The Mighty Utopia: Focal Utopia Revisited

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by purr1n, Aug 13, 2020.

  1. smileraidcall

    smileraidcall New

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    In terms of tonality, Vocals on the Mjolnir 2 is slightly warmer (Amperex tubes). Vocals are closer on the Mj2. Bass slam is similar but Mj2 have a slight edge over the P750u because of the slightly warmer signature and slower decay. Bass on the Luxman is quicker.

    In terms of detail, the Luxman edges over the Mj2. The main reason due to class A solid-state implementation. The Mj2 would smooth out some of the detail. Instruments are further apart and depth is better on the Luxman.

     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2020
  2. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

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    One just popped up here for $900!
     
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Glad this is working out for you. The P750u is a step above the P1u in terms of transparency. I love the look and feel of Luxman stuff. Sure they are a bit audio jewelry, but the Luxman keeps it classy rather than ostentatious. The Mjolnir 2 is nice: warm, hard hitting, but ultimately it's outclassed here by the P750u.

    When it comes to Utopia, I am always thinking ultimate synergy for a given price. The solid-state headamps that immediately come to mind are few: Black Widow (OOP), Luxman P1u (OOP), Luxman P750u, and ECP DSHA 3F. The BW and Luxman are similar in presentation, somewhat of a reinterpretation that gels with the Utopia's idiosyncrasies. The 3F serves it more straight up, taking more advantage of the Utopia strengths while not trying to correct so much for its weaknesses.
     
  4. Dandrac42

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    I just pad swapped my Focal Elegia pads and put them on my Utopias. Holy crap I really like it. The bass seems more impactful and the midrange seems a little less emphasized ever so slightly. I will order and 2nd set of pads for the Elegias since the Utopia pads did NOT improve the Elegias and I don't want to keep popping the pads on and off for fear of breaking something.
     
  5. Claud

    Claud Living the ORFAS dream

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    Ordered my Christmas present two days ago. Its a Focal Utopia from our sponsor, Bloom Audio. It is being paired with my CD tube system. No, I am not a Stellaris owner. I am a somewhat recent Stratus owner.(2 years) Although purrin doesn't mention the Stratus, it is much closer in performance to the Stellaris than the Starlet. What is the Stellaris other than a hot rodded Stratus. It uses the same tubes as a Stratus and looks similar. Both use purrin's choice tube, the 2A3. a great tube for an amp. Both amps react similarly to tube rolling . Donald North has been updating the Stratus since he began selling them. Mine is a 2018 version, the last update which has been tested and compared to the current Stellaris. Stellaris is still the top dog, but not by much.
    I am expecting many happy winter days listening to my Utopias. Thanks for revisiting them at this time.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2020
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    By extension Stratus is on the list. The middle child usually gets forgotten despite its merits.

    IMHO, the Stellaris is quite a bit ahead of both Stratus and Stellaris. It's less the tube type, but the AudioNote output transformer (and Dueland coupling caps).

    Roll all tubes we want, but the output transformer is the essential the sound of a SET amp. This is why I tell excessive tube rollers to roll transformers instead!

    The good news is that you have a upgrade path.

    I do love the 2A3 tube. Lots of good new production and decent vintage available. My choice tube is the 45 however. The issue with the 45 is lack of good new production (to my knowledge) and dwindling supply of vintage.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2020
  7. neo_the_one

    neo_the_one Facebook Friend

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    Coming back to the question of source. I now have been able to acquire EC Studio Jr and Utopia. Next on the list is a DAC with synergy. Now I was a little skeptic about synergy (or to put it better, I never had a baseline with non-synergy system). But going from my violectric V200 to Studio Jr, I am totally sold to the idea of synergy. I was wondering in terms of synergy which DAC would suit this system. I understand it would actually depend on what kind of sound signature I would prefer.

