Review: Blueberry Audio Emotion+ - There's a new Woody in Town!
post-1462304
Thread Starter
Post #1 of 13

Zanth

SHAman who knew of Head-Fi ten years prior to its existence
Joined
Oct 11, 2001
Messages
9,570
Reaction score
37
Joined
Oct 11, 2001
Posts
9,570
Likes
37
As per usual, the following is in relation to my preferences, my ears, auditioned with my gear etc., etc., etc.

[size=small]Introduction[/size]

Some time ago, Joe from Blueberry Audio contacted me asking if I would like to have a listen to his new E-motion+ headphone amp. I had never heard of Blueberry Audio before. I’m not a stupid man though; if someone wants to lend me an amp so I can have a listen, I’m never going to refuse. In return, all he asked was that I provide my impressions to the group. This was back around the end of April that I received the amp and I had it on hand for about 6 weeks I guess before I had to send it back. I had hoped to write up my impressions long before now, but life being what it is… a few curves were thrown at me. Thankfully, when I listen with the intent on relating my impressions, I take extensive notes. I had a handful of hours early this morning to put everything together and finally I can get this out to you folks.

After my first contact with Joe, I ventured over to his website to take a peek at what was on its way. Though presently there isn’t much to the site, there is a shot of the amp in question. It’s a woody! It looked a bit wider than the RA-1 I know so well, but it appeared to be about the same overall footprint. Of course, the size of the image may be misleading; Joe had already informed me it was around the size of the RA-1 so I was visualizing based on that.

When it arrived, I was on my way to school (I have an office there) and I decided I would take the amp with me as I had some pretty new Grado 325i’s there that needed a partner in crime to distract me from studying!

I don’t live very far from school, so I kinda hussled to get there and get this box open. It was packed well, but let’s be honest, I wasn’t too concerned with the thick bubble wrap or the soft cloth that surrounded the unit, what I wanted was to lay my eyes on this beauty! I wouldn’t say I have a wood fetish, no not at all. In fact, I’m rather allergic to wood and will never be able to take part in any woodworking of my own, that is, unless I want to do it while wearing a HAZMAT suit. Errr…um…no thanks. That said, I do like wood on my equipement. It gives it a retro look but with class. Of course, with me owning the RS-1’s and loving their design, and lusting after the Audio Technica W2002’s if only to place them behind glass to admire, then yes, perhaps I am a little partial to wood (I even love the look of the R10’s!).

At first glance, the Emotion+ was much lighter than my Grado RA-1. Whereas the RA-1 is one solid chunk of mahogany the Emotion is two-toned, with two dark smaller walnut pieces on the sides and the lighter maples pieces in the middle. The Emotion+ chassis truly is a work of art. It is apparently a museum grade wooden chassis, which some will argue, has a sonic benefit (I have serious doubts with this, but hey, some people can hear the difference between knob materials (Blue Circle Knobs]http://www.bluecircle.com/index.php?...e Circle Knobs). After the chassis has been prepped (cut, sanded and pieced together) the chassis then goes in and out of the oven anywhere from 8-10 times to achieve the perfectly smooth matte finish. The varnish is actually baked on, making the process akin to that of baking a cake. As a kid, Joe worked at Hamer guitars in the finishing department doing the same thing. He actually painted Rick Nielsons checkered and 5 neck guitars. What does that all mean? It means there is a master at work here and the results speak for themselves. The Emotion+ is easily one of the nicest looking amps I have ever seen and it ranks high on the WAF scale. At least it did with my wife.


[size=small]Specs[/size]

So what is inside this 8.5" x 2.25" x 5.75" pretty little thing?

For those that may be worried that tucked inside this wood amp is about $30 bucks in parts, well…think again. This is no RA-1 (though don’t get me wrong, despite the low dollar value, the RA-1 sounds great!)

It is based on a design which boasts hand selected OPA627BP op-amps running class "A" biased, a buffered output stage and a high current buffered virtual ground.

The pot is said to be an extremely high quality Noble potentiometer. The volume knob felt nice and turning the knob, it was a solid feel with a bit of resistance. I mean, if one is familiar with the RA-1, the knob turns very easily, with this unit it was a tighter feel, though smooth.

