The Bravo headphone amplifier is a way to bypass the cruddy headphone socket on your laptop or hi-fi amplifier without being lumbered with another great big piece of kit, or indeed a similar-sized price tag. Does its sound quality deserve a round of applause or to be boo’d off stage though? Find out in our Bravo headphone amplifier review.
Even if you’ve got a decent amplifier in your home setup, there’s a very good chance that its headphone output will be rubbish. Noisy or just plain weedy-sounding, it’s no way to treat a good pair of headphones – here’s where the Bravo headphone amplifier steps in.
It takes either a line or phono input from whatever source you fancy, whether a £2000 CD player or a five quid MP3 player, passes it through a load of circuitry and a hi-fi tube and into your ears. Does the Bravo amp make any difference though?
Read our Sennheiser HD 650 review now
Well, we certainly found it did. We checked it out with a handful of sources, from our trusty old iPod Classic to a £2k home cinema amp, and in every case the Bravo headphone amplifier improved the sound. It wasn’t just pesky interference noise it got rid of either.
The Bravo headphone amp warmed-up the sound too, making harsh bits in songs sound that bit smoother without smothering-away any detail – as might happen when EQ’ing away a harsh treble. We also found that it widened the soundstage when used with a quality pair of headphones like the Sennheiser HD650s too, making your music sound, well, bigger.
For all these improvements offered, the Bravo headphone amplifier is both dinky and cheap. Most professionally-made budget headphone amplifiers will cost you over twice the price, and here you’re still getting a real sonic improvement. Plus, if you catch the audiophile bug, you can easily change the tube used in the Bravo because it sticks right out of the top of the thing.
While the Bravo feels professionally made, everything’s on show – not just the tube. The sides are open and the see-through Perspex used means you can see every chip and transistor. Add in the chav-tinged blue LED that lights-up the tube and you’ve got yourself an acquired taste, but it’s one we quickly grew to love.
You do need to keep it away from tiny wandering hands and paws though – not only is the tube made from glass but the heatsinks form part of the Bravo headphone amplifier’s protective armour, and they get damn hot. Heat’s a factor with any tube amp though. In fact, side and lovely warm sound aside, the only thing the Bravo hasn’t replicated from a much higher-end tube amp is the price.