Quicksilver Headphone Amp Impressions


TL;DR: A solid flexible performer at the price point

Grabbed this on a whim after being pressured by a friend, don’t regret it for a minute. Refined, technical, and organic, can’t really ask for more at the 1k price point, easily one of the better tube (or solid state) amps I’ve heard for that money. Keep in mind these are just random thoughts, not a review or anything, just my experiences after owning it for awhile

Equipment Used

Tested with a wide range of music over time, except modern country and solo vocalist

Within Reason:
PC running Foobar2k -> DACs

Main DACs used: MHDT Orchid, Soekris DAC2541, Schiit Bifrost 2, Denafrips Ares II, Allo Revolution + Shanti LPS

Main headphones used: Sennheiser HD800s and HD600, Beyerdynamic T1.2 and 880 600 ohm, Audio Technica ADX5000, Abyss Diana v2, Audeze LCD 24, Fostex TH900 mk2 Lawton Purpleheart, Kennerton Gjallarhorn, Grado PS2000e, DCA Aeon 2

Because I could:
PC running Foobar2k -> Berkeley Alpha USB -> DACs

Main DACs used: Totaldac D1-Direct + D1-Drivers mk2, Lampizator Golden Gate II (KR RK 5U4G & Psvane 101d), Nagra HD DAC + MPS, Rockna Wavedream Signature, Audio Note DAC 5 Special v2, Mojo Mystique EVO Pro 21, PrimaLuna EVO 100 DAC

Main Headphones used: Focal Utopia, Final D8000 Pro, Mysphere 3.1, Abyss 1266 Phi TC, Hifiman Susvara

All connected to PS Audio Power Plant 20s, better than bargain bin cabling


General Sound

Signature wise this amp does lean more neutral than anything, perhaps slightly w shaped so perhaps “balanced” sounding. It’s not relaxed, but it’s also not overly forward either in it’s presentation. Tonality wise it is reasonably organic while remaining fairly clean. It is a bit on the dryer and less rich side of things when it comes to tonal density at least for a tube amp, but it’s pretty well balanced and doesn’t sound lean or overly meaty, great middle ground. Smoothness wise it’s slightly smoother leaning, but not in any intrusive way and is still very balanced. Treble is well extended albeit slightly smoother and relaxed but not to a way that would cause dullness or lack of energy. Midrange is pretty prominent and overall impressive as this is where it shines the most imo. Bass is also reasonably impressive as well with good technicalities and a slight bit of extra warmth and body (somewhat giving it that slightly w shaped signature imo)

Spatially it’s a pretty immersive one for the money, the stage it creates is wide, grand, and involving/enveloping. I don’t know if I’d say it’s organic in stage but it isn’t too artificial either, falls under what I’d consider “holographic” where it feels a bit more exaggerated in a pleasing way. A bit more grand and spaced out stage which does make things feel a bit larger than life and overly separated. Placement accuracy is reasonably sharp and precise, depth is solid as well, and width is better than average for sure. Background blackness is pretty surprising too considering the price which is always a plus

Grip and control is also surprising for the price, it’s tight and accurate in that regard without much sloppiness, has good command overall. Also has good impact that can kick without really ending up feeling lose or uncontrolled. Speed and separation is also great for the price class and doesn’t really easily get congested or over-separate things too much (although I do think it does this to some extent which plays a bit into staging, but not enough to really be something I’d consider a problem)

Dynamically it’s very strong here, in both macro and micro which isn’t common to find at this range imo. I do think it does take a bit of a micro focus at times. Really enjoyable aspect to have here, dynamics are both very prominent and presented organically to not be intrusive or distracting

Resolving power is solid, it’s not stand out but it is pretty good at pulling a reasonable amount of low level information out of things, it does present this detail pretty convincingly though. Timbre is very good here even despite the not stand out resolving power, which is interesting. Texture is good for this price class specifically more in the midrange and treble, bass texture is still nice though.

I do have one gripe though, and that’s coherency. It is not that big a problem, but transitions are not that fluid and it prevents it from having a liquid like sound

Overall from both a technical and tuning/voicing standpoint it’s pretty capable and well developed considering this thing goes under 1k. Does actually scale with nicer source gear which is nice and is fairly transparent to the source but not overly dependent.


