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Gieseler Headphone Amplifier Release

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Hi John,
ok sounds like a good plan so I will get one shipped out to you this week to try.
You are a gentleman Clay.

Out of interest, on the website you describe the power supply. So inside the amp is it similar to the upgraded Kraftwerk components?

So the amp is balanced for headphones but single ended for preamp? That's what I need anyway, as my Genelecs only take rca not xlr.

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Hi John,

yes the PSU is equivalent to a Kraftwerk Nichicon Gold Tune version.

Huge 40kuf of Nichicon Gold Tune Caps, special soft recovery low EM radiation diodes, Linear Technology low noise regs & dual RF snubbers.

 

Correct as well RE balanced out option with single ended RCA inputs

IMG_3458.thumb.JPG.880dd310ce175f296e9221ec876d5fd3.JPG

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Also any other Sydney SNA'ers wanting a listen just PM me & I will tee it up after John has finished.

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Hi Richard,

as soon as I catch up on orders I will do some thorough output power testing at various impedances & post the results.

Also as I have some new test gear I can add distortion & frequency response plots.

In the mean time if you go to the start of this thread there is some output level information. 

Those reading were from the prototype though - the production model actually has a bit higher output.

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On 11/03/2019 at 10:38 AM, Gieseler Audio said:

Also any other Sydney SNA'ers wanting a listen just PM me & I will tee it up after John has finished.

OK - now arrived and set up on my desk. And if you don't ask, it might will never leave.

 

Finish is great, familiar to anyone who has purchased one of the DACs.

 

Couple of points:

  • I like my music, but I'm really poor at articulating it, so don't expect a nuanced review!
  • Using my (single-ended) RCA outputs to Genelec G Two monitors. Settings to low gain (at rear of amp) and comfortable listening volume has the dial at 9 O'clock. Smooth dial to make fine adjustments. Could blast off if I turn up.
  • Using AKG Q-701 single-ended with low gain the comfortable volume level is 10-11 O'Clock.
  • Using Audeze LCD-3 single-ended same as above. Using XLR 9 O'Clock is the same level.
  • Grabbed my Shure 535 IEMs - which I don't use at my desk much, more for portable. Low gain setting. 9 O'clock is too loud. Turned it down. The fine control on the volume was easy to find the right level. No hiss picked up.

 

All up, it suits my needs perfectly. Compact, works for both my Genelecs and headphone needs.

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6 minutes ago, Suopermanni said:

^ With the AKG Q701 and the LCD3s, was the amp on high gain or low gain?

All low gain. I just wouldn't bother flipping the switch.

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No takers to try it in Sydney? Maybe I’ll just keep it then...

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Suopermanni - Sorry had a huge week with 3 x Fein II DAC builds, 1 x Klein III build & 1 x headphone amp build.

I will build another headphone amp & take some measurements next week.

Also I will be coming to the Brisbane headfi meet next Saturday at Benjet’s so we can have a good chat then.

Benjet came to see me today at the factory &  picked up a 3-input Fein II and the head phone amp for the meet next weekend.

 I did a really bad thing -  I listened to his gorgeous  Focal headphones -  Big mistake -  I want a pair but can’t afford them.

😔

 

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Picked up the demo unit from Clay today. I’m putting some hours on it at the moment so it’s all good for the headfi GTG next weekend. I must say I really like this!! Especially love the volume control, so smooth and precise. Got it running off one of the new Fein II DAC’s and I must say it’s a winning combination. Going to very, very hard to hand these back after the GTG......

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On 23/03/2019 at 9:48 PM, Benjet said:

Picked up the demo unit from Clay today. I’m putting some hours on it at the moment so it’s all good for the headfi GTG next weekend. I must say I really like this!! Especially love the volume control, so smooth and precise. Got it running off one of the new Fein II DAC’s and I must say it’s a winning combination. Going to very, very hard to hand these back after the GTG......

Well, you may have to if I prefer it to the MassDrop unit I have now!

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Clay was kind enough to include me in the Sydney tour of the Gieseler Headphone Amplifier, and even kinder to build a new unit to send after the original tour unit was purchased at it's very first stop. It arrived a few days ago and I've spent some time getting to know it. I'm by no means an expert, but I'm starting to get the hang of identifying differences between equipment due to my constant urges to listen to and buy new stuff.

For my listening, the headphone amp was connected via RCA to a Klein III, which was using a Kraftwerk PSU and being supplied audio via an Aries Mini ( with LPSU) + Roon + Tidal or downloaded FLAC files. Below are my thoughts.

To start off with, I'm a fan of the design of the Gieseler Headphone Amplifier. It seems identical to the Klein III in dimensions, and has the same general design - that is: black, industrial, minimalist. If you have a Klein III and one of these sitting next to each other they look pretty damned fine. A point of note is the volume control, which looks great while remaining very simple, I love the small circle of polished metal that acts as the volume indicator. 

Going further, the volume knob is a delight to use. It's actually a satisfying feeling adjusting the volume on the amplifier. I know it's a tiny thing and I may very well be a little weird for being as excited as I was by it, but the tactile feel is wonderful. 
With the volume knob, there is a small amount of channel imbalance during the very lowest volume settings, but this is well below normal listening levels, even with my most sensitive headphones.

 

As for the listening, I am happy to report it's a great little amplifier. Before you start playing anything, there is absolutely zero hiss to be heard on low gain, the background is pitch black. I tested this with the most sensitive, low impedance headphones I had (Ultrasone IQ IEM's, 20ohm, 106db) and couldn't hear a thing swinging the volume knob through it's full range of motion. In high gain there was an audible buzz even at zero volume, but there's absolutely no reason you'd use high gain with such sensitive headphones. In fact, I didn't use high gain at all throughout my listening. That said, the largest load they fed was my 70ohm 101dB Audeze LCD2C headphones, so I can't comment on how the gain and volume would perform with 300 or 600ohm headphones, or low sensitivity headphones. With the headphones I used, the volume dial never went past 9 o'clock.

