Firstly I would like to thank Lukasz at Feliks Audio for sending me this amp to review, I did not get this amp as a free of charge sample, I had to pay for the unit as I liked it so much I wanted to keep it. I try and write honest reviews.
The stock tubes have been fully burnt in with over 100hrs through them.
iPod Classic > Line out > Espressivo > (Marantz PM-44 SE > Mission 702e) / German Maestro GMP400/Fischer Audio FA-003ti with wood cups
Dell XPS 15 > Matrix Audio Quattro II > Espressivo > German Maestro GMP400
- Input Impedance: 100 kOhm
- Frequency response: 15 Hz - 45 Khz +/- 3 dB
- Power output: 400mW
- THD: 0.4 % (300 ohm, 20 mW)
- Optimal headphones impedance: 100 - 300 ohm
- Headphones output: Jack 6.3mm
- AC: 230V/120V (power cord included)
- Weight: 3.5 kg (7.7 lbs)
- Dimensions: 330x220x140 [mm] (13x8.7x5.5 [inch])
- MSRP: $319.00
Packaging, Accessories and Build quality:
The amp came in a large card box, inside this are foam cut outs that hold the amp securely in place. A power cord is included, and there was a manual and separate cut out for the valves, which are individually numbered and wrapped in foam. The amp is very securely held in place in transport and the packaging is well thought out.
Accessories, well this comes with all that is needed, valves and power cable, they include the correct power cable for the country you ordered from, which is a good. I cannot think of any needed accessories for this amp.
Build quality feels very good, the main chassis is sturdy metal, the underside feels a little thin but once it is sat on a shelf you won't notice this. There are wooden side panels which give it a very appealing look, the finish isn't that of a high end piece of equipment, but it sure adds some class and elegance to the amp. The input and output sockets on the back are gold plated, the volume knob and input selector knob all feel of high quality and the jack output is nice and snug. The tube sockets are also nice and tight, I cannot fault the build for the price, I couldn't fault it even if it cost a little more.
Well this is a very versatile amp, it has 3 inputs (I use it for DAC from pc/CD, iPod and turntable (after preamp) to the one output to my amp, or I use the headphone socket for headphone listening. So it can be used as a pre-amp as well as a headphone amp. As with all valve amps, it takes 15 minutes or so to warm up, I have left it running for periods of 8 hours and more, the valves get very hot, the chassis does a good job at dissipating the heat and I never felt like it got dangerously hot.
Valve rolling is easy with the driver tubes, the power valves are not as easy to find alternatives. The driver valves are 6N1P and can be replaced by E88CC / 6N23P / 6DJ8 / 6922.
The power valves are 6N6P and can be replace with 6N6P-1.
Well valve amps are usually chosen for their introduced distortion which adds a little flavour to the sound, and also for looks and valve rolling capabilities to tune the sound to your taste.
I personally enjoy the sound valve amplifiers can produce, and also I like the aesthetics.
Upon first listen I was very surprised to find that this valve amps is very detailed and doesn't change the sound too much. Remembering my Xduoo TA-02 with Mullard valves, that was a very lush and warm sounding amp that was a pleasure to listen too, but maybe a little too polite.
The Espressivo on the other hand has the speed and detail to keep up with most solid state amplifiers, yet still has a touch of warmth which helps liven up certain flat or otherwise boring sounding headphones.
Valve rolling possibilities are very good with this amp, so you can easily buy other valves to help fine tune the sound, and making it warmer or more analytical depending on what you want. The base design of this amp is fantastic, and even stock, it sounds very natural and effortless with good speed and detail.
I find the separation to be very good, however the soundstage is not hugely different over an objectively flat amplifier.
What I like about this amp, is that It can drive most headphones very easily, it is not the best for sensitive in-ear monitors due to the relatively high gain, but for over-ear headphones it works very well. The GMP400 are relatively hard to drive yet I only have the volume on the 9-10 o'clock position. I recently took this amp to CanJam London and it was driving the T1 with no problems and sounded incredible with them.
The Espressivo + T1 are a fantastic home listening combo that will set you back about £1000, it is funny how you can get a £200 amp that really brings the best out of the T1.
I find the sound of the Espressivo engaging and articulate, it still has micro detail but the overall sound is enjoyable rather than analytical. The sound is also effortless with a good amount of power on tap, no need to worry about this amp under powering your headphones. A very impressive hand built valve amp, for an incredibly reasonable price, it also looks lovely.
THE Marshall Jefferson, enjoyed listening to this amp so much at CanJam he went out a placed an order straight away.
Sound Perfection Rating: 10/10 (fantastic value for money, go and get one)