Massdrop x THX AAA Linear Amplifier
You’re an audiophile, a modern music lover, and a student of high-fidelity sound. You demand more from your headphone amplifier. Last January at CES, we unveiled a partnership with Massdrop, the online audiophile haven and community-driven commerce platform, to make a headphone amplifier specifically designed with their discerning community of consumer electronics enthusiasts in mind. Massdrop is no stranger to critically acclaimed collaborations. The Massdrop x AKG K7XX Audiophile Headphones and Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 6XX Headphones have become iconic within the audiophile community for their impressive feature-to-value ratio, and our collaboration is no exception. After a sold out pre-order and much anticipation, the Massdrop x THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier (THX AAA™) 789 is available once again. Now, you can enjoy an audiophile-quality headphone experience at home without breaking the bank. The Massdrop x THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier (THX AAA) 789 is a linear, bipolar amplifier with feed-forward error correction. It’s designed for objectivists who appreciate an incredibly clean, transparent amp—the sought-after “wire with gain” whose amplification is uncolored by a sound of its own. The THX AAA 789, features our groundbreaking THX AAA circuit with feed-forward topology. What does that mean to you? It means this headphone amplifier will reduce distortion by 20 to 40 dB for ultra-realistic, fatigue-free listening. In fact, this bridged-output amp’s performance figures speak for themselves: It’s powerful (2 x 6W at 32 ohms) and quiet (136 dB SNR) with a record-low THD of -140 dB at 300 ohms, 100 mW. That’s four times the power of other headphone amps, and with far less distortion. We caught up with Massdrop’s Product Manager for Audiophile Collaborations, Christian Tanimoto III (Massdrop handle CEE_TT) regarding the 789. Here’s what he had to say about the collaboration: “When I first learned about THX AAA technology at the end of 2016, I was instantly excited by the idea of THX creating the world’s best-measuring, lowest-distortion amplifiers. Knowing the audiophile community on Massdrop would appreciate this technology, we wanted to collaborate on a product designed specifically for them. Fast-forward to 2018: all of our hopes for the project have been realized, and we’re able to listen to live recordings on our fully featured THX AAA 789 headphone amplifier. Our collaboration with THX has yielded the lowest-distortion amplifier measurements over a great range of usable power. This extreme transparency doesn’t sound dry or sterile, but quite natural with a sense of great realism and space. Massdrop is very pleased with the design engineering that THX has brought to our community members, and we truly appreciate the partnership. We hope this is just the auspicious beginning…”

THX AAA Technology

The original concept for THX’s AAA technology was developed by Laurie Fincham, Senior Vice President of Audio Research and Development at THX. Fincham, who is well known in the audiophile community, helped introduce the Steerable Line Array technology for speakers and held previous roles at both Kef and Celestion Loudspeakers. According to Fincham, the massive amounts of engineering and research that went into the product was centered on creating an amplifier that would be audibly invisible. Even the name, Achromatic Audio Amplifier (AAA) is an homage to the transparency of the amp – “achromatic” meaning “without color”. Capable of driving any headphone, including high-impedance, low-current, and high-sensitivity types (like planars), the THX AAA 789 amp transmits the original audio in its purest possible form. That’s largely thanks to THX AAA technology, which reduces harmonic, intermodulation, and crossover distortions. Virtually every conventional amplifier distorts significantly when driving current into a headphone, producing crossover distortion that causes listening fatigue. The engineers at THX set out to solve this problem—and to deliver the performance of a class-A amplifier without the heat and weight—and thus THX AAA technology was born. Each channel of the THX AAA 789 amp is equipped with a low-bias class-AB main amplifier and an auxiliary error-correction amplifier, the former providing the majority of the power and the latter providing a realtime, low-power error-correction signal. The two work together to null all distortion. Finally, the THX AAA 789 has multiple gain level settings to optimize for headphone and in-ear (IEM) listening. Additional features of the Massdrop x THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier (THX AAA™) 789 include:
  • Inputs: Stereo XLR-3 gold-plated Neutrik and Stereo RCA gold-plated inputs
  • Outputs: 1/4 in (6.35 mm) TRS gold-plated Neutrik; 3.5 mm TRS gold-plated; XLR-4 balanced gold-plated
  • Frequency response: + 0.01 dB / – 0.03 dB 20 Hz–20 kHz; + 0.05 dB / – 0.15 dB 10 Hz–50 kHz
  • Input impedance: 50 kOhms balanced or unbalanced
  • Chassis: High-grade CNC-milled aluminum with bead-blasted finish
  • Power supply: 24 VDC inline brick, universal input 100–240 VAC
  • Dimensions: 8.3 x 9.1 x 2.2 in (210 x 230 x 57 mm)
  • Weight: 3.4 lbs (1,520 g)
  • Includes switching power supply that handles 100–240 VAC (US plug; adapter needed for global use)
  • Manufacturer’s 1-year warranty
Thanks to the Massdrop community, the initial pre-order quantities flew off the shelf. For everyone who wasn’t able to take advantage of the pre-order, you can get in no the next limited run of Massdrop x THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier (THX AAA™) 789 now. We couldn’t be more proud of this collaboration with Massdrop, and we’re excited for you, the audiophile community, to experience Achromatic Audio Amplifier (AAA) technology for yourself. For more information on the Massdrop x THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier (THX AAA™) 789, visit Massdrop. For more information about THX AAA technology, visit THX AAA. — David “Prz” Przygoda, Technology Lead, Product Marketing