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  1. #1
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    MSB Select Headphone amplifier and Stax SR-009S headphones

    below is a response from the Kharma thread reposted here. i will delete that post.

    hi Ken,

    i am very much enjoying the way the Select Headphone amplifier works in my system, the MSB integration and how it all blends. the fact that the Select II has such a high performance passive volume control plus an analog input really makes it slick. and physically it is an elegant thing to fit. other high level headphone amplifiers are not 2 channel speaker system integration friendly. i'm able to switch easily from speakers to headphones, from dac to my laptop input, and use it seamlessly.

    and in and of itself the performance is really fine; the Stax 009S's are still breaking in so i'm not there yet in terms of ultimate transparency. it's nice to have such unlimited headroom in terms of power and control. objectively i'm getting phenomenal headphone performance.

    it's a spendy proposition, but it really delivers the goods.

    the only thing not ideal is that i had a level of purity and total grainless type of performance with the MSB RCA analog module feeding my 50 ohm BNC 'zeel' darTZeel input on my preamp with the Evolution Acoustics BNC cable. the MSB XLR analog module does bring more drive and power to the music, but the XLR cables i had on hand don't play at the same level as my Evolutions did. and with this system and this headphone amp and headphones, it's an open window to every piece in the signal path. it's great sound, but not quite all the way there to where i was. the recent (Taiko Extreme server music management) TAS upgrades to the transparency were amazing. it's just a tic less now.

    so i might need to invest in some better cables, and if/when i do that, i will find out whether cables can be enough to get back what is missing. i do appreciate the extra drive to the music. it's normal to need to optimize any addition. and this one is so integrated it's inevitable to have to do some things to get it perfect.

    i have been to valhalla in terms of ultimate transparency. so it's a question.

    i would add that even though there has been trade-offs up to now, that the headphone experience is different and quite special. i'm not exactly sure why yet, but there is something very intimate about listening to great music on this headphone system. very relaxing and satisfying. and this is even directly compared to my 2 channel system. so maybe it's just a 'new thing', but maybe it's more than that. i need some time to know where this part will end up. and so far i've listened for more than 2 hour stretches a couple of times with the headphones and had zero fatigue or anything uncomfortable. the Select Headphone amp and Stax 009S headphones seem a match made in heaven.

    FYI; i have not sampled other top level current headphone combo's; so i don't want to infer that what i'm hearing is any better than any other choice. i do suspect that this plays at the highest levels, but i really am only guessing. i'll add some pictures later.

    The Select Headphone Amp Features - MSB Technology

  2. #2
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    Re: MSB Select Headphone amplifier and Stax SR-009S headphones

    as a brief follow-up to my above post; today in the mail i did receive a set of XLR interconnects to replace one of the sets (there are 2 sets of XLR's involved; 1 from dac to amp, 1 from amp to pre) i was using. this new set did the trick. i'm now back to the purity/clarity spot i had been with my MSB RCA analog module and my Evolution Acoustics cable; but with an added measure of authority and weight from the all balanced interconnects from the Select dac through the Select Headphone amp into the dart preamp. so i'm ahead of where i was on the speaker system side, and also where i was with the headphones with those other XLR cables.

    a relief for sure.

    now that i'm over that significant hurdle, i can now work on my rack positioning and other optimizations. i wanted to wait to get the Headphone amp on it's own shelf (and resonance treatments) until i worked out the cable issue.

  3. #3
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    Re: MSB Select Headphone amplifier and Stax SR-009S headphones

    Have you added a high quality power cord for your Select Headphone Amp? I can only imagine how my AudioQuest Dragon Source Power Cord would sound on it. They transformed the sonic purity of my Select DAC.

    Ken
    "No summit worth climbing is easily attained."
    --------------------------------------------
    Source: MSB Select II DAC with Two Mono Powerbases, Femto 33 Clock, Renderer V2 Digital Input Module and Roon Nucleus Plus
    Amps: Vandersteen M7-HPA Mono Amps
    Speakers: Vandersteen Model 7 Mk2
    Power: Two AudioQuest Niagara 5000’s with AudioQuest Dragon and Hurricane Power Cords

  4. #4
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    Re: MSB Select Headphone amplifier and Stax SR-009S headphones

    Quote Originally Posted by Alpinist View Post
    Have you added a high quality power cord for your Select Headphone Amp? I can only imagine how my AudioQuest Dragon Source Power Cord would sound on it. They transformed the sonic purity of my Select DAC.