Pairings

Went through a fair amount of different pairings, here are some of my favorites that I tried, keeping it to 5 for each category for simplicity. Not including poor pairings

Select Reasonable DAC Pairings:

Schiit Bifrost 2 – This is a pretty excellent bang for the buck pairing before you start getting into the 1.5-2k ish range of DACs for that true next step. Overall seems to play to all the strengths of the Quicksilver making it a very fun listen without overdoing anything. Stage gets very wide although slightly less sharp, impact hits hard while maintaining good control, a shift to a very balanced dynamic experience, resolution is good but not stand out here, adds a bit more warmth and body to things overall and slightly relaxes the amp, timbre very solid. Honestly really fun and versatile pairing

Soekris 2541 – Overall while this did tilt a bit more no nonsense neutral, it was still a fun pairing that balanced out the Quicksilver even more while keeping the positives for the most part. It did make the overall signature very neutral, stage was roped in a bit but better placement accuracy, capitalized on the speed and separation performance of the Quicksilver well, boosted lower level resolution overall, takes a larger microdynamic focus, timbre not that standout, and same with grip and control. Better extension into the treble with more forwardness and a bit more bite. Overall enjoyable pairing for something a bit more neutral and reference without going too far. Filter wise I liked the black (light off) filter the most

MHDT Orchid – This will lean the amp more into rich, fun, and slightly less technical, but it’s not going far enough to degrade the experience. It somewhat blows out stage to being almost unreasonable in presentation but in a very fun way, separation is similarly almost overdone, very dynamic overall although might be a bit lacking in micro here slightly. It still actually is reasonably neutral but a slight bit warmer, and reasonably more rich in tonal density and smoother and more relaxed. Pretty forgiving overall, and enjoyable, but I wouldn’t go after this if you want to remain in that neutral and balanced overall category, this is clearly a more fun chill and forgive pick

Denafrips Ares II – Another more fun leaning pairing but more leaning into warmer forward, a more microdynamic experience, and a more technicalities forward presentation. Everything feels a bit more pushed forward and intense in a pleasing way without any hard edges or congestion, a further lean into the holographic presentation of stage, resolution is a bit more emphasized, timbre is solid, tonality is fairly rich, extension in the treble does suffer a bit but it’s still enough to be good. Liked both NOS and OS mode on the DAC for this pairing, NOS was more relaxed and organic, OS was more forward and a bit cleaner

Allo Revolution + Shanti – My go to really on a budget pick, honestly jack of all master of none sort of here for the price point, signature wise you can adjust the DAC harmonics and oversampling to achieve a warmer and richer relaxed voicing or a more forward and aggressive one either. Overall not much to say about it besides it’s the absolute minimum I’d personally pair with this amp.

Unreasonable DAC Pairings:

*These comments are going to be more brief, because you shouldn’t be pairing these together. The amp does indeed scale with nicer DACs but not to the extent where any of this makes sense

Totaldac D1-Direct + D1-Drivers mk2 – Pretty significant stage expansion and accuracy improvement, much much better texture, very very dynamic, a warmer richer tonality overall, very impactful, very fun and very organic overall

Lampizator Golden Gate II – A big lean toward the more organic and nuanced side of things, strong micro focus, phenomenal timbre, very convincing presentation, great texture, pretty organic overall

Mojo Mystique EVO Pro 21 – Somewhat like a lesser experience of the Totaldac with a bit more forwardness

Nagra HD DAC + MPS – A very strong micro focus being both very accurate and pretty organic too. This doesn’t immediately stand out as an impressive pairing, but over time the amount of info being delivered and how it’s being presented is really cool

Rockna Wavedream Signature – Incredibly balanced overall here, on this amp it feels like a jack of all master of all, maintains the balance of the quicksilver and entirely elevates it.

Select Reasonable Headphone Pairings:

Sennheiser HD800s & HD600 – Really takes advantage of that 800s stage width and space, very immersive and huge sounding, takes a slight edge off the treble while keeping energy and clarity, midrange gets a nice body boost and becomes a bit more linear, timbre is damn nice, resolution is presented more organically, a bit more weight in the low end, speed and separation are pretty on point, dynamically pretty lively too, overall elevates what the 800s is already good at without shifting it too much from it’s base signature/voicing. Regarding the 600, can’t not try this classic on any amp I get in lol, overall much more large and immersive stage which is always nice with the 600 series, timbre and tonality are on point, midrange is very linear and technical, dynamically they get more lively in the macro department while still keeping their magic in the micro, they also feel better extended overall without getting harsh or grainy. Impact wise it’s a bit better as with control but a bit less noticeable here. Damn nice for something fairly neutral overall for this headphone

Beyerdynamic T1.2 & 880 600 – Again with the stage, it’s pretty dang spherical here with the Beyers which makes it a very immersive listen, same with the speed and separation being stars here. Dynamically it does liven things up, but I will say it’s not as stand out as the stage and separation. Tonality wise it does tilt a bit cleaner and actually evens out the signature a bit which is pretty nice but I think a bit more body in the midrange would be helpful. Presentation is a bit slightly unusual here but it’s fun. Impact wise it hits reasonably hard with good control. Resolution wise it pulls a fair bit. Timbre improves as well. Somewhat shifts the 1.2 to being more immersive but in a good way, solid for sure. Also tacking on the 880 600 ohm to here as well, it exhibits some of the same traits to a lesser extent but for some this might be a bit too clean of a pairing for some actually

Abyss Diana v2 – This surprised me, I didn’t expect it would be an actually decent pairing with this amp, it increases stage size and space while losing a bit of accuracy, doesn’t upset the balance and remains a bit more neutral warm character of the v2, has fairly solid extension both ways, and bass control is actually very nice although lacking some of the punch and slam factor, but instead gives better fullness and nice texture and layering. Detail retrieval doesn’t feel that lacking either. Dynamically pretty solid with a bit of a micro focus and slight lack in macro

Audeze LCD 24 – The spatial recreation and separation of this amp combined with the Audeze stage and presentation gives this a very wrap around and separated out experience. Bass has good punch, slam, and impact while being speedy and tight, good texture as well, no real loss in prominence. The timbre is solid, midrange is accurate, and treble actually feels a bit better extended than normal and a bit more evened out overall, makes the 24 a bit more neutral but also more organic and enveloping, although a hair less detailed.

