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Review and Measurements of Massdrop THX AAA 789 Amp

Veri

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Anyone know how this compares to the Project Ember II? Thinking of getting this as a replacement for that.
This is super low distortion which will offer great clarity. For the price it's simply the best. How happy are you with the ember ;)?
 
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It's not a bad amp for sure but I want something really clean and the Ember isn't that (and also something with more power for orthos)
 

rajapruk

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helloworld

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BurritoJustice

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Coming from a Schiit Ragnarok, with HD 800 as my main headphones, what should I expect from this amplifier? My first guess would be that the channel balance on the Ragnarok should be slightly better as it is discretely controlled via relays.

I understand that measurements aren't directly transferable between different websites, so even having read Stereophile's measurements I don't really know what to make of the differences; I really hope someone with more experience might be able to shed some light on this comparison. Thank you very much!
You lose preamp output and the speaker taps, and the volume control will be definitely worse. The maximum output power is about a third as well, though it is still more than you will literally ever need. The 789 still has enough power to make your ears bleed with even HE6's.

However, the noise floor and distortion levels should be significantly lower. On pure amp performance there are few that can come close to the well-implemented THX AAA designs right now. You also gain immense space savings, and it will heat up your room far less than the chunk class-A Ragnarok.

If you want a super-premium amp that performs this well then look at the Benchmark HPA4. It uses a cost-no-object upgrade version of the circuit in this amp, and it also features probably the best line-stage/volume control of any amp or preamp on the market with a 256 step resistor ladder from -128dB-0dB which can be used to control the three different preamp outs (SE, balanced, mono sum).
 

Sythrix

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Anyone know how this compares to the Project Ember II? Thinking of getting this as a replacement for that.
I would start a conversation with @amirm and ask if he wants to review your Ember II.

Otherwise, I don't know that anyone else has offered it, or that you would be able to get a meaningful (objective) comparison.
 
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I would start a conversation with @amirm and ask if he wants to review your Ember II.

Otherwise, I don't know that anyone else has offered it, or that you would be able to get a meaningful (objective) comparison.
Hm, might as well just get the THX and keep the ember then. Thank you.
 
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Anyone have any recommendations for a good dac to pair up with this amp? For now I'm looking at the topping D50, but I'm open to any other suggestions. Would a balanced DAC make a difference?
 

Veri

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Anyone have any recommendations for a good dac to pair up with this amp? For now I'm looking at the topping D50, but I'm open to any other suggestions. Would a balanced DAC make a difference?
I think alternatively the SDAC is great value. Both the D50 and the SDAC are on massdrop right now :)

The topping DX3Pro is better than the SDAC, and the upcoming D70 will surely be better than the D50. More $$$ for just a DAC though.
SMSL also has some good budget ones, but I much prefer Grace Design (and Topping) for no particular reason.
 
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I think alternatively the SDAC is great value. Both the D50 and the SDAC are on massdrop right now :)

The topping DX3Pro is better than the SDAC, and the upcoming D70 will surely be better than the D50. More $$$ for just a DAC though.
SMSL also has some good budget ones, but I much prefer Grace Design (and Topping) for no particular reason.
Between the DX3Pro and the D50, which one performs better? I'm not sure I want to shell out the cash for the D70.
 

pierre

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I also joined the drop against my scientific judgment because I want the best, I will report if I hear any diff wrt my rme ufx II.
 

Veri

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Between the DX3Pro and the D50, which one performs better? I'm not sure I want to shell out the cash for the D70.
I would say the DX3Pro in low gain headphone output. 107dB sinad and no IMD mid level 'hump'. It's impressive :)
 
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I would say the DX3Pro in low gain headphone output. 107dB sinad and no IMD mid level 'hump'. It's impressive :)
aw damn, honestly I was hoping that wasn't the case because I think the Topping D50 would look better sitting on top of the THX amp. :)
Is there anything else out there with similar performance and price? I've also been eyeing the JDS Labs EL DAC.
 

Veri

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aw damn, honestly I was hoping that wasn't the case because I think the Topping D50 would look better sitting on top of the THX amp. :)
Is there anything else out there with similar performance and price? I've also been eyeing the JDS Labs EL DAC.
The JDS labs on coax/optical input is just about the same. USB is a little weaker on the EL Dac though.

DX3 on low gain maxed out (best result)


EL Dac using S/PDIF (best result)


Note that the EL Dac is a simple DAC-only device while the DX3 is both cheaper and has many features :)
 
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I used the SDAC with the 789 before I received my ADI-2 DAC, I used RCA to balanced cables to keep things on the high side of the amplification, sounded great! Grace makes a solid DAC!
 

BurritoJustice

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I'm wondering, is the IMD mid level 'hump' actually audible?
No.

I fear stressing about recommending one audibly transparent DAC over another for general use will dissuade other communities from listening to the very relevant advice on this site (like actually really broken designs).

A recommendation from this site was tempered on the headphones discord yesterday with "asd stresses about -105 vs -115 noise" so I thought it was worth mentioning.
 
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No.

I fear stressing about recommending one audibly transparent DAC over another for general use will dissuade other communities from listening to the very relevant advice on this site (like actually really broken designs).

A recommendation from this site was tempered on the headphones discord yesterday with "asd stresses about -105 vs -115 noise" so I thought it was worth mentioning.
wait... so if it doesn't really have any audible flaws, is there really anything better than it? Do all these DACs that measure well all sound the same?
 
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You lose preamp output and the speaker taps, and the volume control will be definitely worse. The maximum output power is about a third as well, though it is still more than you will literally ever need. The 789 still has enough power to make your ears bleed with even HE6's.

However, the noise floor and distortion levels should be significantly lower. On pure amp performance there are few that can come close to the well-implemented THX AAA designs right now. You also gain immense space savings, and it will heat up your room far less than the chunk class-A Ragnarok.

If you want a super-premium amp that performs this well then look at the Benchmark HPA4. It uses a cost-no-object upgrade version of the circuit in this amp, and it also features probably the best line-stage/volume control of any amp or preamp on the market with a 256 step resistor ladder from -128dB-0dB which can be used to control the three different preamp outs (SE, balanced, mono sum).
Thank you for the comprehensive reply! The HPA4 is a bit over the top so I think I'll take my chances with the THX AAA. Worst comes to worst, another one of these appear on the 2nd hand market.

Since the latest comments in the thread discuss inaudible differences between DACs, are there actual audible differences between Ragnarok and THX AAA?
 

BurritoJustice

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Thank you for the comprehensive reply! The HPA4 is a bit over the top so I think I'll take my chances with the THX AAA. Worst comes to worst, another one of these appear on the 2nd hand market.

Since the latest comments in the thread discuss inaudible differences between DACs, are there actual audible differences between Ragnarok and THX AAA?
Seeing measurements of schiit amps from the same time reveals levels of distortion that would definitely be audible, but I haven't seen reviews personally for the raggy and I cannot say with confidence that it is an issue. The Ragnarok is significantly less popular than the matching Yggdrasil and Schiit's other amps.

I think I can say with confidence that it will be worth swapping, especially if you sell the Ragnarok, unless you care strongly about the factors I said before. The preamp out in particular might be quite relevant (though preamps are cheap as chips on AliExpress now, I bought one to put before my 789).
 
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