The headphones we’ll use to describe the synergy with the Auris Audio Nirvana are the following: The Audeze LCD2C, the LCD-MX4, LCD-XC, the Hifiman Edition X V2, the HE-1000 V2, the old HE-500, The Focal Utopia, the Sennheiser HD800 and the Beyerdynamic DT199OPRO. Unfortunately the Susvara is still on our way to the office and these impressions will be added in later.
In single ended mode you get the old school LCD2 we all know. The LCD-2 was one of the headphones that shook the headphone world but compared to the latest technology headphones, the LCD2 kind of is having a hard time. I also do feel my original Rosewood 2.1 sounds better with more and better quality bass. The original sounds smoother, softer and richer where the new versions sounds more digital and fast. The 2c with the Nirvana sounds fast and clean and especially voices and upper mids really shine. The bass level in quantity and body is on the lighter side yet it’s tight and fast. The LCD-2C still is easy to like and listen to headphone, and it becomes better in balanced mode with a wider sound stage, better layering and a far better decay. The bass levels stay more or less the same but the over sound quality goes a level up in balanced mode. This to me still is a great headphone to listen to rock or dance music with. Ah the good old days.
The Audeze LCD-MX4 is a studio headphone which is tight, fast, precise and neutral with a wide stage and an excellent technical performance. It’s even easier to drive so you’ll have to turn the volume down a little. The Nirvana actually is my fav amp for this headphones as it ads a bits of smoothness and softness to the MX4, and that in combination with the neutral approach and excellent technical capabilities make it a perfect neutral, yet musical, headphone. The MX4 and Nirvana combo has quickly become one of my to go setups even when I’m just listening to enjoy my music in a non review way. The synergy just is really good and the end result is impressive. In balanced mode everything gets a tad better but it’s mostly the layering that improves even more, together with the sound stage width. In SE mode everything sounds a bit more rough while in balanced it is richer with better decay and audible detail. Balanced is the way to go for an excellent sound quality in this combo.
The LCD-XC up to today is still my favourite closed headphone of all time. Its smooth character, impressive bass and rich mids just do it for me and it’s a headphone that gives me a lot of musical enjoyment. With the Nirvana in single ended mode the bass is alive and powerful but not the most tight. The mids, vocals and treble are all energetic and so musical and this is a headphone that easily does all styles of music. Like with the previous Audeze’s I do prefer the XC and Nirvana combo in balanced mode as you just get a wider, smoother and richer sound. Another top quality pairing.
Edition X V2
The Hifiman Edition X V2 won an award from us last year or so and it is a thicker, musical and warmer sounding headphone with great, impressive bass. The Ananda, its successor, is even better sounding but it hasn’t made it to our offices just yet. The V2 and Nirvana sound powerful yet never aggressive or too “hard”. The bass goes deep, has a good rumble down low, it’s presentation is full and the delivery makes impact. The mids are soft, smooth and warm and incredibly musical. Treble is energetic and alive but never offensive. It’s lively enough though to counter the impressive, dare I say big, bass. I’d give the V2 another award right away with this amp, it’s that enjoyable. In balanced mode bass body decreases a little but the sound stage widens with a better separation and decay. If you want bass, go for single ended. If you like a more equal, balanced out sound, the balanced output is the way to go. But oh man, the Edition X V2 and Nirvana are just great together, if you like the V2, the Nirvana will make you like it even more.
The Hifiman HE-1000 V2 was Hifiman’s flagship for a good time and it’s an incredibly good headphone. It’s a true top level headphone with a far more neutral tuning than the Edition V2. It’s fast, precise and detailed. With the Nirvana it doesn’t lose anything from it’s speed and pace. Bass is tight and precise and from bottom to top the layering, separation and clarity is exemplary. The Nirvana in single ended mode gives it a lot of power and it makes the HE-1000 V2 perform the best possible way, with a hint of tube smoothness and that typical warmth. If you’re looking for a balanced, fast sound with a high level of technicalities where bass isn’t as present as in the X V2, than this the headphone for you. In balanced mode I find the bass tightness to improve even more and the sound stage expands while the layering gets even better. The treble in balanced mode is very extended and energetic but it never goes to the harsh and sibilant way.
