Review: Audiovalve Solaris – Oh Baby!

Disclaimer: The Audiovalve Solaris was sent to us by the Dutch distributor, on request of Audiovalve, right after the Headphone Heaven show in Rotterdam.

 

Audiovalve

The German Audiovalve is the company of Mr. Helmut Becker, a man with a passion for tube technology and a with whole lot of working experience. During his military service, he became a radar technician where, among other things, he learned to understand and operate ‘large tubes’ such as magnetrons, tyratrons and klystrons. After this, he completed his studies in telecommunications technology and developed air warning systems.

In 1979, he started working with medical technology. Becker’s creative mind produced numerous groundbreaking ideas and products. The results of this work can even be seen in numerous patents. As if his workload and success were not already enough, Becker also wanted to leave his mark on the world of audio tube amplifiers. He often drew on technical symbioses between several generations of electronics and electrical engineering. Today, he is over 60 years old and looks back on his fundamental and extensive knowledge and life’s work which go right back to the beginnings of tube technology.

According to Mr. Becker, you can be sure of one thing: much of what our forefathers were familiar with was far better than what is being sold to you today as technical progress because today, the industry is only interested in profit. Audiovalve doesn’t only produce headphone amplifiers, but they also produce DACs, pre amps, power amps and integrated amplifiers. For today’s review we’ll be looking at the Audiovalve Solaris, their Top Of The Line headphone amplifier.

The Solaris

The Audiovalve Solaris was launched early 2016 and it is based on their legendary RKV MARK II (since 1982) and it sports Russian ECL85 (6F5P) tubes and OPA134. While we’re looking at its headphone capability, this amplifier actually also serves as a speaker amp and it even has an integrated phono section. The Audiovalve Solaris does come with a remote that will allow you to set the volume. All the other “settings” have to be done manually on the front.

The Solaris is a very powerful amp (see specs) but a headphone protector reliably protects the headphones from pulses that can occur when switching the amplifier ON or OFF. The outputs of the amplifier are shorted for this time both on power as in both cases. The Solaris puts out between 8W and 12W depending on the output used.

The Solaris is extremely versatile and the number of inputs and outputs is very impressive to say the least. We’ll go into detail on both the in- and outputs in the lay-out section below but how many headphone amplifiers do you know that not only have single ended and a balanced output, but also one for electrostat headphones like Stax. According to Audiovalve, this is the one and only headphone amplifier on the market that is able to drive all standard headphone loads, starting from 3 Ohm up to 145k Ohm. This is a do-it-all amplifier, that’s for sure.

If you’re also looking for a DAC then there’s the option to add an integrated DAC to your Solaris. Our version does not have this option, but know it’s a possibility.

Tube Galore

The tubes used inside the Solaris are ECL85 type tubes, and they are also known as 6F5P (Russian). I tried sourcing some of these in my local shops but they seem hard to find where I live. The ECL85 is purpose designed for frame generation in television receivers. The triode provides the oscillator and the pentode is optimized for pulse output operation into the magnetic load of the scanning coils. More info can be found here: http://www.r-type.org/exhib/aaa0427.htm

Several online tube shops do offer these Russian tubes however, and you can even buy spares from Audiovalve directly: https://www.audiovalve.info/presta2016/prestashop_1.5.6.3/prestashop/index.php?id_product=39&controller=product

These aren’t the most sexy looking power tubes but Audiovalve uses 8 of them (4 per channel) on the inside of the amp. With the Solaris design, the eight tubes are visible from the front and they give the amplifier a powerful and impressive look.

The review continues on the NEXT PAGE, click HERE

Review: Audiovalve Solaris – Oh Baby!
4 (80.74%) 27 votes

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

4 Comments

  • Reply February 8, 2018

    dale thorn

    As I read this, I was thinking – awesome amp with the right headphone, but not every headphone likes tubes. It looks amazing though.

  • Reply February 9, 2018

    Jogi Güdeler

    Oh yes,

    this amp is based on a very very old circuit design from 1984 (RKV) – I had that amp long time ago and I was rather pleased (AT THAT TIME !)…

    But nowadays…?

  • Reply February 9, 2018

    Wim Geleijnse

    Thanks Lieven for this great review.

    You confirmed what I already knew. I also use the Solaris for my Hifiman with a noir hybrid hpc headphonecable from Forza Audio and Siltech cables for connection. Together with the cd-player Lua Appassionato GS NOS I’ve super sound.
    The midrange and voices are not to beat and the tones are very very clear. For me this is one of the best equipment I’ve ever heard.

    Kind regards,

    Wim

    • Reply May 26, 2018

      JON KRAFT

      How would you say the Solaris is as a pre amp? Do you know how it compares to for example Auralic Taurus which is an exceptional preamp?

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