Grado PS2000e – It really helps opening up these headphones and making them less dense and packed together sounding while boosting their interesting presentation further, speed and separation become more stand out. It does keep solid extension and prominence in the treble while making it a bit more even, takes away a bit of extra bite in the midrange to give a bit more smoothness and body, surprising bass grip and control and hits with authority. It doesn’t fully give a ton of body that some grado need, but it’s enough to keep it pretty neutral overall. Resolution is good here but more importantly more organically presented imo.

Unreasonable Headphone Pairings:

*These comments are going to be more brief, because you shouldn’t be pairing these together

Final D8000 Pro – Surprisingly enjoyable, of course could be better but the D8KP actually is somewhat forgiving of amp choice, and this dials back intensity a bit, gives a nice organic bass response and texture, fills in midrange a bit which is pleasing, and spatially gives a larger more immersive stage than other amps at this price point with this headphone. Overall control is also actually pretty decent. Might even be something that could be considered reasonable lol

Focal Utopia – So this is actually pretty decent, if I had to pick a headphone amp for a utopia around 1k this would def be in the running, but this headphone can just offer you more on a higher tier amp and I wouldn’t buy a utopia to run on a 1k amp in the first place (honestly same for all these phones here)

Mysphere 3.1 – See above


Select Comparisons

Tube Comparisons:

LTA MZ2 – With the standard psu, it is on equal ish footing with the Quicksilver, with different goals and synergy needs. One notable difference is how it stages, the MZ2 is a smaller and more intimate stage but is more accurate and less somewhat overstated shape and placement wise, but both amps are about equally accurate in that regard imo. I think the place where the Quicksilver would pull ahead would really be the bass overall, it has much more control and body, with more punch as well, more extension and tightness too. The MZ2 has nice prominent enough rounded bass that’s enjoyable but feels less refined and capable and can get a bit one note at time. The treble on the MZ2 feels a bit higher extended and airy, and a bit quicker but detail might be roughly similar or a slight edge to the MZ2. On the midrange, the Quicksilver feels a bit more rich, bodied, and timbrally accurate but the MZ2 has a bit more clarity and linearity, but I’d say both are equally high preforming and aren’t lacking from a technical perspective. For overall tonal balance, the MZ2 feels a bit more linear slightly mid centric overall, the Quicksilver is also fairly balanced. Timbre wise, I think the MZ2 is slightly more organic but the Quicksilver isn’t far behind there. The background of the MZ2 feels a slight bit more vacant than the Quicksilver and can recreate empty space more convincingly imo. Generally the Quicksilver has a bit more smooth character than the MZ2 where the LTA is a bit dryer and has a bit more bite. Dynamically the MZ2 feels like it has a more macrodynamic focus where the Quicksilver feels better footed in microdynamics overall but both are very very strong here. When it comes to texture, the MZ2 feels a bit more tactile in the midrange but the Quicksilver actually has a bit more texture in the bass. Overall tonal density wise the Quicksilver feels more rich and bodied where the MZ2 can feel a slight bit dry in the treble and bass from time to time. The MZ2 is slightly more energetic than the Quicksilver but both are more sitting in the middle between forward and relaxed as neither are leaning one way too far. Overall detail is kinda close, but I would give the edge to the MZ2. When it comes to headphone synergy, the MZ2 feels like it has a tad bit more control over lower impedance dynamics, but really falls apart with a higher current demand headphones. Generally for higher impedance headphones, the Quicksilver feels like it has more grip and control over those, but the MZ2 does a very good job there too. I do think the MZ2 has much better coherency than the Quicksilver which is pretty important to note. Generally source gear synergy wise I do prefer a source that gives more body, richness, and stage depth while maintaining technical performance on the MZ2 as I haven’t liked some of the more neutral lean sources, whereas on the Quicksilver I actually don’t mind a slightly leaner or slightly analytical source, but again specific synergy is important and it really depends on the headphones/components at hand. But both trade good blows and which one to consider will depend on what you have and what you are after. I do think with the LPS+ upgrade the MZ2 does pull ahead with headphones it’s good at overall, but no matter the PSU chosen I think with things like planar the Quicksilver does a better job

