An SEPP (single-ended push pull) OTL circuit operating in Class-A, the Little Dot MK II greatly increases sound quality, dynamic range, output impedance, and harmonic distortion over the celebrated Little Dot II++.
The Little Dot MK II now also provides gain control of 3, 5, and 10 via internal DIP switches for fine-tuning so you can maximize synergy with almost any headphone you have, whether it be 32 ohms or 600!
The Little Dot MK II also gains the driver tube-rolling options from the rest of the MK-series with the ability to roll 6JI, WE403A/B, GE5654, M8100, CV4010, EF95, etc at its factory jumper setting, and with jumper pins shorted, EF92, CV131, and all equivalents and drop-in replacements!
|Little Dot MK II|
Little Dot MK II
- Average User Rating:
Recent User Reviews
"Lovely Rich, Warm Sound - Spectacular Build Quality!"
Pros - Tight, Rich Bass with great impact - clear mids and smooth treble - gain switches - build quality - price - features - power
Cons - BLUE LED!!!!! - Why are the gain switches hidden? - Volume knob feels cheap and isn't smooth
This is a review for the Little Dot MK2 headphone amplifier so I hope you all enjoy it. This is my first review and it's going to start off really well as this is an amazing product.
YouTube review is here, slightly shorter but more to the point: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFmcpaZUJHk
Little Dot have been making amps for over 10 years now so they know what they are doing and they are really no stranger to the audio world. This amp produces the typical valve sound, rich and lush. Going at £130 on Amazon.co.uk sold by Grandview, I think that it beats anything in it's price range. It should compete with the APPJ but I think that this just blows it out of the water.
This amplifier had been designed very impressively for the price because it looks more expensive than it actually is. It looks really professional and sleek looking, a perfect fit for my setup. The top of the amplifier holds four valves, two pre-amp valves and two power valves, the power ones being the bigger two. They sit nice and neat on the top and aren't on an angle in their sockets. Behind the valves is a massive transformer which takes up practically a 1/3 of the top of the amp, it looks great though. The metal on the top has a corrugated feel to it making it look more substantial and 'solid'. I like how this amp shows no shame about having bare screws showing because it gives it an industrial look, again, more substantial looking. The front of the amp houses a 1/4 inch plug and a 0-100 volume knob, all very standard but extremely neat. Oh, you'll also find the blue LED power indicator [now...I know everyone hates these, but I guess...nevermind]! The back panel is the busiest part because you'll find the L-R in and out RCAs; AC power in socket and a power switch. In my opinion this is how amps should be designed, it's really simple but professional looking. Little Dot are good at pulling off the trick making their amps look expensive, that's for sure. I am hugely impressed by the design, especially for the price! Great job by Little Dot and consequently I'll have to rate the design 10/10. Now let's move on to the build quality as that's where it gets really impressive. LITTLE DOT MK2 SCORE SO FAR: 10 POINTS.
Photos are here: https://imagebin.ca/v/302vlCfKj9uq
Build quality is where things just go from great to exceptional! The amp is totally constructed out of metal, bar the volume knob, which is impressive for this price. The edges are smooth curves which really shows the high quality finish of this amp, this means that you won't cut yourself! As I said in the design, although the corrugated metal is only a design feature, it shows you the company's attention to detail and how much they care about their product. The valve sockets are very well made because the valves go in with some effort and aren't slanted once inserted correctly. The overall finish is near enough perfect because there are no gaps or defects nor is there any overlapping on the housing. This amp has a lot of heft to it, weighing in at 2.5kg, this thing is not at all light. The connectors are very important in an amp because poor connection or low quality connectors result in poor sonic performance. Little Dot understands this and they don't disappoint with this amp. The connectors and plugs are gold plated and are of a great quality because they aren't on an angle and the audio isn't affected. The audio comes through perfectly crisp and clean. I've also got to talk about the AC in which is great quality; it goes in smoothly with a satisfying 'click' into place. Once in place, it really needs some pulling to come out. On the bottom of the amplifier, you'll find 4 heavy duty rubber feet which prevent the amp from getting scratched or burning your desk! [This amplifier does get pretty hot in use]. Overall I am impressed by the build quality and build-wise it is as good as any £500 amp. I am going to have to give the build quality a 9.5/10 because of the volume knob. It isn't the smoothest and it just feels a bit cheap, nevertheless, a solid build quality on this amp. LITTLE DOT MK2 SCORE SO FAR: 19.5!...
