Pros: Tight, Rich Bass with great impact - clear mids and smooth treble - gain switches - build quality - price - features - power
Cons: BLUE LED!!!!! - Why are the gain switches hidden? - Volume knob feels cheap and isn't smooth
This is a review for the Little Dot MK2 headphone amplifier so I hope you all enjoy it. This is my first review and it's going to start off really well as this is an amazing product.
YouTube review is here, slightly shorter but more to the point: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFmcpaZUJHk
Little Dot have been making amps for over 10 years now so they know what they are doing and they are really no stranger to the audio world. This amp produces the typical valve sound, rich and lush. Going at £130 on Amazon.co.uk sold by Grandview, I think that it beats anything in it's price range. It should compete with the APPJ but I think that this just blows it out of the water.
This amplifier had been designed very impressively for the price because it looks more expensive than it actually is. It looks really professional and sleek looking, a perfect fit for my setup. The top of the amplifier holds four valves, two pre-amp valves and two power valves, the power ones being the bigger two. They sit nice and neat on the top and aren't on an angle in their sockets. Behind the valves is a massive transformer which takes up practically a 1/3 of the top of the amp, it looks great though. The metal on the top has a corrugated feel to it making it look more substantial and 'solid'. I like how this amp shows no shame about having bare screws showing because it gives it an industrial look, again, more substantial looking. The front of the amp houses a 1/4 inch plug and a 0-100 volume knob, all very standard but extremely neat. Oh, you'll also find the blue LED power indicator [now...I know everyone hates these, but I guess...nevermind]! The back panel is the busiest part because you'll find the L-R in and out RCAs; AC power in socket and a power switch. In my opinion this is how amps should be designed, it's really simple but professional looking. Little Dot are good at pulling off the trick making their amps look expensive, that's for sure. I am hugely impressed by the design, especially for the price! Great job by Little Dot and consequently I'll have to rate the design 10/10. Now let's move on to the build quality as that's where it gets really impressive. LITTLE DOT MK2 SCORE SO FAR: 10 POINTS.
Photos are here: https://imagebin.ca/v/302vlCfKj9uq
Build quality is where things just go from great to exceptional! The amp is totally constructed out of metal, bar the volume knob, which is impressive for this price. The edges are smooth curves which really shows the high quality finish of this amp, this means that you won't cut yourself! As I said in the design, although the corrugated metal is only a design feature, it shows you the company's attention to detail and how much they care about their product. The valve sockets are very well made because the valves go in with some effort and aren't slanted once inserted correctly. The overall finish is near enough perfect because there are no gaps or defects nor is there any overlapping on the housing. This amp has a lot of heft to it, weighing in at 2.5kg, this thing is not at all light. The connectors are very important in an amp because poor connection or low quality connectors result in poor sonic performance. Little Dot understands this and they don't disappoint with this amp. The connectors and plugs are gold plated and are of a great quality because they aren't on an angle and the audio isn't affected. The audio comes through perfectly crisp and clean. I've also got to talk about the AC in which is great quality; it goes in smoothly with a satisfying 'click' into place. Once in place, it really needs some pulling to come out. On the bottom of the amplifier, you'll find 4 heavy duty rubber feet which prevent the amp from getting scratched or burning your desk! [This amplifier does get pretty hot in use]. Overall I am impressed by the build quality and build-wise it is as good as any £500 amp. I am going to have to give the build quality a 9.5/10 because of the volume knob. It isn't the smoothest and it just feels a bit cheap, nevertheless, a solid build quality on this amp. LITTLE DOT MK2 SCORE SO FAR: 19.5!...
Like most amplifiers on the market, even cheap ones, this amp comes inbuilt with a volume control and a power switch. The power switch is really convenient because sometimes I don't want to have to switch off my amp by the wall if I'm leaving it for 15 mins. It also placed in the right place, at the back of the amp, this is because sometimes I knock switches when they're at the front. No to mention that this amplifier can be used as a pre-amp: 3.5mm into PC and RCA's into input; RCA cable into out of the Little Dot and then into a power amp; plug headphones into the power amp and you should be good to go. This means that you can use this amp with a solid state, nice! If you have an expensive solid-state that adds amazing detail but you also want slight warmth, this is great. In addition [I know...this amp can do lots!] it has three gain switches, hidden, but it has them. Low, medium and high gain. Low gain being for IEMs and mid-high for lower sensitivity headphones or planars. I hate when I'm stuck with a really high gain when using IEMs, it spoils the experience because they get pushed too much, vice versa with my HD800. So that's nice that Little Dot included those, I just don't get why they don't make them easier to find! Now that I've talked about the gain switches, I guess it's time to move onto the power and driving capabilities of the headphone amplifier. FEATURES: 8/10. SO FAR THIS LITTLE DOT IS AT 27.5...
