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Head-Fi.org › Head Gear › Headphone Amplifiers › Desktop Amps › Project Starlight tube headphone amp

Project Starlight tube headphone amp


Pros: Price, limitless options, quality, Black background

Cons: TLC Required!

Garage 1217 Project Starlight


I'd like to start by thanking Jeremy Helms of Garage 1217 for extending this demo unit to me! He was kind enough to even include a few extra tubes for me to roll.





So right off the bat, let's talk about my first and only con! This amp requires some tender, love and care! Unlike other products this is not a plug and play device, rather you will need to roll tubes, tinker with the output settings and maintain a very clean space for this amp! You'll need to manually adjust the bias, with each tube roll and ensure that your very clean and tidy with the space around it. I usually my work station, every other day. With other amps I may let a week slide by, how ever given the open design of the Starlight, you'll need to keep your station extra tidy! 


Build [5/5]


Sporting a solid Aluminum base and top with and open chassis, the Starlight has nothing to hide. It features solid metal screws up top to hold the upper plate to the lower one. The volume pot is sensitive and offers a smooth action when changing the volume, in addition to the solid 6.5mm headphone out.  I don’t experience any noise when changing the volume or removing my headphones from the amp. All in all, despite the open chassis, the Starlight is extremely well built, meticulously assembled and rugged.







Hybrid Tube Amp

OpAmp Output Auad LM4562

Stock Tube is 12UA7 JJ ECC 82

Frequency Response 15- 80, -0.5db, 4-230kHz -3db

Maximum Power 64Ohms: 625 mW RMS per Channel

Maximum Power 600 Ohms: 75mW RMS per Channel

THD <.015% [Depending on Tube, in most cases better]  

SNR >93db

OutPut Resistance is Adjustable [2.5, 34, 72ohm]

Gain ~ 20db (depending on the tube)

Power Consumption 7.2W Peak

Size 5.75L x 5W x 2.75H



Utility [Inputs, Outputs, Features ect…] (4.8/5)


The Starlight has a limitless amount of customization, accepting both 12v and 6v tubes. You can also roll different Opamps into the amp. It also offers 3 different output resistance settings.


The wide range of both tube and opamp combinations give the user an almost limitless variety of sounds. For the purposes of this review I’ll be sticking with the stock tube. My only issue with the amp however, is the lack out RCA outputs.


Now, while Garage 1217 flagship Ember II has Auto Bias, the starlight… does not. With that regard, it can be a little finicky when it comes to adjusting the bias, anytime your swap a tube you’ll need to adjust it. Additionally you may want to just check it every few days as well. For me part of the fun is tinkering around with my Jewelers screw drivers, though for others… they may just find it tedious. 




Price to Performance : [4/5]

[$189-$229 Assembled ] [$159-199 DIY]


          The price is dependent on your choice of base plates; I have the Aluminum plates on my build.  For those of you, able to assemble the DIY kit, the price is even lower! With an almost limitless amount of customization, the Starlight is well worth the price! The only downside to the Starlight though, is it’s inability to drive higher impedance headphones or older less, efficient Orthos.  Meaning, it’s going to perform its best within the 16-300 impedance range of dynamic headphones.


Now, if you’re looking to power a high impedance headphone or a low efficiency ortho, the Project Ember II would be the way to go! 




          FooBar 2000k KS: Audio GD NFB10ES2 Line out Project Starlight

I used the stock tube for this review.


Sound [5/5]


          Sound Signature- The Starlight has a very clean sound, with a very black background an excellent left/right/center channel separation. I found it very enjoyable for gaming, movies and music listening. For me it brought a touch of tube warmth, without a huge loss of sound stage or 3D layering.


Though that sound signature can change drastically, depending on the opamps and tube you’re using.


Tubes (Click to show)


For example, I swapped in a 6H6N Tube, no idea what brand it is? Or was? Or anything, it was included in my demo set! Either way it sounds REALLY great, it… was very intimate… a little boxy but overall added a very heavy weight to the sound as a whole, without giving me to much decay or a softer upper mid range! Very enjoyable! It offered a nice change in how the amp sounded and gave me an idea of how much the tube in this amp, can change the sound!




Swapping back to the stock JJ ECC 82… I found I gained my sound stage depth back, at the expense of some intimacy and weight.


For me the Starlight is the perfect shell into which a tube should exist! As a hybrid I think it's fantastic! With the right tubes, it'll make the output of my Balanced NFB10ES2, hence forth for a very specific break down of the amps sound, you'll need to really break down the tube being used within it. 


Closing Thoughts

I highly recommend the Garage 1217 Starlight to anyone looking for an amp to complement any low impedance dynamic headphones; my LA D5k, Senn Grado and Allesandro MS1i are very enjoyable out of the Starlight!


