About this project
Could this be the world's most beautiful amplifier?
Following the success of our previous Kickstarter campaign (the Hybid Valve Headphone Amplifier) we've taken all the improvements suggested by our backers and added a whole lot of extra features to bring you something really special.
We've had so many experienced audio enthusiasts write to us and tell us how much they love the sound of our Headphone Amp. Some have told us that during a lifetime of collecting amplifiers ours is the best they have found. So any new product that we produce must be better still and we have achieved this with our new Desktop Amplifier.
The Desktop Amplifier is a stunningly beautiful amplifier that has it all. It's powerful enough to drive your large lounge speakers with its 100 Watt power stage. It has Bluetooth input, a Vinyl preamp, and one of the highest spec DAC's available today.
Where art and technology meet
Our design criteria was simple: Take the sound everybody raves about and put it in an enclosure which is a show piece. The case needed to be custom made for the amp and of extremely high quality while the circuit board layout had to be immaculate. It had to be small, beautiful and packed with advanced features. The final result is an amplifier with proven and much loved sonics which looks so good it will be the talking point of any HiFi setup.
So, How good will it sound?
By keeping the same proven circuitry from our previous Kickstarter project (The Hybrid Valve Headphone Amplifier) and adding a 100 Watt speaker amplifier, we can honestly say "Amazing" But then of course we would say that. So here's what our Backers and Customers have said about the sound of the Headphone Amp:
Jason C (Ceder Falls USA): I just received your amplifier and I love it. Sounds amazing!
C Flowers (Texas): I have been buying little headphone amps for about 18 years, I bought some costing $800 and more. This Amp is by far the best yet without even being broken in. I use AKG 3003I's. I love this amp and at that price you could pay at least $1000.00 to find some amp that might come close. I know I have not. I have RS amps about 6 of them and KS amps. I have been into music all my life now at 55 years old I found one that's worth every dollar.
Marc C (Seattle WA): I have previously owned two other headphone amps, as well as a hybrid pre-amp, a pre-amp that can drive speakers as well as headphones. So I am not unacquainted with the sonic improvements these amps can bring. I am also a demanding listener, who listens to and loves to hear the detail in a broad array of musical genres. I was happy with each of those tube-enhanced amps. Each was an advance over its predecessors and each showed me new improvements in the listening experience. But your amp is far and away the best tube-enhanced amp I have ever listened to. Every aspect of sound is improved. No noise is introduced into the system, no distortion into any instrument. But as music generally eludes our attempts to capture it in discursive speech, so do the musical effects of this amp elude our talk about it. It brings the music we to hear in a new way as we have never heard it. It is simply there for us to hear: more limpid, more present, more musical than before.
Gary L (USA): Thank you for producing an excellent product.the amp. it has replaced Mt. Blanc model E12.The sound has more spatially - the music I listen too repeatedly is Koan Sound and your amp. has improved the experience. THANK YOU . GARY.
Paul M (New Zealand): The sound is simply gorgeous. Highlights from this morning were Queen's Radio Gaga. Really responds well to the warmth. and Dire Straights Latest Trick. Lorde Royals was pretty awesome as well. Currently listening to Ed Sheeran and I feel it is going to stop me getting on with things I need to do. "
Collin (Switzerland): I'm really loving the sound of my new amp!
Birger (Germany): The Valve Amp with DAC is a wonderful product with a very special sound.
Cedric B (New Zealand): I'm one of the lucky ones who has gotten to test a DAC unit, and I am absolutely blown away by how it sounds. I've always enjoyed listening to music, but I never thought it could actually sound this good. I'm noticing subtleties in songs I've never noticed before, and the clarity is phenomenal. It's just like being in the studio with the musicians.
Chris S (USA): Got mine today in Maryland. The sound is absolutely amazing, I simply have no words...
A van der Weiden (Holland): Received this morning in Holland! Great sound!! Very happy! Listening as we speak (type)!
Gray E (Canada): Awesome. I finally got my amp this morning. The sound is fantastic.
Neil (Switzerland): Excellent sound, great work.
Jason B (UK): Received mine in the UK on Friday (19th) and am listening to some of my favourite music as I write this.Even familiar music sounds fresh and rich and the amp looks great too!
Rick S (Califirnia, USA): Got my amp today and am so pleasantly surprised at how great it is. Warm, detailed, rich. Everything you'd want.
Gursharan G (Victoria, Australia): Fantastic sound and very mellow presentation overall. Female vocals are brilliant.Even the M100 sounds very sweet and musical. Cant stop listening.
