This post is significant because SGHeadphones was the first forum I visited upon discovering this strange, new world, many moons back.
This impression is meant as a snapshot of my experiences to date and will be updated when possible.
My musical tastes are quite wide and I listen to an eclectic mix of music ranging from Bach to Counting Crows to Ella Fitzgerald to Miles.
I value musicality and the ability to enjoy the music for extended periods without fatigue. Some amps that have the initial wow factor can prove to be too fatiguing in the long run.
Good extension on both frequency extremes is also an important consideration for me.
Amps that I like sonically include the Singlepower MPX3 SLAM and Ray Samuels Audio SR-71.
After waiting patiently for almost 5 months, I was excited to finally receive my shipment notice for the Singlepower Extreme Platinum.
The Platinum version of the amp differs from the standard edition by offering a Piltron transformer, Black Gate cathode capacitors, Black Gate power capacitors and an ECC1 adaptor that allows the use of other tubes like 12AT7, 12AU7, 5814, 5965, 6414, 6829, and 7062.
Although smaller in size than a MPX3, the main amp body was heavy for its size. This is due largely to the Piltron transformer occupying a large part of the top of the amp.
Finished in the typical Singlepower black gloss finish, it is certainly a handsome looking amp. Unfortunately, my amp is still wearing the PPX3 badge as my Extreme badge was left out of the original package. All will be well, as the Extreme badge should be on it’s way here.
Upon unpacking the box, I was surprised to discover an unexpected, additional component inside the shipping carton. Maybe Mikhail included a Squarewave as a bonus for the long wait?
Unfortunately, it was not to be. It was an additional external power supply with a meter plus long umbilical power cord.
Subsequent correspondence with Mikhail of Singlepower confirmed that this was indeed a supplementary power supply added to current versions of the amp to “further increase the soundstage”. It is meant to be switched on a few seconds after the main unit is powered on. I guess more ‘juice’ is always good. Singapore Power will be pleased to hear this.
To be honest, I was a little disappointed with the additional box as it defeats my original intent of getting an amp with the smaller footprint of a PPX sized case.
Top down : MPX3 SLAM, Marantz SA11S1, Extreme Platinum, Marantz SA8260
Sources: Marantz SA11 S1 and SA8260.
Interconnect : Audience AU24
Power Cords: Audience Powerchords
Tubes: 2 X NOS RCA 6080/RCA 6AS7 together with either a NOS RCA 5692 (Red based 6SN7 variant) or a Siemens E82CC (12AU7 variant) or a RCA Clear Top 12AU7.
Headphones: AKG K701, Audio-Technica AD2000, Beyerdynamic DT880 & DT990 (05 versions).Grado RS-1 and GS-1000, Sennheiser HD600 with Cardas, HD600 with Equinox and HD650 with Zu Mobius.
Various CDs and SACDs including jazz, classical and vocal selections. These include the usual selections from the ‘audiophile’ war chest plus a Stax binaural sampler and the Ultrasone Demo CD.
Due to my work commitments (got to make money to feed this passion ), I have not put in as much burn–in time as I would like but I would conservatively say at about 300 hours. I understand that the Blackgates need quite some run in time to sound their best. Burn-in believers take note!
Off the blocks, the first impression of the sound was the W – I – D – E soundstage. Of the amps that I have owned and tried, this produced the widest head stage by far. This moved the listening experience away from the usual sound in-the-head feeling and brought it closer to that of a traditional stereo set up.
Even cans known for their spacious head-stage like the AKG K501, K701 and DT880 benefited from this wider presentation. The head-stage of my current can of choice, the HD600, really opened up quite a fair bit being driven by the Extreme.
Through the amp, binaural recordings have an eerie sense of space and the smooth panning of sounds with the STAX CD was one of the best I have experienced so far .
Besides the spacious sound, the bass performance of this amp also deserves mention .
I believe that the quality and quantity of bass produced by a headphone is a critical component to the listening experience. The experience of listening to a conventional stereo system comes with the added advantage of the tactile sensations of the bass notes, which add to the enjoyment of music. Listen to a live performance and you will notice that the low notes are not only heard, but felt as well.
Headphones that measure flat are often described as ‘boring’ because they do not deliver this tactile feeling (into the ears of course).
The Extreme delivers in this area by producing bass impact that was both deep and tight. This is true even in comparison to the MPX3 SLAM, which is no slouch in the first place.
The mids are well presented and voices have a fullness and body behind it, adding to the perception that voices were coming from a real person, and not a recording.
The amp presented a powerful and dynamic sound that let you get into the music. Output was powerful and I could not take the volume control beyond 10:30 before it became too loud for my comfort.
Although I own some Grados, I have not been using them much, as I keep returning to the trio of the HD600/Cardas, K701 or DT880 for most of my listening.
I had high hopes for the Extreme / Grado pairing as others on Head-fi have found a good match with this combo.
It was not that the combination sounded was bad. On the contrary, the Extreme / Grado pairing had good PRAT, were dynamic sounding and added a welcome widening of the RS-1’s soundstage. However, it did not give me the sound that I wanted. The jury is still out on the GS-1000 as I need more time with it to decide.
Ultimately, I must admit that perhaps the Grado sound might not be my cup of tea. Even with the 6080 tubes that Singlepower recommends for use with Grados, I still preferred the amp/tube combo with my three regular cans. Different strokes for different folks!
Now for the fun part! Rolling the single input tube to find the perfect sound.
In general, the 5692 tube provided a wide, transparent and detailed soundscape that does not flatter lesser recordings. It would make a good choice with darker sounding cans/sources/cables. Bass also appeared to be slightly tighter but deep using this tube.
The use of the Siemens E82CC with the ECC1 adaptor produces the sound signature that I like best, so far. Detailed but with greater warmth than the 5692, it makes the HD600/Cardas sing like I have not heard it do in quite a while. It makes sonic nirvana for me! I also like this tube combo with the DT880.
The Extreme sound is an extension of the Singlepower trait of solid stage speed and bass control coupled with tube goodness that make voices sound real.
The Thoughts so far
I like this amp as it provides a different take on the Singlepower sound. In my set up, the Extreme displayed great synergy with the HD600/Cardas, DT880 and K701.
Wide head stage and tight impactful bass
Tube rolling capability
Drool worthy shiny black finish with tall glowing tubes (Yes, I can be shallow )
Two piece design that negates smaller footprint of PPX3 chassis
Cost over the standard Extreme
I will continue running in the amp and will try to update my impressions whenever I can.
Tube rolling will also be carried out to determine synergistic combinations. Tubes waiting to be rolled include NOS GE JAN 6080s, RCA 6AS7G and a stash of NOS 6SN7 tubes.
I will also be pairing the AKG K1000 with the Extreme to see if the amp is able to drive these inefficient beasts to a satisfying level of performance.
Hope you enjoyed reading my inaugural impressions thread.
Update 24 March 2008:
Since then, I have discovered that the K1000 needs some high quality wattage behind them to sound their best.
I am able to get enough volume through the Extreme Platinum and MPX3 SLAM. However, there is a big difference between loud enough and better. So what this means is that the K1000 needs a dedicated power amp to drive them to their potential.
Edited by tbln, 24 March 2008 - 08:25 PM.