The Sweet Sound of Tube: The ALO Continental Amplifier

alo_continental_01

I’ve spent a few weeks now with the Continental, and I can tell you outright that it is perhaps the best sounding portable amplifier that I’ve listened to. Which is awesome for me because it’s so good sounding, but it’s a bit of a shame since they are no longer available to purchase. Yes, in a mere short 1-2 months after the Continental is released to the market, the amplifier is no longer in stock, and I don’t have a clue if there will ever be another batch of Continental. Nevertheless, I love talking about good sounding gears, and so here it comes.

When I did the Usual Suspects article, at the end I would come up with a few short conclusions:

  1. The IEM amps are good for IEMs. The Mustang, the Shadow, the Pico Slim et cetera. They sound really good, and the Mustang actually has enough voltage for big headphones as well, but when it comes to overall power and impact of the bigger amps, they just fall short.
  2. The Balanced amps gives a higher power output than the single ended amps, and balanced drive tend to expand the soundstage width and increase bass, but in overall fidelity and refinement, they tend to fall short.
  3. The Slim amps were good, and sound signature/tonality issues aside, I would rank the slim amps, based on technicalities, as such (least to best): Headstage, TTVJ, ALO Rx.
  4. The Big amp group had the edge in sound quality, but were big and bulky to carry around. Among these, I found the RSA SR-71a to be the best one.

There is no point making a comparison to the IEM amps since the bigger amps almost always have the better impact and sound quality (only bad potentiometers that makes them unusable with IEMs). Likewise the balanced amps, since they can’t match the fidelity of unbalanced amps. So now I’m only looking at the Slim amps and the Big amps. Personally, I think that the RSA-SR71a is better than the ALO Rx except that the RSA doesn’t come with rechargeable batteries, which is a big necessity nowadays. I would have loved to compare the RSA SR-71A to the Continental, but I can’t get one during the time of this review (though if I can on a latter date, I would add that in as an update).

The next one in line, therefore, is the ALO Rx Mk2, which I am going to compare to the Continental. The ALO Rx Mk2 had this signature lively and spacious sound, clear and grain-free with an awesome, deep hitting bass impact. Though tonality wise I still prefer the TTVJ Slim due to the fuller mids, the TTVJ was a little grainy in sound and was not as spacious sounding as the ALO Rx. I still think that the RSA SR-71a is better than the ALO Rx Mk2 in this sense, as it manages to pull out both a very spacious soundstage and retain the typical weighty full bodied sound that RSA amps are famous for. But again, since I don’t have the SR-71a around, I would just use the Rx Mk2 (thanks to Peter for his Rx Mk2 loaner).

Versus the ALO Rx Mk2

Comparing to the Rx Mk2, it’s clear that the Continental has the upper hand almost entirely. Ive always thought that the Rx Mk2 is a spacious sounding amp, but the Continental makes it sound so flat and two dimensional. It’s not even a close fight, the Continental totally trumps the Rx in soundstage. Not only that, but midrange body, which is the Rx Mk2’s weakest point, is something that the Continental happens to be very very good at. The midrange of the Continental is easily the best I’ve ever heard on a portable amp — better than the TTVJ Slim (and the TTVJ portable tube too), better than the RSA Mustang, better than any of the amplifiers I’ve reviewed on the Usual Suspects. You get a full, sweet sounding midrange with superb clarity levels. No muddy, overly thick, slow sounding midrange here.. just pure honey sweet midrange with superb clarity. Then comes the treble areas. The Rx Mk2 is pretty good with treble, but again the Continental is better. Not only is the treble cleaner and clearer sounding, but it also extends up in a much smoother gradient, where the Rx Mk2 sounds more like an abrupt cut off of extension. Now I realize that the solid state Rx Mk2 may actually have the higher treble extension because solid state normally extends further, but my ears can’t pick up the roll off point if the Continental indeed has an earlier roll off. And the point that I’m saying is that the manner at which the treble rolls on the Continental is much smoother, gradient wise, than what I hear on the Rx.

Dimension is almost identical to the ALO Rx (except obviously thickness). The length of the amp (not pictured) is pretty much identical between the two amps.