You may prefer the MZ2 if: you prioritize coherency, prefer something more midrange focused overall (in both signature and technical ability), prefer more macrodynamic energy overall, prefer something more clean and clear, prioritize resolving power

You may prefer the QS if: you prioritize bass performance, prefer something a bit smoother, prefer something with a bit more weight and body, prefer a more holographic stage at the slight expense of being a bit less accurate, prefer something a bit more forgiving

(generalized) Pairing wise, the QS tends to pair better with most planar where the MZ2 will drop the ball more often there (for example things like Hifiman, Audeze, Abyss, DCA, Final), low impedance dynamics do quite well on the MZ2 potentially better than the QS (for example things like Grado, Fostex, Audio Technica, Focal) but a lot of the time I do prefer some of the higher impedance on the QS (for example things like Sennheiser, ZMF, Beyerdynamic)

Hagerman Tuba & SW51+ – Stock tubes the Hagerman is more mid forward but with a tube swap to something el tubes or the exact same RCA I’m using in the Quicksilver, they get closer signature wise where they are more neutral with good extension, but the Hagerman might be something I’d consider actually a bit more deadpan and dryer signature wise. The Quicksilver just has more detail to offer you overall, the Quicksilver has better control over the bass and harder to drive lower impedance for sure, the stage on the Hagerman is more going for accuracy of recording it feels like where the Quicksilver is much more grand and going for immersion (also placement is still more accurate on the Quicksilver as it feels like a higher tier of spatial performance). Both amps leaning on the slightly softer side of things, but the Quicksilver does have more punch. The Quicksilver also has better tonal density and feels a bit less dry than the Hagerman. Dynamically I think it’s an upgrade for both macro and micro. Timbre actually isn’t that big of a step up as I was expecting, both are fairly good at timbre. Synergy wise, I most likely prefer most of the headphones I can throw at the Quicksilver over the Hagerman. The Hagerman also struggles with high current demand and also isn’t my favorite with lower impedance headphones in general, it really is more geared toward higher impedance dynamics (although lower tier Grado actually might be better suited on the Hagerman). Source gear wise, the Quicksilver is actually more forgiving of poor synergy source gear wise but not by much, both amps are somewhat sensitive to the DACs you use though, and the Quicksilver still scales better. Generally I think the Quicksilver is a in a higher class while going for a similar goal, and also ends up having better compatibility with headphones than the Tuba, but the Tuba is still a great amp for it’s price point. Chucking in the SW51+ here because it’s honestly pretty close to the Tuba in most aspects, so you can treat this comparison as similar, although I’ve not really had as much listening time with the SW51+ vs the Tuba so take it with a bit more grain of salt

You may prefer the Tuba/SW51+ (to my ears similar enough to lump together) if: you can’t swing the cost of the QS (honestly it’s not that fair of a comparison since the Quicksilver feels like a step ahead in most aspects), you prefer a more mid-centric signature that’s a bit cleaner and more coherent

You may prefer the QS if: you can go for it (see above), you prefer a bit sweeter signature

(generalized) Pairing wise, I will say that there are some cases where some lower end Grado may be a bit sweeter and a better synergistic match with the Tuba/SW51+, but honestly most other headphones I do prefer on the QS

Feliks Echo & Elise MK2 – Both the Feliks are much more relaxed and chilled than the Quicksilver, both lack the same extension the Quicksilver can offer, as well as control. From an overall technical ability standpoint, the Echo does feel a bit more behind the Quicksilver, but the Elise makes it a more level playing field. Dynamically both of the Feliks amps feel a bit more blunted and muted in macro, where the Quicksilver feels more dynamically alive, but the Elise does compete for micro. Detail wise the Echo is a step behind, but the Elise is at the level of the Quicksilver. Speed wise, the Quicksilver is more snappy and light on it’s feet and better separated overall. The Feliks have more tonal density but less balance of that density than the Quicksilver. The Feliks are also more warmer smoother leaning overall and more forgiving of music and source gear, which some may prefer over the Quicksilver. Stage wise the Feliks would more be a step back with larger but less grand stage that feels more blobish rather than the more immersive yet sharp stage of the Quicksilver. Coherency wise I think the Feliks are a bit better there than the Quicksilver. I do feel that both the Echo (being slightly better) and the Elise (being more noticeably better) win when it comes to timbre. The Feliks actually do play fairly nicely with some lower impedance dynamics for being OTL, but still struggle with high current demand. I do think the echo is a reasonable ask, but if you can’t really tell, I can’t say I like either for the money they command. Generally if you feel a headphone needs to be calmed in the treble, smoothed out, relaxed, with more body and warmth the Feliks will scratch that itch more than the Quicksilver will. I can see some liking the more forgiving and fun sound of the Feliks over the Quicksilver, but personally I do find the Quicksilver a more satisfactory amp over both with the headphones I tried imo

