Massdrop Cavalli Tube Hybrid Amp

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by purr1n, Aug 11, 2017.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

    Staff Member Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    33,798
    Dislikes Received:
    49
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Calabasas, CA
    Note to self: Press embargo until 2:00pm today.
    Massdrop x Cavalli Tube Hybrid Amp (or whatever it's going to be called**)
    ADD: https://www.massdrop.com/buy/massdr...de=guest_open&referer=N8KPFW&utm_medium=email


    [​IMG]

    This amp has been a long time coming. Massdrop has been working on this for a while and I've heard three revisions. The very first one I received showed great promise, but needed some tweaks to the sound.

    CTH.jpg

    Basically it came down to me sending them back as "not quite there", "no this isn't good enough", and keeping @CEE TEE busy to make sure that I would be happy. Well finally, it's gotten to that point. The photo above is the first prototype that I heard. I forgot to take a photo this morning of the production chassis sitting in my rack, but I figured you guys would be able to see a better photo of it on the Massdrop site.

    I know some people have been referring to it as the "CTH", but the sound is actually quite different from the original CTH. The Massdrop Cavalli Tube Hybrid Amp (MCTH) is actually quite neutral or accurate sounding. If anything, the sound could be described as "open" and "airy". I think of this as sort of a mini Liquid Crimson. Cavalli's higher end gear has always tended toward the laid-back sounding. The Liquid Crimson was the least laid-back sounding and thus suited my personal preferences the most. The MCTH's clarity, microdynamics, and resolution are extremely good for the price. There is definitely a lot of that tube "immediacy"*** that draws the listener into the music. Where the MCTH falls short to the Crimson is with bass heft, slam and overall ease and refinement. This is perfectly acceptable considering that the Crimson is a $3000 amp.

    The MCTH is a good alternative to the Vali 2 for those wanting a hybrid amp with a different sound. I actually feel the clarity, microdynamics, and microdetail of the MCTH is quite a bit better than the Vali 2. However, those who prefer the more laid-back presentation (surprising for Schiit) of the Vali 2 are probably better off sticking with it. The MCTH's tone is more similar to that of the Magni 2U (surprising for Cavalli).

    The tube coloration is very slight. I also found that rolling tubes doesn't make a huge difference. In the end, I preferred the stock Electro-Harmonix tube over the Telefunken 6DJ8s for tonality reasons. I am thinking the warmer sounding Amperex A-frame 6922s would provide fantastic results.

    Good DACs to run the MCTH with are the AKM "Velvet" based DACs, BB17xx, old-school darker multi-bit (Mimby, SFD Trans DAC, Metrum Amethyst, etc.), GOV2. In fact, the MCTH also sounds great from most laptop or computer outs, since they tend to exhibit a bit of warmth. I would avoid cold sounding DACs or DACs with unnatural presentation (most Sabre, Oppo player). The MCTH worked with a variety of headphones, HD650, HD800 (modded), X00, E-MU PH, T50RP (modded), etc. The volume knob doesn't need to be cranked up very much with efficient headphones like the X00, but I found no issues with pot mistracking. It's my understanding that Massdrop will be paying close attention to this, incorporating an additional QA check.

    I'll see if I can find some time to take some measurements. BTW, a 4-pin XLR balanced connector is also provided - for those of you guys who are winners and know what you are doing.*

    Finally, the stock power supply, the switcher brick, can be replaced with a linear power supply. I haven't experimented with this. This might push this $400-$500 amp to something worth $850 or more.

    * I am disliking phono jacks more and more these days. The 4-pin XLRs provide such a better connection.
    ** Sorry for this. I am absolutely terrible at what things are called, or how they look like, the box, the specs, etc.
    *** Not to be confused with warm fuzzy syrupy tube distortion that glosses things over.
    [/S]
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
  2. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2015
    Likes Received:
    2,593
    Dislikes Received:
    12
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    Mini Liquid Crimson + $249 + @CEE TEE's signature on it + @Marvey's "I had some inputs on sound" = who do I pay to own one right this instance?

    (I'm 100% serious!)
     
  3. Luckbad

    Luckbad Traded in a unicorn for a Corolla

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    2,390
    Dislikes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Laguna Hills, CA
    Home Page:
    Yes I am ordering this. Wish it had preamp out functionality, but hard to complain for the price.
     
  4. mobiux

    mobiux Rando

    Contributor
    Joined:
    May 9, 2017
    Likes Received:
    10
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Location:
    Greenville, SC
    I definitely like the look of it better than the Vali, might have to pick one of these up especially at 250$
     
  5. Melvillian

    Melvillian Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2017
    Likes Received:
    705
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    What a great price. Low enough for people to impulse buy even if they don't need it.