As a matter of fact, I prefer almost all of my older Jazz recordings with the Starlight as opposed to the NFB10ES2s balanced out! So much so that I not only purchased the amp, but went and amassed a small collection of tubes! 

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Project Starlight tube headphone amp

You are looking at the birth of a super affordable legend! This is the Project Starlight amplifier. Starlight is a Tube / Opamp hybrid capable of rolling opamps as well as 6 & 12V dual triode tubes. Stock output stage features quad 4562's and she sings like an angel. She has variable output resistance like her bigger brothers and a fully dedicated tube heater power supply. Many features are brought over from the loved Sunrise II and Horizon amplifiers. We also upgraded the PCB's on production units as well as re-designed the chassis. Starlight really holds her own now in all aspects! Both the kit and built amplifier will include a chassis, power supply, all parts + PCB and tube. Everything you need. Project Starlight was designed by headphone enthusiasts Jeremy H (based in the USA) and Frans G (Based in the Netherlands). Our goal with Starlight was to produce the best bang for the buck we could yet still maintain our high quality parts standards and outstanding sound quality and WOW did we hit the mark! Project Starlight will let you roll a LARGE selection of 6 & 12V tubes and will power them properly with a dedicated heater power supply. Some other features like selectable output impedance and super easy bias adjustment are things other manufacturers just do not offer. We cannot wait for the audio community to get its hands on this little gem. Enjoy! Features of Starlight: -Easy Set bias via LED indicators. No need to use a multimeter anymore when rolling tubes! Access from the side of the amp, no removal of top cover -Easy access to bias trimmers. You can use a jewelers screwdriver to dial in the bias through the top cover, no need to remove the cover to set -Access to the 6/12V jumper through the top cover, no need to remove the top -Output impedance selection can be set from the top of the amp -Revised protection circuit protects your headphones and audio gear -Revised circuitry overall -Ability to run a pair (one per channel) or quad opamps for increased output While Project Starlight shares some cost saving measures, This amp has it where it counts! This amp is open, dynamic and plays with authority. In short, this is not a cheap toy with counterfeit parts on a cheap PCB. This is a beautifully designed & engineered amp you can truly own and enjoy for a lifetime. More info on Project Starlight: -Designed in the U.S. & Netherlands. Kitted or Built in the U.S. depending on how you order / 2 YEAR WARRANTY ON G1217 BUILT AMPS! -All parts sourced in the U.S. From reputable distributors, NO FAKE COUNTERFEIT PARTS, CAPACITORS OR RESISTORS! -Only top quality components used, such as Bourns pro audio potentiometer, Bourns trimmers, Low noise Vishay/Dale RN, CMF and CPF 1% resistors, Nichicon Roederstein -capacitors, LM4562 opamps, Neutric phono jack. Ruggedized PCB RCA jacks, Rugged 5a power switch ETC… -Beautiful piano gloss black .096 thick double sided, PCB with top and bottom ground planes. Will not bend or flex while inserting a tube! -Turn on / off protection for your headphones and audio gear -Supports a wide range of 6V or 12V tubes with voltage selection -Built in test points to easily and quickly dial in bias or dial in bias via the Easy Set LED indicators! -Fused with reverse polarity protection -Chassis is beautifully laser cut and serialized. -Chassis hardware features all stainless steel allen bolts, washers and nuts. Stand-offs are aluminum -Each factory built amplifier is meticulously hand built and tested prior to shipping. Solder work is outstanding and clean with no flux or fingerprints left on the board. Pride in workmanship is evident from every angle of this amp. What you see in photos is the quality of build you will get! For Advanced Tuners: -Input capacitor section is drilled for multiple capacitor footprints. 2, 2.5, 3.5, 5 or 7.5mm spacing available -Output capacitor section is drilled for 7.5mm -Power supply capacitor section is drilled for 7.5mm -Variable output resistance, selectable from 2.5 to 70ohm Actual Project Starlight measurements: -Opamp output stage / quad LM4562 -Power consumption: 7.2W peak. -Power supply: 24VDC (0.3A peak) -Input Resistance: 21k -Input Sensitivity (6N23): 270mV (dependent on tube) -Gain: 20dB (dependent on tube) Changed from the original higher 26dB specification -Max Output voltage (no load): 7Vrms at 120ohm -Output Resistance: Selectable 2.5, 70 -Frequency Response: 15Hz – 80 KHz (-0.5dB) with 32ohm load -Frequency Response: 4Hz – 230 KHz (-3dB) with 32ohm load -Signal to Noise ratio: 91dBA (dependent on tube) -Crosstalk: -87dB (dependent on tube) -THD: > 0.015% (dependent on tube) -Suitable for: 16-300ohm Headphones

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