John E (Ashford, UK): Got my Amp yesterday in the UK. A fantastic product. Not only beautiful looking but has a sumptuous sound with it. The gorgeous orange glow as you're using it - fantastic :)
R ter Haar (Nashville TN): Have used this headphone amp now for some days. I am using this with an Ibasso DX 90 DAP player and Beyerdynamic DT 1350 headset. I listen to FLAC files converted from CD’s or purchased as digital file. The sound quality is very good. Bass is nice and well controlled the highs are natural and voices and acoustic instruments are superb. Is this addition a huge difference with the standard Ibasso headphone output? No not huge but noticeable, then always the question is the difference better or just different? I found in general the difference was better, in specific the bass and voices and acoustic instruments like trumpet, because the highs are smooth there is less fatigue. I use this unit for hours on length. Yes I can recommend this unit highly.
- Dimensions 120mm (wide), 140mm (long), 25mm (deep)
- Case is CNC machined from a single block of aluminium
- Solid aluminium feet with rubber inserts to prevent microphonics
- Stainless steel fasteners
- 2 x separate headphone amplifier stages using Burr Brown OPA2134
- Individual headphone volume controls
- 100 Watt Output (2 x 50W) class D amplifier
- 90% power efficiency
- Output short circuit protection
- Military spec Raytheon 6418 Glass Tube Valves (replacable).
- 2 ounce Copper tracks
- Low ESR capacitors
- Analog input and Phono Input (magnetic)
- Vinyl preamp using OPA2134
- Bluetooth input
- DAC input 32bit/384 kHz using SA9227 and PCM5102A
- Ultra low distortion <0.00008% for headphone circuitry
- Headphone output 750mW
- Measured output impedance of headphone stage 0.265 Ohms
Valves made by Rocket Scientists- literally
Raytheon is a major American Defense contractor. They started in the 1930's and were the worlds largest vacuum tube manufacturer. This led to them manufacturing radar during the second world war. After the war Raytheon received military contracts to produce missiles for the US military. These included the Sparrow, Hawk, Tomahawk and Patriot missiles. The company also built the guidance system computers used by NASA to send the astronauts to the moon using the exact Raytheon 6418 valves we now use in the Hybrid Valve Headphone Amplifier.
Quality Audiophile Components
When designing the Valve Amplifier, our first priority was to get the best sound possible. Right down to the individual resistors we've chosen components to give the lowest noise and to be virtually distortion free. We've even hand measured each valve before assembly and matched these to within 1%.
Back in the old days you would find valves in all amplifiers. Then transistors were invented. Great! Now our gear can be small and run on batteries. The problem is the new technology sounded clinical without depth. That's why many high spec amps made today incorporate valves. These valves sound as good as they look. They provide a warm rich sound with plenty of dynamic range and much more spatial separation.
What do the experts say?
We are very lucky here in New Zealand to have some very talented and experienced audio enthusiasts. Paul Brooks from Invercargill has been invaluable with his expert advice. Just before Xmas we sent him a pre-production prototype. Paul is without doubt the most experienced audio enthusiast I know. He is our 'go to' guy for advice. He's written dozens of reviews on HeadFi. Read his impression of this project here:
High spec DAC included
Saviaudio's SA9227 and Texas Instruments PCM5102A are at the heart of our extremely hi resolution DAC valve amplifier (32bit/384kHz). Combined with the military spec Raytheon valves and award winning Burr Brown series OPA2134 amplifier chip, this combination produces extremely hi quality audio with extremely low noise and distortion.
Why two Headphone Jacks?
We've spent many hours developing prototypes and invited family and friends to listen so as to get their feedback. We listened to many different music tracks and found ourselves constantly taking our headphones off and passing them to the other person. Then we thought 'wouldn't it be great to have two separate headphone jacks so two people could both listen at the same time?' So we added another 6.5mm jack and now there are two completely separate headphone amplifiers each with their own volume control.
Beautifully engineered case milled from a solid 1 inch thick block of Aluminium
Unbreakable Gorilla glass top- electronics too beautiful to hide
Ability to switch off Bluetooth and Vinyl preamp when not in use
Solid aluminium feet with rubber inserts
Here's a video of the amplifier in use. It's hard to see from this clip, but this amp is REALLY loud at full volume.
We use tracked and insured courier DHL or if requested we can ship by tracked express Post.
Risks and challenges
This is now our second Kickstarter project. Successfully completing our first project was an invaluable learning experience. We faced many unexpected construction challenges after we resolved to improve the specifications after Kickstarter funding. It's very unusual for a creator to add more features after a project has been funded, but we are truly passionate about audio and our backers suggested worthwhile additional features. We listened to them and replaced the original on/off switch for a volume control and added a gain switch and even an optional DAC stage. All this was outside of the original design specifications and we funded the extra R&D and componentry ourselves. But the suggestions given by the Kickstarter community with their collective knowledge and experience was outstanding and could not be ignored. This was a project that was truly shaped by our Backers.
We've built on our experience from our first Kickstarter project. In order for us to be able to keep to our production schedule we have paid particular attention to ease of assembly when designing the amplifier. We learnt from our first Kickstarter that having a wonderful sounding and smart looking design does not necessarily equate to having a product that is easy to build. This time we have put a lot of effort into making assembly and testing easier and therefore making production faster without any loss of quality.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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