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☯️ Cavalli Audio's Liquid Carbon... a $599 Cavalli amp???

post #1 of 5931
Thread Starter 

Cavalli Audio Liquid Carbon

 


 

NOTE:  ALL CAVALLI LIQUID CARBON UNITS HAVE NOW BEEN SOLD!

:beerchug:


 

Introduction & History

 

Confession time everyone, I've known about the Liquid Carbon for some time now, having been one of the lucky few to have previewed it months ahead of its announcement.

 

And although I find the amp to be amazing in its performance, and its price point for that matter, it was the story behind the creation of this amp that made me appreciate it on a whole other level.

 

Though he was reluctant at first, I was finally able to convince Dr. Cavalli to tell you all the backstory behind this amp... about why the Liquid Carbon even exists at all... and this is what he just sent me via email (posted with permission).

 

Quoted from an email from Alex Cavalli:
There was one primary impetus for the development of this amp:  you.
 
It is this community of headphone addicts, of which I am proud to be a part, that has supported Cavalli Audio throughout the years - from the DIY days long before any commercial amps, through the introduction of the Liquid Fire four years ago, to this very moment. You made that happen, and made it all worthwhile.
 
Now, I have known for some time, that there were many listeners who wanted to own a Cavalli Audio amp.  But, the cost was simply out-of-reach. 
 
The Liquid Carbon was born from long-held desire on my part, to design an amp good enough to carry the Cavalli Audio sound, but affordable enough to fall within (practically) everyone's budget.  It is my thank you, to all of you, for supporting Cavalli Audio throughout the years, whether you're a customer or not.
 
The Liquid Carbon was designed to be fully discrete, small, lightweight (transportable), and to deliver modest but useful power (1500mW @50R).  However, the circuit and components have not been compromised at all in order to achieve this. The circuit topology is a direct descendant of my larger amps and the SMD components have been carefully selected and tested to meet or achieve the design goals. The amp has custom SMPS for universal use and needs only the right power cord for any location.
 
The retail price for this initial production run will be substantially discounted, and should be very accessible to allow as many who want a Carbon to get one. But, please keep in mind that this is a very sophisticated amplifier and subsequent runs may see some increases in price, if/as necessary.
 
Thanks again to you all. I think you're going to like this amp. :)

 


 

Specifications

 

  • Gain: 1X (0db) and 3X (10db), hot switchable from front panel to adjust for different headphones
  • Maximum Power: ~1.5W into 50R
  • Inputs: 1 x XLR  (Bal); 1 x  RCA; 1 x 3.5mm - front panel selectable; RCA and 3.5mm are the same input.
  • Outputs: 1 x 4-Pin XLR; 1 x TRS, 1 x RSA.
  • THD: 0.004% at 1kHz/500mW (4VRMS) into 32 ohms (resistive)
  • Input Impedance: ~10k
  • Output Impedance: ~0.12 ohm Balanced, ~0.08 ohm SE.
  • Size: 5" (W) x 7" (D) x 1.75" (H);12.7 cm (W) x 17.8 cm (D) x 4.5 cm (H)
  • Weight: 1 lb, 7 oz (0.7kg)

 


 

Jude's Impressions from the CanJam SoCal 2015 Preview (Part II)

 

YouTube Video (Cavalli segment at 23:28) (Click to show)
 

*Cavalli Audio segment begins at 23:28.

 

 


 

Currawong's CanJam SoCal 2015 Preview Impressions

 

YouTube Video (Click to show)

In the days leading up to CanJam SoCal 2015, our very own @Currawong got a chance to preview the Liquid Carbon.  Here's what he thought felt (deep in his loins):

 

 


 

Head-Fiers' CanJam SoCal 2015 Impressions

 

LOTS OF QUOTED IMPRESSIONS AHEAD! (Click to show)

Since the Liquid Carbon prototype made its debut at CanJam SoCal 2015, quite a few impressions have been left over in that show's impressions thread.