 

Like all other tube amps, when it comes to the bass section, the Continental follows the same pattern like the rest of other tube amps. Sweet full midbass punch, but not so much happening on the low bass. Bass extension is good, but the problem is that there is no action happening on the low lows. This is where the Rx shines. Clearly, you get a deeper hitting bass with the Rx, and also a faster bass speed on the Rx than you do on the Continental — so bassheads is probably the main group that should stay away from the Continental, or any other tube amps for that matter.

Now if you zoom out and take a look at the sound of both amplifiers from a more macro view, then the Continental looks like one sweet coherent sound with a slight focus on the mids but extends out to the highs and lows gracefully. The Rx Mk2, on the other hand, looks like two separate acts going on in the treble and the bass, with a pretty thin midrange to connect the two areas. From that view, it’s hard to see the Rx Mk2 as the better amp. In fact, the qualities with which I describe the Continental puts it in a position well ahead than sub $500 desktop amplifiers, even desktop amplifiers, as long as we ignore the overall power output ratings. This is one of the best portable amplifiers I have listened to. Definitely up there with the RSA-SR71a and the LISA III.

The internals. You can see some glue is used to minimize movements especially with the tube.

 

Headphone Pairings

The Continental works well with the big full size headphones. I’ve used the Continental with the Sennheiser HD800, Beyerdynamic T1, Hifiman HE-500, and the Audez’e LCD-2. I think it pairs really well with the HD800 and the LCD-2, though okay with the T1, and slightly under powered with the HE-500. With the T1, the Continental had a good thing going with the treble and midrange, but I don’t think it has enough bottom end body to keep the sound planted. RSA amps are probably the better choice for the T1 in this case. As for the HE-500, yes you can use the Continental to get it up to a decent loudness level, but for moderately high volumes, you can feel that the Continental is running out of steam. So in a way, while the Continental comes with plenty of voltage swing to get the loudness level up, I don’t think the hybrid tube circuitry has enough juice to deliver the necessary power for the HE-500.

For IEM use, it would depend on the sensitivity of the IEM you’re using. For instance, with the JH5Pro which is a really sensitive IEM, 8 O’clock would give me reasonably loud levels. With the Hifiman RE272, I would listen at around 11 O’clock. Using the amp with a sensitive IEM like the JH5Pro is actually not a big issue, but just don’t expect a very delicate control over the volume.

Day to day use

Being a portable tube amp, there is some concerns with tube microphonics, heat level, and battery life. One of the issues that I find on the TTVJ/Millet portable tube amp was that the tube microphonics really doesn’t want to go away. Tube microphonics happen when you are using the amplifier on the move, and as the amplifier moves around in the pocket you would hear a faint sound similar to if you give a soft knock on a wine glass. The ALO Continental, however, manages to eliminate this problem mostly, although you still get slight microphonics with very sensitive IEMs like the JH5Pro. Heat level is actually quite low, much lower than say a Hifiman HM-801 player. Battery life is just okay at ~8 hours. It’s probably not the best for portable amplifiers, but I’ve learned to live with that sort of battery life, since a lot of the big-sound portable gears also run around the same ~8 hours battery life (the Hifiman HM-801, the Cypher Labs AlgoRhytm Solo, the Fostex HP-P1).

The Cricket LOD

ALO also sent me their tiny cricket LOD, which I found to have a perfectly cut length for use with either the Continental or the Rx Mk2 amp. The cricket LOD uses three 22AWG ALO SXC wire which is easily the best sounding silver-plated-copper wire I have ever listened to.

The tiny Cricket LOD.

 

Cricket LOD use with the ALO Continental.

 

Cricket LOD use with the ALO Rx Mk2.

 

End Words

I really don’t know if ALO is going to release another batch of the Continental amp, but my reviewer ears tell me that this pocket amp is easily the best portable amp I’ve ever listened to.

Availability

Sadly, out of stock, but the product page is here at ALO Audio.

Gears used for review

Ipod, CLAS, ALO Rx Mk2, ALO Continental, Sennheiser HD800, Audez’e LCD-2, Hifiman HE-500, Beyerdynamic T1, Beyerdynamic DT1350, Sennheiser HD25-1, Superlux HD661, JHAudio JH5Pro.

 

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123 Comments

  • Reply September 14, 2011

    Rūdolfs Putniņš

    Great review, Mike! Just one question- wouldn’t the tremendous bass of LCD-2 be somehow handicapped by the Continental’s sub-bass roll off?