    I was going to sell my mimby once my gumby arrived but I think I'll take it to the office and pair it with this thing and TH-X00.
     
    crazychile and Chaos215bar2 like this.
  6. neogeosnk

    neogeosnk Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2015
    Likes Received:
    373
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    Is this the prototype they had at canjam? Selling off the Vali 2 if so.
     
  7. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2016
    Likes Received:
    4,393
    Dislikes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    I like that Massdrop is now moving into different series of amps and DACs. Not sure if I will get this particular one but I'm excited to see everything they come up with!
     
    a44100Hz likes this.
  8. Wilson

    Wilson Socially Anxious Volleyball

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2016
    Likes Received:
    3,526
    Dislikes Received:
    33
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Ohio
    @Marvey, any thoughts on this vs. Valhalla 2? Your description makes it sound closer to it than the Vali 2.
     
    Lyer25 likes this.
  9. Elnrik

    Elnrik Super Friendly

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2017
    Likes Received:
    3,358
    Dislikes Received:
    14
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Denver CO
    Specs, or it didn't happen. :p

    From https://www.massdrop.com/buy/massdrop-x-alex-cavalli-cth-tube-hybrid-amp:

    Specs
    • Massdrop x Alex Cavalli
    • Chassis: High-grade CNC-milled aluminum with bead-blasted finish, silicone pads on feet
    • Frequency response: 20 Hz–20 kHz, -0.2 dB
    • Maximum power, 50 ohms: 1W Rms per channel
    • Output impedance: < 0.5 ohm at 1 kHz
    • THD: < 0.008%, 20 Hz–20 kHz 1 Vrms
    • THD: 0.0014% at 1 kHz, 1 Vrms with 50R load
    • IMD: 0.002% CCIF 1 Vrms
    • SNR: -97 dB, 20 Hz–20 kHz (1 Vrms into 45 ohms)
    • Crosstalk: -85 dv at 1 kHz
    • Topology: Capacitor-coupled tube hybrid using 6922 tube, single-ended
    • Gain: 8x (12 dB)
    • Input: RCA
    • Output: 4-pin XLR, ¼ in (3.5 mm) TRS headphone jacks
    • Protection: Delayed start with muting relay and DC offset detection
    • Power supply: Wall wart with 28V DC 1.25A
    • Power consumption: Maximum 35W (28V, 1.25A), ~9W idle
    • Dimensions: 8.3 x 9.1 x 2.2 in (210 x 230 x 57 mm)
    • Weight: 3.6 lbs (1,625 g)
    • Individually serialized
    Included
    • 6922 dual-triode vacuum tube
    • Switching power supply that handles 100–240 VAC (add plug adapter for your country’s outlet)
    • Manufacturer's 1-year warranty
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
  10. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

    Staff Member Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2015
    Likes Received:
    6,609
    Dislikes Received:
    25
    Trophy Points:
    113
    This thing looks better than the liquid tungsten from a pure aesthetics perspective. I was afraid Cavalli was going for the "I live in my parents' basement" aesthetic with that thing but this really looks classy :)
     
    sheldaze, bazelio and Bill-P like this.
  11. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

    Friend
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2015
    Likes Received:
    2,127
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Tempe, Arizona
    Oh man! Sooo in on this. I saw the email and was like Hmmmm, I wonder if this will be an upgrade to my Vali 2. CONFIRMED! Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Great price too!
     
    Mshenay likes this.
  12. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

    Staff Member Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    33,798
    Dislikes Received:
    49
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Calabasas, CA
    From memory*, the MCTH is clearer and has better extension on the high end. The Valhalla 2 is more veiled and rounded, but has slightly deeper stage placement and overall denser tone (second order distortion) despite being grainier or drier up top. Tubes of course will shift the tonality in different ways. With bright 6922s, the MCTH can be strident. Valhalla 2 has marginally more immediacy. Both amps may be sensitive to sources which are tonally cool, strident, or exhibit unnatural treble.

    *Which I've realized after all these years, is almost always correct; but then again this could be the first time that I am wrong.
     
    Wilson, a44100Hz and Lyer25 like this.
  13. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

    Staff Member Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2015
    Likes Received:
    6,609
    Dislikes Received:
    25
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Has anyone hooked this thing up to a linear power supply yet? What is the wallwart rated?
     
    Bill-P likes this.
  14. Mshenay

    Mshenay Barred from loaner program. DON'T SEND ME GEAR.

    Contributor Banned
    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    297
    Dislikes Received:
    60
    Trophy Points:
    63
    I love the New Stock Electro Harmonix Tubes, I've purchased both of the 6sn7 Variants. Wish more companies would ship those as stock honestly, would negate a lot of the desire to roll, the 4pin XLR out is just icing on the cake at this point too, certainly grabbing this amp as well

    Some one on the MD comments mentioned the possibility of swapping in 6sn7s can any one confirm that? If my small collection of 6sn7s are acceptable drop ins my Ember II might have some serious competition...

