Bottlehead Mainline high-end headphone amp build

Discussion in 'Soundcards, Speakers HiFI & File formats' started by Mufflore, Nov 18, 2018.

  1. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

    Messages:
    12,784
    Likes Received:
    1,326
    GPU:
    Aorus 3090 Xtreme
    Cheers, it sounds better than it looks!
    I'll find how it compares to an Oppo 105s headphone amp and another decent one over xmas.
    More details when I know.

    Tubes used are
    2x 6C45π to supply power for each channel
    12AU7 two channel hybrid shunt voltage regulator

    Its reported tube rolling has practically no benefit with this design.
    Great to know its running at or very near its best already.
    And these tubes dont cost the earth + have a decent lifespan.


    There will be a new thread for the Meze phones when I have solid results.
    They are running in atm which is helping bass response and a treble peak.
    Problem being, planars are reported to need 400 to 500hrs, eek! No doubt the thread will start earlier, probably before new year :)
    I'll happily answer questions here in the meantime.
     
  2. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

    Messages:
    12,784
    Likes Received:
    1,326
    GPU:
    Aorus 3090 Xtreme
    OK, sure.

    Yes it appears they are the pinnacle of planar technology, the only 2 way planar.
    I only read a few opinions and reviews before deciding these are what I really want if money is no object.
    After reading a ton about other headphones I kept coming back to them and discovered more info on how they were developed and why the high price.
    I didnt intend going near £3K but they grew on me until Monday when I found myself calling shops to see who had stock.
    Point of no return.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2018
  3. jbmcmillan

    jbmcmillan Ancient Guru

    Messages:
    2,764
    Likes Received:
    276
    GPU:
    Gigabyte G1 GTX970
    I'm not going anywhere looking forward to it.
     
  4. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

    Messages:
    12,784
    Likes Received:
    1,326
    GPU:
    Aorus 3090 Xtreme
    fyi, I added a bit to my last reply ^ :)
     

  5. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

    Messages:
    12,784
    Likes Received:
    1,326
    GPU:
    Aorus 3090 Xtreme
    A couple of interesting changes:

    The mild mains hum on the headphone amp is gone.
    When music isnt playing it is dead silent now.
    This must be down to the valves breaking in, they have probably 200hrs or less on the clock.

    And after playing a subwoofer burn in track repeatedly for an hour a few times yesterday, last night, bass response from the Empyrean headphones was much improved.
    (The rest of the time I play hi def music in a huge playlist, no other burn in tracks)
    I no longer need to boost bass so am using HQPlayer which is simply glorious.
    I'm nursing a cold atm which is one reason I havent wanted to say much, it will influence what I hear, feel and say.
    They are becoming everything I hoped.
    A "phew" moment because I worried the break in might not do enough for the bass.
    Around 50hrs on the clock so far.

    But damn, these phones are loud externally!
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2018
  6. anticupidon

    anticupidon Ancient Guru

    Messages:
    5,949
    Likes Received:
    2,360
    GPU:
    Polaris/Vega/Navi
    Don't know where to start to wonder and be awed by the craftsmanship.
    Good heavens, this is something worth to visit the forum for.
     
    Mufflore likes this.
  7. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

    Messages:
    12,784
    Likes Received:
    1,326
    GPU:
    Aorus 3090 Xtreme
    Thanks anticupidon :)

    When the Empyrean phones arrived the low impedance switch setting only worked on one channel.
    Buzzing the connections out one of the wires was open circuit, it had a break.
    Nothing was visible so a repair of the wire wasnt possible.
    Luckily a length of wire just long enough was left in the kit to create an alternate route, keeping the characteristics of the original design.
    ie both channels will still be well matched.

    The repair, before and after. (see bottom most grey wire)
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Empyrean headphones :)
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    anxious_f0x, gridiron whirlw and The1 like this.
  8. gridiron whirlw

    gridiron whirlw Ancient Guru

    Messages:
    3,875
    Likes Received:
    42
    GPU:
    GTX 570 SLI


    Stunning headphones and amp.
     
    Mufflore likes this.
  9. gridiron whirlw

    gridiron whirlw Ancient Guru

    Messages:
    3,875
    Likes Received:
    42
    GPU:
    GTX 570 SLI
    You have had these headphones for awhile now.....what is your impressions of them ?
     
  10. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

    Messages:
    12,784
    Likes Received:
    1,326
    GPU:
    Aorus 3090 Xtreme
    Hi Gridiron,
    I havent been well recently, hurts like nuts, so have been keeping a low profile.
    I would rather not colour/mess up what I want to say so soz for this late post.
    When I feel better I'll create a thread for the Empyrean.

