NITSCH Sound Pietus Maximus Optimus Prime Review - The Touch

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by purr1n, Nov 19, 2023.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    You got the touch. You got the power.
    pi.jpg

    I haven't really been on top of things and from what I understand, many of you guys have already been tipped off about this or possibly even heard it before me! @jexby sent this to me in a box and after sitting on it for weeks (I have a ton of other boxes of stuff, mostly crap), I finally opened it. It wasn't like @CEE TEE was pressuring me or anything, but I did finally set it up in my bedside rig. I immediately texted Christian. I figured I'd post it here because my first impressions are often the best ones (speaking of myself, because I don't remember ever changing my mind after 1000 hours burn-in, and I kind of know how the burn-in or warm-up deal goes)
    upload_2023-11-19_15-41-58.png

    Basically the Pietus, Big Pietus, Optimus Maximus, or whatever, is the diminutive Nitsch x Schiit Piety all growed up. It was my understanding that Christian worked with Jason for its final voicing. As of this time, I have no idea what the pricing will be. I would expect a couple hundred below a grand depending upon configuration.

    The Pietus Maximus still retains the midrange wetness and bloom of the Piety. The highs are smoother. The delivery is more liquid and effortless. The lows are less raw, more articulate, and as a result more restrained. The bloom isn't as evident on as the Piety because Pietus has much better clarity, but it's definitely there, especially when we go back to a drier sounding amp. The Piety has a bit of fuzzy warmth that makes the bloom more obvious. The overall effect is that the Pietus Maximus is now much more sensitive to source. I preferred the LIM, MMB1, the built-in MB card, and believe it or not, the Modius E (which has an inner-warm, liquidity, and elegance unexpected from a DAC based on an ESS part - @JK47 was right - it gets even getter with XLR->SE using the affordable Cinemags). I have yet to hear the Pietus with the ESS card, but I would assume it gets somewhere between a Modi+ and Modius E.

    FWIW, I didn't feel the Pietus Maximus synergized well with the MIB, which I use with the Mjolnir 3. Take this for what you will - that is triangulate for yourself. Also, I LOVE the Pietus with the Modius E (no need for Cinemags). This using a wide variety of headphones (i.e., Caldera, JAR600, HD650, Atrium). The Pietus feels no different from the Mjolnir 3, once you get that synergy right, it's oh so good. Nitsch and Schiit knocked out one of the park again. And I'm not referring to Piety (which some people seemed to think I was implying it to be a giant killer - it never was - I wish people would read what I write and ask me questions if it seems I am unclear), but rather Mjolnir 3. TL;DR: there's no f'ing way the Pietus is this good for the price (expected). Again I don't know, Christian can price it at $899 and it would be fair, compared to the Mjolnir 3. Yes, it's 85%-90% as good as the Mjolnir 3, although the presentation is different with its own strengths and weaknesses. The Pietus is all about nuance, touch, and feeling, but it trades off a bit of raw slam for it. Stuff like Sara Bareilles Live at the Variety Playhouse or Rostropovich Bach Cello Suites will be ideal.

    FYI there are three gains: all my impressions were done on high gain

    Distortion surfaces: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...mus-prime-review-the-touch.13957/#post-419576
    Notes with a few planars: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...ime-review-the-touch.13957/page-2#post-419685
    Built-in DAC options: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...ime-review-the-touch.13957/page-4#post-420941
    In a nutshell: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...ime-review-the-touch.13957/page-4#post-420943
     
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    Last edited: Dec 10, 2023
  2. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Distortion surface!!!!

    No that was a joke, maybe eventually. Just curious whether this is as surprisingly different between gain settings as the OG Piety is.
     
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Just came back from dinner. Let's try with the more difficult 29-ohm load first. High gain. Give me a bit ...
     
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  4. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    I don’t know what device @purr1n is talking about but hope to hear it one day.
     
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  5. darmok

    darmok Acquaintance

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    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Yeah, I'll take one. Negative gain will be nice as that's probably the thing I miss most on the Piety. I assume this is using a built in transformer instead of the chonky brick at that price point? And how's the synergy with the MMB2? No MMB1 for me so that's the DAC I use with the Piety now.
     
