ECP DSHA-2 balanced amplifier

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by jexby, Oct 25, 2016.

Tags:
  1. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

    Staff Member Friend JK47
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2015
    Likes Received:
    5,563
    Dislikes Received:
    45
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    gone
    First a big Thank You to @dsavitsk and @MisterRogers for delivering a ECP DSHA-2 amp to Denver in time for our SBAF micro meet!

    http://diy.ecpaudio.com/2015/07/dsha-2-headphone-amplifier.html

    this little blue rectangle of crystal clarity proved to be a revelation at first listen, am very lucky to have some extended listening time at home with DSHA-2 with this chain:
    Audirvana+ --> LPS Mutec 3+USB AES --> Yggdrasil XLR --> DSHA-2 --> HE1K balanced
    and
    Audirvana+ --> LPS Mutec 3+USB AES --> Yggdrasil SE--> Jotunheim --> HE1K balanced

    Preamble:
    DSHA-2 has been mentioned previously in the TIII amp thread, but truly this amp easily deserves a thread of it's own.
    fully welcome those from TIII thread that have commented on DSHA-2 to link their impressions here. I read those few comparisons after hearing DSHA-2 myself, and couldn't agree more on what a supremely resolving yet flowing sound this amp delivers.

    Specs:
    uh. not going to make stuff up or guess. will await Doug to edjumicate us here hopefully.

    Awesome elements of DSHA-2:
    nice compact footprint.
    gobs of power to HE1K. it's blisteringly loud at vol pot 11am.
    external power supply. not sure what's in there, or what level of power is delivered, but my simple mind likes keeping power away from the amp circuit. just in case. or for further power-only improvements down the road.
    balanced only (who needs SE anyhow? haha).
    supreme clarity, yet increased spatial presentation to allow plankton to be easily revealed with delineation.
    still incorporates musical flow and balance across the channels, not limiting music to analytical plainness.
    engaging.
    equal presentation of bass, mids, treble - no one steps upon the others.


    Comparison to Jotunheim:
    with the recent Jotun impressions flood from many of us regarding, speed, detailing, at your face presentation, bass, no distortion, power, etc
    it seems a worthy partner for comparison.

    upon initial comparison it was hard to hear major differences between these amps.
    both are lightning quick, both uber powerful, clean. low bass with impact, clean treble.

    but after a keeping each unit on overnight and focusing on background details, can now zero in on the main difference-
    DSHA-2 reveals plankton much easier, with precision imaging yet also with better flow complementing the interplay of instruments.
    this was more evident with some tracks that had background and faint acoustic guitars, DSHA-2 delineated better string reverberation and decay yet the guitars from L and R channels flowed perfectly together. in sync.

    going back to Jotun I had to "squint and focus" to pick out the same acoustic guitar string details, and when presented together they didn't sound as cohesive or playing off each other. a tad less lively.
    so in more complex or busy tracks the Jotun may overlap other elements making (buried) details more difficult to recognize or hear as clearly.

    whereas DSHA-2 delivered the finer details requiring little effort by the listener.

    Note: this might be where a few folks hear a bit of "steel" to Jotun's presentation of treble?
    perhaps treble details aren't as fully defined, yielding less clarity and thus a bit of sheen?
    (pure speculation).

    Sound stage elements:
    With HE1K and these amps I'm finding layering differences.
    1. Depth
      1. Jotun has a +1 forward level (in front of you) and
      2. 0 level (right at you) depth
      3. DSHA-2 has a bit more with a +1.5 forward,
        1. a +1 forward,
        2. a 0 (right at you) and a
        3. -1 (slight behind you) level of layering!
    2. Width: DSHA-2 delivers an additional 0.50 step increase to the left and to the right. tad wider. nothing major, sometimes not noticeable.
    3. Height: DSHA-2 adds a 0.5 step height above center and 0.50 step lower than center.
    this provides a bit larger, yet cohesive area for instrument placement.
    ie. a high hat can appear from a different location than the bass drum or even snare. this was more evident on binaural recordings that can capture a sense of 3D space during the playing.

    so to my ears, the wider/taller/deeper areas of DSHA-2 allow for "more room" for instruments to be placed and less likely to overlap or smudge the details if sonics get busy.
    as mentioned earlier, nothing is lost in terms of musicality or titled toward analytical. the sounds still flow together.

    Pairings with cans:
    yes, as with Jotun any BrightCans can be "too much" with either of these SS amps.
    some proclaim HE1K or Utopia as "too bright", which I don't hear with in short listening sessions.
    yet completely understand after extended listening on amps such as these. and thus,

    Admission:
    after a 3 hour (comparative) listening session with either of these crystal clear presentations from Jotunheim or DSHA-2 listening fatigue set in and I shut down the ears for a bit.
    I thus give YoungEars like @Hands merit badges for accuracy of brightness, maybe it just takes older folks longer to feel the effect of brightness over time vs. instantaneous recoil. ;-)


    Summary:
    unless the brightness of cans or forwardness of presentation is a complete turn off,
    one can appreciate the sonic deltas between these similar sounding SS offerings.
    with some effort by the listener Jotun delivers about 80-85% of the over all sonic bliss that DSHA-2 more effortlessly portrays without pause.

    but that last 15-20% is a kicker.
    it's hard to un-remember once additional nuances contained within your favorite tracks are easily noticed via the DSHA-2.
    both definitely cut from the same sonic cloth yet despite the slightly smaller size, the DSHA-2 is the slightly Bigger Brother of Jotunheim.
    if pressed to buy only one-final end game SS amp in my chain, DSHA-2 would win at this date.

