Upgraded to Laconic HA-04AF - quick impressions
Mar 18, 2006 at 2:45 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 1

SV_huMMer

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After being a happy user of the original Laconic HA-03, I decided to upgrade to a higher-end product of the same company - their HA-04AF. I've seen that the manufacturer posted info about this amp in the Submissions thread, so check for technical details:http://www4.head-fi.org/forums/showp...9&postcount=95

AFAIK, the new amp employs a very similar topology and idea to the original model, the differences are much higher grade components (not only tubes). Also, it's a closed box design, so tubes are not exposed.

The amp's biggest selling point (which actually sold it to me
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) is a choice of tubes. It's powered by a pair of 6H30П-E, real N.O.S. military-grade babies, which are often referred to in Western sources as "Super-Tubes".
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Besides, the crappy pot of the original Laconic is gone, and replaced by a nice Piher pot. Then, there's a sexy Neutrick 1/4" socket, and also some new caps, resistors etc which are supposed to improve the sound. Also, the power cord used is now computer-type (large 3-pin), instead of a regular 2-pin thinner stuff (dunno official names for it, sorry).

In terms of new features another 2RCA stero input is added with -20dB signal attenuation, for use with all sorts of home equipment, such as DVD-players, which provide higher-level signal on their outputs. And, of course, two retro-style arrow level meters (again, some sort of military instruments stuff, with all kinds of Soviet QC stamps). Not backlit, but it's available as an option.

The build quality is... well, you English-speakers have an expression: built like a tank. In this case one could say "built from pieces of a tank"
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It's a thick (about 0.8 - 1 mm) steel box with an even more impressive 3mm (!) face plate. The box has ventillation holes where tubes are sitted, so overheating should not be a problem, although the unit does get hot after extended use, especially the top grille. You can literally feel the immence power of those 6H30Пs!

So now on to the sound. I have not upgraded my source yet, so I think the full potential of HA04AF is yet to be released. So far I am using the line out of my Audigy2ZS Platinum. I also use SSRC plugin for Winamp for CDs, to correct the crappy resampling within Audigy. I'd primarily compare Laconic to its predecessor HA-03, as well as the headphone out on Audigy2ZS's LiveDrive unit.

Overall impressions: it's a MARKED improvement over the HA-03!

First thing you notice is noise. Or rather a complete absence thereof. Whatsoever! With no source connected, and with volume knob at max, I couldn't hear a thing in my K501s! This is really amazing. Turning the volume knob also produces no odd sounds, which was not the case with HA-03, where turning volume knob would generate cracks and hiss at times. Bravo!

But we buy amps not for listening to silence with no source, do we?
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The amp sounds really good. The best way to describe the signature is "fleshy". The sound has weight (but it's not heavy!), it has warmth (but not overly "dark"), and all this does not sacrifice too much details. Of course, if you compare it to an expencive SS amp, you'd probably miss some ultra-tiny briskles of sound, but then you wouldn't go for a tube amp in the first place.

Compared to HA-03, the upgraded version has a bit less coloured sound (it's still far from being totally neutral, though). The bass is better pronounced, and there is an overall impression of more "power" - the sound is more convincing and involving. I attribute it to the new tubes.

The amp is able to deliver some really huge power: with my audigy's volume control set to 80%, I have Laconic's volume at 30% max for a LOUD volume level in K501s. I am pretty sure it can easily drive even 600-ohms cans.

Overall, i think this is a very nice amp for the money, especially since I hope upgrading my source (e.g. adding a nice external DAC) would make things even better. The extra money I spent on this upgrade (I had my original amp traded in for US$100), is worth every single penny of it.

Talking about cons, I'd say it's not as detailed as some of the best SS amps, but then again, that's the price of going the tubes way. This is not to say that it's not detailed - no. It's just those details don't force it into your ears, as some of the SS amps would do. It's probably not as refined externally, as some of the competition, but I personally like its rugged, 'military' style. It dissipates a lot of heat, but this is probably the price of having powerful tubes inside.

Overall, I am really happy. And I also noticed, that Laconics start being available in the US through EddieCurrent (an updated HA-03 with closed-box enclosure) - this is really great news, as I believe they are really worth considering among the competition, especially given their price/quality ratio).
 

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