Bravo Audio Ocean

General Information

Powerful dynamic and sweet TUBE sound
With Shu Guang 12AU7 TUBE
Multiple input output option, no more adapters.
Aluminum Casing and Beautiful looking
Pure Class A Tube amp, No op amp IC
Low voltage, good safety
Powerful for any Headphone

Latest reviews

Excellent with a JJ Electronics tube - still great with stock tube
Pros: - Nice-looking
- Amazing sound with a JJ tube
- Plenty of power
- Single 12AU7 tube, so tube-rolling isn't costly
- Tube-rolling is really easy
- Pre-amp RCA out
- RCA & single 3.5mm input
- 6.3mm 3.5mm outputs
- Great build quality
- Standard power supply
Cons: - Gets quite hot
- The LED is as bright as the sun
- Screws are visible on the unit
- Stock tube really holds back what the Ocean is capable of
I received this amp today and I must say its' a great little amp!

So to start with the downsides, the unit can get quite hot, the power plug is UK, but hopefully is uses a standard cord which you can purchased in any store for almost nothing. I used my old PS3's one.
The unit also does not come with cables, so be sure to have Jack <> RCA or RCA <> RCA cables to get sound from it.
Sound-wise, the soundstage is not the widest, and the metal body can get quite hot while in use.
Oh, and the front LED is super bright in the dark, so you'd better cover it with a black sticker.

Now, for the good points!

First, the sweet sound of tubes. Yes, this is an hybrid tube amp, so the tube is only used for the pre-amp circuit, but the sound is notably smoother than transistor amps, especially neutral ones such as the Soundblaster G6. You still get all the micro-details you'd get on other amps, although they sometimes may be harder to hear. The good point though is that the amp is a lot more forgiving than neutral amps when listening to poorly-recorded tracks or poor-quality MP3 files (yes, I'm looking at you, 64 kbps YouTube).

The lows are great but still lack a bit of kick. They are a bit smooth which some may appreciate - I personally like when I feel like the headphones are vibrating on my head because of the bass, so it's a matter of preference.

The pre-amp tube emits almost zero light hopefully, and the unit itself is pretty good-looking. The metal (or is it aluminum?) body is really nice.

The amp automatically switches between the line output to the headphones output when you plug yours in, and switches back when you unplug them, which is nice, but when you power the amp off and power it on again, the default output will be the line out, even if headphones are plugged in.

Overall, the product is really well-built and the sound quality, at $55, makes it an absolute no-brainer. If you want to discover what tubes sounds like, that's the perfect amp to try!

(FIY, I'm using the G6's as a DAC thanks to its line output, connected through USB to a Windows computer and listening mostly to 16 bits / 44.1 kHZ FLAC files)

I also tried some new tubes with this amp, a 12AU7 from Tung-Sol and one from JJ Electronics. The first one gives a drier sound with heavier bass and I personally didn't like it much.

But the JJ tube really improves the sound : the bass is tightier, punches more, and the mids becomes incredibly detailed. The soundstage is wider and more precise as well. You get a drier sound but still relatively warm. Overall, I'm more than happy with this JJ tube and I think the Ocean really benefits from tube-rolling with this one. So I change my review from 4* to 5* as a simple 20€ tube can really improve the sound.
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ClementNerma
ClementNerma
Yes i bought it for $55 on Drop. As usual they have lower price than other resellers thanks to their "bulk purchase" drops, but it's uncommon to see such a low price for a $130 piece of hardware. For $130 it's already a good amp, but for $55 it's a bargain :wink:
szore
szore
I just bought this and with the stock tube there is a GREAT deal of distortion...Does this resolve itself with burn in?
ClementNerma
ClementNerma
I don't really believe in burn in as the difference heard between when you get a new audio product and after the "burn-in period" is usually due to your brain getting used to the new sound signature.
Also tubes are meant to create distortion, that's their purpose. A tube without distorsion doesn't make any sense ; that's the distorsion itself that gives tube amps this warm, mellow sound.
I didn't see any improvement in the sound when using it for dozens of hours, but tube rolling definitely improved the sound a whole lot. You should really try either a Tung-Sol tube if you're more a of a bass-head, or a JJ Electronics else, with the JJ having the best mids and resolution overall.
Pros: Warm sound, looks great, solid build, dual headphone outputs
Cons: Gets quite hot, no feet attached
20160919_210832.jpg
 
Bravo Audio LTD was established in May 2010. They are a Chinese company developing Tube Headphone AMPs, Tube speaker Amps, USB DACs and Guitar Amps. They were one of the first companies to produce affordable, high quality tube amplifiers. Today I'm reviewing the Bravo Audio Ocean.
 