 

I've taken the liberty of quoting them here, so y'all won't have to wade through 50+ pages of posts about everything else.  Even then, the list of impressions (universally positive in tone) is quite extensive, so I've included them within a spoiler box.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by UmustBKidn View Post

 

This next item was a prototype (I did not catch the model, perhaps someone can add that later?). I got a little confused trying to hook up my cans and source to it (which ended up sounding rather trashy). The SQ of this model really exposed just how sad sounding that ipod nano really was, but I guess I never really had heard it sound that bad before. This model had a 1x and 3x output switch on the front, and the Beyers sounded much better with the 3x setting (I maxed the 1x setting and it wasn't loud enough for my taste). On the other hand, one of the flyers seemed to indicate that was probably something intended for IEM's (which makes sense). Anyway, this was a very nice amp, I remained suitably impressed.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stillhart View Post

- Cavalli Liquid Carbon and ... The portable... Are both awesome. Wow.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mikemercer View Post
 

too beat to write-up thus far

STILL LISTENING!!

nu Cavalli - BIG thumbs up

full-discrete

nice output options - balanced in/out - GR8 w/ my OPPO PM-3s, LCD-2 w/ Fazor, LCD-XC, & EL-8!

PLus my Momentums + Master&Dynamic MH40s1

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by moses1258 View Post

 

The Liquid Carbon was great too.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mikemercer View Post
 

Thus far - my favorite sound OVERALL from the show actually happened at my boyz place last night!!

 

(was lucky enough to be in on the brainstorming sesh on that w/ Alex and @warrenpchi +Frank I - cant tag him.. - but just telling him our thoughts on feature set and target price he might wanna hit IF POSSIBLE)

 

and those + my Audeze LCD-2Fs, XCs, and EL-8 open-backs

were a grand musical experiences!!!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Odin412 View Post

 

Cavalli Liquid Carbon and Liquid Silicon: The smooth, liquid signature Cavalli sound in a more affordable package! I've lusted after a Liquid Gold for a while (it's expensive!), and these new amps have the same basic sound signature. Very nice!

 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chowmein83 View Post

 

After Mr. Speakers, I went to the Cavalli table. Seriously, anybody looking for high-end amps in my opinion really should just buy Alex Cavalli's stuff. Pretty much all of the amps I listened to (Liquid Crimson, Liquid Gold, Liquid Carbon, and that really small portable amp for IEMs) were excellent. All of them have just enough warmth to make it sound pleasant and in my opinion realistic, but still able to convey gobs of detail. The Liquid Carbon was especially impressive - I don't think I've ever heard my HE-400i driven to that level of sound quality (especially in balanced mode). I honestly can't believe that it's only going to cost $500 to $700, because it sounds like it's worth a lot more. And thanks to Alex Cavalli and all of the staff at Cavalli Audio for being really nice people, and thanks for their patience as I listened to the Liquid Carbon with my HE-400i for quite a long time, and for helping me find the cables so I could listen to my own smartphone as a transport. :smile:

 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chowmein83 View Post
 

Yep, the new Liquid Carbon (their smaller desktop amp) is supposedly only going to cost somewhere between $500 to $700. Much more reasonable than the thousands of dollars that their other amps cost. And it sounds amazing.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by solitary man View Post

 

Very reasonable!!!! Now I really wish I had gone to the table even though I don't need an amp.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by reddog View Post

 

Sweet I am definitely going to get the Liquid Carbon sometime this year.smily_headphones1.gif

 
Quote:
Originally Posted by reddog View Post

 

If the price holds out, the cavalli liquid carbon will be a great buy.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by longbowbbs View Post

 

The new Cavalli Liquid Carbon (Transportable) and Liquid Silicon portable fed by the

Hugo DAC. I concur with the comments they were fantastic. Affordable Cavalli? Can

You say those words together? You can now!

