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Graham Slee Novo

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

I would just like to provide some impressions about the Graham Slee Novo headphone amplifier. I hesitate to call this a review for one simple reason; in my opinion it is impossible to review just the Novo as I am really describing everything in the audio chain. let's face it, when we provide impressions of say an amplifier, you really can't "tease" the amps sound apart from everything else, really all you can do is describe how the whole system sounded together. Sure if your memory is somehow constructed in such a way that you can store accurate impressions of every part of the audio chain as an isolated component, then perhaps you can say more about component A with component B, but that must be so very difficult.


I used the Novo for several hours of listening with my Rega Apollo CD player and either my HD 650s, or my DT 880 600 ohm version. I used quite a wide variety of music to audition the Novo (which had been burned in for about 200 hours by my friend who owns the Novo). Perhaps when time permits I will do a more thorough review of the Novo with a description of performance by describing the individual test tracks used and with what particular headphone. At this point I just wanted to offer some general impressions of the Novo.


The Novo seems to be a very versatile amplifier. I could not believe that such a small amplifier could generate such an impressive sound while driving 300 and 600 ohm headphones. I found the Novo to be very musical and engaging. Despite the fact that based on specifications alone the Novo wouldn't command the lower frequencies that well, but I was quite pleasantly surprised in this area. I have several reference tracks that provide a significant test of an amplifiers low frequency capability (Holy Cole - One Trick Pony, Mark Knopfler - El Macho, Chemical Brothers - Come Inside, Peter Garbriel - No Way Out etc). The Novo was actually very good and provided me some very articulate bass reproduction. I try to listen to the mechanics of the sound, but the Novo was so engaging I found myself just enjoying the music as a whole. That said, I can say with some certainty that the Novo has plenty of impact and does quite a respectable job down low. Timbre and tonal qualities were well reproduced and in general as far as I can tell, pretty accurate. I guess it is most accurate to say that I like how the Novo is voiced. It is a capable and agile little amp.


I found it to have that British sound signature which I tend to like, working toward an accurate and neutral presentation, but stopping short to have enough colour added to present the material musically. I found the mids very nice and present enough to bring out the music and voices well with very good control. The highs were also quite nice, never harsh or strident, just a nice balanced approach being rolled off just enough to take some edge away without muffling the sound. At one point I just put on Pink Floyd - The Wall and listened to almost the entire work. I just found how the Novo handled things was so very proper, never jaw dropping brilliant, but always right and always highly musical. I was trying to A/B it against either my Valhalla or Creek integrated, but I found the Novo so enjoyable that I quickly stopped and just used it.


I certainly found the Valhalla had some richness and deeper depth to it than the Novo, but it wasn't a huge performance edge either. The Valhalla has more bass, but I think the Novo provided better control of the bass overall. The mids through the Valhalla were more vibrant, but I felt the Novo did perhaps a slightly better job seperating the mids out from the sound, providing a Grado like voicing. I did not have any Grad cans left to use with the Novo, but I feel there might be some decent synergy there with something like the HF2 or RS1 where the highs are more controlled than with say the 125, 225, 325s. I loved how the Novo brough some really nice sparkle to my 650s, which while I do not find them veiled, they are rolled off in a way that is a 650 signature we can all hear. I can only say that until I really dig deep into the Novo that without a doubt in my mind it is a great little amp and well worth an audition. I think Graham Slee has a very good ear for music and he can voice his components in such a way that they will never be dull or over-bearing. Poise and balance would be a few adjectives I feel the Novo warrants. I realise this is far from a review, that is why I call this an impression. It would be great if other Novo users/owners could chime in and add their thoughts.

post #2 of 15

Nice review.


I use my Novo daily hooked up to my MacBook Pro via USB and my Bersford DAC 7520 driving Denon AH-D1001.

Basic but satisfying set up.


Did you use the upgraded Power Supply?

post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 

Sadly no, this was the standard power supply that came with the Novo. I would love to hear the upgraded power supply option with the Novo. It is my friends Novo, which he won in a draw put on by a great auido shop here in Ottawa called Planet of Sound. I will get the Novo again to listen to and do a proper review with first my Hd 650s, then with my 880s. What do you like about the Novo, and do you have the upgraded power supply?

post #4 of 15

I do have the upgraded power supply.

