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Desktop Amps item created by cleg, Dec 15, 2011
Pros - Warm sound, looks great, solid build, dual headphone outputs
Cons - Gets quite hot, no feet attached
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.
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):
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
In Put PowerDC24V
Out-Put Impedance20~600 Ohm
Frequency response10Hz-60KHz +/- 0.25dB
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.
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.
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.
JDS Labs Element
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.
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.
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.
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
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.)
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.
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.
Pros - Rich, deep presentation
Cons - Overbright LED, no feet, flakey power input
I picked this up second hand on ebay, more out of curiosity than anything. I'm just getting into listening with headphones and one of my amps doesn't have a headphone socket, so this seemed like as good a pace to any to get started. Note also that I'm using a very basic pair of headphones right now: AKG K44s. These are no doubt looked down upon by many in this community, but with decent reviews on many forums given their super-economy price tag (I paid about GBP20 (c.US$32)for them on Amazon). I was pleasantly surprised by the capability of the headphones when running straight out of my Macbook or from my vintage Yamaha AVC-30 amp, but once I'd got the little Bravo Ocean hooked up via a decent set of interconnects, it got me into to a whole different league. Much improved clarity and presentation of the soundstage, coupled with a deep, rich quality of sound got me listening to my vinyl with renewed interest.
Powerful and tuneful bass, detailed vocals and accurate treble. I can only imagine what it might sound like if I plugged in a really good pair of headphones.
My only criticisms seem somewhat pedantic given the price I paid and the sound quality pumped out by this little blue box. However, like other reviewers I find the red LED way too bright, and although the unit is pretty solid it is small and can easily skate around - something that could be easily improved on with the addition of some rubber feet (I used blu-tack). Lastly, and perhaps more important as a criticism, the CD input plug/socket on my unit is not as secure as it could be.
However it does seem churlish to complain of such minor issues when this amp pours forth such a lovely warm listenable stream of music for such a small amount of cash invested. It'll certainly be staying on my desk for some while to come.
Pros - Sonic Presentation, Build Quality, Rolling Capability, Excellent Driving Power
Cons - Heat Emission
Me: I am a 21 year old student living in a small town in India. I would like to call myself a music enthusiast, rather than an audiophile. I was inspired by music since childhood, and as the time passed, the passion of music grew in me, and that subsequently led me to join Head-Fi. Eventually, I found the pleasure of listening to music mainly by the HD600 and recently, by the seductive LCD2 headphones, and realized the true components of recorded music. I usually like to listen to Indian Classical Music along with Bollywood songs. My main listening genres include classical, vocal, instrumental, jazz and sometimes pop.
Intro: Bravo Audio is a popular Chinese brand specializing in the area of Tube Headphone Amplifiers. Bravo was established in 2010. Even though a relatively newer establishment in the field, Bravo managed to capture attention of the world by their amp offerings which had attractive price tag & appreciable performance. The Ocean is a flagship amp offering from Bravo, & it is the only amp to be fully enclosed in a case by Bravo.
All of Bravo’s amps are hybrids, and are driven by Mosfet’s, and are pure class A. This ensures in mammoth output power, appreciable clear sound quality, but heat dissipation is high, and the amp physically gets hot even to touch comfortably. Bravo has been famous since its release of V2 amp, which was budget friendly, yet performing, which won ears of many enthusiasts. The Ocean goes ahead in V2’s line, providing more reliability and performance. Back in 2010, tube/hybrid amps would be expensive, and out of reach of a humble Enthusiast. Bravo made well performing hybrid amps in an affordable price. Bravo was the one who made hybrid amps in sub 100$ category. This made them a well known name across the Audiophile World.
Specifications of Ocean:
Input Power: DC 24V 1.5A
Input Sensitivity: 100mV
Input Impedance: 100KOhm
Headphone Impedance: 20~600 Ohm
Frequency response: 10Hz-60 KHz +/- 0.25dB
Signal/Noise Ratio : >90dB Gain: 30dB
Dynamic range: 84.6dBA (300 ohm) 89.8dBA (33 ohm)
THD: 0.016% (300 ohm) 0.45% (33 ohm)
MD + Noise: 0.045(300 ohm) 0.42(33ohm)
Let us see what the Ocean has got for us,
Packaging and Accessories: The ocean amp arrives packed inside a general cardboard box, packed inside a removable foam packing. Tubes are included inside the foam socket. Default tube included is a generic 12AU7. Packaging is generic, but nothing to complain about. But all the included accessories have a good quality and feel to them.
