Massdrop "x" & Drop (Audiophile)

Solderdude has measured a lot of the Hifiman headphones. Based on his measurements, the 560 seems somewhat unique in having more presence than most of the others. If that’s part of what you like, a straight upgrade may be difficult.

Yea the HE560 definitely exaggerates that area and part of it is due to a dip in the upper mids – and coincidentally I also enjoy IEMs like the T2, ZSN, etc that have a peak around there too. That said, I swapped pads to tame that area a little bit (Dekoni Elite Hybrids).

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Man…I’m itching for a planar right now and the HE560 open box deal for $320? (can’t remember exact price) is looking good with a HEV1 balanced cable too…but I kind of want to wait for the HE-XX from Massdrop. I also almost picked up that Utopia on Avexchange for $2k…but having the Clears is keeping me sane on that purchase…also looking at higher end DAC and amps…I have the winter time blues and fill it with ridiculous purchase mood bad… ha

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Aww, 'Cmon. Pull the trigger on some STAX. You know you want to.

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Massdrop CTH - SOLD! Dust catcher. Not a bad product at all, but I was never choosing it over the Loxjie P20.

Massdrop X Noble IEMs (2 BAs / Midnight Blue) - SOLD! I’d rather put Q-Tips soaked in alcohol in my ears and then set them on fire. My KZ ZS10s provide the same ear burning experience for a lower price. [Maybe not worth the effort to sell used…?]

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I mentioned it in another thread, but in an effort to get some more boxes out of the house, and because I have been spending more time than usual “in the office” or at my “day job”, I re-instated a little system there:

And hiding under the desk (I’ll take in a proper camera for it, phones show too much noise in such low light) are the HD6XX, HE4XX, TR-X00 and K7XX Massdrop x headphones, too.

That’ll stick around until I have finally gotten proper reviews, and a comparison, of each piece written up and posted, after which I’ll probably put something else in there. In the mean time, it’s easy to say that my listening preferences (i.e. for musical enjoyment) favor the EC ZDT Jr over the THX AAA 789, followed by the MCTH and the LCX. And on technicalities it goes THX AAA 789, EC ZDT Jr, LCX and finally the MCTH.

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I miss having a large U-shaped desk setup at work. That setup would take up over half my desk space… sigh. It looks rather nice though!

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Hopefully they ship out the R2R DAC by Airist soon(ish) I really enjoyed that DAC. Are these all Daisy chained to the Airist?

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Any interest or experience with the Loxjie P20? I’m curious about how you think it stacks up against the MCTH and the $$$$ tube amps.

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Yes, a simple daisy chain. All the Massdrop x amplifiers I have, except the CTH, have a single-ended pass-through connection (totally passive, functions when powered off), I just set it up as:

RDAC -> THX -> LXC -> ZDT -> CTH

I hope they ship the RDACs soon too. I think they’re about 6 weeks or so out, though I haven’t heard anything since their last public announcement.

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The Loxjie P20 is something I’ve been happy not to comment on to this point, but since you asked specifically I’ll do so …

P20 vs. MCTH … the P20 has significantly better large-scale dynamics, is quieter (blacker background, especially with sensitive, closed-back, dynamic cans), and renders a more stable and expansive stage.

In contrast, the MCTH easily out-resolves the P20, has much better transient response, more realistic timbre, and gains more character from its tube than the P20. Plucked strings or solo piano is a quick way to separate them, with the P20 rapidly falling by the wayside here.

I really found nothing “tubey” about the P20, either good or bad, so compared to “$$$$”, or even “$$”, tube amps, it’s a non-starter. Tube-rolling yielded entirely minimal differences, except in channel balance and transient performance - which, at its best, was still clearly behind the Massdrop unit. Get tubes with good transient performance, properly, and closely, matched (so you don’t lose the benefit of its digital pot attenuator), and don’t spend more than $10 per tube.

If you care more about tone, timbre or resolution, and/or want some “tube flavor”, then the MCTH is the better bet (so is the Vali 2, for what it’s worth). If you are more interested in black-ground, power, dynamics or stage, or just want “balanced because balanced is moar-betterer”, then the P20 is by no means bad for the price.

And, “tube flavor” with the MCTH excepted (which is still limited compared to a real/pure tube amp, like, say, the Bottlehead Crack), the JDS Labs Atom runs rings around both of them when it really comes down to it. There’s nothing approaching “tube sound” in the P20 that would tempt me to use it, on a regular basis, vs. the Atom (or the Magni 3 or even Liquid Spark). And what the P20 might be gaining from being balanced is lost in what are, to me, the most important technical performance characteristics … especially raw resolution.

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Hmmm. Either release samples or ear sensitivity varies.

I sold my MCTH largely because I could not get past the “fzzzz fzzzz fzzzz” wavering sound of a pressure washer in the background. Fzzz plus heavier bass was the major “tube” effect. The MCTH was also much more dense, flat, and undefined than the P20 in the top half of the audio range – I think the fzzz noise cancelled out the details.

Again, this is pretty much the opposite of my experience. I only have the factory tubes and GE 5670 triple micas for the P20, but there is a pretty substantial difference. Either set of tubes is more tubey than the lean MCTH.

And again, hmmm! Ears or tastes differ. There is nothing on Planet Earth that would tempt me to use the Magni 3 for any purpose whatsoever. I perceived that it had no detail at all and deeply messed up dynamics (we’ve previously discussed this in other threads).

