Reviews by carboncopy


500+ Head-Fier
a true high-end amp for my Verité Open
Pros: Build quality, adjusment range of the volume pot, flexibility with the input trimmers, tube rolling dream, a bit quirky but very lovable design, absolute no noise and above all a fantastic sound quality
Cons: Only for high impedance dynamic drivers


General Information​

While I am not a professional reviewer I had my share of equipments I lived with. First with speaker system then I swithed to headphones a couple of years back. I had a lot great systems. Like the Raal SR1b/VM1-a/Star 8 combo, or a full Aires Cerat system (Heléne+Genus) with the 1266TC (incl. Superconductor cable) but I always had my heart at Grado. No matter what I tried, how high I jumped I just never found a better emotional communicator (in headphones) as Grado.

So, after all the experimentation where I sampled (meaning bouhgt) almost everyhing from Audeze, Dan Clark, Meze, ZMF I was in a place where I was content. I used my GS3000X with the Grado RA1 battery amp (incredible synergy, better then the big names I tried with Grado...Enleum, Pathos InPol, Trafomatic, etc). The Genus amp were connected to either the Devore O/Micro or the my ZMF Verité. I sold every other headphone these two stayed but I used 90% of the time the Grado.

The ZMF/Aries Cerat Genus is bloody good. Really is. Only quirk is, that there is a small hum on the right size. Mind you it is a 20 Watt SET amp with big Elrog tubes, where the headphones are connected directly to the speaker output. I couldn't even hear the hum while the music was playing, only between the songs. But it bugged me, because listening to music have to be an immersive experience for me and technicalities like noise/hum, sibilance, etc...just pull me out from this immersion.

So, while I was content with the sound I got from the the two system I used most of the time (GS3000X, Devore O/Micro) both had their strengts not at the meater, bassier side. And at times I listen to electronic music, rap, hip-hop, whatever and while both systems have speed and slam there was undeniably some lack of bass. The Verité with the Genus had it, but then there was the noise.

So I deciced I build an spin-off system for my Verité with a passing amp for it. Only for the times I need a meatier sound.

This is my second Verité and had before Atticus, Aeolus and I had mixed results with them. They seemed to be amp picky for me. The Verité/Atticus was (for me) dead on my Pathos InPol ear. Just no soul, no momentum. The Verité was too dark at the end with the Tor Balanced. The Aeolus was sibillant with my Trafomatic Head 2 and the list goes on. There was everytime great potential and something was always in the way. And no ZMF could touch the speed/opennes/emotional commucation of a Grado for me. On the other hand I just loved what ZMF as a company represented and I had most of the time a ZMF headphone, but I used the rearly.

Therefore this second, ZMF system was for me an experiment with a given have a side system for those times I need the extra weight for certain music/mood. I did not aimed to have a primary system, I had my Grado for that.

As for the Decware/ZFM amp...I liked the design/feel of this amplifier at the moment I first saw it but I had to fight several thoughts before I commited myself to buy one.
- There was no possibility to try it in EU (Hungary)
- Customs are an extra (a big extra)
- it will be only good for high impedance headphones, which is ZMF, Sennheiser and some Audio Technica. Very limited choice.
- I feared the amp will have noise. Always a possiblity with tube amps plus there is four headphone outs, two beside the big mains transformator. It implies a lot of cabling to manage this. How the hell will be this amp quite? I did not needed amp with hum/noise. I had an excellent amp with a slight noise already.

But I conviced myself somehow and when I read there is a couple of EU Version available I ordered one.

Before I dive in, a bit of backrgound and playground

The system in which Decware/ZMF amp is used:

- Power is managed with a Stromtank S1000. Every power cable is Shunyata Venom
- Streamer is the Holo Audio Red (sitting on it own sub-platform with Towshend isolation pods and a Shaki Stone on the top).
- USB cable is also Shunyata Venom
- Aries Cerat Heléne D/A converter
- Interconnect cable between the amp and the DAC is inakustik 2024 Air (Copper)
- Headphone cable is a ZMF 2K Copper
- Headphone is a Verité Open Champor Burl Ltd.

