Experiences with Kaiju as a pure headphone amp?

znerken · 3966

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Offline znerken

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on: December 05, 2020, 02:13:55 AM
Hey

I have seen the few other threads on this subject, but looks like more people are starting to catch interest on this. I would love to hear if some other people here use the Kaiju as a headphone amp. What's your setup? How does it compare to Mainline? What preamp are you running?

I already own a Mainline, but I think I want to upgrade to a Kaiju. Purely because I am stupid enough to think the look of those sexy tubes are worth it. Also, it would be able to drive LCD4, which my Mainline is not powerful enough for.



Deke609

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Reply #1 on: December 05, 2020, 05:07:32 AM
That's exactly how I used mine -- see my signature line below.

The combo of BeePre, Kaiju and LCD4 is to my ears excellent.  It would, however, be insane overkill for easier to drive headphones.

I started with Stereomour II, both in stock 2A3 form and as modded for the 45.  The 45 was my favorite of the two, partly b/c it went lower in the bass and b/c strangely enough it sounded louder and punchier than the 2A3, despite having roughly half the 2A3's power (I've since scome across a theory that this apparent loudness may in fact be an effect of how the brain interprets 2nd harmonic distortion).  Both sounded great, but I noticed that they could get a bit flabby and congested (loss of punch and clarity) with really demanding music (orchestral or even some pop/rock songs -- e.g., Rush's "Tom Sawyer" and Paul Simon's "The Obvious Child").

Going to the Kaiju wired for 16 ohms nominal output impedance almost entirely solved the congestion issue. And the Kaiju has amazing clarity and full, well balanced bandwidth and a nice, wide soundstage.  Even with the stock caps, and no burn in, it sounded clearly superior to me from the very first listen. And then only got better. I think most, but not all, of that is from the Kaiju iron. It is a major step up from the Stereomour iron. I know this b/c I have since installed the Kaiju iron (chokes and output transformers) in my 45-Stereomour: it sounds great, but still noticeably short of the Kaiju. So I think the 5670 driver tubes have something to do with it -- and possibly the fact that while my Stereomours and Kaiju all have DC filament supplies (necessary for use with headphones, unless you can tolerate background hum), the Kaiju has a regulated filament supply versus the SII's unregulated one.  I can also opine based on experience that it costs a lot of money to improve on the Kaiju iron - it is very very good.

cheers, Derek



Offline znerken

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Reply #2 on: December 05, 2020, 05:47:33 AM
That's exactly how I used mine -- see my signature line below.

The combo of BeePre, Kaiju and LCD4 is to my ears excellent.  It would, however, be insane overkill for easier to drive headphones.

I started with Stereomour II, both in stock 2A3 form and as modded for the 45.  The 45 was my favorite of the two, partly b/c it went lower in the bass and b/c strangely enough it sounded louder and punchier than the 2A3, despite having roughly half the 2A3's power (I've since scome across a theory that this apparent loudness may in fact be an effect of how the brain interprets 2nd harmonic distortion).  Both sounded great, but I noticed that they could get a bit flabby and congested (loss of punch and clarity) with really demanding music (orchestral or even some pop/rock songs -- e.g., Rush's "Tom Sawyer" and Paul Simon's "The Obvious Child").

Going to the Kaiju wired for 16 ohms nominal output impedance almost entirely solved the congestion issue. And the Kaiju has amazing clarity and full, well balanced bandwidth and a nice, wide soundstage.  Even with the stock caps, and no burn in, it sounded clearly superior to me from the very first listen. And then only got better. I think most, but not all, of that is from the Kaiju iron. It is a major step up from the Stereomour iron. I know this b/c I have since installed the Kaiju iron (chokes and output transformers) in my 45-Stereomour: it sounds great, but still noticeably short of the Kaiju. So I think the 5670 driver tubes have something to do with it -- and possibly the fact that while my Stereomours and Kaiju all have DC filament supplies (necessary for use with headphones, unless you can tolerate background hum), the Kaiju has a regulated filament supply versus the SII's unregulated one.  I can also opine based on experience that it costs a lot of money to improve on the Kaiju iron - it is very very good.

cheers, Derek

Hey!
Thanks for a very informative answer. Could you perhaps show some photos of the BeePree and Kaiju? How do you connect your headphones? Did you make the amp standard, or like a headphone only amp(like mainline). Is it possible to have balanced and normal output?