 

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by abernardi View Post

 

As others mentioned, it was very difficult to really listen critically to anything, so it was especially hard to tell how good the Yggy sounded, or the Ether, or the HE-1000.  Though the Cavalli Carbon and Silicon were no brainers, they made themselves clearly known as excellent, even with the high noise level of the room, go figure.  

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JerseyD View Post

Cavalli amps were impressive, no question.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by CrocCap View Post

 

Cavalli Liquid Carbon - A little better sounding than the Silicon, bit better depth of the sound stage. More versatile than the Silicon with more inputs, balanced outputs.  A great option for a desktop/transportable amp.  If it is gonna be 500-700, itl be a great value too.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mikemercer View Post
 

AND: Having a private sesh with the Cavallis at my boys place on Sat. night was AWESOME!!

 

 

I thought the combo w/ my friends LCD-2 was my favorite synergistically - when I played the new D'Angelo record - Black Messiah  - Everything had a terrific leading-edge attack. There was TONS of air/dimensionality - the midband and lower mids were crysal clear. The voices were chesty and the whole sway of the record was sublime - the pacing... 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by leesure View Post

 

Alex Cavalli testing his new Liquid Carbon amp. 

 

Cavalli Liquid Carbon.  Small form factor...HUGE sound.  Fully balanced.  Price TBD, but I understand it will be sub $1000!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stillhart View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cotnijoe View Post
 

For those that got the chance to listen to the Liquid Carbon, what was the setup they used running the amp in fully balanced?

 

The setup I heard was running off a Chord Hugo, so I don't believe it was fully balanced.  There was a second setup, but I don't recall what the DAC was...

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by matt8268 View Post


Cavalli Audio – Listened to the Liquid Silicon portable amp, which sounded good, then tried the Liquid Carbon next to it, which sounded great. It was being sourced by the Hugo, and this combo really worked for me. It was hard to think about going back to the Silicon after hearing the Carbon.

 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stillhart View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chowmein83 View Post
 

 

Wait, what do you mean by not fully balanced? As far as I understood, the Liquid Carbon does have a truly balanced design, and you could listen to the balanced output as long as you had something that could connect to the XLR output. I did this after borrowing an XLR cable for my HE-400i from Hifiman (thanks to Fang Bian and the crew at Hifiman for letting me do so!) and I thought it sounded excellent.

 

I believe the second Liquid Carbon setup had a LH Labs Geek Pulse running as the DAC.

 

When I say "fully balanced", I mean from the source all the way through the amp.  I don't believe the Hugo has a balanced output (though I could be wrong!).  So while the Cavalli can operate fully balanced, I don't think the setup with the Hugo was taking advantage of that feature.  Like I said though, I could be wrong.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by warrenpchi View Post
 

The Liquid Carbon is fully-balanced on the input side.  There are balanced inputs, as well as "single-ended" inputs that are outfitted with phase splitters. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chowmein83 View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by warrenpchi View Post
 

The Liquid Carbon is fully-balanced on the input side.  There are balanced inputs, as well as "single-ended" inputs that are outfitted with phase splitters. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stillhart View Post
 

 

When I say "fully balanced", I mean from the source all the way through the amp.  I don't believe the Hugo has a balanced output (though I could be wrong!).  So while the Cavalli can operate fully balanced, I don't think the setup with the Hugo was taking advantage of that feature.  Like I said though, I could be wrong.

 

Well, I just learned something new today. Guess I still have quite a ways to go in terms of my audio knowledge.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stillhart View Post
 

Cavalli Audio – We’ve all heard of Cavalli amps.  We’ve all dreamed of owning one.  Hearing that there was going to be a new sub-$1000 Cavalli amp was a pleasant surprise.  Hearing that it’s going to be $500-700, even more so.  Hearing that there’s also going to be an even cheaper portable was eye-popping.

 

So how were the Liquid Silicon and Liquid Carbon?  As good as you’d expect.  Not much more to say there.  This is a really big deal and I think there will be a lot of these sold.