Nice to know that people can be so different – my take away is that one must try before deciding.

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I expect source material, source hardware and transducers also plays a non-trivial part in this.

That sounds more like a ground loop, bad power, or a faulty unit to me. The P20 is FAR quieter, noise wise, than the MCTH, as I already said, but there’s nothing like that on the MCTH I have (you’re welcome to it if you want to give it another try). Drive TR-X00 off it, and you can easily hear the noise floor from it, where you can’t with the P20. Do the same with the HD6XX and both are 100% silent even with the volume maxxed.

Measurements say the same thing.

Maybe there’s a difference in application/magnitude of terms here.

Even with PURE tube amplifiers, in which the tubes are the primary determinant in overall signature and performance (possibly, and barely, excepting transformers in non-OTL designs), I wouldn’t describe the difference in tubes as “substantial”. In objective terms, generally it’s more of a tweak. Even on five-figure pure-tube amps.

The latent exaggeration that reviews employ to draw contrasts between relatively minor differences is likely at work here.

I’ve yet to hear ANY tube-hybrid in which tube rolling was able to affect more than maybe a “20%” change in results and has never been the difference between “excellent” and “bad”. Unless the tube part was on the output/power side of things, which is extremely rare.

You’re not the first person to say that. The Magni 3 is not my preferred $100 amp. I think there’s something else going on with how it’s perceived given the number of 100%-at-odds reviews on the thing. But I’d go with an Atom or a Vali 2 first if I was shopping at that price point.

But … the P20 still did nothing for me that I can’t get out of a number of $100 solid-state amps, the Atom being probably the best example, and still doesn’t remotely sound like it adds “tube flavor” vs. any actual tube-amp (i.e. doing more than using a tube as a buffer or tweak in the input stage). All it did was commit acts of omission and soften the transients (again both audibly and measurably).

Put another way … if I was spending my money today, and was on a limited budget, neither the P20 nor the MCTH would be on my list. In fact, I’d avoid anything to do with tubes unless I could afford a proper, pure-tube, amp. Way too much FOTM going on at this end of the market … and it’s 100% the opposite of where I spend my real listening time anyway.

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I should also add …

Whenever I’m doing comparisons, especially with electronics, they’re done in an assisted-blind fashion (both hardware and a third-party), in order to help minimize the effects of expectation bias.

Probably doesn’t meet the absolute standards of a true, clinical, double-blind test, but it’s a lot closer to that than any form of sighted, or informed, listening (in a lot of comparisons I do not even know if I’m listening to the units I think I’m listening to, which has proved quite illuminating in the past).

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I don’t think I had a bad unit or ground loop issues. Actually, the graphs at ASR on the MCTH convinced me that Amir was maybe sometimes right. When I look at his noise graphs, it’s pretty much what I heard (…not to start a Holy War about ASR):

I don’t think there was any ground loop issue, as I heard fzzz both alone and side-by-side on the same electrical system as the P20.

The factory P20 tubes do indeed round off the details, thicken the bass, and add a listening-through-a-pipe effect. This was quite pronounced for 20-50 hours, and then moderate after that. For some sources (I use tube amps mostly for overly bright or brittle recordings) that’s actually okay. In contrast, the 5670 triple micas are far more transparent and neutral. The main noticeable effect versus solid sate is thicker and looser bass.

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Well, whatever it is, I don’t hear that on my MCTH.

Two devices in an otherwise identical system can exhibit different grounding performance (it comes down to relative impedance to ground, not any other metric). But that doesn’t mean it was a ground-loop either.

Objectively, however, the P20 has about 25% of the bandwidth of the MCTH and much poorer transient response. Be that on an APx555 or a more revealing instrument (the APx555 might be the pinnacle of dedicated “audio analyzers”, but that’s just a scope with audio-specific automation and a good way off the state of the art in terms of MSO performance … ).

Either way, I don’t care for the P20 for actually listening to music and would still take the Atom over it at that price. And I still don’t think it adds anything remotely “tubey” to the sound (compared to actual, pure-tube, amps) it just rounds things off and softens them vs. competent solid-state designs.

I’ll bow out of this discussion, though. It wasn’t one I was going to join in the P20 thread. As long as people like what they are spending their own money on, I don’t really care.

Edit:

Out of morbid curiosity, what other tubes did you try in the MCTH? I had no issues with the stock one, but don’t know if you tried others, as I’ve heard such noises out of bad tubes in the past.

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This thread may require a title change

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How about a symbol and "The Thread Formerly Known as Massdrop “x” ?

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We should “Drop” the title?

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I just noticed the edit and question at the bottom.

I only had the factory tube in the MCTH (now DCTH or Drop CTH or Droop CTH?). My perception was that the fzzz sound was the unevenness of the noise floor, not a tube or power supply issue. It was faint but always and consistently there.

At that time my desktop amps included the MCTH, Loxjie P20, and THX AAA 789. Testing was conducted back to back to back with several sets of headphones and a wide variety of sources. The MCTH and P20 had the same bass presence and clarity but the P20 absolutely blew away the MCTH for high end openness and clarity (all with factory tubes). The 789 was in a different class for resolution, but with tighter bass.

The transparency of the P20 improved with the later GE triple mica 5670 tube swap, and reduced the bass presence relative to the factory tubes.

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