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Bada PH12 vis-a-vis Meixing MC66AE and Lehmann BC

post #1 of 529
Thread Starter 
The following is review of the Bada PH12.



The Bada Ph12 may be the best headphone amp you can buy, if you are looking for an amp that combines the best qualities of a solid state amp with the best qualities of a tube amp. Let me explain.

I used to listen to my Grado HP-2 and AKG 340 headphones though my David Hafler 110 pre-amp, a fine high end pre-amp that was designed also as a headphone amp. My Stax phones had their own amp, run through my speaker leads. I had many other headphones and earphones over time.

A few years ago, I added a Headroom Cosmic for portable use in my car, with the Etymotic 4S and iRiver IMP400 CD player. Nice clean sound.

Then I sold the Cosmic and added the Lehmann Black Cube linear – a great home solid state amp that really opened my ears, featuring Class A output stage (with no opamps and no global negative feedback in the output). The Cosmic's power supply, as a portable, could not match the superb power supply of the Lehmann, and it showed in the sound. I used the Lehmann in the car with an inverter. With the addition of the Eastsound E5 CD player, I had superb high end headphone sound with my Etymotic 4S, Sennheiser HD650 and later my Sony SA5000 headphones, powered by the Lehmann.

I love the solid state's definition, detail, neutrality, focused sound images fixed in space to where you could easily point to them, bass that is deep, tight, and well defined, and the dynamics with lightening fast transients and impactful crescendos. The Lehmann’s clean amplification delivered the goods through my headphones.

Only one problem – as with all solid state amps including the best Class A designs such as the Aleph (Pass labs) which I have listened to extensively. There is some leanness to the tone, a lack of body to the timbre that you can only fully capture with tubes. This can vary with particular amps but is inherent in transistor sound.

Then I was given a tube headphone amp by a dear friend visiting in Asia. This was a Meixing (Ming Da) MC66AE. It was a SET Class A design with three transformers corresponding to the three tubes. I fell in love again with tube sound. My tube experience goes all the way back to when I was a teenager with Dynaco 60 watt monoblocks on each channel and a Dynaco tube pre-amp. I grew up on tubes, audiologically speaking.

The tubed MC66AE gave me the full-bodied tones, lush liquidity, sheen and shimmer of treble, glow of second violins, etc. However, the bass was of rich tone but not so tight as with solid state. Also, some detail was smoothed over at times, and the transient attacks were slightly less impactful than solid state amps. I missed the Lehmann’s strong points when listening to the MC66AE but missed the tubed MC66AE’s lush richness when listening to the Lehmann.

I felt I could not bounce between them but did not know which one to sell. To tube or not to tube, that is the dilemma of many audiophiles. However, I also was thinking of getting another Lehmann with the UBS option. So I sold the Lehmann as it was the one that received the first buy offer.

At the same time a Chinese audiophile friend advised me of the new Bada PH12 and recommended it, saying it was better than the well-regarded Opera Consonance Cyber 20 and even better than the Ming Da MC66AE. I ordered some of the Bada PH12 with another E5 CD player and sold the MC66AE before the Badas arrived. I gave my son a Bada PH12 headphone amp and an E5 CD player, and kept two for myself.

I realized immediately that the Bada was something special – my Lehmann sound had returned but with something added - more body to tonal timbre – no more of the leanness typical of solid state.

I believe the Bada PH12 offers the best of solid state sound with the best of tube sound. It is a Single Ended, Class A, no negative feedback, and OTL (no transformer in the output to color the sound) design.

Now the OTL design offers the most natural sound but generally lacks the full dynamics of tube transformer-output and solid state amps. Some OTL headphone amps (Antique Sound Labs for example) come with a transformer output as well so you can restore dynamics by switching from OTL to OT output, then switch back for more natural sound. Yet the Bada has dynamics and transient impact, and deep well-defined bass, equal to the solid state amp. How can this OTL tube design do it?

The Bada is a lion in sheep’s clothing. It has the highly regarded Toshiba J200/K1529 Mosfets in the output stage. That is how it can combine the best solid state characteristics with the best of tube sound. Bada has been building hybrid designs for years and they know their stuff. This hybrid does as intended – no identity confusion in the sound. But the PH12 is high end all the way and has no resemblance to its much cheaper (but well regarded) one-tube hybrid cousin.