 You think it would be insane overkill for HD800S also? Shouldn't all the positive aspects you just mentioned also come out on the HD800s?

Is there any way you can easily change the impedance if you want to use other "easier" headphones? I mean ideally I would want to use the Kaiju with all the headphones I own, or potentially will own.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2020, 05:49:49 AM by znerken »



Offline Paul Joppa

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Reply #3 on: December 05, 2020, 06:52:13 AM
...
Is there any way you can easily change the impedance if you want to use other "easier" headphones? I mean ideally I would want to use the Kaiju with all the headphones I own, or potentially will own.
The Kaiju output transformers van be wired for 2, 4, 8, or 16 ohms. However, changing impedance requires re-wiring the transformer, so it's not easy for swapping headphones.

Paul Joppa


Offline znerken

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Reply #4 on: December 05, 2020, 07:19:19 AM
The Kaiju output transformers van be wired for 2, 4, 8, or 16 ohms. However, changing impedance requires re-wiring the transformer, so it's not easy for swapping headphones.

PB can probably build a way of switching this easily from a rotary switch.



Deke609

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Reply #5 on: December 05, 2020, 07:31:42 AM
Could you perhaps show some photos of the BeePree and Kaiju? How do you connect your headphones? Did you make the amp standard, or like a headphone only amp(like mainline). Is it possible to have balanced and normal output?


I started with the amps built stock, and that's what i would suggest going with at least to start. You can make/buy a cable adapter that connects your headphones directly to the speaker outputs of the Kaiju - that will be a lot easier than adding 4 pin and TRS jacks. I used such a cable adapter until the recent rebuild of my Kaiju - and only changed to a 4 pin Neutrik socket for convenience. 

As for pics, the stock amps were essentially identical to what you see on the BH products site. For the rebuilt versions: http://forum.bottlehead.com/index.php?topic=12631.msg115825#msg115825


Quote
You think it would be insane overkill for HD800S also? Shouldn't all the positive aspects you just mentioned also come out on the HD800s?

Yeah, I suspect it would. But I don't have the HD800S so I can't say for sure. You might want PB to chime in here. I have a tweaked version of the original BeePre where the attenuators are at the amp input. The new BeePre has the attenuation at the output, so maybe that would work better with more standard headphones.  And you could also use the trimpots on the Kaiju to knock things down a bit.  If I had a large headphone collection (I don't - I essentially listen to the LCD4's exclusively, with occasional use of JVC HA-SZ-2000 with a solid state amp for heavy bass/hip-hop), I would probably build the Monomours and convert to 45's - my guess (and it's just a guess) is the new BeePre and 45-Monomours would play really well with a large range of headphones. My SII-45 sounded really nice with my (since destroyed) Focal Elex from Massdrop.

Quote
Is there any way you can easily change the impedance if you want to use other "easier" headphones? I mean ideally I would want to use the Kaiju with all the headphones I own, or potentially will own.

Further to PJ's post, and your follow-up, you or PB could also build impedance switches.  I've built such switches for both my SII-45 and my rebuilt Kaiju. The SII-45 switch is copied from PJ's schematic that's posted somewhere on this forum (just search "impedance switch" or variants thereof). It uses 2 DPDT switches per transformer (excluding the balanced switch).  And for my rebuilt Kaiju I have rotary shorting switches (make before break) fro swtiching between 16, 32 and 64 nominal output impedances.  You;d probably have room to install rotary switches in either the Kaiju or Monomours, with the knobs either on top of the chassis or coming outr the front face of the wood base.  You'd have to take some measurements to be sure. Although PB may know off the top of his head what would work best for either amp.

cheers, Derek
« Last Edit: December 05, 2020, 07:34:20 AM by Deke609 »



Offline johnsonad

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Reply #6 on: December 05, 2020, 12:15:20 PM
You can drive speakers or headphones with the Kaiju.  It's nice to have choices.  I've been looking at those Heddphones for something new.  They are 87dB (K1000's were about the same?) sensitive and the Kaiju should them to a reasonable listening level.

