Nitsch Sound DSHA-3FN Headphone Amp - Official Thread

The DSHA-3FN by Nitsch Sound is a rebirth of the legendary DSHA-3F, which was designed by Doug Savitsky of ECP Audio. Nitsch collaborated directly with Doug on this re-release, keeping the circuit, internal design, and internal parts virtually unchanged. A redesigned, smaller chassis and the addition of single-ended inputs are improvements to the amp’s versatility and convenience.

Widely lauded for its transparency, holography, black background, and sound staging, this class-A amp is considered by many to be a particularly exceptional pairing for dynamic driver headphones. DSHA stands for “Differential Stereo Headphone Amplifier” and the 3F denotes the third version designed with Focal headphones as a tuning reference.

A limited run launched in August, 2023 at a price of $2,800. More information can be found on the Nitsch Sound website.

This is the place to discuss the DSHA-3FN!


Thank you for starting this thread, I had a mind to but you did it already! Much appreciated :+1:

I will have a bit to add here shortly, I’m still in formative stages with it…

I absolutely agree with what you said so far in your “what’s in the box” comments, I’ve never heard anything like it.

It would be interesting to hear from any OG ECP DSHA-3F owners past/present who have heard or plan to get this version…


#18 checking in. I feel like this amp just keeps getting better and better. I’m curious if you guys have noticed any burn in? I’ve left my amp on throughout the day since getting it (day 3 now) and feel like its settled down with a little more bass presence, smoothness, and overall richness.

I’m enamored by the synergy with the Verite Closed. It feels like the amp was made for these headphones… taking all of the best qualities of the beryllium drivers and dialing them up to 11 in a perfectly balanced way.

Listening to Electric Train by Christie Lenée, Phil Keaggy and the guitars sound heavenly. Every guitar pluck, strum, and tap is presented effortlessly with ultra-clarity. Despite the smorgasbord of detail reproduced, the music still sounds fully cohesive and masterfully layered.

Electronic music is utterly euphoric. At 0:58 in Hemma by Kasbo the brass high notes surge in a way that pleasantly energizes the track without drowning out the multiple layers of percussion. So. Much. Richness. I feel like I can listen to the same song 10 times and have a different experience each time. Corvid Phase by Hedflux (and the rest of that album) shows off the black background and vastness of soundstage. It feels like you’re anchored at a Lagrange point observing sounds flying effortlessly all around you. No gravity pulling at them to disrupt their momentum and kinetic energy. No pollution to diffuse their purity, cause collisions, or block your “line of sight”.

I love how I’ve been able to use this amp all throughout the day, zoning out of the critical focus mode and just enjoying having music in the background during deep work sessions. When I’m able to find time to tune in to the critical aspects, I can’t help but grin with the entire universe of sound waiting to be enjoyed.


Folks I trust who have heard both suggest they are very, very close. I will keep my OG 3F :smile:


Same with OG 3F. At some point I owned two 3Fs, one with nickel transformers and the other with amorphous ones. Then I got ZMF Caldera (planar) that don’t match so well with the 3F, so I sold the amorphous 3F, which for me was slightly less engaging than the nickel one with my ZMF dynamics. 3FN uses amorphous transformers, which to my ears sound closer to neutral, which many will prefer, but I like the slightly tube-ier nickel model. Two great tastes :slight_smile:


I surely would as well.

From all the pictures I’ve seen of it on SBAF each one is a work of art, and different from the next. Doug’s woodworking skills are phenomenal. ZMF headphones remind me of his work in that they are also unique and beautiful pieces. But his skills with joinery and color/pattern choices are next level, he is a real master.

After seeing his bio and CV in several places he strikes me as something of a Renaissance man… Quite a background and seemingly self-taught in circuit design? Very interesting guy with all different kinds of skills and accomplishments.


This thread on SBAF I found quite interesting, and is a deep dive into the DSHA3-F. It also has a lot of pictures of Doug’s work, which is amazing!

