I’m a sucker for little tube amps and it’s been a long time since I got into this addictive little hobby, there’s always been a headphone tube somewhere so no wonder when I got the v3 and the ocean of bravo audio that space was immediately deleted on the desktop for viewing.
Now, these tube amps are among the smallest I’ve seen to date for desktop setups (not counting mobile units like the continental alo, though one day they’re worth comparing) and, oddly enough, they both don’t they look nothing alike.
Reading: Bravo audio ocean headphone amp
v1, v2, and this one, the v3, all follow the same basic open-ended construction that’s also popular with the likes of indeed (the other very similar tube amp maker).
In fact, you could almost say that v3 is v1 with an extension to the eq options, and as such if it weren’t for the eq options, I guess a revision of v3 would be redundant. it also uses the same harmonix 6922eh tube, so the similarity is quite similar with the previous v1.
the ocean on the other hand is a completely different beast with a more traditional aluminum casing and an additional dual line option on the back giving it a higher level of flexibility over the v3 but without equalization options.
It also seems more durable and certainly much safer in terms of protection against heat sinks, but it still gets quite hot so handle with care. I think in the future bravo audio could be using the ocean design for their new concepts more than the previous v designs and this makes sense as this scheme has been around for a few years with other companies.
then, let’s see how these two behave.
- power: dc24v
- sensitivity: 100mv
- impedance: 100kohm
- output impedance: 20~600 ohm
- gain: 30db
- frequency response: 10hz-60khz +/- 0.25db
- signal to noise ratio: >90db
- dynamic range: 84 .6dba(300 ohm) 89.8 dba (33 ohm)
- thd: 0.016% (300 ohm) 0.45% (33 ohm) i
- md + noise: 0.045 (300 ohm) 0.42 (33 ohm)
- dimensions: 79 mm (d) x 130 mm (width) x 44 mm (height)
- inputs: stereo rca x1, stereo 3.5mm x1
- outputs: stereo 6.35mm x 1
- Power: DC24V
- Sensitivity: 100mV
- Impedance: 100KOhm
- Output Impedance: 20~600 Ohm
- Gain: 30dB
- Frequency response: 10Hz-60KHz +/- 0.25dB
- Signal/Noise Ratio: >90dB
- Dynamic range: 84.6dBA(300 ohm) 89.8dBA(33 ohm)
- THD: 0.016%(300 ohm) 0.45%(33 ohm)I
- MD + Noise: 0.045(300 ohm) 0.42(33ohm)
- Dimension: 115mm (D) X 82mm (W) X 78mm (H)
- Inputs: Stereo RCA x1, Stereo 3.5mm x1
- Outputs: Stereo 6.35mm x1
on a technical level, the ocean varies in terms of options and tubes. while the v3 has basic rca or analog inputs, the ocean has an additional line input via a 3.5mm jack and rca line output (giving it some preamp capability), but lacks the equalizer passive that v3 has.
The tubes used are also markedly different on each unit: the v3 uses a 6922eh electronic armonix found on the v1 amp and the ocean uses the 12au7 tubes found on the v2.
Based on don’s initial review, this will probably mean the v3 has a more central ocean and bass orientation, but more on that later. for now, while you can’t swap tubes between these, you can coil tubes from the same group of tube families quite easily. the common tube in the ocean is the shu guang 12au7.
Both of them are Class A so they run pretty hot – and I mean hot! With the bravo v1, both heatsinks were on the outside of the PCB where air can pass it easily which is needed to keep things from overheating.
On the v3, the right heatsink is in the middle of the PCB and near the equalization rods and the shroud above it reduces free airflow a bit. the right side of the amp can run a bit hotter than the left which is different from v1. on some occasions, I found that changing the equalizer is like turning bread into an oven.
on the ocean the entire case is the heat sink so it’s best handled by the little arc shaped metal ring as I’ve found this to be the coolest part of the unit when it’s fully on for a long period of time.
One thing I noticed in the power specs was that the output rating for all bravo audio amps is set at 500mw, which is pretty respectable for such a small amp. the real kicker is in the massive gain at 30db and it’s what gives it its “punch above its weight” quality even with some very unwieldy headphones. Don’t flatter yourself that these are the answer to some kind of mini-hifiman planer powerplant for the he6.
In the context of their size and price these amps are great, but keep in mind to choose carefully based on your existing setup as tubes play a part in how they sound and you may not get a great combination as a result. both are inherently warm, organic and very liquid and help to take the edge of the sound. v3 eq presents benefits and problems.
The house sound is very much a basshead’s choice with a v-shaped sonic signature. No one would expect the EQ to present you with some good options to get out of that v-curve if so needs be and to some extent you do but the sound just is not as satisfying as replicating a v shape on the EQ which in effect just mimics the core sound.
I liked flat on zero (the background and not the middle; veterans beware of this, the middle is not zero). here it seems more balanced and less colored. with eq on the bottom, it sounds cleaner and has a touch brighter; almost feels like the natural starting point.
moving the EQ to 7/4/7 (bass, mid, treble) gave it its classic v-shape and it really excelled at this and for me it gravitated more towards hip-hop, r&b and dance where the average demand is not so essential.
Moving the mids to 5 or 7 made the mids go further, but they lacked a bit of finesse and didn’t look as satisfying as the natural v-shape. setting the mids to 7/5/7 seemed like the best compromise using the ath esw9 and the hifiman he300 (silver wired) as my test cans. Niki Minage and Speech Debelle tracks were really punchy and warm in this setting, more musical than precise and very enjoyable.
The power and high gain settings fill out the sound nicely and put more weight on the bass, particularly after adjusting the passive EQ. it had no trouble driving my low-impedance cans with authority and didn’t struggle volume-wise with the lower-end hifiman planers.
the ocean makes the media better imho. while it doesn’t have the equalization options of the v3, it has more brightness throughout the range without losing any weight in the bottom end. clarity on vocal performances is excellent at this price and makes the fiio e9/e7 sq sound really grainy and dry.
the ocean of course sports the 12au7 tube, and if one recalls don’s review on the v1 and v2, he felt this was the top tube if mids and vocals are important to you. Don’t get me wrong, the v3 is not an inferior amp to the ocean, it just appeals to bassists more even with the passive EQ.
For me, the ocean is the most flexible amp, whether it’s rock, dance or vocal, it handles more confidently. it’s still a warm, liquid tube amp and doesn’t have the edge and clarity in the top end like many more refined tube amps, but at $110 you shouldn’t complain too much because at this price point there’s nothing tube that can touch it.
So, which one to choose? my money is in the ocean as an amp for those with a wide variety of tastes and looking for a warm retro tube sound. if you’re a super basshead, the v3 is going to be more in line with your tastes and the passive EQ and looks give it great appeal.
both are affordable and have plenty of power available for just about every headset out there outside of the power-hungry flagship brushes. Modders will love them too for the easy access to the caps and rollers will enjoy swapping out those tubes for little to no cost.
what’s not to enjoy about these budget tube amps?
the bravo audio v3 retails for $89.99 and the ocean retails for $109.99
you can contact bravo audio on amazon
Distributors can be found at:
jaben singapore 1 coleman street #04-11 the adelphi 179803 singapore tel. (+65) 6337-0809 contact: andy website: www.jaben.net
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