LaFigaro 339: My Fav OTL Amp

lafigaro_339_07

Our more frequent readers might have noticed me talking about or comparing amps to the La Figaro 339 and some have even asked for a review about it. So here is a long overdue write-up of the LaFigaro 339 OTL tube amp after having owned it for a little over 1 year.

For those of you who don’t know, La Figaro is a Chinese based company run by a guy named Liu Yi also known as “Yuking09″. It was founded in 2009 after he had left the maybe more famous Darkvoice because of (to us) unknown reasons. You can clearly see the similarities of the amps when looking at pictures of all the models on Google. Yuking’s statement is that he improved the Darkvoice designs even more giving an even better listening experience to the customer. The 339 is the La Figaro version of the DarkVoice 337, but upgraded. Here’s what LF had to say: “The output capacitors of 337 series machines is only 50μF but 339 is 130μF, so 339 have more strength in the bass, the structure of 339 is more reasonable, the pipe is on the front far from the the transformer avoiding interference. Especially with low impedance, the headphones can be very clear, 337 has a mild hum when it running low impedance headphones. 339 has better components, tubes: RCA socket by CMC and Headphone socket by Neutrik both make reliability better”.

The 339 explained

First let me get into some more details about the more or less 10kg! heavy 339. It is a dual mono design OTL amp. It has no Output Transformers and the vacuum tubes directly drive the headphone with no intervening transformer. The result, according to the designers using this principle, is an unbelievable clarity and realism that no other configuration can achieve. The output transformer is said to be a major source of distortion and amplifiers without the output transformer therefore produce cleaner, less distorted sound. OTL amps are mostly made to power higher impedance headphones and speakers and the prices can be rather high as the assembly is manual.

The dual mono part basically means the amplifier has two of everything. The left and right channel are built in parallel and both have their own power supply unit (PSU). That means two power cords (the voltage is set in the lab) and two separate volume controls which I will come back to later. The 339 has only one set of inputs and one single ended headphone out (plug by Neutrik).

On the inside of the amp you can find some very impressive point to point wiring that even impressed my amp doctor when I paid him a visit. He especially liked it because it is much easier to work on in case of problems as you can easily find and replace the malfunctioning component. It measured absolutely perfect for an amplifier he said, he didn’t have to change anything. The LF339, because of this dual mono configuration, uses two input tubes and two power tubes. The input tubes can be 6J4P, 6Ж4С, CV849 and 1852 (+ all equivalents). The accepted power tubes are 6N5P, 6N13P, 6080 and 6AS7 (+ all equivalents). You can also get supplementary adapters from La Figaro so you can use EF80, EF800 or EF86 type input tubes. The 6AS7(G) power type tubes are known to be noisy but that really depends on your tubes: some hum only in the beginning of their life cycle, some only when you start to use them, others will always hum and some never do. It’s a bit of trial and error really, the pleasures of tube rolling.

For some reason LaFigaro has never been very open about the metrics/power of this amp, they just keep stating the 339 will deliver around 800mw – 1w per channel throughout 25Ohm – 600Ohm. Out of experience I can confirm that using more powerful power tubes like the famous and nowadays expensive Tung-Sol 5998 do up the output power (Jack Woo from Woo Audio stated his WA2 gets 10% more power when using these tubes). The amplifier does run fairly hot and the whole casing serves as a heat sink. I’ve measured the temperatures of the amp at 3 places (case, vent, tubes) and after 1 hour temperatures already reached respectively 95, 176 and 163 (35°C, 80°C, 73°C). However don’t let this scare you as this is nothing to worry about at all, just keep it away from kids (like any tube amp).

The Design of the amp is basic. You love it or you hate it and I personally absolutely adore the way it looks. From the first time I saw the amp I’ve found it looking powerful and sexy (can an amp be sexy?) and I wanted to have it. The 339 is only available in grey as the pictures show (at the end of the article) and it has a nice 339 sign with 2 small green leds incorporated on top of the amp, only the cooling vent kills the top look a bit to my feeling. As mentioned in the paragraph above the amp can run quite hot and with kids walking around wanting to touch those nice glowing tubes this could lead to some unplanned visits to the hospital emergency service. To protect the kids from the tubes (or is it the other way around?) you get a tube cage to put over the tubes but it really does destroy the look of the amplifier imo.

On the front of the amp you only have the headphone out and the dual volume controls, making it a simple symmetrical design. The dual volume controls have advantages and disadvantages but it has never bothered me. There were multiple reasons Yuking incorporated them in the design, while it wasn’t absolutely necessary. First of all not everyone’s left and right ear is equally good and with this separate control you still get the same volume left and right. Second, not only human ears can be wrong but your power tubes might be of different strengths too, just like your headphone could be a little off (like my HE-400 Rev 1). With all the tubes I used so far I never had to pass 11 o’clock, there’s plenty of room to work with. Both volume controls, like the amp itself, are dead quiet when turning.

Looks, in contrary to the internal design, aren’t the most important part of an amp (but they’re important too in my regard) and each time it comes down to how a unit sounds. From the first time I turned on the amp however I was genuinely pleased with its performance. While the OTL amps are most likely to perform well with high impedance headphones, the designer made sure his amp also sounded good with low impedance phones. The only low impedance headphones I have however are orthodynamics, so I’m afraid those are the only ones I can comment on.