The sound itself I would describe as a very enjoyable, toe-tapping type sound. To my ears, the amp seemed to deliver a sound that was a bit heavier in the bass than the mid or treble. That is by no means a complaint, as I happen to enjoy my music with a little bit of added oomph down low. This actually worked against the Gieseler Headphone Amplifier when paired with my LCD2C headphones, which already have a slightly dark signature, as I found the bass got a bit boomy and begun to overwhelm other areas of the sound. This changed when I gave my Alessandro MS2 (Grado based headphones) a listen. The amp complimented the treble heavy presentation, and even though the MS2 normally have a significant amount of bass, I found they didn't react the same way than the LCD2C's did when fed by Clay's amp. They sounded fantastic. I would be very, very curious to see how some Sennheiser HD800S headphones (which are on the wish list) would sound, as they have been a headphone that I have thought would be perfect with a tad more bass when I have sampled them.

I haven't been able to think of any kind of explanation as to why, but the amp does a wonderful job with percussion. I noticed the same thing when I added the Klein III as my DAC, and again with the Gieseler Headphone Amp. I don't know what Clay is doing but his creations sure make drums sound good.

For shits and giggles I listened to my IEM's through the amplifier and found they both sounded excellent. The background still remained whisper quiet throughout the whole range of motion on the volume control. I would say they sounded the best I have ever heard them, but this is also the first time I've used them with a source chain that wasn't a smartphone or a Dragonfly Black.

Detail retrieval was absolutely fine, there wasn't any detail that I felt I was missing out on using the amp. I could easily hear Portishead's Beth Gibbons licking her lips between lines in "Roads" for example.

 


As for comparison, my normal headphone amplifier is an Auralic Taurus, which itself is a pretty amazing performer with a number of reviews praising it's performance and sound. When A/B-ing with both amplifiers, using a rudimentary android app to volume match, I found the Auralic the cleaner sounding of the two, due to the better instrument separation, wider soundstage, and control over the sound. The Auralic is more neutral, with better definition of the bass, slightly more quality as opposed by the quantity of the Gieseler Headphone Amp. With my preferred headphones, the Audeze LCD2C's, the Taurus is the better sounding amp to my ears. Things change with the Alessandro MS2's however, as I enjoyed them more with the Gieseler Headphone Amplifier than I did with the Taurus. This must be that synergy thing people talk about. This comparison is by no means a criticism of the Gieseler Amp, as I would hope an amp costing around four times the price of Clay's amp would have some improvements.

The only (absolutely insignificant) objective criticism I have is the fact that the unit I had didn't have any rubber feet, which means I have to hold it still when inserting headphones or switching cables. It may very well be that Clay rushed this unit out to send to me and didn't stick them on. If they aren't an inclusion, spend three bucks on eBay and grab some, it's no biggie. Also, I'm unsure as to how the gain would handle higher impedance headphones, but the low gain setting was ample, if not a little too much for the lower impedance headphones I used. I have no actual idea how these things work, but if lowering the gain means a larger range of usable volume on the volume knob, that would make things a little easier. If that's not how it works, ignore me.

I would say that Clay's amp beats the other amp's I have owned and used hands down. It provides more excitement than the clinical sounding headphone amplifier circuit in the Audiolab M-DAC I previously used, and walks all over the Schiit Magni 3 in design, features and sound. I would say if you're after the best bang for your buck for a head-fi setup, it would be very tough to beat a Klein III, Kraftwerk PSU and Headphone Amplifier from Clay.


(As a note, I was unable to test the preamp feature as I didn't have suitable RCA cables to feed to my powered monitors)
 

Edited by Snrub

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See above - that is the reason it stopped with me at the first station on tour ;)

Well written Snrub.

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Haven't had a chance to test my HP amp yet because I've been busy! I wonder what the chances of a balanced input model coming out next year?

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I could certainly look at  balanced input design if there was enough interest.

To make it fully balanced, in/out would bump the cost up quite a bit though.

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52 minutes ago, Gieseler Audio said:

I could certainly look at  balanced input design if there was enough interest.

To make it fully balanced, in/out would bump the cost up quite a bit though.

Fortunately, I'm NOT in a rush to buy anything at the moment. Need to pay off my studies first then I can do a little bit more.

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@Gieseler Audio I don't suppose you would mind me sharing the output power of the HP amp that you sent me a while ago in this thread? Not sure if the information in it is still relevant but I figured it couldn't hurt?

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No problem Richard - I will look them up tomorrow & post the results.

 

 Just found them at the start of the thread.

All reading are RMS Milliwatts into stated load.

Into

8   ohms      348 

12 ohms      468

16 ohms      548

33 ohms      720 

600 ohms      50

 Yours may be a little bit higher as it has bigger output capacitors.

Edited by Gieseler Audio

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Hi. Is the demo model still available?

Cheers
Ben

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Hi Ben,

no the demo unit is no longer out there but if you purchase one it has a seven day trial period.

 So long as it’s returned in that period I can do a full refund - you’re just up for the return freight which is $25

for a 5kg Express Post satchel.

 

Cheers

Clay

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Hi Ben,
no the demo unit is no longer out there but if you purchase one it has a seven day trial period.
 So long as it’s returned in that period I can do a full refund - you’re just up for the return freight which is $25
for a 5kg Express Post satchel.
 
Cheers
Clay
Good to know, thanks Clay. And I take purchase is via PM?

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