The last pages of this thread also cover the “handoff” of this amp to Christian at Nitsch, and was with Doug’s blessing, and with input on the circuit board revisions. So it is safe to say our new version is about as “official” as it gets. :+1:


Now that I’ve had my Nitsch a bit over a week, I think I’ve had enough listening time to form some conclusions. Nitsch has produced a real winner here, and congratulations to Christian are in order. He has faithfully recreated the DSHA-3F, from what I can tell.

First, everything you’ve heard or read that’s positive about the DSHA-3F is true. In general it is remarkable with the right headphones, with an utterly black background (lowest noise floor) compared to anything I’ve heard to date.

It is incredibly resolving, unpacking complex musical passages such that you can hear individual instruments and their placement in space in a really remarkable way. It’s soundstage is very three dimensional and expansive.

At the same time, it is very punchy and dynamic, resolving the deepest bass while having very clean but sweet sounding midrange, with great treble detail. It is described as having some tube like euphony. I can’t say, as I have no basis for comparison, but I know others here have tube amp listening experience and can comment on that.

I’ve listened to all kinds of genres with it, including rock, reggae, electronic/EDM, jazz, and classical symphonic and ensemble. It just gets out of the way of the music, immersing you in what you are listening to.

It’s designed mostly for dynamic driver headphones, so it’s not a Swiss-army knife/drive anything type of headphone amp.

I’ve used mostly the “usual suspects” with it, namely Focal and ZMF.

It is designed for Focal, and wow, what can I say. The Utopia (2020) is simply phenomenal with it, as is the Clear (OG). In fact, I’ve never heard the Clear sound so good, which is a bit of a shocker. It actually sounded closer to the Utopia than I’ve ever heard it, or thought possible.

In any case, it elevated Utopia to a place I’ve not quite heard it before. I’ve used Utopia with a Burson Soloist 3X GT previously. Which is a surprisingly excellent match (which @andris can vouch for also).

Nontheless, I hear an improvement in overall dynamics, fine detail resolution, and soundstage compared with the Burson (which is no slouch in any of those categories). It is trite but true that I’ve not heard the Utopia at this level.

Similarly, with the ZMF Atrium (open) the Nitsch is a great match. I have always felt the Atrium paired extremely well with the Burson in how they complement each other tonally. The DSHA-3 is even incrementally better in detail extraction, while preserving the beautiful tonality, soundstage, and punchiness of the Atrium.

The Verite Open is also quite excellent, and has been covered extensively in other discussions of the amp. I have no hesitation in saying this also makes a good (great) combination.

One surprise here is that the amp works decently well with the Rosson RAD-0 planar. I definitely had hesitations or concerns about how it would pair, as many planars are for sure no go. The RAD-0 is 29ohm impedance rated at 98dB/mW, but it is current hungry like most planars.

The Nitsch will drive it with some authority and slam, and sounds really pretty damn good. But it doesn’t have quite the bass authority as the Burson, and the Rosson is a better pairing overall with the Burson…

Which leaves me in a bit of a conundrum in that I can’t really justify having 2 expensive amps! Especially when it’s for just 1 pair of headphones. Although the used resale value on the Burson is pretty grim, so I don’t quite know what I’ll do yet.

In any case, I look forward to what other Nitsch owners have to say. It is a pretty phenomenal sounding amp!


Wonderful write up @robson! That’s awesome the RAD-0 pairs well. I wonder how the Caldera would sound? I also found it interesting how well you’re enjoying the synergy with the Atrium. For me - in my chain - the Atrium (Closed) was the only headphone that I didn’t love the pairing with. Might be the closed aspect, the stock pads, or the BF2 DAC (or all of the above) but I found it a little too V-shaped and sometimes overwhelmed tracking busy passages. The Verite Closed was far and above the best pairing I found, with the Aeolus also being excellent.

While the sound is obviously most important, I do also feel it’s worth making a comment on the design.

The updated industrial design with the DSHA-3FN presents a fresh take on elegant simplicity. The wood panels brings a unique design element that immediately makes the enclosure visually interesting. I’m told the panel design was inspired by acoustic diffusers found in recording studios. The gray metal enclosure feels very premium with a high quality finish - noticeably soft to the touch. The gold knob and badge complete the color palette, which I think looks even better in person. The knob has a very premium feel and the pot is the smoothest I’ve experienced.

