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Sound advice for Mapletree owners, customers, and DIYs • Issue 6, July 2010
© Copyright Lloyd Peppard 2010
Web: www.mapletreeaudio.com email: [email protected]
• Ear+ HD update
• Evolution of the new Ear+ HD Super II headphone amplifier
Ear+ HD update Issue 5 of Branches covers the
Ear+ Purist HD in some detail. Since then, the Purist
label has been dropped for simplicity but the main
features remain unchanged. The output coupling
capacitors until recently were 47 µF, 160 V Black Gates.
These have become unavailable (production of Black
Gate electrolytics ceased some time ago) and have been
replaced by Nichicon 47 µF, 160 V aluminum
electrolytics. While it is regrettable that the Black Gate
technology is no longer available for audio applications,
in the case of the Ear+ HD, the sonics have suffered
little from the change. The plate resistors of the input
stage remain Audio Note Tantalum film type. The
current driver tube supplied is the Sovtek 12AX7LPS.
Customers are urged to experiment with other brands including NOS 5751 types such as the RCA Command
series or GE 5-star.
The Ear+ HD25
HD250 Special Edition To commemorate reaching the 250th unit milestone (actually a
conservative figure since it does not count the special
editions of multiple units) a limited special edition of
10 Ear+ HD250s was offered. The unique features
included the use of EL84 output tubes, and the
elimination of all electrolytic capacitors from the
power supply and signal path. Large-size Auricap
and Solen polypropylene capacitors were utilized
which necessitated a somewhat large chassis which
also accommodated a high capacity power supply.
The principal measurable result was a significant
increase in output power from the EL84s (running in
triode mode) compared to the 12B4As of the stock
HD version.
The maximum available power into 32 Ohms is nearly 1 W. The
output impedance was measured to be less than 2 Ohms which
means that the output power varies inversely with load impedance
as can be seen from the graph to the right.
The drivers for each EL84 were 12AX7s or 5751s in SRPP mode
which delivers high gain without the use of electrolytic cathode
bypass capacitors.
Note the size of the 33 µF Auricap output capacitors!
The Ear+ HD Su
Super II The Ear+ HD Super (shown in special orange here) was introduced in 2008 based
on the Ear+ HD200 special edition (see Branches 5 for a
detailed description). Greater linearity and power output was
obtained from the 12B4A
output tubes by running at
a higher current operating
point made possible by a
higher output power
supply. Similarly, the
new Ear+ HD Super II
introduced in January
2010 is an outgrowth of
experience with the
HD250 Special Edition. While the design dispenses with the polypropylene
capacitors, it retains the EL84 outputs, SRPP driver stages, and the high
output power supply (housed in a separate chassis for the lowest possible
noise floor). Special attention was paid to
achieving the best possible clipping
waveforms at the point of maximum power
output to reduce odd-harmonic distortion components. A passive preamp option
is available that provides for up to 3 switched inputs and a passive output
affected only by the input source switch and volume control.
Measured performance data
Frequency response at 1 V rms (20 mW) output into 50 Ohms:
Frequency (Hz)
Maximum undistorted output at 1 kHz: 4 V rms with 50 Ohm load connected to Hi Z output (= 0.32 W).
680 mW
500 mW
160 mW
57 mW
28 mW
25 Ω
32 Ω
100 Ω
300 Ω
600 Ω
Overload characteristic (1 kHz, 50 Ohm load, Hi Z output)
Vout = 2 V rms
Vout = 4 V rms
Vout = 5 V rms
Output impedance at 1 kHz: Hi Z: < 2.6 Ω , Lo Z: < 1.3 Ω
Input impedance: 100 kΩ
Gain: Hi Z: 11 dB, Lo Z : 8 dB
Hum and noise at output (max volume, Hi Z): less than 0.4 mV rms (80 dB below max. output)
Recommended load impedance: 20–600 Ω
Phase: non-inverting
Power consumption: 40 W, 120 or 240 VAC 50-60 Hz
What do you get with the Super II over the stock HD? While the output power of the Ear+ HD is more than
adequate for most headphones, just as in the case of speaker power amplifiers, the extra headroom seems to add
impact to loud transients where short power peaks can run the amplifier into instantaneous overload. You can
also run two sets of headphones without limitation. The 400 µV noise figure is comparable to that of the HD so
the advantages of the separate power supply are to reduce the heat build-up in the main amplifier chassis and to
offer flexibility on locating the two units. A 12" power interconnect cable is supplied and a 36" cable is available
at a nominal price. What is of interest to many customers is the wide availability of the EL84 output tubes,
contrasting that of the 12B4As which are only available as NOS. What about the sound? Customer reviews
comparing the Super II and stock HD are forthcoming. The topology of the output stage has not changed since
the first Ear+ model was introduced in 2002. This seems to govern the overall sonic character. Ear+ HD
customers have noted that sonics are not sensitive to different 12B4A brands. This is undoubtedly a
consequence of the cathode follower configuration with its inherent 100% feedback that linearizes the large
signal characteristics. To my ears, the Super II sonics are difficult to distinguish from those of the previous
models without setting up a careful A-B test situation. As with the Ear+ HD, changes in the driver tube(s) will
impact the sonic character. Like the HD, the Super II utilizes Tantalum film resistors in the driver stage. Due to
the higher voltages in the Super II power supply, Black Gate filter capacitors are not an available option, and as
for current production of the Ear+ HD, Nichicon output capacitors are used..
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