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REVIEW: Yarland P100 tube headphone amp (pics)

post #1 of 204
Thread Starter 
Original review:

When you first unbox it, it is sure impressive to LOOK at. There is NO WAY this thing looks like it can cost $350. It must weigh 20 pounds, and its faceplate is 3/4" SOLID WOOD. IMO it is DROP DEAD GORGEOUS.

The inside is a little less impressive, but OK:

There is a 300 ohm output and a 32 ohm output on the front. I found the 300 ohm output quieter with every headphone I used, including my 80 ohm Darth Beyers, and so I mostly used it. The Yarland has PLENTY of gain – way more than I can ever use. Drives my 600 Ohm DT880’s just fine.

The tube complement is 2x EL84/6BQ5, 2x 6NP3. The stock Chinese tubes sound OK, but really they are the limiting factor of this amp as delivered. I personally would not recommend the amp with the stock tubes. Changing the tubes is harder than on an amp like a Singlepower or an ASL, since with the Yarland you have to remove the entire cover, but you will be rewarded with MUCH better sound. I bought some Electro-Harmonix EL84’s and some Russian 6NP3’s, and they sounded FAR better than the Chinese tubes, which were noisier, less rich sounding, and had a sort of odd coloration to the treble which I found really unpleasant after a while. But I suspected that was tube related, and I was right. Worse still, the amp hummed in one channel with the stock tubes . So, if you don’t want to tube roll, I’d say go another direction.

I ended up putting in NOS JAN/GE 5670’s for the driver tubes, and kept the EH EL84’s. In this combination, the Yarland is a TERRIFIC sounding amp. It’s definitely the tube complement I recommend, and all the rest of my comments refer to the amp with those tubes.

The Yarland has a classic tube amp richness in the midband, but the midrange is nicely detailed, and still seems pretty transparent. It’s a highly enjoyable midrange presentation, and is the amp’s main strength. Female vocals are just wonderful through the Yarland – they sound terrific. As I type this I am listening to Laura Veirs’ new album, and her vocals sound terrific, as did the other female vocals I tried. Strings also sound exceptionally natural and very “live”.

The bass is the biggest weakness. It’s not bad, and does not detract from the overall enjoyment, but in absolute terms it’s not stellar bass performance. The bass is full enough, but it just cannot compete with good solid-state amps in terms of depth or tightness. Still, it’s rich enough to make the sound weighty, and so it doesn’t really create a huge issue. But if you like an iron-fisted control on bass, look elsewhere. My ASL MG Head OTL mk III is better in this regard.

The treble is smooth, and reasonably transparent, but not very extended. Again, it’s a “sin of omission”, so it doesn’t really take away that much from the listening experience, but it could be a little airier. Still, the overall presentation is quite nice, and the treble is NEVER fatiguing, nor does it lack detail.

Compared to my ASL amp (with all EH tubes)I prefer the ASL, but not by much. The ASL amp is a little more transparent, has both slightly deeper bass and more extended treble. It’s not quite as warm in the mids as the Yarland, however. The Yarland has the lusher midrange, and this will appeal strongly to some people, and periodically did to me as well. And the Yarland isn’t far off of the performance of the ASL, but I preferred the ASL most of the time.

Compared to the Singlepower PPX3 (non-slam, RCA cleartop tubes), I preferred the PPX3 to the Yarland, but not by all that much, especially considering the PPX3 is twice the price. The Yarland is in between the ASL and the PPX3 in terms of midrange lushness. The PPX3 is almost gooey. But the PPX3 had slightly better bass performance, and slightly better treble extension. Still, the Yarland is the better bargain.

I liked the Yarland a LOT with my Denon D5000’s – this was a great match. There was good synergy there, and in fact the Yarland in some ways was my favorite amp to use with the Denons. All of my Beyer headphones sounded great with the Yarland as well. The Yarland was less good with the AKG K340’s, though. I felt there the lack of energy at the frequency extremes made the K340’s not a good match.

So, I said the Yarland P100 is a terrific sounding amp, and it is. It isn’t perfect, of course, but it sounds better than it has a right to for $350, and I can definitely recommend it, with the caveat that you will need to tube roll to get it to really sound good. But with good tubes, it delivers a LOT of high end sound for not a lot of money.


UPDATE: 4/17/09 – new version of P100 tested!

Sound & Vision (STO Sound & Vision) was nice enough to loan me a review sample of the new version of the P100. Right out of the box you can tell this is a refined model – it looks much nicer than the original, which I found to be quite beautiful in and of itself. The new one has a gloss black chassis finish, and the wood front panel is also now gloss finished. The whole thing looks very nice. The internals are improved as well – see pics:

But none of that matters if it doesn’t sound good! Unfortunately, I do not have the original Yarland around anymore, making a direct comparison impossible. But I did spend a long time listening to the new Yarland, and it is a FINE sounding amplifier.

I listened to the P100 largely with my Beyer trio – 600 ohm DT770, 880, and 990. I also tested the P100 with the Kenwood K1000 and the JVC DX1000.

The Yarland P100 now sells for $495 - $145 more than the first version. Aside from the looks, and build quality, the new version is has other obvious improvements:

1.My original P100 hummed a little with ANY tubes and any headphones. The new P100 was completely hum-free (NOTE: there is some hum when the source component is turned off – don’t let that alarm you – it’s not there when the source is on).

2.Bass performance, a weakness of the original Yarland, was MUCH better. Bass was punchy, tight, and reasonably full. There was a little less bass than I am used to, but this was just a very slight shading, and I’m sure using different tubes could probably change that (my review was done exclusively with NOS Sylvania tubes - grey-plate 6BQ5’s and black-plate 2C51’s).