The resistors used are Dale Military Spec types. The jacks are rhodium plated RCA’s made by Cardas and Cardas wiring is used throughout the amp. The package includes an Elpac “ultra high quality dedicated AC power supply” which is capable of providing the 24V DC and .75 A that the amp requires.

It is capable of driving low and high Z phones with an output power rating of >70mW into 32 to 200 ohms and a fine THD: of >0.1% at 1 kHz at rated power.


[size=small]Sound[/size]

Now then, about that sound! Does this amp live up to its name? I can with satisfaction claim a solid yes! The sound more than lives up to its name. For my listening sessions I used mainly Grados. I used the PS-1’s, HP-1’s, HP-2’s, RS-1’, 325i’s and the SR60’s, but mainly I used the 325i’s.

I have been comparing the Emotion to the RA-1 which I use exclusively with Grado phones. The reason I use this as my main comparison unit is twofold:

1)I own the RA-1

2)The Emotion is around the same price as the RA-1 and save for the circuit design, is very similar to the RA-1 in terms of style, size and ability to power low and high Z phones.


As I have already mentioned, I first tested this amp with the 325i’s. Back a few months ago the 325i’s were certainly the FOTM. In fact, save for the recent HP-1000 craze, I have not experienced such an overwhelming acceptance of a Grado phone (read: hype) in a long long time. I had become accustomed to the 325i’s and had burned them in nicely using the Melos SHA-X, the Ear HP4 and the RA-1. I had the Grado HPA-1 on hand as well which is likely a bit closer to the Emotion in terms of sonics than the RA-1. Regardless, the 325i’s were ready for the job and so plug them in I did!

The 325i’s are very very very VERY very very very and perhaps even slightly, but yeah on second though no, very very forward. I have never been a fan of the 325’s. Their highs are too etched and piercing, lacking the smoothness of the RS series, and though their chambers provid for an added depth dimension to the soundstage, the headstage was just too closed in and forward. Yes the Grado house sound is one of close to the stage if not right on it, in amongst the performers, but the 325’s…whoa there baby! These phones are more like molesting the performers rather than standing close by. No thanks, that is just too much for me. The 325i’s are pretty much the same, perhaps an arm’s length away but still rather too close for me for extended listening, at least with the amps I had been using with the tube compliments (more linear tubes in the Melos and Ear). Certainly the RA-1/325i pairing was too forward, and perhaps even too lively. The sound from the 325i’s seemed literally JUMPED from the drivers. Dynamics? No sir that simple won’t do, there should be an entirely new word created to describe how the music exited those drivers. Anyhow, of all the amps on hand, only the HPA-1 and now the Emotion+ could control the forward nature of the 325i’s. I use the word control even though what I really mean is attenuate it, reduce it. How is this possible? Well. both amps are laid back. In fact, the Emotion is a very smooth sounding and laid back solid state amp. Very smooth indeed… It helped push the 325i presentation back a good meter from the performers. Now this is better! The 325i’s were listenable for many hours.

The 325i’s highs are better controled than their predecessors. This makes listening to music feasible, particularly when using poor rock recordings. I wouldn’t have the 325i’s as my first choice for classical, but for rock or electronica, yeah, I’ll reach for these exciting phones. The Emotion+ didn’t detract from this excitement at all, but with the pairing, provided a more balanced sound. The sound was lively, very emotional and moving. My foot just started tapping. This is always a good sign.

The 325i’s took on a more liquid sound, adding to my impression that the Emotion+ is a smooth operator. I wouldn’t say the Emotion+ is the last word in transparency or resolution but what it gives up to the RA-1 in this regard or to the bigger boys, it more than makes up for in its musical presentation. With the RA-1’s, the 325i’s last about 30 minutes before I just can’t take it anymore. Part of the problem is the poor tracking ability at low volumes with the RA-1. The gain is just too high for the 325i’s in my opinion (at least when using a digital source, in fact, in order to correct this, I had to remove the cable from the line-out on my iPod dock and use the headphone output so I could turn down the volume of the iPod and thus increase it on the RA-1, same with both cd players used – they have digital volume controls). With the Emotion+ I was able to keep the volumes at max on the cd players or use the line-out with the iPod and take advantage of the volume pot at higher levels on the amp.

