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Bravo Audio V2 Review - Big Sound in a Small Package

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by thegame21x, Oct 30, 2010.
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  1. TheGame21x


    Tube amplifiers have long been a fixture of high end audio setups. Many audiophiles prefer them over “solid state” amplifiers for their distinct “tube like” sound. However, in keeping with their hi-fi reputation, tube amplifiers are typically very expensive. Enter the Bravo Audio V2, an improved version of the original hybrid tube amplifier offered by Bravo Audio, featuring better build quality by way of improved components and manufacturing. Utilizing a single 12AU7 tube, this hybrid amplifier promises that sweet tube sound that so many audiophiles love in a compact and inexpensive package. So, does the Bravo Audio V2 deliver on this promise or does it fall flat? Read on to find out.

    Design and Build Quality

    As you can see, the Bravo amp features an almost entirely open design, likely for cooling concerns and the innards of the amp are sandwiched between two acrylic plates with cutouts on the top portion for the tube and one of the larger capacitors to stick out through the top of the amp. For aesthetic purposes, there are two LEDs, one red and one blue, that light up and remain lit while the amplifier is on.
    For the purposes of keeping the amp cool, there are a number of heatsinks on the sides and because of this, the amp becomes quite hot to the touch when left on for extended periods. This isn’t a problem for the most part as you probably won’t be touching or moving it much in operation aside from adjusting the volume or turning it off but it is a concern for the absentminded among us or users who are unaware of how hot it can get.
    I am a tad worried that some of the parts might break such as the headphone out, the 3.5mm mini jack input and the RCA inputs due to this open air design but the individual parts do feel somewhat durable and would thus be resistant to breaking. Another minor quibble I’m having with the Bravo is the fact that the potentiometer is a tad too sensitive when adjusting volume. The slightest adjustments can lead to big volume gains and just using the amp with the volume pot turned to about 8 o’clock drove the majority of my headphones to comfortable listening volumes. While I’m sure this means that this can output dangerous levels of volume for high impedance and difficult to drive cans such as the Sennheiser HD650 or AKG K701, it means users of lower impedance headphones or IEMs will have to be a bit more careful when making volume adjustments.

    Sound Quality

    This is where things get interesting. I’ve been using the amplifier with a number of different headphones and IEMs and there are a few standout pairings that I’d like to share with you all before I get into how I think this amp performs as a whole. All listening impressions have been conducted using the stock tube that shipped with the Bravo. Sources include an iPod Video with music mostly encoded in Apple Lossless, MP3 320 and VBR V0 and high quality AAC and a Playstaton 1 (SCPH-5501) CD Player.

    Audio Technica ATH-M50

    I really don’t enjoy this pairing as much as I did initially. The M50 is a great sounding headphone with a somewhat emphasized upper midrange and treble which does not pair well with the Bravo. The emphasized upper midrange and treble presence became so much more pronounced when paired with the Bravo that it made listening to the M50s a very fatiguing experience, something I’m not used to when it comes to the M50. Overall, the M50s are just not a very good match for the Bravo. This isn’t necessarily a fault of the headphones or the amp, just a bad match as far as their respective sound signatures.

    Sennheiser HD555

    Now this is a good pairing. The HD555s have a more relaxed and laid back presentation than the M50s, especially in the upper midrange and treble, and pair very well with the Bravo as a result. The Bravo adds a nice richness to the HD555s that lends it a more well-rounded sound. The bass, which is rather light on the HD555s is emphasized just enough to make the bottom end very enjoyable to listen to. Before, I had been using these with my CMoy BB v2.02 and even with the bass boost on, something still seemed to be lacking and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Now, the HD555s sound rather smooth and very “musical” and are easy to listen to for long periods.

    HiFiMan RE0

    This is another very good pairing. Again, like the HD555s, bass impact is lacking overall but the detail, extension and level of refinement are all rather good and the Bravo does a good job of bringing these details forward by making the low end more pronounced. The amp imparts some warmth and body to the sound, making the RE0s smoother and less “thin” sounding to my ears, making them very pleasurable to listen to. The only downside to this pairing is perhaps a bit less detail when compared to my CMoy but not nearly enough to dampen my enjoyment of them when used with the Bravo.

    Overall Impressions

    The Bravo Audio V2 is a rather good and musical sounding amplifier. It adds a bit of warmth and richness to the low end and midrange while slightly emphasizing the treble. It’s not perfect though, as there is a slight loss of detail when I compare it side by side with my JDS Labs CMoy amp but the detail loss is not significant and will likely go unnoticed by the majority of users, especially if they lack a basis of comparison with another amp like I have.
    When it’s all said and done, I can’t help but like the V2. It’s a nice little tube amplifier in its own right for those of us who want to experiment with that highly desired “tube sound” without paying the exorbitant rates many tube amps cost and having to worry about paying quite as much for matched sets of replacement tubes when they eventually burn out. It also allows you to experiment with tube rolling. The loss of resolution that I mentioned earlier can likely be alleviated by upgrading the stock tube to a vintage tube like the RCA clear top and other compatible 12AU7 tubes such as those made by Phillips, Mullard and Sylvania. In that respect, that’s what intrigues me most about the Bravo Audio V2. Even if the stock tube doesn’t suit your musical tastes or isn’t a good match for a certain pair of headphones, you can always buy a different tube on eBay or a number of other sites to change the sound to your liking.