List of accessories in the box, which include the following:
Power Adapter: AC to DC 24V 1.5A power adapter EU/US/AU/UK is supplied as per specifications.
User Manual: Contains instructions to operate the ocean amp and other warranty information.
Design and Build: The ocean has a very good overall build quality. Its design is very practical.
The Ocean looks much different owing its blue paint, and stands out from the crowd. Personally, I very much liked the blue case colour of the ocean amp.The entire case is made up of high quality brushed aluminium, and is painted in Matt Cyan-Blue. The ocean is fairly small in size, though the ocean amp weights only 400 grams, It feels slightly heavy when held owing to its good build. At the front we have an On/off switch, volume knob, ¼” & 1/8’ headphone output socket, and a red indicator LED. At the rear side of ocean, we can observe the presence of power socket , 1/8” input, RCA inputs & outputs.
Volume knob rotation is smooth and knob has just the right size for fingers. ¼” jack is also a very sturdy, but is slightly tight. The ¼” socket employs clip mechanism, which may cause scratches/damage on the headphone jack. Power switch has a pretty great operation and strength, and is very precise in its job. The red LED is particularly very bright, and can be disturbing if you look at the amp. So I advise to slightly push in the LED using a small pin, so that it’s brightness is drowned inside the amp.
Internals quality is certainly good, if not very good. The ocean amp has no manual wirings inside, everything is fixed on the PCB. Soldering joints are well done. Volume pot is alps branded, which a plus for both volume control & audio quality.
The 9 pin Tube socket is ceramic type, has a great build. The ocean accepts only the 12AU7 type vacuum tubes by default. The tube is physically protected by a vertical metal arc, incase the ocean amp falls off the table or similar situation arises. To change/replace the tube, one has to unscrew the top four screws and carefully pull up the cover to avoid damage to existing tube in the socket. There are no op-amps in ocean, since ocean is a mosfet driven hybrid amp. IRF510 mosfet is used here, which a widely used & fairly popular one. The only downside I observe here is, top cover has to be removed every time to change tube. This is not really a drawback, but it would be more difficult and inconvenient for tube rollers to do this way.
I also observe a drawback in the power supply, it is not earthed. I am at a loss of understanding why Bravo did not include a third earthing pin or ground to make the amp safe. Since it is a DC supply, few ripples will be present in the final output. These either cause light electrocution or raise noise floor of the amp. It
Sound: Despite being a hybrid tube amp, the ocean has a very clean, clear yet airy sonic character. ‘Balanced & Enjoyable’ is the key word. I find it very appealing and pleasing for casual music listening. Presentation is in such a way that, mids are little more intimate, with lows & highs sound tad more relaxed and laid back. Surprisingly, Stock tube is pretty good and does not necessarily needs to be changed/upgraded.
Burn in: These improve a lot with time. Let’s say a playback of 50 hours provides few audible improvements, Bass prior to break-in is quite muddy, and eventually it becomes more accurate and clean, Mids will sound more open, airy and natural. highs become slightly more smooth, soundstage will open up by a margin.
Tube rolling: One can roll 12AU7 family tubes on ocean amp. Mullard 12AU7A, RCA Clear Tops, long plates, halo getter type tubes particularly match pretty great on ocean and result is a very clear, clean and airy sound with a lifelike 3D soundstage. And the good news is that all these tubes are available within 20$ shipped on ebay!
The gain is fixed at 30dB, which is quite high and certainly not recommended for IEM’s. This amp is extremely powerful and can drive any dynamic/Planar magnetic cans to insane loudness with just 25% of the volume used, that is at 9 o’clock. Anything above 10 o’clock is unbearably loud. This incredible power brings out the best out of a matching headphone. Ideally, neutral or slightly brighter dynamic headphones go well with the ocean amp.
