The Sound

I firmly believe the LL2 to boast the most neutral and colorless sound signature in the electrostatic headphone amplifier universe that I’ve heard. While I have not heard all of them, I feel this amplifier to certainly exude the most pristine tonal coloration ( lack thereof ). Unfortunately, despite clarity of the highest degree, I felt this amplifier to not fully mesh with the 007 with regard to tone and overall coloration potential. I’ve always found the 007 to work best with gentle warmth on the low-end and up through into the midrange, of course, this is purely subjective and again has nothing to do the overall clarity of this rig combination, but I find it very important for potential 007 owners to know that this headphone is capable moderate alteration in tonal coloration depending on the amplifier used. If you want a more colored and musical approach, you will sacrifice a great deal of clarity and dynamic ability by opting for the Woo Audio GES over most other electrostatic amplifiers. A noticeable downgrading clarity will occur. However, that musicality, beautiful and satisfying anti-reference grade coloration will be more apparent in the GES. The Liquid Lightning 2 however again pushes perhaps the most neutral sound signature that I have yet heard on any Stax 007 or 009 rig. If you are into the reference great tonality and sound signature, look no further and order this amp.

The bass textures and quantity offered through this amplifier and the Stax 007 are incomprehensibly gentle, clean and focused. For those unaware, the 007 offers fantastic bass quantity and is, in my opinion an entry-level bass head set of headphones. There is no question that this amplifier does this headphone justice in every category of listening, pushing the 007 to the very horizon of what is possible. With regard to the 009, the leap between two headphones is quite significant. Although I do not own the 009 and make it a staple of my reviewing to rarely talk about headphones I do not own, I do however have a great deal of experience with 009. I can safely say that the 009 is capable of much more clarity, dynamics, staging properties and neutrality than the 007 is capable of. I consider the 007 a more fun and musical headphone that is more suited for gentle coloration rig pairings, whereas I find the 009 to be more adept at conforming to a completely neutral tone, one that is extremely apparent and abundant in Cavalli’s new LL2.

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What I find incredible is that this amplifier is absolutely true to the sound signature of various electrostatic headphones, it will not alter a fast, hard-hitting headphone into a softer, less engaging headphone. It will retain true to general consensuses of any headphone that is paired with it. Where the 007 exudes a softer approach on the low end kick and slam, the 009 hits harder with regard to impact. I believe this amplifier will push very boundaries of what is possible in every facet of the low-end experience, ranging from tonal texture, quantity, cleanliness and overall dynamic appeal for what is possible in the 007. From a bass lovers standpoint, there’s no doubt in my mind this amplifier will contend with what we Stax owners demand.

In terms of sheer texture, this amplifier seems to push a consistent and pristine balance between soft edges and the immensely focused solidity found in the bass. I find this extremely satisfying for use through tracks known for excellent cello work, acoustic guitar and most any genre or track type known for a slow to moderate pacing. I say this because of the softer approach the 007 offers the listener, I have found that fast and punchy sound signatures from source material seem out of place for use with the 007. When used with the Liquid Lightning 2 and Stax 007, these tracks seem to get a tad bit out of hand, but by no fault of the amplifier. I feel that important to mention because of the extremely limited selection of electrostatic headphones that can be used with this amplifier. I find it contradictory to my senses to experience a soft sound signature with lack of impact, combined with a slam heavy track known for complex musical structure.

It seems that the less congested the source material is, the better the LL2 will make the 007 sound. Again, heavy emphasis on the fact that the 007 is the bottleneck for this amplifier, and that this amplifier is capable of significantly more than what the 007 is capable of. Most people who purchase this amplifier are going to also purchase either the 009 or HE90 from Sennheiser. Sacrifices will be made, if you opt for the HE90 you will end up with sublime reference tone and clarity, but lacking that gently coloration on the HE90s low end as I have always heard it. If you opt for the 007, you are shooting too high for what the 007 is capable of and will max out the potential the headphone can offer you, but you will also sacrifice yummy musicality and softness the 007 should ( in my opinion ) be used for, swapped with a more reference colorless tone that I found to be the downfall of the 007 and Liquid Lightning 2 rig pairing. I think this amp is most well tailored for the 009. Of course again, completely subjective, but also a sentiment that is based and rooted in potential fact: In my experience, the HE90 was a gently colored and more impacting headphone than the 007, more similar to the 009 than the 007 in midrange and treble tone as well as signature impact.

