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Bravo Audio - funny looking little tube amps

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by ear8dmg, Sep 9, 2009.
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  1. Helltech
    I would love to know from people who have some Beyers (preferable 990s) how these sound vs a magni. I'm on the fence about which to get. I keep hearing that the magni brings out the already lackluster treble in the 990s
  2. Kingdom4Cans
    I've been trying to find some opinions on this myself.  I've heard that the 990s really excel with tubes, but I've never heard it for myself.  I was planning on buying the 990s to go with my Bravo, but I couldn't wait to upgrade to the schiit stack. [​IMG]  My Bravo V2 is currently for sale on Ebay.  If you are leaning that way I can tell you that you won't be disappointed, and it will ship faster than coming from china (took three weeks to get to me).
  3. UmustBKidn
    Ok, here we go. Using a Mullard 12AU7/ECC82 tube, code K51 B8C (Blackburn factory, March 1958 near as I can tell). Ipod nano 6th gen in the Pure i-20. Using Sony MDR 7506 cans w/Beyer earpad mod because both setups can drive it properly. Laptop with iTunes driving the Modi. Both laptop and iPod volumes set to max. All sound enhancement and EQ turned off.
    The Music:
    1) Andreas Vollenweider, Book of Roses: In Doga Gamee (An amazing recording even for it's age)
    2) Pat Metheney, One Quiet Night: Ferry across the Mercy (Just flat out lovely guitar, can hear the instrument worked heavily in this tune)
    3) Lindsey Stirling: We Found Love (single) (Chosen for the really low drums, and a nice vocal+violin recording without the overpowering electronics)
    4) Seether, Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces: Like Suicide
    5) Led Zeppelin, Celebration Day (Live): No Quarter
    The first two are apple lossless, the rest are 256 Kbps AAC. Sorry, it's what I had on hand. Only the Seether recording is a bit iffy, the rest are ok. My reasons for choosing these recordings will become obvious as I review them below. I listen to all of these recordings on a regular basis.
    I decided to play each song on each setup back to back, and write my impressions as I listen. I also decided to begin with the i-20/Bravo, then jump to the M+M stack first. I will swap the amps and dacs then repeat.
    Trial setup #1
    Pure i-20 -> Bravo
    1) The piano is dynamic and bright. Bass guitar is prominent, sounds quite nice for a set of cans not known for bass response. Guitar is a bit hidden by the piano and drums. The flute is a bit overwhelmed by the rest, but comes out plainly enough. Oboe sound is very sweet. Not sure what AW is playing in this tune, but all the string instruments are well presented (they do all seem to be competing with each other). The drums are actually a bit too loud. When the harmonica comes in, it seems overly loud. The system responds to the speed of the piano well. This album in general sounds very sweet on the Bravo with the Mullard, a good example of why people like tubes.
    2) The bass notes on the acoustic guitar in the opening sequence almost seem a bit boomy. What I like about this song is you can hear PM working the guitar clearly on every note. The higher notes come through with a lot of clarity and beauty. This is a man making love to a guitar, as much as he is playing it. It is amazing to listen to how the guitar is worked in this song, and the tube amp just makes that come through with a lot of dynamic and soul.
    3) The song starts with some ungodly low drum beats, which are on the verge of rattling my skull. The vocals in this song range the entire scale, and my lord they are sweet. The woman singing the lead part is a bit louder than she should be, but maybe I've just got it cranked up too far lol :) Lindsey's violin playing is subdued but still sweet in this song (she's usually surrounded by a lot of electronic keyboarding and drums, not so here). The real star in this song are the drums and African inspired vocals: very very nice, accurate, and dare I say, tubey.
    4) Electric guitar seems to be noisy from the start. Drums are pronounced, bass guitar is very impressive. When the chorus starts, I hear something harsh enough (presuming electric guitar noise) to make me turn the volume down. I'm not sure what it is, but this is some of the harshness the Pure i-20 produces when playing songs with a lot of guitar distortion. I want to turn it up but the harshness makes me turn it back down. This makes me want to just listen to the ipod alone.
