Review: Feliks-Audio Echo Headphone Amplifier
As both an a hi-fi enthusiast and someone who works in front of a computer for hours per day very few things are as important to my daily routine as my hi-fi setup. As a baseline any self-respecting hi-fi setup needs at least the following components:
- DAC: this device converts a digital stream and converts it into an analog signal.
- Amplifier: the signal out of the DAC is wholly un-amplified. An amplifier takes an analog signal from the DAC (or other source) and through a hell lot of circuitry, voltage and current manipulation, it, as it name implies, amplifies the signal (what frequency range(s) does it emphasize and what doesn’t highly depends on the amp’s design philosophy).
- Headphones/Cans: the ultimate sound-human interface. Through headphones is how we judge not only the headphones themselves, but also all the components before it.
One night while browsing hi-fi forums and website, a thread popped-up about a small company out of Poland specializing on hand-crafted, tube-based headphone amplifiers called Feliks-Audio. I had never hear of them, to be honest; however, upon reading the positive comments in the forum as seeing their products I was sold. But, of course, I’m not a millionaire (yet) and financial responsibility still applies to my hobbies, so I had to go for their entry-level model, the Echo (400 Euro shipped, to the US — i.e. no VAT). About a week after Lukasz emailed me the tracking info, the echo was delivered.
Unboxing: from the way the Echo is intuitively packaged and how simple it is to put together, you can tell Lukasz and team put a lot of thought into it. No unnecessary boxes, no pointless tie-wraps and so forth. No-nonsense, no frills simple and presentable.
Aesthetics: aside from sound specs, the looks were a selling point for me. Clean lines, sleek metal surfaces, atoned colors, symmetrical “open” vacuum tube placement and walnut-wood side panels: it all ties very nicely together. In particular, the wood sides and the tubes give it a warm and welcome vivacity in an otherwise minimalist design.
Build Quality: while you might not be a fan the sound signature or the aesthetics don’t appeal to you, you could not deny the superb build quality and craftsmanship in the making of this amp. It’s solid — very solid — , well put together, no lose parts, all edges flush and clean, the tube anchors sturdy an steady no vacillation whatsoever.
Audio: the main show. First let’s look at some important nominal figures:
Power tubes 6N6P x 2, driver tubes 6N1P x 2
Frequency response: 15 Hz — 45 Khz +/- 3 dB (300 ohm)
Input Impedance: 100 kOhm
Power output: 350mW
THD: 0.4 % (300 ohm, 20 mW)
Optimal headphones impedance: 100–600 ohm
Preamp safe mode
Headphones output: Jack 6.3mm
RCA audio input
RCA audio output
All specs above are hi-fi industry standard; that is, any self-respecting hi-fi system needs to at least match the above specs. Of special note, here, though, is the fact that this amp is designed to drive headphones with an input impedance of at least 100 Ohm. Good candidates would be Sennheiser HD 600 and higher (650, 700, 800, etc) or Bayer Dynamic DT 770, 880 990, etc.
For this review I used a mix of Sennheiser HD 600 and HD 650 (both with impedance @ 300 Ohm).
You have no time, gotta run and want a one-sentence summary? The sound coming out of this thing is a life form: it breathes, has a soul and a lovely presence.
For those of us who have more time: the bass and sub-bass frequencies are buttery smooth, warm and clean. Mids are spot on — at least to my ears — give the whole sound a wonderful presence, one you as the listeners will want more of and you will be spending time finding music that take advantage of it. Mid-highs and treble are excellent, well under control not attenuated and yet not bright or brittle.
Compared to my other amp, Schiit Magni 3, the sound is much more robust, more alive, warmer, smoother and there’s a beauty and friendliness to it. The Schiit is a great amp, by any means, but its sound signature is aggressively “clinical” and too conservative as if not wanting to push the envelope in any way or be offensive.
Volume/Power: this amp drives both of the headphones mentioned above easily. I don’t think I’ve ever had to go beyond “1 o’clock”, and spend most of my listening time around “10 o’clock”. No discernible distortion through the volume range, again, with the caveat that I have not really dialed past “1 o’clock” because I don’t want to bust my ears: this amp pushes plenty of juice and I feel anything above that level would be dangerous to my hearing.
Conclusion: in this enthusiast’s opinion, you cannot go wrong with this amp. It’s so wonderful you will not tire of listening to it day in, day out for hours and hours on end. Absolutely recommend it.