    Also my google fu is not adequate enough to pull up some decent results for a linear replacement

    These are the ratings listed
    • Power supply: Wall wart with 28V DC 1.25A
    • Power consumption: Maximum 35W (28V, 1.25A), ~9W idle
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
  15. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

    Staff Member Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    33,798
    Dislikes Received:
    49
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Calabasas, CA
    On my list of many things to do. No idea if I will get to it. Already taking on too much. I would suspect drastic astronomic improvements, knowing how other gear (TC-750, BW, other secret projects, etc.) has improved when the switchers are ditched.

    For those not afraid of very basic DIY, huge upside. 50%+ of the sound of an amp is from power supply. I know the psuedo-objectivists would never believe such drivel, but power supplies do have their own sound. By the way, this is not up for debate (just as big woofers make better bass than small woofers is not for debate). I will destroy anyone who wishes to debate me on this matter.
     
  16. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

    Staff Member Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2015
    Likes Received:
    6,609
    Dislikes Received:
    25
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Having built more than one of the original CTH, I can pretty much guarantee you'll throw out the ember if this really is even a little improved over the original DIY amp.
     
    Fearless1, Ray, cskippy and 1 other person like this.
  17. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

    Staff Member Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    5,990
    Dislikes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Colorado
    Home Page:
    Massdrop x Cavalli Tube Hybrid Amplifier Review

    Massdrop has another very exciting, collaborative product they’ve just announced, the Massdrop x Cavalli Tube Hybrid headphone amplifier. You may recall the CTH used to be a DIY offering from Cavalli. What Massdrop is offering is a highly reworked version of the CTH, in a sleek chassis, ready to go out of the box (including the tube), all for $250.

    Historically, it has never been easy to find pre-built, affordable tube amplifiers that sounded genuinely good and worked well with about any headphone, especially when bringing headphones like the HD650 to life. While Massdrop isn’t the first company to try to disrupt this particular barrier to entry in the hobby, the product they are offering is an incredibly welcome addition! (And with their HD6XX, Massdrop has been on a real roll lately making it easy to get high end gear and build a full rig at relatively affordable prices!)

    Form and Function

    The Massdrop x CTH, which I’ll simply call the MCTH from here on out, is a rather straightforward amplifier. It uses a 28V wall-wart power supply, has a single pair of RCA inputs, has single ended and balanced headphone outputs, and uses 6922 tubes or equivalent. It comes with an Electro Harmonix 6922 tube in the box.

    The MCTH is a rather nice, clean, and simple looking amp, in my opinion. It looks sleek and modern without drawing much attention to itself. The chassis seems to be of high quality. It’s about the size of Schiit’s Jotunheim, though somewhat longer in the back and with a bit less height, if I had to go off memory.

    Beyond that, there’s not much more to say. It’s a simple, hybrid tube amplifier. It’ll power almost anything without strain, though you may or may not notice some hiss on very sensitive headphones. It looks and feels like a more expensive amplifier. I also received some hints that this chassis style may be used in some upcoming products, which would make it easy to visually match your rig components if so.

    Sound Stuff

    The MCTH is a good sounding amp, to the point a more boutique company could sell this at a much higher price and get away with it in this industry. The same could be said about the Schiit Vali 2, which I’ll be using as my main comparison point for the MCTH. (NOTE: I did not know who else participated in the MCTH tests, did not know anyone’s thoughts on the amp, and all of this was written prior to this thread being posted.)

    The MCTH is a slightly warm sounding amp, at least with the included EH 6922 tube. The Vali 2, in comparison, is a bit more neutral sounding. That’s not to say the differences are major, but if using the same tubes in each to get a sense of the amplifier’s own flavor, you may want the MCTH if you’re looking for a bit more of that tubey sort of tone.

    I think both the MCTH and Vali 2 are surprisingly detailed, resolving, nuance sounding amps, and not just for the price (albeit most amps aren’t really worth discussing, so…). The MCTH, I think, may capture a bit more of those background nuances like reverb and decay, bringing out a bit more of that tube “magic.” The Vali 2 sounds a bit more restrained in comparison. If you want to boil down technicalities, the MCTH is the better amp, but not magnificently so. Enough to be worth the extra price.

    Timbre is fairly good on the MCTH once you burn in the EH tube for a while (more on that in a bit). Yes, on better amps, you will get more liquidity and clarity. I dare say there may be the slightest hint of midrange grain in the MCTH’s sound, but it’s incredibly minor and not at all bothersome. The MCTH is easy to get along with but isn’t boring. The Valhalla 2, for example, is much drier sounding. Bass and treble are handled fairly well on the MCTH, timbre wise, particularly the treble. No real issues or nasties. Once again, though, a truly better amp will net you more bass slam and clarity as well as additional treble clarity. But for $250, or even ignoring the price, the MCTH is really great to listen to.