    The headphones should be near run in approaching 400hrs on the clock after being left playing music.
    My main concern has been getting the best bass response from them because I hoped for a little more with some music.
    I dont think this is a knock on the headphones but is more my taste.
    With so much headroom (they can exceed 130dB!!) its no problem to EQ more bass on bass heavy music, then they really shine.

    Over Xmas my family had a listen to the Empyrean + Mainline amp and I made a few notes:
    My Brother is a man of few words, he tries to get right to the point and is ultra fussy about his hifi.
    For decades he has been perfecting his main system and always found a niggle.
    We used his Oppo 205 and its headphone out + 10 yr old Grado RS1 headphones and Grado RS1 amp (he hasnt used the Grados for over 5 years as he doesnt need to keep noise down any more).
    The Oppo was used to play music directly from a USB pen.
    The Oppo and Mainline were connected together by my short silver interconnects.

    We plugged the Grado headphones in for a few seconds which was enough to decide there was no point comparing them.
    Ordinarily when he is presented with a catalogue of tracks to try out a new piece of kit he tries a bit of each one and gives a verdict picking the faults apart.
    He put the first track on and didnt stop, just leant back and let it roll.
    He preferred the leather pads, claiming stronger upper bass and clearer mids.
    Comparing headphone amps he said the Grado amp was scratchy (I agree it sounded very gritty+unfocussed), the Oppo 205 headphone out was very nice and the Mainline amp was smooth/laid back and yet supremely detailed, a lot more detail (or similar words).
    He said the Empyrean and Mainline pairing was just right and struggled to explain the differences with the Oppo amp, pointing at the Mainline amp saying "they need to be used with that". Bear in mind he was hung over lol.
    When asked, he tried to describe the Meze headphones and eventually said one word, perfect.
    We discussed momentarily what perfect means to him, I got as far as it is the best sound he has ever heard, and then he put them back on lol.

    Our Uncle and Cousins took it in turns when my Brother relented, to play everything they could for hours until my Aunty told them off.
    They have never been into hifi but a light bulb has flicked on.

    When my Dad had chance to hear them next day, my Brother was gone along with his Oppo, so we used his OnePlus phone without the Mainline amp.
    He preferred his Bose phones and there was nowhere near enough bass on the Empyrean, I wouldnt want to use them like that either.
    The phone DAC made them sound pretty flat/undynamic as well, it wasnt a good experience.
    A decent amp and DAC are a must.


    A little of my own experience:
    Each time I use them they are very hard to put down.
    The sound is incredible with either Foobar2000 or HQPlayer, although they dig up mastering problems I didnt notice/care about before in some music.
    The sheer amount of detail, imaging, separation... its hypnotic.
    Its not easy to put into words how they sound so I'll try harder later.
    I paid £2700 for a set of headphones expecting something really great.
    The Empyrean are so far beyond my expectation its nuts.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2019
    airbud7 likes this.

  11. gridiron whirlw

    gridiron whirlw Ancient Guru

    Messages:
    3,875
    Likes Received:
    42
    GPU:
    GTX 570 SLI


    Thanks for the update. I will look forward to hearing more once you feel better.

    These should kill the Grado RS1 in the bass department......Grado's transparency is what I like about them, but they can't even come close to the bass of the ZMF Ori.
    It is an 85% closed headphone, so it is going to be much greater. I will have an LCD 3 coming to compare to my closed planar.

    Hope you get feeling better and I will keep watching for the Empyrean thread..got to love planar bass, so addicting :)
     
    Mufflore likes this.
  12. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

    Messages:
    12,784
    Likes Received:
    1,326
    GPU:
    Aorus 3090 Xtreme
    I apologise for being 6 months late, quite a few things got in the way.
    Not least of which was my lack of familiarity with headphones. ie It felt wrong having the soundstage in my head and couldnt get past it. I didnt feel I was the right person to write a review of these stupendous headphones!
    Also the lack of bass I felt must be a problem with my DAC or the headphone amp I built but it took me until a few weeks ago to properly nail the issue.

    The Empyrean were sent back to Meze where they reported the drivers were 2dB down from 10Hz to 30Hz and fitted new ones.
    I also bought the silver plated balanced headphone cable. Why not get the most from them :)
    Replacing the drivers not only solved the bass issue but with the new cable the level of clarity is beyond words, not that easy to explain.
    They are being run in.
    Meze said 40hrs for the cable and 100hrs for the drivers, 50hrs in so far.