Aaron Johnson


Offline znerken

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Reply #7 on: December 06, 2020, 02:03:43 AM
What kind of headphone preamplifier is recommended with the Kaiju? BeePree is mostly for speakers?



Offline johnsonad

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Reply #8 on: December 06, 2020, 02:48:11 AM
What kind of headphone preamplifier is recommended with the Kaiju? BeePree is mostly for speakers?

You're really getting into subjective territory.  The Kaiju is absolutely overkill for all but two or three pairs of headphones that have a high power demand and you want to drive them to higher volumes.  The Mainline does everything in one box and was designed to drive all but the most power hungry cans to high volumes AND sound outstanding. 

You'll never go wrong with having a 300B amp in my opinion but you're barking up a very different tree, especially if you're not going to be a speaker person with the usual preamp/power amp configuration. 
« Last Edit: December 06, 2020, 05:03:47 AM by johnsonad »

Aaron Johnson


Offline znerken

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Reply #9 on: December 06, 2020, 03:08:03 AM
You're really getting into subjective territory.  The Kaiju is absolutely overkill for all but two or three pairs of headphones that have a high power demand and you want to drive them to higher volumes.  The Mainline does everything in one box and was designed to drive all but the most power hungry cans to high volumes AND sound outstanding. 

Find someone localish with a Mainline or go to a headphone meet but give it a listen.  You'll never go wrong with having a 300B amp in my opinion but you're barking up a very different tree, especially if you're not going to be a speaker person with the usual preamp/power amp configuration.

So what you're saying is that the 300b won't sound better with for example HD800s? I would probably get PB to custom build something headphone oriented from the Kaiju, but if it is waste, then I'll stay with Mainline.

I wish there was a Bottlehead high end headphone amp with some more sexy tubes, in terms of aesthetics. Mainline doesn't look very "tubeish" for a lack of better word. I think PB told me a Kaiju will sound better than Mainline with all headphones except IEM and highly sensitive Grados.
« Last Edit: December 06, 2020, 03:11:47 AM by znerken »



Offline johnsonad

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Reply #10 on: December 06, 2020, 03:36:56 AM
You sound like you're new to this hobby.  I spent tens of thousands of dollars going through silly amounts of gear before I found something that sounded good to me.  It's my money and my enjoyment of the hobby and others experiences and opinions are just that and nothing more. 

You need to go and listen to some stuff before making a big purchase like this in my opinion.  Everything is subjective and if you're relying on others opinions, you most likely will end up wanting for more.  It hard to say this but try to be patient and wait until you can listen before you make a purchase.  You may hate the sound of 300B's.  I don't like 45's or 2A3's and that's based on trying multiple amps in my system over time.

If you want it to look more tubish, you can drill holes in the Mainline chassis and secure in some tube holders for your favorite looking tube.  It will give you the ascetics....
« Last Edit: December 06, 2020, 03:45:14 AM by johnsonad »

Aaron Johnson


Deke609

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Reply #11 on: December 06, 2020, 03:57:57 AM
So what you're saying is that the 300b won't sound better with for example HD800s?

As Aaron suggests, you'd have to make that call yourself. Since you already have a Mainline, I suggest finding a way to listen to the HD800s out of a BeePre/Kaiju combo. Plus a selection of other headphones in your collection.  But I recognize that this may be difficult in the current health environment.

Do you already have LCD4s? If yes, how do they sound out of the Mainline?  If not, I would caution you from experience that chasing how to get the best sound out of them (whatever that may be for you) can be an expensive and time-consuming process. For me it is worth it b/c I really enjoy tweaking the amps, learning some electronics/physics, and then using listening to test the tweaks. My listening periods are really just breaks in my endless tweaking/rebuilding cycle.

Another big question is whether you intend to sell the Mainline if you go the Kaiju route. Your posts suggest that you do. I would have no qualms recommending the BeePre/Kaiju option as an addition to the Mainline -- but as a substitute for the Mainline, that's a more iffy proposition. 

