Massdrop x Eddie Current ZDT Jr. (Official Thread)

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by Hands, Nov 15, 2017.

  1. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Massdrop just announced something I'm particularly excited about, the Massdrop x Eddie Current ZDT Jr.

    OK, no, it's not exactly a new product. It's basically a Laconic Night Blues Mini, except through Massdrop. This means that they will be relatively attainable, at least compared to how they were previously sourced, warrantied, and at 120V for those of us that need that.

    I'm not sure if there were any internal tweaks compared to the NBM, but there are at least some minor cosmetic tweaks to give it more of an Eddie Current vibe. Really, though, it's more or less a NBM with Craig's endorsement to be sold as an EC amp through Massdrop.

    It will be priced at $400, which, given how difficult it could be to get a 120V NBM and how freaking good this amp is for almost any price under $1000, I still think it's a fantastic deal.

    I believe the drop is live on 11/17, and here are some other product availability and ordering tidbits:
    • 375 units will be available (choice of 120V or 220V).
    • $399.99 including free shipping in US and reduced shipping price internationally.
    • After we collect orders we will place our order in Russia.
    Product page here: https://www.massdrop.com/buy/massdrop-x-eddie-current-zdt-jr?mode=guest_open
     
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  2. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Amp Impressions

    Disclaimer: @CEE TEE provided this unit for me and is letting me keep it. Regardless, I heard the NBM on loaner a while back and was similarly enthusiastic about it then, so my positive feelings remain.

    I don't think I need to say a whole lot about this amp on SBAF. Just look into the Night Blues Mini threads and get impressions there from folks and you'll be 99% of the way there.

    Long story short, I loved the NBM, and, by extension, I love the ZDT Jr. And that's ignoring price for the most part. Yeah, I'd be mad if this cost $7000 like the Studio, but amps like the Feliks Euforia are just so uninspiring when compared to the ZDT Jr. The ZDT Jr. could easily cost $1000 without breaking too much of a sweat in this market. It just sounds really good and only suffers when directly compared to stuff like a Super 7 or better EC amps.

    I think it's appropriate that this has the EC label. It reminds me of that same sort of house magic I've heard from the Super 7 and Studio. It has that balanced/slightly warm sort of neutrality, a decent sense of authority on the low end, good spaciousness, layering, and air, good resolution and engagement without being too wet, sharp, or dry sounding, and so on. It just sounds wholesome and right across the board. It's a very cohesive sounding amp with little in the way of major compromises.

    Compared to truly better amps, which is a tougher feat than you'd think, it lacks some bass clarity and oomph, it's not quite as 3D and spacious sounding, not quite as nuanced, and not quite as resolving. But it's about as close to a cheaper version of better EC amps as you could ever expect. Just not quite as good in most areas, but damn if it doesn't get you most of the way there at a fraction of the price. In fact, I generally don't mind listening to the ZDT Jr. over my modded Super 7. At $400, it's a ridiculously good value.

    I have found the ZDT Jr. works really well with dynamic headphones, especially high impedance stuff like the HD650 or Auteur. I tried it with the Aeon Flow Open and did not find that to be a good pairing whatsoever. This is another difference between the ZDT Jr. and something like the Super 7. The latter works well with almost everything. The ZDT Jr. is not quite as synergistic with all headphones. Still, that's just one headphone I've tried that wasn't great, and one planar at that, so it's not indicative of how the ZDT Jr. will pair with planars as a whole.

    If you can't quite afford the better EC tube amps, including used ones, but have more money to spend than the Vali 2 or Massdrop CTH, this is a fantastic choice. This will give you a taste of a really good, tube, OPT sound at a low price. And I do find this to be a noticeable upgrade over those two amps or the Valhalla 2 if you are using headphones like the HD650. (For planars, those hybrid amps may still be a better choice.)

    Update 12/16/2017: I got a Magni 3 and wanted to do my own A/B comparison against the ZDT Jr. My thoughts here.
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2017
  3. Hooncake

    Hooncake Mid-Fi Purgatory Redemption

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    So my ZDT babies are being mass-produced in Russia?
    [​IMG]
     
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  4. dmckean44

    dmckean44 In a Sherwood S6040CP relationship

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    375 units means this will be sold out in ten minutes.
     
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  5. ButtUglyJeff

    ButtUglyJeff Stunningly beautiful IRL

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    The road out of mid-fi is paved with temptation...
     
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  6. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    [​IMG]

    Massdrop x Eddie Current ZDT Jr. review

    Disclaimer: @CEE TEE provided me with a review sample last month (identical to production unit, not prototype). However, while my country uses 220V mains, because there were no 220V units in stock, I received a 120V unit which I'm currently running it with a step-down transformer. I've never had to use a step-down transformer with my audio gears, so I don't know how much this would impact sound quality. Some say there's no audible difference, but I've heard others say the quality of the transformer does make a difference. At any rate, I intend to return this review sample and get a 220V unit once it becomes available.