You may prefer the Echo if: you prefer a more relaxed amp, you prefer more smoothness, you prefer more warmth and low end prominence, you prefer a more rounded sound, you prefer more tonal density, you prioritize sweetness, you prioritize width over depth and placement accuracy, you prioritize coherency, you prioritize timbre

You may prefer the QS if: you prefer something more energetic, you prioritize resolution, you prioritize grip and control, you prefer a more forward amp, you prioritize dynamics, you prioritize speed and separation, you prioritize spatial accuracy, you prioritize extension, you prefer a more cleanly sound

You may prefer the Elise if: you prefer a more relaxed amp, you prefer more smoothness, you prefer more warmth and low end prominence, you prefer a more rounded sound, you prefer more tonal density, you prioritize sweetness, you prefer a more refined treble response, you prioritize timbre, you prioritize coherency

You my prefer the QS if: you prefer something more energetic and more forward, you prioritize grip and control, you prioritize macrodynamics, you prioritize speed and separation, you prefer more stage energy and accuracy, you prefer a more cleanly sound

(generalized) Pairing wise, the QS tends to pair better with most planar where the Feliks will drop the ball more often there (for example things like Hifiman, Audeze, Abyss, DCA, Final), when it comes to most low impedance dynamics honestly it’s a toss up and will depend on what sound you are after (for example things like Grado, Fostex, possibly Focal) and kinda the same for higher impedance (for example things like Sennheiser, ZMF, Beyerdynamic)

ZMF Pendant – Signature wise the Pendant feels warmer and more relaxed leaning, a bit similar softness to the Quicksilver though, slightly softer. When it comes to impact I think the Pendant does pull ahead as it’s able to hit a bit harder with similar control. Dynamically the Pendant might have a bit more impressive macrodynamics but honestly from memory similar microdynamics with the Quicksilver. Speed wise, the Quicksilver feels more light on it’s feet and also has better separation than the ZMF. For tonal density the Pendant has much more density and fullness to the sound overall in comparison. Stage wise the pendant does feel more traditional and actually somewhat hazy, I don’t really know if I’d call it an upgrade from the Quicksilver in that regard, I actually think the Quicksilver has a more impressive stage overall. Resolution wise it does have a bit more to show there than the Quicksilver, but it really isn’t that far off. The Quicksilver actually has a better background than the pendant that’s more vacant. Texture wise the Pendant does have a bit more texture but I don’t think the Quicksilver is really all that far off. Timbre wise they honestly seem a bit similar here. Synergy wise, I think the Pendant might have an edge over the Quicksilver regarding some of the higher impedance headphones but about similar quality pairings with harder to drive planar tbh. DAC wise, I think the Pendant is fairly forgiving there, possibly moreso than the Quicksilver. The Pendant is a bit more coherent than the Quicksilver too. Overall the pendant does feel a bit higher preforming, but the Quicksilver isn’t all that far behind. But also keep in mind that personally I like the Pendant but also don’t find it all that high preforming for it’s going price, it was more fairly priced when you got a discount on it when you bought ZMF headphones alongside it. I honestly might suggest getting a Quicksilver now, and later on making a larger step up later than just getting a Pendant now, I think the Quicksilver offers better value overall

You may prefer the Pendant if: you prefer a more relaxed amp, you prefer more smoothness, you prefer more warmth and low end prominence, you prefer a more rounded sound, you prefer more tonal density, you prioritize sweetness, you prioritize coherency, you prioritize timbre, you prioritize impact and slam, you prioritize macrodynamics

You may prefer the QS if: you prefer something more energetic and forward amp, you prioritize speed and separation, you prioritize spatial recreation, you prioritize extension, you prefer a more neutral signature

(generalized) Pairing wise, I think with most planar it’s somewhat of a tossup (for example things like Hifiman, Audeze, Abyss, DCA, Final) and would come down to preferences and priority. I will say for some of the lower impedance dynamics, I honestly might actually like the QS more, feels like it has better minute control over them (for example things like Grado, Fostex, Audio Technica, Focal). I do think a lot of the higher impedance cans are more enjoyable on the Pendant (for example things like Sennheiser, ZMF, Beyerdynamic)

Dragon IHA-1 w/ Lundahl – Leaning cleaner signature wise to the Quicksilver of being more neutral ish, but the IHA-1 is more forward and less soft than the Quicksilver, along with being a bit more linear overall. The Dragon feels quicker and more snappy than the Quicksilver with more sharpness as well (without harshness), but the Quicksilver actually still feels better separated. The stage is more width focused and is more impressive than depth, but more organic placement and accuracy over the Quicksilver. Both have decent density but the Dragon is a bit more dry leaning overall, but not to where it’s a big issue. I think the Dragon has more impressive macro and microdynamics over the Quicksilver, really good there. Detail is a step ahead the Quicksilver as well and can just pull more lower level information. I will say when it comes to bass, I didn’t find it all that impressive tbh, I think the Quicksilver has more impact and punch, and better low end control, but the bass on the Dragon did feel a bit more textured despite this. Extension overall isn’t a step up in bass but slightly in treble. Better coherency on the Dragon. Timbre is only a slight bit better on the Dragon but timbre really isn’t its forte. Headphone synergy wise, the Dragon does a good job with most of the dynamics you can throw at it, but with some more current demand the bass gets a bit lackluster. DAC wise it’s surprisingly not all that picky, it will kinda roll with what you give it, it will scale but not too far past a certain point, the Quicksilver actually does feel a bit more transparent about the DAC you plug in. Overall besides the signature change of being a bit more forward and clean, it feels like a step up overall outside of bass extension, tightness/control, and impact to the Quicksilver.