The single amber LED on the front is small and dim, which means it doesn’t blind you in low light. There are several red LEDs inside the amp which create a subtle glow through the vents. The lighting is easy on the eyes, even in a very dark room. It reminds me of the older BMW amber interior lighting, which was a chosen to minimize eye strain and distractions when driving at night.

The only (very minor) nitpick I would make is related to usability of disconnecting the XLR out. By habit, I press down on the front-left corner on top of the amp to create some stability when disconnecting the XLR cable. This causes the amp to lose its footing and lift off the ground on the opposite (back) corner. I’ve adjusted where I hold the amp when unplugging so this no longer happens so I wouldn’t consider this a problem.

Overall, I think Christian / NITSCH nailed the design of the DSHA-3FN. After spending a fair amount of time with the amp now, I’ve come to appreciate the many thoughtful design decisions that were made. The amp doesn’t get scream “look at me!” while on the rack. It does manage however to bring a modern and elegant presence that elevates it beyond the typical fare of silver or black components.


My experience with Caldera + DSHA-3F amorphous, which the 3FN replicates: lacking in dynamics and staging, opposite to what I heard with Atrium open or Verité open (HQPlayer DSD256>Holo May KTE>DSHA-3F). I love the 3F (still own one with nickel transformers) but not for Caldera. I also own DNA Stellaris amps, again not a good match for Caldera. The good Caldera pairing I own is Ferrum Oor+Hypsos.


Nitsch DSHA-3FN Review by @andris


On Utopia OG: Lowest noise floor I’ve ever (not?) heard. Exceptional stage width and depth, and tube-like holography. Elegant build. Warmer sound signature. Slightly softened transient response and macrodynamics.

Full Review

Chain: Roon NUC PC Server → Holo Red DDC -(optical)-> Chord MScaler → Chord DAVE → Nitsch DSHA-3FN → Utopia OG

The (lack of) noise floor on this amp blew me away the second I put the Utopias on my ears, so I just have to start here. I’ve never heard anything like it. I consider minimizing noise floor to be one of the highest priorities in my chain (hence a larger than usual budget on power products, interconnects, isolation, etc), and for an amplifier, the gap between this and anything else I’ve had in my system is meaningful. It’s even noticeably quieter than the built-in headphone amp on the DAVE, and that had been my low noise floor reference - until now.

I would also not be the first to note that the DSHA-3FN has a fairly wide and deep sound stage, with exceptional holography, and I suspect the extremely low noise floor is largely to thank for that. As I understand it, the brain uses extremely low-level cues and transient timing to reconstruct spacial images from sound, and when you allow more of that micro-micro-detail through (i.e. not obstruct it with low-level noise), instruments seem more clearly placed in space, and more three-dimensional themselves. For example, on a good recording, I can hear (and almost “see”) a whole drum head reverberating in a three dimensional spot, rather than simply processing a drum hit in a more two dimensional direction. Combining the DSHA-3FN’s incredibly low noise floor with a Chord digital front end that specializes in low-level detail resolution and transient reconstruction, and with the incredible resolving power of the Utopia, and you end up with spatial magic.

I find this amp to lean warm and soft. “Warmth” can be caused by more than one factor (e.g. frequency response and transient response), but I’m going to talk about it primarily in how this amp manifests timbre and transients. This can be a controversial and extremely subjective statement, so some context is called for. On the warm ↔ cool/clinical spectrum, what I personally am looking for is something that sounds as true to life as possible. While I recognize that I was not in the room for the recordings to judge, I am an orchestral musician, casual guitar player, and have played / listened to quite a bit of live music, so I have very good reference points for at least what timbral and tonal range an instrument should be in, and it pains me to say that, for my own preference, the DSHA-3FN leans too far toward warm and soft to be in what I consider to be the “realistic” range for most of the music I listen to - at least that which is based on real instruments (i.e. not electronic). I also would like to note that it’s a “fat” warmth instead of a “warm blanket” warmth - if that helps characterize it a bit more; It’s not muffled by any means, but the musical “strands” are just fattened up a bit. I also find the transients to be on the soft side, with not as much punch and precision as something like DAVE’s amp or the Burson Soloist 3X GT. Now, I recognize that a whole lot of people find the Utopia to sometimes come off as a bit too precise or edgy (I do not), so if you’re in the camp of people that love the Utopia, but just want to take the edge off a bit, do yourself a favor and listen to this amp. It may very well be perfect for you!

