Initial Impressions 6/9/20:

I am currently listening to the Allman Brothers Band, Live at the Fillmore East on DSD64 through my modified sAp-10 (end-to-end balanced headphone amp) into my Audeze EL-8 (planar-magnetic drivers) with custom EL-8 to 4-pin XLR cable. I’m not sure I have ever been so impressed with a pair of op-amps out of the gate. The clarity and dynamics that these bring are top-notch.

The SS2590 is likely the best op-amp in my entire collection, unless you solely want bass output. The 2590 has a great bass response, it’s clear and punchy (vs. boomy). A few of the other op-amps seem to have a higher bass amplitude/volume, so keep that in mind. I wouldn’t usually say the 2590 is the best in my lot, so quickly, but it’s feels/sounds like an obvious conclusion. I’ll hold off on making that statement, for now. Soon, I’ll be rolling through Burson’s V4-V6 OPA lines, so we’ll see how it compares when I am actively rolling them (in the full review).

Note: I will be putting these op-amps through their paces in my ES9038Pro DAC and Burson “Play” DAC.

Sparkos Labs SS2950 discrete op-amp pictured by Hallman Labs

IC Op-Amps to be tested: AD797 | AD8597 | LME4971
Discrete Op-Amps to be tested: Sparkos SS3601 & SS2590 | Burson V4 SS, V5-OPA & V6-OPA (both models) | Orange Amplification Discrete Op-amp

Note: The paragraph below is totally subjective. The full review will rely more on objective reasoning, like performance measurements. I plan to make the following measurements: Frequency Response, Transient Reponse, Bandwidth, Voltage Gain (Av) and a few others.

When you listen to music and you get pleasure sensations from your brain, you know you are doing something right! This sort of sensation is REALLY valuable to me, personally. I have been living with chronic neck pain for about 12 years and I love that music can do this, totally naturally. It is stuff like this that draws me into audio so much. I have to hand it to Andrew, he really nailed this design!!

ES9038Pro and Sparkos SS3602 + SS2590

Thoughts on dual-DIP (2x SS2590 on one DIP8): I would love to figure out a way to turn two of these into a dual-DIP. It would just take some creative design on the adapters, but you could easily float one SS2590 above the other. Andrew already showed me, one reviewer showed one way to do this. It basically uses a similar concept to Burson Audio’s flexible DIP-8 leads. Each 2590 at about a 45 degree angle to the other and they float next to each other. It’s not really an adapter, just a combo of ideas.

I talked to my friend Andrew Sparks, who runs Sparkos Labs, about creating a new review for the site. It was the SS2590 that had peaked my interest, for a new op-amp review. To me, Sparkos Labs are one of the best discrete opamp brands I have found, especially for the money. They are also based in the USA, so that makes returns and exchanges easier. Even if they weren’t in the USA and had a slightly higher price, they’d still be my pick.

ES9038Pro and SS2590 + SS3602
First thing that will pop out at you is how much larger the 2590’s are vs. the 3602’s. The Pro pin arrangement gives a much larger surface area to work with.

In my Burson “Play” DAC review, I put Andrew’s SS33602 and SS3601 up against Burson Audios V6-OPA Classics. It was very close in the end, but I gave the edge to Sparkos Labs. This is why my main ES9038Pro DAC runs those 2 pairs of op-amps (Sorry Burson Audio!) This goes to show, you don’t need a huge company behind you to make quality discrete op-amps.

Now, I do run Burson Audio’s V6-OPA-D Classic in my sAp-10 balanced headphone amplifier, as the primary op-amp. I have a huge amount of respect and love for Burson Audio, they were essential in the content that started up this site.

Sparkos Labs SS2590 Data Sheet

I had been toying around with the idea of giving his pro-series discrete op-amps (SS2590) a try and after talking with him, I decided to pull the trigger. To use these in a standard DIP-8 socket, you’ll need to get his adapter/s, seen here.

Sparkos Labs Pro to DIP Adapter

You can see the full SS2590 data sheet here.

Sparkos Labs SS2590

Stay tuned for the review. I hope to get it published before July 31st! I originally was shooting for July 4th, but due to various reasons, this just wasn’t possible. Mainly the fact school takes up so much time and I am trying to test/review 10 different op-amps, in the upcoming SS2590 review. So, please bare with me, if this goes into August-September. I’ll make it worth the wait, as you will see technical measurements and some un-announced hardware

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