Anode Acoustics Solid State HP Amplifier (HP Amp #2)

triveniprasadnanda

New Head-Fier
Euphonic Class A solid state from a boutique Indian brand
Pros: 1. Musical SQ unlike any other SS amp I've ever heard
2. Pure Class A amplification
3. Pairs really well with planars
4. Layered presentation
5. Built like a tank with polymer coated steel and machined aluminium
Cons: 1. Not exactly a con but step down gain modes may make it a better pairing with sensitive IEMs
Here is my impression of the #2. A beautifully hand-crafted solid-state amp designed and assembled by Mr. Nitin Kaushik from Anode Acoustics - India.
One word review: Euphonic
I had the pleasure of auditioning it at Nitin Ji's home along with the #1 (SET Tube amp) but Nitin ji very graciously loaned me the #2 to listen and form an opinion, and in hindsight, I wish I hadn't taken him up on this.
With my limited exposure to high-end gear as the caveat, I can say that this is the best SS amp I've heard and it is greater than the sum of its parts.
The build is premium, to say the least. It has an RCA input and has a 6.3mm headphone out. There are no gain switches.
This amp just does one thing and does it damn well.
It's just pure Class A amplification (the exact output wattage isn't specified). I could not turn the volume knob more than 30% for both of my demanding headphones (Hifiman Sundara and Sennheiser HD650).
I used it almost exclusively with my iFi Zen DAC with those smooth-sounding Burr-Brown chips. I used to love my stack with the iFi Zen DAC and Zen can but the #2 has put a wedge in that love affair.
I had almost two weeks to do A/B and after listening to hundreds of my favourite tracks I can safely conclude that this amp is really worth every penny.
The guitar strums and the vocals have a very sweet characteristic to them. It takes the edge out and didn't sound harsh at all for the entirety of my library, as opposed to the occasional glare with the Zen can on the Sundara. This paired well with both my HPs and with all my IEMs (Shuoer S12, Tanchjim Hana 2021, and Fiio FD3 Pro).
Moreover, it was heard by folks who had heard the first iteration of the #2 and said that this is a definite upgrade.
This amp is so musical, it almost has a tube-ish sound to it, devoid of the typical SS edge that sometimes makes certain vocal and cymbal hits sound sibilant, at least for my liking.
It takes a standard PC power cable, so no need to worry about linear power supplies/SMPS (it has built linear power supply components). I have faced this with the iFi Zen can that only works well with the supplied iFi Power adaptor.
One thing to keep in mind is the DAC pairing with this amp. I found that it is musical (so not 100% transparent like a clinical Topping NFCA design) but is still dependent on the DAC's output. For example, it paired really well with my Zendac as opposed to the ESS DACs in my Lotoo Paw S1 and LG G7. Not to say it sounded bad with them but it sounded way better and 'fuller' with the Zen DAC.
If I didn't have plans to get the #1 SET amp from Nitin ji, I'd have got this. I still may do it.
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abheybir
abheybir
This seems some different version of Amp #2
T
triveniprasadnanda
It is actually the Mark II version of the #2 amp. It has upgraded power supply components from the Mark I that you had reviewed a while back.

gadgetgod

100+ Head-Fier
Anode Acoustics #2 Headphone Amp: A Powerful Handcrafted AMP Crafted in India
Pros: Outstanding Build
Warm, Musical Sound Tuning
Vocals get a soft soothing tone
Excellent tonality and tonal weight
Insanely powerful
Cons: Soundstage has an intimate presentation(Not a Con per se, depends on person to person)
No Pre-amp function
No balanced connection support
Single RCA input
Introduction:-

