ECP DSHA3F Ravenswood 3F

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by purr1n, Jan 22, 2019.

  1. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2016
    Likes Received:
    4,828
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    [​IMG]

    This is the kind of amp I imagine coming out of the replicator in Star Trek after you say "computer... I need a tonally perfect headphone amp." It might just give you the DSHA 3F.

    @MisterRogers was generous enough to loan me this... freak of nature. I will write-up some kind of review soon, but intial impressions have left me speechless.
     
  2. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

    Friend Contributor
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2015
    Likes Received:
    2,963
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Loaner pretty please! :D
     
  3. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2016
    Likes Received:
    4,828
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    [​IMG]

    Big thanks to @MisterRogers again for loaning me this special piece of gear.

    Unfortunately I'd sold my Gungnir Multibit a few weeks ago for another purchase so I wasn't able to use it the last few days with the amp. But luckily I sold it to @famish99 who lives nearby and we'll be meeting up Thursday at his place along with @Joshvar to have a listen to the 3F and a bunch of other stuff at which point I'll be able to hear the Gungnir Multibit and 3F as a pair.

    @famish99 did loan me his NAD C510 to use as a DAC, but the tonality really wasn't my thing so I didn't use it. I'd bought a modi 3 recently and while it's excellent I ended up preferring the RCA outs of my Onkyo C7030 CD player with it's warmish, smooth Wolfson DAC and it is quite good in the technicalities department. Not Gungnir Multibit levels but still very good for the price I paid. Modi is a little too claustrophobic in comparison.

    Anyway this is a killer beast of an amp. Fast, clean, smooth, very resolving, lively as fuck. Has great tube amp qualities. The woodwork is fantastic... aesthetically it's very well designed. Anyone would be lucky to own it.

    Well mastered stuff is simply to die for. Daft Punk's Random Access Memories was a revelation, with Lose Yourself to Dance being one of the best listening experiences I've ever had, full stop...the song's wonderful sense of rythm, and juggling all the simultaneous musical elements so that each is crystal clear but not drowning out one or the other, all harmonically linked until they crescendo... it's a uniquely distinct sense of timing and flow I've just never heard before. The 3F really FLOWS. And it has a stunning sense of control and focus.

    But be forewarned. Just because the 3F has all the qualities of a great tube amp, it is still solid state and sounds like solid state. It does not sound like a tube amp, so if you're not a solid state fan, I don't think this is gonna convert you (though I could be wrong). You may enjoy it initially but after the fairy dust wears off, you may grow disinterested. After living with amp for a few days, it reaffirmed my love of (good) tubes, and made me really consider my preferences. And it gave me newfound appreciation for my maxxed Torpedo 3, which isn't far behind in technicalities, but has the tube sound I've come to love... ultimately I prefer the T3 over the 3F. At this high a level it's going to come down to preferences anyway.

    But it's an embarrassment of riches and there's no really loser or winner here. And I'm grateful I got to sample some amazing gear because of this community. I have a feeling no matter which ECP amp you get (depending on preferences), it will satisfy thoroughly. Doug is a really special designer and deserves all the kudos he can tolerate.

    3F vs. maxxed T3 (12AZ7 tubes), HD600

    3F is a bit more articulate... more resolution. You can hear a bit deeper into the mix. Voices in particular are slightly more expressive. Raspiness, seduction, throatiness... all more apparent. It is actually a fantastic amp for vocals. Nat King Cole was jawdropping... KD Lang never sounded sexier... Jeff Buckley's strange, otherworldly voice was more... well, otherworldly. I'm sure a TOTL DAC would highlight this even more.

    I wanna say 3F is clearer but it's not as "airy" as T3. What I mean is the images are slightly more apparent on the 3F, but I think this is where good tubes win out with a wonderful sense of AIR. Stage size on 3F though is larger and more pushed back. T3 is more intimate (or claustrophobic depending on your point of view). Separation is a little better on the 3F.

    3F has slightly sharper leading edges but not sharp as in strident or biting... T3 has a slightly more rounded presentation and softens the blows a bit. SS vs tubes?

    3F has slightly better microdynamics. You can sense small gradations of volume a little better leading to a slightly more refined presentation... not a big difference though.

    3F has more plankton... all the musical bits of information that give you a clearer window into the mix were noticeably more apparent. Not a massive difference but noticeable.

    3F is the more technical titan. T3 feels like its more emotional little brother. But that's probably selling T3 a little short honestly.