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Nitsch Sound Pietus Maximus Headphone Amplifier
    • HIGH-GAIN
    • 29-ohm load
    • 90kHz bandwidth
    • APx555 "cheat" HPSA mode on
    • Volume knob of headphone amp was set for unity gain
    • Input signal output set on the APx555
    • APx555 "cheat" HPSA mode on
    H2 - second harmonic distortion product
    upload_2023-11-19_20-24-38.png

    H3 - third harmonic distortion product
    upload_2023-11-19_20-27-3.png

    H4-H10 distortion product
    upload_2023-11-19_20-27-27.png

    Notes:
    H2, H3, and H4+ above do not include noise
    H2 and H3 tend to be dominant over the higher orders, additional graphs will be added if this is not the case
    H2 and H3 do sound different from each other, as to how, that's another discussion
    H4+, the higher order distortions can be considered to be "crap" factor
    There is thought that higher order distortion may have an outsized negative affect on sound quality
    THD+N does include the noise component as well as THD (sum of H2, H3, and H4 and above)
    Distortion is signal that is not supposed to be there
    H2 or second order at 100Hz means there is a signal at 200Hz that is not supposed to be there
    H3 or third order at 100Hz means there is a signal at 300Hz that is not supposed to be there
    This graphs tells us how loud the distortion is at that harmonic
    Distortion that lands in the ultrasonic region matters, if SOTA chip companies like TI care, then so should you.
    0dBu (0.775Vrms) output level on most headphones will cause hearing damage after a few minutes of exposure
    0dBu output level may burn out the voice coil on sensitive headphones with extended use

    THDN
    upload_2023-11-19_20-33-4.png

    COMMENTS

    This is highest gain into an low impedance load, so distortion and noise will be a bit higher. Noise does push THDN higher than H2, H3, H4+ components. This is from AC mains hum which I don't stress about (because the inside of our houses hum like crazy - it's something you notice when you live on a reef island subject to constant power failures). Overall harmonics look low. H3 and H4 are low for their respective output levels. We do see H2 start to rise past -12dBu output level, which is about 0.2Vrms, with H3 rising past -6dBu output. H4+ stays calm throughout and doesn't rise as we increase output. It will be easier to make more definitive calls after we get more data from other amps. We are still learning.
     
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    Last edited: Nov 19, 2023
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Let me get back to you on MMB2. Will try it in a few minutes.
     
  8. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Here are the 300-ohm load results. Still high-gain. Low gain will measure better, but I prefer to listen at high-gain. The measurements are more than good enough, so I am not going to bother to measure at low-gain.
    • HIGH-GAIN
    • 300-ohm load
    • 90kHz bandwidth
    • APx555 "cheat" HPSA mode on
    • Volume knob of headphone amp was set for unity gain
    • Input signal output set on the APx555
    • APx555 "cheat" HPSA mode on
    H2 - second harmonic distortion product
    upload_2023-11-19_20-58-22.png

    H3 - third harmonic distortion product
    upload_2023-11-19_20-59-40.png

    H4-H10 harmonic distortion product
    upload_2023-11-19_21-0-44.png

    THDN
    upload_2023-11-19_21-4-18.png

    Comments:

    With a 300-ohm load, distortion is basically non-existent, however there's a bit of noise. All related to AC mains. See below. If you are a SINAD freak, go buy a Topping L50 or Schiit Midgard. This amp isn't for you.
    upload_2023-11-19_21-5-14.png
    Vertical units in dBu, 300-ohm load
     
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    Last edited: Nov 20, 2023
  9. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    The BF2/64 and MMB2 DACs tend to have more prickly highs, the former a bit more. NOS mode works to mellow this out and I rather like the effect on the MMB2 (I didn't think it worked well on the BF2/64).

    The MMB2 (Modi Multibit 2) in NOS works well with the Pietus. I tried out some recordings with some sibilance like Alanis MTV Unplugged just to make sure. However, I still can't help but feel the built-in MMB card is a better match. The MMB2, even in NOS mode, with the Pietus Maximus still exhibits a tiny bit of glare. Both the MMB card and external Modius E (and by extension the ESS card) do not have this glare**. The MMB card is slightly less technically proficient in some ways (less rumble, less clarity, less resolving), a bit thicker tonally despite not having an NOS option, but it flows better than the external MMB2 DAC.

    I am really digging the Modius E though. I remember @CEE TEE telling me about offering the ESS card option. I thought he was insane because "multibit is better". However, I totally get it now. The Modius E SE outputs are very very good (so by extension the ESS card too). There's some magical synergy going on here. It's not a headbangers or basshead setup, but damn, it does some amazing things. I can see the ESS card (or MMB card) with the Pietus making a great AIO.

    *The Modius E BAL outputs converted to SE with the CInemag CMLI15s are magical. This is another conversation that is worth exploring in a separate thread. Credit goes to @JK47 on this one.