    So I will frame the question a bit differently. What would be the sonic profile of the system -

    "X" -> EC Studio Jr -> Utopia, where "X" is replaced by
    1. Burl B2 Bomber
    2. Matrix sabre x pro
    3. Yggdrasil
    4. Metrum Pavane/Adagio
    5. Rockna Wavelight/Wavedream (SE edition)

    Since auditioning is not really an option with these $$$$ DACs, inputs on sound profile might help narrow down the source.
     
  8. k4rstar

    k4rstar Britney fan club president

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    you should purchase some inexpensive DAC, listen to it for a while, ponder what you want to improve, ponder if those improvements will even come with a $2000+ DAC, and then read, read, read, and then decide

    asking strangers which of these $2000+ DACs you should purchase with no frame of reference is kind of like asking people on the street which girl you should f**k when you're still a virgin
     
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  9. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    ^ This.

    I had written up some stuff, but deleted it. What @k4rstar said. Get a decent cheap DAC (Modius, ZEN, MM, etc.) to start off with and report back. We need reference points in order for us to calibrate to what you like.
     
  10. neo_the_one

    neo_the_one Facebook Friend

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    Fair enough. I am currently using AK Kann Cube as DAC and source. Overall I like the neutrality but I am looking for more micro and macro details than what it offers.
    Mainly using Qobuz Hires (no MQA for me for the time being) and have some FLAC (not much.)
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2020
  11. Claud

    Claud Living the ORFAS dream

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    I think you need to tell us your source. CDs, internet? Tidal? HiRez files from your computer? It makes a difference. I have two of the DACs on your list. Yggdrasil with all updates for my CD transport. No MQA or DSD to use. Matrix Sabre Pro in my computer system since it is an all purpose DAC that decodes everything.
     
  12. neo_the_one

    neo_the_one Facebook Friend

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    Update my previous post with the type of source.
     
  13. Claud

    Claud Living the ORFAS dream

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    So, your source is Hi Res files from Qobuz. If you have no interest in MQA, Some one here should be able to provide a cost effective solution for much less than 2 grand.
     
  14. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Could be difficult for any advice as I don't think many people here have heard the AK Kann Cube as a desktop source. Generally you should be good with the amp/headphone combo, which I like to think as one unit. As far as sources, it really comes down to personal preferences, which will vary wildly from person to person.

    Saying that you prefer a more neutral source, I would cross out Metrum and Yggdrasil from the list. Could be too much of a good thing with the SJR which is on the richer sounding side (it would be the opposite with the AF). That leaves Rockna, B2, and XSP left. I am thinking XSP should be off the list. Similar chipeses to the AK KC, but I know AK's tries to go for a house sig that has a stately controlled sound with smoother highs, and if you like this presentation, XSP may be a bit grainier / digital in the highs. The SJR can help with this, but ultimately with Utopia's highs, I would stay away.

    That narrows it down to either the Rockna and B2. I will have the Rockna incoming soon so can report back. The B2 isn't the most resolving by modern TOTL standards, but it's a lot of fun, highly energetic, with it reminding me of the sound of tape machine. That leaves the Rockna. However, the Rockna DACs do have a certain kind of mellowness which the richer sounding SJR also exhibits to a small extent. Again, I will report back.

    And then to throw a wrench into it all, Donald runs an ancient UltraAnalog based Sonic Frontiers old school R2R DAC with tube output. This and the Stellaris + Utopia always sounded good.

    Ultimately, I think you will just need to do what everyone else ends up doing, just jumping in.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2020
  15. Darkstar1

    Darkstar1 Facebook Friend

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    I just got my V850 from drop yesterday. I will be basically doing a shoot out between it and a Gungnir Multi bit A1 gen2.

    The amp is the v281. Before I got a balanced cable I was basically running it as a v200 which was congested but tone was to my liking.

    I think at the level your at your going to have to jump in. Buy used and smart and it may cost you very little to try some DACs.
    Just take the tonality and strengths of your amp and pick a dac that moves the amp toward your audio tastes. Do research pick a DAC that sounds like it will get you where you need. Buy it used if it does not work out you know how to adjust your next pick better. Also don't flip anything to quick. Sometimes it helps to give yourself some time with gear.
     
