Shortest Way 51 Amp Impressions (Only)

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by Koth Ganesh, Sep 28, 2019.

  1. Zampotech

    Zampotech Friend

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    I'm taking orders now. There is still a week to fully determine the total.
    The second batch should be a little faster than the first batch. Already gained experience
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2019
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  2. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Yes. With the low and high output impedance, plus the notable effect of tube rolling, the amp pairs very well with both the JAR HD600 and HD650, modded or not.
     
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  3. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    OK, thank you for clarifying!
     
  4. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    have a loaned SW51 for about 5 days now, left powered up so the Mullard tubes can burn in.
    first few days had Bifrost 2 feeding SW51, now Yggdrasil A2.

    it's no joke that this amp punches WAY above it's price range, and is a complete steal at it's price.
    hell- it has many sonic characteristics of the Aficionado including tone, separation and layering.
    but no, it doesn't match Af in all aspects. that's a posting for another night.

    SW51 plus a Bifrost2 should easily be end game for most normal humans.
    and easily a superb sub $1100 work/second rig.
    alas most here are not normal, but maybe we should (try to) become so.
     
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  5. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I did some comparison listening between the SW51+ and ZDT Jr about a week and a half ago. I just now remembered to post my comparison thoughts.

    - SW has a blacker sounding background than the ZDT. Layers are more clearly defined, more depth, overall sounds more 3D/holographic. SW is a bit wider sounding too.

    - SW is less forward. Sits further back in stage. This contributes to the above mentioned aspects but is not the root cause.

    - SW sounds faster, tighter, cleaner. Maybe more so than even the Magni 3, which while not a stereotypical sounding SS amp, goes to show the SW is not a particularly tubey sounding amp. SW has edges that are more akin to clean, smooth glass.

    - ZDT overall a bit hazier, greyer, and "mushed together" sounding.

    - SW has better bass extension. Again, it's tight and fast sounding, especially compared to the ZDT. It has more of an immediate punch to the sound but doesn't linger. Very little to no bloom on the SW. In this regard, it sounds a bit thin in the midrange compared to the ZDT or even Magni 3, but I wouldn't call it a thin sounding amp by any means.

    - ZDT has a warmer, more typical "tube" tone. It has thicker sounding low-mids, at the expense of absolute bass extension, and slightly less treble. It has more bloom to the sound overall.

    - In general, the ZDT is a softer sounding amp (tone and timbre, not dynamics). However, the thicker low-mids can help with certain genres or masters. I could see some people preferring the ZDT for its tone alone.

    - Resolution is similar overall. On a macro level, the SW excels due to its inherent sharpness, clarity, and speed + no timbre nasties. And that the staging is more teased out prevents it from getting in its own way, which the ZDT can do from time to time.

    - On a micro level, the ZDT and SW are more or less similar. I might give the ZDT the slightest victory for micro resolution, though, and this may be that the ZDT seems just a hair better with micro dynamics. The SW wins out with fast macro dynamic swings.

    Overall, I think this continues the overall trends I've found with the SW. It has surprisingly little coloration. It's not what I'd call a euphonic amp. It's a surprisingly true-to-source sounding amp, assuming you aren't using low-impedance dynamics. In fact, I've found it very useful with DAC comparisons, because it seems to keep an open window in this regard. Doesn't impart too much of its own sound on everything. It sounds somewhat like I imagined good solid state would sound like.
     
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  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Can I get on the loaner for this?
     
  7. Zampotech

    Zampotech Friend

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    Probably this question to me. Yes, I can provide SW51 and Bachelor (if there is such desire)
     
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  8. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Let's work with USA people first who already have it. Just easier and less shipping costs for you.
     
  9. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

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    I put in an order for the next batch. I'll have it shipped to you before I get it to review.
     
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  10. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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  11. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

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    Heard this at @famish99 's place tonight and was really impressed. Side by side with @Joshvar 's Liquid Platinum and they were on the same level in technicalities but I preferred the tonality of the SW, which seemed to possess more "it factor"... a way of presenting the music that was harder to quit listening. Seemed really special.

    Didn't listen long enough to get any kind of in depth impressions beyond that but for the money (notably less than the LP) seems like a no brainier.
     