 

By the way, it was wonderful meeting the man himself, Alex Cavalli.  He was like a proud papa showing off his newest creation and he really seemed to enjoy how excited everyone was about the new products, despite his obvious reserved nature.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post
 

Before I do my write-up and catch up with PMs, a couple of things to note:

 

The Hugo being used with the Liquid Carbon was mine. I lent it to Alex as he was having issues getting the DACs he was using to work because he was missing a cable. Even though it wasn't balanced, I've not had any significant issues with phase splitters in amps (circuits that convert single-ended signals into balanced) affecting the sound so I suggested using it.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chowmein83 View Post
 

Thanks for lending the Hugo for use with the Liquid Carbon. :D I have to say that combo was one of the most impressive to me in the entire show.

 

As for the Ygg/Rag combo, so you're saying that the Ragnarok may have been the reason why some people found the combo unimpressive? Personally, I found the combo to be too bright, and I was wondering how much that could've been due to the amp (since I ended up not listening to the Yggy hooked up to another amp).

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank I View Post
 

 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cotnijoe View Post

@Currawong did you mention that the liquid carbon has a phase splitter?
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Insidious Meme View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by reddog View Post

Does anyone know when the Cavalli Carbon going to be released?

There will be an announcement at some point bases on a post on the Cavalli Facebook page. We'll just have to wait and see.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by longbowbbs View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ahnvx View Post
 

We're all Audio geeks.

But some of us are budget audio geeks.

Can someone compile a list of all the budget gear there for us to get hyped as well?

 

 

 

The soon to be released Cavalli Audio Liquid Carbon at somewhere between $500-$800 (Price still TBD) will be one of the very best values in HP amps.....

 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jexby View Post

Wow the love for the Cavalli Liquid Carbon just keeps coming! Really makes me miss attending, hopefully LiqCarb is at RMAF.
Would be even better to own one by then perhaps!?

Anyone with release date guesstimates or power specs?

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bearFNF View Post

Yep,I put my name down for a liquid carbon. Is a very good amp. Very soon I believe Alex said a few weeks to a month?
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by reddog View Post

Does anyone know when the Cavalli Carbon going to be released?

 

I gather he needs to sort out the case and in turn, nail down the price.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cotnijoe View Post

@Currawong did you mention that the liquid carbon has a phase splitter?

 

Yes, you can use SE inputs, which I was using, since I only had a Hugo on hand.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by soundmanmike View Post
 

the cavalli amplifiers are my favorite of the component size amplifiers. i cant choose one i like over the others. can i have one of each please?

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by solitary man View Post
 

Even though I do not need a headphone amp, I wish I had tried the Cavalli Liquid Carbon desktop amp. The rumored price point for an amp of that reported quality is unheard of.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by wotts View Post

 

Cavalli - Alex has two big winners on his hands: the Carbon and the Silicon. 

 

 


 

External Impressions and Show Reports

 

Chris Martens and Lee Shelly (Click to show)
 

 

Cavalli Audio

The Austin, TX-based firm Cavalli Audio is known for its expensive, essentially handmade or bespoke-grade headphone amplifiers, which have earned an enviable reputation for being among the very best available (not unlike certain Ferrari or McLaren automobiles). All of this is very well and good for those who can afford the price of entry, but what about those who can’t.

Well, for CanJam the good Dr. Cavalli stunned show attendees with not one but two new headphone amplifiers that both will sell for under $700. First up is Cavalli’s new Liquid Carbon amp, which is a compact and readily transportable (but not portable) fully balanced solid-state amplifier that sounds remarkably much like a junior version of Cavalli’s flagship Liquid Gold amplifier—an amp that sells for a tick under $4,000. The Liquid Carbon created a tremendous amount of buzz at the show, partly on the basis of sound quality, which is flat out stunning (at any price), but also because of project price, which is expected to fall between $500 and $700. Quite honestly, had the Carbon been fully production ready, Cavalli could probably have sold dozens of samples at the show alone, so strong were reactions amongst headphonistas.

