DNA Sonett vacuum tube headphone amplifier

The DNA Sonett vacuum tube headphone amplifier brings the natural clarity, purity, and engaging sound of single ended triode (SET) amplification to the headphone listening enthusiast. Hear your favorite music with unprecedented fidelity and emotional involvement with this fun to use, retro-styled amplifier.

My design philosophy is direct, elegant solutions without needless complexity. For headphone listening, a single tube of the appropriate parameters with proper transformer loading provides the right balance of gain, current drive, wide bandwidth, and low distortion without any feedback. In this role, the 6H30 is the perfect tube.

Most modern headphones are very efficient, producing 95-100dB with just 1 milliwatt (1mW) of input power. This means they don't require significant power to play loudly. However, what they do need is very high quality amplification to allow you to hear all the fine nuances in your music collection. From my experience: The simpler - the better, using the purest components in a complementary manner.

Listening through the Sonett, you will also easily hear the differences in tonal balance, resolution, soundstaging, and overall sound presentation among individual headphone models.

Design features include:

• Purist class A single ended triode design featuring the 6H30 Supertube

• Transformer loaded output - custom made to DNA's specifications in the USA

• No coupling capacitors or cathode followers in the signal path

• Selectable output impedance: 120 ohm (IEC setting) or 28 ohm (Low setting) via toggle switch
Some headphones are designed to be voltage driven (low amplifier output impedance); others are meant to be current driven (high amplifier output impedance). Depending on the headphone, how you drive them can affect their tonal balance. Many high-end headphones are designed and tuned around the IEC 61938 specification for 120 ohm amplifier output impedance, yet virtually no headphone amplifiers offer this standard output. Using the Sonett, you can now hear your headphones as their designers intended.

• Just the right amount of gain: 6dB w/IEC setting; 1dB w/Low setting
Many headphone amplifiers have too much gain, thereby restricting the useable range of the volume control to the bottom of the potentiometer where the dual sections are imbalanced, causing one channel to play louder than other. Through the Sonett, you'll have plenty of volume control range with proper channel balancing at any setting.

• Flat and extended frequency response with very low distortion

• Zero feedback or other error correction trickery
Triodes are naturally low distortion when operated into a high impedance load such as a transformer with proper specifications. They do not require feedback to attain low distortion.

• 5AR4 tube rectified and choke filtered high voltage power supply
The 5AR4 is an indirectly heated rectifier with natural slow-start function for prolonged 6H30 tube life.

• Point-to-point hand wired audio circuitry using carefully selected audio-grade components

• DC heated for black background - no noise

Available in 3 versions:
1) Single-ended output using standard 1/4" stereo jack
2) True balanced output using dual 3-pin XLR jacks.
3) True balanced output using single 4-pin XLR jack.

Input impedance: 50Kohms

Dimensions: 6.5" H x 13" x 9.5" D (16.5cm H x 33cm W x 24.1cm D) including tubes and connectors & controls.

Mains voltage: 100/110/120/220/230/240V factory configurable

DNA Sonett headphone amplifiers are proudly made in the United States of America from the finest components available.

Price: $1000- for single ended and balanced output versions

 

Some comments about balanced headphone drive

I am frequently asked why the balanced output version does not include balanced inputs. This is because balanced inputs are not necessary to provide balanced headphone drive. Being a single ended amplifier, all it needs for input is a single ended (unbalanced) signal. The Sonett operates single ended triode with transformer loading the plate of the 6H30 amplification tube. The secondary windings on the output transformers are center tapped (and grounded for safety), thereby providing a true, differential, balanced output. Thus, you get balanced drive without the complexity from additional balanced input circuitry or input transformers. Again, the simpler - the better.


Listener comments:

"The overall sound of the amp was fast, detailed, and very musical. It was kind of the like the best of solid state and tube."