    Note: the DSHA-2 will only be returned after @MisterRogers finds my house and camps out on the door step. for days.
    doors will remain locked until food and water are depleted.

    eager for more folks to hear this SS amp!
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2016
    ColtMrFire, brencho, zonto and 14 others like this.
  2. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

    Staff Member Friend MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    11,046
    Dislikes Received:
    39
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Colorado
    Home Page:
    reserved. mods: please reserve this space for @Hands .
     
  3. MisterRogers

    MisterRogers Ethernet Nervosa

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,518
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Aurora, CO
    Home Page:
    Thanks for the rightup Jexby - and many thanks Dsavitsky for providing the loaner!

    I've been fortunate enough to hear 3 of Dougs amps / designs (T1, TIII, BD) - but having not heard the DSHA (1), I really didn't know what to expect - apart from the comments shared in the TIII thread. It arrived the day before our meet - and since I had already started breaking down Studio for moving, I figured I'd swap it into the chain and do some listening while packing. Pavane was 'upstream', and Utopia was 'downstream'. Utopia’s claimed all of the head time since arriving. I still very much enjoy my HE1K, but Utopia’s sonic traits are very appealing.

    I left it to warm for a bit while I hauled up boxes and did some packing. When I parked Utopia on the noggin and hit play, I was immediately impressed by the drive / grip DSHA-2 had with Utopia. Plankton - check. Micro detail - check. Macro detail - in check (Utopia). Speed - check. Dynamics - check. Nothing jumped out as particularly week, and the overall tone was neutral but not dry (output transformers).

    I’ll get more time with it when we can pry it from Jexby’s cold, dead fingers - but I can say, that in the time I spent with DSHA-2 - this amp’s a winner. More to follow.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2016
  4. WNovizar

    WNovizar Facebook Friend

    Contributor
    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2016
    Likes Received:
    188
    Dislikes Received:
    13
    Trophy Points:
    43
    So how much is this cost?
     
  5. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

    Staff Member Friend JK47
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2015
    Likes Received:
    5,563
    Dislikes Received:
    45
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    gone
    i don't know actually.
     
  6. HitmanFluffy

    HitmanFluffy Hoping to see real genitals someday!

    Banned Anti-SBAF PSYOPS
    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,562
    Dislikes Received:
    15
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    Ask @dsavitsk for a quote if you want one brand new. If I remember correctly it was somewhere in the neighborhood of $2700.
     
  7. dsavitsk

    dsavitsk Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,145
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Home Page:
    $2200. Available in any color you like.

    The one being discussed uses the amorphous cobalt Lundahl transformers for gain (LL1544a). It can also be built with nickel core transformers (LL1545a) which gives a slightly warmer presentation at the cost of a slight amount of detail.
     
  8. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    5,523
    Dislikes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Northwest France
    Aluminum chassis?

    Also are you going to post more on your DIY site? I really like reading your thought process on your amps!
     
    slankoe and mawk like this.
  9. dsavitsk

    dsavitsk Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,145
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Home Page:
    It could be done in a brushed aluminum chassis - black or silver, though the knob would be silver. It could even get some wood sides added on.

    Unfortunately, I have not had much time to update the DIY stuff in a while. Hopefully I will before too long.
     
    Smitty and manatworks like this.
  10. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    5,523
    Dislikes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Northwest France
    I should have been more clear. Do you powder coat aluminum for the casing? Or are the blue panels made with stainless steel?
     
  11. dsavitsk

    dsavitsk Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,145
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Home Page:
    powder coated aluminum.
     
  12. MisterRogers

    MisterRogers Ethernet Nervosa

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,518
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Aurora, CO
    Home Page:
    DSHA-2's back for a few days before it goes back to Doug (thanks again Doug!). At our last mini-meet, I was taken with DSHA-2 driving Utopia. Fast, dynamic, micro / macro detail and wonderful musicality. Having only heard Utopia at that point with Studio, I thought Utopia's treble was a bit less 'present' than I would have liked. Absolutely not the case with the DSHA-2.

    Talking to Doug (who recently picked up some Elears), he had this to share (assumed you wouldn't mind Doug):

    "Basically, the Focals behave a lot more like a traditional dynamic speaker in terms of impedance while pretty much every other headphone doesn't. That means that output impedance makes a big difference and really needs to be kept to a few ohms. In essence, the headphone impedance creates a voltage divider with the Zout. If the Zout is 20 Ohms, at most frequencies, 80% of the signal goes to the phones while 20% is lost to the circuit. But at 50Hz the impedance spikes from 80 to 300R meaning that ~94% of the signal goes to the phones, enough to make them super bassy and a bit sloppy.

    It may be that the DSHA2 is the sweet spot for Focals due to the low Z out."


    One other snippet from Doug - helps us all understand the differences between his various amps:


    "(DSHA-)2 is buffer -> step up transformer -> output buffer (so kind of like a differential Black Diamond).

    (DSHA-)3 is step up input transformer -> buffer -> output transformer (so like the original in topology, but with upgrades throughout). Advantage of this is that OPTs allow for impedance matching and a higher load for the amp to drive, increase the current to low Z phones, and offer protection for the phones. In practical terms, it tends to make the amp a little fuller and warmer sounding.

    For a combination of the above - input and output transformers, plus an interstage for gain, I have the Ravenswood (DSHA4)".


    Listening to DSHA-2 this morning, I can tell you I'll own a DSHA-2 or DSHA-3 very soon.

    Stellar work as usual Doug!
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2016
    bengo, slankoe, brencho and 9 others like this.

Share This Page