How does it sound? + Tube rolling

Overall the 339 amplifier can be described as having a very tube-ish sound with a warm and smooth sound signature. Sound stage wise the 339 does very good, it has a great wide sound stage that even improves when using the famous 5998 tubes by Tung-Sol. It’s a very natural sounding amplifier with great dynamics and detail. The mids are warm and smooth with a slightly rolled off treble. You won’t really like it if treble is your thing but this can be improved using other tubes. (I my selection of tubes, most have the rolled off highs). Bass is nicely detailed, very deep and punchy but not as tight and punchy as say with one of the solid state Violectric amps.

The big advantage of this amplifier is that tube rolling really allows you to change the sound signature of the amplifier. With the stock tubes, which I didn’t listen to a lot, you get a much more forward sound and detailed treble but you lose the smoothness and bass compared to most “aftermarket” tubes. After lots of tube rolling (you can ask for details in the comment section if anyone is interested) I settled on two different sets of tubes. First of all the RCA 6AS7G power tubes with a Telefunken EF80 (using the adapter from La Figaro) and secondly a pair of Tung-Sol/Chatham 2399 tubes (5998 equivalent) combined with the Red RCA 5693. Both combinations have the same kind of sound: warm, smooth, good bass and the right amount of treble. The big difference is the 2399 set improves everything the first set does, it gives you an even bigger sound stage, more focused bass and more detail while remaining smooth and warm. Another advantage is that these tubes deliver more power too. In example with the LCD-2 were the first pair easily needs 11 o’clock on the dial, the second set of tubes only needs 9 o’clock. But one shouldn’t be afraid of the 339 not having enough power, I can assure you that’s not the case.

I have to say, how wrong it might sound, that I love all of my headphones with the 339 but the ones standing out most are the Sennheiser HD600/650 and the Hifiman-HE500. The Sennheiser – 339 combo is really a match made in heaven and I have never heard the Senns sound as good as with this amplifier. When I have people over, even those not knowing much about audio, they all put this combination on the first place of the podium. It’s just that good, warm, smooth and detailed. The perfect Sennheiser sound with good bass and detail. In second place comes the HE-500, the 339 even with the least powerful set of tubes drives it perfectly. The Violectric gives it more power and tighter bass and makes it a little more spot on with more forward and precise treble but the 339 just makes it so smooth sounding and lush you dream of being in that dark and smokey jazz club 50 years ago with the sexy female singer on stage who’s winking at you while you take a sip of your whiskey. If music and your setup can do that, you’re set for a long time if you ask me. Another of my favorite headphones with the more powerful setup of the amp is the LCD-2. While not at the same level as with the Violectric V100 and V200 the Audez’e still is very good sounding. It’s nice to switch between the different amps depending on the sound signature you’re looking for but there are better amps out there for the LCD-2. Two headphones that didn’t perform that great with it are the DT990/600 (a solid state amp in my experience can get more out of them) and the Hifiman He-400. These “bass loving” headphones both get better results using a solid state design.

OTL Amp comparisons

Compared to the Bottlehead Crack, the OTL Crack is the faster amp of the two, it it clearer sounding and focuses more on the treble. Bass with the Crack is punchier but not as deep and it doesn’t quite have the same rumble. Overall the 339 is smoother, warmer and laid back with an even bigger sound stage. It just makes you feel the music better (softer) as the crack. The Crack is a great deal and an excellent amp as we already said in our review but the La Figaro 339 is the better amp for me. Compared to the Woo Audio 2, the 339 is the more tube-ish sounding amplifier with a much warmer sound. The WA2 sounds much cleaner and faster but misses the warmth and soul I like of the 339. The WA2 is more analytical as the 339 and the bass depth and rumble isn’t quite the same, however it does have an even bigger sound stage. Most likely a full WA2 review will follow later.

I’m sorry if this review was too long and positive but in all honesty, I really find it that good. The La Figaro 339 is available from Yuking09.com directly and costs $550 without shipping. A price that I think is “a steal” for such a great amp. I’m convinced that if this amp was built in the USA or Europe it would get a lot more praise (as it deserves) and a higher price tag. If you would like a custom made amp you can always contact La Figaro, I’ve seen him do several impressive custom designs for clients all over the world.

Credits for the pictures goes to Valentin Hogea! (If you google for 339 pictures you can check out the internals & point to point soldering, unfortunately we don’t have a picture of the internals of our own available at this time).

 

Gear used: Beyerdynamic T70 & DT990, Senn 600/650, Hifiman He-400/500, LCD-2, Audio-GD NFB3, Norse cables.

lafigaro_339_07 lafigaro_339_06 lafigaro_339_05 lafigaro_339_04 lafigaro_339_03 lafigaro_339_02 lafigaro_339_01

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Lieven is living in Europe and is a full time Headfonia writer and the leader of the gang. Coming from a musical family he's always been interested in good sound. Unlike his family members the only musical instruments he plays are amps and DACs. He loves playing with old tubes and discovering new products while staying faithful to the good old Sennheiser HD650. Taking pictures is a real challenge but seeing happy readers in the end is what it's all about for him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Fire.Hearted Ali Fazel

    10 kg ? jesus

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      The WA2 weighs the same

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

    Crack still has that fun factor and a small footprint xP

    Getting rare 5998’s are hard enough… hunting matched tubes could be said to be the same as counting days… years…