"The most difficult headphone in the History of Headphones (HD800) is handled with aplomb and then some. It's not that the new Sennheiser is difficult to Amp...it's just so revealing that the advantages or shortcomings of various amps are laid threadbare. I don't have to mention the importance of tip-top Sources to compliment. And the quiet nature of the Sonett is advantageous to the users of the high sensitivity/low impedance phones.
 
It's true to itself with a great balance and the tonalities are spot on (most amps don't come close). The truth of Timber is just that...true! And with oodles of definition that at the same time isn't fatiguing in the least. Damn fine job Donald!!"

"It's minimalistic design and presentation is exactly what a headphone amplifier should be, at least in my opinion. The faithful, yet musical sound it produces is something that I've yet to hear from another tube amp (which have always sounded slightly warm to me). I'll sum it up with one of my favourite quotes: 'A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.' - Antoine de Saint-Exupry"

"Hearing all that the recording offers enables us to enter into the musical/emotional connection so often missing when listening to audio equipment. The Sonett created this connection beyond my expectations, or experienced in any another music-making headphone machine....The connection with the music was immediate, full of emotional impact. I think Donald North has a winner with the Sonett. Simplicity of operation, robust engineering, and understated art all wrapped in one little blue package! That it’s maybe the audiophile bargain in top tier headphone amplifiers is icing on the cake! If you get the chance at a meet, have a listen!"

"The combination of my HD650 and Sonett is able to play music coherently at low volumes. It is non-fatiguing after listening to a broad range of music through the Sonett for hours - a good sign and something I don't take for granted coming from my older headphone amplifier. It has a very clean, clear sound that reveals the smallest details of music."

"I've only got one word to say right now. Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet! Very happily listening to the Sonett as I type. My headphones never sounded this good. Thanks once again. So far, it's easily exceeded all of my expectation."

"I think its fair to say, from my brief listen that the Sonett is considerably better than it should be for the price. I will be posting some thought after a few weeks of listening - but thus far, I'm really impressed Donald. A lovely amp, top notch sound - and definitely a keeper."

"I wanted to provide you some feedback on the DNA Sonett balanced amplifier I received about a month ago. I am using the Sonett along with Sennheiser HD800 headphones with the balanced replacement cables from Double Helix. I must say that your amplifier and this setup has met my every expectation. I had high hopes for this setup and I have not been disappointed. Prior to setting this system up my concerns about the HD800 was the treble which some reviewers thought has some peakiness in the 6-8 khz range. I have not heard any of this in my system-the sound is very smooth. The entire sonic spectrum just sounds so right with this system. It is also dead quiet. I still listen some to my single ended amplifier/speaker system, but I prefer on most days to listen to my music through my headphone system. I can certainly recommend the DNA Sonett headphone amplifier-both are good values and give much performance and pleasure for your dollar. Thank you for making this amplifier available and for your great customer service. "

"The photos do not do this amp justice. Build quality is awesome! It feels like a brick. Even my girlfriend thinks it's totally cool. From your description on the website, the Sonett seemed like the perfect amp for me. I'm all about the simpler the better, I love that! Although, so many times I've been disappointed by all the hype and anticipation. So here we are. Well, when I first turned the amp on... I thought something was wrong, no noise, no hum, no buzz, it was only when the tubes started to glow, I knew it was alive. Again, awesome!  Listening to the amp, I noticed it's just as quiet inside the music. It was interesting to notice how much longer it would take a song to fade away when listening with the Sonett. All comparisons are done by memory to the "S" (about $3500 worth of amp). Notes, drum whacks, voices all sounded more real, more palpable through the Sonett. It's as if a haze had been lifted off of the music. All of these things I noticed almost immediately, keep in mind I've only spent about 5 hours listening. Everything sounds so clean, tight and precise and MOST IMPORTANT, like real music! No listener fatigue, at all. One thing that impressed the most was that the Sonett is allowing me to enjoy the music at a lower volume. With the "S", it seemed like I always wanted a little more volume, but I like listening low (I like my hearing). With the Sonett, I feel totally satisfied at lower volumes. By the way, the "S" has a stepped attenuator. I think you get the idea. I'm very impressed! Definitely a keeper, I can't wait 'til the whole thing settles in. Makes my HD800's sing like Julie Andrews, oops, I mean... "

