K.I.C.A.S. Caliente

General Information

Our current flagship model(s) are the K.I.C.A.S. and Caliente Headphone Amplifier. The K.I.C.A.S. and Caliente employ a single ended, standard RCA/Phono input at the back and a single ended, ¼" phone jack output. It offers both high current output rates for lower impedance headphones, but also has enough voltage to drive higher impedance headphones (up to 600 ohms rated impedance) with ease. K.I.C.A.S. and Caliente are designed primarily for modern dynamic headphones (impedances from 25 to 600 ohms rated impedance, with an efficiency of 96 dB/mW or better).

Latest reviews

Pros: Build quality, sound, power, simplicity
Cons: Simplicity (for some)
The KICAS from Purity Audio is a very clean and capable sounding solid state amp that's been spiced with a touch of tube-esque warmth. 
KICAS (Keep It Clean And Simple) says it all. 1/4" headphone out, power switch, a pair of RCA inputs, and AC power input. That's all you get, and the guys at Purity proved that's all you need.
This one has excellent synergy with my Grados as well as the SM64s. The RS1's sound very punchy and dynamic (even more than normal) with sibilance only on poor recordings. Separation is very natural and coherent. This amp may not be the most neutral, but it certainly doesn't do anything weird to the source. Music is presented very naturally (I'm very reminded of the Colorfly C3's kind of sound - lush, rich, and organic).
I've heard it only briefly with some higher impedance cans like the ZMF V1 and HE500. The amp powered both with ease and from my brief time with them, both cans responded well to it's "just-north-of-neutral" presentation.
I would certainly recommend this amp to anyone looking for a do-it-all amp solution that specializes in simplicity yet gives a rich musical sound. 
That's a flash from the past. As far as I know, the guys who were making the K.I.C.A.S. amps gave it all up some years ago.
Too bad. Really is a quality amp that does a lot quite well!
Pros: Great value on second-hand market
Cons: Not eligible for FOTM status any more
Snared one of these second-hand largely on impulse.  Best (and one of the lesser expensive) impulse I've had on Head-Fi!

