Schiit Hel Impressions

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by purr1n, Oct 29, 2019.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    IMG_20191029_102902.jpg

    Similar timbre and transient presentation to Fulla 2, but more powerful, more robust. Perhaps a bit warmer, a bit bassier. I believe the design is similar, but with higher voltage rails and maybe tweaked power supply. While the Fulla 2 only requires one USB connected (shared power and data) for it to work, but Hel requires both. I have both Hel USBs plugged into the USB ports of my laptop, thus not requiring the use of the wall outlet adapter. Note that the Fulla 2 requires it's second USB (power only) connected for best sound quality anyway.

    Technically, other than more slam, not sure if more plankton than Fulla 2. Maybe 1%. It's certainly not a DNA Starlett. For those with full sized headphones looking for a bit more oomph than from Fulla 2, the Hel certainly provides it. There is a microphone input with adjustable trim included. I will test this later. Does anyone have suggestions for a good electret microphone?

    I will give away my Fulla 2 to a coworker and have the Hel in my bag going forward. I've mostly been using transportable gear lately because I will work at several times spots in a week. Headphones are the lightweight but trusty Sony MA900, and ZMF Verite (if I can lock myself into a room on days were I don't have conference calls).

    Will take a few measurements if I can find the time.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2019
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  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Some notes:
    1. Won't mix microphone input into the audio stream in hardware.
    2. Only takes 1/4" plug, but adapter is provided.
    3. Two gains, x1 and x5. The x5 on high-efficiency headphones will be tricky, as there will be typical pot channel mismatch between the 7 and 8 o'clock positions. Not sure I heard a significant difference with the gain settings.
    4. Big ass volume knob is nice! Easy to dial in proper volume levels.
    5. Won't accept a native 7.1 audio stream and auto-magically mix down to 2-channel in hardware. Will have to do this in software.
    6. No additional software panels a la Creative for EQ presets and other garbage. This can either be good or bad. IMO, it's good. I play WoW and Civ 5, so I don't care. For movies, I use the JRiver MC downmixer. However, for those who like to adjust spatial stuff or turn up the sound of footsteps while you are pretending you are a member of Seal Team 6 taking down Al Baghdadi, you are SOL.
     
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  3. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    @purr1n , could you put Hel on low gain and shove Campfire Audio Andromeda into the headphone jack to discern any hiss?
    or if output is still "too powerful" leading to channel imbalance when low on the pot?
     
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  4. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I think some of the most common solutions are the ModMic 4 or 5 (5 has omni and unidirectional modes, plus seems less EMI/RFI sensitive), the VModa BoomPro (requires headphone to have a removable 3.5mm cable), or the Massdrop mic that's meant to compete with the ModMic.

    I personally use the ModMic 5. I have found it's quite sensitive to mic-in jack, in that it's quick to pick up hiss and hum from your computer and peripherals. I would be curious to know how the Fulla/Hel do in this regard.

    The current gen software for the Creative/Sound Blaster stuff is actually really slick and has a lot of nice features, BTW. That's not to say they're without bugs or weird usability quirks, and I don't blame users from shying away from even slight usability hurdles. Nonetheless, what they're bringing to the table today is far and away better than past software, I think.

    I should get off my ass and write up a review for the G6. Been meaning to do so, because I like the device quite a bit despite some faults. @zerodeefex said he might be able to lend me his Hel down the road, so it would make for some good comparison points.
     
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  5. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    Any measurements of the mic input would be appreciated. The product blurb says it's 'podcast quality' but the componentry suggests it ought to be pretty good.

    Might make a good AIO for listening + headphone measurements as a more 'audiophile' alternative to Focusrite etc. units.

    Loaner? :)

    Edit: Well schiit, I totally missed Fulla 3...
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2019
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I start to get sound around the 0700 position using typical crushed modern pop recordings. There is channel imbalance to 0745 by which time it's gone. 0800 is about moderate listening level. YMMV. This is for low gain. Absolutely no noise throughout.

    For better mastered stuff or classical where there is there is real dynamic range, the Andromedas should be fine. For example, some LFF remasters I have the pot set near 0845 or 900 for moderate listening levels. Pot tracking variability might be an issue with K-pop listeners who prefer to listen at lower levels.

    Synergy is good with Andromedas. Not too bassy despite less than ideal Zout (0.25 ohms). Tuning of the DAC/amp seems less "velvet", sort of splits the difference between the "velvet" AKM and the older Modi 2 AKM sound.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2019
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  7. starence

    starence Almost "Made"

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    FYI, it says the following in the Hel’s manual, so only connecting it to USB ports may not be optimal.