    • Reply September 15, 2011

      Anonymous

      Actually I don’t think it is as clear cut as 1+1=2 like that. While the bass is not going to be as punchy as say from a Burson desktop amp, the overall sound combination is very enjoyable.

      • Reply September 15, 2011

        Rūdolfs Putniņš

        Guess so, anyhow the midrange is where the most music happens. And the LCD-2 isn’t really the first thing that comes in mind when I think “portable,” hehe…

        • Reply September 15, 2011

          Anonymous

          Yes, I guess what I failed to say is that since the LCD-2 comes with plenty of bass to begin with, you never really feel the bass to be lacking. On the other hand with headphones like the Beyerdynamic T1 that’s relatively thin on the bass (though punchy), I really feel that the combination is not as weighty as I would’ve liked. 

          • Reply February 24, 2012

            Jeffrey Miller

            Mike I just received the Continental V2 and it blows me away. I am using the Westone 5 headphones with the  Cypher Labs. This amp kills the SR-71B. Even though the headphones are rated for 20 ohms and the amp for 32 ohms it sounds great.

            • Reply February 24, 2012

              Mike

              Hi Jeffrey,
              I may be a big fan of the RSA Dark Star and the SR-71A (among all of Ray’s other amps), but the SR-71B is not a very good amp. The Continental is leaps and bounds better than the SR-71B.
              Glad you like it. 🙂

  • Reply September 14, 2011

    Donunus

    Much better than the sr71a?

    • Reply September 14, 2011

      Donunus

      Or if its up there, I’ll just go for specifics. What do you think would pair better with hd600s among the two amps

      • Reply September 15, 2011

        Anonymous

        For midrange, the Continental. For bass impact, the SR71a.

    • Reply September 14, 2011

      Donunus

      Oh, how is the power output and volume loudness of this one against a centrance dacport?

      • Reply September 15, 2011

        Anonymous

        I think the DACport is slightly more punchier. Solid state always seem to win in that category. Voltage swing wise, I don’t know I think it’s about the same.

    • Reply September 15, 2011

      Anonymous

      Bass impact, the SR71a still wins. Bass body, the SR71a still wins. On the other hand the SR71a still has a little bit of grain in the sound whereas this one is totally clean and smooth. Soundstage, I’m not so sure. From the Usual Suspects article I thought that the ALO Rx Mk2 was the widest sounding of the bunch, but the Continental sort of dwarfs it.

  • Reply September 15, 2011

    Jerome

    Hi Mike,

    Do u think this will pair well with the JH16pro? Is the soundstage better than protector/SR71b going balanced? Btw, If u were to have one portable rig that pairs with jh16pro. what will be ur 1st choice?

    Jerome

    • Reply September 15, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Jerome, 
      I still think that the Pico Slim is the best amplifier for the JH16Pro. Technicalities and sound signature, I think the two is just a perfect pairing. 

      • Reply September 15, 2011

        Jerome

        Hi Mike,

        Thanks for the advice. would u also add a Dac into part of the rig like the CLAS?

        • Reply September 16, 2011

          Anonymous

          Especially for the JH16, I like to keep things compact. So the way I do it is Ipod Nano > Pico Slim > JH16. But of course you’re welcome to add the CLAS.

  • Reply September 15, 2011

    Jerome

    oh btw, my source would be ipad / iphone 4. Was also thinking to add the solo. your views?

  • Reply September 16, 2011

    Lieven V

    ALO anounced yesterday it is back in stock Mike!

    • Reply September 16, 2011

      Anonymous

      Yes he sent me an email not long after I published the review!

  • Reply September 16, 2011

    Anonymous

    Looks like the Continental’s back in stock!

  • Reply September 16, 2011

    VagabondJ

    How would you compare the sound of an Ipod through this amp hooked up to the LCD-2s and the Fostex amp/dac that you described in almost equally compelling terms?

    • Reply September 17, 2011

      Anonymous

      I think the Fostex is different in that it’s all about a good source. The Continental is all about superior amplification. But that’s a really good question though. 

      If you have a revealing system, then even though you passed the signal through a good amplifier (i.e Continental), you will notice that there is some areas that is not properly resolved. With the iPod Classic, for instance, I always notice that the midrange section is not as linear and as open as it should be. This is where a good source comes in.