As for music. What I most listen to is indie, alternative, electronic, mix-tapes. Nothing "audiophile".

I would spare the physical impressions, the other review describes the unit perfectly. The bouild quality is excellent and there was no problems with anything with this amp in the last 3 Months I used it.


The first impression was right out catastrophal with the amp. I was presented with a very-very loud noise/hum after the first start-up. Both channels where screaming the hum. It was not subtle. I turned out the input tube got somehow damaged during transport. Changing it to an other tube chased the noise away. I mean complelty. I even connected my HEMP to the jack nearest to the transformator and nothing. Null, nada, nix. And the HEMP with the F pads picks up everything. I was impressed.

The second shock came from the sound I heard with my Verité. I was preapered for a warm/lush, tubey sound. I wanted that for my second system. What I got was a very rythmic, open, dynamic sound which was an abolsute joy to listen to. I think this amp matches the Verité Open wonderfully. I just simply could not find anything I did not liked about it. Bass ist fast, thumps with a a lot of texture and resolution. A holograpich soundstage, spooky realy human voice. Extended highs without any sibliance. It is just perfect.

For me a great systems does the followings:
- It pulls me, I just want to listen to music whenever I can
- It sounds good at the first moment. No need for 500 hours of play-in. A good equipment can be even better with time but I haven't had any that changed from bad to good.
- It urges me to seek futher upgrades (since it demonstrated, that there is even more to be had)

All three is true for the Decware/ZMF amp. It has is is magic even after almost three months of almost daily listening. It does not murder any record because of its quality, there is just music.

And for the upgrades...

There is a thread here on head-fi about this amp, I drew most of my inspiration from there.
- I changed to drive tubes to Tung-Sol 5687 with a tube adapter
- I changed the rectifier tubes to GZ34 Philiphs Holland Double D, brown base from 1959
- I changed the input tube to JAN6922
- I installed cardas noise shield caps on the unused RCA inputs and to the two unused 6.3 headphone jacks
- I installed a swiss digital fuse box (with pure copper Sluggo).
- The amp has it ows stand which is isolated with Townhend pods

I don't consider als upgrade, but I installed 90 grad adaptors (from Audioqest) for the uses RCA inputs and for the mains cable.

A few thoughts to the "upgrades".

- This amp shows everything. It is transparent enought for that.
- The original tuning with the stock tubes are really good and synergestic. There were stages in the upgrade (I had the new drive tubes, but with an older GZ34, not the Philips) where I had the feeling the setup lost some of its magic. It never sounded bad, far from it. But there is real magic with the stock installation of this amp. It can be upgraded, but it is not a must have.
- There was only one option that seems not working, and that is Norne Silvergrade S3 headphone cable. It tilts in my system the tonal balance. Maybe a Grand Paladin one day?
- The biggest effect came - to my great-great surprisre - from the digital fuse box. Every aspect from the amp became better. Even in a system running from a Stromtank.

Closing thoughts

Like a lot fellow music listener in my age (I am 47 this year) my audio jorney started with walkmans and earpods from Sony/Panasonic. I listened to most of my music by walking from/to school or at nights in the bed. I can not compare the sound quality those things to what I have now, but it is reasonably to think that I have now a much better sounding system of course. I had much better systems in the last 20 years with Avantgarde and Wolf von Langa speakers, electronics from Audiopax, Audio Note, Naim or recently Aries Cerat. But what I had when I was a teenager was a really strong emotional opennes towards music. I think it is natural at that age. Music had a weight/reach/bite like nothig else. And I think I always chased this hightened connection to music. I became more mature, so the equipment has to do much-much more now to push me towards music. As a teenagers I had my hormons working for the emotional connection, now it is the hifi.

