- May 24, 2012
Part I: Bravo Audio V1
[size=medium] When I was 14 I remember listening to the Lion King soundtrack CD on a Magnavox Hi Fi system. I still remember how emotional the music was. A month ago I remembered that experience and I got my CD out. I don’t have the Hi Fi system anymore so I plucked it in my PC. And I listened to it again. But there wasn’t any of that emotional energy that I felt before. It was just lifeless. It sounded like cheap colorful plastic much like contemporary pop music from the post-Michael Jackson era. So I started thinking - was this happening because I was grown up and have left childish things behind me? Or was there another reason? I had to find out.
So I started on my quest to find out if I still had a soul. Looking around the internet and reading a lot about headphone amps I discovered that tube amps are one of the keys to a full musical experience. But it was expensive. One of the cheapest quality tube amps, the Little Dot MK III, costs $300. I can afford that but I wouldn’t give that much money just so I can “try out” if it works.
Life was gray until a month ago when I stumbled onto something when looking through Ebay - The Bravo Audio. A headphone tube amp which sells for $70. A real life tube amp for money which I was willing to pay. And that I would pay to see what the fuss was all about. Maybe it would bring back even a glimmer of the life in my music.
Five days later I received a little box. I got it out. A pretty piece of acrylic plastic, some electronic elements and a tube sticking out. For a desktop gadget I actually like how it looks:[/size]
[size=medium]At first it was hard to believe that this little DIY-looking thing would make a difference in the sound. I got the RCA cables and hooked it up. I am using my internal PC sound card. My headphones are Canyon CNR-HS10. I also read that tube amps should be left to “burn in”. So I did. I made a song list to loop over during the night and left it on repeat.
After two days of that I went through some music and games to compare before and after. Here’s the list:
Music: Pink Floyd, Blind Guardian, Leonard Cohen, Jonny Cash, Louis Armstrong, Sabaton, Enigma, Sphongle, Sabaton, Led Zeppelin and some classical. And of course the Lion King.
Game music: Diablo I and II, Fallout, King’s Bounty: Armoured Princess.
How does it compare? The before sound is weak, veiled, impotent. It’s as if it’s afraid to come out.
And with it? Think of this scene from the Pixar movie Rattatui - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yyah49_Oz78. The amp gives music strength, it brings it to life and makes it colorful. With it music has punch, it's vibrant and rich.
I am extremely happy with this little purchase. It brought life back to my music. It’s a whole new world of discovery.[/size]
[size=medium]Part II: When Bravo met Sylvania[/size]
[size=medium]One interesting aspect of the Bravo Audio V2 is that you can swap out the tube. Just take out the old one and pop in a new one. It's that easy. Some people claim that the tube model itself is responsible for 50% of the whole experience. Upon further research it turned out that the Sylvania tube is the best bang for the buck. And since I had no intention of shelling out $500 for a tube, I had to go for bang for the buck. I found a tube which is cheap, yet is given extremely good reviews - the JAN Sylvania 6922.
A few days later and here they are cradled together - Bravo Audio the amp and Sylvania the tube:[/size]
[size=medium]At first there was no difference in the audio. It was actually worse - it sounded watery. Maybe it was my non-trained ears. I felt ripped off. So again I burned it in overnight.[/size]
Now I hear the difference. The highs are crystal, pristine yet disciplined. The mids are like purple velvet. And the bass is controlled pounding, like a lion roaring in front of you.
If getting the Bravo amp was like going to a live concert performance as opposed to listening to a recording at home, then having the Sylvania tube is like going to a symphony - everything is fuller, richer and more encompassing. It sounds complete and there are no holes.
I didn’t think this would happen, but for the second time I am going through my music collection with renewed interest.
There’s just one thing missing.... When Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven starts I can hear a low hum. I also have a feeling that some of the potential of the sound is still missing and the Bravo has yet more to show me. For that, however, I would need to go to the Source. I need to change my sound card and bring my beginner audio distiller project to relative completeness. When that happens I'll share the experience - "Part III: Bravo and Sylvania sitting by the HRT Streamer II".