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Project Horizon 3

Rating:
4/5,
  1. Army-Firedawg
    Great starter amp. that can power most any high impedance headphone
    Written by Army-Firedawg
    Published Aug 26, 2015
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Wonderful sound, exquisite appearance, amazing price/quality ratio
    Cons - harmonic distortion can sometimes be a little too much
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    The process behind buying this little guy was honestly a lot more complicated then what I'm sure most people go through. Why, you ask? Because this was and still is my very first tube amp. and home amp. as well so I didn't know at all what I was looking for, what would complement my Sennheiser HD650's well (yes my friends I bought the 650's before I had an amp. [to my credit it was only like a week] haha), what would look good, and most importantly what would give me the best performance for what small budget I had, which was $100 which begrudgingly against what I was hoping for, was increased to $300 for I was unanimously told if I wanted to have any sort of furture proofing that was the minimum I needed to go. So I had my price and so the search began, first brand in my head for the longest time was Schiit and I was right on the point of purchasing the Asgard 2 but yet again a whole lot of “no no no no”'s came in saying tube was the way I really should go but the Valhalla 2 was just to much for what I could afford, so the search continues, that was until my good friend @evshrug told be to look into a DIY company Garage 1217.
     
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    The Opening Experience
     
         Before I begin this section I must disclose that I chose the pre-built option (I've no idea how build an amp. honestly) but one can opt in for the unassembled version which firstly will be I think $20 cheaper and the opening experience will differ from mine.
         I'm actually going to split this into two paragraphs for I believe it warrants it. The initial “opening” I had with this company is when I sent an email to them on the website asking a few general question because I was ,and honestly still am, a complete amp. novice so I wanted to get a good understanding of what it was I was putting my money into because, just putting my foot in the door of the higher side of audio spending $300 on an amp. just to power my slightly more expensive $500 headphones made me a bit squeamish. But Jeremy (the main guy of Garage1217) quickly answered my questions in a very individualized NONE UNIVERSAL email that really put me at ease and gave me enough confidence in them that he earned my business.
         The initial experience into what a company has to offer, the handshake if you will that says “Pleasure to meet your acquaintance my friend to the future of many hours of enjoying each others company”. So how did Garage 1217 do? Pretty boring and forgettable unfortunately (I actually had to go bad and watch my YouTube unboxing video of it because I forgot), the amp. comes in a USPS Priority Mail box(which is good they get it to the buyer very quickly) and inside that is just simple boxes holding the power cords and bubble wrap surrounding the amp itself with the tube already socketed. Is the opening experience an end all be all for a product? Goodness no but I mean come on, it's the initial greeting or handshake you do when ya meet someone, put some effort into it, in other words make it a firm one!
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    Construction
     
         The build quality of this is very misleading, because at an initial glance it appears to be very badly put together with super cheap plastic and a couple screws, I mean you can see the complete inner workings of the thing! But when you pick it up and actually analyze it you'll quickly realize that this is impressively well put together and doesn't even so much as sway if you were to hold it on one of the corner bars.
         As said earlier it's a completely open design which enables the user to see write into the inner workings, and I'm not just referring to the tube and blah blah blah, oh no I mean everything. From the chips, to the cables, the the big black block looking things that get pretty darn hot (not super insightful on this stuff yet if you couldn't tell), to the actual connection when you plug in your inputs and headphone jack. This is a very cool aspect that I've never seen before and have grown very fond of it.
         From the manufacture you can choose either a see through lid (which I obviously chose) or an aluminum black top. You can choose from the silver or black volume knob, and finally a pretty nice selection of led colors that add a really nice appeal to the amp that the tube already had, I chose red for I figured it'd complement the existing tube color the best, but I've seen others and they've all looked very nice so pick freely my friends.
     
    Specifications (ripped straight from the manufactures website)
     
    Actual Project Horizon Measurements

    1. Single ended OTL class-A output stage.
    2. Power consumption: 13W continuous, 19W peak.
    3. Power supply: 48VDC (0.55A cont, 0,8A peak)
    4. Input Resistance: 11k / 31kOhm gain module dependent
    5. Input Sensitivity (6N23): 270mV (dependent on tube)
    6. Gain: 20dB (dependent on tube) Changed from the original higher 26dB specification
    7. Max Output voltage (no load): 14.1Vrms at 300ohm
    8. Output Resistance: Selectable 1.5, 35 or 120ohm
    9. Frequency Response: 10Hz – 160 KHz (-0.5dB) with 32ohm load
    10. Frequency Response: 4Hz – 400 KHz (-3dB) with 32ohm load
    11. Signal to Noise ratio: 91dBA (dependent on tube)
    12. Crosstalk: -88dB (dependent on tube)
    13. THD: > 0.013% (dependent on tube)
    14. Suitable for: 120-600ohm Headphones

