Donald North Audio — Owners Thread

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

  1. Donald North

    Donald North Friend

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    My favs have been vintage Sylvania dual flat rectangular plates, but quite frankly, I now prefer the Psvane Acme 2A3s. Curious to try the Takatsukis.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2023
  2. k4rstar

    k4rstar Britney fan club president

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    yup, this is very true and an area where small tweaks under the hood to component values can make the difference between sounding tense and forward to relaxed and comfortable. I would personally only venture to use the 6N1P the amp was designed for.
     
  3. ogodei

    ogodei MOT: Austin AudioWorks

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    On the 2A3s the current ones seem to be the best. I have ancient Fivres, Cunninghams, Arcturus, Nippons, etc., Not great. 2A3s from the 40's and 50's have disappointed as well; Sylvania spring-tops, RCAs, etc. Best have been Shuguangs, LinLai, Psvane. The current EML plates and mesh are harsher, or more 'focused' as Marv puts it.

    'Vintage sucks' is NOT true for the rectifier. Older 5U4Gs , U52s, etc, seem to do fine and I loved 1940's 422As on the Stratus.

    I haven't rolled the driver much due to lack of options so no opinion to offer there.
     
  4. bigjako

    bigjako Facebook Friend

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    I currently use the Acme 2a3’s but get great results with vintage RCAs, k4rstar’s Canadian-made Westinghouse, GEs and my other favorites, NECs.

    I do have a JJ 2a3 which is the warmest, bloomiest 2a3’s I’ve ever heard. They’re not like the typical JJ sound, which is think trash. I read that they took over an original factory in Eastern Europe and just kept making them. They sound like mini-300b’s to me, very lush and boomy. But the detail suffered a lot, so they’re boxed up. Donald heard them when he tuned my Stratus up and commented favorably on them.

    I suspect you won’t like the sound because of the sacrifices in transparency, but it’s the warmest 2a3 I’ve heard, to the point of being muffled (but not low quality, if that makes sense).

    I’d be happy to send them to see if they warm things up for you.
     
  5. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    Still using Acme 2A3 over various vintage 2A3 after more than a year and don't get any sort of harshness. Also, FWIW, when I heard the Stellaris at the Austin meet, and I don't think that hotel had particularly good power, I didn't get bad harshness there either. EDIT: RD this makes me think the harshness may be something else other than tube choice.

    Generally speaking, I would also agree that the rectifier can change the sound of this amp a lot. Not just different 5U4G, but switching to a different family of rectifiers as well.
     
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  6. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    so I, like the idiot I am, ordered every new production 2a3 tube I could find even on Aliexpress, and put it all on Paypal credit (until I can sell some amps I bought previously to try) ,except for the KR 2a3 because I suspect at that price they are linear and not the more romantic (or more H2 Distortion) that I'm looking to add to the Stellaris but I'm hoping someone will lend me one so I can hear every single new production 2a3 tube on the market. I got the JJ 2a3-40 in the mail from TubeDepot and I'm liking them so far with a *redacted. to avoid "Holy Grail* 5U4G rectifier, which is also lush but also the most spacious and resolving of any 5U4G I've heard. And right now a Westinghouse 6BQ7A.

    I also ordered every 6BK7B tube available on ebay and I love the Sylvania's I wish I tried them sooner I didn't know about the 6BK7B but the Sylvania's are too bassy for these 2a3's. All the 6BK7B's have a nice 3 dimensional, lush, resolving sound to them though, I like all of them, but the GE and CBS I've gotten in the mail so far are too bright. Hopefully one of the others will work that haven't come yet. I'm not looking forward to all this tube rolling at all. so many options when all these 2a3's come! ahhhh

    I've also discovered that not all Brimar 6BQ7A's sound the same. I had been testing the same Brimar tube this whole time and it is very bright, surprisingly so for a Brimar. It has no lettering left, but the listing said "made in the UK" so I assumed it was the old vintage and a good example. But I went through some tubes that @RestoredSparda sent me and found a Brimar 6BQ7A I had missed and it has all the lettering intact with the BVA logo and it has much much less treble. Exciting to have another warm 6BQ7A.

