I was in awe of the Red October within about five minutes of letting it warm up. Its presentation is exactly what I love, engaging, toe-tapping, fun, and tonally correct. It makes me want to sing along and it makes me smile. It is what HiFi is all about. It engages you and drives you to want to listen more. It has been a while since I have had that experience, and I am happy to have had it again. The Red October is not a cheap headphone amplifier, but when you compare it with other statement amplifiers, not only will you find that it sounds as good if not better, but you will also find that its price tag is actually cheaper then its direct competitors at the same performance level. This is not your first headphone amplifier, it could be, but I personally think you should start smaller. Instead this can easily be your last headphone amplifier, heck, I think it could even be your last speaker amplifier.
The Bryce, much like all of Ampsandsound’s amps, has an incredibly dense, tactile, and sweet harmonic color. It’s flat enough and clean enough that this does not feel like an egregious coloration, and even fans of “solid state neutral” should not find this objectionable. Think of it less as a romantic veil over the music, and instead an inner liveliness and palpability. Having heard this same subtle but addictive tone across Justin Weber’s other amps, I feel confident in saying that the Ampsandsound iron is a big contributor to this.
The Ampsandsound Nautilus does this thing where even though an experienced listener can hear its departures from absolute neutrality, there is a pureness to the sound that is quite addictive. The simplicity of the circuit (that doesn’t allow for much in the way of correction back towards more mission-critical cleanliness) is what I think enables this purity. The Nautilus sonic signature of purity of tone AND a liquid tubey goodness is quite a different sound than that of a tube amp that has a pleasant musicality to it, yet a musicality borne of additive distortion and pleasing colorations.
The top end was likewise simply perfect. Unlike many amps where tonal or harmonic juiciness comes at the cost of aberrations or colorations in frequency or dynamics, the Zion Monos were also amongst the cleanest, quietest and most precisely detailed speakers I’ve heard. Delineation between quiet and loud, and that special tube quality of adapting to the relative micro-dynamic plankton of each recording were all present, yet I could detect almost no audible coloration. Only several weeks in and during deep A/Bing with several other amplifiers I know quite well did I detect perhaps a slight extra density and richness in the lower midrange. Rather than a major frequency response hump, this was not distracting and only enhanced the meaty, super tactile presentation, and I can’t imagine it being a problem in system matching unless you have a severely tubby room response.
The Kenzie proved to be a very impressive listening experience and being part of the tour, opened my eyes to the rather welcoming nature of the Head-Fi community; which has its jerks like any other hobby but most members are more than willing to answer questions or even get together for a listening session.
The Rockwell is a single ended amplifier with zero feedback, and it employs direct heated triodes for its power tubes. Like the ampsandsound Bigger Ben, it uses a 6SL7 input tube, and it is tube rectified. The out transformers are massive and over spec'd and provide five output impedances (8, 16, 32, 100, and 300). This allows you to match this amp to pretty much any headphone. Like the Bigger Ben, it has Jupiter capacitors, and input transformers, and one single ended input. Volume control is a very high quality stepped attenuator, and it has speaker binding posts on the back of it, making it an integrated amplifier.