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Depends on where you are and what your budget is I suppose. My GEC in example only cost me $20 NOS. A very good tube combo with the 339 as said in the review are the RCA 6AS75 which you can get everywhere for like $15/pice with the telefunken EF80 around $10/piece, I wouldn’t say that is expensive or hard to find ;-)

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

        Well, you do get tons of NOS tubes in Hong Kong. Just that I don’t know whether a NOS TS5998 for $120 is justified compared to a used strong TS5998 for $75 is worth it.
        Sometimes you do get rare tubes popping up on second hand forums here, but only more “popular” tubes based on what amps are available in Hong Kong. Most tube amps here are Chinese DIY and only recently the LaFigaro, Schiits and Woos have been popping up in Hong Kong stores.
        Perhaps if the LF339 was more popular then maybe a market of 6AS7s might just surface, I mean we pay $550 and only that since there’s no extra charges to ship it next doors from China

        There’s always Taobao with plenty of tubes and the prices aren’t exactly cheap, in fact they’re the same as ebay. Although this really does surprise me… GEC 6AS7 for only 590 Yuan?
        http://item.taobao.com/item.htm?id=14438003185

        I don’t dare buy off Taobao, but is it theoretically possible to fake these tubes? Especially the dimple plated 5998 and 421A?

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

          There are lots of fake tubes on the chinese market. MY tube guy even showed them to me, they even copy the 50 year old boxes. I don’t know if these are fake though. 6AS7G should be farely easy to get of ebay

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

            I think I’ll stick to the ridiculously inflated prices for NOS tubes here… at least I know they’re good and not faked

            ebay maybe. just that TS5998s dont come up often these days

            • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

              There’s actually quite a bit of TS for sale atm on ebay

        • http://twitter.com/gfewong Geoffrey Wong

          Hi there,
          I actually recently bought the LF339 from your recommendations here and head-fi.

          I’m actually in HK as well and I’m looking at some tubes on taobao, but I’m quite afraid that they’re fake.

          If i’m looking for the Telefunken EF80 and RCA 6AS7G in Hong Kong for the prices you mentioned, where should I go? WIWI tubes? I really don’t know of too many places around here, I’m still quite a newbie.

          Thanks!

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

            Wiwi definitely has the biggest supply, their tubes are usually good but the prices are on the high side.
            Your best bet are trusted eBay sellers as the 6AS7G is really meant to be, an inexpensive tube. For the common tubes, avoid Wiwi. For rare tubes, Wiwi will have them but for a premium.

            Problem with the EF80 and 6AS7G is that they’re lesser popular tubes so they’re not really abundant in Hong Kong. I’m not currently in Hong Kong so I can’t tell you more than what I already know, but from my experience I didn’t manage to find any variety of the 6AS7G family. I ended up buying them off ebay.

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

              Wiwi sells the RCA 6AS7G for HKD450 a boxed NOS piece if I recall, which is expensive compared to eBay.

    • Valentin Hogea

      It’s not thaaat hard finding matched 5998’s or 7236’s. Sure. For a good NOS pair you end up paying about 150-180 USD, but just a couple of days ago a matched (used) pair of 5998’s ended up at 60 USD on eBay. One must also have patience if one wants to reach audio nirvana with minor bumps on the economic highway. ;)

      • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

        And we do try to help each other out when we find a good deal

        • Valentin Hogea

          Exactly. Some of us are compulsive searchers. Each day I do a “5998 tube” “2399 tube” “421A tube” and “7236 tube” (in addition to “5693 tube”).

          One can never have too many of these babies in stock… I got 2 x 3 matched (2 + 1 extra) 5998’s, 3 x 2 matched pairs 7236 and 2 matched pair of 5693’s. Better stock these babies up. OTL never goes out of style and these are the holy grail of OTL-tubes. :)

          • NubTAM94

            well what do you know. two 421a up on ebay. nobody start a bid war with me!!!

            • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

              There actually are more. And don’t worry I’m not going to start bidding, prices will rocket soon. Why don’t you get the matched pair going for EUR 480,76 :D

              • Guest

                me no $$$ that’s y

            • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

              They went for about 150€ a piece

  • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

    I’m a bit late, but thanks to Valentin Hogea for the really nice pictures.

    • Valentin Hogea

      You guys are so welcome! For me, it’s a good excuse to dust off my ancient Nikon…

      • http://www.facebook.com/HaiVNguyen Hai Nguyen

        I thought you got rid of your hd 650 already

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

          Me? Never :)

          • http://www.facebook.com/HaiVNguyen Hai Nguyen

            I knew you never sell yours L =)) I was talking about V’s cans since he prefered his Merlin

            • Valentin Hogea

              I actually ended up with LCD-2’s. My HD650’s are although for sale. Kept them for a couple of weeks since their light weight and long cable (10 ft original) is great when watching tv late at night. Now it’s time for them to bye-bye. :)

              Merlins are fantastic though, but I mostly use them portably. LCD-2’s however… Sound like their bigger/badder big brother (even from The National + CLAS) , but especially from LF339.

              • Trent_D

                How much do you want for your HD650?

                • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                  We really should start charging a % of each sale, Mike :)

                  • Trent_D

                    I’m sorry. Is that not appropriate to ask on this forum? I apologize if it isn’t.

                    • Valentin Hogea

                      Hahaha…

                      Trent, contact me on head-fi. You’ll find me.

