Wanna a good headphone amp for your Sony NW-ZX300?
Well, it doesn’t have much option for this 4.4mm balanced output DAP , right ?
But Oriolus BA300S could be one of the choice.
So, how is it performance ?
Without wasting your time, let’s jump to the article to check what these reviewers saying about this tube amp.
The BA300s is roughly the same size as the Shanling M2s for those familiar with it. For those who are not, 5 inches tall, 2 1/4 inches wide and 3/4 of an inch thick.
Weight is just under 6 ounces. The shell is solid aluminum with a window in the front panel. Otherwise the device is slick on the front and rear. The sides have finger grooves at the top and bottom, but are otherwise slick. The 4.4mm input and output jacks are found on the top of the unit with the power switch centered between the two.
A micro-USB port on the bottom left of the unit handles charging responsibilities and an LED indicator to the right of the port shows charging status.
Overall, its a very simple device externally. Removing the faceplate is accomplished by removing two small screws on the bottom that allow for lifting the front panel off the unit. this exposes the electronics, tubes, and battery (more later on that).
During my initial impression of the Oriolus BA300S I inadvertently called it Pandora’s Amp, mostly because when I first listened to it, it’s like the music that I knew, the music that I loved and cherished with my favorite combo (Campfire Andromeda/Focal Elear) suddenly was JUST better, and internally I felt there is no turning back.
I had to scramble a bit to take down notes as to what changed, writing in my usual near-unreadable script. The more I listened, the more I realized that this is no ordinary amp, a device that on the base end, magnifies the source;
The BA300S does not just amplify the music, it enhances the listening experience, the tubes in the process amplification, giving a portion of the stereotypical “tube amp” sound to the output you hear, making it quite a unique listening experience.
So enough waxing poetic, letting the amp run itself through 200+ hours of use before doing the review proper, I let it sufficiently heat up with use before doing the review which was mostly done on the Sony WM1a, though I have used the Sony A35, Hiby R6, and Audirect Beam to corroborate the improvements provided by the BA300S. Headgear used included the Focal Elear, Campfire Audio Andromeda and Atlas.
The BA300S uses a dual channel “pencil” Dual 6N16B vacuum tube amp topology at the heart of its amplification stage. Instead of pins, they are hardwired into the PCB with a set of 8 flexible leads so sadly not rollable as far as I am aware unless you are a dab hand at electrical and DIY soldering.
For a portable tube amp, the BA300s has some pretty good numbers for its amplification stage. One of my own perceived weaknesses of the Sony digital amplifiers is the lack of power compared to the analog amp stages from the likes of iBasso.
For example, the Sony 1Z is only capable of 250mW + 205mW into a 16Ω load on its balanced output with a much lower 60mW + 60mW single-ended.. The Zx300 has slightly less at 50mW + 50MW into 16Ω unbalanced and 200mW + 200mW into the same load.
The BA300S increases that to a 350mW +350mW output potential into a 32Ω load to open up the Sony a source to a lot more demanding gear out there that can avail of a 4.4mm output. The gain level is around a +3dB increase which is relatively mild though compared to the more powerful amps inside the more expensive ALO Audio V5 which is rated at +10dB gain.
Of course, moving out of the digital to analog domain means you will take a hit on the SNR and THD+N numbers and there will be a bit more noise using the BA300S tube amplification stage.
Having said that it does compete very well indeed with class-leading portable vacuum tube amps such as the ALO Continental Dual Mono. The BA300s is rated at an SNR of -111dB and 0.02% THD+N whereas the CDM has a THD+N of .001% and an SNR of – 115 dB.
Will you hear hiss on sensitive IEMs? In some cases, yes, but I have yet to hear a totally quiet portable tube amp and the BA300S is no different there.
Now for the impressions, I used the Focal Elear and Andromeda to test the Oriolus BA300S with the WM1a as source.
To be frank (and a bit short) I cannot unhear the Oriolus BA300S, things seem a little less good after it.
When connected to the amp. the bass sounds a bit more dynamic, a bit more impactful and sub-bass has a bit more extension, the mids are a little bit more forward, a little bit thicker, warmer, and there’s a tiny boost to the treble that makes it all sound a bit more of everything compared to without the amp.
But the thing I couldn’t put my finger on at first and get my brain to spell it out till after a few more songs, is that there’s just more vibrancy to the music compared to without the amp. I thought the WM1a was already good, I thought I was already satisfied, the Oriolus BA300S opened a door I can never close again, Pandora’s amp is what I’ll call it from now on.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rK0T7fobvzg ( By Bad Guy Good Audio Reviews)