Review: Bravo Audio Ocean Class A Valve headphone Amp (Budget Brilliance)
Bravo Audio Ocean Review:
Firstly I would like to thank Henry at Bravo for sending me this sample for review, I will write as honest a review possible, this amp has received well over 100hrs of burn-in due to valves needing extended burn-in time.
iPod Classic 160gb > Silver LOD > Ocean > German Maestro GMP 400, GMP 8.35D, Final Audio Design Piano Forte X-G
Asus M50vm > iFi iDAC > Silver RCA > Ocean > German Maestro GMP 400, GMP 8.35D, Final Audio Design Piano Forte X-G
In Put Power
10Hz-60KHz +/- 0.25dB
84.6dBA(300 ohm) 89.8dBA(33 ohm)
0.016%(300 ohm) 0.45%(33 ohm)I
MD + Noise:
0.045(300 ohm) 0.42(33ohm)
115mm (D) X 82mm (W) X 78mm (H)
Stereo RCA x1, Stereo 3.5mm x1
Stereo 6.35mm x1
Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality:
I did not receive retail packaging, but the amp was very well packed in a foam insert, the power supply was well packaged too, the amp arrived safely with no issues.
Accessories are basically a power supply, that is it. I think that either some RCA-RCA or 3.5mm - RCA cables should be included, but for the price I cannot complain. Most people have plenty of interconnects laying around. Another accessory that should definitely be included are adhesive feet, as otherwise it is just metal against your desk, I purchased some quite large rubber feet for it so it would also be higher off the desk for better heat dispersion.
Build quality feels solid, the housing is aluminium and the finish is of high quality, but I'm not so keen on the colour, I suppose it stands out though. The volume pot is smooth to operate, the tube protector is very good, it means that if you drop it (unlikely) the tube won't break if it lands that way up. The included power supply is fine for most, unless you have big problems with noise, you shouldn't need to upgrade it. The top part of the housing is easy to remove if you want to roll tubes (12AU7 compatible).
Inputs, Tube microphonics and other info:
The Ocean is very well thought out, it has RCA inputs and a 3.5mm input, also has RCA out for use as a pre-amp, and has a 6.3mm and 3.5mm headphone out (cannot be used at the same time though). The power switch is located on the front, the LED indicator is way too bright though (easy fix, heatshrink and nail polish). I changed the LED to a green one with heatshrink applied so it doesn't reflect on the tube either.
Tube microphonics are not present unless you really knock the housing or the tube, using the volume knob will not create any noise through the tube. General noise is not too bad, only noticeable with sensitive headphones, which in general are not good with this kind of amp, as the amp is very powerful it is difficult to get a suitable listening volume without channel imbalance with sensitive headphones.
As with most tube amps, it is best to power them on and then insert the headphones, it takes about 10-20 minutes for this amp to warm up, and after that the amp does get hot, but not enough to burn, and it gets to a certain temperature and doesn't change after that. I have left the amp on overnight and had no problems with it.
Well this is a budget Class A tube amp, so don't expect miracles, but for what it is I must admit it is great, when paired with the right headphones.
Paired with the Final Audio Design Piano Forte it can sometimes be overly lush as the PF are known to be on the smoother side of sound. But when listening to the right kind of music, it adds a sense of fullness to the bottom end, and finesse throughout. Listening to the Swan Lake Suite with this pairing is incredible, full and lush, with great soundstage.
Now the best pairing with this amp are the German Maestro headphones, especially the GMP 400, because the GMP 400 are very neutral but lack a little body, this amp really brings out the best in the headphones, adding that extra bit of body and fullness, without taking much away from the highs. I took this amp along to Hifiheadphones and they all had a listen to it with the GMP 400 and they may do some bundles of the German Maestro line + Ocean in the future, it was that good.
On the whole this amp does have that lush, natural tube sound. But I was quite surprised to find out that it did not have hugely rolled off highs like some tube amps have, it adds body and warmth without taking away the detail. The only slight downside would be a tad less dynamics in the music, it sounds a tad bit more congested. Separation on the whole is good, but it can sound a little congested sometimes, partly due to the slight decrease in dynamics, partly due to tube amps in general, as they are not known for their speed.
The amp is very powerful, and will power most headphones, with an exception to the Hifiman HE-6/AKG K1000 probably. I have not been able to use it as a pre-amp yet, but that added feature is there for when you need it, which makes it very versatile. For the price it is an excellent piece of kit, with the ability to tube-roll and also upgrade some components (in the future I will be testing different tubes, upgrading the MOSFET's and Capacitors). Bravo are well known for producing great budget tube amps, and I will say that the Ocean doesn't fail to please. A lot of this will depend on the headphones you have though.
Sound perfection rating: 8/10 (depending on pairing)