Orchard Audio Starkrimson Stereo Ultra Amp Tour!

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Ted Torres Jr, Jun 19, 2022.

  1. Ted Torres Jr

    Ted Torres Jr Synergistic Maximus Thread Starter

    Location:
    SE LA
    Leonid “Leo” Ayzenshtat (founder and owner of Orchid Audio) made a generous offer to start a “Tour” of his -Starkrimson Stereo Ultra Amplifier- within the SHMF membership. I submitted my name to receive, evaluate and review a sample to be circulated between other interested members! Keep in mind that my findings below may be unique to my ears, my room, my music, my other associated components (see my profile/info pg) and my 25 years of acoustical music educational training/degree and performance background experiences!

    For the past 10 years, I’ve been well pleased with the performance of my stereo AB amp (175wpc/6ohm), the Emotiva USP-2. It has been flawless in creating a live holographic and dynamic soundstage with all the genre of music I enjoy! For these evaluative listening sessions, I turned off the sub and set my stand-mount monitors full range (in-room response solid to 32hz). From June 13 through June 16, I introduced this Starkrimsion amp into my system. Leo has configured this “tour amp” with an additional 18,800uf of capacitance per channel. Using my very familiar musical library of superb vocal, instrumental, orchestration, piano and live jazz trio performances and recordings, I Immediately heard the sonic differences. Over 4 days and 25 hours of detailed listening, this turned in affirmative performance confirmations that really got my attention!

    What did the Starkrimson bring to the table to improve that which I “thought” I already had in spades all these years with my AB amp? Everything! I immediately identified my sound system presentation as being more live, my spouse states more mellow and smooth. To me, the greatest improvement was to Attacks and Decays. Beginning notes and percussive sounds just start with more immediacy and effortlessness, without harsh edges or strain. Decays have become gloriously long and precise, with more sustained prime note and overtone releases as per live performances. This to me has created a much more refined, non-fatiguing and eloquent reproduced presentation that more closely represents the you-are-there live experience!

    Soundstage imaging has expanded and better filled in behind the speakers, especially in the left/right horizontal plane. Stage depth and height has remained the same (was very deep and high before) thus overall, the front baffles/.5cf cabinets have not just disappeared (as before), but have become visually Invisible (mind-blowing)! Pinpoint imaging and focus with soloist, sectional musicians and piano is rock solid, with plenty of air, body and separation that well defines their proper placements/size within the holographic soundstage. Overall, the Starkrimson has created a more mesmerizing 3D presentation that simply allows the music to just naturally exist in my listening environment!

    Details, Resolution and Response of fine nuances (articulation, diction, sonic subtilities, clarity, ambiance) are now better heard and understood. I found it easier to define exact vocal lyrics that weren’t as clear to me before and better discern background supportive vocal/instrumental harmonies, counter melodies and percussive rhythms that breathe and support emotional and expressive realism into the music. Full bandwidth responses are silky, accurate and crystal clear. Timbre and articulated sonics exactly duplicate real world instrumental sounds and vocal performances. Bass is very well controlled, deep, articulate, tight and fast. I attribute part of this “sonic prowess” to the dead-silent background of the amp. With pre-amp settings at normal live listening levels, a muted volume output produces absolutely No sound/noise from my tweeters (extreme black background) with my ear resting on the baffle grill cloth. FWIW, my ears were recently tested down to 0db at 8Khz in audio-booth testing!

    Being an easy monitor load, system Dynamics appear greater and with less effort and strain. Crescendos and loudest passages in the music jump out without harshness or loss of fidelity…always articulate and in control! The additional 6db of power headroom (+3db continuous, +6db of peak Headroom) over my (1/5 the investment cost) Emotiva amp is not what I attribute this graceful expansion of sound to. My normal listening sessions are typically enjoyed at 85db continuous levels, with peaks that reach 95 to 105db! With my 87db efficient monitors, I had plenty of clean power before, but believe the Orchard Audio Amp offers what some have akin to Class A \ Tube Amp Sonics in the Starkrimson!