Let's be honest a lot of audio equipment fails miserably in this regard. Not so the Decware amp. It is a true time-bride to the times where music had the special magic with all its joyful, sorrow and angry moments. And that is the ultimate quality of this amp for me.

It just comes with a great surprise that it is boundled with excellent technicalities. I never ever have thought that the Decware amp can best the sound quality of the Aries Cerat Genus with the Verité Open. Yet it does. Of course the Genus is much-much more versatile, it can drive every headphone and speakers too. And I am not even sure I would like the Decware amp with an other Headphone as the Verité Open. Even there, I had two Verité, one stock and this with harder wood. I hear the difference, the Champor Burld has less reverb which I like. It is like an aligment of stars...

At the end this amp became a game changer for me. I became a single headphone user, even sold my beloved GS3000X. It is simply put a magical device, a true high-end amp.
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AC is some serious gear though. But ya I'd expect an OTL to be a better match in general.
Yes, for the Verité I have the Decware surpasses the Genus.
Great review and nice looking setup! Those Aries boxes are the serious business.

"It sounds good at the first moment. No need for 500 hours of play-in. A good equipment can be even better with time but I haven't had any that changed from bad to good." -- I concur 100%. Good gear will still sound good from the start, even if it requires break in to sound it's best.


500+ Head-Fier
A headphone of contradictions
Pros: A unique look into the record, with very lifelike presentation. Very smooth, high resolution
Cons: A bit heavy and a bit bass shy
I fell into the Grado hole with the HEMP. Therefore this review will be a bit of a comparison too.

A bit of backrgound and playground

The system in which the HP2i is used:

- A special headless audio PC with analogue PSU, oven controlled XCO, Paul Pang USB card. On the software side it runs audiolinux with Roon and HQPlayer embedded
- Aqua LaScala Mk2 Optologic with "yellow T" Brimar tubes
- TMP Ant, a Hungarian made hybrid amp. My version has an external PSU and the best available parts, like Silver Mundorf condensators, TKD potentiometer, etc...pushing it's cost 3x the stock
- Tor Audio Balanced - a wonderful tube amp for Ukraine
- cabling is mostly Shunyata (Venom EU7 power distributor, Venom 10NR for amp, 2x Venom 12NR for the DAC and PC, Venom 10XC for the distributor and Venom XLR for the Tor Balanced). The TMP is connected with a DIY carbon cable and the USB is the Audio Quest Carbon.
- All electronics are isolated with Townshend seismic pods

As for music. What I most listen to is indie, alternative, electronic, mix-tapes. Nothing "audiophile".

Physical impressions
If there was ever a factory which made tanks but somehow, one day produced headphones by mistakes...that would be their product. These headphone can not be bought new, all of them are old. I mean 15+ years old. And they are not cheap.

So, I was in doubt. What if I buy these and fail me after 2 weeks. Or during the posting process. No one can service them, there are no spare parts. Upon receiving it and holding in my hands I thought...this will be stolen from the hidden drawer from the daughter of my son while having a fight with their grandchildren about the family heirloom after world-war 4.

The build is precise and yet very durable. Everything is metal and leather. All new Grado's have a spring-steel in their headband, which is quite easy to bend to the required form. These...these have a steel rod in the headband. Do you know why all the HP2 are having this wide stance in all the pictures? Because the headband is almost completely rigid. You have to bend it to the size of your head, because they will either fall of (too wide) or simply crush your skull and kill you (too tight). Oh, and bending them...make sure you made a couple of push-ups before. These are steels rods, not spring-steel.

All the metal have they weight too. Not super heavy, nothing critical really, but this is not your average feather-weight Grado like the HEMP, RS2e or the SR225e. But much less heavier as the PS2000e with better weight distribution.

These are the HP2i, as for improved. One the HP2s which were modified/upgraded by Joseph Grado. It has the ultra wide bandwith Grado cable.

I asked a lot around before buying it, because I had no way to hear them. It is everything which was said about it. A balanced sound. A Grado unlike every other Grado (but still Grado). Not that fun, as the current models. One of the best dynamic headphones ever.