The best compliment I can give the Emotion+ is that I never found myself analyzing the sound. Instead I would fall into the music, even with the 325i’s. Moreso with the other Grados I used, particularly well suited with the RS-1’s (providing perhaps and overly warm/smooth sound, but it was really nice and suited me well while studying).

The highs were perhaps a little strident at times, even with the HP-1’s and PS-1’s which don’t typically exhibit this problem. This was most prevalent with poor recordings or lower bitrate mp3’s (192 for example). Some may remark that the amp is thus transparent up top. I don’t know about that, since neither the Melos, Ear HP4 nor the Headamp GS-1 had these problems and they are very transparent amps. The RA-1 has this problem and I think it is perhaps an opamp issue? I just don’t get this effect with tube amps or discreet amps. I’m not an EE so I’ll leave this line of thought.

The bass had nice impact, but not as tight as I generally like it. It lacked the palpable sound that the RA-1 presents (and many feel the RA-1 is loose and weaker down there, but I don’t) but that is not to say the bass was not controled or deep. It was, it just didn’t have that SLAM that I really like to hear. It was able to have quite a bit of snap with the 325i’s and with the PS-1’s…heh, unless the amp is completely rolled off down there, or output 0 current, the PS-1’s are going to have slam


For about $400 bucks there are quite a few contenders out there. I haven’t heard them all but I have heard a bunch and no amp that I have heard provides a warm and smooth sound like the Emotion+.

There is the RA-1, which is an excellent amp for Grado phones, it pumps out the current needed to drive them properly, but it is looser in the bass and is rolled off up top say compared to a Headamp Gilmore Lite or a Fixup SuperMacro with 637 or 627's, or even the Emotion+. The Gilmore Lite is a more powerful amp, beefier, with more impact with each note. The sound is more extended at each end, but it is not as inviting as the Emotion+. Though both are solid state, the Gilmore Lite is a very neutral and transparent amp, getting out the of the way of the signal as much as possible at the price point. This is a good thing sometimes, but for me, I do enjoy a bit of flavour with my music. The Emotion+ adds a little "je ne sais quoi" but enough of that something to make me take notice even though I am not focusing on any particular part of the sound spectrum. Think tube colour. Sometimes one wants it. For studying or long hours at work in front of a computer, this amp may be just what the doctor ordered. A hint of honey without sweetening too much, and being viscous enough that one doesn't lose out on bits of food that could get trapped in there.

Joe gets music, like John Grado gets music with the RS-1’s. A unit has it or it doesn’t, and this amp has it. I am always willing to take a hit in resolution or in snap or extension for PraT and that elusive musicality that pieces seem to provide these days. Think of this amp as poor man’s Sugden Headmaster. I know this amp is not talked about much these days, but it is easily one of the best solid stage amps ever made. If it were not for my historical Melos and the opportunity to own such a piece, I would still own my Headmaster. The Brits understand music, and music playback, so do some North American manufacturers, but they are hit and miss. This one gets it and that is worth my dollars every single time.


[size=small]Conclusion[/size]

If I didn't already own the RA-1 I would be in the market for a small amp capable of getting my foot tapping. The RA-1 excels at PRaT and getting that music out there in a very musical way. The Emotion+ is right there with it, but the presentation is not as upfront, a very fine match with Grados, particularly when one doesn't want to be bowled over by the music. At low volumes, I can study easily with the music somewhat in the background, but if I want to rock out, the Emotion+ can deliver. Just crank the volume up and get ready to boogie. With the HD600's this combo may never get one up out of their seat in the middle of the day air guitar in hand, but for those that need a repose from the stresses of the day, this combo could be magical.
 
     Share This Post       
post-1463073
Post #2 of 13

USER NAME:

Member of the Trade: Blueberry Audio
Joined
Mar 9, 2005
Messages
323
Reaction score
10
Joined
Mar 9, 2005
Posts
323
Likes
10
Thanks Zanth!! I appreciate you posting your impression of my amplifier. It was a great read and well worth the wait. I'm sure that others will benefit from this write up as well.

Regards, Joe
 
     Share This Post       
post-1463081
Post #3 of 13

grandenigma1

Member of the Trade:Enigma Audio
Joined
Dec 22, 2004
Messages
3,742
Reaction score
23
Joined
Dec 22, 2004
Posts
3,742
Likes
23
After having recently aquired one of these beautiful little amps and reading Zanth's impressions I have to completely agree with his conclusions... it is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable amps I have heard.