    While T3 seems a little more mid-range focused, 3F doesn't emphasize any one frequency. In that way it is EXTREMELY tonally even...this is probably it's biggest selling point and the most striking thing about it. Just no fat whatsoever. Nothing out of place. Nothing "wrong". That's why I mentioned the Star Trek replicator in my last post... the amp is just stunningly even and precise, while never sounding sterile, and somehow retaining a liquid, euphonic musicality.

    But the 3F and T3 are close. They both have the ECP "house sound". Both extremely lively and engaging. But I find myself more emotionally invested in music on the T3. This is probably more of a SS vs tubes thing rather than the 3F doing anything wrong, as it is still incredibly compelling in the way it presents the music. I was still emotionally invested in its presentation, it's just that it was a bit more cerebral in nature. But if you're a SS fan, I suspect you'd be hard pressed to find better.
     
  4. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

    Staff Member Friend Contributor
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2015
    Likes Received:
    7,570
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    gone
    this whole "3F vs. T3" conclusion with a Onkyo CD player is a complete short cut,
    who the hell runs a TOTL amp this way?
    if the Onkyo has RCA outputs, how did you connected it to a 3F with XLR inputs?

    should be a retraction of the above until the 3F is fed with a balanced DAC and include some headphone of merit.
    don't cripple the amp for the sake of immediate impressions.
     
  5. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2016
    Likes Received:
    4,828
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Well, I could've told @MisterRogers to fuck off with his offer because I didn't have the Gungnir Multibit ATM (which I am planning on getting back soonish but not soon enough), but luckily I didn't.

    I used SE to balanced cables approved by @TomB , who I talked to beforehand.

    As far as DAC, as I mentioned, I'll be hearing it with the Gungnir Multibit soon, which I'm sure will make an impact. If anything changes, I'll be sure to make a note of it. But there is already a review from someone earlier who was using the Gungnir Multibit if one needs to know how it performs with a better DAC.

    Headphone of merit? HD600 is famous for being quite resolving. Not 800 levels but it is known to scale quite a bit with TOTL amps and is a justifiably end game headphone depending on preferences.

    On a personal note, I feel blindsided, and unfairly judged (and frankly quite turned off by a place I thought was welcoming). I wanted to be proactive in reviewing something I was gifted with in order to add to the discussion, and there is no guarantee I will hear it with the Gungnir Multibit. What if something comes up and I can't make it? And I have a limited amount of time with the 3F. I feel like as long as you're honest with what you're reviewing something with, people can make their own judgement about whether or not it's of value. THESE ARE MY OWN PERSONAL OPINIONS. You're free to ignore everything I said if it's not up to standard.
     
  6. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

    Staff Member Friend MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    12,245
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Colorado
    Home Page:
    Don't worry about @jexby. His ears have an ENOB of -2.
     
  7. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophileâ„¢

    Friend MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2016
    Likes Received:
    10,222
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    East Coast
    While I found your impressions very interesting and insightful, I honestly don't think you handled the amp with enough cautions.

    When an amp accepts only balanced inputs, it's fairly reasonable to assume differential amplifications -- this means such amps sometimes (if not always) use three different signals (ground, positive/negative phases) for each channel. The amp may work with unbalanced signals.. as DSHA-3F has a transformer-gain stage. However without fully knowing how the amp operates, those uses should be discouraged, particularly for such an expensive loaner unit.

    I don't think DSHA-3F fed from unbalanced sources could likely destroy the amp.. but safety concerns remain.

    Additionally, it is rather likely to lose some differential operation benefits, depending on ways how differential operation is implemented.

    What I'm saying is not about source quality but that some 'fully balanced' (balanced and differential) amps are not designed to operate with unbalanced inputs.

    ^
    Non-issues. My bad.

    Refer to
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2019
  8. k4rstar

    k4rstar Britney fan club president

    Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2016
    Likes Received:
    6,544
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    Lame post. The Onkyo is a great CD player. No one should be retracting their reviews because they didn't use @jexby approved sources and distorted woodphones.

    Lame post. The transformer input is inherently differential and there is no issue with using RCA to XLR cables in this case. You insult @ColtMrFire's intelligence by assuming he would do anything to damage a loaner unit without consulting the owner and manufacturer.
     
  9. Elnrik

    Elnrik Super Friendly

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2017
    Likes Received:
    8,951
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Denver CO
    Home Page:
    Not to add fuel to the fire, but I'm with Jexby on this one.

    The reason, in my experience, is practical. I took the RCA outs from my Gungnir Multibit and used an rca to balanced cable into my JBL LSR monitors, and it was night and day difference: half the magic immediately disappeared. I don't use them that much, so it's not a huge deal to me. This may not be a perfect example, but it's clearly illustrates that connection tomfoolery can easily affect sound.