    **It's going to depend on headphones too. Laid-back stuff like Audezes and Verite Open won't have this issue.
     
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    Last edited: Nov 19, 2023
  10. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    I remember Jason mentioning somewhere that all that high frequency noise does end up have an effect in the audible range which is why he avoided using switching power supplies unless really necessary
     
  11. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Smoother treble? Hell yeah. That's one of the few literal pain points I have with the Piety, hah.

    Some follow up questions for when you've got the time but I find that while the Piety has a pretty good headstage in terms of lateral extension, center stage is pretty upfront. Makes for good contrasts of depth and nice layering with things that are miced further off, but I do sometimes miss artificial depth which is one of the reasons I still adore the MCTH. I know that headstage isn't an actual priority for a lotta folk but may be useful info for some, haha.

    Also curious how things compare in terms of raw resolution and microdynamics, trailing decays and textures and such, theoretically against amps in the sub-1k range. I imagine it's a notable step up from the latest Magnis at least? Haven't heard any of the Asgards or Jotunheims yet.

    Last thing, would be curious to hear eventually from anyone who's gotten ears on the Piety dual-mono thing how this compares. Is this more or less the same topologically, just refined?
     
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  12. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Yeah. Really nice liquid refined treble. Silky but not "smoothed-over" like B22 (to a minor extent), LAu (moderate extent) V100 (to major extent) . Exquisite is the word that comes to mind. The tiny transients are there, the pricks are there, but the very tips of the edges are rounded.

    However, keep in mind the less "grunty" nature of the lows. Pietus Maximus can sound lean or upper mid-forward on the wrong set up. Then again Piety can sound scratchy bright on the wrong set up.

    Headstage is like to Piety, close up. There a bit wider sense of space, but more or less like Piety.

    I didn't want to let on too much about this in earlier statements. As you know, I prefer readers to ask for further clarification. In a nutshell, plankton and microdynamics is simply amazeballs. Easily top 3-5 in the solid state world. Yes, it's this good!

    There's a reason why I personally gravitated toward the Modius E instead of BF2OG or MMB1/2 as a source for the Pietus. The other DACs are not resolving and involving enough. The Modius E is a hidden gem, it's crazy resolving and nuanced. This is something I started to noticed when a local person replaced their entry/mid level multibit DACs with the Modius E. I was like wow.

    The play between the Modius E and Pietus is more about enhancing the strengths of both components. Modius E being capable of microdetail and microdynamics, and delivering smooth highs with a dose of inner warm throughout. The Modius E can at times have funky digititus in the top octave, but Pietus takes care of this. Because the Pietus has a cleaner, more effortless, less grainy presentation, the Modius E's inner warm doesn't come off as murky.

    Something like the BF2OG would be the opposite approach: addressing the slam aspect. The Yggdrasil LIM takes care of everything (slam and touch), but the LIM x3 to 4 the price of the Pietus. Beside the Modius E (or ESS card which comes close) is the stackable form factor DAC.

    Finally, of course headphones will matter too and will be final piece of the puzzle when it comes to synergy.

    Dual-mono Piety doesn't exist. It's a Hacking Nitsch project, and as such, the sound of any such "Dual-mono Piety" will vary depending upon implementation.
     
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    Last edited: Nov 20, 2023
  13. darmok

    darmok Acquaintance

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    Interesting. I assumed the card was the same as the MMB2 with a SE-to-balanced stage tacked on. I don’t think there are any posted measurements of the card so it’d be interesting to see if it’s adding some HD3 to fill out the HD2-prominent distortion of the single-ended DAC.

    How does Pietus synergize with planars?
     
  14. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    I feel like the obvious question now would be how this fares against the ZDT Jr. (which I've heard) and the SW51+ (which I really regret not splurging on years ago now, sigh) in these respects. I still lack a lot of context for stuff beyond entry level gear so yeah, this could work better for triangulation :p

    Does seem like the Pietus (which it turns out is a real word that I looked up and apparently means "[a] midday meal" in Lithuanian, hah!) at least has better extension on either extreme from the way you describe it which is gonna be a boon for bassheads, more restrained/refined bottom octaves notwithstanding. Greater source sensitivity also implies that this amp does a good job of ekeing out all of what sources and DACs can put into it, which is wild.
     
