Message started by Pale Rider on 07/20/11 at 20:22:21

Title: The Ultra Has Landed
Post by Pale Rider on 07/20/11 at 20:22:21

Ultra #004 has landed in the East Bay of California. It is a gorgeous piece of equipment, as you can see:

Only one small problem. Instead of gold knobs, it shipped with chicken beaks, but the Decware team is already fixing that.

Title: Re: The Ultra Has Landed
Post by Lon on 07/20/11 at 20:25:12

Wow, thanks for sharing! That does look great!

Title: Re: The Ultra Has Landed
Post by Pale Rider on 07/20/11 at 21:18:29

Sitting next to the Torii:

Title: Re: The Ultra Has Landed
Post by Pale Rider on 07/22/11 at 15:14:26

I am rethinking the knobs. I can see some advantages to the chicken beaks for visual reference. I will install the gold knobs when they arrive, and I may try some beaks in black.

Title: Re: The Ultra Has Landed
Post by Lon on 07/22/11 at 15:30:31

Very good point. I have the white chicken beaks and I like them because I can glance and "see where they are." They remind me of my Fender amp chicken beaks too (and I'm used to glancing at them and can see immediately where the adjustments are.)

Title: Re: The Ultra Has Landed
Post by Pale Rider on 07/23/11 at 01:03:59

I am almost positive this is where I will end up as well, Lon. I think the only issue will be whether I like the black or cream-colored better.

Title: Re: The Ultra Has Landed
Post by Juan Antonio on 08/04/11 at 15:48:25

Which is the wooden base chosen? Oak?

Title: Re: The Ultra Has Landed
Post by Pale Rider on 08/04/11 at 16:35:40

Juan, my bases are all cherry.

Title: Re: The Ultra Has Landed
Post by Juan Antonio on 08/05/11 at 19:00:47

Clearly they are. Beautiful. I thought that after my comment was posted.

Personally I really like the cherry or oak more than the default walnut one, don't like maple on the other hand.

Enjoy them! In a few days a pair of AKG K1000's are gonna land on my hands. I hope to like them. Next, the Leben CS300X limited in less than two weeks. Too short period of time for this to digest in my point of view.

Well, nothing compared with you. 6 ERR's, an Ultra, two Torris at the speed of light,... what's next? hahaha :o

If I were you I couldn't sleep.

Title: Re: The Ultra Has Landed
Post by Pale Rider on 08/05/11 at 20:16:44

Hey Juan, what's this "sleep" you speak of? ;) I agree about the walnut and maple. Never been a big walnut fan, but it is one of those classic American crafting woods. Maple is great for some stuff. But I already have a lot of light and dark cherry in my home, and so the cherry made sense here. it is lighter than most of my other finishes, but Bob says it will darken a bit over time. Right now, tube glow overshadows wood.

The Leben and AKG cans should be a great combo. I think the Leben is even harder to get than Decware equipment. At the office, I decided to keep the Cavalli Liquid Fire and my Audez'e LCD-2s. I am taking the Taboo home for my headphone listening there. It will physically fit the space I have for it better than the LF. It is just about impossible to pick the better amp between the two. I still like the Taboo overall better, but it is fully broken in, and I am not sure about the LF yet. In certain bass segments, it has a tendency toward what i would call "tubbiness." Not flabby or fat, just tubby. Tube rolling is not impossible in the LF, but it is an enclosed case, and you do have to take it off in order to swap the tubes. I suspect some tube rolling could improve an amazing amp even further.

Title: Re: The Ultra Has Landed
Post by Juan Antonio on 08/06/11 at 18:38:20


" what's this "sleep" you speak of" Sorry. What do you mean? (English trouble, you know :-/)

"The Leben and AKG cans should be a great combo"

Certainly it seems to be a great combo, will see. It is said that the Leben CS300X has very neutral, non tubey sound. Astounding Timbral accuracy. Very engaging. Been a push-pull class AB but sounding like a SET and the advantages of push pull design. (Decware amps seems to be designed as non tubey sounding amps as well)

The classic recommendation for the K1000's is a pure class A speaker amp.

Here it "seems" that Leben break the rules and specs are irrelevant, because It doesn't feel all that good knowing it is class AB (normally inferior sounding class operation). I think I should take it with grain of salt.

