Tubeamp TA-1 has arrived in Earmass.com!
I have long contacted the guy from Tube Amp, just before they launched the Tube Amp TA-1 (About 270USD), they have sent me a review unit so that I can write a review for them. For those who are from Malaysia and Singapore, I have been told that E1 Personal Audio is carrying them now.
Tube Amp company might be too new outside of China, but in China they are quite reputable for their portable amplifier, especially those using ‘Vaccuum valve’ in the design, such as the anticipated BL-2 (Which stand in the higher range, as a portable tube headphone amplifier and successor to their BL-1), also you can see the BL-1 and BL-2 design is very alike like some tube headphone amp in the market (As I observed), but quite strange though as BL-1 has available in the market way longer.
Bright blue light
Tube Amp TA-1 is a solid state portable headphone amplifier, not Tube valve portable amp
Me myself thought that TA-1 is using a vaccuum tube valve until when they sent the item to me, they told me that it is a solid state portable headphone amplifier, I admitted that I am a bit disappointed though, because deep inside my heart I wished that it is a vaccum tube headphone amplifier.
However, I am really anticipated to see how the TA-1 will actually performed. For the price, I am really asking quite a bit more, the reson why I am getting this excited is the man behind Tube Amp company has actually start building up headphone amplifier since 2003, although not under brand name ‘Tube Amp’ but I can see they are quite succesful inside China. Looks like they have actually spent a lot of effort and time in TA-1, I heard they have actually spent two years to fine tune TA-1, to the sound they expected or beyond. They are spending a lot of effort and time in this product, I expected TA-1 to sound good.
Surprisingly excellent build quality
Dissipated heat nicely
Build quality itself is excellent and top notch. TA-1 is very solid and constructed by aluminium, very solid and tough, I have not yet see any portable headphone amplifier that built as tough as it is, in the price range. This is really impressive, China manufacturers tend to improve their build quality, and I can say much of them have actually really excellent. The casing itself is tough and indestructable, you can easily press it and exert pressure on it without changing shape of TA-1. Outlook is typical classic/practical design, without any cartoon or fashion design, simply a tough aluminium box with the company logo on it.
Excellent attention on build quality
Ergonomic wise is as simple as your eyes can see, I will actually prefer if there is a bass boost function on it, let me explain why I think so later.
Audio Quality : TA-1 sounded smooth and euphonic
Source : Asus Laptop and Dell Desktop
DAC : iFi Audio iDAC, M2Tech HiFace DAC, Arce MDAC3, Kingrex Upower with UPower, Yulong Audio D100 II
Headphone : Soundmagic HP100, AKG Q701, German-Maestro GMP400, Hifiman HE400, Hifiman HE500, Shure SE425 Hisound Living
Interconnect : Charleston Cable Company UP-OCC interconnect, Choseal RCA – 3.5mm interconnect
Tube Amp TA-1 simply packed emotion and expression to music with a smooth and warm sound signature. The sound signature is generally comfortable and warm, which is quite smooth. Sound signature is quite laid back and also slow, not a problem for most of the music except for rock and those require some speed such as some of the symphony. However, for most of the genre such as casual listening, especially ‘romantic’ type of sound signature is what you really like.
I am not saying that TA-1 is not suit for the classical music, but in fact you will get different thing, it is warm and quite relaxed, which is heavily depended on your sound preference. However for songs that is slow and not much requiring speed, TA-1 is actually quite pleasant to listen and owned.
I paired the quite emotion-less Hisound Living earbud attached to the TA-1, I played the album 21 by Adele and the surprisingly, although Hisound Living still has its own coldness, but the emotion has been greatly improve and now is more expressive, with good warmth. Besides, it is actually smoother to my ears and I can listened to it longer.
However this might not be the best headphone amplifier for classical music or live music, soundstage is not particularly wide nor extrememly spacious. However it is not closed in any mean, but seems a little bit short in width. It is good for music type that has vocal and maybe some casual listening, anything that need not cruel requirement in soundstaging.
Sound signature exhibits little more up front rather than flat, it is quite thick and less lean, but like I said, if you are listening to everyday music, this should not be a problem.
Tubeamp TA-1 worth some recommendation if you are considering a portable headphone amplifier to accompany you, with its long battery life and smooth, euphonic sound signature, but all of these come with some payoff though. First of all is the lower spectrum sound and secondly, the price. 270USD is not really expansie by means but there is some sharp competitors around, with significantly lower price, and less shortcomings to cope with, one of the harshest competition might come from Shonyun Audio 306A, which I am working on the review as well, is better in many way, also cheaper.
Sound wise, Tubeamp TA-1 is quite good and euphonic, especially the smooth, warm and thick sound signature keep me reminding sound signature of tube valve, it is good for its own, if the price can be lower, I can see the future of it.