                    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                      Dude! lol

        • Valentin Hogea

          Me? For sale… ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/HaiVNguyen Hai Nguyen

    Great review as always :). Your part about the senn just made me sad as expected :( I end up bought the v200 after went back and forth to the yuking09 site mostly due to its compact form :( Oh well, nonetheless I’m happy with my system now.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Thank you Hai. The V200 is an excellent amp, nothing to be sad about, the HD6XX sound great on it too, just less tubey and smooth, but great

    • http://twitter.com/SpencerMChan Spencer Chan

      You could always get both. ;)

      • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

        That’s what I had to do, I just couldn’t let the V200 go :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/HaiVNguyen Hai Nguyen

        The main con of the 339 for me is its size and weight so get both is not an option ;) And I have plan for a TH900 this x-mas so no love for anything at the moment :P

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

          All good amps weigh a lot ;-)

          • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

            L is right.. they are usually heavy and runs hot.

          • http://www.facebook.com/HaiVNguyen Hai Nguyen

            That’s the reason I appreciate our beloved v200 even more. And to be honest I wonder what are all the components some brand stuffed in their massive case.

            • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

              Airs, caps and often the case = heat sink :p

  • http://twitter.com/JoetheArachnid Benedict Brown

    I don’t entirely understand the reasoning behind the dual power inputs – unless each side actually draws in excess of 6.5A/1.5kW (assuming that you have 13A max rated mains at 240V) there’s no reason to not just have one power inlet and run it to both power transformers. I’ve built amps with twin transformers and it’s no problem to just run two sets of wires from one inlet. I suppose it means no mains wiring running past the input or any audio sections, but it still seems excessive to me.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Let me try to get an answer from LF for you

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Yuking replied: “R & L are 2 completely independent channels. this separation is better, better play 339 amplifier performance”

      Not sure that helps you though

      • http://twitter.com/JoetheArachnid Benedict Brown

        My argument then would be that the two mains cables are almost certainly going to be electrically connected inside the mains wall socket anyway… Oh well, I suppose it’ll make some audiophiles happy. Thanks for asking.

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

          You’re welcome

  • Tung Nguyen

    Very nice review Lieven, how is the 339 compared to Schitt Valhalla?

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Thank you. I haven’t had the opportunity to audition any Schiit amps. Sorry

  • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

    Yuking also informed us that the new 339 has got new modifications making it a warmer sounding amplifier. I’m not sure I would like an even warmer amp, but I’d have to listen to it first. (+ it depends on the tubes used)

    He also confirmed their development of a power amp is almost completed.

  • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

    Hi! Yes an OCC cable will help you counter the brightness. Now for the 5998 tubes, they’re not the warmest tubes around but they do have more power. In my opinion you’re better of with cheap RCA 6AS7G if you need warmth and don’t need the extra power of the TS tubes.

    In example, the WA2. I prefer the RCA tubes there too cause the TS 5998 remove the warmth from the amp. So I’d suggest trying the RCA tubes first and then the copper cable

    • NubTAM94

      The TS5998 is more linear than most 6AS7 s so it is somewhat better off with the HD650. The RCA 6AS7G has slightly rolled off highs so it may be better for the HD800, and well and if it really does roll off too much try compensating with the RCA cleartop 12AU7/ECC82 for the input

  • Kimmo Savilampi

    Hi Mike, i love your reviews about things here. You seem to know what you are talking about. I have a question, Im about to buy Some reference headphones to mix with, im making both electronic music and alternative hardrock. And im looking at these headphones from beyerdynamic, the DT880, i know that you adored the HD650.. I have an PIoneer Amp to push out alot of power to drive The HD650, but i dont know why im more into DT880 right now.. SO, now i need an Amp, which amp would the the choice for you for both DT880 & HD650, (if i buy DT880 now and Hd650 later), im relatively new to reference headphones & headphone amps,(just own a couple of old AKG 240 i think with 500 ohm) but i know about sound.. The thing is that i want a flat signal and a good amp with good components.I dont want the headphones to lie to me. Sorry for the long text, and answer would be highly appreciated!! // Kimmo from Sweden

    • NubTAM94

      This should be in the Q&A section but HD650 isn’t really the best for the job. in fact neither the DT880 nor HD650 could be considered linear, HD650 rolls off on highs and the DT880 is treble hot. And HD650 is definitely not the cans for Electro and hardrock, i know because i listen to j-pop alot and the HD650 could definitely not keep up with the electric pace. Not too sure about the DT880 but it is definitely not slower than the HD650. Linear sounding would be something like the HD600 but the PRaT may still be insufficient. I would recommend closed cans for mixing such as the M-50, or the Senns HD-25II because they’re more of DJ cans and have good PRaT. There’s also the AKG K550 which is really linear but still doesn’t match the PRaT of the 2 closed cans ive mentioned

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

        The Beyers were designed for monitoring originally, and since you do have a full size amp I’d recommend the DT800 with the 600 Ohms rated impedance. The higher impedance Beyers are fairly linear actually.

        • Kimmo Savilampi

          Okay i see i see, thank you for the information. I think ill go for the DT800´s then and see how they are!

  • oscillo

    Hello Mike and Lieven,many thanks for your website.For you,which amp makes the best pairing with the audiotechnica W1000X?:the Lafigaro 339 or the woo audio WA6SE?Thanks,Oscillo(from France)

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Oscillo
      Sorry but me and Lieven had never tried the W1000X out of either amps.