"I believe my search for the perfect amp is over. My wallet will ache one more time as I tell Donald that I want a Sonett for myself :)"

"Best HD800 amp? - If the choice would be only between a Leben CS300, Yamamoto HA-02, Benchmark DAC1 and a DNA Sonett with balanced output it is quite easy for me to choose even though I am using the Sonett for only two days now and have lots of experience with the others. Of these four the Sonett is superior in every way for driving the HD800 I think."

"hi donald.  

i haven't let a day go by without using the new amp.  it's fantastic.  i'm not really sure what else to say about it other than i'm glad i own one.  the sweet tunes are that much sweeter.

thanks so much.
"

"Sure. I have raised the level of my Sonett with cryo'd 6H30-DR and Mullard 5AR4 tubes, and it sounds pretty fantastic. Real natural timbre, excellent imaging and pace, and presence, something that's hard to find - by that I mean when I close my eyes, I can feel and see the performers of acoustic chamber and vocal music right in front of me. My Rudistor RP010BmkII has amazing presence, and with the LA7000s I love it -- I get lots of magical moments where the music just hits me emotionally. With the HD800s using a Moon Audio Silver Dragon V3 balanced cable, I hear the same natural balance and almost as much presence from the cryo'd Sonett as I do from the RP010B.

But using either cans, and in back-to-back comparisons or running for days trials, the ZD SE just doesn't do it for me. No presence. Clear, transparent, detail, black bottom, incredible dynamics, but it never feels like I'm there. That requires microdetail, yes, but most importantly, IMHO, a completely natural timbre so that my mind can transport me there without any effort. To my ears, the ZD doesn't do that. Not with the HD800s or with the LA7000s, T1s, DT880/600s, HD600s, and so on.

My two cents. The cryo'd Sonett is pretty remarkable, IMHO."

"YESSSSSSS......... WOUAH.......... UNBELIEVABLE...........

THANK YOU DONALD

You guessed... the Sonett arrived today.

I plugged the tubes and I have been listening non stop. Pure emotion. Pure happiness.

Thank you again. I'll let you know the details when I have recovered from the shock (if it happens).

I just wanted to thank you for this wonderful source of happiness."

"Hi Donald:

WOW!

Intimacy, delicacy, resolution, addictive, involving, all that stuff.

The HD800's sort of specialize in an out of headphone experience and that is multiplied many times with Sonett.

The only critical comment I can come up with is that you should warn your customers not to pass judgement until at least 20 hours of break in, though most folks buying your stuff probably already know that.
"

"I've been wanting to write you how much I enjoy the superb sound quality of the Sonnet in combination with the Sennheider HD-800 but simply never found the time.  Anyway, I just wanted to let you know none of the numerous amps I have heard the HD-800 with could hold a stick to the unrivaled sound quality of the Sonett.  The amp is truly a gem in every respect - sound, build quality and appearance.  You really have done a wonderful job with this amp."

"I thought I'd check in quickly with you this morning. I have been listening to the Sonett and am struck by how detailed and clean sounding your amp is. It is amazing how you've accomplished this with one rectifier and one driver tube (and all the rest of its guts). I have amps with six tubes that don't even come close to the SQ of your amp."

 


The DNA Sonett is sold factory direct.

Contact us for information how to purchase
Tel: 1 310 869 6214
E-mail DNA

 

*About the name: I'm a Saab car enthusiast and one of their first cars introduced to the USA market was a
coupé named Sonett. Pronounced "so net", it is phonetically the same pronunciation as the Swedish phrase
"så nätt" meaning "so neat". I always liked this name and feel it is fitting for this amplifier.

 


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