Lows: are accurate, tight and refined; have a great impact & extension. Depth is pretty good.
Mids: Very little forward & sound very natural, and appealing, and have a slight warmth (I guess that is in a good way, comes very pleasing to our ears). Tonality particularly, one of the best at this price point. This character makes ocean a strong contender for classical music.
Highs: Very clear with desirable amount of sparks. They are airy with good amount of space sensation.
Soundstage: Soundstage is airy, natural and circular. Depth is very good. Instrument separation & detailing is pretty good. With the default Chinese 12AU7, tonality is a bit harsh & mids are slightly sucked out, But after burn in, its goes in great with the ocean amp. So replacing tube is not really necessary in ocean amp. The tube in ocean amp seems superior to rest of the generic Chinese 12AU7’s.
According to my observation, these cans sounded good in all genres I tried, and hence I conclude ocean is decently transparent, detailed and also slightly forgiving to poor recordings. Hence I can say ocean is all rounder. It does not compromise anything too much to affect any of its characters.
Comparison: The main competitors of Bravo Ocean are the Little dot 1+ & Schiit Vali along with Project Starlight which are all similarly priced. All these are hybrid amps.
Little dot 1+: Hybrid amp which uses op-amps for amplification. Op-amps have their own kind of sonic touch to them, which feel refined & smoothened out when compared to mosfets. Power supply is Internal type and well made (which results in very low noise floor, and safe operation) But as a disadvantage, Tube rolling is not as economical and convenient as ocean, since Ocean supports a single 12AU7, which are very common to obtain & no hassle for a matched pair.
Summary: Best hybrid amp available in 200$, but lacks punch & power delivery of ocean amp. No preamp out. Not most economical to roll, availability & interior circuit build quality is a concern.
Project Starlight: At 225$ built & shipped this is the most expensive amp of the bunch. But Starlight has best internal build quality (along with Vali). The Starlight is not fully enclosed in a case. Its output power at headphone is quite limited, and is lowest of all these amps. Starlight also has 4 op-amps and support for 6/12V Dual Triode tubes. Starlight is specifically suited for lower impedance & less demanding headphones.
Summary: Best option for DIY’ers. But expensive to roll op-amps, since there are 4 op-amp sockets. Driving power is not the best.
Schiit Vali: Has no rolling options. Everything is fixed in. Output impedance is quite high at around 6.5 ohms and is not suitable for IEM’s. Power supply is again external, but definitely better than Bravo Ocean. Vali uses 16V AC/AC adapter (similar to O2 amp adapter) Vali also has a best build quality.
Summary: Good choice for beginners who don’t want to roll anything. A nice amp for 50-300 ohm headphones which are slightly bright in nature.
The ocean amp has an edge over all hybrid tube amplifiers when it comes to output driving power, delivery & is most economical of all amps to be tried in 200$. Though Little Dot’s 1+ without a second thought reigns as king , considering its allrounder overall performance, Ocean amp deserves to be a runner-up for the position, and performs very well indeed.
Conclusion: I feel the Ocean is a excellent hybrid amp in its price range. Build quality is very good, sonic presentation is very pleasing, it can drive almost any cans & its sonic character can be tailored to meet one’s taste. I can whole heartedly recommend Ocean for any enthusiast who would prefer a slightly musical sonic presentation, yet retaining decent amounts of accuracy. I really liked the ocean amp.
1) Build Quality: The Ocean has a very good all-metal build. No compromise to be seen anywhere in exterior. Interior circuitry is also neat & well built.
2) Sound quality: Sound presentation here has a touch of naturalness, but yet is detailed, spacious, which is very much like-able for music listening. Sweet mids deserve a special mention. The ocean amp generally matches up well with slightly neutral to bright sounding headphones.
3) Rolling Capability: Enthusiasts can roll great number of 12AU7 tubes in a minimal cost.
4) Driving Power: The ocean amp has a sheer output power. It definitely can comfortably drive any set of cans from 20-600 ohms. Good job!
