Mono & Stereo Denmark office received the new and latest Sparkos Labs opamps in for a review. They were used in the following products for the test and review.
YBA signature preamplifier.
YBA Passion 550 preamplifier.
YBA Heritage CD100 CD player
Almost every YBA component use the well known TL072 and TL071 opamps. And they are all mounted in opamps sockets for easy opamp rolling. I've tried several different types of opamps in my experimentations. Here's the list of opamps I've tried!
First up is the AD797 vs the Sparkos
AD797 is a straight forward sounding opamp with plenty of space and details in the soundstage. Its maybe a bit to forward in its presentation and this could sometimes result with in your face music presentation. Midrange though is clear, crisp and very transparent. The lower bass is a tad laid back and not very well focused.
Sparkos Discrete opamps was vastly superior in all aspects. Soundstage was fuller and more alive. Bass was deep and very well defined. It had the heft all the way down, that the AD797 didn't. Midrange was sublime focused and transparent. One could much easier see through the music and get more involved in it. The top end was a bit laid back but without loosing focus on detail and extension.
OPA804 vs Sparkos
The OPA804 is one of my favourite opamps to use. Its dead quit and very resolving. Bass is deep and very well controlled. Midrange is its strongest point here as it excel way beyond the AD797 and is a bit more laid back. Top end is on the soft side but still very extended!
Sparkos were still on top here. Its had more of what the 804 had to offer. Though I tried to push the 804 more with a more stiff power supply the Sparkos was superior. It seemed like the Sparkos had more control and were more neutral, but with no hence of clinical presentation. Its just wider, deeper and got the music in more focus. Great example was with Brian Brombergs upright bass. The Sparkos was layering the bass notes far far superior to the 804. It was more dryer, faster and a lot more natural in its play style.
LME´s vs Sparkos
Both the LME´s are quite similar and for that I wont go in to details of both of them vs the Sparkos. The difference is the amount of channels in them. Specs are similar ditto the sound! The LME´s is a bit to laid back for me to enjoy. They lack dynamics and are sometimes a bit to polite. They can though sound very good in the right setup. If you got some device in setup a bit to bright and thin the LME would fit perfect. In my case they were just to darn dull and I had nothing on my hands that really stood out. Maybe a bit in the Heritage CD100. A tad more musicality out vs the stock TL071-072. But nothing major. They actually sounds a lot like the stock, but with a bit more quiet background and with a bit more control in the bass...
The Sparkos opamps. It was a whole other league. Soundstage was so much larger and full. Detailing in every aspect was vastly better. Micro dynamics, flow and ease of sense was so far ahead of the LME´s that there was no comparison. Sparkos just kicked the LME´s way out of the ball park. The definition in the music was soooooo natural. The soundstage was realistic. In fact so realistic I consider to let this be the last test. But hey I love to play around so why not continue?
Burr Browns 2134-32 vs Sparkos.
The Burr Browns are very well known in the DIY circles and not with out a reason. They are dirt cheap and performs very well for the buck. I've tried them and used them for several years and only in some very rare occasions I didn't like them. But, the overall performance of the BB´s are good! Straight forward sounding, yet not in your face. Good sense of space and air around the musicians. Good deep bass with a very solid kick. Midrange a tad warm but still transparent. Top end and extension are good. A little on the skinny side but not enough to make them thin and analytic. A very solid performer and very cheap!
The Sparkos however were again in front with more resolution and impact. The dynamics was more contrast full and a lot faster in the response. One thing that stood out here were the Sparkos's ability to scale the soundstage. Height and depth were leagues ahead of the BB´s. When playing organs recorded in a church the Sparkos spams just set the reference for how real this could be presented. The dynamic contrast in the low end and the detailing was sublime.
TL2071-71 vs Sparkos
The TL2071-72 is the Audio grade version of the stock TL071-72 with better specs. And its quit noticeable how these are far superior to the stock ones. Background noise was a lot better and that was the reason for the music to come more alive and with more details to spare. Bass more extended and seems deeper and with more impact. Soundstage depth was a lot more life like and it was easier to see through the music. But, the tonality was pretty much the same. A little laid back and with a softness on top. In my cause its was surely better than the stock ones. Because I could here and feel more music in my living room. And thats a important factor in my book....
The Sparkos opamp again had more of it all... Deeper bass more crispiness in contrabass. Impact from drums were more realistic and detailed. Strikes on piano was so much more detailed and one could hear the wood timbre and the strings move. That i couldn't spot with the TL´s or for that matter any other opamps so far. The tonal balance was quiet more neutral and lets you see more music in the soundstage.
New Class D vs Sparkos
Im a big fan of the New class D as they are apart of my reference opamps terms. They do cost a bit compared to the rest of the flock of regular opamps. Not without a reason. They are a lot harder to build and cost quit a bit more to build. They also performs a hell of a lot better. Soundstage is huge and very realistic. Bass goes all the way down and has the heft. They are very resolving little animals and dead quiet. Almost with no coloration of any kind. They let your hear how good or bad your components are designed. If your power supply isn't up for the task they will sound as so! Resolution on the New Class D is among the best I've encountered. So the Sparkos is up for a bit of a challenge here. So how do they compare!?
Now things got a bit heated. Cause they are both darn good opamps. Thew two mighty under the test were death quiet and very fast. Dynamics were quit of equal level and I couldn't tell one from the other. Resolution wise the Sparkos optimism were better overall. They had a tiny bit more to tell and was able to open the window of the music better. Regarding the soundstage the Sparkos were also in front. Despite they were a little more laid back presentation was more open and had better depth. Midrange was almost identical but the Sparkos got won the battle with the little more edge. Voices were presented with more body and more tuneful. Top end was a warmer with better natural presentation. The Sparkos are my new reference. No matter were I've put them in, they perform stand out well!
As I'm die hard DIY geek I was very impressed with the Sparkos opamp performance. They seemed to perform equally no matter were I've used them. They do deserve a very well build power supply to perform at their best. So bare with that in mind!
The build quality is top notch. Nothing seems to be put together randomly. The prints are very thick and durable.
The are among the most resolving and involving opamps I've ever encountered and very easy to fall in love with. They can surely bring the best out of your components and your DIY project being are so much better than regular opamps in every aspect.
So to sum it up. Are you in the market for some opamps and wannt to try the best there is? Sparkos pampas is the way to go! They will do just as the name suggest. Give your music SPARKS!
Kenneth Jensen, Sendior Editor