During the Sennheiser HD800 launch event in Singapore, the Lehmann Black Cube Linear amplifier was chosen to be the “official” amplifier for auditioning sessions. It was a little hard to judge its performance, given that the headphone (the HD800), the amplifier (the Black Cube Linear), and the source was very foreign to me. Fast forward to roughly one year after that event, and I’m still intrigued to do a proper listening session on the Black Cube Linear, and finally I was able to do so through the help of Audionote Singapore.
My main set up has been the HD800 with the balanced Beta22 amplifier, which many say is the best solid state headphone amplifier. But there are some aspects that I don’t hear on the Beta22, that I remembered hearing during the auditioning session in Sennheiser’s event. The Beta22 is not slow, but I wouldn’t say it’s a fast sounding amplifier. And while the Beta22 has a marvelous sense of realism in the sound, there are some impressions, mainly detail and speed, that I thought I heard during the launch event, that I’ve never heard with the Beta22. So, here am I, finally back with the Lehmann amplifier, this time with a headphone that I know very well (the HD800).
During the audition, I used two different sources, one being a high end Blacknote CDP300 CD Player, and the other being my humble Ipod Classic. I was playing tracks from several CDs on the Blacknote: Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and André Previn, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss’ Raising Sand, Horowitz In Hamburg, Bob Dylan MTV Unplugged, and Hotel Costes Vol.1 by Stéphane Pompougnac. With the Ipod, I was playing tracks from Prodigy’s The Fat of the Land, Rubinstein’s Chopin Ballades and Scherzos, and Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me.
I really never imagined that the HD800 can have such a fast transients until I am listening through the Lehmann Black Cube. With the Blacknote CDP300, the music coming out of the HD800 had a super fast transients. I had remembered that during the audition session at Sennheiser’s event, I really came home remembering how fast the HD800 sounded when playing some drum beats on a CD that I wasn’t really familiar with. After I purchased the HD800, it was fast, but then it never really sounded that fast. I quickly dissed the “fast” impression as produced by the particular recording of that drum beats recording, and I never really thought about it much after that. Some of the early impressions of the HD800 really highlighted the fact that the HD800 is a headphone with very fast transients, but all these time, I never really get it. I guess I wasn’t listening to the right amplifier.
The HD800 has never been slow, but it wasn’t particularly fast either, at least on all the other set ups that I’ve familiarized myself with, including the Beta22. Not so with the CDP300 and the Lehmann Black Cube. It really made the HD800 sound like an electrostatic headphone. It’s amazing that the HD800 was able to take on that transformation. It certainly wasn’t as fast as the latest lambda such as the SR-404LE that I reviewed, but the HD800 is definitely in the electrostatic speed territory now, perhaps a good match for slower electrostatics and a few orthodynamic headphones. Without turning this review into a dynamic vs planar debate, my point is that I was really impressed at the speed of this amplifier. The Lehmann BCL has this German-precision quality in its sound. It’s very transparent, detailed, and precise.