      On the other hand, if you are using the Fostex alone, you would notice that there is nothing wrong with the source. Everything sounds good and clear, natural with no compression or artifacts anywhere, but you would notice things such as bass not being as punchy as it’s supposed to be. A good amplifier like the Continental would help solve this, while minimizing the signal quality distortion hence the sound remains very transparent and true to the source. 

      Hope that helps. Good question though. 

  • Reply September 16, 2011

    JohnP

    Hey Mike!

    Which is better for your JH16. Alo Continental or still the Pico Slim?

    • Reply September 17, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi John, 
      Still the Pico Slim for the JH16.. and someone asked that just yesterday. 😉 

  • Reply September 17, 2011

    Mast3r_5ega

    Nice review Mike, as always 😀

    How abuot ALO Continental vs. Just Audio AHA-120?  😀

  • Reply September 19, 2011

    StephenM

    If I connect the iPod Classic to Fostex HP-P1 (for DAC processing) , then to ALO Continental (for amplification), first, is this really workable (let alone a bit bulky and not cheap)? second, will this give the greatest sound from best of both worlds?

    • Reply September 19, 2011

      Anonymous

      Yes it would. And yes it’s going to be bulky and not cheap. 😉

  • Reply September 19, 2011

    OnTheEdgeAustin

    Great review, as always. I tried this last week with the CLAS and the LCD-2 and the combo was awesome, at least to my ears, especially from a portable setup.

  • Reply September 20, 2011

    StephenM

    Further to my question below, for FP-P1 vs CLAS as DAC processor, in between iPod and Continental, which one would deliver better sound quality?

    I assume the connection is technically workable under both set-ups.  Thanks.

    • Reply September 20, 2011

      Anonymous

      The CLAS would give you a more distinct instrument separation and blacker background. The Fostex would give you a more natural soundstage positioning.

    • Reply October 1, 2011

      Anonymous

      Stephen,
      Please read the Fostex HP-P1 review and the comments section, I believe I’ve addressed that question there.
      http://www.headfonia.com/the-fostex-hp-p1/

  • Reply October 1, 2011

    Sev

    Would you be able to review against GoVibe PortaTube in the future? http://www.head-fi.org/t/567716/review-jabens-govibe-porta-tube-amp-review-thread-ex-demo

    • Reply October 1, 2011

      Anonymous

      Sev,
      I haven’t had the chance to personally audition the Govibe PortaTube, but my close friends who have auditioned it was not too impressed with it. And since they have tons of experience with portable amps I tend to put a lot of weight in what they say.

  • Reply October 15, 2011

    Swampax

    Hi there, I would think this would be fantastic for my grados but i would also think equally bad for my Denons because as far as i can work out i would lose the sub-bass and the bass would be more sluggish than with a SS amp like the RX series – the rest would ofcourse be great. Thoughts? 🙂

    • Reply October 17, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Swampax,
      The only downside is not getting the low bass that the Rx Mk2 has, but as far as speed, the Continental is not sluggish at all, in fact it doesn’t feel the slightest bit slower than the Rx series. It’s a very fast tube amp.

    • Reply October 18, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Swampax,
      The only downside is not getting the low bass that the Rx Mk2 has, but as far as speed, the Continental is not sluggish at all, in fact it doesn’t feel the slightest bit slower than the Rx series. It’s a very fast tube amp, faster than some solid state even.

  • Reply October 23, 2011

    sy

    Does e continental go well with re-262 iem? thks

    • Reply October 24, 2011

      Anonymous

      It would be okay I think, but I didn’t exactly try the Continental with the RE-262 and it’s been a while since I listen to an RE-262.

      • Reply October 25, 2011

        sy

        thks…what do you think abt these setups:

        ipod classic (latest) -> continental ->re262/hd25II

        hifiman hm-602 -> continental ->re262/hd25II ?

        good pairings?

        • Reply October 25, 2011

          Anonymous

          I think those would be good pairings, yes.

          • Reply November 19, 2011

            sy

            I find the amp already very loud between the 7-8 o’clock mark and i cn’t go any lower…hmm…is it just me…

          • Reply November 19, 2011

            Anonymous

            You find the gain to be too high? 

