Bravo Ocean Tube Preamp Impressions

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fLUX

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Joined
Jun 13, 2012
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Location
Bangalore
I spent a fair amount of time using the loaned Bravo Ocean as a preamp and as an headphone amp. I would like to begin by saying that dont go by the size of this unit, it is a small little powerhouse and is a good addition for anyone who want to experience impact of tube pre-amp in a chain first. I believe on US Massdrop/Drop website these used to retail for 50/60$ and for that price it is difficult to believe what this offers .

I used it in 2 modes,
i) As a headphone amp connected to my PC-> SMSL SU-8-> Bravo Ocean -> Hifiman Ananda
ii) As a preamp with following chain, Paradigm PW LInk -> Denafrip Ares II -> Bravo Ocean -> IndiQ Saptak -> Focal Aria 926

i) As headphone amp
The texture of my headphones changed for good on using the above. The already spacious Ananda seemed even more wider , depth was not much impacted. The bass quantity was much higher and the mids were lushful & intimate as against the SS I was using. I could one use it about 40% of the knob volume which was sufficient, when tuned to much higher volume (about 75% or so) there was a notable distortion but unless in a noisy environment did not find the need for turning up the volume. This has certainly piqued my interested in exploring tubes for my headphones as well in the future, with lot of offerings nowadays will be good to trial and go further on this side

ii) As a preamp in stereo setup
I have been using Schiit Saga+ for almost more than a month now. Had got 3 tubes along with it from RCA, Sylvania and the stock Tungsol tubes. I have mainly alternated between the RCA & Tungsol tubes till date and keep changing between them. Overall I found the Schiit Saga+ to bring in more depth in the soundstage, very tight and precise bass, improved seperation and layering vs not using a preamp at all. Mids seemed neutral , slightly forward as against what I ahve been hearing about tubes , the treble was really well presented with a good amount of detail and not sharp or rolled off either. The price for a Saga+ in India was about 40k odd when it retailed with HPZ.

I had got the Bravo Ocean to see how a much cheaper offering (i guess about 8k INR ) would perform against something which is almost 4 times the price. Before getting the Denafrip I listened to the Bravo for a short period of time , but listened to good hour or two with the Denafrip Ares II.
I played many kinds of music on Tidal ranging from Hotel California, No Sanctuary Here , Piano Man to numerous bollywood music from the older times and newer releases as well. My observation was the below
- Anything sharp/bright/poorly recorded tracks seems to sound really good with the Bravo Ocean as against Schiit, the coloring helps to some extent for poorly record/bright tracks. Just to give an example Aise Lagi Lagan by Anup Jalota sounds bright on all other amps i have tried till date , but the Bravo Ocean kind of made it sound better
- Songs with lot of nuances, pace of attack and instruments sounds mixed up. The Saga+ is way more refined, handles everything much better as against the Bravo Ocean, but who are we kidding here it should sound better as well for the price being paid.
- Lows seem to have a very high amount of quantity. Might do wonders in a very big room , but for a smaller sized room this seems to create unncessary boominess and guitar notes took time to entirely go off. Nothing that some EQ cannot fix but the tightness would still be missing.
- Cymbals & Drums sound real nice , Hotel California was a good example for the same where it was really engaging and immersive to listen to.
- For bollywood numbers , the immersion factor is very high as it does make the mid sound very forward and adds a good amount of emotion to it. Lot of details are lost/not easily noticeable in the process , but who cares when you are immersed into the music all that takes a side stand
- height and width it creates is surreal but depth is missing. For songs like Viraah from Bandish Bandits it literally feels like you are in a huge concert hall.
- There is a hint of distortion in the overall presentation, but can be forgiven when you remember the price you paid to get the same.
- Its a hit or miss depending on the genre/songs you listen to. In cricketing terms its like putting your moeny on Virendar Sehwag, you are surely entertained, can hit big sixes on tracks which suit but you cannot be sure that its going to happen on all tracks vs Rahul Dravid, where you know what you are in for regardless the type of track you are going to bat on with a fair amount of consistency. Till I get a Sachin , am happy with my money invested in Rahul Dravid :)


To summarize, this small pocketsized powerhouse is a very nice addition to the setup and you get a good idea of what a tubey-preamp can do at a price which doesnt burn a hole in your pocket. If you are into mainly bollywood music this can do a world of good to the immersion factor. The Saga+ easily is much more refined, a better match for all-round genres and does things well but for a quarter of the price the Ocean Bravo does somethings better than the Saga+ like the surreal height and width of the soundstage & vocals.
 

Nitin K

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 23, 2018
Messages
1,328
Points
113
Location
India
I spent a fair amount of time using the loaned Bravo Ocean as a preamp and as an headphone amp. I would like to begin by saying that dont go by the size of this unit, it is a small little powerhouse and is a good addition for anyone who want to experience impact of tube pre-amp in a chain first. I believe on US Massdrop/Drop website these used to retail for 50/60$ and for that price it is difficult to believe what this offers .