I highly recommend it for those looking in the sub $400 range! especially you Grado guys!
 
     Share This Post       
post-1463205
Post #4 of 13

GoRedwings19

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Sep 11, 2004
Messages
5,014
Reaction score
11
Joined
Sep 11, 2004
Posts
5,014
Likes
11
zanth>Will you be posting pics? Also throw in a headshot wearing the 325i's. Right for the last time you did try the Ps-1's with it, yes? no? and please tell me used flats?

Thanks Zanth for taking the time to review it and posting your thoughts.
 
     Share This Post       
post-1463236
Post #5 of 13

joelongwood

Keeper of the 'Phones
Moderator
Joined
Jun 22, 2001
Messages
4,649
Reaction score
13
Joined
Jun 22, 2001
Posts
4,649
Likes
13
Another well-written, thoughtful review.......as usual! Thanks for taking the time, Zanth.
 
     Share This Post       
post-1478812
Post #7 of 13

grawk

Itinerant Miscreant
Joined
Mar 14, 2005
Messages
8,739
Reaction score
34
Joined
Mar 14, 2005
Posts
8,739
Likes
34
I just received my blueberry audio emotion+. Wow, this is a beautiful piece of wood...and a nice sounding amp, taboot. Very musical amp, works well with my beyers. Can't wait to get the RS1s in to try those with it as well.

And with that, team wood-fi is born


I'll post pictures when I bring my camera into the office.
 
     Share This Post       
post-1479491
Post #8 of 13

grawk

Itinerant Miscreant
Joined
Mar 14, 2005
Messages
8,739
Reaction score
34
Joined
Mar 14, 2005
Posts
8,739
Likes
34
Wow. A coworker of mine who moonlights as a professional jazz bassist came by my desk today. I put on a bass solo by Allen Woody, played through this amp + my woodied DT770s. The source was a digital recording I'd made 5 years back with a top notch recording setup. The first thing he said was "damn, that dude's setup sounds really nice." Then he realized he was listening through headphones, and was floored...
 
     Share This Post       
post-1481081
Post #9 of 13

grawk

Itinerant Miscreant
Joined
Mar 14, 2005
Messages
8,739
Reaction score
34
Joined
Mar 14, 2005
Posts
8,739
Likes
34
As promised:

 
     Share This Post       
post-1481121
Post #10 of 13

toor

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Nov 18, 2004
Messages
195
Reaction score
0
Joined
Nov 18, 2004
Posts
195
Likes
0
Nice review, I was wondering whether you could maybe give a little more details about your thoughts on the emotion vs the Gilmore Lite. I am in the market for a sub $400 amp and the GL looks like the one to beat. I am probabyl what you would consider a basshead, but am not big on neutrality. Also what would you think about pairing the emotion with sr-225s.

[EDIT] Does anyone know what the differences between the E+ and the G6HA are? Particularly sound differences?

Thnx
 
     Share This Post       
post-1481132
Post #11 of 13

jrosenth

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Nov 27, 2004
Messages
1,657
Reaction score
19
Joined
Nov 27, 2004
Posts
1,657
Likes
19
I used this amp (or a version of it) with the SR225 - an unbelievable combination - if you are interested see the review


Of course it looks better with the RS-1 or woodied phones


Nice review, Zanth.
 
     Share This Post       
post-1481165
Post #12 of 13

toor

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Nov 18, 2004
Messages
195
Reaction score
0
Joined
Nov 18, 2004
Posts
195
Likes
0
Jrose very nice review and thanks for the link. Again if anybody has heard both the Gilmore Light and Emotion with grados I would appreciate your thoughts. Also from the reading I have done I am starting to think that the Emotion+ is the same thing as the G6HA. Anyone confirm plz?
 
     Share This Post       
post-1481193
Post #13 of 13

Zanth

SHAman who knew of Head-Fi ten years prior to its existence
Joined
Oct 11, 2001
Messages
9,570
Reaction score
37
Joined
Oct 11, 2001
Posts
9,570
Likes
37
The Gilmore Lite is a more neutral sounding amp with tight deep bass in comparison. The highs are extended and more control over sibilance. There is more snap and bunch to the notes with the Lite.
 
     Share This Post       

Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Users: 0, Guests: 1)

Top