XI Audio Broadway & Broadway S Review

XI Audio Broadway & Broadway S

Comparisons:

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The Broadway and Broadway S stand pretty much alone in their own field of being transportable, battery powered desktop amplifiers. At least I don’t know of any other product that would fall into the same category as the Broadway amplifiers.

We’ll check out in this section how the Broadway S compares to the Cayin iHA-6 and the Flux FA-10. The Broadway will have to step into the ring against the Schiit Ragnarok 2 and the Woo Audio WA11.

I can’t compare the Broadway amplifiers to products that I don’t have direct access to. If you want to see more comparisons done, just ask in the comments section, and if I in fact have the product in question at home, I will give you a comparison.

Mentioned prices are in USD and correct at the time of writing.

Cayin – iHA-6 (699$)

The Cayin is one of the few amplifiers that has managed to stick with me for five years now. It comes with a lot more power than the Broadway S, as it spits full seven Watts into a 32 ohm load balanced. The iHA-6 also has switchable current settings to adjust to different types of headphones. Plus it comes with XLR and RCA inputs, making it more versatile. The Broadway S has the clear benefit of running on batteries, which gives it cleaner power.

In sonic terms, the Broadway S sounds cleaner throughout. It has better resolution and texture as well as layering and instrumental separation. The Cayin has a slightly warmer sound in comparison to my ears. The background of the Broadway S is darker and it’s also able to drive IEMs with better grip and authority. The Cayin really isn’t made for that scenario, it’s more here to power full sized headphones like the Susvara. Which the Broadway S can’t.

The XI Audio has a slightly more transparent sound in its mid-range, while the Cayin might be a touch sweeter in its timbre. The Broadway highlights instruments better and clearer on a darker background. It also paints a bigger picture with wider and deeper staging.

The Broadway S’s extension goes further up top and it produces more air to surround the instruments. The Cayin however sounds a touch softer and more relaxed in the treble, while the XI Audio puts out more energy and sparkle. It also sounds a bit harder edged in comparison.

XI Audio Broadway S & Cayin i-HA6

XI Audio Broadway S & Cayin i-HA6

Flux Lab Acoustics – FA-10 (749$)

The Flux FA-10 is one of my latest amplifiers and it quickly got to be one of my absolute favorites. It has certain advantages over the Broadway S, like XLR and RCA inputs. The FA-10 also comes with three gain stages. The Broadway S can be packed up in a backpack and taken with you anywhere, while the FA-10 is way too bulky for that. It’s 100% a stationary amplifier. In terms of output power, the FA-10 has a lot more with 16 Watts into 32 ohms load.

The FA-10 has a very neutral and transparent sound, portrayed on a pitch black background, which is darker than the Broadway S’s. The Broadway S sounds bigger and more engaging than the FA-10. It has a tighter grip around the lows. It drives headphones with higher authority and gives them a harder punch. While the Flux has impressive resolution and accuracy.

The Broadway S and the FA-10 both have very nice body and weight, but the Broadway S puts more of both into the lower mid-range registers. The FA-10 puts the same amount throughout the entire frequency spectrum.

Treble is a point where the Broadway S sounds a bit brighter and harsher compared to the FA-10. The Flux has a slightly softer tone, although it also isn’t very soft sounding in that area either.

Schiit Audio – Ragnarok II (1,499$)

The Ragnarok II is not built to be a headphone amp in my opinion. It’s a great speaker amplifier, but the headphone section is not where it shines. The Schiit has the advantage of two XLR and one RCA input, if you pick the all-analogue version, you even get three RCA line level inputs. You can also use the Ragnarok II as pre-amp with its dedicated adjustable XLR outputs. It has much higher power than the Broadway with 24 Watts into 32 ohms balanced. Again, the Broadway is a different product, being battery powered and all that.

In a sound perspective I think the Broadway is miles better than the Ragnarok II. It sounds much cleaner and clearer. The XI Audio has better resolution, imaging and layering. It also has a darker background and puts musicians in a better light than the Ragnarok II. The Schiit often sounds veiled and congested, which are two things the Broadway certainly isn’t.

The Broadway has a better defined bass, with tighter grip and bigger punch. The XI Audio has higher dynamic range by reaching further into lows and highs. The Ragnarok II has a smoother sound, that covers up some details in the mid-range especially. It often smudges over some information, while the Broadway brings them out clearer.

Micro detailing is an area where the Broadway leaves the Ragnarok in the dust. It brings out finer nuances of the music and captures them easier. The Broadway has higher energy, sparkle and shimmer in its treble section. The Ragnarok II on the other hand sounds much smoother and laid back here.

XI Audio Broadway & Flux Lab Acoustics FA-10

XI Audio Broadway & Flux Lab Acoustics FA-10

Woo Audio – WA11 (1,399$)

The WA11 might be the only product that comes close to the category of the Broadway amplifiers. It’s a battery powered DAC/amp with analogue input. Close enough. The WA11 comes with USB C digital and 4.4 mm balanced analogue input. Output wise it brings a 4.4 mm balanced and 6.35 mm single ended connector. Both have a battery life of about six hours. The Broadway has slightly higher output power with 1.5 Watts into 32 ohms, while the WA11 comes with only 1.2 Watts into 30 ohms. Both offer their user two gain stages.