    5) This song, as the rest of the recording, is a little bit of nirvana for those of us who grew up in the 70s and/or listened to a lot of Led Zeppelin. After 1980 we never thought we'd hear the band play live again, and though they tried a couple times, they never really succeeded until 2007, with this live set. These guys can still play, and you'd never know you're listening to a bunch of 65-ish year olds. Jason Bonham is every bit the drummer his father was, and what an event this had to be for him. This particular song showcases each musician in one way or another, and it just comes across as very pretty, very lovely, and absolutely live sounding, especially the jazzy break in the middle of the song. Considering most of the rest of Led Zeppelin's music was recorded over 30 years ago, the sound of this recording is awesome in comparison.
    Modi -> Magni
    1) The piano is a bit less bright, but still has speedy response on this setup. Bass guitar notes are just as pronounced on this setup, also nice on these cans. The drums do not seem quite as overwhelming. The guitar and other strings do not stand out quite as much as they did on the tube. The oboe sound is also not quite as sweet sounding. Flute seems to stand out a bit more on this setup, as does the guitar. That damn harmonica is still too loud lol, but a little less annoying on the M+M. The vocals sound quite different: I'd have to say a bit veiled. Overall the song is a bit more clinical sounding, but not by leaps and bounds. It's less dynamic but more balanced.
    2) The opening low notes are still boomy on the M+M stack. The working of the guitar, while still audible, is not as clear or dynamic on the solid state setup. The high notes are still clear and beautiful, but they're just a bit veiled in comparison to the tube. The recording comes across as less dynamic in general. This is still a man making love to a guitar, but he's behind a curtain on this recording (as opposed to standing right in your face).
    3) The drums that begin the song are just as dynamic and booming on the M+M stack. The female lead vocal sounds like she's standing next to me this time. Lindsey's violin seems to be farther in the background. Turning down the volume a bit lol. The other vocals are less pronounced on this recording, while the lead singer seems to stand out more, very curious. The drum break in the middle of the song sounds a bit more clinical this time. Definitely not tubey sounding, but very clear, accurate, pretty.
    4) Electric guitar noise still present in opening sequence. Bass guitar and drums come in sounding solid. Vocals are not as harsh. When the chorus hits, I am not overwhelmed with the harshness present on the Pure/Bravo setup. I can still crank this song up and listen to it with some volume. IMO the M+M stack is superior to the tube amp on this recording, because it's just not nearly as harsh and bright.
    5) As the song starts with the keyboard, its very difficult to discern any difference in quality between the setups. Probably due to the live recording. When the drums and guitar kicks in, it sounds pretty similar to the tube setup. Very hard to hear much difference in this case. If anything, the M+M stack comes across a bit cleaner. I think I can pick up more detail in Plant's voice and Page's guitar than the other setup. The jazzy break in the middle of the song sounds pretty damn sweet either way. Yes, I do believe I like this song better on the M+M stack.
    To Be Continued...
    (Sorry, I'm tired and I need to collapse .. I will resume tomorrow evening)
  4. UmustBKidn
  5. DefQon
    Both amp's will have no problems driving the 990 (250/600ohm) superbly. The Bravo/Indeed/Sunrise add more body and fun factor to the sound, the Magni can elevate the 990's harsh treble a bit and can sound a bit lifeless.
  6. Cafofo
    I bought my BravoAudio V2 recently and just now i can test it... but there´s something is weird... it would be a stereo amp, right? My amp seems like a mono sound. Using RCA cable, if i unplug Left cable, the sound keeping playing in both chanes in my Headphone, even if i use a 3.5mm cable on entrance, the result is the same.
    Testing on computer with sounds in diferents channels, it´s always do that, it mixes both channels no matter where the signal comes from. It´s because the tube or it´s brokem or... ? ?
  7. mvrk10256
    I believe it mixes them. This is (one) oif the reasons to do the cross talk mod. You can look in my thread for more details. But if you jump that connection it will go to separate channels. 
  8. Cafofo

    I Just saw about noise when talking about crosstalk mod. But if you said i can go with separate channels doing that, ill try soon =) Thank you!
  9. Cafofo

    I Did but i think i dont get any result. Aplying a sound test with Right/Left chanel i can hear on both speakers even if only Left or Right conector(RCA) is plugged. =(
  10. UmustBKidn
    Continuing the comparison... sorry for the delay.
