Product: Music Hall PH25.2 Tube Hybrid Headphone Amplifier
After massaging our ears with crisp, clear sound from Music Hall's DAC 25.2 last month, we've been on the lookout for a decent headphone amp ever since. Although we've had some cute encounters with Firestone's offerings, we wanted something bigger. Something with more power. And if possible, more tubes. Luckily, Music Hall made the job a breeze for us when they allowed us to test out their newest addition to their home audio product line; the PH25.2 Tube Hybrid Headphone Amp.
While the design itself may not be able to top the Elekit Tube Amplifier by Case-Real featured a few weeks back, it's the sound that's important here. Though to be honest, we love the simplicity of the Music Hall's dedicated desktop music hardware - compared to all of those showy tubes and glossy bodies, the understated design feels quite refreshing.
The Music Hall excels primarily in its internal technology: Combining tubes with solid-state amplification, a gorgeous-sounding, yet cost-efficient tube hybrid headphone amp was born. Simply plug in your RCA source, hit the "on" button, and prepare yourself for audio bliss.
Let's expand on the technology a bit. Even with one of the best DACs (digital to analog converters) around, you need a decent amp to drive your speakers or headphones. When it comes to having sound delivered straight to your noggin' via headphones, we almost always recommend something with tubes. Why tubes, you ask? Tube amplifiers produce a "warmer" or more "natural" sound, mainly because at points where digital sound clips, tubes benefit from smoother transitions, resulting in less distortion during these clipping moments.
While we were floored by the drastic improvements Music Hall's DAC brought us last month, we were kind of bummed out by the mediocre performance of its included headphone jack. The PH25.2 seems to be their answer to those complaints, featuring not one, but TWO tubes that visibly glow, as well as two headphone outputs so you can actually listen to music with a friend or loved one if need be.
Through the top slits of the amp, the tubes immediately glisten a mellow glow, bringing some of the richest, natural-est sound we've heard in quite some time.
Source: Apple Macbook Pro 13" (Optical Out)
DAC: Music Hall DAC25.2 Digital to Analog Converter
Amp: Music Hall PH25.2 Headphone Amplifier
Headphones: Denon D2000 Stereo Headphones
Speakers (via Pre-Out): Audioengine A2's
We did a much more thorough test this time through compared to last month's review. Throwing literally every genre we could think of at the PH25.2, we found almost every time, even with the crappiest encoded songs (128kb/s, we're looking at you), there was an astounding change when driven through the amp. Listening to Grizzly Bear's "Ready, Able" harmonics would take us to another world. Throwing on Pretty Lights' "Filling Up the City Skies" would bring the party to our living rooms. Watching "Once" on Blu-ray would make us feel for those poor struggling musicians.
Comparatively, we found the sound to be more spacious, especially compared to the muffled-ness we would get when plugging our headphones into the output jack of our Macbook directly. We try to stray away from all those subjective "audiophile" words as much as possible, but one can only accurately describe the end result as having a deliberate focus on vocal clarify, enunciation, and increased openness. In a nutshell, music and movies sound fantastic, creating an environment where you feel like you're constantly right there in the moment. This, from previous experiences, is not an easy feat to achieve.
One minor complaint would be the prescience of a slightly audible crackling/hiss when all of our hardware was plugged in and turned on. We looked long and hard to find the conflicting pieces in our setup, but couldn't find the source of the issue. Our best guess is that it probably has to do something with the Audioengine A2s being powered, as the hiss would immediately disappear when we unplugged it from our Pre-Out.
But aside from that, everything else was absolutely sublime. Really, really. Would we recommend it in a heartbeat? It's hard to say, given the above-average price tag for the average consumer ($399) - we know it's not for everyone out there. However, for those who are in the market for a good amp and can afford a dedicated piece of hardware to arouse their ears with, the Music Hall PH25.2 headphone amp is a great option that delivers in many fronts. Just make sure you've got some nice cans to take advantage of its greatness!
You can read more about the Music Hall PH25.2 Tube Hybrid Headphone Amplifier over here.
Pros: Rich open sound. Great build. Dual input, tubes, and headphone jacks!
Cons: Slight buzz with Pre-Out. Not within price range for everyone.