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  12. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    Thanks to a loan by the famous @MisterRogers , had the SW51 with Mullard tubes for past couple weeks and came away very impressed after a slow start.

    @Hands did a great job comparing SW51 to ZDT Jr in a variety of ways and my listening rig comparisons were different, so onward:
    Source: Mac mini with Audirvana, USB out
    DACs used: Bifrost2 and Yggdrasil A2 Unison
    Headphone: ZMF Auteur Blackwood
    (yah one headphone. completely novel and monogamous.)

    First few days with SW51 were not exciting, but it’s probable the Mullard tubes were not burned in per original owner.
    Various tracks seemed congested, vocals were shouty at times and mids seemed unbalanced.
    After many days with power on, the tubes + amp started opening up to the point of stability during shorter warm ups.

    SW51 scales with better DACs.
    First week had SW51 on the Bifrost2 (thanks @zerodeefex ), afterwards switching between BF2 and Yggdrasil A2 Unison SE outputs. Sure, maybe Yggdrasil SE outs aren’t as magiked as BF2, but SW51 delivered more layering and depth when Yggdrasil was feeding. Don’t get me wrong, BF2 and Yggdrasil A2 have similarities, but the SW51 was easily able to display the difference. Akin to getting NOS tubes that deliver better imaging.

    SW51 air, bite, slam
    Air is there, but not a super floating lingering long decay of sounds. Plankton retrieval is good, but nothing surprisingly new was heard or overemphasized. Guitar bite is good and can crunch or deliver acoustic string vibrations well. Bass slam is pretty good all things considered as it may not be a strong point with BF2 and is improved with YggyA2, but bass impact lacks that next level of impact that might surprise or come out of nowhere.

    SW51 headstage
    Ok, putting it simple - it's not wide. sounds about the size of the amp. Somewhat square-ish with a well consolidated center space but not quite enough L to R panning when called upon.
    It’s good (not great) depth and layering exists as it should for a nice tube amp. maybe only headstage freaks like me, or HD800s which deliver its own width won’t care about this aspect.

    SW51 vs. EC Aficionado
    well, at the price deltas it’s not fair or maybe even justified.
    where words above state SW51 does something good, Af typically does it “much better”. Especially layering, depth, wider headstage, one step of increased bass slam and deeper sub bass. In general, easy to tell the difference. But just as easy to get lost in the music via SW51 when leaving amp nervosa aside.

    BF2 + SW51 vs. WA8 Eclipse
    The Woo WA8 Eclipse only gets SBAF love from myself and Mister R, which is fine. Yet if picking one work desk rig for all around flexibility + sonics would prefer a used WA8 Eclipse as the sound is wider, more open and smooth without being soft or disjointed. The pair of BF2 + SW51 can edge ahead in the bass impact department, deliver slightly more clarity in the mids, and concise center imaging plus magic synergy might happen with certain cans due to the option of Low and High impedance outputs with the SW51.

    IMHO the only suggestions for improving the SW51 and staying at it’s price point:
    Change the color of LEDs under the tubes to match the front (power) LED, which would also match the orange glow of tubes themselves.
    Remove the option for a cartoon cat on the faceplate. ;-)

    In the end, the SW51 is a huge value win with price so affordable and a sound more refined than expected.
    I enjoyed the SW51 much much more than tube-hybrid amps of present / past days as there’s nothing “mid fi” sounding from the SW51 except for the headstage width, which will vary across headphones or ears.

    TL;DR
    SW51 may not be a TOTL tube amp killer, but if one’s first foray into a DAC+Amp world was a Bifrost2 + SW51- then simply don’t spend another audio dollar for 3-5 years on anything except differing headphones.

    SW51 should be nominated for a Golden Schlong award.
     
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  13. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

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    Abso-fucking-lutely.
     
  14. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    @jexby the cat was optional mate but yeah for the award.
     
  15. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    Bifrost-2 + SW51+ definitely deliver an exceptional sound. @jexby advice should be paid close attention.

    bifrost-2 and SW51+ both should be nominated for GS awards.

    Much head time spent with this combination (stepped attenuator not necessary but convenient for accurate level adjustments):
    DSC_0271_small.jpg
     
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  16. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Had a buddy over today to test out a variety of gear. He eventually wants to get a decent setup. He's not particularly familiar with headphone gear. I thought his fresh perspectives were interesting.