Like most amplifiers on the market, even cheap ones, this amp comes inbuilt with a volume control and a power switch. The power switch is really convenient because sometimes I don't want to have to switch off my amp by the wall if I'm leaving it for 15 mins. It also placed in the right place, at the back of the amp, this is because sometimes I knock switches when they're at the front. No to mention that this amplifier can be used as a pre-amp: 3.5mm into PC and RCA's into input; RCA cable into out of the Little Dot and then into a power amp; plug headphones into the power amp and you should be good to go. This means that you can use this amp with a solid state, nice! If you have an expensive solid-state that adds amazing detail but you also want slight warmth, this is great. In addition [I know...this amp can do lots!] it has three gain switches, hidden, but it has them. Low, medium and high gain. Low gain being for IEMs and mid-high for lower sensitivity headphones or planars. I hate when I'm stuck with a really high gain when using IEMs, it spoils the experience because they get pushed too much, vice versa with my HD800. So that's nice that Little Dot included those, I just don't get why they don't make them easier to find! Now that I've talked about the gain switches, I guess it's time to move onto the power and driving capabilities of the headphone amplifier. FEATURES: 8/10. SO FAR THIS LITTLE DOT IS AT 27.5...
CAN THIS AMPLIFIER DRIVE MY....?
To cut a long story short, YES, it can drive your HE-4, HD800, LCD3, MDR-F1, HE-500, SBC HP-1000, TH-900 etc. I don't have all those cans but I am pretty certain that I can drive everything that uses a 1/8 or 1/4 jack because I have my H800 at 20/100 volume! I don't even think I listen to music that quiet either, just average, maybe 75dB. Not only will it power your cans, but give them a nice coloured sound that sounds much better than many other amps up to £250. Even if you have the notoriously hard to drive HE-4, put the amp on high gain and you should rock away just fine. I hope that info helped you out, don't worry about the low sensitivity of your headphones or if they're planar, this will power them with ease. Obviously a more expensive amp will do a better job though. POWER OF AMP: 7.5/10. SO FAR THIS LITTLE DOT IS AT 35...
THE REAL STUFF...THE SOUND QUALITY!!!
Obviously the sound signature of nearly all valve amps is more bass and rolled off treble, this does just that.
BASS- Now, my HD800 lacks a bit of punch in the mid-bass in my opinion, this helps it out amazingly. It lifts the bass up so that it is more prominent by about 3dB and warms it up. The lower frequencies are super lush and rich with nice kick and impact. The extension is also improved a bit and all the detail is kept, it's amazing how a good amp can really make headphones sound, well...perfect!
MIDS- Every ounce of clarity and resolution is kept while sounding more 'liquid'. Detailing is improved in vocals and they come to life and feel really really real. By the way, this is how it sounds with most of my headphones. I can't really explain the sound much to you because everyone has a different opinion on sound. Key words are: clean, clear, warm and lush.
TREBLE- Some headphones take treble just a bit to far, others are laid back in this department. While headphones with rolled off treble remain this way when using this amp, headphones that extend too high get rolled off just at the right time. This makes listening a lot more enjoyable after a while. Treble is super smooth with a nice sparkle up top while remaining detailed. The treble is just made warmer and a lot more lush, the sound just sounds fuller and richer.
SOUNDSTAGE: This varies with headphones. From HD800 to PM3, every headphones soundstage is slightly different. What I can tell you is that if your headphones already have a big soundstage, that remains and you just get better layering and realism. I can tell where each instrument is, I guess that the imaging of this amp is also really nice.