    Ken
    no; just using a stock power cord. but agree feeding it with a better one will matter when i get to it. and no doubt the AQ Dragon would be a good one.

    for the time being the piggy bank is a bit empty ($40k+ of headphone gear can do that). one issue with a 2 power cord dac, preamp, mono block amps, dual amp powered bass towers, 4 tt's. 5 arms, 2 phono's, 3 tape decks, etc. etc. is power cords and the expense. so i do use a few generic power cords.

    right now i'm using 12 Absolute Fidelity (Gary Koh---Genesis Loudspeaker's cables) and 2 Evolution Acoustic (dart mono blocks) power cords as far as premium cords. i can swap them around a bit to see what causes what. i am a believer in staying consistent with the power grid so will likely add more Absolute Fidelity when i can. btw; Absolute Fidelity also has different model power cords for high current amps, sources, and sources with motors. which is how i use them.

  5. #5
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    Re: MSB Select Headphone amplifier and Stax SR-009S headphones

    This looks like it must be wonderful. MSB is supposed to be really great gear. If you can afford it then why not.

    Two issues for 99.9% of the people.... It is only for electrostatic headphones which are fairly limited... and it cost $38,000. That is a tad steep for a headphone amplifier. I mean I thought my SimAudio ($4500) was way too high if I had not came across the deal I did. Also the HeadAmp Blue Hawaiian ($5995 - another top contender in the electrostatic headphone amplifier category) is fairly top of the line... but these are a small fraction of the price of the MSB .

    Another consideration. Exactly what headphones are there that justify a $38,000 headphone amplifier. Don't headphones top out at about $6k - $7k range? I guess I am curious on what headphones you are using with this type of headphone amplifier; are you really using a $4300 set of headphones with a $38,000 amplifier? I was feeling a tad guilty using a $4500 amplifier (which I did not pay close to that for) with a $4000 headphone .

    I know it can be used for other purposes, but it is really designed as a headphone amplifier (it is right there in its name ).
    Neil degrasse Tyson - "A great challenge of life: Knowing enough to think you are right, but not knowing enough to know you are wrong."

    Hattor "The Big", Tube Active Stage | T+A DAC 8 DSD | McIntosh MC754, MC7100 v2 | Falcon Northwest PC Server | Rega RP8, Ania Pro, NEO PSU | Hexmat Yellowbird | Technics SL1500C | Audio Technica VM740ML | MOON by SimAudio NEO 430HA, NEO 310LP, 110LP v2 | Magnepan .7's | Rythmik L12 (2) | Wyred 4 Sound Recovery | Astell & Kern SE200 | Abyss Diana Phi | AudioQuest Niagara 1000

    "You are entitled to your opinions but you are not entitled to your own facts"

  6. #6
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    Re: MSB Select Headphone amplifier and Stax SR-009S headphones

    Quote Originally Posted by Randy Myers View Post
    This looks like it must be wonderful. MSB is supposed to be really great gear. If you can afford it then why not.

    Two issues for 99.9% of the people.... It is only for electrostatic headphones which are fairly limited... and it cost $38,000. That is a tad steep for a headphone amplifier. I mean I thought my SimAudio ($4500) was way too high if I had not came across the deal I did. Also the HeadAmp Blue Hawaiian ($5995 - another top contender in the electrostatic headphone amplifier category) is fairly top of the line... but these are a small fraction of the price of the MSB .
    yes, i do agree that the price puts it in rarefied air for a headphone amp. but i think when you consider (1) what it does do performance wise, (2) the gear it's meant to be mated with and lastly (3) the build quality then it does fit into the rational for that price point.

    10 years ago i did own some high level headphone gear; including the Headamp BHSE amp with the Alps volume control + the Stax 009's. i do recall how that combo sounded. over this last week as i've listened to the MSB and 009S's and as the headphones have broken in the performance has gone from great to astonishing. where it's at now is a few orders of magnitude beyond that previous experience. it's something to behold. and the MSB Select II dac starts at $89k, and mine with the extra power supply, 33 Femto clock and MSB USB Pro interface is over $120k. so assuming it delivers the goods $38k for an amazingly integrated headphone amp is not out of the question. finally no headphone amp has anything remotely close to the build quality of this MSB amp. the chassis is milled from solid billet, it's all anodized and has a 10 year warranty.

    talking to Vince Galbo, the National Sales Manager for MSB, about this headphone amp, he explained to me that one challenge was that the MSB Select II dac has such a low noise output and low noise passive volume control since it has no analog output stage; how can you find a complimentary amp circuit that does not add noise? well; they were able to do that for this headphone amp. and that success allowed them to build a new series of MSB speaker amps (very highly received and reviewed) based on the work they did on this headphone amp. those amps i think are around $60k for stereo and around $120k for mono blocks.

    so this is the real deal. and that is what i'm hearing.

