DNA Starlett - An Attempted Review

Thanks bud. Cheers :tumbler_glass:. Looking forward. It should be here the next time you come through town.

2 Likes

Have been using the Starlett with an Entech Number Cruncher 205.2 via a Schiit EITR
and a Schiit LOKI Mini, with a pair of Hifiman HE 4XX via the balanced out of the Starlett.
The sound is excellent. I have found that I cannot hear any difference between low
impedance and IEC in balanced mode. However, I prefer low impedance in SE mode vs
IEC. I find the sound to be more open, with a greater sense of space around the instruments.

The Number Cruncher (circa 1998) uses a crystal dac chip with Burr Brown opamps, and really sounds nice. Good resolution and a very pleasant tone. Would cost around
$700 in today’s dollars. Found a groady looking one for about $70 delivered.

2 Likes

Good to hear your other DACs play nice, I have a soft spot for the older burr-brown DACs as they remind me of listening of another time.

In terms of the lack of difference using the balanced output, there is no high or low impedance with the switch. It can only do SE or Balanced at the same ohm as the low impedance on the TRS output. The TRS output is the high/low impedance output.

Hope that makes sense

Here is a cheat sheet:

• XLR and 1/4" TRS outputs provide the same power: 440mW into 50 ohms, 360mW into 100 ohms

• XLR output is selectable between unbalanced (single ended) and balanced headphone drive

• XLR output has 9 ohm output impedance

• 1/4" stereo TRS output has selectable gain attenuation between 0dB and -6dB for greater volume control range on higher sensitivity headphones

• 1/4" stereo TRS output on full gain, 0dB attenuation setting has selectable output impedance between 9 ohm (Low setting) and 120 ohm (IEC setting)

• 1/4" stereo TRS output on -6dB gain attenuation setting has selectable output impedance between 3 ohm (Low setting) and 115 ohm (IEC setting)

4 Likes

Consistent with @Roark’s comment, that is expected as Z is fixed at 9 ohm on the XLR output (assuming we are talking about the same thing).

I also preferred low impedance on the TRS output. I have more detailed impressions in an earliest post in this thread.

Enjoy the listening. I’ve been jonesing for that DNA sound.

3 Likes

Thanks! The Starlett is addictive to listen to. Have had it two weeks now
and spent several hours a day listening to it with different music and components.
It will definitely be part of my system in the future. It’s a keeper!

1 Like

Thanks for the info. Yes, I do understand what you are saying. I remember reading about this on the DNA Website. This amp is much more powerful than its spec’s. Goes to show that objective info does not necessarily translate into good or bad sound. My JDS Labs ATOM has better specs than the Starlett, yet the Starlett sounds much better - as it should given the difference in price.

Based on the past few weeks of listening to it, I truly believe that the Starlett is a real
bargain at its price. It’s basically built to last indefinitely, as long as it’s properly maintained. Great piece of gear! :blush:

I also like old dacs with Burr Brown chips. One of my favorite is an old Anodyne Adapt hybrid that I owned back in the early 1990s. It was such a nice sounding dac with good resolution, width and depth. Scott Nixon built it to compete with higher end dacs at the time and its performance was very respectable. Even by today’s standards. Wish I had kept it.

4 Likes

Truth be told it isn’t powerful per se but it’s macro dynamics are excellent so it creates the illusion of being powerful. It won’t give crazy punch or slam but what it does give is enough of that to properly accent the music you are listening to.

It is a bargain, especially with its relative low cost tubes, unless you chase NOS rectifiers.

4 Likes

You are welcome, and the low output TRS would make sense given the lower impedance of the Hifiman cans. Did you mention you have the HD650? If so, try those on high output. At 120 ohms output, the Senns, ZMF, other other 300+ ohm dynamics are the right output match.

Get your deposit in, you are only going to prolong the withdrawal!

3 Likes

Yes. HD 6XX and HD 600, also, AKG K240 Sextetts. These sound better on IEC than the
planar magnetics I use. The Starlett just loafs along with these headphones. The more I Iisten to this amplifier the more impressed I get.

1 Like

Yes, the low cost tubes are a great benefit of the Starlett. I have some good headphone amps. No TOTL amps, however very good ones. The Starlett is better. It just draws you into the music and you end up listening for hours as I am doing now. I just multitask. :grin:

2 Likes

Been pairing this up with my Verite and here are some thoughts.

Immediately noticeable was the texture. Bought the verite as I felt it has some of the best texture rendition of any headphone out there despite the apparent dip in it’s mids. The Starlett further enhances this aspect. Music sounded more open and really fills out the depth of verite’s sound stage… It has a more rounded feel to it’s transient and isn’t as incisive as coming off of RME hp out. Overall tone of the amp is fairly neutral with a slight tinge of tube bloom.

Initially thought this would not be a good match as the Verite has a rounded transient respond and a slightly warmer than neutral tone. Having an amp that further rounds out it transients might make it a tad too soft and slow but no the Starlett is anything but. Contrary to what I thought, the Starlett has great synergy with the Verite. Best I’ve heard from my Verite.

A note on the volume pot. Normally not something worth noting of but it is extremely smooth and total lack of channel imbalance unless turned to near 0. Smooth and nicely weighted as is with it’s overall sound signature.

6 Likes

Nice!!Are you using the verite closed or open?

Open. Would be interesting hear how it pairs the closed. I’d imagine it to be just as good given the similarities in driver and sound characteristics.

3 Likes