Disclaimer: This is part of our new First Look Sunday series, where we give our first impressions of new gear in the queue.
I’m running a very interesting product through its paces at the moment for an upcoming review. It’s the ‘Tuba’ vacuum tube headphone amplifier, from Hawaiian manufacturer Hagerman Audio Labs.
Owner Jim Hagerman has been producing a range of analogue audio gear for the pro / audiophile market for 25 years out of his small Honolulu operation. Hagerman’s products are named after musical instruments, such as the ‘Oboe Pro’ Preamplifier, and his well-regarded ‘Trumpet’ Phono Pre-amplifier.
Sporting a pair of Mullard EL34 tubes, the ‘Tuba’ is the latest addition to Hagerman’s orchestra of audio-gear. I’m looking forward to reporting back in the very near future, and letting you know whether it lives up to its ‘musical’ moniker.
This review unit shipped with the optional walnut side panels (a ‘mandatory’ option in this reviewer’s humble opinion), and is also available with crossfeed built-in by request at time of order.
Aside from its unique aesthetics and engineering lineage, what piqued my interest about this “single-ended, zero-feedback, parafeed EL84 triode” amp is it’s dual outputs. The “LO” output has 16 ohms output impedance; and 32 ohms from the “HI” output.
Early testing with the Tuba is proving it to be quite the versatile amp with various headphones of mixed impedance thrown at it so far, including 32 ohm Grado GH1’s; 300 ohm Sennheiser HD600/650 and ZMF Eikons; and 420 ohm Audio Technica ADX5000.
The Tuba hasn’t broken a sweat with so far, with loads of power and headroom making for a lively, dynamic performance. It’s a resolving tube amp that doesn’t feel like it’s giving away much in terms of detail or finesse, but balances this with a degree of richness that makes for an overall pleasant and relaxing listen over longer periods – Grado lovers, take note.
Keep an eye out for the full review shortly, where I’ll give some comprehensive impressions, comparisons, as well as delivering the final verdict on this rare but intriguing amp from Hagerman Audio Labs.