    Overall, I left the unit on for 4 days straight, with my small dedicated listening room (990cf) never feeling warm or uncomfortable (like with my A/B amp). My spouse has commented on how “Musical” my system sounds with the new amp and that She will enjoy the music more than ever…Agreed!! Build is Very Solid and good looks, as always, are simply in the eyes of the beholder (I like it). In 2021, I returned $8K worth of electronics/accessories (Regenerator, SACD, Interconnects), as their contributions couldn’t Improve my System’s Synergy. Suffice to say, Leo’s Starkrimson Stereo Ultra Class D GanFET Amp has taken my music enjoyment a Couple of Quantum leaps Forward in realism and fidelity…I Will be Getting My Own!!! :righton:

    Ted
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    Last edited: Jun 19, 2022
    guestuser, thomaskong, mds and 11 others like this.
  2. orchardaudio

    orchardaudio Orchard Audio

    Location:
    Succasunna, NJ
    @Ted Torres Jr, thank you for the very well written and concise review.

    The tour continues...
     
    guestuser and Ted Torres Jr like this.
  3. Ted Torres Jr

    Ted Torres Jr Synergistic Maximus Thread Starter

    Location:
    SE LA
    Welcome, Leo!

    Appreciate the opportunity for this trial run with your Starkrimson GaNFET Stereo Ultra amp design!!

    Are you closing in on future availability and shipment dates?

    Ted
     
    orchardaudio likes this.
  4. orchardaudio

    orchardaudio Orchard Audio

    Location:
    Succasunna, NJ
    Any orders that come in now will be shipping in late to mid July. As I still have a bunch of orders to get out that were placed previously.
     
    Ted Torres Jr likes this.
  5. Oliver Meyer

    Oliver Meyer In Audio Heaven Up Here

    Location:
    Virginia Beach
    Great review Ted. Will be a tough act to follow. I’m very excited to hear this amp.
     
    missan and orchardaudio like this.
  6. Rich-n-Roll

    Rich-n-Roll Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington State
    $2,499.95 :eek: Wow
     
  7. james

    james Summon The Queen

    Location:
    Annapolis
    I've finished my week with the Starkrimson Ultra and could write a lot of stuff, but I don't think I could add anything more than what Ted has above. He observed all the same things I did. I'll give it a shot, though:

    With my Vienna Acoustics Bach Grands, the Orchard amp was an eye opener. I've had the VA's for a long time and have run many different amps with them. I've always appreciated them for their warm, rich, non-fatiguing sound and strong bass for their size. With the Starkrimson Ultra, they have never sounded better. The VA's still sounded smooth and non-fatiguing, but it's like they were put into full focus instead of a hair blurry. So much detail yet so smooth. John Darko uses a term "squeegee clean" to describe some gear and that's what I felt like happened with the Starkrimson/VA combo.

    I'm never entirely sure what audiophile descriptors are talking about, but if "inner detail" means the air around an instrument, the reverberations of the room around an instrument, the texture of a bass string, etc...then the Starkrimson has inner detail in spades. I heard a lot more of the character of instruments, rather than "there is a guitar playing". Attack and decay were awesome. The warble and trailing out/decay of an electric guitar amp or Milt Jackson's vibraphone was more visceral.

    I moved the Starkrimson Ultra up to my main rig, which uses Snell J's in a relatively large room. I wasn't immediately sold at first. I thought the presentation was a little thinner than I'm used to with the Yamaha AS-801. I don't know what warmed up, the amp or my ears, but I ended up planted in the listening position for a few hours excited to go through different tracks to see how they'd sound. The track that sealed the deal for me was Joanna Newsom's "En Gallop off of The Milk Eyed Mender. If you're familiar with that track, you know that repeating low harp bass note. This can really excite a room and can often sound a bit wooly. Not here...it was tight and controlled and had more color and texture than I'm used to. The rest of the harp playing over the bass note sounded harmonically rich and musical. Joanna Newsom's voice was locked in dead center and felt extremely present and clearly defined relative to the rest of the instrumentation. I've also never noticed how damn long that last note trails out at the end.

    My main takeaway from this trial is that I will be looking at GaN amps when I'm ready to upgrade. My ideal product is an integrated GaN amp with a really great phono stage and/or a built-in DAC (so that I can reduce box and cable count). I don't believe that product exists yet. I may go with a pre/power setup if I can't find what I want, but I do believe I'll be moving away from tubes and class A gear. I see that Orchard Audio makes a pair of small, lower powered monoblocks which might be perfect for my Snells.

    The amp will be going to the next person on the list today! Thanks for the opportunity to demo this piece at home. I really enjoyed it.
     
    Manimal, Rolltide, mds and 10 others like this.
  8. Donivey

    Donivey Forum Resident

    Location:
    NC
    @james, did you notice that you had to use more on the volume knob on your preamp? I think I read that the Starkrimson uses less gain than normal. That would be ideal for me, as I'm often at the 9:00 position on my preamps with more sensitive speakers. Thanks.
     