Anode Acoustics is a Hi-Fi Indian brand that makes some brilliant hand-crafted audio amplifiers and other studio-related gears. Anode Acoustics have a history of manufacturing high-quality studio equipment mainly consisting of tube and solid-state amplifiers. But a few years back Nitin Ji from Anode Acoustics also started making headphone amplifiers with their very first Anode Acoustics #1 tube headphone amplifier. I personally have a short experience with the #1(with HD600) that I got to try at an audio meet in my city a year back. Since then Anode Acoustics has added a few more additions to the headphone amplifier range with three more products, #2, #3, and #4. #3 is an OTL tube amplifier while #2 and #4 are both solid-state amplifiers but both working on different technologies.
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Both the #4 and #2 HP amps are based on different technologies, both have entirely different sound signatures, both have their own benefits and cons. #2 is based on MOSFET Technology and #4 is built on BJT Power Output Transistors, #4 has a natural, reference-grade tuning and #2 has a smooth, soft, tube touch to the sound. Anode Acoustics #2 is available to purchase for 25k INR(approx 350$) and #4 is available for 22k INR(approx 300$). Today I am going to share my opinion about their second solid-state amplifier, the Anode Acoustics #2.

Disclaimer:-

The #2 and #4 were sent to me for an audition by Nitin Ji from Anode Acoustics. I am not benefiting in any way from Anode Acoustics in return for this review. All thoughts and impressions in this post are based on my own experience with the amplifier. If you have any questions regarding its technology or want to order one, contact Anode Acoustics on their Facebook page here.
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Design & Build Quality:-

Similar to Anode #4, the #2 has a simple and sturdy design made with 1.2m thick powder-coated steel. It has an aluminum front panel with a glossy plate that has Anode Acoustics printed on it. The 3.5mm connector here has a push-button mechanism, it locks the headphone socket inside and one has to push the button in order to pull out the headphone. The volume knob is right next to the quarter-inch headphone socket. On the back, we have high-quality RCA connectors and a power socket. The only noticeable light on the amp is on the side right under the power switch which gets on when we turn on the amplifier.
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Overall the Anode #2 is built like a tank, it looks excellent with a polished aluminum front plate and a heavy build. I never faced it getting hot even after long continuous usage(up to 5-7 hours at a single time).

Chain:-

My source for this review is xDuoo XD-05 Bal line-out to the Anode #2 amplifier. I used Sennheiser HD600 and Unique Melody Mirage as my main headphones and earphones for this review.
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Sound Quality:-

Even though both the #2 and #4 are from the same manufacturer, they both have an entirely different sound signature. On one hand where #4 has a reference-grade natural tone, on the other the #2 has a sweet, soft, warm touch to the output that reminds me of tube amplifiers. Yes to me, It presents the output in a very musical, melodious manner that complements the sound with thick lower-end, lush vocals, and smooth treble frequencies. Instrument notes have good air between them and also a good sense of weight to them.

Similar to #4, #2 is extremely powerful. It powers my HD600 at around 30-35% on the volume pot only. For items such as the Unique Melody Mirage, about 10% on the volume pot is more than enough to bring the pair to life.
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Bass:-

#2 has a fantastic bass response, it has its main emphasis on the mid-bass portion with slams hitting right to the core. No, it doesn’t have overpowering bass, rather has a very clean, refined bass response that complements the other frequencies well with its punchy presentation. Sub-bass presence can also be felt with good depths and powerful rumble.

Mids:-

Mid-range response is kind of the finest mood here with a forward signature. Even though it is forward it doesn’t make the vocals go shouty or harsh even at loud volume. Both the male and female vocals carry a lovely, soft tone to them that it is a pleasure listening to artists like Damien Rice, Gloria Gaynor, Yao Si Ting with #2 in the chain. Acoustic guitar, Piano, and other instruments show a rich presentation with a good sense of weight in their strings/keys. Overall, a very lovely mid-range with the #2.

Treble:-

Treble portion has good energy, a smooth, non-fatiguing approach. With the warm nature of the amplifier, I am pretty sure it will benefit earphones/headphones with bright treble tuning. The high-frequencies have good detail and separation with good airiness between them. There is no noticeable fatigue or sibilance in the output, instruments such as Violins, Electric Guitars have an excellent presentation with good clarity between the notes.

Soundstage & Imaging:-

Dynamics such as layering, imaging of instruments in the output are quite produced quite beautifully. Obviously, the output is very clean and powerful it gives ample space for the headphones/earphones to shine their best. In terms of soundstage, the overall presentation is intimately similar to the #4 but has a better sense of depth here with the #2.