As configured with three Shugang 6N8P tubes, the Bada is closer to the neutral sound of the Lehmann than to the rich, lush liquidity of the MC66AE. It does have more timbral body than the Lehmann - a plus of its tubes. It has the best of both, though leaning more to the Lehmann sound with the tubes it comes with.

I then used some old Namking 6H8C tubes on hand – the 6H8C is a Russian number designation for the excellent 6NS7 - in place of the 6N8P tubes. This shifted the sound more toward the MC66AE – added some more smoothness, richness, liquidity, etc. Then I tried some Russian 6H8C tubes to give even more liquidity and richness than the Namking 6H8C tubes – a very seductive and enjoyable tube sound.

Which is best? The accurate and neutral reproduction of the signal afforded by the original 6N8P tubes supplied with the amp, or the enhancement of tone and seductive appeal of the 6NS7 (6H8C) tubes? I like both and much depends on the recording. The Sony SA5000 seemed better with the 6NS7 tubes while the Sennheiser HD650 may be better with the stock tubes.

I then got the Electro Harmonix Gold EH 6NS7 (with gold pins only – be sure before ordering as some sellers label it Gold as their own grade from testing and not EH’s grade) and see how they are. They were liquid and rich, used all around in the three positions. However, with the Electro Harmonix Gold 6NS67 tubes used only as the two output or driver tubes (in the two rear positions), with one Shugang 6N8P (original) in the single front (input or power) position, this gave me the most natural and realistic sound I have ever heard with my Sony SA5000 headphones and Eastsound E5 CD player, taking into acount the soundstage limitations of sound with any headphone. Who says CDs sound bad? They are great with this setup.

This combination of my favorite Sony SA5000 headphones, using one 6N8P (that comes with the Bada) as the front tube, then two Electro Harmonix Gold 6NS7 tubes in the rear as output tubes, gives more of a rich and full-bodied tube sound than you get by using all three 6N8P but more of a solid state sound than you get by using all three 6SN7 tubes. Plus the most natural instrument timbre I have ever heard. With this tube set up I get all the definition, detail, neutrality, focused sound images, bass that is deep, tight, and well defined, and the dynamics with lightening fast transients and impactful crescendos of the best solid state amps - but not solid state leanness of tone. I also get full bodied and naturally rich timbre of the best tube amps. I get the best of both worlds.

Variations of sound signatures are thus provided by using different brands of tubes, You can dial your own sound to match your other equipment. The Bada provides a platform that allows different tubes to voice their own thing in their own distinct manner, while enhancing and improving that voice by adding desirable solid state qualities. This is truly a remarkable achievement.

The Bada is encased in a beautiful and thick aluminum housing. It has a huge power transformer that is about 3 inches tall and 5 inches in diameter, used in the amp power stage but not in the output stage (no transformers and no opamps are used in the output stage). Top quality parts such as from Solen, and an Alps volume control, are used. It is hefty and weighs about 16 pounds. Power is sufficient to drive any headphone. When you turn it on, it slowly powers the unit over about 24 seconds before full power is reached, then it is ready to play. This greatly prolongs tube life. It is a new model in China, and available at present only in the 220 volt mode. I bought a quality converter rated at 200 Watts (the Bada draws 50 Watts so an 100 Watt converter would be fine). This very nice noiseless converter connects to the 110 volt wall outlet, and then the Bada PH12 plugs into the converter. I use the converter switch to turn the converter and the Bada on simultaneously, for one-switch convenience.

The sound is fantastically real with two EH Gold 6NS7 tubes in back and one Shugang 6N8P tube in front. I wonder if gets any better for someone who wants the best of solid state with the tube timbral body. Right now it can be auditioned in Gainesville, Florida and in Apopka, Florida (contact drarthurwells@hotmail.com).

Note - subsequent experience with tubes resulted in updated tube recommendations - see page 5.


