Author Topic: Focal Elear  (Read 510 times)

Offline itscraig

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Re: Focal Elear
« Reply #15 on: December 06, 2017, 06:21:05 PM »
lambskins on the 2's and on the 3's

Offline capetownwatches

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Re: Focal Elear
« Reply #16 on: December 07, 2017, 10:28:39 PM »

By the way, in regard to volume, http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/forum/the-science-of-audio/amplifier-matching-mismatching-and-clipping-a-curse/2174-how-loud-versus-how-far-you-turn-the-volume-control[/b]]this post from the designer at Harbeth may be of interest.

It busted a myth I long held (did a lot more reading and research and found many articles and discussions mirroring the above thoughts). So if you can tweak the gain and have the sound at the 12-3 mark, it should actually be better.
The venerable Mr. Shaw has forgotten more than most of us will ever know about audio, so pay attention - voltage matching is absolutely crucial for system integrity.
Like Xenithon I too believed that 12 to 1 was pretty much as far as one needed to go on a powerful amp.

To test the point I lowered the gain on the NFB11 to 0dB instead of the high (+12dB) I usually use, on Fixed output.
Fixed output is rated at 2.5V at high gain.
No value is quoted for zero gain/fixed output, but lets assume around 1.5V
The gain switch works in conjunction with the fixed and variable outputs on the NFB11

Out of interest, Variable Gain on the NFB11 outputs 5V RMS max, but I've never used it.
On this setting I would never get the volume control beyond 10.

The Woo presents an easy load at 100 k-ohms.

I am used to a volume control range of 10 to 1 or 2 for very high DR sources on my WA3.
Zero gain allows greater use of the upper range - currently the dial is at 2.5 on a fairly loud recording (6 DR @ -10dB RG)
I've had to go as high as 4.

Sound quality? Sounds more relaxed, background definitely darker - I mean black as the lowest pit of Hades black.
Bass very controlled, maybe hits a touch harder?
Mids and highs no change that I can hear.

I never ran into clipping on the previous settings, but there seems to be more headroom now - expectation bias?  :thinking:

The effect of lowering the source output voltage and using zero gain means I can operate at or around 3/4 of the volume range.
According to Mr. Shaw this gives the best signal to noise ratio and is "technically correct".
 
It's going to take more listening, and a few back and forth switches between settings, but from what I hear thus far, I think I agree with him.

Would be interested to hear other members thoughts and experience in this regard.
« Last Edit: December 07, 2017, 10:34:25 PM by capetownwatches »

Offline gLer

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Re: Focal Elear
« Reply #17 on: December 07, 2017, 11:05:08 PM »
I was always under the impression that the less I have to turn the volume pot, the more powerful the amp and therefore the better the sound.

After reading a technical post by ifi (makers of the iDSD dac I use) that explains why 12-3 is the sweet spot for sound quality, I tried it myself, dropping the gain on my Matrix HPA-3B to low, which pushed the ‘loud but normal’ setting for my LCD-2F to between 1 and 3 for most of my albums. Is it cleaner than at 12-1? It’s certainly not breaking a sweat, and just a touch more to 3.30 on the dial is generally far too loud, even on the power hungry LCD-2. At normal listening volumes (around 12PM for my ears) noise floor is too low to hear for just about any recording, with plenty of extra power on tap wth just a short turn of the dial.

I think many of us take pride in buying amps that can blow our heads off at 9 o’clock on the dial, but that’s just our egos getting in the way of how these things are really meant to sound.
Currently used: ZMF Atticus, Audeze LCD-2F, Rock Zircon, iFi Micro iDSD, Matrix HPA-3B, Cayin N3 DAP

Previously used: Massdrop Fostex TH-X00 Mahogany, B&W P7, B&W P5, V-Moda Crossfade Wireless, V-Moda M-100, Sound Blaster E5 and E3

Offline capetownwatches

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Re: Focal Elear
« Reply #18 on: December 07, 2017, 11:57:08 PM »
I was always under the impression that the less I have to turn the volume pot, the more powerful the amp and therefore the better the sound.

