For the longest time, I’ve been a “tube-guy”. I’ve had tube based amplifiers in my rack in various forms for over 20 years. I’ve really enjoyed the ability to “tune” the amplifier to my personal preferences. The ability to get the “perfect” sound for a pair of headphones or speakers is one big advantage that tube-based amplifiers can offer. But that can lead one down the “rabbit hole” of constantly trolling the internet for older and rarer NOS (New Old Stock) vacuum tubes from the 1930s and 1940s.
But once you get the tube combination “right”, the magic that a well-designed and built tube amplifier can offer is very special indeed. I would make the comparison of digital audio vs. vinyl when comparing solid state to tube amplifiers respectively. Tube amplifiers can offer a very natural and musical sound when compared to the usually more clinical approach solid state based amplifiers. Now for the past 3+ years, I’ve gone over to the “dark side” (literally as my solid state amps no longer have that great warm glow given off by the vacuum tubes) and have gone all-solid state in my setup. So when the opportunity to review a new tube headphone amplifier came up, I was more than happy to oblige and see what I’ve been missing for the past number of years.
This amplifier was designed and built by Amps & Sound; a company located in California, USA. The company was founded by Justin Weber and he is the lead designer for all of his products. In my discussions with Justin, his passion for amplifier design and tube amplifiers really came through. He certainly was very knowledgeable of many different approaches to designing amplifier circuits and while his first products released were focused on 2 channel full speaker setups, he has made the foray into personal audio with the release of the new tube-based headphone amplifier: The Kenzie.