  • Psycho

    Did my post get moderated? I cannot post it, tried 2x with no avail :(

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Psycho,
      Nope I didn’t moderate anything the past month.

  • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

    Your posts keep going to the Spam filter for some reason

  • NubTAM94

    <$200, HRT MSII, Audinist HUD Mini/MX-1
    $500, you’re spoilt for choices really. Although I don’t prefer Burson too much, I seem to prefer slower paced DACs with more warmth for Senns HD650.

    And don’t worry. Headphones were never the most expensive part of the setup. People drive the Senns HD650 out of $1k+ amps

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      What NubTam94 said..

      Right now I think the Bottlehead Crack is the best amp for the HD650 sub $1K. The amp is just brilliant with the HD650.
      DAC, go with the HRT Music Streamer II+ or the Centrance Dacport LX.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

        lol Mike, it’s me.

        So is the “best” amp under the $1k mark the Crack or is it the LF339? Or rather the LF339 is just your preferred amp of the two? Just curious

        Oh and in the meantime, I think my total investment in my Crack is going to exceed the $550 pricetag of the LF339… going to throw in large film caps in like everyone else that can’t get enough of Crack

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Lieven thinks that the LF339 is extremely good and is better than the Crack. That’s very possible, but I have yet to listen to it. Still the Crack to me is currently the best HD650 amp under $1K.

          • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

            I don’t know if there is anything as “the best amp under 1k”. Between the 339 and Crack it depends what sound you prefer. To me the 339 is better

            • Trent_D

              Not true! By utilizing up to date measurement techniques, you will all realize that the o2 is the perfect, end all and be all solution for any and all amplification needs

              • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                of course, how could I forget

              • http://twitter.com/vampire5003 Thomas Lopez

                i hate O2 fanboys. worse than apple fanboys. I don’t buy a amp based on technicallities I buy it based on what my ears hear. And my ears tell me the O2 sounds like schiit. But instead the O2 people tell me “that’s just how your headphones really sound” which IMO is BS. Whatever just quit spamming Trent_D.

                • Trent_D

                  ummmm, I am a fairly frequent poster on these here boards. I mention that only because my post was a joke, making fun of the fanboys you have accused me of being. I think I can be confident that L didn’t take me seriously.

                  • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                    Yep, no worries T ;-)

                • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

                  Thanks for chiming in, Thomas. Yea Trent was just being sarcastic there with the O2 comment. So good in fact, I thought he was being real too (until Lieven told me otherwise).

                  @Trent_D:disqus you got a talent there with the whole sarcasm stuff

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

              for the Sennheiser sound that is. I think we could conclude that those two amps are worth every penny spent under the 1k, which one anyone would prefer would be the best to them. The two amps do have a different sound afterall, between the warmth of tubes and the clean sound of tubes. The synergy of these two amps with the HD650 does put away the Bursons and Schiits quite easily if I were to say, and probably the Graham Slees as well. Tube amps really do shine the most with the Sennheiser sound. L. likes his Senns warm and smooth, I like my Senns to sound clean with a tinge of warmth in it. Afterall, opinions are purely subjective.

              Just like how people think Monster Beats have the best bass out there.

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

              for the Sennheiser sound that is. I think we could conclude that those two amps are worth every penny spent under the 1k, which one anyone would prefer would be the best to them. The two amps do have a different sound afterall, between the warmth of tubes and the clean sound of tubes. The synergy of these two amps with the HD650 does put away the Bursons and Schiits quite easily if I were to say, and probably the Graham Slees as well. Tube amps really do shine the most with the Sennheiser sound. L. likes his Senns warm and smooth, I like my Senns to sound clean with a tinge of warmth in it.

              Just like how some people are inclined to think that Monster Beats is the best bass out there for their money.

              If I had the $$$ I would have both amps, the LF339 for Jazz and the Crack for my classical for my Senns

      • Peter

        Hello Mike… does this “right now I think Bottlehead Crack is the best amp for the HD650 sub $1K” apply also on HD600?

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

          Yes it should. Those 2 cans are nearly the same afterall. OTLs makes the 300Ohm Senns sing.

          Unless you’d rather go for an Asgard now that there’s Crack, be my guest ;D

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

          Yes it should. Those 2 cans are nearly the same afterall. OTLs makes the 300Ohm Senns sing.

          Unless you’d rather go for an Asgard now that there’s Crack, be my guest ;D

          I think I’ve mentioned up there about the best sources and down below for best amps but here are your sub 1k choice amps which were all apparently “built with the Sennheisers in mind”

          Solid State/Tube Hybrid:
          Schiit Asgard, Vahalla – Was once the “bang for the buck” until the Crack showed up and just owned them.
          Graham Slee Solo SRGII – Most most tubey solid state you’d ever find. Small footprint, ginormous sound.
          Burson HA-160D – To knockup the pace of the slow Senns

          Tube Amps:
          Woo Audio WA3 OTL – With the Crack around, I don’t see why you should go for this.
          LaFigaro/Darkvoice 336 OTL – Same as above, but it’s price tag puts the Woo Audio to shame.
          LF/DF 332C/S – Don’t know much about this. Price sits between the Crack and the LF339, you may as well pick one of the latter, might get back to you if I manage to audition this.
          Woo Audio WA6 – Output transformer coupled. Mike noted it to have wider soundstage but less depth. Reaches its maximum potential with a very good 274B tube which would put it way beyond the 1k mark.
          Crack – Cleanest sounding OTL, great depth and potential mods if you really want to put all that 1k of your budget into your amp. With the Speedball upgrade, improvement from rolling in tubes are more evident.
          LF339 – Warmest and tube-iest of them all. L. loves it for making music sound like he was there having a drink down at a pub with some hot gal on stage. Pit it up against the branded solid state amps and the Woos, makes it look like the Chinese are offering you a budget solution… which also happens to sound the best as a true tube amp.