3.Treble was slightly more extended than I recall with the original. In any case, it was certainly not an issue. The treble was silky, sweet, and airy.

The overall performance, as before, was very good. Mids were sumptuous – perhaps just a touch forward. The soundstage was very, very good – depth was excellent, and width was good as well. Listening to “Voodoo” by Godsmack, the depth that is infused into that track is very much in evidence. The striking of the percussion is outstandingly reproduced – transients are clean, and decay is clean, and detailed.

The DT880’s sounds especially good with the Yarland. Never too bright or too flat, this was a very synergistic pairing. The harmony vocal on the third verse of “Death Whispered a Lullaby” from Opeth’s “Damnation” was beautifully rendered, and the two vocal lines were well delineated.

The new Yarland is actually remarkably neutral sounding. I was immediately aware of the sonic attributes of the headphone I was using at the time. The Yarland didn’t seem to flavor the headphone much at all, instead letting each come though as one would expect.

I had no trouble with my 70 ohm DX1000’s, or even the 40 ohm Kenwood, with the P100 either. There was more hiss audible with low impedance cans using the 32 ohm output, but only at a rotation of the volume control that would never be used. I’m not sure how it fair with the really punishingly low impedance Denon or Grado headphones, but headphones in the 60-80 ohm area were no problem (and of course higher impedance headphones were all the better).

The $500 price point for tube headphone amps is VERY crowded. AudioTailor Jade, WooAudio WA3, Darkvoice 336SE, Ming-Da MC84-07C, Little Dot Mk IV – this is just to name a few. All of them are in fact very good, which is nice, and all have a little different flavor (I have never heard the LD but have auditioned all the rest). And in fact, those are all LESS expensive than the new Yarland. So the competition for the Yarland is a little stiff.

Nonetheless, the P100 is a very good headphone amp. As pretty as it is to look at, I confess I like to actually SEE the tubes in my tube amps. But for some, the more normal component-style chassis of the Yarland will be a blessing (just make sure not to stack anything on top of the P100 so the ventilation holes do their job). It sounds terrific, though, and offers an exciting, engaging sound. For those who want a (very) slightly forward sounding tube amp, and who like the beautiful but component-style looks, the Yarland is an easy amp to recommend.
post #2 of 204
How many hours are on the amp? I would imagine if not many that the highs and lows should improve with time. Also the EL84's can change this quite a bit. Some good Mullards from the late 50's are about the best, imo. There are some nice early RCA's that aren't too bad of a price but there are many more that can perform very well.
post #3 of 204
Thread Starter 
On the amp overall about 300 hours, about the same on the EL84's, and about 100 hours on the 5670's. Things don't seemed to have changed much lately. Possible it could get evern better.

Remember, I liked the Yarland! In fact, I am keeping it, which I certainly don't with every amp I buy

By the way I bought mine from Sound&Vision, http://www.tsto.com/cgi-bin/tsto.storefront, who appears to stock them.
post #4 of 204
Great. You must try some good nos EL84's. IMO there is a world of difference.
post #5 of 204
Based on the internal shots, the Doge 6210 should whip it. You need the GE 6BQ5 btw. Those are the best EL84s I've used.
post #6 of 204
I guess Yarland' place amongst the better deals from the Far East (Doge, Bada, Darkvoice, Opera Consonance etc) is now official.
Nice review Skylab, as always!
post #7 of 204
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by cotdt View Post
Based on the internal shots, the Doge 6210 should whip it. You need the GE 6BQ5 btw. Those are the best EL84s I've used.
I will try to score some GE 6BQ5's. I have no doubt they are good. The GE 5670's were sure a big step up from the Russian Military 6N3P's, although I do like Electro-Harmonix tubes in general, and I like their EL84's very much.
post #8 of 204
Great review Skylab I knew there was was something speacial about this amp as it's my first tube amp.Like you I've found that changing the junk stock tubes is paramount in the Yarland's performance.Both of us each have the GE 5670's which work great but you also have the option of buying any 2C51 or 396A tubes which can be found cheap.I've also done some tube rolling with some EL84/6BQ5's and found the RCA grey glass 6BQ5 to work the best.Thanks again.
post #9 of 204
Nice work Skylab. Your reviews are very informative. I'm thinking of trying one of these. Curious, after another month since your last post in May, did the bass response improve further?
post #10 of 204
Thread Starter 
Thanks! The amp really hasn't changed since the review - I had already had it several months. I have some other tubes to try, but haven't gotten around to it

Still, for the money it's a nice tube amp.
post #11 of 204
Does any one know, how would this amp sound paired up with AKG K271?
post #12 of 204
I know how it sounds with the AKG 701 and Grado GS1000 and that is great.The picture of Skylabs internal shots is missing some hardware.There are three 220uf/200v caps in a row along red metal piece.Sound&Vision are importing more since there out of stock at the moment.
post #13 of 204
Very nice looking one. For that price that's really appealing. This is good news for those who want a nice tube amp and on a budget. Love the wood. Would be great for the Grado fans.
post #14 of 204
Originally Posted by Fairbanks View Post
I know how it sounds with the AKG 701 and Grado GS1000 and that is great.The picture of Skylabs internal shots is missing some hardware.There are three 220uf/200v caps in a row along red metal piece.Sound&Vision are importing more since there out of stock at the moment.
Nice to hear that, could you add a picture please.
post #15 of 204
Originally Posted by XSAlliN View Post
Nice to hear that, could you add a picture please.
I can send a picture to you and you could post it since I don't know how to post a picture from here.
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