It's very hard to rate sound but I am going to put a figure of 9.5/10 on this amp [in the price range of £100-£250]. Great, great sound!!!! So that means that this amp will finish with a score of 44.5/50.
A great amp for someone on a budget who enjoys warm audiophile sound. If you like a cold sounding experience, then this is not for you. I just can't get over how well this amp performs in all categories. 44.5/50 is very good, it fell short in the power section because a few £250 amps can do more, but this still packs a punch. I call £100-£250 one price range, you may call in two different price ranges but I compared this amp to all in the range. 44.5/50 actually comes out at 5 stars, here are the thresholds:
43-50 5 STARS --------- 44.5 [JUST ABOUT 5 - if a figure is close to a threshold, I can award half stars but I feel that this product deserves a solid 5!]
35-42 4 STARS
26-34 3 STARS
20-25 2 STARS
13-19 1 STAR
13 AND UNDER - WHY IS THIS PRODUCT EVEN ON SALE?
Highly recommended, get it on Amazon.co.uk here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Little-Dot-MKII-Headphone-Amplifier/dp/B00A2QMAI2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1477689358&sr=8-2&keywords=little+dot
THANK YOU ALL FOR READING, I HOPE THAT YOU ENJOYED THIS QUICK REVIEW! Have yourselves a great day - Matthew
"HD-600's gain low end zing"
Pros - Beefy sound, extended low end, amazingly obvious sound improvement over stock interface headphone amps
Cons - PITA gain adjustment
I was debating selling my HD600's because they seemed to have no low end straight out of my "pro" audio interfaces. They lacked character, and did not sound better (they sounded inferior) then my modded grado sr60e's (bass vented, Amazonbasic pads=basshead grado). I was skeptical about the possibility of adding an amp to a headphone I didn't like. However, eventually succumbing to the notion I have never owned a "real" headphone amp, I bought this little dot mk ii from amazon for about $180 USD and a pair of Voshkod 6ZH1P-EV tubes from ebay (Yen Audio, They are great and prompt) for around $40-$50 USD for the pair. I chose this amp (rightly so, now that I have it and use it may I add) and tube combo because I would have many configurations to work with / chances to obtain a good sound synergy with my HD600's. I did not use the stock tubes at all however, because the voshkod's arrived before the amp .
Do you need one: (read: you need one)
This amp demolished my idea I didn't need a "real" amp. I am aware of the honeymoon phase and false judgements used to rectify one's purchases. I'll put it this way: any of my fairly mid-high end recording focusrite audio interfaces or mixer headphone outputs sound like airplane-supplied radio outputs when compared to the Mkii. It is not subtle. I also appreciate I have no understanding on why this is- according the output ratings on other gear I have, the response across the frequencies should not change this drastically based on amplification source, i.e. the bass/low end shouldn't suddenly become epic on my hd600's while somehow still maintaining EQ-frequency-equilibrium...? Anywho, this is evidently completely possible and demonstrable with electricity, case to point=this amp (and quite honestly I bet most other proper headphone amps prove this electrical fact too, I just have experienced it for the first time...)
Random listening notes:
The amp makes cymbals "splash" in a nicer way (read: acutely noticeable and impressive way). It is hard to describe, but when listening to metal and post hardcore recordings through tidal and a competent focusrite dac, the lack of grittiness on the cymbals is the most profound change (besides the walloping low end)
Vince guaraldi, my favorite jazz pianist of all time, does great with the amp. The double bass in the trio and group recordings of his really pop and thud with the mk ii. And those jazz ride cymbals decay with just the right amount of... whatever they need to sound as full as they do now.
Dirty loops, kimbra, singer songwriters, etc (the usual new stuff on the block) all benefit from the new low end I am hearing, but that timbre and decay really livens up recordings I don't usually call "spicy".
