Powerful dynamic and sweet TUBE sound With Shu Guang 12AU7 TUBE Multiple input output option, no...

Bravo Audio Ocean

Average User Rating:
4.5/5,
  • 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

Recent User Reviews

  1. crabdog
    4.5/5,
    "Bravo Audio Ocean Headphone Amplifier - "My favorite place to vacation is anyplace by the ocean." Nina Arianda"
    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.
     
    20160919_210805.jpg
     
    20160919_210821.jpg
     
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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.
    peter123 and B9Scrambler like this.
  2. Rish732
    4.5/5,
    "Perfect Headphone amp and in a pinch a decent pre-amp for a small system"
    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. 
  3. 8064r7
    3.0/5,
    "Decent Entry Level Amp with minor QC issues"
    Pros - Drives higher impedance headphones easy, Bright addition to soundstage with stock tube, cheap interconnects for source and output (includes passthru)
    Cons - 6.35mm jack/wiring quality, light buzzing can persist past warmup, ambient exterior temps
    Longitudinal review.  Personally had some early quality issues due to the group buy I purchased this as a part of (fabrication facilities were not ready for the increased demand) resulting in 2 RMAs for separate reasons.  Shu Guang 12AU7 tube is a good affordable starter tube if you listen to contemporary, jazz, and pop/rock which is less bass heavy.  Regular source component utilized has been PC audio feeding into a FIIO E10 Olympus or a Schiit Modi 2.  Did notice a difference in ease of driving my modded Fostex, but only a bright warping to any other headphones/iems I paired to the system.  
     
    3 years in currently and getting ready to perform first repairs on item once I perform tear down.  Currently the 6.35 mm receptacle is failing to product proper stereo from varied source components (distortion appears in right channel until the phone jack is adjusted out and around circumference, dropping it funny enough to a pseudo bi-mono output).  3.5 mm mini doesn't appear to have same deficiency, but I will be inspecting the wiring and both solder points upon tear down.  Will be rolling the 12AU7 to a darker sounding tube as well while amp is apart.
     
    Will update review with follow-up post tear down.  A year ago I would have rated another star higher since this is the first material issue I've had on this iteration of the amp.  One of the previous that was quickly RMA'd was due to an issue with the 6.35 mm headphone jack.

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