High end equipment is labor-intensive and the Chinese have cheap and highly skilled labor. For years the Chinese made high end equipment for such producers as Mark Levinson. In the last 5 years, the Chinese have focused more on their own independent brands and are producing the highest quality products at low prices (as well as cheap products at extremely low prices). My experience with recent Chinese equipment has been extremely positive.

Freq response is 10HZ to 50000 Hz plus or minus 1/2 db - very flat.

Harmonic distortion is .6 %

Noise is - 95 db

Recommended headphone impedance: 30-600 Ohms
post #2 of 529
Thread Starter 
Several PMs to me about the price.

New item in China - I had to special order through orders@cattylink.com and since I got a total quote with the total order well over $2,000, and saved on combined shipping, I don't really know what I paid. My price (see my amps for sell ad) is what I think it would cost you to order one from China. My price includes a new-in-factory-sealed box 200 watt converter - a deluxe version that is noiseless. The Bada draws 50 watts so my coverter is much over-capacity. You have to buy this converter separately if you buy from cattylink, and I think my price meets or beats their price. I am not making any money on this amp - just trying to make some lucky person very happy.
post #3 of 529
Thread Starter 

Tubes with the BADA PH12

Several PMs about tube use with the Bada PH12.

The unit is supplied either with the Shugang 6N8P tubes or with Russian 6H8C. Both are fine.

I got mine with the Shugang 6N8P tubes. I had some old Namking 6H8C tubes also.

All of these tubes are the 6NS7 type. I know the numbers are different but they are all 6NS7 tubes.

When I use the Shugang 6N8P tubes it came with, I get great solid state like sound with some more tone body and timbral richness - just a tad more than you would get from the most expensive solid state amps.

My Sony S5000 loved the use of two of my Namking 6H8C as output tubes in the rear while keeping one of the Shugang 6N8P tubes up front as an input tube. I get a sound that has the most natural timbre I have ever heard to that point, and still get the great solid state sound characteristics I love. If I use all three Namking 6H8C tubes in all three positions I get a richer sound with more liquidity, sweet and lush, but somewhat unnaturally so - a sound the true tube lover loves though.

Now this assumes you use a well recorded CD with a quality high end CD player.

I later used the Electro Harmonix Gold (with gold pins) 6NS7, balanced within each tube and matched between tubes. This gave me slightly more improvement over the Namking 6H8C (6NS7 types).
post #4 of 529
An actual price might be good.

I'm sure that if you email Snowy he will give you one.
post #5 of 529
nevermind
post #6 of 529
Sounds quite interesting, Doc. I'd like to put my RKV up against it, when I finish installing some upgrades. Gonna be awhile before I'm done - Katrina did a number on the family resources.

I can drive down one weekend if/when we decide to do a comparison. 360 miles is no biggie for my hoo ride.

Fwiw, I'd recommend a pot upgrade in that thing. The ALPS is decent, but easily improved upon. Even a cheapie prebuilt series Elma for $60 from eBay would be a nice upgrade. I'll be installing a primo ladder in the RKV, which will make a big difference over the somewhat worn ALPS blue it has now.

If possible, would you mind posting pics of the inside of your BADA sometime? I'm sure a number of folks would like to see whats under the hood.

Cheers!
Dan
post #7 of 529
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blorton
Sounds quite interesting, Doc. I'd like to put my RKV up against it, when I finish installing some upgrades. Gonna be awhile before I'm done - Katrina did a number on the family resources.

I can drive down one weekend if/when we decide to do a comparison. 360 miles is no biggie for my hoo ride.

Fwiw, I'd recommend a pot upgrade in that thing. The ALPS is decent, but easily improved upon. Even a cheapie prebuilt series Elma for $60 from eBay would be a nice upgrade. I'll be installing a primo ladder in the RKV, which will make a big difference over the somewhat worn ALPS blue it has now.

If possible, would you mind posting pics of the inside of your BADA sometime? I'm sure a number of folks would like to see whats under the hood.

Cheers!
Dan
My son in Apopka, Fl. took the pics - I have no digital camera. I will see about a inside shot.

Let me know when you can come - bring your amp and headphones and some CDs. Appreciate your input into upgrades.