          Comments are purely subjective. I just think that my Crack rocks while it’s on Crack, that is these giant caps shoved into it

          • Peter

            Thank you for your reply. Right now I have NFB12.1, which is too warm for my taste, as HD600 are also warm. So it’s ok just to use CRACK alone, or would you use NFB12.1 as DAC and preamp, and add CRACK only as amp? So use them together… NFB12.1 -> CRACK, or sell NFB and use only CRACK?

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

              Thing is I don’t really have experience with Audio-Gd and according to Mike’s impressions and the rest of the crowd, I’m not too sure how I would put it. Some say it is warm, Mike says it’s neutral but just lacks something. All I can say is that the Crack sound is very clean and is sitting on neutral, slightly leaning towards warmth depending on which tubes. Besides, if you sell your NFB, what are you going to use as your source?

              If the Audio Gd does sound as Mike says it sounds, then maybe you’ve found a very good pairing with the Crack. Otherwise, you may as well consider another source if it is too warm to begin with.

              • Peter

                As source? So Crack is only amp, without DAC, right?

                Acording to Mike, not all audio-gd products are bad. For example, he was happy with reference 7.1. He was just not happy with NFB12. But now, there is newer NFB15.1, or NFB11.32.

                Also, DAC part on NFB12 is pretty good, just amp part is little behind. So, combo NFB12 (as DAC) and CRACK (as amp) theoreticaly can be very good.
                I hear it on my active studio monitors… when I was switching to NFB12 from Xonar D1, I’ve noticed, that active studio monitors sound improved more, than headphone sound. That’s the proof, that weak part of NFB12 is amp, not DAC.

                • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

                  Maybe Mike can give you an opinion since he’s heard it all, seen them all, and has been a critique to some extent to them all.

          • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

            Thanks for the very informative reply there, Nick.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Yea I think so too.

  • dxanex

    Hi Mike, great review! I was wondering how this amp compares to the DV 3322 if you’ve heard it? I was about to pull the trigger on the Darkvoice butthen I read this review and I’m wondering if the 339 is worth spending the extra $160? I’m on a strict budget of ~$500… Thanks!

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Sorry this review was done by Lieven. I’ve never auditioned either the LaFigaro or the DarkVoice.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      As mike says, I wrote it ;-). Somehow people seem to think mike writes everything. (Well he does write alot :) )

      I never listened to the 3322 but the LF models are upgraded Darkvoice models and the 339 is the top of the range amp, so I would be enclined to say the money is worth it for sure.

      • dxanex

        My mistake, in that case, great review Lieven! Sorry about that. I am inclined to wait and save a bit more for the 339 after reading your review, however the tubes you used takes me way beyond my budget. Would you say it’s still worth it if I were to use the stock Chinese tubes for the foreseeable future? If it matters, I’ll be mostly listening with my AKG 550 and 702’s.

        • Vern

          From my experience stock tubes give a more laid back approach with a syrupy mid (which isn’t a bad thing if that’s what you’re looking for), and the tubes that Lieven uses give a more powerful, forward presentation, while retaining detail and smoothness.
          For reference, I couldn’t listen to the LCD-2 (which has a rather forward presentation) with the Tung Sol 5998 and RCA 5693s. I thought the overly forward presentation killed some of the micro-details and I would experience fatigue after 2 hour listening periods. However, I could listen to the LCD-2 with enjoyment on the stock tubes. All a matter of preference.

          • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

            Yes Vern is right, it depends on your preference. I also really enjoy the cheap and easy to find RCA 6AS7G combined with the also easy to find and cheap Telefunken EF80 (adapter needed). When I’m not using orthodynamic headphones I find this combination to be the best. It’s true that the 5998/5693 is a bit more forward but the HE500/LCD2 need the extra power to sound better.

            Anyway to get back to your question. I didn’t like the stock tubes at all. The RCA’s and EF80 would set you back like $70 or so and give a smooth sound with good bass and easy treble. I fully recommend it as starter tubes and I think it would pair nicely with the 702s

  • Marcello

    Hi Lieven. You mention beyer T70 on gear used. How is it with LF339? Do you prefer it with WA2?
    And please do post a WA2 review. Thanks.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      It’s been a while since I used the T70 (a friend is loaning it from me). I prefer the T70 on tubes to counter its character a bit. I don’t mind the T70 sounding a bit warmer and slower as on a SS amp. On the 339 it was best with the warm and smooth sounding RCA 6AS7G tubes with great bass. I think it would be too analytical on the WA2 but to be honest, I haven’t tried it yet with the WA2.