    Dimensions:
    1. 6.5L X 5W X 2.75H in inches

    Weight:
    1. Acrylic Chassis 1lb (without power supply)
     
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    Sound (W/ stock JJ ECC 82 tube)
     
         The thing about a tube amp is, is that there's no way for me to determine how the amp. itself sound for it must always have a tube inside of its chamber. So my review of the sound quality will most solely reflect the tube which came with it which is the JJ ECC 82.The main headphone I was using was of course my Sennheiser HD650's so some of my reference will inevitably reflect its own principles as well.
         Upon listening to this for the first time, oh my gosh, it was like the curtain had been raised and sound just poured into my ears like it never has before. The depth, the immersion, the warmth was so wonderful it rivals that of my benchmark Bowers and Wilkins P7. In fact when I hooked my P7 up to this (switching the gain switch to low) it even opened up the sound on these a very small amount as well. These are certainly not a match for this 120-600ohm amp. but it did bring a nice, change if you will, to the P7 signature. I wouldn't classify it as better or worse but it was something new and refreshing I haven't gotten from these in a while. If you've a pair of planars I found that these complemented the PM-3 I reviewed extremely well. It added a very nice sense of warmth to it that the PM-3's were missing. I found it added a nice forwardness to the midsection but didn't really touch the treble all that much if anything.
         Lastly these give a very subtle addition to the soundstage but I feel it unnatural. Again this being my first tube I don't have any other experience to go on but tubes in their design add harmonic distortion and for the most part I find it to be rather enjoying but during my time truly listening to the PH3 for the sake of critiquing I noticed they added actually a good amount of distortion that sometimes made the music I'm listening to not a pleasurable experience.
         Going back to the soundstage, if you've a setting on your audio app. (mostly android users) that says something like “Stereo X”. It's an artificial attempt to increase the size of the soundstage but though it does this sure for those of us who truly listen to our music it immediately becomes notable that it makes the music sound stretched and fake. Now don't get me wrong, though the PH3 does have this (with this tube) it's nowhere near to that degree, as to a reference to understand what I was trying to say; even so, for all the strengths I've found in this, this small take away I can definitely live with.
    A final note on the audio quality, and this one only happens when you initially plug it into your source, and that is that these receive a massive crack, a bang almost it what comes to mind. What I mean by this is when I plug the aux jack say into my computer (or any other device, it consistently happens) there's this extremely loud pop that really sets me back for it is painfully as in physically painfully loud.
     
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    Conclusion
     
         In summary, I am truly happy that I finally pulled the trigger on this outstanding quality amp. Though yes it has some draw backs with it's distortion so a critical listening experience isn't necessarily good for this but if you're someone like myself who just likes to sit back, unwind, and enjoy the music as it washes over you, then this amp. is definitely for you. The welcoming warmth it adds to headphones is almost always appreciated and never once have I had an issue with volume levels. I'm excited with this tube to have the ability to easily roll tubes and discover new sound characteristics and differences amongst different tubes.
         I was very finicky about picking my first (tube) amp. but after having it for roughly 3 months I've no complaints and would definitely recommend this company to anyone. The customer service you receive from Jeremy goes so far above and beyond in getting you the answer to your questions you'll, like me, feel like you're actually an important customer verses another sale number that I most always feel when buying products from larger brand names.
     
    Till next time my friends, also make sure to check out my unboxing video here, and my full review video here!
      landroni likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Sal1950
      Sorry but there is no way to  "fix" it, that's just the way it is. Failure to adhere to proper procedure will very likely cost you a component or set of headphones at some point.
      Sal1950, Sep 9, 2015
    3. landroni
      The harmonic distortion that you've experienced, was it only with the stock JJ ECC 82 tube, or with other tubes as well? I've heard good things about the 12BH7 and 6DJ8 tubes, so I was wondering if this distortion is related to the tubes themselves (and can be avoided with other models), or if it was somehow related to the device... 
       
      landroni, Nov 5, 2015
    4. HOWIE13
       What do these distortions you heard sound like, as I have never heard unpleasant distortions from my Horizon?
      HOWIE13, Nov 5, 2015