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Nobsound NS-01E Mini Tube Headphone Amplifier Stereo HiFi Amp Audio Preamp (Silver)

Rating:
4.5/5,
  1. crabdog
    Nobsound NS-01E - Small size, big sound
    Written by crabdog
    Published Dec 5, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Small size, powerful, price, doesn't get too hot
    Cons - None I can think of
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    From the Doukaudio website: "Shenzheng Cavins Technology Co.,LTD has been established since 2014.. We are devoted to design and research of hi-end level of audio equipments under our own brand name Nobsound and Douk Audio with our intellectual property rights. We are striving to build classical extraordinary audio equipment with cultural connotation and propel national audio brands worldwide and pace up with the rest of the world."
     
    Disclaimer:
     
    This product was sent to me for the purpose of this review. I'm not affiliated with the company in any way and all opinions and observations here are my own, based on my experience with the product. I'd like to thank Nobsound/Doukaudio and Vivian for the opportunity to test this product.
     
    Doukaudio website: http://www.doukaudio.com/
     
    Nobsound on Amazon
     
    NS-01E on Amazon
     
    Specifications:
     
    1. Output power: ≥1100mW (32Ω)
    2. Adapter Headphone Impedance: 18-600Ω
    3. Total harmonic distortion: <0.005%
    4. SNR: ≥110DB
    5. Frequency Response: 20Hz-30KHz
    6. Volume: (W)50×(L)50×(H)30 mm {1.97 x 1.97 x 1.18 inches}- 65mm height when add tube and feet
    7. Net weight: 80g
    8. Color: Black & Silver & Purple
     
    Packaging and accessories:
     
    The NS-01E comes in a tidy little white box with gold print on the top. Inside is the amplifier which is protected by a soft white foam, a power supply and a user manual.
     
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    Build and use:
     
    Small is an understatement, this thing is tiny. Nicely crafted from machined aluminium everything is well finished and put together. Starting with the most obvious part - the top, you can see the large, gold colored volume knob that bumps up and down in increments. Diagonally opposite is the star of the show, the little JAN 6021 vacuum tube surrounded by protective plastic discs.
     
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    On the front side are the 3.5 mm input and output jacks.
     
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    Moving around to  the back we find the 6V DC power input and the bright red power button.
     
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    So that's all there is to it. As you can see it's a really simple device. I have the silver/white version but the NS-01E also comes in black and purple. Everything feels solid, there's good resistance on the volume knob which moves in tactile bumps. Plug in the power supply, your source, whether it be a phone, DAC, DAP or computer and hook up your earphones, headphones or amplifier and you're good to go.*
     
    *The manufacturer recommends you power the unit on for about 15 seconds prior to use, obviously to let the valve warm up to operating temperature.
     
    There's a blue LED under the valve which may appeal to some and the valve itself glows a mild orange when powered on. Personally I find the blue and orange combination quite pleasing to the eye. The unit gets a little warm when in use but you can comfortably touch or pick it up without fear of burning yourself.
     
    Inside are two Texas instrument NE5532P OP amps:
     
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    The Nobsound NS-01E really surprised me the first time I hooked it up to my system. This thing is loud! I've no idea how they managed to pack so much power into this minuscule unit but its got some serious grunt. How much exactly do you ask? Enough to make your head explode like a melon under a sledgehammer if you're not careful. Using the line out from the FiiO X1 II 9-10 o'clock was adequate with the Ultrasone Performance 860. At 12 o'clock I was in fear that my head would implode under the SPL. It was the same when using it as a pre-amp to my Pioneer receiver.
     
    Sound:
     
    Equipment used:
     
    Foobar2000 > Micca OriGen+ > NS-01E > headphones/amplifier
    Foobar2000 > Arcam irDAC-II > NS-01E  > Ultrasone Performance 860
    FiiO X1 II line out > NS-01E > headphones/amplifier
    NiNTAUS X10 > NS-01E > headphones/amplifier
     
    So how does it sound apart from big? The NS-01E gives sound a sense of energy, sort of like you're sitting on top of a live volcano and just waiting for it to erupt. Low notes dig deeper, mids become a but more full and highs get some extra sparkle. Everything stays remarkably clear and gains some vibrancy.  The most noticeable areas are the bass and treble which both seem to gain more change than the mids. Crash cymbals seem to extend a bit further and take on a real live performance feeling. It takes away some of the studio's clinical presentation and gives you a closer to live sound. Overall things sound a little warmer without losing any of the separation or detail present in the recording. It's not a huge difference and only noticeable if you're really looking for the changes.
     
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    Comparison:
     
    vs Bravo Audio Ocean:
    The two amps sound remarkably similar, both very clear with some nice analog warmth to them. The Ocean has the slightest extra bit of weight in the bass and might be just a little more forward sounding in the mids. Both have very clear and well extended treble. The Ocean is the more versatile of the two, having the added benefit of RCA line in and it also has both 3.5 mm and 6.35 mm headphone jacks but obviously at the cost of a significantly larger footprint. I'd suggest if you're using headphones only then go for the NS-01E but if you want to hook up a pair of speakers as well then the Ocean is the way to go. I should also mention that both units have enormous amounts of power and should be able to drive anything you throw at them with ease.
     
    Conclusion:
     
    Priced at $48.30 on AliExpress and $50 on Amazon this little fella easily falls into the budget amplifier category. What you get for your money is a well-built, compact and capable little power  house of an amplifier. This would be perfect for anyone looking for something with a small footprint - perfect for the desktop or use in a limited space. Some may just need some extra volume that their source can't provide and the NS-01E has truckloads of that. These should have enough grunt to drive just about any headphone. Others might like it for that extra touch of warmth and analog presentation that only tubes can provide. At this stage I can't really find any faults with the NS-01E because it comes in a neat little package and does exactly what it says on the box. Recommended.
      trellus, B9Scrambler and peter123 like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. 0pethian
      so which head phones u tested ... 
      can it drive plannarz? he400i n some 250ohm HPs like dt990 pro?
      0pethian, Dec 27, 2016
    3. Saoshyant
      You're killing me here @crabdog as I really don't need this, but I never got around to trying out tubes so this'd be an inexpensive route.
      Saoshyant, Dec 29, 2016
    4. crabdog
      @0pethian Ultrasone Performance 860 and MSUR N650. Can drive 250 ohm easily
       
      @Saoshyant If you do get it let me know how it works out for you. Btw the NS-08 is a bit cheaper and easier for tube rolling if you're into that
      crabdog, Jan 17, 2017