About 2 months ago I was approached by Sonic to review Oblivion. I had not known Sonic before neither did I hear about Oblivion.
I told him I’m not a professional reviewer and he said that’s ok. I’m not a technical person either so this is a layman’s review.
Oblivion is a hybrid amp with tube as preamp and solid state for the power amp duties. For more information on Oblivion, you can read it at the links above.
When I started, I view Oblivion only as a headphone amp but I soon found out that you can also have one configured as preamp and / or with speakers out.
After 2 months, I received the amp 2 days before Christmas. J It came in a very big box. Inside, it is very well padded and has another box – Oblivion is in there, again very well padded. It came with 2 x RCA 6AV6 driver tubes and 4 x Siemens EL81 power tubes. The amp that was send to me has an impedance switch, another switch to enable headphones or speakers / headphones and speakers binding posts that accept banana plugs. It also has xlr and rca inputs. The headphone out is xlr. Power switch is of the flick variety and it is very sturdy and feels good to the touch. The volume knob operates smoothly.
Visually, Oblivion looks very good. It comes in a large brush aluminium black powder coated chassis. It is slightly bigger than my Yggdrasil dac. There are 4 adjustable spike feets which makes levelling the amp on the table very easy. There is a big fan underneath to keep the amp cool and it is very quiet. The amp stays just moderately warm even under hours of usage.
I will start with the review of Oblivion as a headphone amp. My gears are as follows:-
Yggdrasil – dac ; Oblivion – amp ; ZMF Verite Open and HD800 – headphones.
Cables are Curious cable interconnects, Isotek EV03 Premier power cable, a generic power conditioner similar to the Isotek EV03 Polaris power conditioner.
Now how does it sound?
Oblivion strikes me as very clear with details galore. Stereo imaging is superb. You can hear instruments clearly and visualise where they are positioned. Soundstage depth, width and height are the best I’ve heard in all the amps that I’ve experienced. Treble is very well extended. Midrange is forward and engaging. Bass is well done without overpowering the other frequencies. Whilst it’s lighter in bass than some of my tube amps, it surprised me on bass heavy tracks. I soon discovered that Oblivion will reveal how your gear sound and perform. It is very transparent. There is a touch of tube tone and at no time did it sounded glaring or bright. Spacious, airy and articulate comes to mind. With Yggdrasil and Verite Open, it sounded like a perfect pairing to my ears.
My other 3 tube amps are ALO Audio Studio Six, Glenn OTL amplifier and Woo Audio WA22 and the preference are in that order.
Compared to Studio Six.
Studio Six has Mullard ECC33, Brimar CV511 (equivalent of 6V6gt), Mullard OB2 and GEC U52.
Studio Six or SS has rather pronounced bass. It’s solid. It’s also very detailed with a sweet midrange and accentuated bass. It’s great with classic rock.
On switching over to Oblivion, it’s obvious that Oblivion clarity and details are more in abundance and soundstage is wider, deeper and has more height. Oblivion imaging is also better. It is certainly airier and projected a holographic image. Studio Six is the best of my 3 amps ( – in my opinion J), so it came as a shocked that after a few days of comparison, I found myself preferring Oblivion tonally with my gear.
Compared to Glenn OTL amplifier.
I had GOTL for 2 years now and am very familiar with it’s tone. It’s a tube rollers amp but my preferred tubes are Sylvania 6sn7w metal with 6 x RCA 6bx7gt. GOTL has an upfront engaging midrange and it’s midbass is superb with Verite. Treble is well extended but a bit dial back compared to the other amps. It’s an organic, dynamic and lively amp. Compared to Oblivion, GOTL sounded less clear. Very good texture but clarity and details are not up to Oblivion class leading act. GOTL soundstage is also much narrower. Despite all this, I actually like the way GOTL sounded with classic rock.
The areas Oblivion trump over GOTL is in clarity, details, imaging, airiness and soundstage. They are quite different sounding tonally.
Again I find myself preferring how Oblivion sounded compared to GOTL.
For this exercise, I decided to skip Woo Audio WA22.
GOTL was my amp of the year for 2018. Studio Six is my amp of the year for 2019. Oblivion will be my amp of the year for 2020.
With the impressions of headphone duties out of the way, let’s get to how Oblivion fair with speakers. My first thought is that Oblivion will be suitable only for high efficiency speakers like the Zu Omens or Omegas. Well I was so surprised that Oblivion drives the following bookshelf speakers so well.
Furthermore I was astounded that Oblivion could drive my Axis LS88 floorstanders (90db, 300w power, 4 ohms) to moderately loud level. I have to admit though that I much prefer my Sansui au-alpha 907mr and Redgum Rgi120enr for driving my large speakers in a fairly large room of 6 x 4 metres. There’s just that much more oomph. I was using my Rega RP8 turntable with Avid Pellar phono stage for this test.
The bookshelf speakers sounded excellent with Oblivion driving them. For near field listening, there is certainly enough power to drive them. There is no need for high efficiency speakers. I have not heard those speakers sounding so clear and bass was amply delivered with good solid impact.
Music selections for the listening test.
Telegraph Road – Dire Straits
Forever Autumn – War of the Worlds
1812 Overture – Tchaikovsky
Ride of the Valkyries – Richard Wagner
Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd
Nothing Else Matters - Metallica
Spanish Harlem – Rebecca Pidgeon
Stairways to heaven – Led Zeppelin
101 Eastbound – Fourplay
Oblivion performed superbly as both a headphone and speakers amp. I would be proud to own one.
If you value transparency and an articulate sound, you will love it.
@SonicTrance has created an amp that not only looks beautiful but also sounds great.
My prediction is that it will take off as more people come to know of it. Highly recommended !