I was just in Atlanta recently. Won't go there for a long time, if ever.

post #8 of 529
Quote:
Originally Posted by drarthurwells

I was just in Atlanta recently. Won't go there for a long time, if ever.
[/IMG]
Even if we have another GA meet?
post #9 of 529
I'm not a fan of the Cosmic, and unfortunately, I have not heard the other amps you reference in your review. Have you listened to other amps that would give us a frame of reference? I think Ray Samuels' entire line is a good reference, if only because so many of us are familar with them, as well as the Gilmore amps.

Best regards,

-Jason
post #10 of 529
I am not an expert on amp circuit design, but Chinese happens to be my native language. Here is a link to BADA PH-12: http://www.badahi-fi.com/detail.asp?...3&proid=100163

From what I read, it is a typical hybrid amplifier (though it may sound atypical). The headphone is completly driven by some type of FET transistor.

Let me do a direct translation (in quotes, and hence improper grammar and phrases):

"tube input; tube amplify; tube driving; field effect transistor power amplification"

"This machine from input to voltage amplification and current driving all uses electron tubes, power amplification uses voltage-controlled high-power field effect transistor."

To me that reads like the output device is just FET. The headphone is directly and solely driven by the FET. I have never seen any amp driving headphones using current from both a tube and a transistor simultaneously. Power amplification in this Bada amp, as read from the BADA website, is solely performed by FET. But Drarthurwells seems to disagree? It has single-ended (hence naturally class A) transistor output, but not SET (single-ended triode) as Drarthurwells mentioned elsewhere. Triode, if I understand correctly, always refers to a vaccum tube (some tubes can be witred as pseudo-triodes as well). BADA website does not mention of tubes as power amplification devices in PH-12, the device that actually feeds headphones current. That's my understanding anyway, and I welcome any correction.
post #11 of 529
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ferbose
Let me do a direct translation (in quotes, and hence improper grammar and phrases):

"tube input; tube amplify; tube driving; field effect transistor power amplification"

"This machine from input to voltage amplification and current driving all uses electron tubes, power amplification uses voltage-controlled high-power field effect transistor."

To me that reads like the output device is just FET. The headphone is directly and solely driven by the FET.
These quotes of yours 'tube input; tube amplify; tube driving; field effect transistor power amplification' indicate to me that the three triod tubes of the Bada PH12 are very much involved in the sound output. This is confirmed by significant changes in sound quality that result from tube changes in the three tubes. You can effect more of a tube sound or more of a transistor sound by making such changes - dial your sound. How can this be if, as you say, "...the output device is just FET."? The three tubes are very much involved in sound quality, and thus in amplification, it would seem. The FETs are used in gain amplification.

Comments?
post #12 of 529
Quote:
Originally Posted by drarthurwells
These quotes of yours 'tube input; tube amplify; tube driving; field effect transistor power amplification' indicate to me that the three triod tubes of the Bada PH12 are very much involved in the sound output. This is confirmed by significant changes in sound quality that result from tube changes in the three tubes. You can effect more of a tube sound or more of a transistor sound by making such changes - dial your sound. How can this be if, as you say, "...the output device is just FET."? The three tubes are very much involved in sound quality, and thus in amplification, it would seem. The FETs are used in gain amplification.

Comments?
Art, the amp has an input stage =tube, a voltage gain stage r/l = tube and an output stage r/l= transistor.

Therefore the tubes handle input and voltage gain to drive the solid state output stage. ferbose is correct.

Tubes excell at voltage delivery while solid state excells at current delivery... which is the whole theory behind combining these two different amplification devices.

The highest amplification factor usually occurs at the votage gain stage.... thats why the tubes can signifigantly impact the sound.
post #13 of 529
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sacd lover
Art, the amp has an input stage =tube, a voltage gain stage r/l = tube and an output stage r/l= transistor.

Therefore the tubes handle input and voltage gain to drive the solid state output stage. ferbose is correct.

Tubes excell at voltage delivery while solid state excells at current delivery... which is the whole theory behind combining these two different amplification devices.

The highest amplification factor usually occurs at the votage gain stage.... thats why the tubes can signifigantly impact the sound.
Art: Thanks for the clarification.