#2 Vs #4, Which one is their best Solid State Amp:-

#2 and #4 are both excellent at their own respective places. #4 delivers a natural tone and true, pure sound while #2 adds a warm, smooth tone to the music. #2 will definitely suit bright headphones too, taming the harsh highs with its loving touch of smoothness, #4 will present the output as it is. Here are the key points between the two.

>#2 is made on MOSFET technology, #4 is based on BJT Transistors.

>Both the #2 and #4 are tremendously powerful headphone amplifiers.

>#2 has a warm, soft tuning while #4 has a pure, natural sound tuning.

>#2 produces better tonal weight, more air in instruments.

>Both have an intimate soundstage presentation but #2 has better depth.

>Driving power with both the amplifiers is identical.

>#2 costs 25K INR(roughly 350$), #4 costs 22K INR(300$ approx).

Some cons with #2:-

>Staging is intimate in terms of width. (Not a con as such depends on person to person).

>No pre-amp, no balanced connection support.
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A Few Final Words:-

Anode Acoustics #2 does best what it is made to do!! It’s an extremely powerful amplifier that holds enough juice to power up even demanding cans with ease. Even for an HD600 that is a 300ohm can, I just never had to go above 35% on the volume pot. To be very honest I enjoyed both the #2 and #4 amplifiers from Anode Acoustics, choosing between them is super easy too. Both the amps have different sound signatures so, users can choose the one that falls right under their listening preferences. As I have stated many times in this review, #2 for a warm, soft sound that presents a sweet melodious sound, and #4 for a natural & reference-grade sound.

If you have any other questions feel free to drop them down in the comments section or for ordering or any other technical help, contact Anode Acoustics on their Facebook page here.

aramico

New Head-Fier
Anode Acoustics SS#2 Headphone Amp - Very good solid state HPA
Pros: 1. Very good build quality.
2. Smooth and bit warmish sound signature with more nice treble response and mid forward sound
3. Very good power which can drive most of the HP out there except some vintage cans.
4. One of the great options in that price range.
Cons: 1. The treble response is very good, but lack that sparkle at the top.
2. As its little warm does not pair well with warm HP's
3. Mid-forward signature tends to give the impression of lesser staging.
4. Balanced connections would have been nice. May I be I am asking too much at this price point.
Disclaimer:
This HPA was sent to us for a review from @anodeacoustics and to share unbiased impressions of this nice little HPA.
Product Link
http://anodeacoustics.in/index.php/solid-state-hp-amplifier/

Price – INR 25K

Build
The amp is pretty nicely built for the price range, with full metal body and all the connectors are good. The volume pot is nice one too. But there is slight play at both ends. Overall, it is pretty well-built amp.