Likely related to the softer transients, macrodynamics don’t shine on the DSHA-3FN. I don’t think you’d be likely to point them out as muted without another reference, but if you listen to the Utopia through one of the Chord DAC/amps (DAVE, Hugo2 and others) and switch back, you’d certainly come away thinking that there is more immediacy on the Chord units.

I really love the build of this amp - both aesthetically and functionally. I don’t mind large amps, but the size is incredibly friendly, even if it’s going on your desk. The diffuser-like wood panels on the sides may not be universally loved, especially if you’ve got an all black and silver aesthetic going on, but in my wood rack, I think it’s absolutely perfect. The volume knob is textured so that it grips beautifully, and the knob feel is incredibly smooth with just the right amount of resistance. The only slight criticism I’ll make is that the RCA inputs seem to be slightly recessed into the unit, making me feel like I’m not getting the fullest connection I could get (but this may not matter, and it’s not like I notice some degradation from it - probably mostly psychological). They’re also a hair closer together than I’d like. The connectors on my RCA interconnects just touch, so they’re not really strained, but I’d love an extra 2-3mm of space to comfortably fit premium interconnects that may have a slightly fatter connector.


I do not have as much experience with solid state amplification as I have with tube amps, and the only direct comparisons (i.e. amps on hand) I have are the Chord DAVE built-in amp and a DNA Stellaris (a tube amp, which I am generally leaving out of the comparisons due to factors like tube rolling variances, a large price point difference, and tube amps generally being a completely different beast). Still, I feel reasonably confident in the DAVE as my common reference that I can give general comparison notes. For solid state amps other than the DSHA-3FN, I have owned an SPL Phonitor XE and a Burson Soloist 3X GT (pre-2023 version). The DSHA-3FN defnitely has the lowest noise floor of the bunch and is also the warmest of the bunch (including the tube amp). Sound stage width is widest on the DSHA-3FN and/or Burson Soloist 3X GT, but I can’t pick between the two - but those definitely have wider stage than the DAVE and Phonitor. Overall stage depth is also between the Burson and the DSHA-3FN. Detail retrieval is very close between the DAVE, Burson, and DSHA-3FN, with the Phonitor XE just missing out on a tiny bit of microdetail. Even though detail retrieval on the DSHA-3FN is very good, the “fatness” of the sound doesn’t let it shine as much in that category, possibly because it causes the amp lose out on a bit of separation, for which the Burson takes the cake. For holography (3D-ness) of instruments themselves, that goes to the DSHA-3FN. Basically, think of the DSHA and Burson as having similar stage and detail, but the “players” on the stage are a bit more 3D (and fatter) on the DSHA. The Burson and DAVE both nail timbre and transients for my taste. Basically, if I could combine the low noise floor, holography, stage, and build of the DSHA-3FN with the separation, detail, tonality, and energy of the Burson (WITH NO FAN!), that would be my perfect solid state amp.

Conclusion (and follow-on comparison teaser)

I very much wanted the DSHA-3FN to be my end-game solid state amp - but I don’t think it is. It’s one of those pieces of gear where I can marvel at many aspects of its performance and see why it would be absolutely perfect for many people, but it’s just not the end of the road for me. I hinted above at my affinity for the Burson, and having read reviews of the new version (with improved power circuitry), it probably achieves a lot of what I’m looking for - but it still has that damn fan, which isn’t awfully loud, but it’s massively unappealing for me to have a fan in a piece of hi-fi gear.

