

    Having owned/heard 3 of Donalds amps I have begun to notice a familiar house sound. He manages to make his amps very transparent while retaining a smoothness not usually associated with the clarity you get from these amps. That statement could sound contradictory but I think other owners of DNA amps will know what I'm trying to say.

    Donald was great talking too through all this and answering any questions I had. Can really tell the passion he puts into these amps. I plan on putting a down payment on one at the end of the year (unless a used one miraculously shows up negating my year long wait) unless Aficionado comparisons sway me towards that.
     
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  9. EeePee

    EeePee Acquaintance

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    Same as me with the Sonett. Seems to pair better than the 650 and the Sonett, and the 650 pairs better with the Mjolnir I use sometimes.

    I remember a while ago when the Stratus was being shown at a show (or meet) but not yet in production, someone said, buy the Stratus and HD600s, and be done.
     
  10. steve

    steve Rando

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    The stratus can never go wrong pairing with the 800s. The add-on is that it drives sensitive cans beautifully as well, tried my w3000, th900 with it and loved it.

    BTW is there anyone selling a stratus...
     
  11. sorrodje

    sorrodje Carla Bruni's other lover - Friend

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    Yup. We know :)

    Seems you found an opportunity to avoid the long wait :)
     
  12. Mystic

    Mystic Mystique's Spiritual Advisor

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    Any other input tubes that can be rolled other than the 6N1P?
     
  13. Donald North

    Donald North Friend

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    You can try the 6BQ7A
     
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  14. BillOhio

    BillOhio Friend

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    [​IMG]

    I think this is @thegunner100 's pic, but this amp is mine now. Apparently #18, the last one made. Having just gone from the Mjolnir2 to the Sonett 2 I feel like music is all of a sudden happening in 3 dimensions instead of 2. Now that I know what's possible I anticipate stepping up again. My Ether Flows are doing some things that I previously didn't know they were capable of.

    I wonder how much of an impact there is on the Stellaris between the standard RCA inputs vs. the balanced(?).
     
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    Last edited: Mar 31, 2018
  15. TwoEars

    TwoEars Friend

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    @BillOhio

    Donald only made 18 Sonett 2's? Damn, that's a collector's piece. I wonder how many Sonett 1's there are, I have No 48.

    As for Balanced vs RCA inputs I wouldn't expect much of a change, the RCA might even sound better. 99% of all tube amps are single ended by design on the inside. There are only a few rare beasts like the WA22 and Little Dot Mk8 which are fully balanced. But it's generally not a good idea since you'll increase the complexity and cost by quite a lot, money which is typically spent building a better single ended amp instead.

    I don't know the internal details of the Stellaris but the way balanced inputs are typically handled on a tube amp is that they are transferred to single ended by the use of a transformer. It's the same with the balanced output on the Sonett 1 and 2 for that matter, it's not a true balanced output. Think of it more like a convenient interface if you happen to have those connectors.
     
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    Last edited: Mar 31, 2018
  16. BillOhio

    BillOhio Friend

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    Yeah, I bought mine from Clemmaster for under $1K local and am really glad that I did.
     
  17. BillOhio

    BillOhio Friend

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    @Donald North said the following on Head-Fi:

    "The balanced input option adds a pair of custom Audio Note input transformers which accept and convert the balanced signal to unbalanced. From there the amplifier is single ended."

    "The unbalanced inputs go directly to the volume control and 6N1P input/driver tube. The balanced inputs are received through the Audio Note input transformers, then sent to the volukencontrol, etc. Some amp send both the balanced and unbalanced input signals through the input transformers - I don't do this in the Stellaris."

    Other than understanding that signals are routed differently within the amp I don't really know what any of this means in terms of end performance, though. Will a balanced signal that's been converted by a high end input transformer sound noticeably better than an unbalanced signal coming straight from a DAC?
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2018
  18. TwoEars

    TwoEars Friend

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    I means that the RCA inputs are theoretically the most direct and "closest to source". The balanced inputs use a high quality transformer to transfer the signal to single ended, this is the standard way of doing things in the tube world. Granted, if your source is much better balanced than single ended (for whatever reason), and there are other synergy effects in play, then maybe you'll prefer the balanced inputs over RCA. And taste is always a factor too.

    But there should be no theoretical benefit to run balanced over single ended, theoretically the RCA inputs should be the "closest to source". This is typical for the tube industry by the way, there is usually very little benefit messing with balanced when using tube amps. Good RCA is where it's at.
     
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  19. BillOhio

    BillOhio Friend

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    Awesome, then if that last $2,200 for the balanced inputs is superfluous, I think I want a single ended Stellaris. I wonder if DNA will be at CanJam.
     
  20. TwoEars

    TwoEars Friend

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    Yeah, I would totally ditch that. Single Ended Stellaris is about as end-game as it gets. And those $2200 will nearly buy a new Yggdrasil! :eek:
     
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