  9. james

    james Summon The Queen

    Location:
    Annapolis
    So typically in the Vienna Acoustics rig, I use a Marantz HD-DAC1 as a preamp. It's in the basement and only gets play a couple times a month. I fired up the Starkrimson and noticed noise/distortion in one of the channels. After narrowing the issue down to one channel in the Marantz, I had to move to the other gear I had with preamp capabilities: a Project Pre Box S2 Digital and a Schiit Valhalla 2.

    With the Pro-Ject, yes. I had to increase the volume knob more than I'm used to with that unit. With the Schiit, there is a low and high gain switch. I ended up using the Schiit with low gain for the majority of my listening.

    I probably should have mentioned that in my review. My impressions were with fairly lower end preamplifiers. I'd love to hear the Starkrimson with a more up market preamplifier.
     
    head_unit likes this.
  10. Donivey

    Donivey Forum Resident

    Location:
    NC
    Thanks @james, that tells me the Starkrimson may work well in my system.
     
  11. james

    james Summon The Queen

    Location:
    Annapolis
    I just checked out your profile and would love to hear your impressions. You have a lot of great gear that I'm interested in. Are you on this demo chain?
     
  12. 33na3rd

    33na3rd Forum Resident

    Location:
    SW Washington, USA
    I'm guessing that passive preamps are not appropriate for the Starkrimson?
     
  13. orchardaudio

    orchardaudio Orchard Audio

    Location:
    Succasunna, NJ
    Thank you for review.

    I do have an integrated version of this amp it's called the Starkrimson Streamer Ultra, it's streamer, dac and amp all in the same size box as what you just had. It's probably not the type if integrated you were looking for though.
     
    Oliver Meyer and james like this.
  14. orchardaudio

    orchardaudio Orchard Audio

    Location:
    Succasunna, NJ
    I would say it should be evaluated on case by case basis, it will not be suitable in every situation. I have customers with passive preamps.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2022
    33na3rd likes this.
  15. Ted Torres Jr

    Ted Torres Jr Synergistic Maximus Thread Starter

    Location:
    SE LA
    [I probably should have mentioned that in my review.]

    Well James, I didn't mention it either! BTW, you filled in "music specifics" representing the amp's sonics very nicely, making it much more personal...Great Review!! :uhhuh: :thumbsup:

    The Starkrimson can be configured with Either RCA (unbalanced) or XLR (balanced) inputs. To achieve maximum sonic benefits of his amp design, Leo highly recommends the configuration of "Balanced Inputs"! The test amp arrived with XLR fully balanced inputs installed and RCA to XLR adapter connectors to be used with pre-amp unbalanced outputs (like mine).

    I'm usually at the 9 0'clock pre-amp listening position for normal listening, but had to get to the noon position with the Starkrimson! I spoke with Leo about the loss of amp gain I experienced (needed 5-6db more pre-amp output in my trial testing). It appears due to the normal RCA-F to XLR-M adapter connector configuration (needed for single-ended unbalanced outputs to transition to amp XLR inputs) and the amp's "fully balanced topography design", a loss of 6db occurs through use of the adapter connectors.

    Leo stated he has a solid workaround for customers who have unbalanced pre-amp outputs (like me)! An active transformer with "+8db gain" housed in a small independent case will facilitate the transition of RCA to XLR connectivity, maintaining the Integrity and Maximum Sonics of his fully-balanced amp design. If you have, or when you go with a fully balanced pre-amp output stage, then the transformer will not be needed! HERE is the board, with completed units to follow in a couple of months!

    Leo, please correct any misrepresentation on my part! :rolleyes:

    Ted
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2022
    james likes this.
  16. orchardaudio

    orchardaudio Orchard Audio

    Location:
    Succasunna, NJ
    It is not a transformer. It is a single ended (RCA) to fully balanced (XLR) active converter.

    There is no transformer, like in traditional units that perform this function.
     
    Ted Torres Jr likes this.
  17. Ted Torres Jr

    Ted Torres Jr Synergistic Maximus Thread Starter

    Location:
    SE LA
    Thanks for the clarification, Leo! :righton:

    Ted
     
  18. orchardaudio

    orchardaudio Orchard Audio

    Location:
    Succasunna, NJ
    For anybody who wants to join the tour, you can still do so. Please send me your full address and phone number as well as your forum name through the contact form on my website here:
    Contact Us – Orchard Audio
     
  19. mds

    mds I NEVER sell equipment! Just build another system.