          • Reply November 19, 2011

            sy

            yes. when you said u listened to e re272 at 11 0’clock, would’t it be deafening? Or should i wait for it to burn in and see…

            • Reply November 19, 2011

              Anonymous

              I don’t know, maybe the sensitivity is a bit different on the RE262 and 272?

          • Reply December 3, 2011

            sy

            volume is much more stable now…but did u experience any sizzling noises?

            • Reply December 3, 2011

              Mike

              Sorry, sy, can you explain what sizzling noises?

              The Continental was a trouble free experience to me. Just pure music.

          • Reply December 3, 2011

            sy

            it usually happens during transitions between songs…literally just sizzling…i wonder  if i got a bad unit…and did u have a chance to try e v2?

            • Reply December 3, 2011

              Mike

              Wow, I really had no issues with mine. I would talk to ALO about it.

              The v2, I am not sure. Don’t have a plan to do a review on the v2 so far. But we’ll see.

          • Reply January 7, 2012

            sy

            Mike,

            at around the same price range of the continental, can you recommend a desktop amp? I am still using the hd25 but will eventually add the he-5oo in future, thks

  • Reply October 25, 2011

    Vladislav Ivanovich

    Mike, about LCD-2… Does “ALO Continental” provide 99-100 percent of Audeze’s potential? When y were listening to LCD-2 with ALO amp did y have an impression that something lacks or no?

    • Reply October 25, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Vladislav,
      I won’t put it into numbers (like a 99%), but let’s just say that it was a really good pairing.

  • Reply November 23, 2011

    Fontaine

    Very nice review. I’m considering a portable amp for my iPod – which do you recommend, this or the Fostex HP-P1? I’m aware the Fostex HP-P1 has DAC functionality as well as an amp, but I’ve heard that the Continental outperforms the HP-P1 when it comes to its amp section. I mean, how many portable amps out there could possibly drive headphones like LCD-2 and HD800 to satisfying levels? Then again, I won’t be using full-sized headphones like my LCD-2 outdoors, instead I’ll be using small, light supraaural (on-ear) headphones such as HD25-1 or DT1350 for portable use. Do you think I’d be better off with a Fostex, or a Continental (perhaps with another portable DAC, such as CLAS)?

    • Reply November 23, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Fontaine,
      Clearly, I would have to agree that the Continental has a better amplifier than the Fostex. The HP-P1 was build as a DAC first, amplifier second. While the Continental IMO currently ranks among the best portable amps out there.
      It comes down to this: the Continental would give you a more brilliant amplification while the Fostex a higher resolution DAC (over the stock Ipod’s). I think both the HD25-1 and the DT1350 can benefit from both devices, but I’d probably give more weight to the Continental since I know I’ll be getting better bass impact with the Continental. Whereas I’m not that picky about source quality when it comes to portable headphones like the DT1350 and the HD25-1.

  • Reply December 28, 2011

    Joe Siow

    Hey Mike, just managed to lay my hands on a used set of ALO Continental. It sounds great! And it able to drive my UM Miracle and EX-1000 better than I thought. I have a question though. Can I use the set simultaneously while charging?

    Cheers
    Joe

    • Reply December 28, 2011

      Mike

      Joe,
      Glad to hear you’re enjoying the sound. I think you can use it while plugged in to the charger.

      • Reply December 28, 2011

        Joe Siow

        Thanks for the heads up Mike. But battery life is a bummer…

        • Reply December 29, 2011

          Mike

          Yes battery life is just okay, though I don’t listen to music at very long periods so it wasn’t a problem for me.

          • Reply December 29, 2011

            Joe Siow

            Well, I guess it’ll be a daily charging affair for me then. But I’ll put up with the inconvenience simply because it sounds fantastic.

            It drives HD600 effortlessly even. Pretty good feat if you ask me.

            • Reply December 29, 2011

              Mike

              I know, it’s really fantastic sounding and the power output is great too. The HD600 is a piece of cake for the Continental.

  • Reply December 30, 2011

    axl

    ALO Continental and Go Vibe Porta tube I believe use the same mini tube Ratheon 6111. Some questions:
    1. Once the tube’s life gone, you have to solder new tubes in as they is no socket to plug in the tubes
    2. Anyone knows of any better mini tubes as an alternative to the Ratheon 6111

    • Reply December 30, 2011

      Mike

      I actually had the chance to listen to the Porta Tube just yesterday. Very smooth, overall warmer, slower and mellower than the ALO. Personally I like fast dynamic amps so the ALO fits me better, but I know people who would enjoy the Govibe better. 

