Little Dot III Initial Impressions
Mar 17, 2006 at 4:42 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 11
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I just received a Little Dot III Tube Amplifier and here are my initial impressions. I'd like to start with the usual "I'm not an audiophile, I just like listening to music," disclaimer. Whew, now that that's been taken care of, moving along...

The Little Dot III is a rather cheap tube amplifier from China (taking advantage of China's greatest natural resource: labor) and is the third generation of tube amps by Mr. Yang. Whatever build quality issues ther were with the Little Dot II have definitely been remedied as I am very impressed with the quality of the LDIII; the silicon steel casing is immaculate with clean lines, no obvious flaws, and is frankly far better than I expected at this price point. I think a lot of people subconsciously equate Chinese made goods with being inferior quality to US or British goods, but as we have seen with the Zhaolu DAC and many other emerging audio products from China, this is simply no longer the case. Like I mentioned previously, with China's greatest natural resource being human labor, the same (or dare I say better) quality can be had for far cheaper than we expect for high-end audio gear.

Apparently the LDIII is the first Little Dot amplifier that is comprised of "quality" components such as hand-matched Vishay-Dale resistors and WIMA+ERO coupling capacitors, ALPS "Blue Velvet" potentiometer, and blah blah blah. I don't know what actual impact those have on sound quality, but I can say that the tracking between channels is very good, even at the extremes of the volume control. The LDIII is also Class-A biased; What that means exactly someone else will have to chime in.

A previous review mentioned that the noise floor was very apparent with the Little Dot III so I decided to test it for myself. Personally I'm extremely sensitive to noise floors (Using Westone UM2s or Shure E4cs with an iPod 5G is almost unbearable with classical music) so I decided to test the LDIII with Etymotic ER4S (impedance 27 ohms and sensitivity 106dB/mW) for signs of a noise floor. Well I must say that there is still signs of a noise floor, but it is far, far less than my 5G iPod, and utterly nonexistent during music playback (which is more than I can say about my iPod where I can hear the noise floor during very quiet classical passages). When initially turning on the LDIII, there is some "microphonics". These "microphonics" are noticable in the
beginning, but once the music starts (whether it be rock or classical) they completely dissolve, and the only thing that can be heard is the music.

One thing that's readily apparent about the LDIII is that it is very dynamic. Playing music I have listened to thousands of time I noticed far greater dynamics and "punch." There's nothing more annoying than listening to
rock or classical and lacking that "impact" that should be there during extreme dynamic shifts.
The second thing that I noticed is added "weight," "richness," and "fullness" to the midrange which makes vocals seem a lot more solid and substantial. Listening to Charlotte Church's "Bridge over Trouble Waters" and "Dream
a Dream," her voice gains a certain weight and emotion that makes the music far more engaging and involving. I find my computer source (EMU-0404) to be rather sibilant, and one thing I noticed is the LDIII smooths out the EMU's harshness quite a bit. This is definetly noticable on Charlotte Church's rendition of Habanera (which is so sibilant in parts it sizzles).

The second most apparent thing is the bass. Compared to an amp of mine using OPA627AP op-amps, the bass carries substantially greater impact. Using the track "Night Fight" from the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon soundtrack
which consists of nothing but drums, the LDIII slams harder and with more authority. The soundstage seems a bit wider too, in the beginning of the Nightwish track, "Nightquest," there is a single electric guitar on the left
side. With the LDIII, the guitar seems to reside outside the head.
The LDIII also can act as a Pre-Amp and I have it connected to a modified T-Amp for this purporse. The stock T-Amp is a bit bass shy, but my modded one has flat bass down to 20Hz. Despite this, I still use Equalizer to boost the lowest frequencies by 2dB. Using the LDIII as a pre-amp, I no longer have to use equalizer to get satisfying bass (I'm a bit of a basshead).

One interesting thing about the LDIII is the headphone impedance auto-detect feature. How it works is you plug your headphones in, turn on the amp, and it will take 2-3 seconds to detect your headphone's impedance and adjust it's own output specs accordingly. Again I decided to test this with my trust Etys, this time with and without the P/S cable. I first used the ER4P, turned the LDIII on and listened for awhile. Then I turned the amp off, plugged in the ER4S and listened again. Interestingly enough, the loudness was the same without me touching the volume knob. I mentioned before the noise floor is barely noticeable with the ER4S, interestingly enough it doesn't increase when using the lower impedance, higher sensitivity ER4P when auto-detected. Obviously the circuit is doing something but it will take a bit more experimenting to explore its possibilities.

So these are my preliminary impressions. I admit I haven't been listening to headphones much lately I've mostly been listening to the LDIII as a Pre. I've discovered it really makes the T-Amp shine by adding huge dynamics,
impact, and warmth to the T-Amp's clarity and imaging. I suppose one of these days I'll have to play with it as a headphone amp more, and post more impressions with some other headphones.
 
Mar 17, 2006 at 4:55 AM Post #3 of 11

XxATOLxX

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Great review
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By the way, I recall the LDIII being able to power speakers? Have you heard the speaker amplifier on it?
 
Mar 17, 2006 at 6:10 AM Post #4 of 11

SonicDawg

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How much? and how to order? I am insterested in it as well. Anyone has a LD II to do a side by side review? I am actually interested in doing an upgrade, but I wonder if a hybrid millet will be better?
 
Mar 17, 2006 at 4:24 PM Post #7 of 11
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Quote:

Originally Posted by SonicDawg
How much? and how to order? I am insterested in it as well. Anyone has a LD II to do a side by side review? I am actually interested in doing an upgrade, but I wonder if a hybrid millet will be better?


You can goto the website, www.little-tube.com or just search EBAY for it. Price is about 300 USD. I'd be interested in a comparison with a millet hybrid too, is a hybrid millet class A biased?

Yes, the LDIII can power speakers, and it connects via 2 sets of binding posts on the back of the Amp. To date I have not tried to power speakers directly. Tube Amps apparently don't put out too much power so efficient speakers are a must.

On the back of the LDIII there are a set of RCA jacks that is labeled Output. This is the pre-amp out which I use to connect to my T-Amp. I then max the volume on my T-Amp and use the LDIII's volume knob to control loudness.

There is a pentode/triode mode switch on the back as well. To date I haven't fiddled with it. Supposedly the pentode mode is more powerful and has a bigger frequency response but the triode mode is "purer," sounding.
 
Mar 17, 2006 at 5:58 PM Post #8 of 11

jamesp

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I'm interested in how well those binding posts will sound when pairing with the K1K. Have anyone try that yet?

also it look like the new little dot III+ is coming out with a whole bunch of improvement.
 
Mar 17, 2006 at 6:25 PM Post #9 of 11

la_marquise

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Quote:

Originally Posted by CookieFactory
There is a pentode/triode mode switch on the back as well. To date I haven't fiddled with it. Supposedly the pentode mode is more powerful and has a bigger frequency response but the triode mode is "purer," sounding.


Pentode mode gives it a deeper more powerful bass. But at least on mine, I find that it increases background noise, and it's less resolving.

FYI when you buy this amp, just make sure you get spare power tubes with it. There are no Euro or American equivalents...and Russian ones are impossible to find!
 
Mar 18, 2006 at 4:28 PM Post #11 of 11
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Quote:

Originally Posted by jamesp
I'm interested in how well those binding posts will sound when pairing with the K1K. Have anyone try that yet?

also it look like the new little dot III+ is coming out with a whole bunch of improvement.



You can let me borrow your AKG1000s and I'd be more than happy to give you my impressions
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