Graham Slee Novo vs. Burson Soloist SL MK2


#1

I’m listening to classical music CDs on Sennheiser HD700s through the headphone jack on the Marantz CD6006 CD player. Which of these amps–Slee or Burson–will be better, and will either of them bring a significant sound upgrade?


#2

I wouldn’t bother with either.

The headphone output on the CD6006 is essentially the same as that on the HD-DAC1, and has more than enough guts to drive the HD700 with authority and is sufficiently transparent for both the source and headphones in question.

If we were talking about a better DAC stage on the source, or a less-powerful headphone output, that’d be different, but as it is the money would likely be better spent either on better headphones, an external DAC/amp (or DAC and amp) combination, or a different source.


#3

Thanks for that reply. Do I understand you to say that you think a DAC upgrade is ultimately more important than an amp? Is there a DAC/Amp combo (well under 1k) that you feel would offer a significant upgrade in sound quality? I’m not even sure how one overrides the Marantz DAC. If I plugged in a DAC/AMP to the RCA output on the Marantz, would the exterior DAC be doing the work? Pardon my ignorance.


#4

It’s more that I’m saying that with that particular player and headphone combination, there’s no real point in adding an amp. The headphones don’t need it given what the CD6006 headphone stage can do. And the source isn’t at such a level where the built-in headphone output is likely to be holding you back (at least not with those headphones … if you were using something power-hungry it’d be different) anyway.

To use an external DAC you would connect it to the S/PDIF output (either TOSLINK/optical or the RCA S/PDIF connector) on the back of the CD6006 - which is a digital output (and a single cable). You would then connect an amp to the RCA outputs on the DAC and listen via that.

I don’t think you need to spend anywhere near $1,000 to get a DAC/amp combination that would yield better results than the DAC and headphone amp in the CD6006.

Something like the Schiit Modi 3 with a Magni 3 or Vali 2 should sound better to a degree that is easily discernible … for $200 plus $30 in cables. Or you could so something like a Massdrop CTH + SDAC ($320 + a $10 cable) or LCX + SDAC ($379 + a $10 cable).

And that’s just a couple options … there are literally dozens, even just sticking with a couple of brands.

A better way to approach this is perhaps to look at “What are you trying to achieve?”. I.E. Is there something specific about what you’re hearing that you want to improve upon, or just a nebulous/non-specific desire for “something better”?


#5

Many thanks for all that info. It’s definitely a nebulous/non-specific desire for something better and, I would have to admit, a childish yearning for a shiny new toy. I’m happy with the sound I’m getting but intrigued by the idea that it could be better still. Thanks again!


#6

Nothing wrong with that!

You’d see (or hear) a much bigger change/improvement by changing out the headphones in your position. Something like an HD800 is a sizable, and obvious, upgrade over the HD700. After which a better DAC and amp would start to pay real dividends. Plenty of other options around that HD800/$1,000 level headphone-wise as well.


#7

I don’t see myself swapping out the cans, but I’m intrigued by the affordable DAC/AMPs you mention. I have a line on a Graham Slee Novo used at a great price (150CDN). Think this paired with the bottom end Schitt DAC (Modi?) would work or is one of the Massdrop options you mention better, remembering that it’s all classical I’m listening to?


#8

Correct me if I’m wrong, but @Shostakovich wouldnt really benefit from the SDAC combo units for the MCTH or the MLCX because the SDAC only has microusb input to the DAC.

The stereo RCA inputs are only directly into the amp, which may still benefit vs the CD Player’s headphone out, but you aren’t taking advantage of the DAC – so you’d be better off just getting the standard CTH or LCX without the DAC instead.


#9

Good catch!


#10

I can vouch for the MCTH and the HD700 sounding very nice.


#11

Slee Novo paired with Schitt Modi, still using the HD700 and the Marantz CD6006…will I get noticeably better sound (to my non-audiophile ears) or should I just stick with the Marantz headphone jack and spend my money on some new CDs or a symphony ticket to hear music in the flesh?


#12

I have to take back some of what I said, above. Specifically that the CD6006 and HD-DAC1 have basically the same headphone output. It turns out that, while they are based on a similar topology and circuitry, the CD6006 has MUCH lower power capacity (about 1/12th of what the HD-DAC1 can deliver).

So, right there is a much more convincing rationale to pair the unit with an external headphone amplifier. The Graham Slee Novo will give you about 5x the power (still less than is in the HD-DAC1) the CD6006 can deliver. Other specs look a lot less convincing - I’m sure they were competitive when the Novo was new, but they’re easily eclipsed by less expensive designs, offering more power, today. If it was me, I’d skip it and buy something more current, be that Schiit, Massdrop, iFi, Monoprice - options I’ve enjoyed recently include the Magni 3, Vali 2 (reviews of both coming today/tomorrow), MCTH, LCX, Liquid Spark … and that’s all staying under $350.

On the DAC side of things … I’ve never cared for the CS4398 DAC in any implementation. I’ve heard it in everything from <$100 no-name Chinese eBay “vendor” specials to $2,500 pro/studio gear and $4,000 audiophile units and it has always left me completely cold.

I rather like the Modi 3 as a DAC (I reviewed it here)… and you have to move up a good ways in price to get something that is usefully better.


Beyond that, it’s impossible to say if you’ll notice the difference. I’d be very surprised if you didn’t, but that’s certainly not a guarantee.

More importantly, while I expect you’ll easily be able to tell the difference, it’s a lot harder to say whether you’ll like it better. Just because the end result is technically higher-fidelity and more capable, doesn’t mean that is everyone’s preference. For example, my bass-head-non-audiophile friends would hate anything that approached a neutral performance - even though it was easy to demonstrate that it is a more accurate reproduction of the source.


#13

BTW…to all posters in this subject…we do have a Classical Music discussion group here in The Headphone Community. I “think” that in that group we talk more about the music. I would love to talk about the music of Shostakovich regardless of the means of listening to said music(although the means through one listens to music may affect one’s enjoyment of that music. But,then again,why am I enthralled by Furtwangler’s Tchaikovsky 6 and Toscanini’s Beethoven 3 and 5… BOTH recorded in the 1930’s.


#14

You should include a link to it when you mention it - that’ll be more effective in getting people to check it out - otherwise they have to browse/search for it.

Anyway, the Classical Music Discussion thread is here.