"I think the Leben is even harder to get than Decware equipment"

That depends on the model we are talking about. The discontinued CS300X limited with Mullards EL84 and GE pream tubes is very difficult to find. Not the case with the current production units. You just have to order them by import dealers. Tone Imports in the USA, for example. Here in Spain, the dealer is located in Barcelona. The CS300XS is sold with Genalex tubes included and the price is the same for this model with the default sovtek tubes. 2500€ (around $3570).

I don't get the point you say about Decware. Decware is easy to get. I envy you in the sense that you live in the US and you have very cheap shipping taxes and no customs taxes added.

To get a general idea, my ERR's cost me around $3000 dollars. Freaking insane taking account that by themselves they cost $1700 at that moment (currently $1800)

If you add that plus the idea that you are talking to a college boy to the overall situation you will find that you are ABLE to purchase Decware gear far more than me. So.. yes, it doesn't mean that someday I might order a Torri, a Taboo and a Zen too in the future.

Looking forward to hear your impressions of the LF broken-in.


Title: Re: The Ultra Has Landed
Post by Pale Rider on 08/07/11 at 03:25:54

Juan, the sleep comment was just making fun. I mean, who sleeps these days? ;-)

You are correc that being in the US makes it much easier and more affordable to get Decware. But it can still be a long wait.

Let us know how that Leben sounds with the AKG cans.

Title: Re: The Ultra Has Landed
Post by Juan Antonio on 08/07/11 at 10:32:14

OMG, my mistake. That type of joke comment is literally similar in spanish as well.

For my part, I try to sleep as good as I can. I need at least 8 hrs, sometimes 9 hrs. People normally sleep 6/7 hrs and I cannot stand something like that. Sleeping more than 9 hrs is bad for the health on the other hand.

I'll comment about the Leben + k1000's for sure, no doubt. And how good it goes with the ERR's and HD800's too.

Title: Re: The Ultra Has Landed
Post by Pale Rider on 08/16/11 at 15:46:42

Here are the two items I bought to enable full use of the Ultra as a preamp front end for my HT system. Note that these would NOT be necessary if you use the Ultra only as a front end for an HT and one or two other 2-channel sources. (Steve, if you found some other way to solve this, please let me know.) But I have two other sources (HD cable and Apple TV) that have 5.1audio worth putting through the Decware system. Yes, I could run their HDMI outputs straight into the Panasonic flat panel, but the sound coming out of flat panels generally, and the Pannys specifically, is so atrocious, and it seems quite a waste to have this sort of audio system and not get the full benefit of it.

Note also that, if any one of your sources, be it the DVD, Blu-Ray, or something else, also has control center input capabilities, you might not need this adaptation. I bought two items from HDTV Supply:

1. A 2x1 5.1 channel switcher. A 3.1 would have been more convenient, but it's not mandatory. Depending on physical layout and cabling, This will permit me to have two 5.1 sources running into the Ultra. When and if I decide to add a third, I will get one more of these. Biggest downside of these: no IR remote control. I have looked all over for one with IR, asked the vendors, etc. No luck.

2. A 4x2 HDMI-7.2 matrix switcher. This is what lets me separate the 5.1 audio channels from the HDMI supplied by the Cable and the ATV. Note that it is possible that this unit will be all I need. The folks on the phone and email—who were all great, BTW; HDTV definitely has my business for the future—sent me the user manual, and walked through it with me. We think it might be possible to plug the Blu-Ray audio out into the 4x2, along with the HDMI from the cable and the ATV. If that works, I am set, an I have remote control.

Granted, this won't be quite as automatic as the current Denon system, because everything there is remote controllable. It's pretty cool to touch one rectangle on the Harmony remote control screen, and everything turns on and is ready ro go. But quality has its price, eh?

Let me know if you have any questions. (NOTE: cross-posted in ERR forum as well. Hope that's okay.)