After reading a technical post by ifi (makers of the iDSD dac I use) that explains why 12-3 is the sweet spot for sound quality, I tried it myself, dropping the gain on my Matrix HPA-3B to low, which pushed the ‘loud but normal’ setting for my LCD-2F to between 1 and 3 for most of my albums. Is it cleaner than at 12-1? It’s certainly not breaking a sweat, and just a touch more to 3.30 on the dial is generally far too loud, even on the power hungry LCD-2. At normal listening volumes (around 12PM for my ears) noise floor is too low to hear for just about any recording, with plenty of extra power on tap wth just a short turn of the dial.

I think many of us take pride in buying amps that can blow our heads off at 9 o’clock on the dial, but that’s just our egos getting in the way of how these things are really meant to sound.

Simple point: 'You cannot expect to get high fidelity sound from a mishmash of consumer audio equipment where the voltage levels representing the music are not structured between the equipment.

That would mandate rock-solid, unambiguous independent, technical standards (which don't exist in consumer-land), everybody playing by the rules, and educating the consumer.
That would make subjective reviewing of audio equipment an impossibly difficult task.
 
It suits the industry to have no technical standards, because the random combination of audio electronics is going to lead to a range of sounds from good to terrible, and without the technical means to understand why some combinations work and some don't (not magic or even voodoo, just simple level matching) this game will perpetuate.'

AS

Offline Scubadude

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Re: Focal Elear
« Reply #19 on: December 08, 2017, 04:47:33 AM »
I for one dont understand the gain obsession. In the good old days CD players had a standard output voltage of 2V. 5V is crazy high and just another manifestation of the loudness war. I happily use the 20dB gain cut on the Phonitor and dabble in the 3 to 5 o'clock region for normal listening. I suggest to download an SPL meter app to see what you are subjecting your ears to. Regular blasts of 100dB+ will cause permanent hearing loss.
"We should no more let numbers define audio quality than we should let chemical analysis be the arbiter of fine wines."  Nelson Pass

Offline kamikazi

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Re: Focal Elear
« Reply #20 on: December 08, 2017, 05:39:00 PM »
I turned up the WA3 to max and barely got a whisper out of it on the HE-500. Granted it's a headphone amp for high impedance headphones (and probably sensitive ones at that) so imo it's much more a question of getting the right match for the right transducer. I haven't noticed differences using different gain settings (or in my mind if I noticed them I would rather attribute it to expectation bias). Primary reason for me to keep the volume pot around 12 is to avoid some oddities that you can experience in the lower ranges of lower quality volume pots, but most headphone amps these days have pretty decent ones. I see gain mostly about convenience and expanding the operating envelope (like ratios in a gearbox).
« Last Edit: December 08, 2017, 05:42:38 PM by kamikazi »

Offline capetownwatches

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Re: Focal Elear
« Reply #21 on: December 09, 2017, 02:41:43 PM »
I turned up the WA3 to max and barely got a whisper out of it on the HE-500. Granted it's a headphone amp for high impedance headphones (and probably sensitive ones at that) so imo it's much more a question of getting the right match for the right transducer.

That doesn't sound right. What is your source and it's output voltage? Which tubes are you using?
Are you able to increase source gain?

Spot on that the WA3 is designed for high Z cans, which the HE500 is not, nor is it very sensitive, but barely a whisper?
Mine has driven LCD2, ZMF Atticus, Ether Flow C and T50RP (not so much...) with authority.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2017, 02:44:04 PM by capetownwatches »

Offline kamikazi

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Re: Focal Elear
« Reply #22 on: December 09, 2017, 04:32:51 PM »
That doesn't sound right. What is your source and it's output voltage? Which tubes are you using?
Are you able to increase source gain?

Spot on that the WA3 is designed for high Z cans, which the HE500 is not, nor is it very sensitive, but barely a whisper?
Mine has driven LCD2, ZMF Atticus, Ether Flow C and T50RP (not so much...) with authority.

Was a demo unit at The Listening Room that I tried it with, I doubt they would keep a faulty unit there. Can't remember the CD source it was connected to, so it should have been a normal line level source. Was actually there to try out the WA6 / WA6SE if they had one available, but unfortunately the WA3 was the only one. The Cary SLI-80 there drove the HE-500s quite beautifully though using the same source, but unfortunately a very expensive piece of kit...

