RSA Protector: Source Issues

The Protector is roughly at the 50 hours mark. I’ve been quite happy with it now. Any grain and harshness that I noticed when it was brand new of the box seem to have disappeared. Of course we’ll continue burning in the Protector to the recommended 200 hours mark, and see if it’ll get any better.

Now, let me pull back what I said about the Protector and the HD800 being a bad combo. Although the Protector was brand new out of the box, I felt that the Ipod was ultimately the biggest flaw in the set up. Anyway it was a stupid combination. After all, even with the Protector, who’s gonna be listening to a HD800 out of their Ipods? So, this is what I did. I tried hooking the Protector to a better source: The Lavry DA11. I fabricated a 3.5mm to RCA interconnect, and with the help of the XLR to RCA adapter from Neutrik, I was able to pass along the analog signal from the Lavry’s analog out, to the Protector’s 3.5mm jack input.

It’s already sounding much better now. It should be, otherwise people don’t spend $1,000+ for these DACs.

Of course it was quite a stupid combination, since the DA11 can drive the balanced HD800 directly out of its balanced analog out, why bother adding the Protector in the middle of the chain? Well, the idea is how much better can music listening out of the Protector gets, when you feed better signal into it. And what we learn from this little experiment is that the Protector is quite transparent and revealing of the quality of your DAC.

I tried out another DAC, and this time it’s the ESI Audiotrak Dr. DAC Prime, which is a single ended DAC. The Dr. DAC Prime sounded much better in my ears. It’s not as detailed as the DA11, but it’s still a very detailed DAC and overall it didn’t sound as analytical as the Lavry. This is the same DAC that we used for the SR-Lambda & SR-34 comparison, and I’ve liking its sound signature so much that I feel hesitant of sending it back to ESI. Anyway, back to the Protector. The Dr. DAC Prime >  RSA Protector > HD800 is far from the ultimate combination, but it’s quite a pleasing combination that I can live with. The Protector is really an excellent amp, and we need to feed it better source!


Unfortunately, the RSA Protector is a portable amp, and back into portable land, we’re stuck with the Ipod. I know that you can get better portable players such as the Telcast T51 or the Hifiman H801, but their user interface and overall design is still not up to the level of an Ipod, hence I’ve been fairly unwilling to try them out. I don’t know, I guess I can do an Imod, but then I’d still be stuck with the Ipod’s internal DAC, and while that solution was great a few years ago, I’m not sure that it would be worth the hassle today.

So, where does this leave us?

We definitely need one of those T51 or HM801 portable players!

Stay in Tune!

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  • Reply March 18, 2010


    I’m using the protector with an alo super imod 240gig and burning in using my balanced hd800’s and I don’t think it sounds bad at all. Of course it’s not quite as refined as my headroom BUDA/UDAC combo, but still sounds very musical. I also think the JH13’s work well with the protector. I’ve only tried single ended since I’m waiting for a balanced cable.

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