You may prefer the IHA-1 if: you prefer a more neutral amp, you prioritize coherency, you prioritize resolution, you prioritize speed, you prefer a dryer sounding amp, you prioritize spacial accuracy, you prioritize dynamics, you prefer something a bit more forgiving in pairing, you prefer something a bit more hard edged, you prioritize grip and control, you prioritize treble extension, you prioritize texture

You may prefer the QS if: you prefer a bit more fun amp, you prioritize separation, you prefer a bit more body, you prefer a bit more smoothness, you prefer a more holographic stage, you prioritize impact and slam

(generalized) Pairing wise, I think the IHA-1 does work well for some planar (for example things like Hifiman, Audeze, Final), but for more power hungry planar the QS might do a bit better, for some low impedance dynamics I do like the IHA-1 more (for example things like Grado, Fostex) and kinda the same for higher impedance (for example things like Sennheiser, ZMF, Beyerdynamic)

Solid State Comparisons:

Burson Soloist 3XP – Signature wise, the Soloist is a bit more clean and neutral leaning overall compared to the Quicksilver being a bit more fun w, the Soloist is more forward in presentation. In terms of tonal density the Quicksilver has a bit more meat on the bone and body but the Soloist is also not lacking in this regard, but the quicksilver is richer here. For smoothness I’d personally say the Quicksilver does have a bit smoother treble response but it’s not substantially smoother. For speed I do think the Soloist is a bit more snappy overall but for separation the Quicksilver feels better separated. Spatially, honestly I think the Quicksilver is more impressive being more immersive overall with better placement and better space, the Soloist does have sharper imaging but I think everything else spatially is better on the Quicksilver. Background blackness is also more impressive on the Quicksilver. For grip and control the Soloist really does excel here and is ahead of the Quicksilver, along with having better impact and slam. Dynamically the Soloist does take macrodynamics, but for microdynamics I do think the Quicksilver does better. For timbre the Quicksilver is better. Resolution wise, I want to say the Soloist offers a bit more low level detail, but I do think the Quicksilver presents the resolution more organically. Texture is somewhat similar. Pairing wise, I think the Soloist does pair better with more current demanding headphones like planar, while I would favor some dynamic on the Quicksilver. Source gear wise I think they both scale reasonably well and actually are both somewhat forgiving of the source. Somewhat a different use case for different types of headphones, but still reasons to consider either

You may prefer the 3XP if: you prefer a more linear signature, you prefer more forwardness, you prioritize speed, you prioritize grip and control, you prioritize impact and slam, you prioritize macrodynamics

You may prefer the QS if: you prefer a bit more fun signature, you prioritize separation, you prioritize spatial recreation, you prioritize microdynamics, you prioritize timbre,

(generalized) Pairing wise, planar are generally more impressive on the 3XP (for example things like Hifiman, Audeze, Abyss, DCA, Final), but QS does take it with higher impedance dynamics (Sennheiser, ZMF, Beyerdynamic), lower impedance dynamics (for example things like Grado, Fostex, Audio Technica, Focal) honestly a toss up depending on what you are after

Violectric V280 – The Vio is a warmer, smoother, and more relaxed in presentation amp, and the Quicksilver does feel a bit more neutral actually. Tonal density wise the Vio does feel more rich and weighted than the Quicksilver. Smoothness wise the Vio is going to be a bit more smooth especially in the treble in comparison. Speed and separation wise I might say it’s somewhat similar with the Quicksilver. Spatially, the Quicksilver feels larger and more separated than the stage on the Vio which is somewhat surprising overall but the Vio feels a bit more organic in presentation than the Quicksilver when it comes to stage, but I actually do still feel the Quicksilver has better stage sharpness. Background blackness does go to the Quicksilver. For grip and control I do think the Vio takes the lead, same with slam/impact. Dynamically I want to say the Violectric has an edge in microdynamics where the Quicksilver has a bit better macrodynamics. I feel the Vio offers more lower level detail and presents it equally as well as the Quicksilver, although the Quicksilver has better timbre, but Vio is more coherent imo. Texture wise, the 280 does offer a bit more. Pairing wise I think the Vio can handle a larger range of headphones better than the Quicksilver, but for headphones that shine on the Quicksilver it’s a more immersive experience. I do think the Violectric is a bit more picky when it comes to dac pairing though. Generally both solid amps with different signature goals and different ways of presenting mainly, pair well with similar stuff

