11 March, 2013

Headphone Talk: Darkvoice THA332 headphone amplifier Sennheiser HD-650 headphones

Headphone Talk IV: Darkvoice THA332 headphone amplifier
Sennheiser HD-650 headphones
Follow-up: YBA WD-202 headphone output
Official website (in Chinese)
Official website (in English)

As I wrote in Chapter I of my Headphone Talk, my good friend Andrew loaned me his two Darkvoice 黑嗓 headphone amps. It wasn't until recently that I hooked up the smaller of the two, the discontinued (though still available from the net) THA332. I must say I like the older looks better than the aluminum sported by some newer models. I fed it the trusted Sony DVP-PR50P.

Although Darkvoice has a good reputation in the head-fi circle, the brand has not received attention from the commercial press, and formal reviews are lacking. For the 332, only a few comments could be found.

Tube Complement Input stage uses the 6J1 pentode. For tube rolling, EF95/6AK5/5654/CV4010/M8100 are are good, but the Western Electric 403A is necessarily the most desirable. The loan unit uses the WE403A. Output stage uses the 6C19 pentode (compatible with 6AQ5), and in this unit the stock tube is used.

AKG K701 vs Sennheiser HD-650 Lately I have been using the K701 with mostly the headphone output of my YBA WD-202 DAC. I have been contented with the musical sound, but the Darkvoice trumps it in terms of air, resolution and dynamics. However, despite the better bass on offer a little of the slightly lean character of the K701 remains. Knowing that the Darkvoice likely was designed with high impedance phones (some say the Sennheiser) I switched in the venerable HD-650, and there is little question the Sennheiser scaled greater heights. I haven't listened to the HD-650 much, but my impression is that it is quite similar to the HD-600, which I own. As the HD-600 tends to be a little woolly and unresolved in the bass I was surprised by how the HD-650 was driven by the Darkvoice. Compared to the K701 there is much better bass presentation - clean too! So I agree with those who said the Darkvoice should be used with high impedance cans if possible (though its performance with K701 is still eminently satisfying).

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