I like the detail and presentation.

post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 

I have to agree the Novo is very detailed and as I said before, I find it is voiced (presentation) really musically. The first track that really caught my attention with the Novo was Come Inside by the Chemical Brothers. The song is hyper-detailed and presents some challenging material. The Novo was so good with this track that I started to really see what it was capable of. I think it is a great amp and sadly doesn't appear to have much of a following here. I suspect that Graham Slee are not that adept at marketing. I say that as it certainly can't be that their amps don't deserve some attention. I would love to hear the Solo Ultra Linear.

post #6 of 15

Thanks for the great impressions ! I know exactly what you are saying, one could have spades with all these audiophile elements of frequency extensions, etc., but sacrifice musicality and timbre. You really sparked my interest in the Graham.

post #7 of 15

I tried both the Novo and Solo Ultra Linear through Grahams loaner programmer and find what you say about the Novo to be spot on. I was impressed much more then I thought I would and that was with and without the PSU1 power supply. Hopefully you get the chance to audition the Ultra Linear because I can tell you from my own listening experiences it takes everything to a whole different level. If not for the cost of the Ultra Linear I probably would've replaced my Schitt Lyr with it. 

post #8 of 15

^ I see what you mean, the British Pound has sure improved in the last year or so. The Solo Ultra Linear retails for 510 british pounds once you remove the 20% VAT, this almost doubles to about $900 USD plus there is S&H from across the pond.

post #9 of 15

Hi Miguel, nice to see your post, can you give us your valuable opinion please?

post #10 of 15

In what respect? I have owned the Novo, Green Solo, Solo SRG, Solo SRGII and have on loan the Solo UL with both the switching and PSU1 power supplies. The only one I have not listened to is the new diamond. As you know sound is a very personal thing and an amp is just one small component in the chain (power, source, amp, cables, headphones and the user's disposition/age/etc). I enjoy the presentation that Graham's amps provide and IMO it sounds better than any and all SS amps I have listened to under $1,200 with dynamic cans. BTW, the HiFiMAN HE500 sound superb out of the Solo UL.

post #11 of 15

That sums it up nicely.

It's all about system synergy, and I too agree that the Novo has a nice presentation.

post #12 of 15

Low and behold. I was just thinking of building a home office sytem of DT 990 and a Graham Slee Novo, thinking this would be a match of equals that would do well for some years. This would replace a T-Amp and PSB Alpha B1s. Thanks for the opinions. Reinforcing my decision.

post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 

For any Canadian head-fi members, if you are interested in the Graham Slee lineup you should check out www.planetofsoundonline.com. They have a retail store in both Ottawa and Toronto. I am plugging them here because the owner is really a great business person, knows his audio stuff inside and out and isn't full of s**t at all. In fact, when I purchased my first decent system from him he avoided selling me something that was more expensive, but less well suited to my needs even when I was at first asking for it. That caught my attention as you don't see that everyday do you?

post #14 of 15

I recently upgraded my Solo SRGII to Ultra Linear Diamond Edition and thoroughly enjoy it.


I had a Reflex M phono amp on loan from the Slee Forum, and while the Era Gold V was out of action I used its PSU1 on my Solo SRGII. It sounded very good, but just how good wasn't really shown until I had to send the Reflex back (I then bought my own as it was awesome) and the Solo went back to the plug top supply. There was definite sense of deflation: music wasn't as dynamic, the sound stage was smaller. It was by no means at all bad - but having seen what the PSU1 did, getting one was a no-brainer, and with a new Reflex coming I had the Solo upgraded and used the PSU1 from the Era Gold which was relegated to my second system with the plugtop supply.


I'd always been slightly sceptical about the merits of "expensive" power supplies - but hearing was believing, and to get the maximum performance that the Slee headphone amps are capable of, the PSU1 is well worth it.

post #15 of 15

(I have moved my post to what I believe is a more appropriate thread)

Edited by daronharvey - 1/27/15 at 11:04pm
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