My memory is your described the Stellaris special as creating a lusher, fuller sound–or am I misremembering? If the Takatsukis are able to get the Stellaris closer to that, then perhaps there’s hope with these tubes yet…
Your memory is correct. I’m trying to walk a fine line between drier 2A3 amps like the EC Aficionado and wetter ones like the Stellaris. I want just a shade of lush, good depth and layering, but definitely this side of neo-noir “Blue Velvet” exaggeration. The Special even with stock tubes is close to my ideal. But I can’t let well enough alone, so trying different tubes on it. I thought I had got the equation balanced with EML rectifier, Sylvania 6BK7B, and Linlai E-2A3s, but the faint noise in one of the Linlai’s broke the magic. I had a pair of Acme 2A3s that came with the non-Special and just tried them, but I’m not convinced.
Update re: Takatsuki 2a3’s–turns out the pair I had must have been damaged in shipping, since one of them developed a low level hum that would not go away. After a little back and forth with Partsconnexion, they shipped me a replacement set.
I’ve had these in only for a couple of minutes, and I have to say that it is a completely different presentation from my first set. I ended up burning in the first set for about 150 hours before the hum became unbearable–during this time, while the tonal balance seemed to improve, it didn’t seem to be worth the price delta from the Acme/Linlai’s to me at all. I accepted that the Takas might just not be for me.
But…this new pair is dead silent. I didn’t even have to adjust the hum pots on the Stellaris. The difference in sound is analogous to the changes I felt when I first got the Elrog 5u4g rectifier. A richer, lusher sound with denser images and a more expanded stage. Vivid, precise bass without any bloat. Gone is the treble etch that I heard with my first pair.
I would highly suggest that if anyone decides to take the plunge with these tubes that they run them through their paces. Any hint of brightness or background noise may be an indication that the tube sustained damage in transit. I have to make a complete 180 in terms of my initial impressions of the Takatsuki sound. Compared to all my other 2a3’s (Acme, Linlai, Shuguang natural sound, RCA single plates) you should expect larger, denser images, a richer tonal palette, and an expansive stage that is not diffuse or thin in any way.
Interesting. Thanks for the point-of-reference. I’m SO happy with my vintage RCA 2A3s that I’m honestly thinking not to bother with Taks at all. But comments like this keep the door open JUST a little bit.
Finally the day arrived and I received my blue box.
Ordered: Dec. 3, 2021
Received: May 1, 2023
I chose balanced and single ended inputs, and a stepped TKD attenuator. I debated the stepped attenuator for some time because I was afraid that it wouldn’t give me enough variability at low volumes with the Utopia since I planned to use the relatively hot Holo May’s 5.8V balanced out. It turns out that there was enough, but just barely. It’s not an issue, however, because I have started to use HQPlayer and it provides volume adjustment in the digital domain without leaving pure DSD or hi-rez PCM. The other options I considered was a Goldpoint attenuator or a Holo Audio Serene preamp (I still might get a Serene but not only to have volume control).
It replaces the superb LTA MZ3. Other components in the system: [ HQPlayer → Holo May | Rega P10 → EAT E-Glo Petit ].
A quick comparison to the LTA MZ3 has the Stellaris being better in terms of resolution, timbre, and a harder hitting bass. It should, obviously, be better than the much more affordable MZ3, but those were the things I noted right away. I’m sure there’s more as I go through my music library. For me, this was one of those moments when you upgrade your gear and discover aspects you have not heard before or paid attention to before, of recordings you have heard hundreds of times before.
Congratulations on your new addition! While it costs more than what I am willing to spend on a single piece of audio equipment, I am happy to hear that it brings you enjoyment! While I have never experienced a DNA amp in person, I can appreciate its build quality and appearance.
Gorgeous! You’re serial No. 35, I have serial no. 33. Makes me wonder who exactly is serial no. 34 that isn’t part of this forum? lol
I too have more usable volume than I expected, and I settled for the standard pot. With the -6db TRS switch I max out around 3-4 depending on the recording.
I haven’t had enough analytical listening time yet to really post an in-depth review, but suffice it to say I am finding ‘Holo May > Stellaris > Utopia’ about as good as I could possibly ask it to be. You know that feeling when you can’t really think of anything you would change because it’s so good you don’t even care if it COULD be any better? That. And really, I think that’s all any of us is really looking for.
Having spent considerable time now with my new chain (May KTE > Stellaris > Utopia) I’ve realized what “endgame” really is: it’s the place where you want for nothing and are content that what you have is perfect for you. A place I am very happy to have found.
I completely agree with you! The last couple of weeks have been spent listening to so much music…
…and smiling. You put on some music you thought you knew well and discover nuances you never realized before. Its so resolving. Other things I have noticed is how drum hits sound “rounder” – if that makes any sense. They are softer but still punchy. More like real drums than what I’ve previously experienced with recordings. Another big thing for me is that it sounds so natural. Speaking as a kind of newbie in the high end, what I appreciate now as an audiophile is not the “clarity” or “bass” but more how a voice or a piano sounds. I have Randy Newman’s song collection from HDTracks, and the piano used to give me listening fatigue after a few songs. It was a bit grating. That’s completely gone and I can enjoy Randy’s songs for hours. Granted, they are now also up-sampled with HQPlayer and I upgraded to a good USB cable, which definitely made a difference too.
Here’re some music that have stood out as really fun to listen to on my / our system(s)
Talk Talk’s The Colour of Spring – SACD (among the best, if not the best SACD out there)
The Cars’ self titled MOFI SACD
Art of Noise’s Daft – SACD
The Carpenters - Singles 1969-1981 (SACD)
and much more…
Absolutely. I realize everyone is different, and for some people that thirst for something new and better will never go away. But for me, that feeling of “what could I possibly want more than this?” is very real and very satisfying. I’ve found it with May>Stellaris>Utopia, and I’ve found it with EE Legend EVO. I may ADD a planar+solid state or an electrostat someday, but I really can’t envision ever wanting to replace what I have now with anything else. It is JUST RIGHT for me. That has to be what “endgame” means.