I have an incurable case of audiophilia, and those who were aware of this will not be surprised to learn I have ordered some other amps to compare to the DSHA-3FN in a three-way shootout. On the way are the following:

  • Bryston BHA-1
  • Schiit Mjolnir 3

Either I love one, and it is the one that stays, or I continue my solid-state search (and who knows - maybe I’ll just get the latest Burson and decide to live with the fan…)


Thank you for the interesting review! I’ve owned DSHA-3F amps for a while, still own one (nickel transformers). I lack your extensive music experience, but a while ago I got a Ferrum Orr (+Hypsos power supply) to drive ZMF Caldera headphones, which the 3F did not do a good job with. In comparison, yes, the 3F is a tad warm and soft, and the Oor seems closer to the ideal you describe. The 3F very enjoyable for its other attributes, which you describe well, especially with ZMF Verité open blackwood. But I have now ordered a MJ3 to try to triangulate my amp world a bit better…


As usual, excellent write up! I too have the original DSHA 3F and it has its strengths and weaknesses, one of which is its limited use case outside of Focal headphones. I’ve simply never been able to get the sound described by others from using my ZMF cans.

When you get the Bryston , as an owner of versatile amp a few words of wisdom to share:

  • Ideally run it purely balanced from input to output
  • if you are unable to input balanced, still use the balanced outputs to your headphones. If you use the single ended output, this will only engage half the amplifier and miss out on the dual mono goodness :grin:
  • The volume pot has an interesting approach, it is not a straight wire with gain, there is a term for this type of approach and it’s slipping my mind at the moment.

With the Utopia you will not need much from the volume pot, though you will benefit from the balanced output.

Another amp you should consider is the Pass HPA-1, it may be the a good option to consider in your hunt.

God Speed as you venture ahead into solid state waters!


Looks like it is sold out until 2024, will have to just wait and see if one of these, or the older models pop up. Great to see a fellow BHA-1 user, will get mine in a few days and can pair it with the 2022 Utopia. Have similarly owned the Phonitor.


According to the Bryston manual it’s just a stereo pot from Noble, I think now out of production. Looking at the schematic, the 2 halves of the balanced signal are combined after the input stage, run through the pot, then split again for the output stage. So, the volume control itself is not acting on a balanced signal, but everything else is. See below.

BTW, volume control is signal attenuation. Gain is accomplished elsewhere. Love Bryston and that 20-year warranty, but there’s nothing unusual about this volume control.


Thank you for reading the schematic and translating it for us non-engineers, I have stared at that same image many times and can only admire its symmetry.

My apologies if it appeared I was conflating volume pot with balanced output, I was not. Anyone who has used the BHA-1 with hard to drive headphones such as insensitive planar designs will notice the volume pot does not increase volume in a typical way other amplifiers behave.

Once you get to around 12 o’clock the volume increase is not as sensitive as the first half of the volume turn, it’s as if it’s slowed down (which is not an accurate term, more of a analogy) and the volume gain difference is quite less as the knob continues to increase towards max.

Yes my description is inadequate, I’m not an engineer and not able to translate the weirdness into a technical manner.


No worries. The behavior you describe would apply to a linear-taper pot, as opposed to an inverse-log-taper pot (aka “reverse-log-taper pot”), because of the way we perceive increases in SPL. A linear-taper pot in an audio device would definitely be unusual; maybe that’s the term you couldn’t remember?

Could this be a Bryston thing? Anybody have this experience with a Bryston preamp or integrated? Or, any of the techie types know if Bryston likes linear-taper pots?

Sorry, moderators, if I’ve dragged this off-topic.

To go further off topic…@SenyorC…move these posts?

The inexpensive Dark Voice 336SE OTL amp is notorious for using a linear pot. This was apparently chosen to make the massive and heavy amp come across as more powerful and authoritative. One must finely adjust the volume dial between 7:00 and 9:00 o’clock, and the volume is largely tapped out by 12:00. The 336SE is odd in other ways too, and exemplifies early-era ChiFi.