      Sorry no experience with tube rolling on these amps. 

  • Reply January 19, 2012

    Steve F

    Hi Mike,

    How does the ALO Continental compare with the Just Audio AHA-120?

    Thanks.
    Steve

    • Reply January 19, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Steve,
      The AHA-120 is warmer, more analog sounding. The ALO Continental is more dynamic, cleaner sound.

  • Reply January 22, 2012

    Nattawat

    Hi Mike,

    I’m thinking about using the Continental for both desktop and portable rig as I don’t have the budget to buy two seperate amps right now.

    I’m seriously considering the Continental because I want something that can drive the HD600 with authority (I’m going to use it with my PC and feed it with the DAC from the Xonar Essence STX) and usable with the UM3X.

    Will it get along well with the HD600?

    I really like the first RX with my UM3X (The Bass on MKII is a bit too much for me).
    Will I like the Continental too?

    Does this amp NEED the Algorhytm Solo to notice any appreciable gain over the old RX? Am I going to cripple it by using this amp straight from my iPod Classic’s line-out dock?

    Also, did you notice any noise distortion when listen while charging with your unit?

    I’m sorry if I asked too many questions, but the amp is kinda expensive and I want as much information as I can before I pull the trigger on this one.

    Thanks.
    Nattawat

    • Reply January 23, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Nattawat,
      It should be excellent with the HD600, and no you don’t need the CLAS to be able to appreciate the sound of the Continental. It’s quite different than the Rx.

      • Reply January 23, 2012

        Nattawat

        So it’s not an improvement over the original RX(not MKII), but rather an entirely different sounding amp then?

        Reading your review, I thought it was supposed to be an improvement over the RX in all areas except the bass regions as you said the continental has the upper hand but loses out in the bass department.

        Did I just misinterpret your review?

        • Reply January 23, 2012

          Mike

          Nattawat,
          On some areas it’s an improvement, but overall it’s just a different amp.

          • Reply January 23, 2012

            Nattawat

            Well, I don’t think I’m going to be disappointed by this one. It doesn’t seem to be lacking in any area besides the lower-end, and both my UM3X and HD600 have plenty of that. This should be a safe buy for me.

            Do you think my synergy [The Continental+HD600/UM3X] will cover all genres of music?

            Thanks again,
            Nattawat

          • Reply January 24, 2012

            Mike

            It would be a pretty good all-rounder, Nattawat. But no guarantees. 🙂 

    • Reply January 23, 2012

      Mike

      Sorry I didn’t notice any distortions while charging.

  • Reply January 22, 2012

    Chris Raby

    Hi Mike, I have roughly ~500 (give or take) to spend on a new amplifier.  I’m seriously considering the continental as both as a portable and desktop amplifier, portability is a serious plus however not a must.  For use with the LCD-2s, would I see much better improvements with something like a Lyr from Schiit or would a continental give me the improvements I’m looking for?

    I own LCD-2, PS500s and HE-300s.  I’m mostly concerned with the performance of my LCD-2s, as I’m currently using a Little Dot MKIII with it and it’s just not cutting it – not enough watts I guess. 

    Thanks.

    • Reply January 23, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Chris,
      So you’re asking, essentially a Continental vs Lyr question. Well the Lyr is much more powerful but the Continental is far more refined. However the LCD-2 doesn’t really require Lyr-level power, unlike the HE-6.

  • Reply February 18, 2012

    Victor Yu

    Hi just saw a 
    The Continental V2 on the ALO website, is it an upgraded version? I have never tried on a tube amp before but heard that the sound is really warm? I am now using the Audiotrak Inamp but want an upgrade. 

