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Butte review!

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

HI All,


The Apex Butte has been reviewed by Mike Ting @ Headfonia. You can read it here.


To celebrate the review as well as our 8th year in business, we will ship any Butte orders to you with free shipping - Fed Ex Express Saver. The Butte is in stock and available.


You can order yours here.


Also, come out to RMAF and hear one for yourself. We will have at least 2 of them at our table to listen to as well as a large number of world class headphone to plug into it!


And don't forget our loaner program for the Butte. See the sign up page here.




post #2 of 6

Thanks for the review!!!

post #3 of 6


First I would like to thank Todd of TTVJ for the opportunity to listen to the Apex Butte in the convenience of my home with my music and cans. Second the quick impression ... this is one heck of a nice sounding amp! Made in the USA for $495 to boot.


The closest amp I have to compare the Butte to is the Graham Slee Solo SRGII with the PSU1. According to Graham’s website the Solo SRGII with the PSU1 sells for $434 BP about $671 USD. Or you can buy the Solo SRGII with a switching PSU for 314.25 BP about $486 USD.


Both units were fed from the same DAC (using RCA spltters), music and cables. The initial cans used were the HiFiMAN HE300 w/ the HE6 OCC cable and the Superlux HD661 and the Grado RS-1. The music was by Jim Hall, Jimmy Smith, and the Jazz at the Pawnshop CD.


I thought the SRGII and the Butte sounded very good and it was just a matter of preference in sound reproduction. The differences I heard were not pronounced and could be summarized by stating the Butte ...


1. The treble is a bit more extended.

2. The soundstage is a bit narrower.

3. Not as mellow sounding.

4. The music is presented closer, as in being in the front row versus the 10th row in a venue.

5. Great bass impact.


I moved to the Grado RS-1 with flats instead of bowls. The Butte has indeed a more in your face presentation, for now I prefer the mellower and warmer presentation of the Solo SRGII. I should mention that the sound differences are not significant and some/many may prefer the Butte's presentation. My wife listened to both amps via the RS-1 and depending of the music one amp sounded better to her than the other and overall she preferred the Butte’s sound presentation. She did agree the Butte has a slightly narrower presentation with a more extended treble.


The DAC used was the one included in the HLLY SMK-II via the fixed RCA outputs. The music was fed via USB from an iMac 21.5 using apple lossless files using iTunes 10.4.1


Once again thanks Todd for the opportunity and this is definitely great sounding amp which will make many users very happy.

post #4 of 6

I was the first to review the Butte on the Canadian leg of its loaner program. Unlike most reviews, I'm just going to start off with my blunt and final impressions. Do I think this amp is worth the money? Nope.


Now that I've got that out of the way, read on for why. I will try to keep my writing concise and point form where possible. I will note that I was in the middle of doing my portables shootout (link) when I had the Butte, so they formed the majority of my listening time. However, I did spend time with more equipment and also organized a meet while I had the Butte so I could gather more impressions and try a broader range of equipment. For sources, I primarily used the lineout from an iBasso D10 fed via optical.


Additional equipment:

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)


Not a complete list...



AKG K240 Sextett

Pioneer HDJ-2000

Audio Technica A900

Grado SR125

Sennheiser HD25-1-ii, HD25-13-ii, HD600

Beyerdynamic DT880/250, DT250/250, DT1350, T50p

orthos: Fostex T40v1 transplant, Yamaha HP3, SFI transplant, Realistic Pro30



UE700, UE600

Shure SE215

RE252, RE-zero


other amps/sources

iBasso D10

Turtle Beach Audio Advantage Micro II (mostly used as usb/optical converter)

Audio-gd Sparrow

Esoteric transport & dac

Bottlehead Crack+speedball

various receivers




Form and construction

- surprisingly small: 135 x 109 x 51 mm

- lightweight - I forget to write down the exact weight, but when it was all packed up for shipping it came in at 1.06kg (and that's counting the box and power adapter)

- has a good solid feel to it




- a set of RCA and 3.5mm inputs on the back, with a button switch on the front

- one 6.35mm headphone jack on the front

- button power switch on the front

- standard barrel plug for power on the back

- inputs do not seem to be fully isolated from one another; signals may bleed over


A very plain looking amp, rather unassuming. Buttons and knobs are all in plain site and easily accessible. Along with the big rubber feet (which are bit oversized I think, but that's a minor aesthetic quip), there's enough heft to it to keep it from sliding around too much if you're prone to jacking in different headphones frequently.





- the included wallwart was an AC-AC adapter

- wallwart seemed generic, outputs 12V AC


I was a little surprised to find that the wallwart supplied in AC, which means the DC conversion takes place inside the amp. From a design perspective, it's a halfway point between doing all your power management in the same chassis, or taking the entire thing out. I guess it makes sense to at the very least take the big noisy transformer out and do all the fine detail work in the chassis.





general notes:

- feels like slightly better control in the low end, but also a little dryer

- bass rolloff slightly around 40Hz, seems more noticeable than the Bottlehead Crack

- gain is much too high for most iems

- performs better with high impedance headphones and orthos

- very slight channel imbalance at the very lowest volumes, also doesn't attenuate all the way

- bass rolloff seems to come slightly quicker than the Crack and D10


Well here's where things get a bit finicky. I was not blown away but this amp. If anything, I was a little underwhelmed. Sonically I didn't hear anything wrong per se. Sound across the bass/mids/treble felt relatively consistent. Staging was decent, though at times felt a little recessed.