    Location:
    East Coast
    This experiment has been very confirming to my own experience with Class D amplification. I went from a tube amplifier to a Class D. I even experimented a little with a high end, high powered solid state Class A/B amplifier trying to bring out more bass from my speakers. The Class D gave me the oomph I needed for more bass and the Class D amplifiers also brought out more nuances within the music through out the entire frequency range along with enhancing the sound stage. I believe @Ted Torres Jr experience with the improvements he heard matched mine and I believe he has described it better than I have in the past. Excellent review! Class D is here to stay and as time marches on I believe it will become the dominant form of amplification. Class D offers all of the positive attributes from all the classes, Tubes through class A & A/B, in my opinion along with many other positive attributes that the other designs can not provide, energy efficient being high on that list. It sounds like Orchard Audio has done a very nice job with their units.
     
  20. Jaytor

    Jaytor DIY Enthusiast

    Location:
    Oregon
    @mds - it sure would be interesting to hear about a direct comparison of the Starkrimson amp to your AGD monoblocks. Your amps have received a lot of rave reviews and obviously cost a fair amount more than the Orchard amp, but I'd love to hear how they compare. Maybe you should join the amp tour?
     
    mds, timind, 33na3rd and 1 other person like this.
  21. Prighello

    Prighello Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Cool to see the tour here. Leo is a great guy and has lent our club in Az some amps for tours in the past.
     
  22. mds

    mds I NEVER sell equipment! Just build another system.

    Location:
    East Coast
    I thought about it but the expense of shipping it off to the next person or back to Orchard is an expense I really do not want to add to my other expenses. If it were $20 that would be different but my assumption is the size, weight and insurance will knock it to something I just don't want to deal with.

    I am interested in knowing how they compare because as you said, the one I own is much more than a lot more expensive and so which one is better sounding, is it a killer in disguise or very good for its price that would have a lot of meaning for a lot of people.

    As we all know there is diminishing returns as you go up the audio food chain, so where does the Orchard stand compared to the AGD? An interesting comparison it would be.

    I will note that the tube mono blocks I have did not compare closely to the Vivace, but they are a fraction of the cost. The Solid State mono blocks I had borrowed for a month were priced new a tiny bit more than the AGD Vivace new and they also did not come close to the Vivace sound. My tube mono blocks in my opinion sounded better than the solid state piece due to loosing the "tube magic" in the mid range, high end and sound stage. The solid state was noticeably better in the bass department than the tube mono blocks but that alone was not worth switching amps for. The Vivace's bass is much more refined and just as strong as the solid state unit and might even be quicker, I could not be sure about the quickness because I did not have them with me with I received the AGD mono block but it was obvious the Vivace's bass was much more nuanced, fast and really took hold of my drivers. The Vivace has a very tube like sound in the mids, highs and an incredible sound stage which is why when I heard them I immediately knew these were the ones I had been searching for. The Vivace were well broken in when I received them so I felt confident that what I heard once lit up was pretty much what they would sound like from that point forward. There was no need to play them for 100s of hours to break them in or for that matter bring back the tube mono blocks for a comparison, I was that sure they were that much better sounding.

    Good luck with your comparisons and I look forward to reading about the next and next.
     
    timind and Ted Torres Jr like this.
  23. orchardaudio

    orchardaudio Orchard Audio

    Location:
    Succasunna, NJ
    The review of my monoblock amps from The Absolute Sound mentions a comparison to an AGD Audion monoblock amp, here is the link:
    TAS_Product_Of_The_Year_2021.pdf
     
    Ted Torres Jr and mds like this.
  24. Ted Torres Jr

    Ted Torres Jr Synergistic Maximus Thread Starter

    Location:
    SE LA
    Very Interesting! Last four paragraphs on the last TAS review page (pg 4) are really an "Ear Opener"! :righton:

    Ted
     
    timind and orchardaudio like this.
  25. Zomax

    Zomax Digging for Fire

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Well I finally got it hooked up and had the place to myself for some listening time. I was eager to see if it would be an improvement over my Rogue Pharoah integrated (v1, 350wpc Hypex) driving my Magnepan .7s. Early impressions are quite favorable. Much better slam (or attack if you will) on the Meters’ Just Kissed My Baby. Doing some nighttime jazz (Miles’ In a Silent Way and Bill Evans’ Live at Shelley’s Manhole), and it sounds great at lower volumes too.

    Hope to do some more listening and post some more impressions over the next couple days.
     
    timind, james, orchardaudio and 4 others like this.

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