Anode Acoustics PCL82 № 1 Tube Headphone Amplifier

balvan

Head-Fier
Amazing Amp with a fair price
Pros: Addictive sound
Amazing personal service
Low Price - should cost x3
Cons: Very big
Vertical connectors
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Equipment used: Final Audio D8000 Pro, Audeze LCD-X, Kennerton Rognir, Burson conductor 3XP (as DAC), PC (as source).
Music: Many genres of Metal, Electrocore, punk.
Product's page: http://anodeacoustics.in/index.php/...ube-headphone-amplifier-ecl82-pcl82-hp-amp-1/
cost: 800$ US

Introduction
Anode Acoustics is an Indian company that makes amps for speakers and headphones, both SS and tube. Devices are made to order. Once you order an amp you will join the Anode Acoustics family and from that moment onwards the owner Nitin will keep in touch with you until you have received the amp, set it up, and reported your satisfaction. Nitin taught me so much about amplifiers and audio I would have paid the cost of the amp just of the lessons. After receiving the amp Nitin and I opened the amp during a video call and he proceeded to explain the internal components of the amp, a great experience to be sure.

International Shipping and build time
I toke about a week for the amp to be built and tested, then it was sent to Israel via Fedex which toke about 5 days to arrive. No issues.

Build Quality
Very Solid, you can pick it up holding the transformers, and it doesn't weight as much as Little dot's big amps. It's doesn't get very hot (expect the tubes themselves) even after hours of use, you can place your hand on the transformers' box and it will be a bit warm, nothing more. I'll say it's a good looking amp.

Sound Quality

If you are looking for distorted tubby sound, this might not be the amp for you. This amp is very reveling, very accurate, you could miss it's a tube amp if you test it blind. The sound is 100% clear and detailed with no distortions, very revealing just like if not more so than the Burson.

With Amp#1 the music come alive - it’s not coloring, it’s making it more engaging, more musical more heartfelt, without taking anything away or sacrificing details or clarity.

The LCD-X sounds like an upgraded version with this amp, you’ll be dancing in your seat tapping your legs, it’s wonderful.

The D8000 Pro which I couldn't listen to on the Burson SS amp become a musical experience once I plugged it into the Amp#1, no more does it ask for more volume, now it is satisfied with any volume I wish to listen with.

The Kennerton Rognir also sounds great on it. I should note that planars sounds great on this amp, and I do not agree with the notion that Planars are for SS, and Dynamic are for tubes. This tube amps works perfectly with Planars, and it's output transformers makes sure you can pair it with very low impedance headphones.

Since receiving the amp I just can't seem to find any reason to listen to an SS amp, this amp is End Game, I have no itch to scratch anymore, it's wonderful. you might be fooled into thinking this is some cheap amp due to its low price and vintage design, but that would be a mistake, this amp for me would be worth tripled its price.

Conclusion
This is defiantly the best Audio gear purchase I have ever made, I will not be replacing it or trying to find something better, it is everything I wanted.


Comparing with Anode Acoustics HPA#2 (SS)
the HPA#2 is a warm, bassy SS amp. it's very easy to listen to, very forgiving, it has a vintage taste and is great for old recordings with low quality as well as high end stuff. It is not transparent (warm, bass boosting), for transparency you should get their HPA#4. it's a very good amp, it sounds better than the Burson in my opnion.

The HPA#1 on the other hand is a clean sounding amp, no color, no extra anything, it just makes the sound more musical and dare I say, adds a majestic quality to it, it add soul to the sound.

As for HPA#2, I say that for its cost (370$) you won't find anything SS near its quality, it's a nice sweet powerful amp, I enjoy it very much, but I mostly prefer the HPA#1, I just can't get enough of it.


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K
kaushiknitin
Hello @alekc and @ZzZzZzZ I am Nitin Kaushik and I'll be pleased to answer your queries about AA HP amp #1. Yes this an interesting amplifier because the input and output tubes are in one glass envelope. This amp is coupled to high quality output transformers.
inmytaxi
inmytaxi
I like their 40 watt power amps. Any US distribution?
K
kaushiknitin
Hi. There is no distribution in USA and these units are heavy at about 20kg each. You should try our tube preamplifier as well. Please contact via the email provided on the website.

machinegod

New Head-Fier
After 1 year of usage :-
Pros: Built like a tank.
Sound quality is excellent- very transparent, airy, spacious with excellent treble extension.
Huge driving power and capability.
Compatible with dynamics and planars alike.
Cons: LED light is unacceptably bright.
Metal plate has no printed text for controls.
Should come with 2 inputs as standard.
Introduction
Anode Acoustics is a boutique manufacturer of high end audio products in India. Their products are handcrafted from scratch in India with parts from India as well (all but a few of the components which are not manufactured in India anymore).
One of the main goals of the brand is to provide high performance components at honest prices and thus providing a huge bang for the buck. At the time of writing this, they sell direct only, thus keeping the cost as low as possible.
I have bought and owned all of their headphone amplifiers (No.1, No.2, No.3, No.4) and their 12AU7 based stereo preamplifier and I can safely say that when it comes to raw performance their stuff is on a league of their own, punching way above their price class, giving most retail components costing substantially more a run for their money.