The above "review" was a late-night effort when all I was really trying to do was add the KICAS to my equipment list, but Head-Fi automatically pops up a box inviting you to write a review of each item you add to a list, so I tossed off a couple of casual lines and went to bed.  Now I realize that the way Huddler (the software platform that powers Head-Fi) works, this is going to be at the top of "recent reviews" for awhile and be displayed on a good many dynamically-generated pages, so I'll try to expand a bit on the previous effort by the light of day since this will draw a few eyeballs until subsequent reviews push it out of the headlines.
First a disclaimer: I really shouldn't be reviewing equipment at all, because it is entirely about relative comparisons, and I simply don't have enough experience with contemporary high-end headphone and digital audio gear to make those kinds of comparisons.  I used to sell analog-only high-end equipment in the 1970s and 80s, so I have some sense of what good sounds like, but have very limited exposure to the components featured on Head-Fi, so anything I say should be taken with that caveatt.
That said, I was very impressed with the KICAS amplifier, given that my Sennheiser HD650s had only been powered by lesser equipment like a Maverick Audio D1 and A1 and and Indeed 6N11 single tube/mosfet hybrid amp before getting the KICAS.   Given that $20 of my $180 purchase price went to great, quick shipping from the Head-Fi-er I purchased it from, a lot of my enthusiasm probably stems from the value side of the acquisition.   Most discrete headphone amps that seemed to be good quality matches for the 650s were out of my immediate budget, so getting something so affordable that sounded so much better than what I had heard before was exciting.
The KICAS is now a three-year-old design and out-of-production while the Canadian folks who make up Purity Audio are on sabbatical before they resume business with a new line of amps.  My unit has jumpers inside so you can switch between the "Caliente" mode (gentle lower-bass EQ boost applied) or the "normal" mode, and it was shipped in the "normal" mode, which I may leave it in for awhile, since I discovered it is not trivial to open the well-designed case to change the jumpers.
There have been plenty of reviews and impressions written about the KICAS on Head-Fi, which I researched for the first time the night I saw the for sale listing and then went ahead and made the purchase.  "Reviewer Pontificus" (love that title) Skylab raved about it (principally from a value perspective); others have been less enthusiastic.   But I am happy with it.  My previous experience in high-end audio in the analog-only days gave me a personal prediliction toward solid-state as opposed to tube amplification, and the KICAS has the qualities I associate with a good solid-state design: clarity, detail, good extension at both ends of the frequency spectrum, and a very low noise floor, which contributes to a greater sense of dynamic range to my old ears.  The volume potentiometer is quite useful through its entire range, and is smooth and quiet.  Like Skylab, I am not crazy about external "wall-wart" style power supplies, but the KICAS designers have implemented it so well in terms of sound quality it is hard to hold this against the amplifier.
Bottom line: If you are on a budget and looking for a good amplifier for a relatively low price, the KICAS continues to hold its value and is now quite affordable as a lot of owners are moving up to more recent products.  Amps tend to be a more "mature" technology than DACs and transports, so getting a product that is well-proven even though it is no longer being made is a nice way to save yourself some coin if circumstances dictate.
I have a KICAS regular, which I use with vintage Sennheisers (HD 560s) -- an excellent combination for the classical music I listen to. I've never heard the Caliente and would be curious about the differences from the regular -- apparently quite small.
attenuated 3db
attenuated 3db
My KICAS is jumpered in the "regular" position, and it may stay that way given the effort involved to open it up (Skylab said it was not an easy amp for him to open, and he's opened a lot more than me). My digitized classical collection is small (have about 100 great classical vinyl albums, but no good turntable to play them on), but last night I put on some Mozart and ended up listening to all of symphonies number 38 through 41 in one uninterrupted listening, it was so entrancing. The KICAS and HD650s sound good in all genres, but this was the first time I had heard symphonic music on headphones that sounded "right" to me in terms of dynamics.
Pros: warm sound while remaining transparent, great bass, simple design, solid build quality
Cons: slightly bland looking, coloration may not suit all headphones
I have had this amp for a few months, and I really enjoy it.
The Caliente (and the KICAS as well, I suppose)  feels like a quality product, which it is. It's true that the amp looks quite bland, but I think it's a nice, "no BS" design that just sits there and does its job. The volume knob turns nice and smooth, and the power switch "clicks" nicely. The housing has a very unified appearance, and feels bulletproof. The amp is powerful enough to drive any conventional headphone.
The sound is what really sets this amp apart, though. The Caliente adds a layer of depth and realism to the soundstage. But by far, the most noteworthy feature of this amp is the powerful bass, which is delivered with aplomb and hits hard. The warm sound signature complements my K702s nicely, preventing them from sounding too thin while preserving their detail and clarity. As for the middle frequencies, guitars and vocals have a natural tone, never sounding cold. Highs are not overshadowed either, and come across clear and crisp. Keep in mind that although it has a bit of a bass boost, the Caliente's coloration is not overbearing at all; I never thought the sound was too warm with any of my headphones. That being said, though, I don't have any notoriously bassy headphones, nor am I a basshead.
Despite the recent arrival of several strong-performing amps from South Korea and China, I believe the Caliente can ably compete among them, as an amp for listeners who want a slightly warm sound. The bass showed some bloom at times, but it's excusable at this price point. Unlike some desktop amps, the Caliente only gets slightly warm after an hour or so. Also, Oriel is a great guy to do business with; he's courteous and responds quickly. At the price their amps are going for now, Purity Audio should definitely be on the shortlist for people looking for an amp for a few hundred dollars. The Caliente was a good value for $400, but it's a steal for $229. Note that since Purity Audio is a Canadian company, the prices are all in Canadian dollars.


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