    Is this something known about the Brimar 6BQ7A's, that there is variation or different versions? If so, what should I be looking for? Maybe I'll take pictures and post them for comparison later.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2023
  7. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    Donald said the 5U4G was the only rectifier robust enough to work in the Stratus/Stellaris. But that the Sophia Electirc Aqua 275B seemed to work according to owner's experiences. What other rectifiers are you thinking of?

    I think the differences in experiences and impressions and the "tightness" for "flatness" or "sterile" quality along with the harshness and brightness is probably caused by synergy with headphones. I imagine @Donald North tuned the Stellaris with the HD650 because I imagine it sounding really good with them. I think these big transformers, well I don't know enough about engineering to speak in any technical sense, but I think it may be something like damping factor. My RD-S12 sounds like it's being pushed too hard, similar to when an ortho is over damped. The diaphragm isn't able to move as freely as it could and you wind up loosing a lot of resolution and nuance and subtlety. all orthos have an ideal damping spot, too little and the diaphragm can't move fast enough to keep up with the signal, but too much and the drivers get restricted and also can't move freely enough to reproduce the whole signal. My RD-S12 doesn't need a lot of control/grip over the drivers, they're good as they are. But the HD650 does need it and I imagine thrives off of it. I also imagine Audeze's will sound very very good with this amp with the tuning I'm starting to get out of it. But I can't use full size headphones right now. I'll have to have Josh come over and check it out again. Last time he said it was more rssolving than his Stratus V3 but the tone was still off a bit. But I've worked it better now I think.

    It could also be that I'm a bit of an H2 whore and this amp is too clean for my tastes and I'm trying to add distorting tubes to a very well designed amp that has little distortion.

    I am being stupid wasting money on tubes, I should look into other amps instead, I'm for some reason obsessed with the potential resolving ability of this amp being a confessed resolution whore and there also arent' a lot of tube amps quiet enough for the RD-S12. I bet @ColtMrFire 's Moth Zana Deux photo would sound wonderful but I know it makes a lot of noise from previous owners of that amp.
     
  8. RestoredSparda

    RestoredSparda Friend

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    I think you are getting closer to where you want to be. It's taken me about 6 months of trial and error to be at a point with Stratus V3 that I don't want to change anything. Any other tubes I've tried besides what I'm using right now (in this specific input, rectifier and power combo) does not sound enjoyable to me. To the point where I would have sold this amp if I hadn't found these specific tubes that work for me, IMO.

    It takes a bit of time and persistence I find to get to your preferred sound, but it's worth it! Just don't go CRAZY on the tube train, have faith and take it slow.

    The chase to the JUST RIGHT tubes almost killed me off tubes completely. So far I'm still in the tube amp camp, but if I end up not finding replacement tubes that work for me when these die I'm saying F it, selling and just enjoying a MJ3 instead. I'm here to enjoy music not suffer from nervosa.

    Also, @rhythmdevils I concur on similar 6BQ7A, as well as 6BK7B, even in the same family like Brimar, can sound very different depending on the year and usage. I had like 5 of them and they all sounded different. Some very lean and tight and lacking bass, and others more full sounding.

    I just got the TAD 5U4G and don't really like it. It's really clean sounding but sort of lean and sharp compared to my old tubes. Doesn't have that magic 3D imaging of old tubes either.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 3, 2023
  9. KenAR

    KenAR Acquaintance

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    I have been quietly reading the last few pages of posts regarding the Stellaris and some of the commentary around the V3 vs. V4 Stratus. I am a bit perplexed as to the talk of wetness or lushness. I own a V4, and have heard the V3 and Stellaris, and also the Starlett. None of them sounded wet or lush, nor are they dry like an EC amp.

    I have heard tube amps with those traits and they are usually from Ampsandsound, a custom 300B, and an OTL.

    Also, DNA amps are known to work best with dynamic drivers. Orthos sound sluggish and dead, while IEMs and a tube amp sounds like insanity. Sorry if that is a bit harsh but come on now? Using an $7k tube amp for IEM's is a bit ridiculous when most IEM's are efficient/sensitive enough to use a more appropriate option.

