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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. UmustBKidn
    When I recommend tubes, I always enclose a caveat about not spending a ton of money on tubes for this amp. I have never recommended someone go out and spend even $45 for one of those gold lion reissue tubes. I'm not even sure I'd call anything made today a reissue, since they aren't made by the same company - or even in the same country. To my knowledge, its now the same Russian company that makes the "reissue" Tung-Sol tubes. Bleh.
    That is not to say I haven't spent way too much on vintage tubes. In my defense, I'm also going to be using them in a Bottlehead Crack, when I finally get the time to build one.
    I have a couple of vintage GE 5-star 5963 tubes with red labels that sound quite good (I think I paid $12 for the pair). I think I have an RCA long black plate 12AU7 somewhere, that also sounds quite good. I can't say that any of the other GE or RCA tubes I've heard were outstanding, other than to say that any of them are better than the stock Chinese tube. I have a few Sylvania tubes (some that are rebrands) that are also unremarkable. But when you can pick them up for $2 or $3 each in a small lot of tubes, they are interesting to compare to other tubes.
    What I personally would do (and sometimes still do just for fun) is look for a small lot of say, 5-10 tubes of different types, and put in a low bid on them. Say, $10-12 bucks. If I don't win, no problem. Someone else wanted them more than I did. But sometimes I will win a small lot in that way, and I'll get a nice little selection of tubes to try, for not much more than it would cost me to buy one brand new Russian tube. People should keep in mind that there are several variants to the 12AU7's that will plug right in with no changes (5963, 5814, 6189), and those variants are often dirt cheap (because people insist on 12AU7s). I have even picked up an old Mullard using that technique (it probably was unbalanced or tested quite low, but who cares with an amp like this).
    It does help to know the value of what you're looking for. That takes time, and sifting through lots of auctions. I find it just a whole lot of fun, but it's not for everyone.
  2. UmustBKidn
    Exactly. $10 bucks for a half dozen tubes is a great buy, even if some of them aren't so great. If you want to see some really insane deals, search on the 5963, 5814, or 6189 tubes too.
  3. arcorob
    Very true guys...you really don't have to spend a lot on 12AU7 tubes, just keep your eyes open....One caveat to that though...you have to know the sound you are after, what works with your headphones. I have a slight advantage in this arena as I have a tube amp that uses a single 12AU7 (plus 2 12AX7's and 8 6L6GC') ..So I have a need for 12AU7's that are perhaps a bit high end...and I have spent more than $20 for some..but about knowing what works.
    I know that a GE Black Plate 12AU7 is going to be super detailed and work great in my amp...but probably sound a bit bright in the Bravo. My long plate Mullard is pretty perfect for my amp..and damn nice in the Bravo...
    But just as good in the bravo? GE Grey plate, some organ tube brands Baldwin, Hammond, etc..
    Yet, expectations come into play here. I have said (and agree) that lesser priced tubes sound good. So if good is good enough, wonderful. But lets talk about great. Great is not about price but may be pricey. One has to keep their eyes pealed.
    Some really great Bravo tubes (again system dependent ) Ameprex Bugle boy, Mullard Blackburn Grey plate or long plate. Some really great and inexpensive would be the 5814A (WA) which are military grade or the JG military grade...very very low noise...
    Good luck on the hunt...trying is half the fun of this great little amp...
  4. ieatDIAMONDS
    Hey guys, I'm pretty new to the whole audio world, but i'm really loving everything I'm learning so far. I just recently purchased a pair for beyerdynamic DT-990 250 ohm, and I'm highly considering a bravo amp.
    I have a few questions, though. What's the difference between the V1 and the V2. lol. I'm sure this has been answered in this thread before, and I have searched, but I couldn't find a definite answer. 
    Also, which would you guys recommend for me? I don't mind switching out the tube later on. I enjoy "modding" things. I want something that can really enhance the bass experience and maybe bring out the mids a bit more from my dt990s. 
  5. terance

    To my knowledge the only difference between the V1 and V2 is the tube that it comes with.
    I could be wrong though, but if you plan on swapping the tube out you may as well go for the cheaper amp!
    Hopefully someone else can chime in.
  6. UmustBKidn
    To my knowledge (which is probably imperfect) the only difference is the tube (6922 for the V1 and 12AU7 for the V2). Some people seem to think that 6922 tubes are superior - personally I have never done any A-B testing to confirm or refute that theory. I kind of doubt that a particular type is better, I would tend to believe that old vintage tubes in general are better than the newly made stuff. To my ears, the newly made tubes sound "tinny", and are very hissy (meaning I can hear hiss at listening levels when vintage tubes sound silent to me). There seems to be a wide variety of sound quality from vintage tubes, but none of them really sound bad, like new tubes do.
    When I was considering which to buy, I was also browsing this thread for a while. More than one person claimed the V2 to be superior, but I don't remember them saying why. I did a little shopping on eBay and quickly discovered that there were a whole lot more tubes available for the V2 than the V1 (at least, at that point in time), and those 6922 tubes could get insanely pricey (at least, so it seemed at the time). Perhaps it was more accurate to say that there are, and remain, many 12AU7 tubes that can be purchased very cheaply, as discussed above. I just went and looked real fast, and eBay did have some reasonable 6922's. I could be wrong, but it seems like there are a whole lot more, cheaper vintage 12AU7 and its variants.
    In retrospect, all vintage tubes can get pricey, and are frequently over-priced. I've seen specimens of both 6922 and 12AU7 exceed $100 each. Assuming you believe those tubes are worth that price, as someone else said, it's just a bit nuts to spend that kind of money on a tube for a cheap $75 dollar amp. For a better amp? Perhaps.