    Reminder: The Music:
    1) Andreas Vollenweider, Book of Roses: In Doga Gamee
    2) Pat Metheney, One Quiet Night: Ferry across the Mercy
    3) Lindsey Stirling: We Found Love (single)
    4) Seether, Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces: Like Suicide
    5) Led Zeppelin, Celebration Day (Live): No Quarter
    Modi -> Bravo
    1) As I fired this song up, I had to do a double take and make sure I had it set up correctly. I am amazed at what I am hearing. I listened all the way through the song and decided to switch back to the Pure i-20 -> Bravo setup, just to make sure. The Pure i-20 drives the Bravo harder than the Modi for the same volume settings. When I bump the Bravo volume up using the Modi to what sounds like an equal setting, what I hear is a better balance of sound, lower bass notes, cleaner high end, and no sharp brightness in the high frequencies. The annoying harshness simply is not there, using the Modi to drive the Bravo. Oh, what a joy. The difference is not night and day - but it is there. Now I'm bummed, lol, because I can't listen to this setup at work.
    2) This is a damn pretty song on this combo. The working of the guitar I described in the previous comparison is still quite audible, but the strings don't "screech" quite as much as I listen. This is in line with my other observations: The sound reproduction of the Modi is accurate but smoother than the Pure i-20, and I'm not having to listen to artificial harshness in the music.
    3) The opening drum beat is just effing marvelous lol. It's almost like sitting in the front row of a theater with Sensurround speakers (remember those?) Had to notch the volume down a teeny bit. The lead vocal is a bit bright. A bit brighter than I like, so I adjust volume a bit. I am amazed at the low frequency response I'm hearing on the drum solo in the middle of the song, on these Sony cans. Not quite like my Beyers, but damn close.
    4) Yeah, I can listen to the chorus on this song without adjusting the volume down, with the Modi driving the Bravo. And that lovely guitar distortion is nice and crunchy ... yeah, that's why I wanted to listen to a tube. I like my distortion un-distorted, LOL. Does that make sense? Gawd I hope it does, because that's what it sure seems like. I can just listen to this song without futzing with the volume control. Nice.
    5) There's a definite trend going on: I keep turning the Modi-Bravo combination up, cuz it sounds good, and the Pure-Magni combination down, so I can tolerate it. The Modi-Bravo does get a little boomy on this song if I go too far up on the volume. The jazzy part in the middle of this song sounds so nice though. I can hear Jason tapping on some cymbals during the piano solo that I hadn't heard before. It's up high enough to hear detail without being annoying - that's the bottom line for the Modi-Bravo combination. Yeah. And I continue to be impressed by the Sony MDR 7506 cans.
    Pure i-20 -> Magni
    1) I had to drop the volume control down about 20% as soon as I started the song. Yes, the song is rough around the edges, as it were, coming through the Pure i-20. The Magni can't mask that harshness, it just amplifies it. I had to keep turning the volume down as I listened. Especially when the harmonica kicked in, good lord lol. The volume control is backed down to 9:30 or so, which is a lot lower than I usually run my Magni (which is usually set around 12-1 o'clock). Amazing. Yes, the harshness definitely followed the DAC. The verdict is pretty clear at this point.
    2) My immediate impression is the sound of the guitar strings remind me of being "plucked" instead of strummed. There is a certain "twang" in the tone present in the Pure i-20, that isn't there on the Modi. Every time PM hits a single note, that twang is what I'm hearing. It's distracting. The nature of this song went from a lovely solo guitar to an exercise in twanginess lol. It's not a huge difference, again this is on the subtle side. But it's noticeable. And I had to notch down the volume again.
    3) Opening drum beat is just as impressive here, but wow when the lead vocal kicks in, I'm dropping the volume control again. The backing vocals are now producing an annoying hiss whenever an "ess" sound is being sung. There's the harshness of the i-20 again, I suppose. It goes away if I back down the volume some, but then I'm giving up some of the sound I wanted.
    4) I'm cringing as I wait for the chorus to hit... then I remember I had it turned down from the previous song. Ok. So, I just have to keep the volume down to a certain level using the Pure i-20, because if it goes up too high, it just starts becoming annoying. Anything with an "ess" sound to it, and certain types of guitar distortion, are just annoying on the Pure i-20. It's just a distraction from everything else.
    5) The Magni is turned down enough by this point to make listening to this sound enjoyable, but I'm not cranking anything up. It just isn't quite as nice as the other setup. Not a huge difference, but it is limiting. What a shame. On the other hand, for budget Hi-fi, maybe this isn't so bad.