I use a tube preamp with a solid state amp in my speaker system and it works great. I get the detail, imaging, transients, and dynamics of solid state with the full but natural timbral body of tube sound - all in one.

I get the same sound characteristics from the Bada with the tube complement recommended in my review, and love it also.

Those who like solid state will prefer the Lehmann, which I love also, and those who like tube sound will like one among the many available tube amps(Ming Da MC66AE that I used and like for a low cost amp, or Cayin HA-1A that Ferbose reviewed that cost close to the Bada PH12 but still inexpensive for what you get).
post #14 of 529

Clarification

Quoted from this htread: http://www6.head-fi.org/forums/showt...=138581&page=2

Quote:
Originally Posted by drarthurwells
Not sure how you can say the Bada PH12 is not a SET.

The Bada uses three triod tubes - one input and two output - like other SET amps.

Not sure how you can say the Bada PH12 is not a SET.

The Bada chief sound engineer, who I consulted through a Chinese friend says it is a SET amp with no global feedback in Class A and OTL design.
People who use dumbed-down translation programs be aware.
In China, they call vaccum tubes: "bile tube."
Vaccum tubes are often referred to as "bile."
For transistors they call it tube as well, don't ask me why?
In Taiwan, which uses the Mandarin language just like China, transistors are called "electronic crystal body." (translatin literally)
If you plug the BADA webpage into a translator program you may think it uses "xxxx tube" for power amplification. Actually if you can read Chinese it is a field-effect transistor, which they call filed-effect tube in China.
Calling the BADA a SET amp would be a huge mistake. Only amps that use triodes in single-ended topology for POWER AMPLIFICATION can be called SET.
The BADA is class A because transistors can run in class A. It is OTL because transistor amps don't need output transformers. It uses triodes for initial stages of amplfication, but not for the final stage of power amplification. Input tubes, driver tubes and voltage amplification tubes almost always operate in class A, and this has nothing to do with class A SET topology. The BADA PH12 is not an SET amp.
post #15 of 529
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ferbose
Quoted from this htread: http://www6.head-fi.org/forums/showt...=138581&page=2


If you plug the BADA webpage into a translator program you may think it uses "xxxx tube" for power amplification. Actually if you can read Chinese it is a field-effect transistor, which they call filed-effect tube in China.
Calling the BADA a SET amp would be a huge mistake. Only amps that use triodes in single-ended topology for POWER AMPLIFICATION can be called SET.
The BADA is class A because transistors can run in class A. It is OTL because transistor amps don't need output transformers. It uses triodes for initial stages of amplfication, but not for the final stage of power amplification. Input tubes, driver tubes and voltage amplification tubes almost always operate in class A, and this has nothing to do with class A SET topology. The BADA PH12 is not an SET amp.
Art: Thanks for your input.

My Chinese audiophile friend, who recommended the Bad a PH12 to me over the Opera Consonance Cyber 20 which I had been considering, confirmed again what the Bada chief designer originally said about the Bada PH12:

"PH-12 EMPLOYS NO GLOBAL NEGATIVE FEEDBACK AND IS IN SINGLE-ENDED CLASS A, HIGH POWER DESIGN, THE CAPACITY OF CAPS IS NEARLY EQUAL TO A MINI AMPLIFIER. THE MUSIC CHARACTERS OF PH-12 IS A GOOD MIDRANGE COUPLED WITH GOOD HIGH AND LOW EXTENSION - WITH WELL BALANCED FULL RANGE AND WIDE SOUNDSTAGE. IF COMPARED WITH THE FAMOUS OPERA CONSONANCE CYBER 20, PH-12 OFFERS BETTER EXTENSION AND SOUND STAGE, OVERALL FEELINGS OF BALANCE IS NOTED IN PH-12. SINCE CYBER 20 IS USING TRANSFORMER OUTPUT AND SO THE SOUND IS DEPENDED ON THE TRANSFORMER QUALITY - IT IS THUS NOTED THAT THE HIGH AND LOW EXTENSION IS A BIT RESTRICTED AS WELL AS THE SOUND STAGE IN THE 20."
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