I used it in 2 modes,
i) As a headphone amp connected to my PC-> SMSL SU-8-> Bravo Ocean -> Hifiman Ananda
ii) As a preamp with following chain, Paradigm PW LInk -> Denafrip Ares II -> Bravo Ocean -> IndiQ Saptak -> Focal Aria 926

i) As headphone amp
The texture of my headphones changed for good on using the above. The already spacious Ananda seemed even more wider , depth was not much impacted. The bass quantity was much higher and the mids were lushful & intimate as against the SS I was using. I could one use it about 40% of the knob volume which was sufficient, when tuned to much higher volume (about 75% or so) there was a notable distortion but unless in a noisy environment did not find the need for turning up the volume. This has certainly piqued my interested in exploring tubes for my headphones as well in the future, with lot of offerings nowadays will be good to trial and go further on this side

ii) As a preamp in stereo setup
I have been using Schiit Saga+ for almost more than a month now. Had got 3 tubes along with it from RCA, Sylvania and the stock Tungsol tubes. I have mainly alternated between the RCA & Tungsol tubes till date and keep changing between them. Overall I found the Schiit Saga+ to bring in more depth in the soundstage, very tight and precise bass, improved seperation and layering vs not using a preamp at all. Mids seemed neutral , slightly forward as against what I ahve been hearing about tubes , the treble was really well presented with a good amount of detail and not sharp or rolled off either. The price for a Saga+ in India was about 40k odd when it retailed with HPZ.

I had got the Bravo Ocean to see how a much cheaper offering (i guess about 8k INR ) would perform against something which is almost 4 times the price. Before getting the Denafrip I listened to the Bravo for a short period of time , but listened to good hour or two with the Denafrip Ares II.
I played many kinds of music on Tidal ranging from Hotel California, No Sanctuary Here , Piano Man to numerous bollywood music from the older times and newer releases as well. My observation was the below
- Anything sharp/bright/poorly recorded tracks seems to sound really good with the Bravo Ocean as against Schiit, the coloring helps to some extent for poorly record/bright tracks. Just to give an example Aise Lagi Lagan by Anup Jalota sounds bright on all other amps i have tried till date , but the Bravo Ocean kind of made it sound better
- Songs with lot of nuances, pace of attack and instruments sounds mixed up. The Saga+ is way more refined, handles everything much better as against the Bravo Ocean, but who are we kidding here it should sound better as well for the price being paid.
- Lows seem to have a very high amount of quantity. Might do wonders in a very big room , but for a smaller sized room this seems to create unncessary boominess and guitar notes took time to entirely go off. Nothing that some EQ cannot fix but the tightness would still be missing.
- Cymbals & Drums sound real nice , Hotel California was a good example for the same where it was really engaging and immersive to listen to.
- For bollywood numbers , the immersion factor is very high as it does make the mid sound very forward and adds a good amount of emotion to it. Lot of details are lost/not easily noticeable in the process , but who cares when you are immersed into the music all that takes a side stand
- height and width it creates is surreal but depth is missing. For songs like Viraah from Bandish Bandits it literally feels like you are in a huge concert hall.
- There is a hint of distortion in the overall presentation, but can be forgiven when you remember the price you paid to get the same.
- Its a hit or miss depending on the genre/songs you listen to. In cricketing terms its like putting your moeny on Virendar Sehwag, you are surely entertained, can hit big sixes on tracks which suit but you cannot be sure that its going to happen on all tracks vs Rahul Dravid, where you know what you are in for regardless the type of track you are going to bat on with a fair amount of consistency. Till I get a Sachin , am happy with my money invested in Rahul Dravid :)


To summarize, this small pocketsized powerhouse is a very nice addition to the setup and you get a good idea of what a tubey-preamp can do at a price which doesnt burn a hole in your pocket. If you are into mainly bollywood music this can do a world of good to the immersion factor. The Saga+ easily is much more refined, a better match for all-round genres and does things well but for a quarter of the price the Ocean Bravo does somethings better than the Saga+ like the surreal height and width of the soundstage & vocals.
Very nice & practical review Flux. 8K is a very tempting price for a tube pre-amp which is this good. On Amazon India it costs around
Rs. 24,762. But it may still be worth considering your detailed review + the highly positive reviews on Amazon too.
 

fLUX

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 13, 2012
Messages
1,262
Points
113
Location
Bangalore
It was availabe on drop before for about 50-60$ could have got under 120$ with shipping and customs, looks like thats no longer the case. Unfortunately i skipped the offer to buy one at 3.5k-4k about a year ago :)
 

Nitin K

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 23, 2018
Messages
1,328
Points
113
Location
India
It was availabe on drop before for about 50-60$ could have got under 120$ with shipping and customs, looks like thats no longer the case. Unfortunately i skipped the offer to buy one at 3.5k-4k about a year ago :)
Wow, 4K for that would have been a steal.
 
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