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Disclaimer
The Anode Acoustics No.1 Headphone amplifier was bought with my own money for my personal usage. The brand has no influence on what follows below. My analysis is presented after 1 year of thorough usage. You can purchase it here directly from them.

Build Quality
No.1 is built like a museum piece, it is extremely rugged. It is also big and heavy but that is because it needs to be so. The unit weighs about 9kg and prospective buyers need to have sufficient space for this big amp.
As with all things such heavy, there is a reassuring feeling of ruggedness and quality. The enclosure is made from Teak wood, which is sourced in India. The result is absolutely gorgeous. There is something about tubes and wooden enclosure. Like warmth from a fire in a cold day. All in all, it is one of the best built objects I have come across.
Such solid build quality is rarely seen in retail components.

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Features
This is an output transformer coupled tube amplifier and not an OTL. This means that the amp is compatible with dynamics and planars alike, and the impedance matching is done via 40 ohm, 150 ohm, 300 ohm, 600 ohm taps. There are 2 modes : Pentode and Triode. In pentode mode, the tubes are operated in pentode mode and full power of 1W is supplied while in Triode mode, 200mW is supplied. The output transformer is entirely made in house. The output transformer enclosure is cold to the touch even after 2+ hours of continuous usage. If you know anything about output transformers, you will also be surprised to find one this affordable (~1000 USD). But the performance speaks for itself.

The tubes supplied are either PCL82/ECL82 and the buyer can select either one. I opted for the PCL82 tubes that are NOS BEL tubes (made in India) with long plates. The glass is thick and the tubes themselves feel quite premium, which is indicative of its authenticity. It is not one of those cheap Chinese junk vacuum tubes. I am told that the tubes are not pushed hard at all, but used judiciously to greatly prolong the lifespan of the tubes. Even after around 300+ hours of usage, there is barely any visible wear on the tubes.

When using a headphone, the correct impedance or the impedance closest to that of the headphone must be used. But it is to be noted that that one shouldn't pair loads much lower than 40 ohm or higher than 600 ohms. And thus compatibility with headphones is a breeze no matter what. In my one year of rigorous usage, I have paired a variety of headphones including multiple planars that are really hard to drive, bordering on insanely hard to drive and yet the amp handles them like a boss. Although strictly prohibited by the brand, I have used as low as 18 ohm planar earphones like the Tin P1 Plus (which are really hard to drive) and had no issues. On the opposite end of the spectrum I have used the Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2 whose nominal impedance is 600 ohms but shoots up to 900 ohms as well and as expected, no issues whatsoever. I have paired vintage Yamaha Orthodynamics like the HP1 and its brothers (150 ohm, 92-94dB/mW) and the amplifier drove them very nicely. And mind you, these orthodynamics ideally need obscene amounts of power to shine properly. I have compared the Yamaha HP1 being driven off speaker amp and No.1 and I was shocked at how nicely it was being driven : deep chest thumping bass, slamming hard dynamics and energy.

So one can pair all headphones out there provided it is between 40-600ohms, (maybe not the outliers like Susvara, HE6 etc) and in my experience all of them being driven to perfection . The thing that really bugs me is the LED light, it is unacceptably bright and I have it taped up. Also, it's a bummer that the metal plate has no writing printed on it for the controls. It is not a big deal but it would surely go a long way if the controls for the triode mode, pentode mode and impedance values were printed.
But I am guessing it was a conscious decision to keep the costs down.

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Sound Quality
In my thorough usage, I have used a variety of headphones starting from the HD540 Reference 600 ohm, Beyerdynamic T1 Gen 2 600 ohm, AKG K240 Sextett, the all time classics HD600,HD650 to planars like the Yamaha orthodynamics and planar earphones. The amp has a very subtle yet total coloration in the sound. In pentode mode, the sound is more forward and engaging, details are pushed forward more. In triode mode, the sound is pushed back a little, adding more space to the sound. Midrange takes a step back in Triode mode. This mode is highly recommended for more refined and quieter genres. I used the pentode mode almost exclusively.

The coloration being a slight touch of wetness. It has this uncanny combination of being totally uncolored in tonality and timbre but having an all encompassing subtle wetness in its presentation. Present are the hallmark characteristics of a quality tube amp namely excellent air and treble extension with abundant shimmer and sparkle. This is NOT a warm amp, its treble is beautifully extended.