Bottom line, with regard to clarity you cannot go wrong with any electrostatic headphone paired with this amplifier, but I do feel that most of the lower end electrostatic headphones are going to significantly bottleneck the experience when paired with this amplifier: The Liquid Lightning 2 might be severe overkill for those models. I don’t think it is at all necessary to pair this amplifier with any of the midtier to lower end Stax headphones, but if you do you should know the experience is going to be quite stellar and able to max out the potential of the lower tier static headphones capabilities. They will sound their best at all times.



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Vocals



Undoubtedly, the Stax 007, 009 and HE90 are the world’s best vocalist headphone experiences available. There’s just something about the way an electrostatic driver design pushes human voices, that solidity and substance factor is sublimely lush, vividly memorable and highly addictive. With hardly any physical impact by comparison the vast array of other headphones of various types, I can definitively say that this amplifier will offer you the utmost summit level experience available in the headphone world with vocals in mind. It is very hard to say whether this amplifier is able to push a more forward midrange sound, due to the fact that most electrostatic headphones are not highly intimate sounding and lack that wildly engaging, forward sound signature that most vocal specialized headphones seem to be known for. I believe it is certainly possible, but impossible to know until someone sells and electrostatic headphone with an extremely vivid and forward sound signature. For now, we are stuck with what we have. Despite the insane clarity and realistic appeal that voices tend to carry with regard to weightiness solidity, I find most every electrostatic headphone I’ve ever heard to exist in stereo void a bit too distant and out of reach for me to be happy with. I would prefer a much more forward and intimate appeal, but that’s just me.

The 007 is more forward sounding in HD800, however not as forward sounding something like the Audeze LCD3 or XC. I find it to be physically on par with regard to locale to the JH16 or the AKG K812: something a bit more distant, a fifth row sound. This makes it impossible to judge the overall depth potential of an electrostatic amplifier, again due to the fact that hardly any electrostatic headphone has a wildly and extremely forward sound signature. It makes it very hard to grasp what lay beyond the stage set up, stereo void starts and begins a specific area, but is near impossible to judge accurately just how deep the amplifiers stereo void actually extends. If I had to rate it, I would still rate all sound staging properties on the excellent tier: width, height, separation, airiness and formation of the general stage shape are beyond divine…I simply wish I could truly test the staging limitations the headphones invoke and force upon the static amplifiers. I would consider the generalized shape of the sound signature to be one that forces a sense of more width than height, seemingly optimized for the general shape of the 007 and 009, headphones that are certainly more set up and designed to offer less height in the stereo void, something more of a gentle wide screen effect. I find vocals extremely and eerily realistic in terms of that solidity factor I spoke of earlier, when comparing the sound signature of the 007 to any other headphone at all, the experience is typically sub par on all opposing non-electrostatic models. For me, it is unfair to compare the midrange sound of an electrostatic headphones with dynamic or planar headphone…the electrostatics will always win by a significant percentage. No doubt that Alex’s new amplifier tosses some of the most memorable and yummy mid range and vocal experiences available on planet Earth.

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Treble

Personally, I feel this amplifier’s greatest trait to be found in the uppermost areas of the frequency response, treble reproduction is simply beyond words by comparison to pretty much any other amplifier I have ever heard… especially so in the 007 rigs out there. There is the most elegant propagation of subtle nuance reiteration of treble occurring here, perhaps the most beautiful I have ever experienced. There is an ever so slight amount of luminescence and sparkle to the uppermost region portrayed at all times, one that is never sibilant or overly harsh. While I found the lower end and midrange to be extremely neutral in coloration, I feel the treble experience to be extremely subtly sparkled. Even through the notoriously icy and painful tracks, the LL2 powers through with style and class. I found it breathtaking at times, the balance between natural flavoring and the lack of slam and kick only accentuates guitar twangs and piano key strike details that I feel are lost and masked in other headphone amplifier combinations, due mostly in part to the harsh kick and inevitable wincing as follows painfully accurate reproduction of the treble. True, that piano key strikes and similar naturally harsh sounding instruments are not physically reproduced with total realism, as I found many genres and instruments be inaccurately portrayed with regard to physical slam and bite, but I have no quarrel with this. I will happily sacrifice painful wincing and bite factor that is very commonly exuded from a number of instruments, swapping it without a second thought for clarity on such a level as this. I very much prefer the softer approach as offered by the 007, whereas I find the more harsh slam fact overly abundant on the 009…I also am not at all fond of the overall sound signature of the 009. Despite that, I think the combination of both Stax headphones and the LL2 to be without compare when it comes down to total neutrality.

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