    He picked up that the SW51 doesn't sound particularly tubey when compared to the ZDT Jr and Super 7. But he did remark that it did not sound "forced" or like it was trying to be "articulate" like the Magni 3. I would assume by this, he means while the SW doesn't sound tubey, it doesn't sound like solid state either. He said the SW had great low end extension and overall clarity, whereas the ZDT Jr sounded more "blended" (he believes this is what I'd call bloom) and thicker to him overall.

    As I said, some might prefer the warmer, thicker, more tubey nature of the ZDT Jr. He certainly fell in that camp.

    It's curious that despite the SW51 probably measuring worse, in a typical sense, than the ZDT Jr or Super 7, it subjectively sounded the most like what we'd imagine "wire with gain" to be of the three. Clean, clear, fast, neutral.
     
  17. FlySweep

    FlySweep Friend

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    As @Hands mentioned earlier, the stock tube is no slouch.. it is wonderfully dynamic, resolving, and provides an inky black background. It does seem slightly peaky in the upper mids with less than ideal recordings..and this only becomes bothersome when the volume approaches a very loud, almost un-listenable level for me. Would absolutely be fine if it was your only set of tubes for the amp.. and other tubes might be more a difference in sound than outright improvement.

    I received a pair of (Blackburn) Mullard 6EJ7 tubes & a pair of Amperex 6EJ7 tubes today from VivaTubes (excellent purchasing experience w/ them, btw.. highly recommended). I've only rolled the Mullards in and been listening for a couple of hours.. it's definitely warmer and more laid back in the upper mids vs the stock tubes. Warm, very holographic, smooth (Mullard) mids, of course. The Mullard sounds a bit compressed dynamically (so did the stock tubes until they broke in a fair bit) so I'll keep them in for a week, then switch to the Amperex. Plan to order a pair of Tungsram EF184 too.. and that'll be the extent of tubes I plan to get for this amp (tube nervosa blows; thankfully, you don't have to chase tubes to get the most out of this amp).

    What I've noticed has improved most since the first few days of owning this amp is the micro/macro dynamics, fluidity, and clarity. I absolutely love how tight, bouncy, and pure the bass presentation is. Mids are so clean, perfectly weighted, and accurate. Treble is subtle, articulate, extremely natural, and extended. Apologies for the flowery prose w/o providing some kind of context or comparison.. but I've heard my fair share of gear from budget-fi on up to pretty good kilobuck offerings.. and the SW51+ stands as something special and noteworthy among all those experiences. The purity of this amp grabs me every time I listen with it. Among all the superlatives, that is probably its most alluring quality. It's what keeps me coming back. There's a level of intention, maturity, and sophistication to this amp's sound that, has it sounding like a little brother to the big boy amps SBAF loves and respects.. rather than appears like an improved version of a mid-fi amp.

    Having had this amp for nearly two months now, I can confidently state that the SW51+ is my end game amplifier for high impedance (Senn) dynamics. Given the HD6XX's shortcomings (chiefly, shitty bass; somewhat claustrophobic staging), I look for an amp that will, at the very least, not exacerbate these weaknesses and one that will enhance the HD6XX's strengths (timbre, resolution, clarity, FQ response that lacks fatigue, realism, and, focus). The SW51+ meets this criteria almost totally... at a bonkers price point, no less. Heaven help me if @Zampotech has more insanely affordable sorcery up his sleeve.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2019
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  18. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I need to hear this amp. I’ll have to bring over my 580s soon.
     
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  19. MisterRogers

    MisterRogers Ethernet Nervosa

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    It's become my preferred amp with Auteur - and I have a few other TOTL amps to chose from. Truth.
     
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  20. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Does anyone else get faint humming or buzzing from their SW? It sounds like it could be coming from my OPTs, and I mean coming from the amp itself, not necessarily through the headphones.

    I had never noticed it before yesterday. Thought I heard something while I was sitting near the amp, and, sure enough, put my ear on the OPT covers to hear it.

    I suppose it could always have been there, and maybe there was noise or extra DC offset on my mains at that time. It seemed to get quieter later at night. Haven't yet tested today.
     

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