When using planar headphones I was presented with deep bass that slammed so hard, so clean. Bass extension is phenomenal. So are the dynamics - the Tin P1 Plus which scales substantially provided dynamics that are almost overwhelming. The imaging is spacious and wide, making the "narrow" sounding 600,650 sound wide and "out of the head". All the while keeping the tonality pristine and helping the headphone speak for itself with its own characteristics.

The amp is truly neutral when it comes to tonality. The level of transparency that this amp provides, beggar's belief. Its transparency surpasses all of the solid state amps I have heard to this day. It is a microscope, it makes the listener look into the music to such great levels that it might even be too transparent to some, specially those who are misguided by the wrong notion that tube amps are supposed to be "warm, tubby, mushy"? Said who? There is no such rule.

In some ways this amp made me open my eyes to what a tube amp can sound like. This means that if your headphone is poo-poo or has some glaring faults in tuning, you will surely hear it. That is why dac matching to this amp is of paramount importance. I have paired multiple dacs throughout my usage to get vastly different flavors of sound. Some provide a lush and forgiving tone while some make the chain uber resolving and transparent.
You must find the right companion dac for your headphones. My personal recommendation would be to add a neutral sounding dac to this amp.

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Conclusion
It is truly an amplifier one can happily retire with. Even after 1 year of thorough usage I am still as glad as I was the first time when I heard it and I shall continue to do so. Money well spent.
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gadgetgod

500+ Head-Fier
Pros: Natural & Transparent sound.
Airy and spacious presentation.
Solid, Robust build with an elegant wooden finish.
Powerful output easily drives the HD650 without breaking a sweat.
Two operating modes(Pentode and Triode).
Selectable output impedance(40Ω, 150Ω, 300Ω, 600Ω).
Cons: The amp is huge, you need ample space on your table for it.
There is noticeable interference when a smartphone is placed near the tubes on the amplifier(Mainly noticed with IEMs).
No Pre-amp, this is a dedicated headphone amplifier only.
After spending years exploring different gears in my journey as an audiophile, I can say everything in our chain contributes to the overall output. Right from the recording of our music to the DAC in use or amp in use or the connected headphone can make or break the experience. When it comes to hardware everything should be synergizing right as per your listening preferences only then this hobby is finally worth it. I, being a gadget freak, an audio lover, loves to explore different gears. Every other day I see myself selling my current IEM or DAP. Some might say I have not found my personal sound yet(Believe me I am slowly settling now like for DAP I am sorted with HiBy RS6). But one thing in my collection is always the same, and that will be my Headphone. For my Headphone game, I feel complete with two different models from Sennheiser, the HD600 and the HD650. I have previously owned the HD600 and now I own the HD650. Believe me, I regret selling the HD600 too, both of these headphones together can be one’s endgame for sure.

Now coming back to today’s topic of the audio chain or stack. For a Sennheiser HD600/650 everybody including me recommends a Tube Amplifier. And not just any Tube amplifier, these headphones are known to scale well with better amplifiers, so the better amp you can give to the HD650, the better will be the experience. When I had the HD600, I bought the Cayin HA-1A MK2 for about 750$, now with the HD650, I went the exploring way. Mainly because my Headphone usage wasn’t much and I was not planning to put 1000$ for an amp due to budget constraints. First I got the Anode Acoustics #4 Solid-State Amplifier, a mighty powerful device that actually paired well with the HD650. Man the pairing of #4 with HD650 was quite good but it lacked the emotional touch that I knew HD650 is capable of providing with Tube Amplifiers(I have heard the HD650 with tubes so).

Then at an audio meet in my city, I got to experience the Dark Voice 336SE with HD650. It felt like a heavenly combo. I could feel the emotional connection with the HD650 now, so without wasting any more time I sold my solid-state amplifier and bought the Dark Voice 336SE the very next day. Even today I am using the Dark Voice as my amplifier for the HD650. The synergy is quite good with this combo. But my happiness and love with the Dark Voice are short-lived. Because I have now heard something better, something that made the HD650+Dark Voice synergy sound dull. Meet the Anode Acoustics #1, a SET tube Amplifier hand-made by Anode Acoustics in India. After so much background, today’s blog is being dedicated to the impressions of this brilliant handmade amp that is completely made in India. Without any further ado, let’s begin!!
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Disclaimer:-

I got to audition the Anode Acoustics #1 HP AMP at their office in Delhi. Mr. Nitin Kaushik from Anode Acoustics helped me get about 3 to 4 hours of me-time with the amplifier where I paired it with the Sennheiser HD650 and Hifiman HE400i headphones as well as Sony IER M9 IEMs. At the time of this writeup, the #1 is available to purchase with them for 900$. You can contact them on Facebook for ordering the #1.