My experience with them are best described as with the word: contradictions (as in the title).

Now, the HEMP is a Grado you don't have to explain to anyone. Just put them on and they they a) start to groove b)awed by it c)sink in the music with closed eyes. I saw these reactions several times. The HP2i needs time. Adaptation. Appreciation. A bit of an acquired taste. It won't sweep anyone off from their feet. It's a slow process.

First of all, they need much more power as the HEMP (or RS2e). The Tor Balanced is simply not enough. The Ant can deliver several watts when called upon. They have a very clean (in a good sense) sound and I think it is a good synergy with the HP2i. They need clean, undistorted power. The Ant has a low and high impedance output and interestingly I prefer the high impedance. It is a bit smoother as the other one.

When all is set, the HP2i experience is like being the fly on the wall of the studio. You are the microphone stand in front of the singer. You are there in that concert hall. It is a no-frill, very straight sound. In comparison the HEMP doesn't even tries to show the truth. It's focus is the rhythm and the emotional drive. The HP2i is nude. No disco lights and fancy shoes. Listening to St. Vincent acoustic version of "Savoir" is almost too private. Sometimes I caught myself holding back my breath with the HP2i. It is the introvert. It needs your attention and then rewards you with the feeling of being part of the music. The emotions are still there, but somehow, sometimes after the music is over. It's like the experience "I was there". The HEMP is the extrovert. You sing-along and move and it feels good, hits you immediately.

The HP2i is also somehow a detail monster, all the while it does not push it in your face. But you just hear more. Not just details, like a sound here or there. I played Zero 7's Late Night Tales continuous mix and a voice sample jumped in. It was astoundingly clear, that the source of this sample was completely different. It was a very lifelike speech/monologue mixed on to the record and it's quality simply jumped on me. The HEMP makes the whole thing more homogenous.

The only drawback is, that the HP2i has - for my music and for my taste - a bit slim bass. Not the quality. The quality is outstanding. It does not bleed into the mids, it has real resolution and color. Quite exceptional really. The quantity could be more. Fatboy Slim for example simply needs more bass.

Or not? And there comes the contradiction. These headphones are a bit demanding, they need your focus. They are not that fun as the HEMPs. Weight more, the HEMPs are generally more comfortable. For some my music (electronica, funk) they lack a bit of bass.

But at the moment I have a hard time listening to anything else. Whether it is Massive Attack, Tori Amos, Deradoorian, Marie Davidson, Loma or Ela Minus. I want to hear the truth and somehow I always reach for the HP2i.

I am sure they will bend in my collection with the time, but right now they demand all my attention.
I have a Neutrick balanced connector on them, so with the Tor I drive them balanced.
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What you want is not the stock Melos but one that has already been modified and upgraded. Mine is the "Carlo modded Melos" or "Melos Maestrobator" from 16 years ago. There's plenty of info regarding the modded one. You'll get a pretty big improvement - more overall detail, tighter bass, better dynamics, airier, expanded soundstage, etc.
Picture or it did not happen. :D


500+ Head-Fier
TMP Ant - a pint sized Goliath
Pros: Clean, pure, yet not too analytical sound. It can drive probably any headphone.
Cons: A bit light on the bass.

General Information​

I would like to be clear right at the start, the while I met several times with the man behind TMP I am in no way associated with the manufacture, I have no interest in selling their products and I paid for this item full price.

That being said, TMP is a small Hungarian manufacture. One unique point is the so called "direct tube drive" circuit. All the products (DA converters, integrated amplifiers, phono equalizers and headphone amps) makes use of it. A small tube drives a FET output stage, but in a rather unconventional way. I managed to fish out some technical details from the designer, but I am not sure if I am allowed to write about them...but it is definitely not a "me too" solution.