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Sound impressions
Gears used – PC > Q5 (modded) / TDA1387 DAC > Anode SS2 > AKG K240 Sextette (M) / AKG K712 Pro / Sennheiser HD540 / HD 600 / HD6xx (KISS mod) / HD800 stock / Beyerdynamic DT480 (with pad stacking).
Unfortunately, could not use my go to DAC mimby in the combo (they gave up on me).
The amp was warmed for 4-5hrs at least before any listening session and most of the listening was done in quiet hours by burning the midnight oil.
AKG 240 Sextette (M) – vintage can
This is a slightly warm sounding HP. Overall smooth sound with bit more warmish tinge. This HPA can drive these HP to very good levels. I did not go beyond 9pm on the volume. The Bass had good definition but not much rumble. Mids were sweet and felt little laid back. The top end was Ok, but lacking bit of sparkle which I felt with Sapphire. The staging and imaging were pretty damn good as is the case with most of vintage AKG’s. Overall, I felt this pairing though good but bit on the warm side for my liking.
AKG K712 pro
These are pretty hard to drive. They sound bloated and thin if it is not driven properly. But to my surprise, this amp can drive them beyond satisfactory levels. The bass sounds nice again with good definition, mids were really sweet. The treble is good too. The staging was awesome too as these are generally awesome with staging. Overall, I was very happy with this combo.
Sennheiser HD540 – vintage can
The poor man’s HD800. One of my favourite too. These sound really great with Sapphire. With this amp they sound pretty darn close to Sapphire. The Sennheiser mids were coming forward. The bass is pretty light on these but there is enough oomph and the sweet treble, all were present. Only thing is again its neutral with wee bit warm tinge. This is very nice combo too.
Senn HD600
These are real favourite of mine at the price they sell at (used or otherwise). I could certainly feel bit more bass and sweeter mids, but highs were tad bit smoother for my liking. Overall good for long listening with smoother sound.
HD6XX (KISS mod)
Again, here too I like how this amp drives them, the mids sound sweet. But the bass is slightly loose (this is generally the case with the except the tubes). The veil was there but not to the bothering levels. Pretty good combo.
HD800 stock
This was a surprising combo. The HD800 in stock form can sound pretty shouty on certain recordings with their notorious peaks. But with this amp they sounded really nice without too much of peaks or glary. The humongous staging was toned down a bit, which is not a too much of concern. If you want HD800 to sound easy and not too clinical without breaking the bank pick this amp.
Beyerdynamic DT480 (with pad stacks) – vintage can
These are very unlike current Beyers. With double pad stacking they sound damn good almost to life like sound. I love these with Sapphire. This amp makes it sound more natural and smoother. The treble is sweet too without any fatigue. This is darn good combo.

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Comparison with Sapphire
You must have seen me keep referring to the Sapphire amp. For me this is the benchmark amp in this price range and above.
When compared to Sapphire this go toe to toe most of the times. But for me Sapphire sound very neutral without any coloration. Also, I felt the staging and both ends felt bit wider and cleaner on Sapphire. That’s a pretty good thing on SS#2’s part, as these click most of the boxes.
Conclusion
I would like to thank Nitin Kaushik for letting me try this amp. This amp checks lot of boxes at pretty sweet price point. I feel It works for most people out there with sounding good with most of the music genres.
Had I not heard / been using Sapphire, I would have definitely picked it. Along with Sapphire, this is a really nice amp to recommend.
#anodeacoustics #headphoneamp #SS2
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abheybir

100+ Head-Fier
Anode Acoustics SS Amp - Simplicity at its best
Pros: 1) Solid Build Quality
2) Warmish Musical Sound Signature
3) Deep bass response with Detailed Treble and Forward Mids
4) Versatile with different Sources and Headphones/IEM/Earbuds
5) Powerful yet quite Low Noise Floor
6) Best Price to Performance Ratio
Cons: 1) Soundstage capabilities are above average, lower than expected
Introduction
Anode Acoustics is rather a new name in the Audiophile Industry, but they have won many hearts with their quality products like El34 based tube power amplifiers, 300b power amplifiers, ECC82 based tube preamplifiers, tube headphone amplifiers and solid state power amplifiers. Anode Acoustics have their headquarters at New Delhi, India and as their tag line on website says all their products are meticulously Hand Crafted and proudly Made in India.

The Solid-State HP Amplifier (HP Amp #2) is a compact neutral sounding amplifier with a slight hint of warmth. The front is machined from solid aluminium, brushed and anodized for an attractive finish. The enclosure is made of 1.2mm thick powder coated steel. It offers a full Class A amplification and a sustained 1500mW output before clipping. For more details on product you can visit the website. On front there is one Volume Know and one quarter inch headphone jack along with brand logo, and on the rear, there is RCA input along with 3Pin Power in. On/Off Switch have been provided at the left panel with some air vents on both sides and bottom of the amp. The amp can be tuned to a specific gain levels from 15 to 20db as per requirement during production only thus no gain switch is there on the body.

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Disclaimer:
I have received Anode Acoustic HP Amp #2 as part of review circle by brand itself in exchange of honest reviews and was so impressed by it that finally got myself a unit. All impressions of sound are subjective to my own listening and my sources and is based on my experience with rig of similar hardware configurations and price range.