Offline capetownwatches

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Re: Focal Elear
« Reply #23 on: December 09, 2017, 04:50:19 PM »
I happily use the 20dB gain cut on the Phonitor and dabble in the 3 to 5 o'clock region for normal listening.

I'm now using zero gain on NFB11 and a much wider volume range - typically 11 to 3 now.

My thinking - why have a volume pot that can go to 5 and never use a large part of it's range?

At this stage I cannot hear any discernible difference in SQ. 

Unit is running a bit hotter though...



Offline LouisF

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Re: Focal Elear
« Reply #24 on: December 10, 2017, 09:36:37 PM »
As a person with some hearing loss, let me caution you to resist listening to unnecessary high loudness (someone on the forum insisted in some other thread that it is a more accurate term than "volume") levels of sound on headphones and earphones. I continually warn myself with "You do not want to be harder of hearing still" when wearing my cans. As a young guy I did use high levels of sound on my 'phones and I have this sneaky feeling that it played a part in my hearing loss, who knows? A level of 100 dB is absolutely as high as one should go. Having to wear hearing aids is not so wonderful in certain circumstances - such as enjoying music on your cans.
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how you treat people ultimately tells all."

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Offline xenithon

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Re: Focal Elear
« Reply #25 on: December 10, 2017, 09:46:54 PM »
Completely agree - and think an SPL meter (or even an SPL app on your phone, many of which are pretty decent) is a must for headphones.

Having said that, I do not think anyone as advocating for excessive volume. Rather, to set the gain low enough so that "ideal" volume is when the volume know is between 12 and 3. So if that ideal max is, say 100dB, rather have it reach that level at 3 on the pot rather than at 11.

Offline capetownwatches

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Re: Focal Elear
« Reply #26 on: December 10, 2017, 10:09:43 PM »
So I emailed Mr Kingwa, the head honcho at Audio-gd in this regard:

I have 2017 model NFB11 - is it better to use it on low gain (and volume control between 12 and 4) for most listening?
Or should I use high gain (and volume between 10 to 1)??


His succinct response:

Dear Arie,
I prefer use high gain in order.
Kingwa

So there it is. After a few days of trying both low and high gain scenarios I have to agree with the man.
High gain just sounds cleaner and more dynamic, especially with high DR recordings.

This holds true when using the NFB11's headamp as well as DAC only.

That said, I will continue to use low gain on 'loudness wars' type recordings that max out the volume control at 10 on high gain.
Just 'cos I can... :groovy:




Offline gLer

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Re: Focal Elear
« Reply #27 on: December 10, 2017, 10:47:23 PM »
Was a demo unit at The Listening Room that I tried it with, I doubt they would keep a faulty unit there. Can't remember the CD source it was connected to, so it should have been a normal line level source. Was actually there to try out the WA6 / WA6SE if they had one available, but unfortunately the WA3 was the only one. The Cary SLI-80 there drove the HE-500s quite beautifully though using the same source, but unfortunately a very expensive piece of kit...
When was this? Do you know if the demo unit is still available for sale?
Currently used: ZMF Atticus, Audeze LCD-2F, Rock Zircon, iFi Micro iDSD, Matrix HPA-3B, Cayin N3 DAP

Previously used: Massdrop Fostex TH-X00 Mahogany, B&W P7, B&W P5, V-Moda Crossfade Wireless, V-Moda M-100, Sound Blaster E5 and E3

Offline capetownwatches

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Re: Focal Elear
« Reply #28 on: December 10, 2017, 10:55:40 PM »
When was this? Do you know if the demo unit is still available for sale?

I'm pretty sure that demo unit is the very one that's on my desk right now...sorry bud.  ;)
« Last Edit: December 10, 2017, 11:04:33 PM by capetownwatches »

Offline LouisF

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Re: Focal Elear
« Reply #29 on: December 11, 2017, 08:31:35 AM »
As I have understood it, high powered amps for speakers - even if the latter are efficient - is for clarity's sake and low distortion at peaks in the music, such as is common in classical works. The same should hold true for 'phones. An analogy exists in cars: high powered cars are always a pleasure to drive, not only when one hammers them. So high gain headphone amps make sense to me.  :2c:
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how you treat people ultimately tells all."

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I have learned more from people who have differed from me than from those who have agreed with me.