Next up was the tiny Liquid Silicon amp, a tiny portable amp based on very high quality parts and that promises to bring the ‘Cavalli Sound’ to an unprecedentedly low price point. The Silicon is, as you might expect, optimised for use with relatively sensitive headphones, earphones, and CIEMS, and is expected to sell for between $300 and $500. I tried the Silicon briefly with my reference JH Audio Roxanne CIEMs and came away thinking that the pint-sized amp really does serve up a believable rendition of the Cavalli Sound.

 

 

 

 

Cavalli Audio

 

Another perennial favorite of Head-Fiers is Cavalli Audio. Dr. Alex Cavalli was at the show demonstrating his fantastic lineup of high-end sweetness. That included the stunning solid state Liquid Gold, the tube chameleon Liquid Glass, the electrostatic Liquid Lightning (available in both tube and solid state configurations) and his new Liquid Crimson. I listened to then Liquid Gold feeding the AKG K1000's and loved the out-of-head experience!

 

As exciting as the top of the line amps were, the real buzz in the Cavalli booth was about the as-yet-unreleased Liquid Carbon and an un-named portable amp. The Carbon is a fully balanced amp from front to back in a smaller 'transportable' body and features a variable gain setting. It was dead quiet with IEM's and orthos alike. I can see this fitting very nicely on lots of desktops … especially give then it is expected to come in at under $1000 (and no, not $999). Keep a watchful eye for a possible group-buy to kick this off!

 

 

Cavalli Carbon

Cavalli Carbon 2

Cavalli

 
 

 

Jude's More Recent Impressions

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jude View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by goldendarko View Post

Is it that good Jude? What other amps would you say it compares with? Don't really need one but have always wanted to hear a cavalli

 

Yes, it really is. I wasn't surprised at all to see it end up as one of the highlights of CanJan SoCal in member discussions. The Liquid Carbon gives me almost everything--definitely in terms of tone and richness--that the Liquid Gold did, only for my headphones with more modest power requirements (than, say, the HiFiMAN HE-6).

 

With most of the new high-end headphones coming out being reasonably sensitive--and, as a result, well within the Liquid Carbon's wheelhouse--I feel like I'm getting the Liquid Gold, only adapted for use with more of my headphones, including my more sensitive closed headphones, and even including IEMs (which I'd never consider plugging into the Liquid Gold).

 

That I can get this for only $599 makes the Liquid Carbon one of the biggest no-brainers for me in quite some time (assuming I get in, which, like many of you, I'm waiting for Texas noon to do). So, at Texas noon, if you feel some pushing and shoving, look down (I'm short), and you'll likely see my face.

 

(It's 11:54 Texas time. Six minutes...six minutes...six minutes...Doug E. Fresh, you're on!)

 

 


 

MattTCG's Impressions from the 2015 Music City (Nashville) Meet:

 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattTCG View Post
 

I spent a couple of quality hours with the carbon today. The short answer is that I'm VERY happy that I've pre-ordered this amp. IMO It's one of the best SS amps out there up to the $1k mark. I auditioned it against some very good amps several Woo, Schiit and other Cavali amps. This may be the best $600 I've spent on audio. 

 

Word to the wise, if you haven't pre-ordered and you need an amp you should be looking very seriously at the Carbon. Word #2,plan to balance your headphone if you want all the Cavali magic. 

 

Originally Posted by MattTCG View Post

The dacs were yggy and auralik. Headphones were exclusively the Ether.

 

Originally Posted by MattTCG View Post
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mangler View Post

How did it do against the tube amps you listened to? How was the tonality?

 

It's all about tone for me. The carbon held its own against the whole group. If price were no factor I would have choosen the wa 5.

 

Originally Posted by MattTCG View Post
 

I just want to chime in an say the Carbon with Mr. Speakers Ether was simply sublime and the star of the show for me and many at the Nashville meet. I've found my end game with these two pieces and a good dac. Call me done. :wink: 

 

Originally Posted by MattTCG View Post
 

I was completely engrossed with the Ether and Carbon combo. 