CAN THIS AMPLIFIER DRIVE MY....?
To cut a long story short, YES, it can drive your HE-4, HD800, LCD3, MDR-F1, HE-500, SBC HP-1000, TH-900 etc. I don't have all those cans but I am pretty certain that I can drive everything that uses a 1/8 or 1/4 jack because I have my H800 at 20/100 volume! I don't even think I listen to music that quiet either, just average, maybe 75dB. Not only will it power your cans, but give them a nice coloured sound that sounds much better than many other amps up to £250. Even if you have the notoriously hard to drive HE-4, put the amp on high gain and you should rock away just fine. I hope that info helped you out, don't worry about the low sensitivity of your headphones or if they're planar, this will power them with ease. Obviously a more expensive amp will do a better job though. POWER OF AMP: 7.5/10. SO FAR THIS LITTLE DOT IS AT 35...
THE REAL STUFF...THE SOUND QUALITY!!!
Obviously the sound signature of nearly all valve amps is more bass and rolled off treble, this does just that.
BASS- Now, my HD800 lacks a bit of punch in the mid-bass in my opinion, this helps it out amazingly. It lifts the bass up so that it is more prominent by about 3dB and warms it up. The lower frequencies are super lush and rich with nice kick and impact. The extension is also improved a bit and all the detail is kept, it's amazing how a good amp can really make headphones sound, well...perfect!
MIDS- Every ounce of clarity and resolution is kept while sounding more 'liquid'. Detailing is improved in vocals and they come to life and feel really really real. By the way, this is how it sounds with most of my headphones. I can't really explain the sound much to you because everyone has a different opinion on sound. Key words are: clean, clear, warm and lush.
TREBLE- Some headphones take treble just a bit to far, others are laid back in this department. While headphones with rolled off treble remain this way when using this amp, headphones that extend too high get rolled off just at the right time. This makes listening a lot more enjoyable after a while. Treble is super smooth with a nice sparkle up top while remaining detailed. The treble is just made warmer and a lot more lush, the sound just sounds fuller and richer.
SOUNDSTAGE: This varies with headphones. From HD800 to PM3, every headphones soundstage is slightly different. What I can tell you is that if your headphones already have a big soundstage, that remains and you just get better layering and realism. I can tell where each instrument is, I guess that the imaging of this amp is also really nice.
It's very hard to rate sound but I am going to put a figure of 9.5/10 on this amp [in the price range of £100-£250]. Great, great sound!!!! So that means that this amp will finish with a score of 44.5/50.
A great amp for someone on a budget who enjoys warm audiophile sound. If you like a cold sounding experience, then this is not for you. I just can't get over how well this amp performs in all categories. 44.5/50 is very good, it fell short in the power section because a few £250 amps can do more, but this still packs a punch. I call £100-£250 one price range, you may call in two different price ranges but I compared this amp to all in the range. 44.5/50 actually comes out at 5 stars, here are the thresholds:
43-50 5 STARS --------- 44.5 [JUST ABOUT 5 - if a figure is close to a threshold, I can award half stars but I feel that this product deserves a solid 5!]
35-42 4 STARS
26-34 3 STARS
20-25 2 STARS
13-19 1 STAR
13 AND UNDER - WHY IS THIS PRODUCT EVEN ON SALE?
Highly recommended, get it on Amazon.co.uk here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Little-Dot-MKII-Headphone-Amplifier/dp/B00A2QMAI2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1477689358&sr=8-2&keywords=little+dot
THANK YOU ALL FOR READING, I HOPE THAT YOU ENJOYED THIS QUICK REVIEW! Have yourselves a great day - Matthew