I can critically listen (and maintain more or less focused attention) on albums/hours at a time, which is great. What a way to relax and be intellectually stimulated at the same time!
I tested my Voshkod tubes at all the gain settings. please note the are a PITA the get to, (remove the bottom plate with the front and back plate screws- the whole bottom will come off with the feet still attached).
with a setting of 1 on both switches, the sound is perfect. Nuff said. No background noise, the beefy extended response I wanted.
with all switches off = high gain = bad internal buzz problem (not my power, I have an excellent power conditioner)
With a setting of 2 on both sides: sounded like the mids were raspy, I have got no idea why.
WIth a setting of 1+2 on both sides: sounded weaker than just a setting of 1, like a cup of joe with too much milk (I digress, I'm running out of audiophile likenesses)
The amp gets REALLY hot (what do you expect, you have 4 while-hot burning things on your desk)
let the tubes play for a while before making conclusions, but I mostly find they just need to warm up for a few minutes before a listening session (like, the sound is unintelligible until the tubes hit 88mph and go into warp speed mode, or something.)
ALL IN ALL:
I am now a believer in good amplification. The timbre, decay, and bassy-goodness I can now hear while keeping a relatively flat response (to my ears) makes HD-600's truly worth it. The sound is non-invasive but lets the listener hear as much of what they turn their attention to- just like a concert at an intimate venue.
"Start your Tube Adventures here"
Pros - Power, Value, Tubes, Great sound
Cons - Some noise at times
Little Dot MK II
The Little Dot MK2 is and oldie but goodie, having been around since 2008. The MK2 is a testament of a solid, affordable tube amp. The tube selection, gain choices, and overall quality have stood the test of time, and it is well past time I’ve tried a pure, non hybrid tube amp in my music chain.
I’d like to thank George at Gearbest for providing me the MK2 for review. The MK2 price at Gearbest is one of the best on the net right now.
**NOTE** I was provided a 220v version of the MK2, as the 110v was not available during the review. If you are in the US or a country that uses 110v, it is strongly recommended to order the 110v and not run the 220v off of a voltage converter like I did (although it does work just fine this way).
I’m a price/performance value shopper in everything I purchase. I spend an extensive amount of time researching purchases and always look for a good value.
I have also spent many years as an A/V and music enthusiast. I have owned some high end audio equipment, from amps, speakers, subs, to just about anything audio related you can think of. I eventually moved on into building my own DIY custom speakers, as I felt the value and performance of most commercial speakers were lacking. I found out through this process that you could create high end setups from equipment costing thousands less than most branded commercial setups.
Since I cannot play music at 100+ decibels all day and night in an apartment complex, I started looking for similar values in the Headphone/Earphone/IEM world. In a Beats dominated setting, I was very disappointed.
I then found out about some excellent headphones/IEMs at great prices being made by Asian companies that are not known of here in the US. It renewed my interest in headphones and became the basis of the Asian audio thread.
My love of quality audio continues to this day, and I enjoy sharing my opinion of the gear I listen to. I have been guided toward purchasing some life altering, fantastic gear from great reviewers, and I feel if I can guide someone in the same way in which they truly appreciate what they have found, I’ve done what I wanted to accomplish.
- Input: Gold-Plated Unbalanced Phono (RCA) Jacks
- Output: 1/4" Gold-Plated Stereo Headphone out, Gold-Planted RCA pre-amplifier out
- Driver Tubes: 6JI
- Power Tubes: 6N6
- A newly designed SEPP (single-ended push-pull) circuit, which improves the output dynamic range
- and sound quality far better than the old LD II++, which used a cathode, output circuit.
- High quality ALPS-16 Potentiometer provides far better tracking between channels, which
- translates into more precise sound imaging.
- Upgraded circuit components include high quality NICHICON and German WIMA/ERO capacitors.
- Improved Pre-amp functionality
- Includes transient voltage suppression diode to shunt off voltage spikes.