    • Reply February 18, 2012

      Mike

      Victor,
      The Continental V2 is a newer version of the one I reviewed. It comes with better features such as a gain selector switch. Also the Continental is not extremely warm. It’s one of the best portable amp around currently.
      If you want to know more about the “tube sound”, I wrote a little bit about that on this article:
      http://www.headfonia.com/the-minute-45-amplifier-by-sac-thailand/

  • Reply February 19, 2012

    Victor Yu

    Hi Mike,
    Right now for portable I’m using ESW9, really like the wood warm sound signature from AT, also have W3000ANV and AD1000PRM at home, my music are a mix of different things, Post Rock, Downtempo, Indie, Shoegaze, French Pop, Spanish Pop, J-Pop, Chinese Pop, Rock and some Trip Hop and Easy Listening. With this music variety and headphones, which portable amp you mean is of better suit for me? This Continental V2 or RSA-SR71A or anything else? 
    I have tried many different amps, including Fiio E11, Graham Slee Voyager, HP-P1 and Pico Amp. Among all these I prefer Pico Amp as it is warmer, vocal is better than the Imamp, however compare to the Imamp, it seems lacking power to drive even my ESW9, perhaps the Imamp is really powerful? By the way, the Pico Amp I tried is completely new and never run before I tried.
    Please give me your advice. 

    • Reply February 20, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Victor,
      If you want a warmer sound I would recommend the SR71A over the Continental.
      Which Pico are you talking about anyway? The big or the slim?

      • Reply February 20, 2012

        Victor Yu

        The Pico big, only amp without DAC. Is it on the warm side? I thought the Tube Amp like Continental will be on the warm side with excellent vocal?  Based on my music selection, I need bass for the Post-Rock, Downtempo and Shoegaze, Trip Hop but I also need good vocal for the Pops, which one you will recommend, SR71A or Continental, or something else?

  • Reply February 25, 2012

    Shi Yulin

    Hi Mike!
    Can you suggest a suitable amp for T70p? I know it is designed for portable devices, but I think maybe by using an amp will have a better sound. 

    • Reply February 25, 2012

      Mike

      Hi, 
      Yes any big headphones would improve with an amp. Are you looking for a portable or desktop? And what is your budget? 

  • Reply February 26, 2012

    Victor Yu

    Hi Mike, how would you compare SR71A with the Mustang? For portable use of ESW9

  • Reply February 29, 2012

    Edward Cheung

    Just read this review after seeing the ALO Continental in stores in HK. Out of curiosity, has anyone tried pairing this up with the CLAS? 

    • Reply March 1, 2012

      Mike

      Edward,
      Yes and it pairs beautifully with the CLAS.

      • Reply March 1, 2012

        Edward Cheung

        Many thanks, Mike. and thoughts on the V2?

        • Reply March 1, 2012

          Mike

          Edward,
          I have not tried the V2, but it should be the same amp but better (with a gain switch).

  • Reply March 9, 2012

    Victor Yu

    Hi Mike, have you tried the GoVibe Porta Tube amp? Would it be better than this Continental? The guys at Jaben told me that Porta Tube is better

    • Reply March 9, 2012

      Mike

      I tried it briefly, it was warmer sounding. Nice and spacious sound, a little lacking impact.

      • Reply March 10, 2012

        Victor Yu

        Is it a good buy overall? Will the continental be more clarity in voice and more bass compare to the Porta Tube?

        • Reply March 10, 2012

          Mike

          Over here the price is more expensive than the Continental, so I’m still leaning toward the Continental more.
          Again it’s a warmer sounding amp than the continental, which can be nice, but the pace is slower and the dynamics are less than the Continental. With mellower vocals the Govibe can be nice.

          • Reply March 11, 2012

            Victor Yu

            Hi Thanks, I’m currently using AudioTrak imAmp, I feel that it is powerful but not particular good at any type of music, what do you think. I want to have an amp which got a tube like sound, warm and still have certain bass power, I found the GoVibe Porta Tube quite expensive and the ALO Continental is not selling here in Singapore, would you think that the Headamp Pico will be a good choice for me? Or RSA Mustang or SR71A, or the Voyager? 

            • Reply March 12, 2012

              Mike

              The SR71A is superb and is still one of the best amps out there. Problem is the 2X9V batteries which to me is a big pain for day to day usability. One step down from the SR71A is the RSA Hornet. I think it’ll also give you the sound that you want. Slightly smaller sound but only 1x9V batteries.
              The Mustang is nice and smooth and is rechargeable, but I think the Hornet and the SR71A are still the better amps.

            • Reply March 12, 2012

              Mike

              The Voyager is very smooth, very tube like, but bass impact is very weak on it.