    Of all the tube amps I have tried, owned, borrowed, etc. DNA sound great with stock tubes, rolling a few here and there are like small changes to get just a bit extra out of them. I have rolled a lot of tubes in my amp, more out of curiosity, no where near the level of RythemDevils buying every new production 2A3, god bless you for doing that!

    What is my point? I am quite perplexed at the direction this thread is going, before I bought and fell in love with DNA I read through this thread many times. If I was reading the recent posts today as a newbie, I would run away from DNA as it puts forth a narrative where one has to bend over, twist around and wait for their head to magically spin in circles before it will sound "good" Please friends, let's not over exaggerate the tube rolling aspect, or at the very least put into context something as simple as the headphones best suited for DNA are dynamic driver headphones as that is what Donald uses to tune each amp with, and are his favorites.
     
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  10. internethandle

    internethandle Almost "Made"

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    I mean, it’s just a few posts on a few pages at the tail end of a thread that gushes praise on DNA amps. They’re popular here, and if the hypothetical newbie didn’t take the time to read the rest of the thread, sure, they could get that impression, but SBAF is the sort of small community where I think most of us understand rhythmdevils is on a mission to find the “perfect” amp for his modded headphones and IEM’s and is not a typical use case, necessarily.
     
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  11. Erroneous

    Erroneous Friend

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    We left "ridiculous" behind long ago. We're insane people trying to squeeze out the last 5% from products no reasonable person would own.

    If a $7k tube amp is ridiculous for IEMs, is it also ridiculous for a $200 pair of dynamic driver headphones?

    Everyone at this level does this because they're passionate about it, not because they're reasonable.
     
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  12. loadexfa

    loadexfa MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    To me the V3 Stratus sounds "neutral" but I've read others indicate it has some wetness. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    In my experience, this varies where orthos are concerned. Though more often than not I'd agree with your assertion.

    Whitney's goal is maximum resolution and the Stellaris is known for that. I get the output is designed for full sized drivers but there are times you need to stretch things to get the best result. Sometimes people use speaker amps for headphones for the same reason, especially when the headphones are very demanding.

    To my ears the changes were not small. This is usually the blessing/curse of tube amps. You can change the sound to tune it better for your preferences. And you can waste a ton of money getting there, or even worse, never getting there. I do agree my Stratus sounded great with stock tubes and if you (speaking generally, not to you specifically KenAR) are able to stick with that rather than waste a bunch of money on trying different tube variations ... more power to you! Unfortunately I'm not one of those people, I need to know how much better it can get.

    This isn't unique to DNA, this is part of owning a tube amp (with some rarer exceptions where the tubes make no difference).

    The DNA web site claims that his amps also work well for orthos and they are not OTL. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I haven't tried many orthos on my Stratus and most of the time agree with what you said in the beginning of your post. BUT, to my ears/taste, I have never heard the RD-4 sound better than it does on my V3 Stratus. I've tried many tube and solid state amps and eventually concluded I already had one of the best options, no need to keep searching. I do hope Whitney can tune the Stellaris (with tubes) enough to make both of us happy, I would love a significantly more resolving Stratus.
     
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  13. RestoredSparda

    RestoredSparda Friend

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    Yes, rolling every tube ever made is not needed to enjoy a DNA amp. However, a lot of us have a specific sound in mind and lust after that with tube swaps. I think it is safe to say most of us are that crazy as we frequent a forum for listening to headphones.

    To clarify my stance, I spent 6 months chasing more body and warmth as I had fallen in love with my v2 Stratus and sold it for a v3. They are very different sounding in regards to clarity, body and warmth. I regretted moving to v3 as v2 was much more my preference. However, with the right tubes (some even cheaper than stock) you can get the best of both v3 and v2 I feel.

    This is exactly how I feel about a stock Bottlehead Crack with and without Speedball. Vastly prefer without Speedball, and then tube roll to taste.

    I don't think DNA amps are great for orthos either, but hey, it's @rhythmdevils money and amp and he can play around if he wants. There is something kind of cool about a tiny IEM being driven by a giant tube amp.
     
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  14. loadexfa

    loadexfa MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    SO STRONGLY AGREE. We spend absurd amounts of money for incremental improvements.
     