Disclaimer:
 
The Bravo Ocean was sent to me by Bravo Audio for the purpose of this review. The opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product. I'd like to thank Henry from Bravo Audio for the opportunity to test the Ocean.
 
Bravo Audio website: http://www.bravoaudio.com/index.php?route=common/home
Bravo Ocean product page: http://www.bravoaudio.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=50
 
Features (taken from the official website):
 
  1. Powerful dynamic and sweet TUBE sound
  2. With Shu Guang 12AU7 TUBE
  3. Multiple input output option, no more adapters.
  4. Aluminum Casing and Beautiful looking
  5. Pure Class A Tube amp, No op amp IC
  6. Low voltage, good safety
  7. Powerful for any Headphone
 
 
In Put PowerDC24V
Input Sensitivity100mV
Input Impedance100KOhm
Out-Put Impedance20~600 Ohm
Gain30dB
Frequency response10Hz-60KHz +/- 0.25dB
Signal/Noise Ratio>90dB
Dynamic range84.6dBA(300 ohm) 89.8dBA(33 ohm)
THD0.016%(300 ohm) 0.45%(33 ohm)I
MD + Noise:0.045(300 ohm) 0.42(33ohm)
Dimension115mm (D) X 82mm (W) X 78mm (H)
InputStereo RCA x1, Stereo 3.5mm x1
OutputStereo 6.35mm x1
 
Packaging and accessories:
 
The Ocean came in a fairly compact white and blue box with Bravo Audio logo on the front and a QR code on one side. Opening this up I was presented with another plain white box. Inside the second box is the amplifier, seated in some nice, sturdy black foam with the tube pre-installed. There's also the small power adapter included and a little User's Manual.
 
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Build:
 
The Ocean is made of a high quality brushed aluminium and feels strong and well built. The blue color is rather striking and is matched by black front and back panels. There's an U shaped protector that sits over the tube for protection against knocks. While this makes it more difficult for those wanting to roll tubes, I find it a sensible addition and it also adds to the overall aesthetic of the unit.
My only gripe with the build is the lack of any feet on the amp. Some simple rubber domes on the bottom would help raise the amp off the surface allowing better airflow and would help to keep temperatures a bit lower.
On the front panel we find the power switch,  6.35mm and 3.5mm headphone jacks, a (very bright) red power indicator LED and the volume knob. The power switch is sturdy and the volume knob is smooth with a nice amount of resistance to it.
On the back panel is the power socket, a 3.5mm line in, RCA line in and RCA line out.
 
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Sound:
 
This is my first experience with a tube amp and the sound is in line with what I was expecting but surprised me as well. It adds a bit of weight to the low end and fills out the sound spectrum with a subtle warmth that's very pleasing. What surprised me the most however was the fact that very little detail is lost in the music and the highs don't lose any of their sparkle or impact. The Ocean seems to add some airiness and a nice analog presentation.
 
Equipment used:
 
Arcam irDAC-II
JDS Labs Element
 
Music:
 
Arne Domnerus Group "Jazz at the Pawnshop" album [flac]
Helen Jane Long "Embers" [mp3 320 kbps]
Ludovico Einaudi "Islands" album [flac]
The Pineapple Theif "Your Wilderness" album [flac]
Michail Eick "Midwest" album [flac]
 
 
Bass extension is good and the Ocean doesn't appear to suffer from any 'slowness' that is sometimes attributed to tubes. Kick drums retain their punch but sound a little fuller overall.
Midrange sound natural and warm making the Ocean great with vocals and classical music. Listening to "Indaco" by Ludovico Einaudi and "Embers" by Helen Jane Long, violins, cellos and piano sound fantastic and rich with good tonality.
Highs retain their sparkle as I mentioned above and extension is good. While playing Arne Domnerus Group's "Barbados" from "Jazz at the Pawshop" cymbals and high hats remain clear throughout with no noticeable roll-off and they don't get lost in the busy drum solo sections.
In use:
The aluminium body of the Bravo Ocean does get quite hot but hey, it's a tube amp so this should be expected.
This thing has 'powah'! Serious, brain melting power. I never take the volume knob past 9 o'clock (7 o'clock is the minimum!) I haven't tested it with anything super inefficient or with very high Ohms but I'm confident it has the grunt to push any headphone you could throw at it. There is a slight channel imbalance at very low volume but this disappears before 8 o'clock on the knob and was never an issue for me.
Unfortunately I don't really have  anything to compare the Ocean with so this review will be a 'standalone' effort.
 