 

Originally Posted by MattTCG View Post
 

I also heard several other hp's with the carbon besides the Ether. Honestly, I didn't find a "bad" pairing. I tried the hd800 and Alpha Primes by Mr. Speakers. Both were impressively musical and driven with good authority (although both of those needed the gain switch engaged where the Ether did not). 

 


Edited by warrenpchi - 2/14/16 at 1:58pm


Home of the Liquid Carbon, Liquid Crimson, Liquid Glass, Liquid Gold and
Liquid Lightning headphone amplifiers... and the upcoming Liquid Spark!

Reply
post #2 of 5931
Sorry if i'm a little bit slow, but does the Liquid Carbon have a battery pack inside? (They say it's transportable???)
post #3 of 5931
No battery. Just standard iec power input. I am guessing transportable due to size.
post #4 of 5931

Wish it had a battery inside, to make it "really" transportable... in the garden under the patio :-)


Edited by bmichels - 3/26/15 at 10:48am
post #5 of 5931

Currawong has put up a video preview of Cavalli Audio Liquid Carbon prototype :-

 

post #6 of 5931
Quote:
Originally Posted by AnakChan View Post
 

Currawong has put up a video preview of Cavalli Audio Liquid Carbon prototype :-

 

$499! :atsmile:

post #7 of 5931

Amos is right, for 499 that's a pretty sweet price for a Cavalli piece of gear. Finally, something from Cavalli that's halfway affordable for us Johnny Lunch Buckets.

post #8 of 5931

currawong added some text to the video stating the price hasn't been determined yet!

post #9 of 5931
Quote:
Originally Posted by uncola View Post
 

currawong added some text to the video stating the price hasn't been determined yet!

Anywhere near that; $599 or $699 and I would be extremely happy. When Jude said affordable, I was thinking $1500 or something. But this is way below my estimates.

post #10 of 5931
Uncola is right, final pricing is still being set, but I can say these figures are in the ballpark! smily_headphones1.gif
post #11 of 5931
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoundFreaq View Post

Uncola is right, final pricing is still being set, but I can say these figures are in the ballpark! smily_headphones1.gif

 

I'm also glad to see Cavalli's in this price bracket. I've always been very impressed with your gear, and look forward to chatting with Alex every meet. Very nice guy.

 

 

I haven't seen any other information about this amp. Could you say a ballpark for release time?

post #12 of 5931

It is a very entertaining amp. I had a listen to the Liquid Crimson afterwards, which is a more high-end version of the same amp in presentation. 

 

My bad about the $499. I heard that price and thought it was official when I should have checked. I gather the cost will depend on the cost of the case essentially.

post #13 of 5931

What are the main sound differences between the Crimson and the Carbon? Definitely tuning in to this.

 

 


Edited by ejong7 - 3/30/15 at 6:49pm
post #14 of 5931
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corate View Post
 

Wait so there's a Crimson as well? What are the differences between the Crimson and the Carbon? Definitely tuning in to this.

 

The Crimson is a currently existing product: https://www.cavalliaudio.com/index.php?p=product_details&pId=10

 

Carbon is the new desktop balanced amplifier that Currawong showed in his video, and the "portable" amplifier is unnamed as of yet. I think somewhere it was mentioned Cavalli might run a naming contest for that unit.

post #15 of 5931

Just to confirm, what balanced outs will this amp offer? RSA and big XLR? 

 

Thanks!

 

Edit: Also, is the only balanced input the XLRs? It seems to be so. I'm interested in using this unit with my AK120II. I'm not sure, but I think that means there would be no feasible way of getting balanced signal out of my AK and into the Cavalli. 

 

I guess I could just go mini to mini (3.5 mm) single-ended. Would that have significantly worse sound than a balanced connection? 

 

Sorry for all the basic questions; I'm new at this and still trying to learn a lot. 


Edited by zachawry - 4/1/15 at 3:58am
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