@Cee-Tee : insightful post thks. I personaly plan to achieve my final HD800 Rig with the DNA Stratus . Different option but I think we share the same quest for our HD800.
I have a question though: why do you advice EQ for some amps and not for the other? that would suggest that both EC ZDS or BA induce some tonal coloration , right?
Thanks for the note and the question:
I did specifically suggest some EQ with the solid state amps because that gives some flexibility to consider. I have always rolled tubes in my tube amps for presentation/tonality/quality (except with Crack and Vali). That's a plus for tube amps if you take the time and expense. With solid state amps (except for the TCM/FRM filter DAC settings on the Geek Out which do make a difference)- you can't tune them. The Black Widow doesn't tune the HD800 into an HD850- but with mods and EQ, the HD800 on the BW is fantastic and I can + want to listen for long periods. Both solid state amps are practical, good value, and play very well with other phones too. Wanted to share that I am definitely enjoying the HD800 with these amps and even better with some EQ.
Many of us avoid EQ, but it is making things easier for me...
If I were to run a ZD Super in my home? Not sure where I would end up- I would roll tubes first, then see if any EQ is needed. Depends on my DAC, software, tubes, the ZD Super over time. I found the ZD Super at a meet to be just a slight bit thicker and a little more forgiving than the first prototype EC Studio that I heard. Heard it with an Yggy and it seemed linear with good control. Probably a good match for my PWD but have not tried the combo yet. My Balancing Act was so beautiful in the midrange and had sparkle up top, was not fatiguing at all. However, the bass was pretty uncontrolled with my BA tube combo (KR PX-4, TSBGRP) with the older transformers. This was very noticeable against Ragnarok at a different mini-meet, with the Ragnarok having such bass control (but going too far in the other direction, too fast/analytical for me).
My impressions of great tube amps is that they can have a beautiful sound, can have an accurate sound, can be somewhat "tweakable" with tubes or capacitor mods. Tube amps can have a presentation that seems bigger, and more open/natural sounding to me. They are sometimes drier and sometimes more euphonic. The great tube amps still sound bright with HD800, but can also be worked with towards a sweeter/less fatiguing sound.
Solid state amps can be great technically and they can also impart some tonal coloration (I found a B22 build to accentuate HD800 U-shape, for example). Something about the control/attack/speed or etch on some solid state amps can just be fatiguing with the HD800 (with Magni2 I would need to switch to Vali after some time). The Black Widow has a wonderful quality to the treble but also seems tonally neutral so it can show how bright the HD800 are. Add the mods/EQ and I am very happy.
It is riding a fine line with the HD800 a lot of the time. Such capability, but can also bother. I don't like dark phones, so I keep working with the HD800. Not having enough "air" or upper mids are deal-breakers for me. And too much is of course, fatiguing plus unsatisfying because you can't turn the volume up enough to listen to the full recording without that fatigue.
The headstage/presentation may not quite be the same on solid state amps...but the price, practicality, versatility, and the overall quality of them is really good right now and I'm enjoying
mine. Can always be seduced by a good tube amp though.