Review: ALO Audio Continental V5 – CDM Competition?

Disclaimer: ALO Audio is a site advertiser. The ALO Audio Continental V5 was sent to us free of charge in exchange for this review. As far as I know we’re one the first international sites to cover the Continental V5.

ALO Audio

Everyone who’s serious about personal audio has heard about ALO Audio before. ALO Audio is a Portland, US based company that over the years has launched a series of very successful cables and portable and desktop amplifiers such as the Rx MK-series, the Studio Six, the Rx, the CDM and so many more. They also recently launched their Campfire Audio brand that makes very popular universal inear monitors such as the Andromeda, Jupiter, Nova and Orion. Now ALO Audio is back with the CV5. There was a time where things got quiet around the brand but with the CDM, the CA IEMs and now the new Continental amp; they’re completely back and as popular as ever. ALO always brings quality and people never forgot that.

Continental V5

The Continental V5 simply is a portable vacuum tube and solid state hybrid portable amp. It delivers the low output impedance and tight bass control and sonic detail you expect from a solid state amplifier (such as the RX) with the added spatial qualities and sonic lushness you’d expect from a vacuum tube based amp such as the Continental Dual Mono (CDM). The CV5 (in stock form) uses a 6111 micro vacuum tube that is placed at the input stage of the CV5, running in class A. The CV5 has a class A tube input and a class AB solid state output.

The Cv5 features a stock 6111 micro vacuum tube and uses a hi/low gain switch that allows finer adjustment to gain and better versatility usage with a wide variety of IEMs and headphones. The CV5 produces low heat with low microphonics making the Cv5 a true portable amp. The ALO CDM runs quite warm, especially in DAC mode, so this is a welcome change. More on that in the “Why?” part below.

alo-audio-cv5_2

Unlike the CDM, the CV5 is not a DAC. According to ALO hey decided not to include a DAC because of a few reasons. First of all a lot of phones, DAPs and sources nowadays already have top quality DACs inside. Second, the advantage of skipping the DAC part was that they could make the CV5 a whole lot smaller. Third, it reduces the cost of the amp resulting in a lower sales price and finally, not having a DAC strongly increases battery life.

Looks and build Quality

The new Cv5 more or less has the same footprint as the Rx amp (see picture) and it measures only 2.28 inches x 3.64 inches. The RX measures 2.28×3.64×0.69 inches and as you can see in the pictures, the new CV5 is just a little thicker because of the battery used and the presence of a 6111 tube. Build quality – as usual – is top notch with all units being assembled and quality tested in Portland. The casing isn’t the same as the RX though, and it feels and looks a little different (matte finish). With its small size and light weight the new CV5 is very stackable and portable. It matches the Mojo and AK70 perfectly, just to name two. I personally think the CV5 looks pretty and its size is perfect for a portable amp.

On top of the case you’ll find the typical ventilation holes for the tube and the Continental V5 name. On one side there is nothing at all while the other side has even more holes for ventilation and it shows the blue LED as well (mute circuit activated). On the back of the unit you’ll find the micro USB plug for charging the CV5 and a LED that informs you when the amp has been fully juiced up. The front plate of the units has the volume know, 3.5mm input, 3.5mm output and the gain switch (-10dB/+10dB). The witches, in- and outputs are fairly close to each other though, if you’re using bigger plugged headphones and interconnects and have not the smallest of fingers, it might not be the best handling device.

alo-audio-cv5_3

Out of one charge you can more or less get about 8-9 hour play time, depending on the inear or headphone used. The CV5 comes with a dedicated charger but it can also be charged by plugging it in to your USB port. In fact ALO advises to use the USB charge method in case you’re planning on listening to it while it’s charging, in order to keep the best sound quality. I however do get a high pitched sound when I’m listening while it’s charging, but it’s barely audible.

Specs and Features

Frequency response: 10Hz – 300kHz +/- 0.1dB

Input impedance: 110k (low gain) / 10k (high gain)

Output impedance: < 0.5 ohm

Gain (low): -10dB

Gain (high): +10dB

Output power (into 32 ohms): 325mW per channel, RMS

Premium low ESR audio-grade power supply capacitors

Micro USB charger input (same as Rx)

16V power supply (+/- 8V)

High / Low gain switch (great for IEMs and full-size headphones)

One 6111 dual triode tube, user changeable (tube rolling)

20 second mute circuit for tube warm up (blue LED ON during warm up)

Low output noise and microphonics

8-9 hour play time

Low voltage warning (blinking red LED)

Charging LED (Red = charging, Green = charged, Orange = ON)

It continues on PAGE 2, right after the jump

Review: ALO Audio Continental V5 – CDM Competition?
4.1 (82.5%) 8 votes

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's 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.

9 Comments

  • Reply October 20, 2016

    JohnC

    Thanks for the review – been waiting for it before buying (or not). How would you compare your i5 DAP (or AK70) + mojo + CV5 to just the DAP + CV5?

  • Reply October 21, 2016

    Barun C

    Nice review Lieven. Well said in the end, cause to me $599 with pre order of $499 would have been a sweet spot as well, but Portable Headphone Amps now have become passé, personally speaking, since the improvement of one stop solution DAPs (E.G. QP 1R, LPG).

    Anyway, seems this will be in the league of Vorzüge Pure II & Portaphile 627X.

    • Reply October 21, 2016

      dale thorn

      Would those one-stop-solution DAPs include a flexible Parametric Equalizer (you choose the frequencies and bandwidths)?

      • Reply October 21, 2016

        Barun C

        I believe, LPG has parametric EQ. Not for the QP1R though, I have been requesting Questyle, to introduce the same along with letter wise scrolling, it might take some time,the FW is very basic and uses the linux platform.

        It recently got USB DAC functionality. They have introduced features asked by users since the release in each FW update, which is a good thing, but I’ll be honest, I have not touched the EQ since the day I got the QP1R, and I have been using it for more than a year now, sound is its core competency and it excels at it better than any DAP or portable combos I’ve used, FW wise it is primitive.

  • Reply October 25, 2016

    Mateo

    I would like to know how the hd599 compared with he400s …

  • Reply October 26, 2016

    Gr8soundz

    How would you rate the CV5 against the Fostex HP-V1?

  • Reply October 26, 2016

    Lieven

    I don’t have the Fostex, sorry

  • Reply November 21, 2016

    John Hospod

    How does it compare with the Portaphile 627X?

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