    The Modi DAC is clearly superior to the Pure i-20. It is smooth and accurate, regardless of which amplifier it is driving. Plug it into even a cheap hybrid tube amp like the Bravo V2, and you will hear some really nice, tubey music, assuming of course you pick the right music, heh. This exercise has also proven to me that there really is a need for different types of amplifiers for different types of music, and this effect is noticeable even with budget hi fi.
    I am also just really astounded at the sonic quality of an unmodified Bravo V2 with a vintage Mullard tube in it. Yes, I know, lots of people like to mod this little amp, and one day I may take a shot at that too. But I'm naturally lazy LOL, so I really like just unplugging a tube and trying another one. I picked the Mullard because I am really sure lots of people know what they sound like, but I must say that the quality of many of the vintage tubes I have tried are also perfectly fine for a budget setup like this. I did not pay a lot for this Mullard (it is well used), and I would not recommend anyone going out to pay $50 bucks for a high testing NOS tube... absolutely any 60's vintage long grey plate 12AU7 or 5963 tube sounds just great in this little amp. The differences between tubes are very hard to notice (though I am sure they'd be more obvious with a better amp).
    What really impresses me is the quality of all of this gear. Even the Pure i-20 is passable if you don't crank the volume control up too high. For the last couple days I've been using my old Sony MDR NC-40 and an iPod shuffle at work, because I didn't want to keep trucking this stuff back and forth. The sonic difference between that setup and any of this gear is astounding LOL. I am nit picking in comparison to the difference of that setup. I could live with just using the Sony MDR 7506 cans and a plain iPod if I had to, that would be a lot better all by itself. The Pure i-20 becomes annoying when I crank the volume up to the level I like (being a former musician, that level is rather high). But by itself it does make a nice stand to hold my iPod on my desk at work, and I can't listen to loud music all day long anyway.
    There is no reason to purchase a Pure i-20 unless you require a standalone source like an iPod, and you want to hook it into an exterior amp or another DAC, or perhaps watch some video should you have an iPod with video on it (I did not test this feature). My sole reason for purchasing the Pure i-20 was to bypass the iPod's internal DAC and plumb it into an amp, hoping for improved sound quality. At this juncture I am wishing I had purchased the Nuforce Icon Ido, hoping that the DAC in that unit would not be so bright and screechy. But that's $150 bucks that I am not going to spend. Perhaps my advice will spare someone else the expense of this mistake. It would have been perfectly acceptable to just plumb my iPod directly into the Bravo.
    Another curious thing I noted, was that my Magni seemed to be running hotter when the Pure i-20 was driving it. I didn't try to swap DACs and compare the temperatures, I just remember when I usually shut the amp down, it's never running this warm, when the Modi is driving it. Based on my earlier observation that the Pure drove the Magni harder than the Modi did, I'm guessing this is a side effect. So the Pure is producing higher output than the Modi. Pity that it's not better quality.
    Last note: The Sony MDR 7506 using the Beyer earpad mod has really impressed me over the course of this experiment. I continue to be astounded at the low frequency production of these cans, especially given their frequency response (they show quite a dip on the low end on headphone.com). Some think the Beyer earpads improve low frequency response. I can't argue with that. They sure do sound good.
  11. blueangel2323
    Thanks for the comparison, very helpful. My iPhone is my main source so I was considering the i-20 to bypass the internal DAC and connect to my amp. Unfortunately the line-out on my universal iPod dock is very noisy and it gets quite obvious when I turn up the amp.  
    But the i-20 is also the cheapest dock that can bypass the iDevice internal DAC and it also has digital out. So maybe I should get a DAC that has SPDIF in and hook it up that way?
  12. mvrk10256
    Anyone ever combine one of these with a grubDAC? 
    I have extended screws due to my larger caps, and I ordered the grubDAC, and was thinking of installing it on the lower plexi shelf. Then just hard wire it into the input. 
  13. Maxibully
    i also just bought one of these babys from ebay(ithink its the same,mine has  little bear on the glass display)
    anyway i just thought it would be fun to see what u can get for around 35 dollar
    never had a tbe amp before so i have nothing to reference it to, and my other 2 amps are solid state
    also boughta cheap china dac (muse  with usb toslink and coax) ill set this up on my desktop and use it with my pc i think
    anyway will put out my thoughts when i have received this little bugger
  14. Mshenay
    Oh wow nice
    I really enjoyed my 990 250 ohm with my Indeed G3
  15. techboy
    I am also getting mono sound from my Bravo Ocean. How to correct it?
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