- HD800 with Duson HA160D, Violectric V200 and Sugden Masterclass HA4.
- Sugden Masterclass HA4 with the T1, Ultrasone Edition 10 and Audeze LCD-2.
The easy ones first. I found both the Burson and the Violectric to be not as good as my HD650 and Elekit. The difference was in engagement and 'musicality'. The Burson had wider soundstage than the Violectric, one being beyond my ears and the latter being between my ears. The V200 sounded actually a little boring, nice sound, a little less bass than the Burson. The Burson had a very heavy stepped attenuator, which was great, except that it may clicking noises through the headphones every time I changed volume. This was quite annoying. So after around 5 minutes with each of the Burson and Violectric, I moved onto the Sugden.
Never have heard of the Sugden, but was told this was a hand-made amp in the UK. This amp is class A, and having a look through the brochure, it appears to be discrete Class A with a very laid out PCB. Anyway, the amp was cold initially and was initially connected to the HD800. This was a very nice combination. The voices and vocals were very well focused, the bass tight and the overall sonic balance and presentation was very good. I started to warm to this amp. Compare with the other two, this amp felt like it had more control over the headphones.
Over the course of the next half and hour or so, I swapped to different headphones. The first being the T1. Less bass than the HD800, different sonic presentation, a little on the neutral (maybe sterile) side. Similar to the differences I found between the HD650 and the DT880. I then tried the Edition 10. Wow, they certainly are a different sound to the rest! Light weight, well built and quite comfortable on the ear. The Edition 10 had almost overwhelming bass for me on the Sugden. It dominated the sonic presentation. The vocals had a distinct clarity/sparkle to it, that I was not used to, and perhaps I could call it 'edgy', whilst the T1 and HD800 was 'smooth'. I don't think its' a bad paid of headphones, but definitely not my cup of tea. Finally, I tried on the LCD2. Again, what a difference. Massive and heavy; quite the contrast to the Edition 10. I found that it wasn't a great match. The sound was a little flat and one dimensional. It also seemed far away, even though the soundstage was in my head. Nice balance, but probably a little weak in the bass regions.
Finally, I put the HD800 back on, and I was immediately smitten with the combo. Perhaps it was the fact that I am so used to the HD650, that the sound was so much more easy on my ears. Good balance between the lower and upper ranges. Also, the vocals didn't seem as focused or coming from a smaller source than either the T1 or the Edition 10 (which sound like a small point source). Perhaps sonically the Edition 10 and LCD-2 are very good, but for my own ears, through the Sudgen, I'd rate the HD800 the best, with the T1 second, followed by Edition 10 and LCD-2.
Coming home, I immediately turned on my current setup and listened to the same music. Though it was through a completely difference source (Mac and Calyx Coffee) into the Elekit. I'd have to say that I still prefer this setup! Even with the hum, which in contrast to the other amps, which were all dead silent. Even though this was an exercise in testing headphone amps, it appears that it may have turned out to be more of a headphone selection, and it might be worthwhile to bring my own setup to the same place and try out the HD800 and the other headphones to see how it all goes.