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Excellent Budget-Fi hybrid tube/ss entry level amp

A Review On: Bravo Audio Tube Amplifier - V2

Bravo Audio Tube Amplifier - V2

Rated # 56 in Desktop Amps
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Review Details:
Audio Quality
Design
Quality
Value
Purchased on:
Price paid: $69.00
UmustBKidn
Posted · 11190 Views · 4 Comments

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.

4 Comments:

Do you find the sound colored or lacking detail compared to the Schiit Magni?
@Headzone: Well, the differences are slight. What I immediately notice on my setup is what I'd call the dynamic range: the V2 sounds just a bit "livelier" than the Magni (which sounds a wee bit more sterile, if you will). So yes, I would say the V2 colors the sound more than the Magni does.
 
But even this small difference can be totally changed by varying the tube. I've tried an embarrassingly large selection of tubes on my Bravo. I can vary the character of the sound a whole lot more than I ever believed before owning one of these devices. That came in handy when I was still driving my V2 with a Pure i-20 ipod DAC: a Mullard really helped tame the overly harsh sound of the i-20. Without the i-20 inline, I choose a brighter tube, usually something like an American long black plate.
 
The Bravo is also much easier to overdrive into distortion, while the Magni is not. The Magni clips a lot later than the Bravo. So if there is something I really want to crank up, the Magni is noticeably smoother at top volumes, while the Bravo gets ugly. But, I don't listen to such volumes often - I don't want to damage my old ears any more than they already are :)
Hmm thanks! I've known these tube amps for long, but never tried one. Might actually purchase one just to "evaluate" it. Maybe it makes my DT48 sing better?
@Headzone: If you want to buy one, subscribe to the thread "Bravo Audio - funny looking little tube amps". There was just someone in there talking about selling one last week. Or you can try ebay. I got my 2nd one on ebay for under $55 bucks, including shipping from China. That's about $20 less than Amazon (where I got my first one).
 
I am under no illusion that these are amazing giant killers. They are not. They are true budget-fi amps. So as always, your impression may be different. I like mine because it's cheap and I don't mind leaving it at work. I look forward to the day when I can spare the change for a Bottlehead Crack or a Schiit Valhalla (one of which will definitely be my next amp). Enjoy!
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