1) Heat emission: Actually not really a con, it is quite normal for a hybrid mosfet driven amp. But during operation, the ocean amp gets very hot, it becomes very difficult for a user to touch the surface of amp more than 2 seconds. The 12AU7 tube itself is just warm, It is the outer case is hot & is due to heat emission from IRF510 Mosfets.
Pros - Price, Build quality, RCA Output line, Jack output
Cons - Color-Design
Nice quality, and great audio!!
Pros - Build, Appearance, amount of inputs and outputs, sound
Cons - I'm not sure if the tube is easily exchangeable
Sometimes, we as audio enthusiasts want new gear to power our favorite headphones, but can't afford to spend too much.
Enter Bravo Ocean
This hybrid tube amplifier is a gem for anyone on a budget that wants the renowned sound that a tube can bring. At $130, the Bravo Ocean is truly spectacular.
I normally find myself using this amp to power my Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro and Takstar Hi2050. Usually, I find the Hi2050 to be a bit cold and boring, but with the Bravo Ocean amp powering it, the sweet tube sound gives them the warmth that I feel they need.
Now, with an already warm-ish headphone like the DT770, the Bravo Ocean does not make the sound become boomy or anything, however it does still add a bit of warmth, which I personally find beneficial.
Build - The Bravo Ocean is a stunning piece of gear, be it in terms of anything, including looks and build. The Ocean is very well made in my opinion.
The body consists of smooth brushed aluminum colored in a cyan hue with a couple stripes near the middle that extend to both ends. The front and back panels are of the same kind of aluminum, except colored black. There's a metal bar that loops around the tube itself. I find the whole presentation to be gorgeous.
The front has both a 1/4" and 1/8" headphone out. I assume the small jack is for IEMs, but it can also be used with anything that has a 1/8" termination. The volume knob, also in aluminum, and the on/off switch are on the front as well.
The back has the power supply port, a 1/8" line-in, an RCA line-in, and an RCA line-out. I normally use the RCA over the 1/8" jack for whatever reason.
The Bravo Ocean has a 500mW output power, so it can power just about anything, including low-impedance dynamics. My Hi2050 is 64 Ohm, and it powers it perfectly. With the 16 Ohm dynamic IEMs that I tested, they seemed to be a little sloppy, but I still loved how they sounded.
Sound - As mentioned earlier, the Bravo Ocean has a warm sound signature. This is to be expected, as the Ocean uses a vacuum tube. I think that anything plugged into this amp sounds better.
Overall, I would give this amp a full 10/10 in performance and value. I don't think you could go wrong with it.
Pros - Compact size, large and small heaphone jacks, build quality, line out
Cons - Not quite sure on the colour
I was searching for a budget tube headphone amp and this one caught my eye just because of the colour and shape. There was very little in the way of reviews for this I could find other than a utube clip.
Having had Cmoy type amps and a few solid state amps in the $100-$200 running off a cowon S9 with various audio technica and sennheiser headphones I could not get the sound i was looking for.
Took a risk and brought this little amp and I am very glad i did.
In my view this made my ATH-a700 and ATH-M50s sound significantly better than being driven straight from source.
The bass and sound stage depth appeared much better and i found myself listening and getting more involved in the music for hours at a time.
I think this is a great value amp which has a very rich and smooth tube sound- at this price you should not be dissapointed
Pros - design, build quality, warm sound
Cons - not for all genres
Before listening to this charming little amp, I was very skeptical about overall tube amp idea. But this amp changed my mind greatly.
First of all, I have to admit it's design and build quality - it's really great, amp looking very stylish.
As for sound, I have to mention, that it's really giving "warmth" to sound. This is hardly explainable by words, but old rock, for example, starts sounding much more pleasant. I've listened Led Zeppelin, Doors, The Who and really rediscovered some of my favorite tracks in a new way.
Also I found it sounding good with almost all genres of metal, except Nu-metal. Very nice sounding for Nile, Behemoth and other "brutals"
Only exception I need to mention - it's dance music. This it amp IMHO is not for it.
To summarize - this amp is perfect pass to tube world with affordable price of $90