          • Reply March 12, 2012

            Victor Yu

            Hi Mike so u think the RSA Hornet will give me the sound I like rather than the Headamp Pico?

            • Reply March 12, 2012

              Mike

              It’s hard to say what sort of a sound you will like. 😉

              It’ll be best to give both a try.

          • Reply March 12, 2012

            Victor Yu

            Mike, I’m referring to the tube like sounding of the Headamp Pico in your review, I like the GoVibe Porta Tube but it is expensive and you also mentioned the weakness, also RSA-Hornet is not available in Singapore as well, if I like that Tube like sounding, would Headamp Pico be a good choice for me then. With or without DAC got no difference on the sounding I guess?

            • Reply March 12, 2012

              Mike

              I see. I would just go without the DAC as I don’t think the Pico’s DAC is competitive today. It’s a really old DAC perhaps 4 years old now.

          • Reply March 17, 2012

            Victor Yu

            Hi Mike, thanks for the advice and the end I picked up the SR71A, it is just much better than Mustang and Headamp Pico in terms of overall sound quality. I found my ESW9 warm enough and Pico makes it a bit overly warm to me. When I pair it with my Music Fidelity VDAC at home to drive my Pro700MK2, seems like it draws all the bass potential out from the headphone which I have not learned of with the ImAmp and Carlyx Coffee, how many hours the SR71A needs to build-in? Out of the box sound quality is very good already

            • Reply March 19, 2012

              Mike

              That’s one excellent amp and you wont’ be disappointed with it. Still one of the best portable around.
              Burn in time, I don’t remember but it shouldn’t be too long. 1-2 days probably.

  • Reply March 11, 2012

    Pickcick

    Hi Mike,
    Between the T5P and the W1000X, which one you prefer for a better pairing with this Continental, and why?
    Thanks.

    • Reply March 12, 2012

      Mike

      The T5p is an all around better headphone than the W1000X. I would go with the Beyer just because it’s just a much better headphone.

  • Reply March 11, 2012

    JawaBatak

    Hi Mike,
    I just joined here. I really appreciate your insights. I will be pairing V2 with HE 400 soon. Do you think they will be a good synergy.
    Cheers
    Tara

    • Reply March 12, 2012

      Mike

      I haven’t tried that combo, but based on my experience with the ALO and the LCD-2, I think the HE-400 would be a good pairing with the Continental.

      • Reply March 12, 2012

        JawaBatak

        Thank you Mike,
        I was worried first since you mentioned above that the Continental was slightly under powered for HE500. I know HE400 is not HE500. Again, I really appreciate you for helping me, Mike.
        Cheers
        Tara

        • Reply March 12, 2012

          Mike

          Yes the HE-400 is much lighter to drive. Should be easy for the Continental.

  • Reply March 12, 2012

    Victor Halgaard

    Hi there, have you by any chance tried the GoVibe Portatube? If so, how would you compare them? 🙂

  • Reply March 24, 2012

    Chong Yuxuan

    Wonder how the ALO Audio National will compare to the Continental since they’re supposed to have the same sound signature, except that the National is solid state.

    • Reply March 27, 2012

      Mike

      I have yet to get it, but I should have one soon.

  • Reply May 18, 2012

    Tony Jin

    How would you compare this to the Schiit amps? I’d use it quite often at home, but still would like to bring it to the office from time to time. Probably paired with the HD600, HD25, or Vsonic GR07 (+ YH-3!).

    • Reply May 18, 2012

      Mike

      While I like the convenience of desktop amps when used at home, I’d take the Continental over any of the Schiit tube amps.

      • Reply May 19, 2012

        Tony Jin

        Wow. That says a lot. Time to start saving up! 🙂

      • Reply May 19, 2012

        Tony Jin

        The same can’t be said for the National though, right?

        • Reply May 19, 2012

          Mike

          No, the National is good but it’s just different.

          • Reply May 20, 2012

            Tony Jin

            Ok I’ll look more into it. Thank you very much!

  • Reply December 1, 2012

    D.r. Hilerio

    I have the ATH-W3000Anv. Is it a good pairing with the The Continental? Would the Pan AM be much of an upgrade?

  • Reply March 25, 2015

    Steve Harris

    ALO Audio has made a few available here: http://warehousedeals.aloaudio.com/amps

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