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Conclusion:
This is a good option for anyone who  wants to dip their feet into tube amping without having to spend a ton of cash. The Bravo Ocean pairs particularly well with neutral sources and cold or bright headphones but worked well with everything I tried. For those that want to tube roll the Ocean works with 12AU7 tubes which are abundant and can be found quite cheap online. This is a great little amp and is a no-brainer recommendation.
crabdog
crabdog
Blazer39
Blazer39
nice review, can please mention what was the output that you used?(speakers or headphone)
crabdog
crabdog
@Blazer39 I've been using it with headphones but I have tested the line out with my receiver and it works fine. The RCA output is not fixed level  so you can control the volume from the Ocean.
Pros: Small size, ability to use NOS tubes, pretty blue
Cons: Bright as the sun LED, slight interference with bluetooth audio receivers, temperature and fiddly case
Folks!
 
Just found the joys of tube audio and have to say this little guy opened my ears.  I did a lot of research here and on a few other sites and bought 3 NOS tubes.  I realised that with my renewed interest in headphones and building a dual speaker and headphone capable system I needed a tube in there somewhere.  I don't have the cash to splash out for a full on tube preamp or amp.  Finally I decided on 3 tubes: a Mullard, Telefunken and Radio Technique.  So far the Mullard is my favorite, warm and detailed opened up the sound, creating a great soundstage.
 
With well recorded music it's night and day.  With dynamic music a godsend.  With contemporary Pop, compressed and normalized up the wazoo, it's great but, no offense to all the Drake lovers out there... you're missing out. 
 
So back to the review - 
 
The Bravo Audio unit itself is lovely and well made.  However the design, for someone who wants to roll some tubes, is a little cumbersome.  I took off the top cover (and the cute but useless anti-roll bar) by un screwing the top screws from the front and back plate. 
 
It's now open to the elements but I blow it out with a handy giottos Rocket (used for photo gear) every couple days or so.  I've discarded the standard tube and popped in the Mullard and been amazed at the quality.  It's quiet and lovely and detailed.  Don't use the standard tubes.  Do some research and put in at least another 20-60 smackers to get you some NOS magic.  Though I hear the GE and RCA tubes are fine as well. 
 
A caveat, these older tubes can add a very slight noise to the system.  Depending on what your source is it can be a very soft high end hiss (maybe my power source or cabling isn't up to par, but I forget about it once I'm in the music.)
 
And now, 
Here's the kicker.  I use it as a preamp for my small system.  Going from output to input - Elac b6 speakers, Dayton Audio amp - which is plenty powerful, Blue Wave Audio with Mullard tube (12au7), to Audioengine B1 bluetooth receiver.  I stream Spotify at extreme quality at home.  I'm not a viny collector nor do I want to nor can I afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars on audio gear. 
Yes it's 320kbps but through this system it really changes my listening habits.  I'm adding a bsr equalizer but that's another post.
 
I'm listening right now through a pair of Grado 125e (my 325s are going to get woodied up) and I love the sound.
The highs are clear and the sound feels so present.  Grandbrothers is the artist of my moment, an Instrumental, beat driven, fascinating group out of Frankfurt. 
 
I love that I have some tube action in my ears and I have to say this headphone amp is a fantastic way to get into this!
 
EDIT - after a month of listening I've fell down the rabbit hole.  I've switched to NOS Telefunken tubes ca. 1960 and I've upped my head-fi game to include the GS1000e.  That has a been a revelation.
I had received my mahogany cupped 325e pair back from yew woodworks on Etsy.  Both cans benefit from the smoothing of the tubes.  The details are still there but the fatigue is much less.  Still breaking them all in but very happy.
 
 I'm loving how this system resolves and since I've switched from Spotify to Tidal (yes it definitely helps and the extra money a month is worth it for the sound and the better interface) I've really reaped the benefits.  
 
I've also upgraded my work setup to include a Bravo V2 tube amp, and am breaking in some Akg 553 and waiting for a Massdrop 7xx.  Looking forward to many more months of great audio. 
 
In a nutshell, Bravo with some NOS tubes (find ones you like and throw out or save those stock tubes for a rainy day) are the way to go without breaking the bank. 
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crabdog
crabdog
Interesting, I've just ordered some Elac B6 which should be here in a couple days and the Ocean arrived today. Can't wait to hear the sound coming from the ARCAM irDAC II with the Ocean as pre-amp.
Rish732
Rish732
Hey @jnorris !  You were absolutely right.  The BSR veiled the sound even when the EQ was bypassed.  Back to just this mini tube and my Dayton Audio unit
Rish732
Rish732
Hey @crabdog I'd definitely be interested to hear your thoughts.  It's a great amp, though I've been streaming through an Audioengine B1, aptx bluetooth unit.  I put a bit of metal shielding between the two to stop any interference which has helped a lot.  What amp are you looking at?
 
I have to say the DAC on the audioengine and whatever magic they do make it so that I can't really tell a difference between hardwiring into the amp and streaming so that's a big plus. 
 
I also found some beautiful NOS telefunken tubes and I'm going to give some psvanes a try.  

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