    As for modding, the only examples I've seen discussed were the V2's. I would expect that the V1's could be modded in the same way (being probably the same circuit), but I haven't seen that discussed (maybe it's out there somewhere). There are multiple discussions of modding the V2 in this thread and elsewhere on the internet.
    I will also just say that the Bravo amps should be considered the absolute usable bottom end, in terms of hybrid amps. I've had one for probably 9 months now, using it during the week at work (every day), for 5 to 10 hours a day, and no problems yet. The only reason I use it at work is that it might get stolen, and I don't want to spend big money on an amp that might get stolen. To me, that is the main reason I use a Bravo: bang for the buck, and I'm not going to lose a lot if it gets stolen.
    There are many better amplifiers. The most notable new hybrid is the Schiit Vali amp, and I would feel bad for not mentioning it, because it just blows everything in this price range away. You would have to fully mod a Bravo amp and run a really great tube to come close to it, and you may end up spending more money attempting to do that. That's something to consider, if you can afford $120 bucks.
  7. HOWIE13
    I was thinking of buying a Schiit Vali but was put off by reports of high noise and microphonics. .
    Has anybody experienced this problem with the Vali?
  8. UmustBKidn
    I read the Vali thread regularly. The ringing issue has been largely resolved. Someone figured out that bending the leads a certain way inside the amp, resolved most of the ringing present in early versions of the amp. The high noise issue seems to mostly plague users of IEM's (which are generally low impedance, e.g. 16 ohms). If you use higher impedance cans, the noise floor is a non-issue. If you use IEM's, you may be better off with something else.
  9. DefQon
    They are officially marked as reissues by the company as the manufacturing standards are met with the new stuff, there is and shouldn't be a difference to a reissue tube if it is made accordingly to the original manufacturing standards imposed by the previous company. NOS companies back in the day use to cross-manufacture tubes for other big NOS brands for different continents.
    Yes and I forgot to add, it makes absolute perfect sense to spend fairly large amounts on tubes that you know will be drop in or compatible replacements in another amp or the next amp you'd be buying. The Bravo wasn't the first tube amp I've owned but it was the first 12AU7 tube amp for me and since then I have moved on from my very large stash (500+ 12AU7 variants and equivalents) and kept a select few cheap ones that offer sound performance not far from the $300+ rare NOS variants that I've sold off because it is too precious, high valued and boutique for me to keep around knowing it could fail or turn out faulty the very next day, so why not sell it and keep a $30-100 tube that offers 99% of it's sound qualities. 
    Heck $10 for a dozen tubes (assuming they've tested fine with no leakages and shorts) is a very fine deal, heck if one of them or all them eventually fails, hey it's only beer money gone, you've earned the experience of what the tube sounds like from X brand and had the enjoyability while it lasted.
  10. UmustBKidn
    I agree with what you stated. But I also have spent many years in such an environment, and know that standards are usually minimums. They do not guarantee a maximum of performance, only a minimum of performance.
    The same can be said of generic medicine; while one can argue that generic medicine is supposed to be chemically equivalent to the original, they really aren't the same. The original is usually better, sometimes quite a bit better. Back when the price difference between generics and brand name meds wasn't so dramatic, I used to order brand name medicines, just to be assured of the best quality. Now most insurance companies won't permit that, and if they do, you pay a really hefty price difference.
    I run into this difficulty at work a lot. What one is supposed to do, versus the best thing to do, is often different. When faced with the pressures of schedule and performance, people often choose the path of least resistance. That path usually doesn't result in the best product. It requires a certain level of personal integrity, courage, and a strong belief in ethical values, to do the right thing. Not everyone is able or willing to do that.
    Sadly, the other thing that happens all too often is, the skill to make something the right way is lost over time. People retire, die, get laid off, quit, etc and don't write things down. If they didn't show their colleagues how they did something, then a little bit of manufacturing technology is lost, every time that happens. I'm going through a similar situation right now at work. It happens all the time, sadly.
    So, while the re-issue tube may in theory be meeting the same standard(s) as the vintage tubes, they really are not the same things. One evening of listening should convince even the skeptical listener of that.
  11. DefQon
    While using comparison of medicine is a big extreme as hefty repercussions can pay the price of death of a person, comparison of tubes on the other hands just takes one listen side by side, be it placebo, bias or psychoacoustics it brings differences. While on the other hand, I've had direct experience and ownership of both NOS and reissues and couldn't tell the difference, even through self imposed DBT having it setup by another person.
  12. UmustBKidn
    Perhaps. But it was the only analogy that came to mind on short notice [​IMG]
    I would counter your point by saying, if everything sounds the same, then we all should just buy the cheapest headphone, skip the amplifier and DAC, and listen from our ipods or laptops. We could dispense with this whole website and many arguments, and save a ton of money.
    However, it seems to me that there is evidence to the contrary in abundance on Head-Fi. I guess we could all be wrong. But I can personally tell the difference between my Sony MDR NC-40's and my Sony MDR 7506's, with the latter sounding much better than the former. I have a much smaller inventory of tubes than you, perhaps three dozen, and I can hear the differences between about half of them (with the other half sounding approximately the same). I can hear the difference between my Schiit Modi, and my Pure i-20 DAC. I can hear the difference between my Schiit Magni, and my Bravo V2. So, personally, my senses are giving me feedback that there are indeed differences to be heard.
  13. HOWIE13
    Thanks for the info. Now I need to save up for the enormous postage costs as I don't think it's available to buy at present in the UK and will have to have it shipped from the States.
  14. DefQon
    Of course everything sounds the same, why do you think I sold my 8k+ of headphones and related amp's for Beats by Dre stuff?
  15. UmustBKidn
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