I hope everyone does not mind me copying this post I did this morning from the HA-2SF post from head-fi I did this morning. Maybe it will give a little more clarity on what I think about the amps I’ve been working with lately.
So I set up this HA-2SF this morning (instead of doing my run…) and it was up and running with no issues using Bifrost2 for a dac. I have no other dac’s at this time to compare. I will be looking at Matrix Sabre-X Pro MQA in the next couple of weeks.
My first impressions coming from the Nirvana back to the HA-2SF, I do believe the Nirvana is warmer. My impressions are the switches have tighter tolerances as I hear less or no noise when switching resistance compared to the HA-2SF. The Nirvana is a little bigger and about 5lbs heavier. You can see better connections for the input and tubes. That said, my 10k foot view without knowing for sure what Auris did different between the Nirvana and the HA-2SF, I think they used more quality parts, let alone an additional transformer and more resistance choices. This makes me lean back towards the Nirvana. If I had the option to buy once and an option of Nirvana or HA-2SF, I’d go with the Nirvana again. But if I wanted an even budget, not going to overboard, the HA-2SF is a great choice. I think the quality of the sound of the Nirvana is a notch better. That’s my ears and I think it’s probably going to be rare to have the two sitting side by side. I’ll do some more listening this weekend, get a better idea. Any music tracks that I could give my impression on, let me know.
Another option I had was to compare it to the Ampsandsound Bigger Ben. Even more but not by much, heavier than the Nirvana. (a lot of weight on my desk along with a 42lb 48" lg cx flat screen). The Ben I believe is a little more warmer than the Nirvana. Maybe that is the “gooey” tube sound that people talk about. If so, then the Nirvana is less warm, maybe a little more neutral. That’s probably good to some people. Like comparing the Hifiman Sundara to the Ananda to the Arya. Probably in that order. The HA-2SF being probably the least warm and gooey, neutral like the Sundara. The Nirvana being the middle of the road like the Ananda. And the A&S Bigger Ben being either a Arya or LCD-X, great sound, presentation but little more warm and unlike the Arya or LCD-X, a little more “gooey” or “tubey”.
Now, presentation and build quality. I think the Auris really goes for the hand crafted, with sound and presentation in mind. From the custom box and the leather. They really want the visual stimulation along with the sound stimulation. I think they achieve that. Adding the “VU” meters for that additional presentation. Everything is well done and put together meticulously, it’s hard to find flaws. When you move from the HA-2SF to the Nirvana, you start to see the gold plated tube sockets, the step up in rca connection types and the switches as I mentioned, I believe have a tighter tolerance. Both of the Auris amps have a glass plate between you and the tubes, separating the volume, resistance and input selectors which are countersunk, keeping the front controls cool. The headphones connections are in the front, easy to connect and manage the cables. The power button is in the front, right next to the headphone connections (1/4 and 4 pin xlr but this is an SE amp). The power supply is separate, with a separate on switch and connected to a three foot umbilical cable. I found I like that, I put the power supply under the desk, turn on the power supply and leave the amp on the desk. Leaves the form factor on the desk a little smaller, little less weight. But combine the weight, both the Nirvana and Bigger Ben are close to the same weight.
The presentation on the Ampsandsound also goes with a hand crafted, more towards a functionality instead of a custom art piece you might see at an art show. This is not a jab at A&S at all, it’s just my thoughts on how it’s presented. The A&S is more simplistic without that over the top visual stimulus (and don’t get me wrong, the A&S is very visually well done) of the Auris. The A&S gives you 1/4 input for each impedance versus a switch. It’s straight forward, no worries about noise or tolerance. The headphone connection is on the left side from the middle to the back. I found myself draping my headphone cable around my headphone stand to keep the cable away from any tube which one of the KT88’s are right next to the volume and you do feel a little heat from the tube. I don’t think it’s an issue but it’s always something to be aware of as we all know, the tubes get warm to hot. The power button is on top towards the back right hand side next to the power cord that plugs in from a top. I have yet to look for an angle adapter as this is my first experience with this amp and I’m not sure it will bother me. The power supply is built in, it’s all one unit. I don’t find that a plus or minus.
To wrap it up and repeat myself:
If I had to do it all over again, which to choose. That’s tough. You want smart, good budget and sounds amazing, then HA-2SF.
If you had the buy once, wanted the neutral, excellent, well put together amp, closer to tubey but not yet gooey, warmer than the HA-2SF, then Nirvana.
From my limited experience, little more warmer, I think closer if not right on the tubey, gooey, then A&S Bigger Ben.
If the A&S Mogwai SE is anything like the Bigger Ben with that tube, goo, then I think it would be a good competitor to the HA-2SF but in a little higher price range.
Hope that helps and makes sense…