The company has a website. Sadly no english version, google translate can help. Best is to contact the company through it's facebook site/messenger. (

Before I dive in, a bit of backrgound and playground

The system in which the TMP Ant is used:

- A special headless audio PC with analogue PSU, oven controlled XCO, Paul Pang USB card. On the software side it runs audiolinux with Roon and HQPlayer embedded
- Aries Cerat Heléne D/A converter
- Tor Audio Balanced - a wonderful tube amp for Ukraine
- cabling is mostly Shunyata (Venom EU7 power distributor, Venom 10NR for amp, 2x Venom 12NR for the DAC and PC, Venom 10XC for the distributor and Venom XLR for the Tor Balanced). The TMP is connected with a DIY carbon cable and the USB is the Audio Quest Carbon.
- All electronics are isolated with Townshend seismic pods
- Headphones: Grado HEMP, Grado RS2e (with TTVJ flat pads), Grado HP2i, Campfire Cascade

As for music. What I most listen to is indie, alternative, electronic, mix-tapes. Nothing "audiophile".

Physical impressions

It is a product. I mean, it does not look like a DIY effort. The casing is well done, the typography is spot on, everything feels solid. I really liked the small wooden boxes.


There are some customizations available. Mine comes with a TKD volume pot, which has very satisfying small clicks. The headamp unit does get warm when used (not uncomfortably), the PSU not.

Also, mine is a pure headamp version, but in stock form it also has speaker binding posts, because this little unit has output capacity of 9W to 8Ohms! I heard them driving speakers without problem. Which means, it won't have a problem with a headphone.

The version with the external PSU was a custom job for me, but my understanding is, that it can be ordered now by anyone. It was important for me, because only the external PSU granted absolute noiseless operation with my Grados which are quite sensitive. Actually, this is the only headamp, which has several watts of output power and at the same time completely silent with the HEMP (being the most sensitive Grado).

Some of the capacitors can be configured too (to have better one), mine has better versions of Mundorf.

It has two headphone outputs (low and high impedance output).

Price of the base version is 600 EUR.





These amps have a very clear sound signature. Not in a wrong, analytical meaning, where the sound is dissected to pieces, rather like "pure water". Although there is plenty of power available they do not hammer my Grados to pieces. Interestingly I find them rather intimate sounding. That coupled with the clarity is a very pure form of music listening. Luckily it does have a feel for rhythm, so music still sound like music, but it is a bit light stepped. It does not march like a 100kg SWAT soldier. A more speedy 50kg maybe...


The bass has quality, color, resolution and speed but it is not a last word on quantity. It is not a steam-drived loose funk machine. The bass has this pureness too, which characterizes the rest of the spectrum. Vocals are human because of this pureness, the resolution and clarity shows all the little details which in turn are presented as "real". And - maybe because of the tubes - the highs are never fatiguing or piercing. They are simply...there. As a part of a whole.

As for paring it loves to play with the HP2i (which is much harder to drive then the recent Grados). Both the HP2i and the Ant are really pure, honest performers. Together they are nothing sort of breathtaking, mostly by acoustic music. The Cascade loves the Ant too, because the Ant helps to even out the sometimes excessive bass of the Cascade. It lends speed and resolution to it, EDM is really outstanding with this combo.

So, in a nutshell I find the Ant a fantastic performer which is not ashamed to have a character. This "review" is probably mostly informal, since TMP is not very well known outside Hungary. But I do know about international sells and if someone fancies something new I can wholeheartedly recommend it.

At least a picture of the system...the contrast between the Helené and the Ant is definitely there. But hey, it is called Ant for a reason :)
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John Massaria
John Massaria
that 88lbs dac is insane!! thanks for review- how much is that headamp anyway? and will it work with 110v?
It’s not a universal PSU, but I am sure it can be done for 110V too, must be specified by ordering I think.

As for the surely depends on the components inside. I could almost tripple the base price with the external PSU and the big Mundorf caps. But since then the base variant became upgrades too...maybe I write a note for the company, they can chime in if they will...
(Edited the post with the price of the base variant.)