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Bravo Audio Tube Amplifier - V3

Posted

Pros: Fantastic sound, solid construction, good EQ

Cons: Open design may be a problem for some

I purchased this tube amp on eBay for 75 dollars in new condition. This is my first tube amp of any kind. The only other headphone amplifier I have owned is the Fiio E5.

First of all, I will state the entire listening set up I have that I use with this in order to provide a more solid frame of reference for the review:

 

 

  • My turntable is an Audio-Technica LP-120 turntable with the green stylus that came with it. It tracks at 1.5 grams.
  • I use a dedicated phono pre-amp rather than the internal one. The pre-amp I use is the Art DJPpre II Phono preamplifier.
  • For CDs I use my LG blu ray player's RCA outputs. When I listen to CDs I do have to turn the volume down as the CD audio is louder than what the vinyl set up outputs, but this is not a problem.
  • Finally, the headphones I use with this are Sony MDR-V6 headphones. They have an impedance of 63 ohms.
  • As different set ups can be better or worse for different genres, I'd like to state that my listening preferences largely are made of blues, 60s rock (The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Animals, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, etc), blues-metal/blues-rock (Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath), heavy metal spanning from the 80s to now (ie, I like Iron Maiden, but also recent bands like Rammstein, Tyr, and Alestorm), and to a limited extent some electronic music (Kraftwerk). I also like a few punk bands, such as The Ramones, Buzzcocks, and The Undertones. I also like some miscellaneous other groups like R.E.M. and Rush. I have in fact listened to music from all of these genres since owning the amp & MDR-V6 headphones to get an idea of their versatility. 

 

Overall, I absolutely love this pre amp. Compared to my FiiO E5 pre amp I feel like this provides a more natural and less harsh sound. Granted, these differences are marginal and not night and day, but I do notice the difference a bit. I also notice that CDs with more modern mastering sound better. CDs with clipping sound like the clipping is softened a bit which makes them more listenable. CDs & vinyl mastered with good dynamic range sound VERY lively. Loud sounds hit hard, and softer sounds are noticeable but not overbearing -- just the way good mastering should be. 

I don't really use the EQ settings. I find that a flat setting gives the best sound. Do note that if yours arrives and the sliders are all at the bottom you need to move them up to the middle. Mine were at the bottom when it came and I thought that must be the flat setting (which I found odd), and quickly figured out my initial intuition that they ought to be moved to the middle were correct. In my set up, the bass notes hit hard and accurately. They don't rumble like those "beats" headphones. It's very precise. Some may not like this, but I enjoy the accuracy. After all, this amp DOES have an EQ if you want more bass. In any case, when listening to Kraftwerk's "The Mix" and "Minimum-Maximum" I found the bass impact more than enough. The mids sound great and natural to my ears, and the highs are not harsh, but clear and precise. 


Inevitably, this review also ended up being partially about my headphones, as one cannot listen to a headphone amp without headphones. I can't really compare this to other tube amps since I have never had another tube device, nor can I state how it will sound on other set ups, but for me this is just perfect. I love it, and understand why others love tub amps (again, it's not a night and day difference, it's subtle, but there). If you have similar headphones, a similar set up for your turntable, or similar musical preferences, you may enjoy this. Do keep in mind that this is an open design so you will have to have a can of air to keep dust out of it, and make sure pets stay away. Another possible downside is that I noticed if I leave both the red/white RCA cables and the auxillary input plugged in the volume takes an audible drop by around 2-3 decibles, even if the other device plugged in is completely off. For this reason I only keep one device plugged in at a time. 

 

Posted

Pros: Small, Loud, Clear, Tube/Valve, 3 Band Passive EQ

Cons: Only Passive Cooling, sometimes gains a little static

I don't have much to compare it against especially for headphones or as a preamp.  I have used my Beyerdynamic DT860 headphones on my PC for a while and talked into getting a tube amp from a guy at my work.  I thought I would try something cheap to get the idea of what a tube does to music.  This one seemed decent and the other models had good reviews so I liked the idea of a EQ and purchased this one. 

 

At first when I unplugged my headphones from my PC (Motherboard Sound card unfortunately, hope to be getting something more shortly) and the tube amp in with my headphones now connected to the tube I was surprised.  I thought the music seemed muffled yet very little bass.  

 

I was told to let it break in for 30-40hours.  I let it play about 10hours before listening to it again so my ears wouldn't acclimate.  It sounded more tinny now and I tried giving more bass with the EQ on winamp or with the passive EQ but it would just distort.  It did sound better than my previous listen but that's not saying much.

 

I now listened to it again at about 25 hours after letting it play over night.  I was surprised how it had changed from what I remembered.  I swapped the headphones between directly to the PC and through the tube amp.  The tube amp was much less muffled than before but still had a mellow and tinny sound compared to the PC directly.

 

I listened here and there constantly letting with a play list of jazz, piano, orchestra, background chatter, a thunderstorm, sine sweeps, and silence for rest.

 

At about 50hours this thing has really opened up.  I left it with the same comparison song, same cords, computer and headphones during all of this for fair comparison. I now hooked it up to my phone and laptop.  It gets loud, stays clear with a mellower sound, and has made my headphones sound amazing. I didn't even know they could play such a range of sound and had been debating selling them before this to get some Sennheiser HD650's.  I am no longer dissatisfied but still want the HD650's.  I thought these headphones couldn't provide bass but I was wrong.  

 

Now with almost 80hours on it, the sound has improved even more especially with Jazz and Orchestrated music.  The 3 Band EQ is amazing as well.  I can give it a little more bass or a little more mid or even some treble with ease depending on the song I am listening to or game I playing (yes I now listen to everything through it).  I am very glad I did not cheap out $10 and get the one without the EQ.  I am thinking about trying different tubes just to see the difference but overall very pleased with my purchase.  

 

I am going to be doing some testing with my earbuds soon on this as I have just wanted a fair even comparison.  I would always 0 out the EQ before comparing as I wanted everything to be identical except run time.

Bravo Audio Tube Amplifier - V3
Description:

Russian EH 6922 Tube Amplifier 3 Band Graphic Equalizer Passive EQ employed 24V DC input Input Sensitivity: 100mV Output Impedance: 20~600 Ohm Gain: 28dB Freq. response: 10Hz-60KHz +/- 0.25dB Signal/Noise Ratio: >90dB Dynamic range: 84.6dBA(300 ohm) 89.8dBA(33 ohm) THD: 0.016%(300 ohm) 0.45%(33 ohm) IMD + Noise: 0.045(300 ohm) 0.42(33ohm)

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