Sources:
For this review the unit has been paired to A&K SE100 (ES9038 Pro), Fiio Q5 (AK4490) and Dragonfly Red (MQA Rendering)

Test Rig:
Headphones:
Focal Clear, Beyerdynamic T1 gen2, Beyerdynamic DT880 pro 250ohm
IEMs: Tin Audio P2
Earbuds: Moonbuds Nightshade

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Impressions: The overall signature irrespective of the source is bit warmish and musical in nature. The noise floor I would say is very impressive. It’s a Class A amplifier with a dual mono design i.e. both channels have their own dedicated PCB. Let’s see in detail how it performed during my testing.

Highs:
Anode SS Amp#2 has sparkly highs which are sweetly tamed giving a relaxed and melodious impact. At this price point I would say it is one of the best amps that has so much refined treble. There is no sibilance or harsh tones at any point of time and an overall airiness all around the headroom. I have used it more than 8 hours straight while working from home these days, and not any point of time there is any treble fatigue, or I could complain loss of details. The cymbals, trumpets, saxophones, electric guitars and all other bells, whistles and chimes felt so lively, detailed and yet relaxing. I would say I have enjoyed the highs on this amp better than on any other sources I own at this point of time. Best example would be the highs of “Rehna Tu from Delhi-6” or “Quartet 1 by John Cage” these tracks sounded so much fun using this amp, irrespective of the transducers used.

Mids:
There is uniformity throughput the mids section and a feel of airiness. Overall, the mid-section is bit forward. All the instruments sound natural and relaxing; the vocals have this sweet melodious touch that it takes you far away in the dreamland. Acoustic guitars, mandolins, drums, flutes and all other instruments in this region shine very well. The lower mids does also have a nice presentation giving the overall presence factor a nice boost. A perfect example if it I would say would be listening to “Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris - Romeo And Juliet” track, the vocals were so crisp and lively with all the instruments easily distinguishable. Same was the impact with “Eric Clapton - Wonderful Tonight” specially the female vocals in 2005 remastered live version of the song.

Lows:
Bass response is punchy and is quite detailed and textured. The whole bass presentation feel bit elevated giving a very musical presentation. At no point I feel its bleeding to mids or congested, it’s just perfect as it should be for my taste I would say. The overall warm nature compliments the elevation in bass region. It is fun listening to country, classic rock and EDM on it. The sub bass rumbles come out quite textured and immediately gives a mood elevation. There is a new life in all my cans in bass region I must say and immediately sets me to groove mode when paired to this. Tracks like “Bass Rani by Nucleya” or my favorite “Tokyo Drift remix by KVSH” had such an amazing feel when listened using this amp irrespective of any source giving detailed highs forward mids and thumping bass drops in a warm presentation. “Infinity (Dubdogz & Bhaskar Edit)” is another track that I have had on frequent replays on it and enjoyed every bass drop.

Detailing/Imaging/Soundstage:
The dynamics, micro detailing are exceptional as per price point of view and I think are kind of hard to find in this price bracket as well. It brings out all the technicality nicely. The soundstage is also very wide but somehow lacks the depth I would say, but still one of the best presentations I have heard at this price range. There is no holographic feel to it but the transitions were very smooth and intimate, and best example can be seen in “Mind Tricks by Bassnectar”, the overall presentation was very very good but it was not the best in terms of staging I would say. Talking about detailing I would say that I have not noticed any compromise at all during all my listening experience.

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Final Verdict:
This is the toughest review for me to write up till date, I have spent hours writing it because the moment I put on my cans/IEM/earbuds, I just started enjoying it thus losing the track of time. It is a very musical amp indeed, and very well implemented single ended output. Even watching movies and playing games is another level of fun apart from listening to music on it. The sound is very intimating I would say and with the genre I listen to, it was a mesmerizing experience. This amp is pure gold in price to performance ratio and the versatility with difference sources and transducers makes it quite an interesting piece of equipment to own. The minimal noise floor is also one of the best aspects of it along with amazing power output, it has efficiently played all power hungry transducers that were paired to it from planar Tin audio P2 to Beyerdynamic T1 gen2. So, if you are looking for a warmish laid-back kind of signature without compromise in details to have a musical experience then this is the one for you.
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