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  15. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    Will PM you. IIRC, 3 different types of rectifiers, but I remember that I gave one of the 3 to another non-local to me member here and don't remember what the tube was. If I'm remembering wrong, the 3rd one didn't exist.

    All 3 were more linear sounding, more akin to a 5AR4 but not quite 5AR4 sounding, than a 5U4G.

    Quoting because agree. I think the only real difference at this point is where "too much / too far" is for everyone - $100 spent on extra drinks at a meet (or gas, food, parking, etc), $1k in tubes or $10k in tubes, $20k in wires, $30k in random isolation equipment, or $100k for a custom power transformer at the street level into your home along with a well implemented solar system that *can* (but is not guaranteed to) provide cleaner power. And this doesn't even include the time we spend on this stuff.

    I will say that the closer I've gotten to "what I want" in this hobby, the less motivated I feel to spend $$$ on this or that for the sake of "trying it". In other hobbies, I realized before starting that it would be impractical to chase "perfection" and I just drew a cutoff point in my mind before starting. Impractical as by the time you finish all of your "super duper best testing" that was thoroughly conducted following all of the best DoE (design of experiments) procedures and associated statistical theory, you've already worn out all of the associated equipment you wanted enjoy in the first place and the only thing to do from there is to spend more money to start all over... actually, I guess you could technically say the same for some tube families, components, and amplifier designs.
     
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  16. KenAR

    KenAR Acquaintance

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    I have not heard the RD-4, but have a friend who has. I have heard the LCD-4, and that is for sure an exception on the ortho side. It sounded very very good, I have to think the 200 ohm spec is playin a role in this.

    While I don't disagree on tube rolling, I have a box full of former rectifiers collecting dust and had to make the leap of faith on an Elrog to be satisfied with a significant difference from the various 5U4G tubes out there, even the venerable and expensive U52.

    If someone has the time, and the memory more power to you. I get frustrated from tube rolling as it takes a lot of time to sort through, and then I focus on trying to pull out nuances I most likely would overlook if I am getting lost in the music.

    I would surmise that DNA amps were once enjoyed and recent posts exposed their finicky nature, that is one take of many that a newbie could assume. Not only would they not understand the goal from RD, and yes I understand the vibe on SBAF is basically to let newbies assimilate or they can F-OFF. Unfortunately there is not many places online with valuable DNA impressions, this is the best place for it.
     
  17. loadexfa

    loadexfa MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    I agree stock sounds good with my Stratus too and the impedance is probably a big factor.

    Yeah, selling your used tubes helps though you still lose a lot due to discounting them. I am one of many that loves the Elrog rectifier, if you're willing to spend the money I think it's really good.

    Not that this was directed at me but to be very clear for anyone reading, DNA amps are far from being finicky. They are very high quality with a unique presentation regardless of tubes used. The people using them are the finicky ones. As I indicated in a previous post, this goes with tube amp territory. If you have any neurotic tendencies, THEY WILL COME OUT. :eek:
     
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  18. KenAR

    KenAR Acquaintance

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    This made my day, thank you!:D
     
  19. RestoredSparda

    RestoredSparda Friend

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    Hell yes!

    To be completely transparent I suffer from OCD, but medication and self-implemented exposure therapy has turned my life around hugely in the last 2 years. Before I had killed off all my hobbies of enjoyment due to need of perfection and tweaking.

    Good audio has challenged me, especially tube tweaking, but it's a good way to do exposure therapy as I listen to music and ignore any urges to fix the sound.

    Obviously I don't always succeed but I now enjoy my hobbies 90 percent of the time instead of only 5 percent of the time.

    I'm a tweaker at heart and love to mess with things.

    All that said, DNA amps are incredible, Donald is one hell of a talented and good-hearted guy and SBAF is a good place to shoot the shit about neurotic tube intricacies and other stuff.

    As @loadexfa said, "If you have any neurotic tendencies, THEY WILL COME OUT."

    I don't see any of the last 2 pages of comments as a dig on DNA amps. Just people sharing their crazy tube journey just like any other tube amp thread.
     
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  20. dubharmonic

    dubharmonic Friend

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    @RestoredSparda audiophile listening is a mindfulness exercise! It can help with anxiety and stress.
     

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