    Another consideration. Exactly what headphones are there that justify a $38,000 headphone amplifier. Don't headphones top out at about $6k - $7k range? I guess I am curious on what headphones you are using with this type of headphone amplifier; are you really using a $4300 set of headphones with a $38,000 amplifier? I was feeling a tad guilty using a $4500 amplifier (which I did not pay close to that for) with a $4000 headphone .
    the Stax SR-009S headphones i bought for this amp list at $4325. and there is a waiting line to get them. i also bought a $225 cable extension and a $125 headphone stand.

    i do think that electrostats do certain things better than other technologies, MSB wanted the performance to have the highest possible ceiling, and i also think that this amp plays to those unique stat strengths unlike any previous amplifier. then add the MSB dac and it's a possibly unbeatable combo.

    are there better headphones than the 009S's? i think there are other alternative choices at the top of the headphone food chain. i see some top choices around $5k-$8k depending on cable choices. those higher priced ones are mostly planar magnetics, not electrostats. might they challenge the MSB-009S combo? probably.

    but it's also possible that the synergy of the MSB Select II dac + the Select Headphone amp + the 009S's headphones might be at the tip, tip, top.

    but it's just speculation for me. i may dive into the other choices and actually attempt to answer that. but more likely i will just sit back and enjoy the awesome performance.

    looked at another way; this amp<-> headphone combination competes with my dart preamp ($45k) + my dart mono blocks ($190k) + my EAMM7 speakers ($240k). and that is ignoring the build cost of my dedicated room and all the tweaks inside it.

    sounds like the bargain of the century to me.

    I know it can be used for other purposes
    only as a paper weight.

    .........but it is really designed as a headphone amplifier (it is right there in its name ).
    yes; it's only a headphone amp, and only an electrostatic headphone amp.

  7. #7
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    Re: MSB Select Headphone amplifier and Stax SR-009S headphones

    Hey Mike, that sounds absolutely amazing, and congratulations! Far beyond my means but that is irrelevant for this discussion.

    I am sitting here listening to my SimAudio ($4500) top of the line amp which is built much better than any other that I have ever seen, Abyss cans ($4000), and a Black Dragon balanced cable ($350) from my turntable for the first time and I am blown away! I normally feed the Moon from the T+A DAC, but decided to try vinyl tonight... Holy crap is it good!

    I cannot even imagine how good the MSB must be. At this point I am very satisfied with the Moon - Abyss combo!

    Yea, if I were you I would just sit back and enjoy at this point!
    Neil degrasse Tyson - "A great challenge of life: Knowing enough to think you are right, but not knowing enough to know you are wrong."

    Hattor "The Big", Tube Active Stage | T+A DAC 8 DSD | McIntosh MC754, MC7100 v2 | Falcon Northwest PC Server | Rega RP8, Ania Pro, NEO PSU | Hexmat Yellowbird | Technics SL1500C | Audio Technica VM740ML | MOON by SimAudio NEO 430HA, NEO 310LP, 110LP v2 | Magnepan .7's | Rythmik L12 (2) | Wyred 4 Sound Recovery | Astell & Kern SE200 | Abyss Diana Phi | AudioQuest Niagara 1000

    "You are entitled to your opinions but you are not entitled to your own facts"

  8. #8
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    Re: MSB Select Headphone amplifier and Stax SR-009S headphones

    I’d just like to add, if it wasn’t already stated, that the MSB Select Headphone Amp is specifically designed and built to be used with the Stax SR-009S Headphones and the Select DAC. Even though this headphone amp costs multiples of these headphones, there is huge synergy there, which is what I believe is now bringing Mike to a whole new level sonically that he’s never before experienced with headphones.

    Ken
    "No summit worth climbing is easily attained."
    --------------------------------------------
    Source: MSB Select II DAC with Two Mono Powerbases, Femto 33 Clock, Renderer V2 Digital Input Module and Roon Nucleus Plus
    Amps: Vandersteen M7-HPA Mono Amps
    Speakers: Vandersteen Model 7 Mk2
    Power: Two AudioQuest Niagara 5000’s with AudioQuest Dragon and Hurricane Power Cords

  9. #9
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    Re: MSB Select Headphone amplifier and Stax SR-009S headphones

    That is awesome! Synergy really makes a huge difference.
    Neil degrasse Tyson - "A great challenge of life: Knowing enough to think you are right, but not knowing enough to know you are wrong."

    Hattor "The Big", Tube Active Stage | T+A DAC 8 DSD | McIntosh MC754, MC7100 v2 | Falcon Northwest PC Server | Rega RP8, Ania Pro, NEO PSU | Hexmat Yellowbird | Technics SL1500C | Audio Technica VM740ML | MOON by SimAudio NEO 430HA, NEO 310LP, 110LP v2 | Magnepan .7's | Rythmik L12 (2) | Wyred 4 Sound Recovery | Astell & Kern SE200 | Abyss Diana Phi | AudioQuest Niagara 1000

    "You are entitled to your opinions but you are not entitled to your own facts"

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MSB Select Headphone amplifier and Stax SR-009S headphones

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