Design & Build Quality:-

Anode Acoustics #1 is a very well-built amplifier. It has two PCL82 tubes at the top of the amplifier with three transformers and two knobs. One knob here is the volume knob and the other knob is for selecting the impedance mode. There are also two switches, one for power and the other for switching between the Pentode and the Triode modes. The headphone jack is at the top near the volume knob. There are also analog RCA input ports placed at the top of the amp. The chassis of the #1 has a wooden frame that houses a beautiful plate that reads Made In India by Anode Acoustics. One can feel the solid build of the amplifier by just touching any component on the amplifier. Yes, it looks hand-made, it has that feel but man the build-quality is top-notch.
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My Chains:-

I connected the Anode #1 with three different sources, the first being my Schiit Modi 3+ DAC, the second being my HiBy RS6, and the third being a 7-year old S.M.S.L DAC(I don’t know the model no. it was in their office).

Driving Power:-

According to Nitin Kaushik from Anode Acoustics, the HP AMP #1 has a power output rating of up to 1W. I tested the pair with 300Ω Senn HD650, 25Ω HE400i(Planar magnetic driver), and 20Ω Sony IER M9. There is no noticeable hiss or background noise with any of the pairings that I tried. I never had to push the volume wheel too much for anything, I can simply say the Anode #1 is a very powerful amplifier that will suit both your IEMs as well as demanding headphones.
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Sound Impressions:-

I went out of words the moment I connected the HD650 with the #1. The last time I heard the Dark Voice with the HD650, I fell in love with the combination. I said to myself that day, “Pulkit the Dark Voice and HD650 is a stack to own”, but man the #1 takes the HD650 to an all-new level of awesomeness. The #1 enables the HD650 to touch horizons that were not noticeable before, the headphone sounds airier, has a better punch in the lower end. You can literally feel every single guitar string being struck, the airiness with the #1 is at that level. The #1 on its own has a neutral and transparent sound signature. It doesn’t add warmth to the output but the added weight of a tube amplifier can be felt. Especially in vocals, they sound so emotional, so immersive that I got goosebumps listening to the track “Tere Bin” from the movie “Guru”.
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Midrange with the #1 sounds rich with excellent vocals and instrument presentation. The stage gets a better sense of space, one can feel the perfect positioning of different instruments on the stage too. I would like to add this here, the #1 complemented the HE400i too. Being a planar driver headphone, it paired quite well with the #1, though its slight bit of brightness can be felt in the Treble region thanks to the transparent sound of the #1.
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#1 allows your connected headphones to breathe properly with loads of clean power. This helps in allowing the headphones to perform their best with wide extensions at both the lower and higher ends of the frequency response range. Even with the Senn HD650, the treble detail and extensions are excellent. The treble with the HD650 and #1 is much more pronounced and lively as compared to the HD650 and DarkVoice combination.

There are two working modes on the #1, Pentode and Triode. Both have a slight bit of difference in sound output with the Pentode mode sounding more forward and lively. Especially in the midrange department. Triode mode is more for a smoother and laid-back experience.
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In my short yet lively experience with the #1 and HD650, I was mesmerized and happy. I mean this stack is not just wonderful, this is like the perfect pairing. And not just for the HD650, The #1 paired well with the HE400i and the Sony IER M9 too. Now let’s share some comparisons with the Cayin HA-1A MK2 that I used to own a few months back.

Anode Acoustics #1 Vs Cayin HA-1A MK2:-

Both these amplifiers provide support for lower impedance headphones too. Cayin one is a great looker with a compact tower-style form factor while the Anode Acoustics #1 occupies its space with a fully laid out build. Here’s my take with both of these. (Photo of Cayin HA1A MK2 are from the archives).
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>Sound wise both have a neutral tone, but the dynamics are better on the #1.

>Cayin one needed me to upgrade the pre-amp stage tubes, #1 on its stock form is much cleaner.

>In terms of output power #1 provides more power for our headphones.

>With better power, headphones show a better sense of space and air on the stage.

>In terms of build and aesthetics, Cayin HA 1A Mk2 is a great looker. The window on the front displays an array of five tubes.

>With its compact form factor, the HA1A MK2 occupies less space on the desk, #1 needs its full working space.
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Final Words:-

Well, that’s about it. From my write up you might have got an idea that I loved the #1. I liked it to the extent that I am finding the Dark Voice actually sound not up to my taste. Definitely a recommendation from my side!! I would like to thank Mr. Nitin from Anode Acoustics for organizing this small meet-up and letting me audition the #1 at the office!!
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