     
  8. monacelli

    monacelli Friend

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    Could you expand a bit on the sound quality in comparison to Fulla 2, Marv? The amp stages are pretty different between the two, with Hel actually using 4 op-amp stages per channel (and a different opamp than Fulla). Hel impressions in the RMAF thread were mixed, but may have stemmed from protoboards, etc.
     
  9. Ksaurav402

    Ksaurav402 Friend

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    I am not a gamer and I don't see myself being one in coming days. However I wouldn't mind a portable rig for office use. But I'm in conference calls for 2-3 hrs every day and if I can use the same device ( headphone and Amp) when in office for my conference call and music then I am good. Do you see Mic input being helpful in these business calls as well. Like bringing more clarity to mic attached to headphone. Right now I use Plantronics USB headset for Skype for business calls.
     
  10. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I thought the topology was the same?

    DAC chip, filter stage, then output stage, with Fulla 2 using x2 output chips on the output stage, and Hel using x4 output chips, albeit its LMH6643 vs. OPA1668. The similarity is sound is probably because same USB receiver and same DAC. The differences are stated above. A bit warmer, bassier, more extended, stronger attack, a tiny bit more resolving. Likely the differences between x4 OPA1668 and x2 LHM6643.

    I don't place high subjective technical standards on stuff like this. The most important thing is that they don't sound glarey, totally flat and boring, or have weird tonality.
     
  11. jowls

    jowls Never shitposts (please) - Friend

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    Interesting. The RME ADI-2 uses the same DAC (4490) & OPAMP (OPA1668). Implementation, yo.
     
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  12. schiit

    schiit SchiitHead

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    Yeah, Fulla 2/3 and Hel are fairly different in terms of output stage. One commonality, though: no overall feedback loop.

    In Fulla 2/3, the OPA1662 that sums the output of the DAC feeds paralleled output stages based on the LMH6643, both with some gain (1.7X). There are independent local loops around the LMH6634 stages. In Hel, there's a OPA1662 used for switchable gain, then a bunch of OPA1688s as buffers. No overall loop around gain and output, though.

    Just engineering blather...
     
  13. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    That's pretty much what I used it for. I'll usually have 2-5 conference calls per day, working either at home or various locations throughout Hollywood, Burbank, and Culver City. My gripe with the Fulla 2 was that I wanted something more muscular and maybe better sounding for the ZMF Verite that I bring with me on occasion.

    As far as microphone, I do want something better for calls. The built-in Dell laptop microphone is impressive for what it is (better than this old Plantronics POS), but I figured I'd try to find something better.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2019
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  14. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Yet somehow it sounds like glarey flat-and-boring ass for over $1k.
     
  15. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I was actually talking to some nerds on the side how I thought the office use perspective, never having to swap headphones/headsets for relentless Skype meetings, had me interested. No need for drivers, so no worries about what your admins have blocked on your machine, so long as you are on Win 10.
     
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  16. schiit

    schiit SchiitHead

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    Maybe we should market it to people stuck in the office?
     
  17. imackler

    imackler Key Lime Pie Infected Aberdeen Wings Spy

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    You'll be selling these at Staples soon.
    I imagine the "High Power Office Dac/Amp" gets ok'd as a work expense more often!
     
  18. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Exactly!

    TBH, this seems to more of an Office/Audiophile product. Gamer stuff has blinking lights and shit, weird levers or trackball for spatial expansion, along with Dolby Atmos and THX logos and crapware programmed in Java that runs 2000 times slower than C+ with UI designed by clueless a Chinese programmer that even the Microsoft WIndows / Office team rejected as insufficiently skilled at UI design.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2019
  19. Ksaurav402

    Ksaurav402 Friend

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    You have a solid use case for guys stuck in office. One of the major drawback of open office concept is background noise while attending calls unless you go in the conference room. If HEL can bring clarity to the mic and suppress those background noise even with mediocre mic then its a win win. Have music and Skype call out of same headphone and no need to swap.
     
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  20. Taverius

    Taverius Smells like sausages

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    Nah, the near totality of "gamers" - I include myself since like 90% of my time at the pc is playing shit like warframe these days - either have shitty wireless quote-5.1-unquote headsets, or a wired headset and use Windows sonic/Dolby/DTS 3d mangling for the games where that matters.

    By my experience nearly everyone in the second camp recognizes that a good 2ch + mangling in software is better than shitty hardware 3d unless you're willing to drop cash on the internal creative cards, which seems to be what people told Jason, if I'm reading the chapter on shill-fi right.

    These days I game on the T4 - so fancy! - but I'm happy there's a one-stop+shop made by good people for those who can't afford a creative pci-e + Magni, or can't because laptop, or don't need it because they don't play games where ultimate footstep positioning matters.

    Just need to figure out good headphones, for now I just tell people to get a ZMF classic.
     

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