    The MCTH is not what I would call a laid-back amp, but it’s not all that forward either. It strikes a nice balance between the two. The Vali 2 leans a little more towards the laid-back side with the MCTH going the opposite direction. For further comparison, an amp like the Jotunheim or Mjolnir 2 are much more forward than the MCTH.

    Because of the nature of the MCTH, the stage sits a bit closer to you and has less width to it than the Vali 2. I think both are similar in terms of layering or depth, though this is tough to tell. The Vali 2 sounds a bit more solid state to me in how it presents the stage and elements within, whereas the MCTH has more of that tube sound despite it being more forward.

    Dynamics and the like are good on the MCTH. Again, a truly better amp will get you some additional bass slam and macro-dynamics, as well as some greater nuance to micro-dynamics, but the MCTH makes the HD650 sound lively enough. If an amp can do that, you know it’s no slouch in keeping you engaged!

    Tube Burn-In and Rolling
    Now, I do recommend you burn in the MCTH and (especially) the EH tube for a good while, as I touched on earlier. The EH tube doesn’t sound quite right at first, to put it nicely. Just leave your amp on with some music going through it in the evenings for a couple weeks or so. Shoot for 50-100 hours before judging the MCTH + EH tube.

    I say this, because stock, the MCTH + EH combo sounds a bit too mid-bassy and has a sort of fuzzy sound in the midrange. With time, the sound became more even, smoother, and with a blacker sounding background. I’m not saying these were absolutely massive, life altering changes, nor can I rule out placebo, but I have often had this experience with new production tubes.

    Speaking of tube rolling, I found the MCTH to respond rather well to some tubes I picked up. In a sense, the MCTH does a fairly decent job getting out of the way of the tube, or so is how I hear it. The Vali 2 also responds fairly well to tubes, but I think it may impart just a hair more of its inherent character on the sound no matter what tube you use. But if you compare either to, say, the Valhalla 2, I found the Valhalla 2 to always impose a certain sound in a noticeable way regardless of what tubes you rolled.

    Still, I do suggest you burn in the stock EH tube before you drop a ton of cash on questionable eBay tubes. It really does sound pretty good after plenty of burn-in.

    If you are intent on tube rolling, I actually found I liked whatever Canadian 6BZ7 came with the Vali 2 I have on loan. It sounds pretty darn balanced in the MCTH. You can get those at a good price, matched and all, directly from Schiit. I also found a USA-made Sylvania that sounds fairly lively, a bit bassier, cleaner, and slightly brighter than the EH tube in the MCTH for less than $20 on eBay, NOS. I’m just not sure how to describe exactly which one it is.

    Point being, I do NOT suggest you go crazy and dump tons of money on unobtainium tubes just for the MCTH, even if it does change a good amount depending on the tube you roll.

    Conclusion

    The MCTH is a really cool and exciting amp, and I know Massdrop (particularly @CEE TEE, who put in a ton of awesome effort to bring this to the community!) is really proud of this one. It looks sleek and modern, sounds great, works well with about any headphone, was developed and refined by Massdrop, Alex Cavalli, and several testers, and lands at a very agreeable price of $250. The MCTH delivers the sort of performance that historically meant a lot more cash out of your pocket. If this at all sounds like an amp you might be interested in, I strongly encourage you to buy one!
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
    Faust, Claritas, Cryptowolf and 16 others like this.
  18. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

    Staff Member Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    33,798
    Dislikes Received:
    49
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Calabasas, CA
    So tired of being nice. The Ember is piece of shit. Seriously, it's just a colossal piece of shit. I've been able to get it sound OK by tweaking the switches and tubes to tailor it to specific headphones, but overall it's just a piece of shit. I wish people didn't keep bringing up the Ember. Because it's just a piece of shit and I don't really want to say gear is a piece of shit, but it really is piece of shit.
     
    taisserroots, bxh, Jokko and 2 others like this.
  19. DigMe

    DigMe Geekus Imperator

    Friend
    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2016
    Likes Received:
    4,160
    Dislikes Received:
    6
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Aja
    Hopefully this is not too much of a reach for a rec but for someone who prefers Yggy + Black Widow over Yggy + Raggy would you recommend Vali 2 or the Cavalli paired with Mimby and 650?

    Also, do we know ship date?
     
    Lyer25 likes this.
  20. AllanMarcus

    AllanMarcus Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,235
    Dislikes Received:
    16
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Los Alamos, NM
    Home Page:
    AND Cavali figured out how to put the power switch on the front! This is technology Schiit engineers have yet to develop. ;)
     

Share This Page