Cavalli Audio Liquid Carbon
NOTE: ALL CAVALLI LIQUID CARBON UNITS HAVE NOW BEEN SOLD!
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).
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. :)
- 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.
External Impressions and Show Reports
Chris Martens and Lee Shelly (Click to show)
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.
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!
Jude's More Recent Impressions
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:
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.
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.
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.
I was completely engrossed with the Ether and Carbon combo.
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