    Overall, I’m rather impressed with the Bravo Audio V2. While its sound signature isn’t for everyone and isn’t a great pairing with every pair of headphones, it does well enough to be worth a look. Given the fact that the V2 is relatively inexpensive compared to other hybrid tube amplifiers makes it a good value for people looking for that signature tube sound without spending a fortune. While I don’t think this will be able to measure up to the more expensive amplifiers, its performance is quite good considering the price.
    At the end of the day, I have to ask myself a couple of questions. Am I enjoying what I’ve gotten? Yes. Do I feel like I’ve gotten a good value for my money? Yes. That’s what matters in the end. For the asking price, which varies wildly depending on whether you take your chances on auction or buy it immediately (I paid about $56 for mine, shipped), the Bravo Audio V2 hybrid tube amplifier is a good amplifier for the money that makes for more than an attractive desktop novelty and performs quite admirably in its chosen function.
    Re-Posted from my website Musical Musings
    Angular Mo likes this.
  2. audionewbi
    Thanks for the review. Can we remove the tube and try various other ones?
  3. TheGame21x
    Yes, the stock tube is removable (the amp doesn't ship with it in place) and you can try different tubes in its place. Just make sure that the tubes you get match the 12AU7 specifications that the amp requires.
  4. audionewbi
    thanks for the heads up. i am in the market for some tube amps for the k702. I guess if they dont go well with the k702 i can always used them with the ER4S
  5. cOSteLLo
    Thx for the nice review, and the pictures, i am deffinatly gonna get one now, considering their so cheap its not a big risk anyway.
  6. grm9860
    I've had mine a couple of weeks now...  Shipped quickly 7 days from HK to Canada and arrived in good shape.  The only issues are the power connection is flimsy and it will loose power if moved.  I will find a way to make the connector couple better.  And, the volume knob is a bit askew.  It's been burning in around the clock for a couple of weeks and I gave it a listen last night as was quite surprised.  Channel balance is off at low volume settings, but seems fine when at normal listening volumes and drives my Ultrasone HFI-780's and Hifiman RE0's just fine.  I'll update when I've had more time to listen.
    Cheers. IMG00124-20110314-1230.jpg
  7. arda1426
    hey thanks for the info and review i saw for 80 dolars at turkey u think should i buy iT?=) 
  8. cOSteLLo
    no man, u can get it for 50 bucks
  9. thrillhaus


    Is it just me or does the volume pot look a bit crooked?
  10. RAZRr1275
    Can this thing power or play nice with the K702, Denon D2000 and/or Grado SR80i? I might get it and mod it at some point down the road as a long term project
  11. Evshrug

    Askewed = crooked, you'll see he pointed it out in his post.

    Also the OP, very well written an professional. Great pictures! A review to emulate in style, for sure.
    MrSpaceFox likes this.
  12. Mshenay Contributor
    :D looking forward to gettin one of these soon ^^
  13. DefQon
    One does not simply have a Bravo V2 amp and leave it stock, you must mod it.
    Change the IRF630 mosfets (black heatsink) to Fairchild IRL510N's or equivalent, (virtually any IRL510-530 mosfet will do, but the 510's have the best impact) = More treble extension and detail retrieval, stock can sound sort of bright and recessed sometimes.
    Do the crosstalk mod, cut the two traces near the tube area underside the PCB. Change the LM317 mosfet to LM317A's (silver heatsink), best results is tube rolling O getter Sylvania's or Amperex Bugle Boy's or equivalent sounds lively and well articulated especially the bass and highs, treble is controlled and reduced as well for certain genre's which can sound be too bright or sharp. I found various cheap to expensive RCA and Mullard's too slow sounding on this amp, Telefunken's, Amperex, some Sylvania, Psvane's and Sophia Electrics have accommodated extremely well with this amp for almost all genre's I throw at it. Extended mod's can be you mod the amp with a regulated 24v psu, change the power cap to 35v 3500uf and the two 1000uf KY caps to Nihicon's or Elna's (which is costly) or the Starget Audio cap's (think that was the name).
  14. Evshrug
    Aw, and here I was expecting a reference to The Lord of the Rings.

    Lol, almost a new amp by the point you do these mods. Beyond switching tubes (and possibly forgetting to bias the trim pots for each tube), the average user isn't going to have the skill or time to do all the mods you suggest.

    Also, a crosstalk mod can be nice sometimes, but not with every genre or even song (it really messes with binaural recordings or virtual surround for movies or games). I haven't heard of O getter tubes, but I have seen many on this thread recommend D Getter tubes. Do you have that link to the page detailing the effects of different tubes that match the amp's socket? That would be a really useful breakdown for someone interested in tube rolling.

    By the time you pay for all those other mods, you might be able to afford another amp with most or all of those upgrades built-in already.

    Lastly, a question out of curiosity, how can a treble sound signature be both bright and recessed?
  15. DefQon
    The second post by me outlines a detailed report on some of the 12AU7 tubes I have tried in the Sunrise Amp, the Sunrise amp and the Bravo are similar (the Sunrise a slightly more superior one) both able to tube role 12AU7 tubes. Also changing few resistors on the circuit for trim pots is an extra option but is not necessary, you can simply take out and tube and tube roll another one and it be fine. O getter, long grey or black plates pair best with the Bravo after the mod's I've mentioned are performed, I don't remember the sound of a stock Bravo V2 so yeah.
    The cost of mod's won't involve more than a few hours and roughly $15-25 max, cheaper if you already have extra part's such as capacitors lying around, of course one can change every resistor and components to high grade audiophile one's and the modding ceiling to the sky with unlimited amount of options, but this is the same for other amp's as well bare that in mind. Just for a comparison, my Bravo V2 tube amp performs better with an array of headphones I have with different genre's then the $180 Hifiman EF-2 tube amp, and there isn't much more mod's for that amp as well.
    By the last bit I meant the treble sound either too bright or recessed, I tried shortening it into one sentence so ya, bit of confusion lol.
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