Review: Auris Audio Headonia – Extraterrestrial

 

The Sennheiser HD660S comes in at 150Ohm and it picks up just a tad more noise than the DT1990PRO but again this is not audible when listening to music. The HD660s actually is pretty easy to drive compared to its brother, the HD650. In single ended mode you get a perfect mix of body, speed, detail and smoothness. The HD660S is the perfect mix of the HD600 and the HD650 and the Headonia makes it sound tight, fast and clear. If you’re the listener that likes the H650 on a warm OTL amp such as the 339, you probably won’t like this combo. But if you’re an HD600 fan but desire just a bit of tube smoothness and warmth, while retaining the excellent speed and dynamics, than this combo will blow you away.

From the Kennerton Odin you get a meaty, full bodied sound from both the balanced as well as the single ended output. Comfort-wise the Odin isn’t always the most enjoyable headphone but the synergy with the Headonia is really good. I actually prefer the single ended output with the Odin as it gives you the best combination of musicality and the energy the Odin is known for. Great bass, rich midsn and energetic treble. I really like the voicing and the spaciousness in this mode. In balanced mode you again lose some of the thickness and the voices come out more,. Yes there’s the improved sound stage width, depth and spaciousness but I really like the Odin for its typical character, and that comes out best in SE-mode.

The brand new and just delivered Hifiman Sundara is rated at 37Ohm and it’s dead silent. It’s not fully burned in yet but you get a lovely black background and a crispy clear sound from top to bottom. At the moment the bass is still lighter in weight but it has already improved a little. At the moment this is a more mid/upper mid and treble focused headphone and I’m hoping it’ll evolve some more. The Sultana is easy to drive though, so the Headonia is fully in control.

Vs other tube amps

You all know I’m a huge fan of the really excellent Auris HA2-SE amplifier and I’m actually happy to say these are very different and rather complimentary. They have such a different approach to sound reproduction and of course the Headonia is quite a bit ahead when it comes to precision, sound stage, layering and basically all the technicalities there are. But that’s only logic and it’s not the point to remember.

The HA2-SE has a bigger, thicker sound with big bodied bass and mids and bass is present in a more than neutral way as well. The sound stage isn’t as wide and deep and you get a more concentrated sound compared to the high end Headonia. The HA2-SE has more warmth and smoothness in its presentation but it’s rich at the same time. I still recommend the HA2-SE to anyone looking for tube warmth and musicality, but if you’re looking for dynamics, transparency and absolute precision, the Headonia is the one you need. And if you have the cash, why not get both of them for the ultimate Auris headphone experience. They look good together, don’t they?

The Audiovalve Solaris is another high end we looked at a few weeks ago. First of all, the two amps couldn’t be any different in design. The Solaris design isn’t my thing at all and the Headonia completely is, but that might be the other way round for you. The Solaris has more inputs, including a balanced one, and it even incorporates a phono module. It also has more outputs, a gain switch, speaker plugs and an electrostat headphone out. The Solaris is a lot more versatile as a unit.

Sound wise these amps are very different. The Solaris is always dead silent and it has a smoother and warmer sound with more elevated bass presence. It’s not as wide, deep, precise or transparent as the Headonia is, but it’s smoother and easier on the ear. It’s an easy to like, top quality fun sound where the Headonia has a reference, precise and transparent approach and present your music in a more balanced and closer to neutral way. As said the Headonia also has its warmth but not like the Solaris.

End Words

When you’ve been writing reviews week after week for the last 9 years, you kind of get used to the really great gear and the awesome sound quality that comes along. I’m not complaining in any way but it does get harder each time to get really impressed by the performance of a specific unit. With the Headonia that feeling was present again, and that can only mean it has something really special. Something extraterrestrial.

TL;DR: The Auris Audio Headonia is exceptionally good and wonderful. It is a top level, reference tube amp that lets you use both your single ended as well as your balanced headphones at the same time and it gets the absolute best out of it without any effort.

If you’re in the market for a high end headphone amplifier that does it all with heaps of control and want the perfect mix of resolution, transparency and musicality with a hint of tube warmth, then this is the amp for you. Yes, it comes with a rather heavy price tag but be warned, once you’ve seen it and listened to it with your collection of headphones, you’ll be putting down your signature on the order form before the first song is finished.

The Headonia is the most expensive amp that has been added to our recommended amplifier buyers guide, but it really has a place in our guide. The whole team at Auris Audio deserves a pat on the back for the excellent work they did creating this beauty. Make sure you go listen to it during the High-End show in Munich or the Head-Fi Canjam shows. And if you’re in Munich, you really have to stop by their room, as they’ll have another surprise for us headphone fans…

Keep your eyes open, and in the meantime, start saving (big time).

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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.

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