      The WA2 is a long term review, don’t expect it any time soon. So far the WA2 is best (awesome) used as a preamp. Actually for the moment I think it makes a better preamp as it makes an amp. And I know for one the WA2 owner agrees on that, and he’s a guy with dozens of top amps in his collection. Anyway, I need more time for the WA2. Sorry :-)

  • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

    There are several NOS pairs of 2399/5998 tubes for sale on EBAY right now btw

  • reckoncile

    Great review! I’m thinking MBP Retina > ? > LaGigaro 339 > HD650s. What sort of DAC should I use? Matrix Mini-i Balanced DAC? What inputs does the L339 take? also, how would EX1000s sound on the L339? I feel like they lack of mid-body and hoping a tube amp could fix this. Thanks!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

      RCA analog inputs only. I think the HRT MS2+ is a good choice. The Matrix combo might be too warm or thick sounding

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Thank you Reckoncile. As nick says it depends on your preferences. If you don’t want the sound to get even warmer you should use a neutral dac. I myself use one from Audio GD. I have no idea about the EX1000s sorry. The sdtandard 339 only has 1 pair of analogue inputs

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      A tube amp would definitely help the EX1000 but I’m not sure about using a big gain desktop amp with an IEM.

      The Portaphile 627 amp is a much better suggestion for IEMs looking for smoother highs and more mid body (like the EX1000).

  • reckoncile

    Great review! I’m thinking MBP Retina > ? > LaGigaro 339 > HD650s. What sort of DAC should I use? Matrix Mini-i Balanced DAC? What inputs does the L339 take? also, how would EX1000s sound on the L339? I feel like they lack of mid-body and hoping a tube amp could fix this. Thanks! (sorry if I double posted, Disqus is giving me a hard time)

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  • http://www.facebook.com/rdamle Rohan Damle

    Great review guys. I placed an order for one for my He500. Where is a great place to buy tubes? especially in Jakarta?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      In Jakarta, there is a place at Lindeteves Trade Center top floor, which I happen to not have their phone number.
      Most local enthusiasts go to Ebay though.

  • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

    I just read this on Head-Fi:

    From the stereophile review of the 30000€ Orpheus :

    “Two separate level controls would’ve been a nice touch, but there’s only one” (speaking of the tube amp in the Orpheus set)

    Luckily the 339 has two!
    ——————————-

    just saying….

    • John123John

      lol.
      and also “Most likely a full WA2 review will follow later.”!!

      • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

        Still working on that one, it’s a long term review ;)

  • Martin

    Hello Lieven, thanks for providing an insightful review on the 339. As we both seem to have a liking for a rather warm and smooth sound signature, I was wondering what combination of tubes do you prefer using with the Woo Audio 2?

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Hi Martin,

      the WA2 for the moment is using RCA 6AS7G as I like their sound best. warmer with good bass and not too spiky treble. I do not like the sound of the 5998 type tubes, too much gain. As rectifiers I for the moment use EZ81 Mullard tubes or the Philips Miniwatt EZ80 but I find the rectifiers not to influence the sound in the WA2 a lot. And then finally I am using the Philips EGC made Siemens 7308 (these exact ones: http://www.upscaleaudio.com/products/Siemens-7308.html)

      This combo gives the WA2 the warmest and smoothest sound to my liking

      • Martin

        Thanks for sharing Lieven. I am sure to try out that combination later on after having better familiarized myself with the sound of the stock tubes.

        And by the way, waiting forward to reading your further thoughts on the WA2. ;)

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

          Yeah, I should really get to reviewing that before I get rid of it in a few months. How come you chose the WA2? (and not the WA3 or 339 or …)

          • Martin

            Without further experience, I decided on the WA2 as I wanted to pair and experiment my HD 650s with an OTL amp. I later on discovered the Crack and the 339, which seem to be quote a bit popular too.

            I must admit that I am still very much in the process of learning what are the characteristics in music and sound production that I like the most.

            Out of curiosity, what makes you want to sell your WA2? On your perception, how would you characterise it to the less expensive Crack and 339?

          • Martin

            Lieven,

            The HD 650 and La Figaro 339 with upgrade tubes (mentioned in your article) have become my personal favorite. Traded off my Woo Audio 2.

            What do you think about the LCD-2 and Burson HA-160 in comparison to the HD 650 and 339?

            Is HA-160 still one of the best amps to go with the LCD-2?

            Thanks.

            • Dave Ulrich

              Go with the Violectic amps instead.

            • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

              Glad you like it! The WA2 is good too but quite different. I would say the Burson is like the WA2 sound, the Violectric is like the 339 sound. If you know what I mean.

              So yes, personally I think the Violectric range is nicer, but they’re both good with the LCD-2

              • Martin

                Thanks.

                Last but not least: what is your favorite headphone and amp combination, if you had to pick only one?

                • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                  LCD-2 with my custom 300B amp

                  • Martin

                    If your custom amp is not an option?

                    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                      hd650/ Lcd2 + 339 or V200

                    • Martin

                      Since you seem to have a good taste, what is your favorite portable gear? :)

                    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                      iPod + cypherlabs SOLO + Duet
                      iPod + cypherlabs Theorem
                      AK240

                    • Martin

                      What headphones do those setups run?

                    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                      all of them from CIEM to HE-500

                    • Martin

                      What headphones do you recommend using straight off the iPod/iPhone/iPad without additional amplification? How would the LCD-2 do in this kind of setting?

                    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                      You can’t use the LCD like that. not even the HD650. you would have to look at Beyer COP, DT770, B&O H6, Nad viso HP50, B&W p7, Momentum, T51P, etc

                    • Martin

                      Which of the LCD-2 iterations works best for you, Rev. 2 or Fazor?

                    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                      Rev. 1 :)

                    • Martin

                      Which setup has better dynamics?