The good old Hifiman HE-500 is a headphone I’ve always loved and I wish Hifiman would reuse the driver in a new headphone model as it can still compete with the best. With the Nirvana the HE-500 has incredible good vocals and a great sound stage. Treble might be a little too much for some but the Nirvana’s tube keep them perfectly in control. I actually prefer the HE-500 in single ended mode as balanced gives it a too airy presentation for my personal preference.
The Focal Utopia is one of my favorite high end headphones and it very often is the one I end up using at home in a non review context. With the Nirvana it performs exceptionally in both modes but I prefer the balanced mode as it feels less “direct” compared to the SE-mode. The presentation is more effortless, wider and smoother. The Utopia sounds balanced and has expected has a good bass impact, great layering all around, great clarity and a clean presentation. Some people find the Utopia to clean and maybe boring but the tube driven Nirvana makes it very addictive headphone. I actually prefer the Utopia on the Nirvana and not on the Chord Dave which we have in the office as well, and that to me says a lot about this combo.
For some reason I haven’t been very much into the Sennheiser HD800 lately but in general I prefer the HD800 on somewhat warmer sounding amps like the Auris HA2-SE, the Solaris and the solid state Violectric HPA-V281. That meant the Nirvana could be perfect for it and the combination indeed sounds very nice. The HD800’s bass still is on the lighter side when compared to say the V281 and Solaris, but you get a huge sound stage, top level layering and clarity you’ve never heard before. Treble is always under control and it never becomes harsh or sharp with the Nirvana. For me the Nirvana is the perfect amp for the HD800 in case you’re looking for an amp to tame the highs a tad and make the presentation a bit smoother but without sacrificing the strong points of the HD800. Balanced is also the way to go here.
The Beyerdynamic DT1990PRO has a 250Ohm impedance but you just have to flick the impedance switch and it’ll sound just right on the Nirvana. To be honest I prefer it most on the 80Ohm setting, but that’s just my ears, yours might be different. The DT1990PRO still has a more v-shaped presentation but the deep layered bass and super energetic treble are incredibly good, and the Nirvana really brings out the best of it. The Nirvana just makes me want to listen to the DT1990PRO all the time and it just might be the most perfect amp for this headphone for my ears. I’ve been enjoying a full afternoon with this setup listening to previous century classics from Front 242, Insekt and Kraftwerk and I just couldn’t stop listening to more tracks. It’s the best compliment you can give a setup, isn’t it?
And what about earphones?
The Nirvana is extremely powerful and I don’t really know of any IEMs that require 6.5W/channel. Most of the BA armature driven IEMs in my collection are extremely easy to drive as well so there’s no real use for an amp like the Nirvana. Yes sure you can use it for your IEMs but you will need something like the iFi iEmatch to make then listenable without noise, the output just is way too high for monitors.
The only IEM I could think of using the Nirvana with is the Stereopravda Seven as that’s a really tough one to get right. The Seven needs a lot of power and so I hooked it up to the Nirvana out of curiosity. The Seven picks up far less noise compared to the other BA driven monitors and it does a pretty good job but the Seven has never sounded as good as on Stereopravda’s own amp. More on the Seven, next week though.
The Auris Audio Nirvana is one of those amps that performs great with every single headphone you throw at it. It seems to bring out the best of every headphone and especially the balanced output for me is really special.
As said, the Auris Nirvana is the perfect mix of Auris’ previous models and it combines the best of both amps to bring you to Nirvana, a place of perfect peace and happiness. Apart from the fact that it’s maybe too powerful there absolutely isn’t a single thing I don’t like about the amplifier. It again looks stunning and the separate power supply gives it an extra classy look. It sounds like you’re in heaven with a dynamic, wide and very well layered sound with a good amount of warmth and tube smoothness. The Nirvana gets sound (and looks) just right and it simply is impossible not to like.
This is the kind of amplifier that wins awards, and I have no doubt it well get several distinctions in December when the audio world looks back at the units launched in 2018. If you’re in the market for a new headphone tube amp in this price range or if you just want one amp that does it all, then the Auris Audio Nirvana should be the first amp on your list to check out.
An amazing unit all-in-all. To the recommended amplifier list it goes!