  15. Azimuth

    Azimuth FKA rtaylor76, Friend

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    I heard a version before this version and it is a slight upgrade on the Piety with a little more power, better gain switches, and since in an Asgard chassis, it allows for cards for a really awesome DAC/Amp combo. A multibit card and this would be my "go-to" setup for an awesome desktop solution. Espcially with negative gain because when working, I at least usually turn it way down and sometimes with some headphones can still run into the imbalance area of the volume pot with the normal Piety. This one has an Alps pot, but those are still not perfect and it also has more powerful output.

    I can see with the slightly softer sound of the Piety/Maximus how the ESS would work with good synergy. The ESS will probably have a bit more slam in the dynamics department and a bit more energy overall that works with the laid back nature of the Piety/Maximus.

    I will refrain from other comments as I have not heard this final version that I am told is an updated version with a slightly different sound signature. But none of the above comments already made by @purr1n are surprising in any way.
     
  16. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    What are the other 2-4 solid state amps on this plankton/microdynamics list? I think I can guess a couple of them (Mjolnir 3 and DSHA-3F/N? Maybe Ragnarok?).

    ///

    Unrelatedly, your description of this Pietus Maximus reminds me a bit of the AAW Black Amp that went around on loaner a while ago here. That amp had lots of nuance and was really interesting, making music sound right and other amps sounding wrong somehow...but it had no balls. Like zero (hooked up to Yggdrasil Analog 2 even). It was super weird. It sounded amazing on acoustic stuff, with lots of resolution and air and great imaging. I think I listened to folklore/evermore by TSwiftieSwift and those sounded great, but any rock or electronic music just sucked.

    I'm not a huge fan of some aggressive, ballsy, dynamic amps as I find them fatiguing (especially with my source + Utopia), but at least a modicum of slam/kick is important otherwise the music I usually listen to just has no life.
     
  17. JK47

    JK47 Friend

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    @purr1n I'm surprised it hasn't been asked yet, but what kind of topology are we looking at? Any pic's of the inside?
     
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  18. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    From what I understand, same thing as Piety, a Continuity variant. Just moar and/or bigger output devices, larger power transformer, filtering, etc.
     
  19. ecline56

    ecline56 Almost "Made"

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    Question for you Sir,

    How can the Modius E have smooth highs yet have funky digititis in the top octave?

    I have both the late run MMB1 and MMB2. I only like the MMB2 in NOS mode period. Way too sharp and fatiguing to me otherwise. I still prefer the MMB1 but I realize the resolution is not the best.

    I am intrigued by the Modius E but I seem to pick up even the slightest treble anomaly and I mainly use the Monoprice LP or LG balanced from a LP DAC with the super slow roll off filter. The MP amps are very forgiving as you know but they can easily scale with a more resolving source.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2023
  20. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Usual suspects. Outside of DIY: DSHA 3F, MHA150, Mjolnir 3. Rag 1.x gets honorable mention. There's more that is probably on that list that I haven't heard yet like Ferrum.


    It's not that anywhere that bad. It's like not the amp is thin, bass light, or has zero balls. Bass sustain is good no matter what source. It's more just more of consideration with it comes to putting together a system. For example, I don't feel the Pietus Maximus is any more bass light than the v0.80B of the Piety (which had different transistors than the production Nitsch version). In fact, I still prefer the v0.80B version of the Piety, because it's more mid-centric with dialed down lows and highs (it was more graceful sounding). However @CEE TEE found through public opinion that most people preferred the harder hitting and incisive sounding version of the small Piety (it wasn't like there was much of a choice back then given transistor availability - this has now since changed and I am hoping @CEE TEE eventually decides to release the Marv Piety version - which I expect people are going to bitch that its bass light or rolled up top.)

    Also, I noted that many people complained about the treble of the small Piety being too solid-state. I know I said that the Piety had Magni+ highs. (Sure, some people have commented that Piety highs may even be slightly more prickly than the Magni+ highs). Point is that this time around, I to make sure everything is explicitly clear, and also remind readers of the importance of "total system". FWIW, the small Piety which was demonstrated at various meets was paired with final run Modi Multibit 1.

    Finally if this thing were not sufficiently dynamic in the lows, I would have thrown it into the trash. Limp dick or badly-implemented thin sounding gear like Chi-Fi ESS sends me into murderous rages. @insidious meme can attest what happens when I hate shit: After less than 15 seconds (because it's really doesn't take that long) I take off headphones and walk off, without comment or a mutter under my breath: f**k this shit.

    FWIW, the ZMF Atrium still hits like a freight train, and I prefer the brighter open mesh with the Modius E -> Pietus Maximus. Whereas I run the darker closed mesh on the Atrium with the MIB -> Mjolnir 3, so go figure.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2023

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