And then there's the question of budget. If you have a lot of money to throw at this, there's an obvious contender that hasn't been mentioned yet: the Neothoriator.  Just throwing that out there.

What kind of headphone preamplifier is recommended with the Kaiju? BeePree is mostly for speakers?

The Kaiju is a power amp and so doesn't have volume attenuators (leaving aside the trimpots). The BeePre or other preamp provides volume attenuation. It's not a "for speakers" or "for headphones" kind of thing. It will work happily in either kind of system. Heck, you might even be able to put it front of the Mainline! I don't think it would give you any more power or volume, but it might sound nice. But check with PB et alia before trying this.   :D

cheers, Derek
« Last Edit: December 06, 2020, 03:59:46 AM by Deke609 »



Offline johnsonad

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Reply #12 on: December 06, 2020, 05:03:14 AM
Sorry I missed that you already own a Mainline.  Gotta read a little closer and from the first post! :)

You can use the Mainline to drive the Kaiju.  Do a forum search, it's been covered before. 

I agree with Derek, if funds are not an issue, consider the Neithoriator, it sounds outstanding and those thoriated tungsten filament tubes have a beautiful glow. I've only heard it with K1000's and as a preamp driving Kaiju's so my experience is limited.  I seriously considered how to scrounge the funds together to buy one.  The Kaiju has higher output (8 plus watts) than the Neithoriator (4 watts) if power output is a consideration.

300B's are large-ish but really don't have much glow to them. In a dark room, you don't get much light. PB builds some custom amps with tubes that could be used as small light bulbs.

Either amp will drive your power hungry headphones and anything else.  I'm using it with HD800 and it sounds great.  I can't imagine it not sounding great with both of your headphones you listed.

« Last Edit: December 06, 2020, 06:52:18 AM by johnsonad »

Aaron Johnson


Offline znerken

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Reply #13 on: December 06, 2020, 07:04:44 AM
A few things:

1. I can't test drive Bottlehead products, as the travel for me to try them out will cost as much as the unit itself, probably. Also I can't travel right now.
2. I have been talking to PB about a custom Kaiju with poweramp in it. So a integrated Kaiju.
3. One of the reasons I am considering a Kaiju is due to the fact that my Mainline can't run for example LCD4. I almost bought a pair the other day, but was a little bummed out that my Mainline couldn't drive it. I just got it. Of course, that is not Bottleheads fault in any way.
4. What's most important for me is how an amp sound with HD800s, cause I love that headphone.



Offline znerken

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Reply #14 on: December 06, 2020, 09:01:20 AM
As Aaron suggests, you'd have to make that call yourself. Since you already have a Mainline, I suggest finding a way to listen to the HD800s out of a BeePre/Kaiju combo. Plus a selection of other headphones in your collection.  But I recognize that this may be difficult in the current health environment.

Do you already have LCD4s? If yes, how do they sound out of the Mainline?  If not, I would caution you from experience that chasing how to get the best sound out of them (whatever that may be for you) can be an expensive and time-consuming process. For me it is worth it b/c I really enjoy tweaking the amps, learning some electronics/physics, and then using listening to test the tweaks. My listening periods are really just breaks in my endless tweaking/rebuilding cycle.

Another big question is whether you intend to sell the Mainline if you go the Kaiju route. Your posts suggest that you do. I would have no qualms recommending the BeePre/Kaiju option as an addition to the Mainline -- but as a substitute for the Mainline, that's a more iffy proposition. 

And then there's the question of budget. If you have a lot of money to throw at this, there's an obvious contender that hasn't been mentioned yet: the Neothoriator.  Just throwing that out there.

The Kaiju is a power amp and so doesn't have volume attenuators (leaving aside the trimpots). The BeePre or other preamp provides volume attenuation. It's not a "for speakers" or "for headphones" kind of thing. It will work happily in either kind of system. Heck, you might even be able to put it front of the Mainline! I don't think it would give you any more power or volume, but it might sound nice. But check with PB et alia before trying this.   :D

cheers, Derek

Wow, that Neothoriator amp though. I think I will go for that. Anyone tried it with HD800s? Or did anyone try it at all and care to share their thoughts? That should be a endgame amp for years?