    The review has been started but its not easy to do these headphones justice, especially as a headphone newb.
    Luckily the time taken to sort the bass problem allowed me to gel with the soundstage being in my head.
    I still prefer the soundstage from my hifi because it reflects reality better, but I no longer wish I was listening to my hifi instead of the headphones.
    It is now 2 polars of the same game, both frighteningly good at what they do.

    The review will be posted in the next week or 2 and might be a work in progress, it will cover the above issues in more detail.
    In the meantime, behold the new cable :D

    [​IMG]
     
    airbud7 and gridiron whirlw like this.
  13. Chastity

    Chastity Ancient Guru

    Messages:
    2,731
    Likes Received:
    917
    GPU:
    Nitro 5700 XT
    @Mufflore

    Soundstage imaging being centered in the head is a common pitfall for headphones. Not many actually deliver a natural sounding field. However, there are solutions. :) For example, the Cardas cable upgrade for the Sennheiser H58x/6xx series comes with a head plug that will correct the imaging, making it much more natural sounding.

    You can also solve it with a crossfeed, either a circuit on your headphone amp, or a DSP. For myself, I use a Meier Crossfeed plug-in for foobar2000. I'm sure you can find one for whatever player you use, or as a DSP for Windows. Even a low setting will reward you with a much more natural presentation. (The issue is that the headphone setup prevents normal acoustical reflections you would normally get from an open surroundings, and thus there's no reflections of the left and right channels. Thus, everything sounds centered in your head. The crossfeed will recreate these reflections.)

    I set the Meier Crossfeed to 10%, which is a default recommended setting.

    My Headroom Supreme amp has a crossfeed circuit that I can enable, but it sacrifices fidelity to do so, which is why I prefer the DSP. It's doesn't cause distortion or degredation. The Cardas head does not degrade the audio, in comparison, so when I use the HD580 set, I disable my crossfeed.

    The other solution is to only listen to biaural recordings. These recordings pick up the reflections occurring in the studio, and recreate them via the headphones.

    EDIT: Just wanted to add that for gaming, you do not need a crossfeed, as the game's acoustic engine is already creating positional audio with spatial cues. (Essentially creating a biaural experience) It can even be improved if the engine also creates HRTF cues.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2019
    Mufflore likes this.
  14. gridiron whirlw

    gridiron whirlw Ancient Guru

    Messages:
    3,875
    Likes Received:
    42
    GPU:
    GTX 570 SLI
    I much look forward to your review.
     
    Mufflore likes this.
  15. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

    Messages:
    12,784
    Likes Received:
    1,326
    GPU:
    Aorus 3090 Xtreme
    Dont get me wrong, the soundfield is incredible and wide, its just in the wrong place passing through my head.
    I planned to try the crossfeed plugin but forgot so thanks for the reminder.
    I worry any processing will screw with sound quality in some way, these headphones expose everything!
    But its worth a try.

    Sadly there wont be a way to use it with HQPlayer, which if you havent tried is really something. Sound quality on steroids, upsampling to the max the DAC can handle on PCM or DSD, done properly.
    https://www.signalyst.com/
    Try version 3 first, version 4 is buggy. The demo doesnt expire.
    Both versions can be installed at the same time.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2019
    airbud7 likes this.

  16. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

    Messages:
    12,784
    Likes Received:
    1,326
    GPU:
    Aorus 3090 Xtreme
    Its hard to find time to listen, its 4:30am.
    God they are hard to put down once started, its scary to pick them up!
    Figured I cant sleep so might as well put some music on, oops.
    Listening to Hotel California 5.1 (downmixed to stereo by Foobar), simply awesome clarity. The LFE channel comes through wonderfully.
    They are being run 24/7 to get as many hours as possible.


    Thought I'd let you know there is a new review of our DAC I havent seen before.
    https://www.stereophile.com/content/holoaudio-spring-kitsuné-tuned-edition-level-3-da-processor
    It goes deeper than I've seen any review and compares to 4 other DACs including the Mytek Manhattan II @ $6K.
    He rates our Holo Spring Level 3 as a $20K DAC in sound quality!
     
    airbud7 likes this.
  17. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

    Messages:
    12,784
    Likes Received:
    1,326
    GPU:
    Aorus 3090 Xtreme
    If you care about sound quality at all you shouldnt have posted that here! It helps to read a thread before trying to commandeer it.
    Your context isnt correct either.
    Advertise warez elsewhere please, but be prepared to meet criticism wherever that is ;)
     

Share This Page