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Bravo Audio Tube Amplifier - V2

Posted

Pros: Everything

Cons: Stock components suck, the design is not optimal.

I got this small amp from a local marketplace. It sounds OK when I got it, too warm, almost no treble.

After I got the schematic and tips from google I did some mods with this baby and now it sings!

 

What I did:

1. Cut some traces for crosstalk improvement

2. Make better grounding, measure voltage difference between in and out, make sure its not more than 1mV

3. Change the power supply filter cap to low ESR Panasonic 3300uF, 35V

4. Change 2 output caps to low ESR Panasonic 2200uF, 25V

5. Change 2 N Channel Mosfet to IRL510

6. Install 2 5K ohm pots and adjust tube biasing to 13.5V.

7. Install ferrites clamp on the power supply cable

 

I'm using it with my DT880 600 ohm, it beats XCAN V8 when I compare it in my local "fancy" hifi store. The owner of the shop was really surprised when I said the price was 60$ + 20$ for extra components.

Posted

Pros: Inexpensive, easy to tube roll

Cons: The stock tube really sucks

In the world of Budget-Fi audio, there is a relatively small set of amplifiers that can be purchased for under $100 USD, and an even smaller set of amplifiers in that price range that are hybrid tube amps. The Bravo V2 is one of those amps. It can be purchase on auction from eBay for about $50-55 (depending on how many people are bidding), or at a fixed price of $69 from either Amazon.com or eBay (the seller/manufacturer on eBay ships from China and charges $16 for shipping that takes about 2 weeks to the US).

 

By many accounts, this device was designed using DIY project specifications readily available on the Internet, which have existed for some time. Those who purport to know much about these things say that it's not a particularly sophisticated design, and requires numerous modifications to really sound good. Some even question whether this is truly a Class A amplifier.

 

On the other hand, whaddya want for $69 bucks, bro? This isn't a Bottlehead Crack, or a Schiit Valhalla. It's not made in a numbered garage either (though the residents of that numbered garage seem to spend an inordinate amount of effort slamming this little product, and have become so annoying to me that I've decided to never, ever consider their products, for any reason, under any circumstances). If you're shopping for an amp in this price range, then the driving factor really is your budget. So we're talking bang for the buck here. All comparisons to more expensive devices are pointless. Yes, you can buy better amps, but so what?

 

What this is, is a really cool little amp that sounds damn good for $69 bucks. I own two of them. I'm going to mod one of them soon, and write a comparison of them when time permits. (Oh, don't preach to me that I could have bought X or Y for the price of two of these devices. I want two amps for two different locations.)

 

But, really, you need to get rid of the stock Chinese tube. Quickly. Okay, you can listen to it while you're waiting for your American NOS 12AU7 / 5963 / 5814 (etc) tube to ship from eBay. Unless you're really filthy rich, don't waste your money on a Mullard or Telefunken (which can easily cost more than this amp).

 

I've written a comparison of this amp against a Schiit Magni here. I've also made some tube rolling notes in this thread. In short, this cheap little hybrid amp sounds pretty darn good for the price, and I don't think there is anything in its price range that can compete with it, short of a Schiit Magni. Quite frankly, which one wins depends on the cans you're using, and what style of music you like to listen to.

 

Some day, I think it would be interesting to get or make a cMoyBB, just to make sure that this is better. To date, it hasn't been that important. Portable amps aren't really something I use. But I am curious. So maybe someday.

 

I highly recommend this amp to anyone who has $100 bucks to spend on a headphone amp, wants to have a tube type amp, and isn't shy about using eBay to purchase an accessory. Do NOT buy any 12AU7 replacement tubes from Amazon - they are all junk. If you don't want to use eBay, or don't care about tubes, then buy a Schiit Magni. The Magni is an awesome amplifier, hands down. It's just not a tube amp.

 

Both amps are outstanding values in this price range. Neither one of them is really "better" than the other - it's personal preference in this range.

Posted

Pros: Price, looks, size

Cons: Hum is audible over music at only 45% volume, rendering it unusable past this point. No improvement over my X-FI.

Edit: My V2 has recently began to produce a constant pulsating static noise that persists as soon as it's warmed up, and never goes away. It is loud enough to be audible over music, but does not seem to get louder with volume (like the hum). The issue persists even with volume all the way down. I am currently in communication with Bravo support (Henry) via email about this.