    Sources: Apple iMac, Schiit Gumby [Gen 5 USB], Sony NW-ZX2
    Amps: Schiit Mjolnir 2, Schiit Jotumheim
    Headphones: Code-X, HEK V2, HD 6XX (modded), Andromeda

    Pics of my previous gears mentioned in the review below, for the sake of reference:
    https://imgur.com/1NWPssQ / https://imgur.com/F5ncQC5 / https://imgur.com/5kMbhEg / https://i.imgur.com/iIqgBPI.jpg / https://imgur.com/3O7TOuP

    Unless I'm mistaken, the ZDT Jr. is identical to Laconic NBM but supposedly uses better parts and components, which results in lower noise, better volume pot and channel matching, and more controlled bass according to people who have A/B'ed them side-by-side. I've never heard the NBM so I can't say for sure. While the price of ZDT Jr. is similar to the NBM + shipping and export fees from Russia, it was unobtainium for most of us due to Russia's customs regulation (especially the 120V version) and virtually had to be smuggled outside the country Han Solo-style. Now it's become much more accessible to us all, to introduce high-quality OPT sound for an entry-level price of $399.

    In my opinion, of all amp topologies out there, I feel a transformer-couple tube amp using high quality transformers (e.g. EC AF/Studio, DNA Stratus/Stellaris) have the highest potential in achieving audio nirvana when paired with the right headphones. Having owned and heard many of them, I was surprised at what this little amp could do for the money. No, don't expect it to rival $2K+ tube amps like ZDS or ZDT, but it sits comfortably in the league of $1K+ amps in performance. It might as well be the gateway drug for people to get into OPT tube amps without breaking the bank.

    The ZDT Jr. unquestionably has the characteristic warmth and bloom of tube amps, but it is by no means overly done to shit like some tube amps do. I would say it is more liquid sounding than, say, Schiit Valhalla 2 or EC Studio, but not as much as EC ZDS. It pairs quite well with my modded HD 6XX, a pairing I prefer to Valhalla 2, Jotunheim, and even Torpedo 3 from my recent memory. Now it may sound counterintuitive since both HD 6XX and ZDT Jr. are warm sounding gears, but the ZDT Jr. surprisingly has very good treble extension which gives the HD 6XX more air and sparkle in the top end.

    Schiit Jotunheim, my favorite amp in the current Schiit lineup for the HD 650/6XX, boasts excellent transparency and bass oomph, but its soundstage feels flatter and closed in compared to the ZDT Jr. After A/B'ing I surprisingly found myself leaning toward the ZDT Jr overall, but I could understand some prefering the Jotunheim especially if you're a basshead. For me though, the ZDT Jr. has become my personal favorite amp in the sub-$500 range. Regardless of price, I would take the ZDT Jr. over any Schiit amp (including Vali 2, Valhalla 2, Mjolnir 2) if my headphones were HD 6XX or HD 800.

    Speaking of HD800, I currently don't have one but I've owned it long enough and have listened to it on a myriad of amps to know which amps I like or dislike it with. I wish I had borrowed one for the sake of review, but after listening to the amp, I have a strong feeling this would be an exceptional match with the HD800 as well, perhaps more so than the HD 6XX in terms of tonality.

    So if HD 6XX and HD 800 are ideal pairings, what could be said about other headphones? I did try driving the Andromeda from the ZDT Jr, but as with my previous experiences, the Andromeda is a no-go with most desktop tube amps due to its low impedance and high sensitivity which results in distortion and a lot of noise. It does best with low noise, low output Z portable devices like AK Jr or Sony NW-ZX2.

    What about less efficient planar magnetic headphones? I only had 2 while writing this review, the Code-X and HEK V2, but to my ears, the ZDT Jr. wasn't very good at driving either of them. The soundstage was okay, but it was lacking the tactility and viscerality these headphones are known for, with the bass quantity and quality being the weakest department. This was something expected, reflecting on my previous experience with OPT tube amps like EC Studio or DNA Stratus. The HE-5/Code-X, like HE-6, is one of the more inefficient planars, even the more sensitive HEK V2 gave my Stratus a hard time to make it come out alive. And ZDT Jr outputs even less power than either Studio or Stratus. I don't listen at ear-piercing levels, but high-power SS or hybrid amps like my Mjolnir 2, or the high-end but discontinued Cavalli amps like LC or LG serve these inefficient HFM headphones better. Or use 2-channel speaker amps if you're feeling adventurous.