                    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                      V200 + headphone

              • Martin

                My plans are to acquire the more powerful set of tubes you mention in the text for my 339. It seems that the 2399s are quite difficult to find at the moment. Any advice on where to look for them and how to secure a reasonable price?

                • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                  2399/5998. Hard to get from dealers. Sometimes they do pop up you just have to keep checking. There always are tubes on ebay but you will easily pay $100-$150 USD for a pair

                  • Martin

                    And should the tubes be purchased as matched pair?

                    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                      It is more important for your input tubes to be matched. But if you can get them matched that’s even better (will cost you more though)

                    • Martin

                      How does matching impact the music reproduction in general? Is it worth the money to pay extra for matched pairs?

                    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                      I always get them when I can. Don’t you want your left and right channel to have the same sound/strength?

                    • Martin

                      Makes sense.

              • Martin

                What tubes do you recommend using on the 339 with the LCD-2?

                • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

                  Hi Martin, have you read the review? It is right in there ;)

  • John Junior

    So, while searching for Crack comparison, I stumble upon this amp. And can get more or less with crack, less hassle and better warranty support than Crack. Well, I listen to a lot of genre and recently while playing with my friend amp, I found that some amp sound too distant and not suitable for aggressive song like hardcore, metal and rock. And I wonder if 339, Crack or Crack+Speedball is the bass. And I wonder if Crack only should be good for me? Thinking of pairing with my Aune T1 and maybe will upgrade in a 6 month more or less. Well, I prefer something DAC amp too because consume less space, and less socket which means tidy table for me.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Sorry but what exactly are you trying to find out? I don’t get it. 339 and Crack are both great amps. Crack is clearer and faster, 339 warmer with more bass and more romantic. The 339 has a lot more tube rolling possibilities + it does all impedance headphones

      • John Junior

        Sorry.. I just wondering between Crack and 339, which one have more energy for fast song like metal, rock etc. Listening from my HD600.

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

          The Crack. Speedball not needed

          • John Junior

            Thank sir… I just realize my first post unreadable. Even I didn’t understand what I type. Lol… No wonder you didn’t get me.

  • Vladimir

    Do you think 339 is a better choice than Lyr (for HE500) ? and which tubes do you recommend for the HE500 ? I’m listening to indie,pop,rock some jazz .;well everything except metal ,classic , dubstep..

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      I didn’t find the LYR anything special with the orthos. It matches very good with the 339, using american power tubes and the RCA RED input tubes. The 339 price however has gone up a lot, last time I checked it was almost $1000

      • Vladimir

        And what DAC are using with it ? currently I have a Schiit Modi

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

          Violectric V800

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      The 339 all around is a better amp than the Lyr.

      • Vladimir

        I’ll get the 339 pretty soon :) Do you think the modi is a handicap if I keep it for the moment ?

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

          Well, the better the dac the better the sound

          • Vladimir

            Yeah. Can you recommend a DAC which pair well with the HE500 and 339? Budget : 300-400$
            Thank you for your answers

  • Saieash Mohanadas

    Is there any audible difference between the 2011 and 2013 versions of this?

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      The 2013 version has newer components so it will sound slightly different. but the 2013 version also has an option to get different input tubes and those will make a big difference

      • Saieash Mohanadas

        Thanks for that – I assume the 2011 one is used in this review (because it is published before 2013) is that correct?

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

          Of course, I bought it in 2011 or the beginning of 2012

  • Deskolim Cheong

    Hi Lieven, Mike…. So this has been 3 years since it(lf339 & crack review)was posted. Now, between this 2, which is better? Or still the same Mike with crack & Lieven still enjoy lf339 more? Or has a new ‘one’ can takes a lead for boths? I decide to get one(still can’t decide) after many years read this awesome reviews ; )
    Thank u for any suggestion….

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      oh no, they are still both very good. Crack is a bit faster and 339 is warmer and smoother

      • Deskolim Cheong

        I choose crack first. But want to have both ; )
        So crack without or has speedball better? I will use it with fostex hpa3 & hd650.

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

          You can always add the speedball later

  • Patrick Michael Graf Murray

    I currently am using the Audio-gd NFB28 with both the He-560 and the ZMF x Vibros, the amp section drives both the HE560 and the ZMF x Vibros, but it really brings the best out of the Vibros. I definitely like it with the He-560 I wanted to ask if you think the DAC and using the preamp function with the NFB 28 and pairing the HE-560 with the La Figaro is a decent plan? do you think it would drive the HE-560 to their potential so to speak

  • Natra84

    Where can I buy those tubes that are recommend in this review!!!

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ Headfonia_L.

      That’s the tough part as they are getting very hard to get. Try the specialized stores but don’t overpay

      • Natra84

        Thank you for your reply I am new in this headphone game and I don’t know much about tubes and I don’t know if I should buy a tube amplifier.Almost all the reviews That I have heard the stock tube that the amplifier coms with is not so good. And I don’t know where to get new tube. So is it better for me to just buy a stock amplifier but I like the description that everybody is giving how a tube amplifier sound that is exactly the sound the I am looking for so do you have any recommendations of a amplifiers the has the tube sound.

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ Headfonia_L.

          With most of the brands the stock tubes are not that good. some companies offer upgrades but they usually overcharge.

          Just use google to look for tube stores, there are a lot. Sometimes it takes a lot of time finding the right tubes at the right price, but the chase is part of the fun.