You may prefer the V280 if: you prefer a more relaxed amp, you prefer a warmer and more tonally dense signature, you prefer something smoother, you prioritize resolution, you prioritize coherency, you prefer a more accurate stage, you prioritize microdynamics, you prioritize grip and control, you prioritize impact and slam

You may prefer the QS if: you prefer a more balanced fun signature, you prefer a more forward amp, you prefer a more holographic stage, you prioritize macrodynamics, you prioritize timbre, you prioritize separation

(generalized) Pairing wise, planar are honestly good on both coming down to preference (for example things like Hifiman, Audeze, Abyss, DCA, Final), same with higher impedance dynamics (Sennheiser, ZMF, Beyerdynamic), low impedance dynamics can be good on both but honestly I might favor the QS more often (for example things like Grado, Fostex, Audio Technica, Focal)

Bryston BHA-1 – For the BHA-1 it is a more warmer neutral signature than the Quicksilver. The BHA-1 is a bit more weighty overall than the Quicksilver but feels less rich in the mids. Smoothness wise they are fairly similar. Stage wise the BHA-1 does have better accuracy in placement and more accurate presentation, but it doesn’t have the sense of holographicness as the Quicksilver, but I do think the BHA-1 has better stage and is more coherent overall but the Quicksilver feels a bit more open in stage. Background blackness I honestly might say the Quicksilver feels blacker. When it comes to speed and separation the BHA-1 is quicker and is more accurate, but the Quicksilver will separate things out a bit more at times. Grip and control it’s no question the BHA-1 takes it here. Timbre wise, honestly I do like the timbre of the Quicksilver more or it’s at least equal with the BHA-1. Resolution wise the BHA-1 does draw more from the recording. Dynamically, the BHA-1 does better in macro, but when it comes to micro, I really might say the Quicksilver is more impressive here. The BHA-1 does pair well with most things as long as you don’t mind the warmer leaning signature and pair dacs properly. Generally I do think the BHA-1 is a tier above the Quicksilver in most ways but there are still reasons to consider the Quicksilver

You may prefer the BHA-1 if: you can go for it (see below), you prefer a more warmer neutral signature, you prefer more grip and command, you prefer more resolution

You may prefer the QS if: you can’t swing the cost of the BHA-1 (honestly it’s not that fair of a comparison since the Bryston feels like a step ahead in some aspects), you prefer a more neutral signature, you prioritize stage holographicness, you prioritize separation, you prioritize microdynamics

(generalized) I do think the BHA-1 takes it for most planar (for example things like Hifiman, Audeze, Abyss, DCA, Final), with higher impedance dynamics it honestly might be more of a toss up but still like the BHA-1 more (Sennheiser, ZMF, Beyerdynamic), low impedance dynamics are good on both but honestly I still would favor the BHA-1 (for example things like Grado, Fostex, Audio Technica, Focal)

Rupert Neve RNHP – I do find the RNHP more neutral/natural in signature than the Quicksilver in comparison. Tonally the RNHP actually does feel a bit more balanced in weighting but the Quicksilver can better control it’s weighting. The Quicksilver is smoother than the Neve. Spatially the Quicksilver is more accurate in placement and has more depth and width with a blacker background than the Neve (especially width) but the Neve’s presentation is more accurate to the recording. Speed and separation wise the Neve feels snappier but not as well separated as the Quicksilver. I do think the Quicksilver is a step above the Neve overall when it comes to dynamics. Slam and impact wise I do think the Quicksilver can hit harder with more control, but control above the midrange feels more tight on the Neve, and surprisingly the Neve feels more coherent. Resolving power also goes to the Quicksilver overall. I actually might say the Neve is more transparent to the source vs the Quicksilver, and also is more picky on what headphones it works with too. The Neve is a great amp for the money for more efficient dynamics and planar, and is pretty awesome with the right pairing, I do think the Quicksilver is a step ahead in most regards

You may prefer the RNHP if: you can’t swing the cost of the QS (honestly it’s not that fair of a comparison since the quicksilver feels like a step ahead in most aspects), you prioritize coherency, you prioritize accurate to recording presentation, you prefer more upper midrange and treble bite

You may prefer the QS if: you can go for it (see above), you prefer more smoothness, you prefer something more forgiving to the source, otherwise a technical step up

(generalized) Pairing wise, planar are generally better on the QS (for example things like Hifiman, Audeze, Abyss, DCA, Final), honestly same with higher impedance dynamics (Sennheiser, ZMF, Beyerdynamic), but there actually can be something to be said for some of the lower impedance dynamics on the RNHP (for example things like Grado, Fostex, Audio Technica, Focal), I still like most of these on the QS more but it’s a closer comparison.