  16. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    I'm in the process of fixing my long dead SFD-2 (mkI). My B2 is at Burl for repair (don't ask...). When those 2 are functional again, I will have all 3 aforementioned DACs. I also have a Kann Cube (using 9038 Pro DAC, btw).

    @Darkstar1: the easiest is for you to send me the SJR and Utopia and I'll tell you which DAC is better. It should take me ~6 months :p
     
  17. k4rstar

    k4rstar Britney fan club president

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    I will add some practical advice for @neo_the_one since you seem to be a big dick playa ready to spend big dick money.

    first you should recognize if you haven't already that for most people, high-end DACs are like toys; not unlike buying the latest generation graphics card for a 5% performance increase or a model train set. I have seen a lot of people including close friends (and myself!) churn through a lot of expensive gear expecting this and that before eventually reaching some state of burnout that results in an overwhelming desire to scrap it all and start over, or quit.

    second, even once you come back with some baseline experience and try your best to articulate your needs for an upgrade, the impressions and suggestions of others in this arena will ultimately be of very little value to you and your system. it's like sizing up the internet model wearing a t-shirt you want to buy and deciding if you should go with a size medium or large because the model looks like he might be around your height but at the same time you have been putting on a few pounds. you are really just guessing until the shirt arrives and you try it on.

    third, depending on your own expectations, personality and sensitivity to sound, the likelihood of purchasing an expensive DAC blind and being completely satisfied with it such that you no longer want to purchase other expensive DACs to determine if you are missing anything is quite low. so again we return to the concept of purchasing DACs as toys to tweak the flavor of our system rather than informed purchases to lead to some sort of audio nirvana. only through 100% concentrated power of will and many thousands of dollars is the latter path possible, speaking from experience.

    fourth, speaking of audio nirvana; actually the digital transport is at least as important as the DAC if not more. often the types of improvements one is hoping for by upgrading their DAC are more readily available by getting a better transport. there is, in my opinion, little sense in buying the latest Rockna DAC and then connecting it to a regular computer used for work and games with a USB cable. but there are a lot of people who do exactly this here and elsewhere. for the enjoyment of music, I would much rather own a $250 DAC and a very good transport. you should consider how you consume digital music and plan on how to best feed the DAC, as part of your purchasing decision.

    you have modern, high resolution headphones which have a distinct sound character, so you have the right idea to carefully consider synergy. be careful and good luck, I hope you find something that works for you.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2020
  18. Darkstar1

    Darkstar1 Facebook Friend

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    [Q00% concentrated power of will and many thousands of dollars is the latter path possible, speaking from experience.

    fourth, speaking of audio nirvana; actually the digital transport is at least as important as the DAC if not more. often the types of improvements one is hoping for by upgrading their DAC are more readily available by getting a better transport. there is, in my opinion, little sense in buying the latest Rockna DAC and then connecting it to a regular computer used for work and games with a USB cable. but there are a lot of people who do exactly this here and elsewhere. for the enjoyment of music, I would much rather own a $250 DAC and a very good transport. you should consider how you consume digital music and plan on how to best feed the DAC, as part of your purchasing decision.

    This right here has been on my mind but I am behind the times on Digital. Can someone point me in the right direction for a streaming based computer/transport that will increase my SQ. I am kind of lost on what computers that may be geared to feeding the best quality signal....

    Back to the utopia pairings.........
     
  19. loadexfa

    loadexfa MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    Pi2AES is popular around here, I have a couple of them. Recommended reading:
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...-to-pi2aes-throw-away-your-pc-or-laptop.8878/

    I've heard good things about some of the more expensive options such as the Metrum Ambre but can't speak from experience on those... yet.
     
  20. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    The USB input of the Wavelight is top notch.
     

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