Title: Re: The Ultra Has Landed
Post by Pale Rider on 08/20/11 at 21:11:25

I have now finished Day Two of using the Ultra with multiple sources, and its flexibility is everything Steve writes about in the manual, and on the Ultra page. As it turns out, the 4x2 matrix switcher is all I need. Let me get the downside out of the way right now: if you are accustomed to complete remote control over your system, you are going to give up a little of that with the Ultra. But the quality of the sound out of the Ultra and Toriis, and the ability to mix channels and reconfigure sound more than makes up for it in my book. This is really stunning sounding stuff.

Title: Re: The Ultra Has Landed
Post by Pale Rider on 08/21/11 at 20:46:38

I posted something over in the ERR forum that probably belongs here:

Michael, thanks for the suggestion. I will check it out, but if I remember correctly, Outlaw doesn't disable the preamp segment, though, do they?

Anyway, the problem is two-fold: (1) the Ultra only has one set of 5.1 inputs, or inputs that accommodate all 6 audio channels of a surround system; and (2) an increasing number of A/V sources deliver hifh quality video signal through HDMI, while the component outputs often do not deliver as good a video signal (my Comcast/Motorola PVR, for example), and even if they do, the audio is typically 2-channel.

Thr Ultra is well designed for a single 5.1 front end, such as a Blu-Ray, plus three other 2-channel sources. The mixing capabilities provide ample redirection capabilities for putting that two-channel signal wherever you want it. But it's not the same as having multiple 5.1 or even HDMI inputs. In my system, I have the Blu-Ray player, which has a 5.1/7.1 and a 2.0 output, and I have the cable PVR and Apple TV. So, I need to get all those signals into the Ultra (or the Blu-Ray player, though the Oppo has no device switching capabilities).

The 4x2 HDMI matrix switcher seems to do a good job of extracting the 5.1 signals, though there is a bit of brittleness to the sound (which could all be from the source device).

The only problem I am now having is getting the Center channel to perform correctly. Even with a 5.1 signal, the only way I can get the Ultra to send out a signal is to flip the Norm/Mixed switch to Mixed. I turned out at first to have a bum (non-Decware) cable. Replacing that solved the zero output problem. But I am still not getting quite what I expect. I will get that one figured out or I will ring up Steve. It should be easy to test: pull the Matrix and input the Oppo directly to the Ultra.

Title: Re: The Ultra Has Landed
Post by Pale Rider on 08/28/11 at 03:08:53

Right now, I am seeking either a Zektor MAS3 or MAS7.1. Either would supply all the necessary switching capabilities I need, and allow for remote control.

What I have discovered is that, the combo of the 4x2 HDMI matrix and the 5.1 switcher get me about 95% of the way to where I want to be. Trying to do everything through the 4x2 switcher was part of what caused my center output issues. Using the 2x5.1 audio switcher helped to sort that out. I have to switch manually between the Oppo and "everything else" [a once per viewing session action, so a modest PITA at worst], but I can remote control almost everything.

What I learned in discussions with Zektor, and their vendors, is that the penetration of HDMI has pretty much obviated the need for switchers of 5.1/7.1 audio. On flea bay, the half life of such listings is apparently about 17 nanoseconds, because of course, there are audiophiles out there who do want such devices.

Since the Ultra creates a need for just such devices, I am hoping Steve might decide that there is a justification for a proper passive switch with the quality of the stereo switch he makes now, but the flexibility for 5.1 audio for the Ultra. With or without remote control, such a switch is almost essential for the Ultra, if you have any sources besides a disc player.

Title: Re: The Ultra Has Landed
Post by opnly_bafld on 08/28/11 at 21:17:32

Why not use the 2807?
I realize you probably don't want to run your m/ch sources through it, kinda defeats the purpose for having the Ultra, but I can't see how it would be any worse than sending them through a switching device.


Title: Re: The Ultra Has Landed
Post by Pale Rider on 08/29/11 at 07:00:47

Actually, Lin, I think it would be much worse. A properly constructed passive switch, such as the Zektor with relays, is literally just a convenient cable-swapper. There is minimal signal change. Not so with the Denon or any other type of pre/pro. I have several other options to try, including the 2807 as a separate pre/pro just for the cable and Apple TV. I would run ICs from the Denon to the secondary inputs of each Dec amp. That way, I don't double-preamp the signal, and perhaps the amps will smooth out the preamp a touch. I don't like that idea, and it involves its own manual switching, but it is on the list of ideas to work through.

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