Pros: Power, Value, Tubes, Great sound
Cons: Some noise at times
Little Dot MK II
The Little Dot MK2 is and oldie but goodie, having been around since 2008. The MK2 is a testament of a solid, affordable tube amp. The tube selection, gain choices, and overall quality have stood the test of time, and it is well past time I’ve tried a pure, non hybrid tube amp in my music chain.
I’d like to thank George at Gearbest for providing me the MK2 for review. The MK2 price at Gearbest is one of the best on the net right now.
**NOTE** I was provided a 220v version of the MK2, as the 110v was not available during the review. If you are in the US or a country that uses 110v, it is strongly recommended to order the 110v and not run the 220v off of a voltage converter like I did (although it does work just fine this way).
About Me (Click to show)
I’m a price/performance value shopper in everything I purchase. I spend an extensive amount of time researching purchases and always look for a good value.
I have also spent many years as an A/V and music enthusiast. I have owned some high end audio equipment, from amps, speakers, subs, to just about anything audio related you can think of. I eventually moved on into building my own DIY custom speakers, as I felt the value and performance of most commercial speakers were lacking. I found out through this process that you could create high end setups from equipment costing thousands less than most branded commercial setups.
Since I cannot play music at 100+ decibels all day and night in an apartment complex, I started looking for similar values in the Headphone/Earphone/IEM world. In a Beats dominated setting, I was very disappointed.
I then found out about some excellent headphones/IEMs at great prices being made by Asian companies that are not known of here in the US. It renewed my interest in headphones and became the basis of the Asian audio thread.
My love of quality audio continues to this day, and I enjoy sharing my opinion of the gear I listen to. I have been guided toward purchasing some life altering, fantastic gear from great reviewers, and I feel if I can guide someone in the same way in which they truly appreciate what they have found, I’ve done what I wanted to accomplish.
- Input: Gold-Plated Unbalanced Phono (RCA) Jacks
- Output: 1/4" Gold-Plated Stereo Headphone out, Gold-Planted RCA pre-amplifier out
- Driver Tubes: 6JI
- Power Tubes: 6N6
- A newly designed SEPP (single-ended push-pull) circuit, which improves the output dynamic range
- and sound quality far better than the old LD II++, which used a cathode, output circuit.
- High quality ALPS-16 Potentiometer provides far better tracking between channels, which
- translates into more precise sound imaging.
- Upgraded circuit components include high quality NICHICON and German WIMA/ERO capacitors.
- Improved Pre-amp functionality
- Includes transient voltage suppression diode to shunt off voltage spikes.
- Frequency Response:
- 20HZ - 50KHz (-1 dB)
- THD+N: 0.1% (50mW into 300 ohms)
- Suitable Headphone Impedance: 32 - 600 ohms
- Input Impedance: 50K ohms
- Pre-Amplifier output impedance: 600 ohms
- Pre-Amplifier Gain: 3-10x (also controlled via gain switches)
- Pre-Amplifier Voltage: 10V RMS
- Pre-Amplification circuit includes both driver and power tubes
- Power Output:
- 300mW @ 300/600 ohms
- 200mW @ 120 ohms
- 100mW @ 32 ohms
- Power Consumption: 28W (228V * 0.124A)
- Metric: 210mm (L) by 110mm (W) by 130mm (H)
- English: 8.26 inches (L) by 4.33 inches (W) by 5.18 inches (H)
- Weight: 2.5 kg or 5.5 lbs
Tube and Gain Selection
6N6/6H6P power tubes
4 Gain settings- default setting best for iems.
Shiny, simplistic, effective. The black gloss matches my black tempered glass desk perfectly. The tubes are easy to install and remove (try not to touch them much), and the RCA inputs were easy enough to see during installation.
I wish I could easily get to the gain switch and jumpers without needing to remove screws and the housing. That's the one knock I have against the design and the MK II in general.
LH Labs Pulse X Infinity 2.0
Music used for testing
Gojira – Magma
Tiesto – Discography
Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts
Megadeth – Dystopia
Lamb of God – Discography
Blink 182 – California
Nonpoint – The Poison Red
Stone Temple Pilots – Core 24bit/96kHz FLAC
Tech N9NE, YG, Drake, Wu-Tang Clan
Like most tube amps, the MK2 adds a touch of warmth to the music over what a solid state amp would provide. This both can elevate and hurt the sound depending on the earphone/headphone used. There are also noticeable differences switching between the different gains, in which each earphone/headphone also responds differently. This is just with the stock tubes as well. Tube rolling would bring a whole new plethora of sounds. Stock tubes will only be used for testing.
The most noticeable addition is the enhancement of “presence” in the music. Compared to the single ended headphone output of my Infinity (which is no slouch), there is an extra analog thickness added to the music. Purists may prefer more analytic Solid State amping, but the MK2 was very enjoyable as the amp to use out of the Infinity. Some iems that seemed cold from the stock amp (Qingyin-20 hybrid) came alive via the MK2. This is via the stock tubes, which many deem neutral. A tiny bit of detail seemed to be lost via the tubes compared to the Infinity amp, but the sound was smoother.
Since the MK2 has been around awhile, I’d suggest researching tube rolling results to get an idea of what kind of sound you would like. You could end up spending far more on rare tubes that what the MK2 costs.
Another big pro of the MK2 is the power it has available. I had no trouble powering everything in my collection. Aside from the most power hungry planar headphones, the MK2 can handle just about anything you can throw at it, which is quite a feat for the price.
There weren’t many large differences in soundstage, imaging, and resolution via my amps and the stock tubes. I believe the headphones/iems are far more important in that than the amp. A good amp will allow these to be heard as intended. These results can vary wildly between sources and tubes, so YMMV.
This is my first true tube amp (outside of my Laney Cub 12R guitar amp), so I can only compare it against some hybrid tube amps.
Compared to the Aune T1 and Bravo Ocean (both nice little amps), the MK2 has more power on tap, along with a warmer, livelier, and more engaging sound. You can tell the difference between the pure tube and hybrid sound/setup. Unfortunately, I could not use my extensive tube collection that worked in the T1, as the tube families are incompatible.
There is a reason the Little Dot series has been around for a long time and beloved by many. With the extensive tube rolling options available, multiple gain modes, quality internals, strong amplification, and great sound quality, the MK2 would make an excellent entry into Tube Amps. It’s an entry I should have made a long time ago, and now with the discounted pricing found at Gearbest, it’s an affordable entry as well.
You can purchase the Little Dot MK2 from Gearbest here: