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ampsandsound – T.H.E. Show Newport 2016


I first ran into ampsandsound at the Newport show down in the marketplace at the MrSpeakers table. I had heard rumors and seen some initial PR releases about the southern California company but had little experience with them firsthand. Turns out they have quite the selection of tube-based amplifier that straddle both loudspeaker and headphone applications.

The whole retro-decware-DIY look of the amplifiers really appeals to me for some reason and there is a healthy dose of practicality with the dual purpose headphone and loudspeaker application that many of the amplifiers utilize.

Ampsandsound currently make three headphone amplifiers, starting with the 1626 tube Kenzie for $1,650. The mid tier EL34/KT88/6CA7 Mogwai lands at $1,850 and a new 300B flagship Agartha ($3,600) made its debut at the show. The latter two amplifiers allow for loudspeaker applications while the Kenzie is a dedicated headphone amplifier.  More on the new Agartha from CEO and founder Justin Weber:

“The Agartha is a throwback to some of the best single-ended designs from venerable brands that I admire so much. All of my amplifiers offer the best possible parts quality, reliability, and sound quality at price points below what is generally available in a hand-made bespoke amplifier produced domestically. The Agartha is unique because it offers both a reference-level tube headphone amplifier and integrated amplifier in a desktop-sized package. It will drive a wide range of loudspeakers and headphones and offer a lifetime of musicality and reliability.”

300b tubes have appeared in some very excellent sounding headphone amplifiers over the years so its no surprise that Justin choose the triode drive the power for his newest flagship. The single ended direct-heated output stage is paired with a 6SL7 front end with SS rectification. The transformers on the piece are custom wound and made in the USA. Output for headphones is rated at 1.5watts/channel and 5 watts into 8-ohms for loudspeakers.

Headphones weren’t the only thing the company had going on at the show. Ampsandsound were also debuting two pairs of horn-loaded loudspeakers named Hudson ($30k, pictured above) and Seneca ($20k). Paired with the manufacturer’s Casablanca push-pull 60 watt monos ($3,995/pair), the room had a welcoming vibe across the board. I walked into a satisfying demo of Radiohead’s Kid A sometime on Sunday morning and it left me a solid sense of mid range body and low end extension from the 15″ direct radiating woofer. The three way design of the Hudson also features a 2″ large format compression driver in a mid range horn and a 1″compression driver tweeter for the highs. The rack in the 2nd floor room also featured a VPI Avenger Turntable with Zu Audio DR-103r cartridge and the new Light Harmonic DAC (with tube stage) we first saw [here] at CES.

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