When comparing a bunch of the portable headphones, my overall impressions were “it's ok”. Nothing really stood out, I didn't feel much energy, and I was bothered by many of the noise issues (see below). At times I also felt like my frequency responses were slightly wobblier than usual. With the high impedance and/or lower sensitivity cans, performance improved. Headphone response felt tighter, like the notes were hitting harder and with more definition. With orthos, performance was actually quite good, solid power and impact, and noise was negligible.


Considering the high gain and overall performance, I would say the Butte is geared more for the heftier non-portable cans. Having an adjustable gain would have been nice and would make it easier to use sensitive headphones, but that would be a design decision and I'm sure it doesn't have one for a reason.




- background is not fully black, even when sourced from a portable player (with negligible dc offset)

- inputs do not seem to be fully isolated from one another; there is bleedover

- cannot have one input plugged in at the back but nothing on the other; generates noise, even if “off”

- two types of noise: a static white noise, and another that sounded like faint blowing wind

- also highly susceptible to grounding issues

- low impedance/high efficiency headphones were most susceptible (T50p)

- sensitive iems were almost unbearable


This here was one of my main issues with the Butte. Sometimes it worked very well, but oftentimes I had serious noise problems. I've run through my fair share of amps and organized several meets, and I have never had the issues that I had with the Butte.


I could use the same source and one day it would be fine, and the next day (nothing touched) it would be incredibly noisy. In some cases, noise could be heard with softer music playing and volume at approximately 50%.


The inputs seemed to not be fully isolated from each other. Say you had your sourced plugged into input 1 but had your switch set to input 2; turn up the volume and you can still hear input 1.


There was also a very large amount of noise if one input was left hanging free. I suppose this could have been an electromagnetic interference issue, but the surroundings were exactly the same as when I've A/B'd other amps and I've never heard interference to such a large degree. Best case for reducing noise was to only have one cable and source plugged in at a time. Even with a second source connected but turned off, there seemed to be ground loops present.


I'm not sure how the shielding is configured in the Butte, but I wonder if somehow it winds up amplifying interference. On a couple occasions (and with different sources) I had noise so bad that it was impossible to listen to music, but moving or touching various components or the Butte would alleviate it. I was unable to fully isolate or identify this problem as it was not consistent.




- inconsistent noise from iBasso D10

- caused errors in the Esoteric DAC


At a meet we had an Esoteric cd transport and dac, a rather large double box affair. For some reason, it simply could not get along with the Butte. Every few seconds it would trigger some sort of click in the Esoteric and the music would briefly cut out. This did not happen with any of our other amps, and according to the owner of the Esoteric he had never seen that happen before either.


Performance with my other sources was spotty at best, as noted in the noise section above.




vs Bottlehead Crack+Speedball

- limited my comparison to high impedance cans

- Butte had better stage width but all the sound was pushed back further; Crack had a more forward but narrower stage

- Crack tonality felt richer, stronger treble, bass extension seemed lower

- Butte had a more resonant midrange


vs Audio-gd Sparrow (fed via optical)

- bearing in mind that the Sparrow used its own dac

- these honestly seemed very comparable and I had a lot of trouble telling any difference

- at times I felt the Sparrow even edged it out slightly in terms of instrument separation

- the Sparrow is slightly larger, but significantly cheaper and includes a dac


vs iBasso D10

- the D10 and feels veiled and lacks the headroom to play with the heavier cans compared to the Butte

- but I felt it handled the portable cans better and had a more dynamic and energetic feel to the music


vs Ortofon HD-Q7 (from memory)

- Ortofon brighter, much more upper energy, induced a Grado-esque love it or hate it feeling

- Butte trumps it for gain, solid if somewhat boring presentation


Overall I feel that the Butte is rather expensive for what you get. Even ignoring the issues I encountered (which could entirely be due to factors on my end... though I experimented with quite a range of equipment to try to minimize that), I did not feel that the sound quality alone would be worth the $500. The compact form is quite nice, but within that size and price bracket I'm now at the top end of the portable amp list.












Butte, Bottlehead Crack, Esoteric CD transport and DAC






Apex Butte and iBasso D10




iBasso D10

Apex Butte

Audio-gd Sparrow







RMAA comparative results vs iBasso D10

Draw your own conclusions, or not, whatever.



dynamic range 82b0c7f9_testing_DR.png


frequency response (swept) 0f0d7f05_testing_FR_swept.png



frequency response (multitone) 4fa03ba8_testing_FR_multitone.png


intermodular distortion (swept) a63c3cac_testing_IMD_swept.png


intermodular distortion d63c4b7d_testing_IMD.png


stereo crosstalk 262a037f_testing_SC.png


noise 4b55c340_testing_noise.png


total harmonic distortion f888a6e8_testing_THD.png


THD (swept) d30e135e_testing_THD_swept.png

post #5 of 6
I've just posted my review, I love this amp! Thanks for letting me test it. I've just got it a few days ago so I will probably ship it out on the 3rd or 4th.Anyway my review is here: http://www.head-fi.org/products/apex-hi-fi-butte/reviews/5900
post #6 of 6
My unit is ready to ship I just need to know where. Also thanks again! Very good amp I was surprised. As I said in my review the amp does look unassuming, with small capacitors and a wallwart but I was very pleasantly surprised. Thank you for giving me this chance.
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