    Of course, there are more efficient planars with sensitivity ranging from 91-100 dB out there, so I wouldn't completely rule out ZDT Jr. for all planars. Many people use Audezes or Oppo planars (which are more sensitive than HFMs in general) with OPT tube amps made by EC or DNA. Still, the ZDT Jr. is best suited for the high-impedance Sennheisers IMO.

    If you are an owner of HD650/6XX and are looking for a decent sub-$500 amp, amps like Valhalla 2, Jotunheim or ZDT Jr. should be seriously considered. The latter two are more versatile in that Jotunheim drives most inefficient planars as well, while the ZDT Jr. would excel with HD800 too.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2017
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  7. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

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    Tell me I don't need this.

    I am curious how it compares to Jot and then at a higher price point Black Widow. I'm looking forward to the high council's impressions.
     
  8. Rthomas

    Rthomas Friend

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    Is this based on an EC design? What's the connection to Craig other than branding?
     
  9. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Well, at least for my tastes, I would take this many times over than the Jot. And as good as the BW sounds for solid state, the first gen unit sounded a bit too forward and claustrophobic for my tastes on extended listening. I'm not sure if the second gen had sonic differences that might address that. Given that, I would still take the ZDT Jr over the BWv1. It just sounds more like my Super 7 to me and closer to that TOTL class than either of these amps. Yeah, it's really fucking good for the money with the right headphones...
     
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  10. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    As I understand it, Craig and Laconic have collaborated in the past. And while I don't believe he had much or anything to do with the design of this amp, since it's basically a Night Blues Mini, he liked it well enough to endorse it with the EC label for the Massdrop version. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong.
     
  11. fraggler

    fraggler The Cable Guy - Friend

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    Very intrigued. Just to confirm, it has a loop out, not pre-amp (ie, not volume controlled on the output)?
     
  12. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

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    Whoops. Didn't see the time. Will post some pics and some story :)
     
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  13. Skyline

    Skyline Double-blindly done with this hobby

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    Both of you mentioned, in passing, that this is better than the Valhalla 2.

    Can you expand on that a little?
     
  14. PacoTaco

    PacoTaco Friend

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    Oh Marv, you sneaky bastard. This was what you were talking about a couple of months ago. ;)

    If I wasn't forced to wait until February to get any new shit, I would jump on this.
     
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  15. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Well, the Valhalla 2 might be faster and more spacious sounding based on my poor memory. But in terms of tonal balance, low-end presence and power, resolution, timbre (read: ZDT Jr. is not dry sounding), dynamics, overall engagement, etc...the ZDT Jr just sounds like a flat out better amp to me.

    Let's put it this way. My modded Super 7 has been acting up lately, namely hum through the headphones and a loud power transformer. I've been hesitant to use it until I can get it sorted out. I've been using the ZDT Jr. in its stead, and it's basically filling that void for the time being. It can hang with some really, really good amps overall. The Valhalla 2 had too many shortcomings for me in comparison. (Of course, I'd argue the Vali 2 is Schiit's most well-rounded amp...)
     
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  16. Riotvan

    Riotvan Got lost for three weeks at Delft City Hall

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    Did they improve the pot? And what is the tube situation replacement wise, i understand rolling wasn't really recommended with the NBM due to being tuned for specific Russian tubes. I mean if a tube dies or whatever. Not rolling.
     
  17. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Almost "Made"

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    Would be curious to retire my Crack for this. Any thoughts @Hands or @songmic ?
     
  18. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I distinctly remember wanting to rip out the pot on the NBM I heard. Even with the spare tubes that were included in the loaner I heard, the pot balance wasn't great.

    No real issues so far with the ZDT Jr. I would say that's a good sign.

    If only sticking to the Russian tube types, it's slim pickings for what you can roll. By that, I mean you will basically just be rolling the same Russian tubes. I will have to leave it to guys like Christian, Craig, or maybe even Marv to determine if there are other equivalent tubes that are safe to roll. But the amp sounds pretty damn good with the stock tubes.

    I would rather listen to this than a highly modded Crack.
     
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  19. OJpos

    OJpos Acquaintance

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    Looks like a winner in terms of price and footprint. Shame for the limited units in this drop!
     
  20. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Craig is friends with the guy at Laconic. The Eddie Current Lunchbox was actually a Laconic product. This was a branding thing between EC and Massdrop. (Don't look at me). Two things I'd like to make clear:
    • DO NOT CALL EDDIE CURRENT FOR SUPPORT. Call Massdrop.
    • DO NOT ROLL TUBES UNLESS YOU KNOW CORRECT SUBSTITUTES. A 6922 may fit, but boom!
     

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