Before we start, I would like to thank Alex for his immeasurable contributions to the audio world, as well as for investing complete trust in me as a reviewer to honestly transpose my impressions on his product. Alex, thank you very much for this opportunity. My gratitude knows no bounds.
Note this is the Tube version not the SS version and as such this is the first time anyone has heard it.
There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m very lucky to have experienced the very apex of what the headphone world has to offer. I’ve heard the best and worst there is, I can safely and definitively say that the combination of the Stax 007 MK2.5 electrostatic headphone and the Cavalli Liquid Lighting 2 ( LL2 for short ) hybrid tube amp are a pairing relatively unequaled in raw, sublime neutrality and supreme malleability. The electrostatic amplifier roundup is extremely small and does not offer many choices for the seasoned audiophile, we must be very selective in which amplifier we choose to pair with our electrostatic headphones. Our window of opportunity is extremely limited compared to the selection of dynamic or planar headphone amplifiers available. I have owned the Woo Audio GES for some time and enjoyed thoroughly with my Stax 007 MK2.5 ( which is a headphone revision of the original 007 with a slightly more forward sound signature and more plentiful bass quantity ). I am a sucker for warmth on the low end, as well as a slight golden hue to the tonal balance throughout the midrange and upper most areas of the low-end. I prefer my treble experience to be gently colored and enveloped in a bluish, icy flavor. When I first heard Alex Cavalli’s Liquid Lightning 2, I’d been mortified in the best of ways by the sheer neutrality in tone and texture that this amplifier was putting out.
Electrostatic amplifiers are wildly different from typical amplifiers, most of the general consumer base has experience with. These amplifiers tend to output significantly more voltage than a typical headphone amplifier used for dynamic or planar driver technologies, electrostatic headphones are simply extremely inefficient and required immense power to push properly. From architectural standpoints, I have been baffled and intrigued for years as to how a thin electrostatic membrane/driver is capable of withstanding upwards of a few dozen watts of electricity. True, most speaker amplifiers can output in excess of a few dozen watts, but in my experience it takes an extremely expensive speaker amplifier to remain as quiet and clean as most electrostatic amplifiers tend to be. This fact amazes me even to this day. Here are a few tech specs provided by Alex about his new liquid lightning amplifier.
1. 400v rails for a 1600Vpp output swing.
2. Two CA custom made output jacks, one biased for Stax Pro 580V, the other settable with jumpers for 580V, 540V, or 500V. The last two to accommodate Senns.
3. Three input jacks, two balanced one single ended. Balanced input #2 has a loop out. The SE input is converted to balanced before being introduced to the amps so that there is no loss of gain.
4. Tubes are NOS 6S4A deflection tubes. Cavailli have lots of them in stock and will ship 4 extra tubes with each amp.
5. Processor controlled, opto-coupled, photo resistor volume control.
6. Overload current detection in the PS which turns the amp off if there is a failure which causes too much current to be drawn.
7. ½” Machined aluminum side panels.
8. ¼” Machined, engraved front panel.
Click here for build and setup impressions…