Tube Swapping

Going to keep this section brief, because stock tubes are actually pretty good (JJ EL84 and Mullard 12AX7), and while changing to nicer tubes is worthwhile and improves the amp, it’s not going to make or break this amp for most people (but some may disagree lol). Noting it since I do think it can be worthwhile, but I don’t think it is something you have to worry about. Anyways, here’s some tube swaps lol

Power:
NOS Ei EL84 – Add a bit more warmth and body while improving technical performance a bit, overall pretty great, personally think this is the best bang for buck EL84 I tried in here

NOS RCA 7189 – Focuses a bit more on technical ability and stage, also better dynamics overall, without sacrificing density or shifting signature all that much, personally my favorite

NOS Telefunken Diamond EL84 – A bit more airy and spatial focused tube that really just boosts stage and separation along with resolution, slight hit on bass control and tonal weight

Input:
NOS Mullard Long Plate 12AX7 – A more rich and relaxed tube that while very organic does tilt the balance more relaxed but does maintain technical performance, too expensive though for what it does personally

NOS Mazda Long Plate 12AX7 – Well balanced overall and a bit more technical while keeping balance but adding a bit more warmth and body, personally a fave here

NOS Amperex Holland 12AX7 – Honestly excellent overall and do lean the sound fairly into the sweeter territory, but I can’t justify the cost these tubes command to then stick them in the Quicksilver.

I haven’t really tried as many tubes as others on here, personally I just did a few swaps and stopped there. I’m sure there’s better value or better synergy tube combos, but I only really tried what I had on hand, and I’m personally not a big tube collector/swapper so I don’t really have a big stash to pull from here lol


Worthwhile?

Absolutely, the Quicksilver makes a very compelling case for itself overall, if you are in the market for an amp at this price point and have some headphones that would pair well, this is seriously worth a hard look. DAC wise it is happy with most things you give it (but don’t neglect the DAC either) and headphone wise honestly somewhat favors lower impedance while still being solid with higher impedance cans too. While it can’t get it done with some of the top top headphones (which I wouldn’t expect an amp at this price to do anyways), it’s a very solid choice for midrange to entry high end headphones (even some of the middle tier high end as well), and provides excellent value for the price. I wouldn’t say this amp is for those looking for a high amount of “tubyness”, nor is it for someone after a more analytical and cleanly experience either, it sits well in between (a bit more toward the fun side of things perhaps) and offers an enjoyable and engaging experience without leaning too far one way or the other, along with solid overall technical ability to boot.

Stand Out:
– Spatial recreation: very immersive and fun, holographic and grand, also very black background
– Separation: has an exaggerated (in a good way) separation of things that really makes things pop
– Dynamics: pretty well capable in both macro and micro and is presented naturally
– Grip and control: really good for a tube amp of this price point
– Extension: well extended in both directions
– Overall balance in tuning and technical ability

Good, But Not Stand Out:
– Resolution: more than enough, but it’s not the most resolving for the money, but presented organically
– Timbre: solid, but not remarkable
– Tonal Density: slightly on the dry side, very balanced, but personally a bit more weight would be nice
– Speed: while separation is stand out speed isn’t as much but still quick

Could Be Improved:
– Coherency: can sometimes sound a bit disjointed considering the price

Suggested DAC Pairings:
*Some haven’t been mentioned above but tried on the QS and found them worthwhile pairings, bold are stand out
MHDT (Orchid, Pagoda)
Soekris DAC2541
Schiit Bifrost 2
– Denafrips Ares II
– Allo Revolution + Shanti LPS

Briefly tried:
Holo Cyan PCM
Aqua La Voce S3
Chord Qutest

Suspected good pairings (based off previous experiences) but have not tried on the Quicksilver, take with grain of salt:
Mojo Mystique V3 (confident in bolding this due to experience with EVO)
Lampizator Amber 3 (confident in bolding this due to experience with GG II)
Rockna Wavelight (confident in bolding this due to experience with Wavedream)
– Sonnet Morpheus
– Exogal Comet Plus

Suggested Headphone Pairings:
*Some haven’t been mentioned above but tried on the QS and found them worthwhile pairings, bold are stand out
Grado (Hemp, PS)
Sennheiser (HD600/650, 800s)
Audeze (LCD 2, 24)
Abyss (Diana v2)
Fostex (TH900)
Final (D8000 Pro, yes I actually think this could be reasonable)
– Focal (Elex, Clear, potentially Utopia)
– Beyerdynamic (600 ohm series, T1)
– Audio Technica (R70x, AWAS, AWKT)
– Kennerton (GH50)

Briefly tried:
ZMF (briefly tried: Verite Closed)
Hifiman (HEKse)

Suspected good pairings (based off previous experiences) but have not tried on the Quicksilver, take with grain of salt:
– Hifiman (Arya SE, HEXv2, HE500)
– ZMF (Auteur, Eikon)
– Fostex (TH909)

Overall: Damn Solid


Discussion

To see more discussion and experiences around this amp, and get into the conversation yourself, check out the Quicksilver forum post: https://forum.sonusapparatus.com/t/quicksilver-headphone-amp/78