 

Edit2: Henry sent me a replacement power supply but both issues persist. After filing a dispute in paypal he has given me a full refund. He failed to respond to me until I filed the dispute. A bad product with poor support, I do not recommend buying anything from Bravo Audio.

 
Used primarily with my Sennheiser HD 600. The DAC being used is an X-FI Fatality Pro. I also own a Fiio E11 which I will make some comparisons to. This product pretty much stands alone in it's price point for Tube amps ($70). In this price point, most solid state amps have considerably less power. An impulse buy I just couldn't resist.
 

 

Design (7/10)
 
In the box you get the unit itself, with the tube installed, safely packaged, with the power supply and power cord. No manual or documentation was present, but each I/O is clearly labeled IN/OUT. It looks and feels solidly built, besides some glue like residue I had to remove in places. A minimalist design at only 3 inches square, fits perfectly on a crowded desk. The blue LED lights at the base of the Tube look great, not overly bright in the dark. Inputs for RCA or 3.5mm. Output is 1/4 inch (6.5mm). Volume knob feels solid, and does not distort or add static when adjusting. However, the unit does get very hot to the touch, particularly on the two black heat sinks on either side. It seems to get the warmest after about 30 mins of use, but never gets hotter, even after several hours. This is likely normal for most Tube amps, specially compact ones like this.
 
Sound (5/10)
 
First I would like to say that volume was adequate at 60% with my HD 600 connected to my X-FI directly. So with this purchase I was expecting to get a bit of an introduction to the Tube sound, with some extra power when/if I need it. When listening to the Bravo V2 under 45% volume, I did get a hint of warmth and a more present mid range, without missing anything in the bass or treble. The sound stage and detail, although good, was no real improvement over the X-FI directly. The Achilles heel of this product is that it cannot be used beyond 45% volume. The hum becomes audible through the music beyond this point.
 
At first I thought I had a ground loop issue causing the hum, but I confirmed it was the amp by testing it with a battery powered laptop. My X-FI has no audible hum until about 80% volume, and even then it is not enough to be audible with music playing. Maybe I was spoiled with my Fiio E11, because this thing sounds dead silent even at 100% volume, not to mention it's more compact, and has a gain switch with bass boost. Compared to the Bravo, the Fiio is more flat and sounds much cleaner at higher volume, despite having less overall power.
 
To be fair, I only require more than 45% volume on the Bravo when my X-FI is at 40% or less. If I up my X-FI to 60-70% volume, I require no more than 20-30% volume on the amp. With this configuration, volume is much higher than the X-FI can produce alone, so I would never "need" to go past 45% on the amp. However, I wanted to let the amp do to the work, so I could hear the warmth of the Tube sound come through more. I also like to know that the extra power is there if I need it for future setups/headphones. Unfortunately, this was a big let down for me. If your considering this amp with anything over 300ohm impedance, look elsewhere.
 
Verdict (5/10)
 
When used under 45% volume, sound was still no real step up from my X-FI directly. I could of lived with this, if I could have used at least 70% of available power. Maybe my expectations were too high for a product in this price range. I realize Tube amps generally have more distortion and lower SNR than their solid state competitors, specially in the lower price ranges. Regardless, I can't recommend an amp that is only 45% usable, even in this price range. If a product cannot operate properly at the higher specs, it should be designed "within" the usable power band (like the Fiio E11). I can't stand behind a company or product that is advertised to tow 3 tuns but falls apart after 1.5. In hindsight, I wish I had purchased something like the Fiio E10/E07k, or even the Schiit Magni (a mere $30 more). For those hoping for a good cheap introduction to Tube sound, keep looking. The bottom line is, you can do much better, even at this price point. They call this a "Class A", I give it a D minus at best.

Posted

Pros: Good quality build and sound quality

Cons: None..built for its purpose and does it well

I use the Bravo tube amplifier as a pre-amp on my jaycar power amplificator and it has revolutionised the sound output.  Whereas before the sound was sctrachy and the max volume low, the system now works brilliantly.  Vey happy customer and would recmmmend to anyone who wishes to purchase a headphone amplifier or pre-amp.

Bravo Audio Tube Amplifier - V2
Description:

Bravo Audio - Small tube amplifier with exposed components and acrylic frame. Uses a single 12AU7 in dual-triode configuration. Full Class-A hybrid, no opamp.

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