- Frequency Response:
- 20HZ - 50KHz (-1 dB)
- THD+N: 0.1% (50mW into 300 ohms)
- Suitable Headphone Impedance: 32 - 600 ohms
- Input Impedance: 50K ohms
- Pre-Amplifier output impedance: 600 ohms
- Pre-Amplifier Gain: 3-10x (also controlled via gain switches)
- Pre-Amplifier Voltage: 10V RMS
- Pre-Amplification circuit includes both driver and power tubes
- Power Output:
- 300mW @ 300/600 ohms
- 200mW @ 120 ohms
- 100mW @ 32 ohms
- Power Consumption: 28W (228V * 0.124A)
- Metric: 210mm (L) by 110mm (W) by 130mm (H)
- English: 8.26 inches (L) by 4.33 inches (W) by 5.18 inches (H)
- Weight: 2.5 kg or 5.5 lbs
Tube and Gain Selection
6N6/6H6P power tubes
4 Gain settings- default setting best for iems.
Shiny, simplistic, effective. The black gloss matches my black tempered glass desk perfectly. The tubes are easy to install and remove (try not to touch them much), and the RCA inputs were easy enough to see during installation.
I wish I could easily get to the gain switch and jumpers without needing to remove screws and the housing. That's the one knock I have against the design and the MK II in general.
LH Labs Pulse X Infinity 2.0
Music used for testing
Gojira – Magma
Tiesto – Discography
Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts
Megadeth – Dystopia
Lamb of God – Discography
Blink 182 – California
Nonpoint – The Poison Red
Stone Temple Pilots – Core 24bit/96kHz FLAC
Tech N9NE, YG, Drake, Wu-Tang Clan
Like most tube amps, the MK2 adds a touch of warmth to the music over what a solid state amp would provide. This both can elevate and hurt the sound depending on the earphone/headphone used. There are also noticeable differences switching between the different gains, in which each earphone/headphone also responds differently. This is just with the stock tubes as well. Tube rolling would bring a whole new plethora of sounds. Stock tubes will only be used for testing.
The most noticeable addition is the enhancement of “presence” in the music. Compared to the single ended headphone output of my Infinity (which is no slouch), there is an extra analog thickness added to the music. Purists may prefer more analytic Solid State amping, but the MK2 was very enjoyable as the amp to use out of the Infinity. Some iems that seemed cold from the stock amp (Qingyin-20 hybrid) came alive via the MK2. This is via the stock tubes, which many deem neutral. A tiny bit of detail seemed to be lost via the tubes compared to the Infinity amp, but the sound was smoother.
Since the MK2 has been around awhile, I’d suggest researching tube rolling results to get an idea of what kind of sound you would like. You could end up spending far more on rare tubes that what the MK2 costs.
Another big pro of the MK2 is the power it has available. I had no trouble powering everything in my collection. Aside from the most power hungry planar headphones, the MK2 can handle just about anything you can throw at it, which is quite a feat for the price.
There weren’t many large differences in soundstage, imaging, and resolution via my amps and the stock tubes. I believe the headphones/iems are far more important in that than the amp. A good amp will allow these to be heard as intended. These results can vary wildly between sources and tubes, so YMMV.
This is my first true tube amp (outside of my Laney Cub 12R guitar amp), so I can only compare it against some hybrid tube amps.
Compared to the Aune T1 and Bravo Ocean (both nice little amps), the MK2 has more power on tap, along with a warmer, livelier, and more engaging sound. You can tell the difference between the pure tube and hybrid sound/setup. Unfortunately, I could not use my extensive tube collection that worked in the T1, as the tube families are incompatible.
There is a reason the Little Dot series has been around for a long time and beloved by many. With the extensive tube rolling options available, multiple gain modes, quality internals, strong amplification, and great sound quality, the MK2 would make an excellent entry into Tube Amps. It’s an entry I should have made a long time ago, and now with the discounted pricing found at Gearbest, it’s an affordable entry as well.
You can purchase the Little Dot MK2 from Gearbest here:
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