The WA11 is a fuller and warmer sounding product compared to the neutral but sweet Broadway. The Woo puts more weight into the lows than the Broadway, which makes its way through to the lower mid-range. Here vocals come across as more physical on the WA11 than on the Broadway.

The Broadway on the other hand gives higher resolution and paints a clearer picture overall. The WA11 however colors its picture with more intense colors. It saturates instruments more than the Broadway. It sounds lusher and more organic in its mid-range, while the Broadway sounds more transparent in that area.

The XI Audio has the upper hand when it comes to technical performance to me. It creates a larger venue with wider and deeper measures. It also places musicians a bit more careful and keeps its structure better than the WA11.

Treble is softer and a notch darker on the WA11. The Broadway has higher levels of clarity and energy in its highs in comparison. But it also sounds harder and a bit fiercer than the WA11. Overall the WA11 has a more analogue, a warmer and fuller sound compared to the neutral yet natural Broadway.

XI Audio Broadway & Broadway S

XI Audio Broadway & Broadway S

Conclusion:

XI Audio has produced two very interesting products with their Broadway and Broadway S amplifiers. Both strike as neutral amplifiers with good richness and punch. The Broadway handles my hard to drive cans very well, while the Broadway S is better suited for easier to drive headphones and IEMs.

The build quality of them is good, but what really bothers me is the location of the power switch and the gain switches as well as the three-legged design. Issues which could have been avoided in my opinion.

The Broadway is an amplifier that I enjoy hooking up to my full sized headphones. It sounds fantastic with the Susvara, HE1000se, Diana V2 but most of all with the Diana Phi. With the Phi it reaches a level of sonic bliss that is hard to find, especially since the Diana Phi is such a critical headphone to pair with.

I think the battery powered design is brilliant, and it certainly brings a lot of advantages compared to regular amplifiers. It removes polluted DC power from the equation and keeps the signal clean. The Broadway range are two very unique products, and I think many people could enjoy them a lot.

Personally, I would take the Broadway over the Broadway S simply because at home I exclusively use over ear headphones.

For its outstanding sonic qualities and the ability to handle all my headphones with ease, I am putting the Broadway also on our Best Amplifier list. Absolutely deserved.

4.3/5 - (76 votes)

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A daytime code monkey with a passion for audio and his kids, Linus tends to look at gear with a technical approach, trying to understand why certain things sound the way they do. When there is no music around, Linus goes the extra mile and annoys the hell out of his colleagues with low level beatboxing.

8 Comments

  • Reply June 2, 2020

    cfranchi

    Hello Linus,

    Given your review of FA-10, I have ordered it, given the price and the quality of it, I think I won’t regret my buy (it is to power Hifiman HE6-se).

    You said that Broadway S drives headphone with more authority and punch than FA-10 (that’s funny given the huge power difference) : is it true even for hard to drive headphone like Susvara ?

    Thank you

    • Reply June 2, 2020

      Linus

      Hi Cfranchi,

      thanks for your comment.
      I am very sure you won’t regret buying the FA-10. It’s a fantastic amplifier.
      As for your question. The Broadway S won’t power the Susvara to its fullest. The comparison was more in regards to easier to drive headphones.

      You’re safe with the FA-10. No worries. 🙂

      Hope that helps.

  • Reply June 2, 2020

    cfranchi

    Thx, of course I was wrong, I didn’t talk about Broadway S but about its big brother the Broadway.

  • Reply June 3, 2020

    Guy Lamaar

    Battery powered, transportable desktop amp? How about a Bakoon HPA-01? Sits between the 2 Broadways in terms of power & price, but top of the tree in terms of build quality. How do they compare in terms of sound?

    • Reply June 4, 2020

      cfranchi

      Really don’t understand this notion of output current and output voltage. Amp power P = U*U / R = I*I * R : R is the headphone impedance and so U and I have fixes values for a given R.

  • Reply June 4, 2020

    John

    It would have been interesting to read how Broadway S copes with more sensitive full size headphones. Like something from Fostex, or Ananda, or maybe even Focal Stella?

    • Reply June 7, 2020

      Linus

      Hi John,

      thanks for your comment.
      I agree, but sadly I don’t have these headphones in my inventory. My collection of headphones concentrates on harder to drive right headphones. If I ever get the chance to audition easier to drive headphones with the Broadway S I will let you know how they play together.
      Again, thanks for your feedback. 🙂

      Cheers

  • Reply June 7, 2020

    Linus

    Hi Guy Lamaar,

    you’re right about the Bakoon. Didn’t think about that one. Also haven’t had the chance to listen to it ever. I’m not sure if I even saw it in person, so I can’t compare them. Sorry.

    Cheers

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