    While I haven't heard a T3, I have heard the EC Aficionado. I've also read quite a bit about the t3 as I was interested in purchasing one a while back. From that reading, I doubt many would say the T3 is the better amp overall versus the Aficionado. An excellent amp, sure, but superior, no. Yet those who have heard the 3F and EC Aficionado have said they are both amazing, with one being only slightly better than the other in minor ways. It seems obvious to me that simple deductive reasoning in applying that information to Colt's review indicates the DAC/CD RCA connection method used does have a role to play in what he heard.

    I think Colt's review has lots of good insight and information, but I don't think it's fair to judge a V8's performance when you're only firing half the cylinders. The amp is expecting to receive full signals on 4 pins, not 2. (Or 6 if you count ground.)

    I hope you get to hear the Gungnir Multibit A2 with the 3F using balanced connections. That's what I'm using, and the only better combo I've heard is a Yggdrasil A2 + 3F.
     
  10. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophileâ„¢

    Friend MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2016
    Likes Received:
    10,222
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    East Coast
    I thought that too, but I've never seen schematic of this amp until now. So, don't know how each signal is treated exactly. What if some black magic exists? If I am a borrower, I'd make it sure even if asking so might be foolish. If I am a lender, I want my unit handled with 'too much' safety cautions.

    Yeah, my lack of intelligence has actually prevented me from feeding my amp with unbalanced inputs so far. I know it could be 99.9% safe. But want to rule out 0.1% beforehand.
     
  11. Elnrik

    Elnrik Super Friendly

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2017
    Likes Received:
    8,951
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Denver CO
    Home Page:
    Don't take it personally. I enjoyed your review and can appreciate (from my own personal anxieties) that posting your opinions and thoughts can be nerve-wracking and exposes you in a way that can be quite uncomfortable.

    But I also think your experience would be different if you had a balanced source and connections to do the comparison.
     
  12. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth 2000% biased Planar Hater

    Staff Member Friend Gearmaster
    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2018
    Likes Received:
    9,425
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Avalon
    @ColtMrFire, it's entirely possible that @jexby is feeling particularly grumpy and is being a grumpus-woo.

    That being said, I did find your insight quite interesting, and also think that the others who chimed in here have a point (in particular, @Vtory and @Elnrik). I've always thought that any piece of gear should be reviewed and used as designed; for example, I would take huge boulders of salt of any review of a Cavalli Liquid Platinum that only reviewed its SE output. The 3F, in my opinion, should be looked at from the standpoint from a balanced source.

    I still think your thoughts have a point; there's bound to be someone out there who wants an amp like this but doesn't have a balanced source (I do think some of the comments here might have leaned on the side of grumpy). Perhaps prefacing your thoughts with the disclaimer that more potential might be pulled from a balanced source would have appeased some of the others here.
     
  13. k4rstar

    k4rstar Britney fan club president

    Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2016
    Likes Received:
    6,544
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    ITT: no one understands balanced vs. differential
     
  14. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    83,487
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Padre Island CC TX
    Dammit. Input transformers (on the 3F) don't give a shit whether what's feeding them is balanced or single ended.

    As far as Gungnir and Yggdrasil, their SE outputs suck compared to balanced. This is well known. There are other DACs where the reverse is true, the balanced outputs suck compared to the single ended outputs.
     
  15. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    83,487
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Padre Island CC TX
    upload_2019-6-30_23-41-4.png
     
  16. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

    Staff Member Friend MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    12,245
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Colorado
    Home Page:
  17. dsavitsk

    dsavitsk Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,549
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Home Page:
    This. The amp does not care if the source outputs over RCA or XLR cables. And the input transformers make it pretty bullet proof. (the output, of course, is XLR only!)

    Fwiw, I think it is probably better to use a source you know, regardless of how "good" it is, when reviewing something new. I appreciate MrColtFire's opinions.

    I will add that the 3F's output impedance is not an ideal match for the HD600. It's not terrible, but someone preferring the tonal balance of the T3 with those phones does not surprise me. The DSHA3 is, IMO, a better Sennheiser match than the 3F.
     
  18. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    83,487
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Padre Island CC TX
    I was facepalming so hard that I was very tempted to draw boobs and pee pees.

    P.S. I thought @jexby was being facetious or screwing with people.
     
  19. Elnrik

    Elnrik Super Friendly

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2017
    Likes Received:
    8,951
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Denver CO
    Home Page:
  20. brencho

    brencho Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2015
    Likes Received:
    7,888
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    LA
    Wow, the uninformed posturing as authority responses to Colt's post make me want to burn this whole mother down. What the fuck is this place.
     

Share This Page