AURIS HA2 SE REVIEW
- TONAL BALANCE / NEUTRALITY 93%
- PERFORMANCE FOR THE PRICE 98%
- FEATURES / FUNCTIONALITY 96%
- SOUND FIDELITY 89%
- MUSICALITY 95%
- BUILD QUALITY 95%
- Excellent balance
- Punchy sound
- Beautiful Build
- Well implemented impedance selector
- Remote control needs smaller increments of volume increase
This amplifier is admittedly somewhat of a compulsion buy. There was a headphone that I was saving up for and I once I had the funds I thought it was no longer available. I had been reading impressions of the Auris HA2 SE via google translate in European forums and scouted out how to purchase one in the US. An Auris representative set me up with a retailer and I purchased one. Immediately I felt a pit in my stomach and thought, “well this had better be good”. Auris is not a name that is recognized at all in the headphone circles of the West and 1599 smacks isn’t cheap.
I love trying new gear out though just like most of us in the hobby and here I am now reporting to you my findings with this amplifier after having it here for quite some time now. It has been next to several other amplifiers, solid state and tube, as well as various headphones, so I think I can offer a healthy perspective of the Auris HA2SE.
|Tubes||ECC82, 4 x PL95 (or EL95)|
|Tube Select||Manual switch|
|Amplifier Configuration||Single End (Triode mode)|
|Input Sensitivity||1 Vrms|
|Input Resistance||47 kΩ|
|Power output: max||1 W|
|Output Impedance||50 | 150 | 300 | 600 Ω|
|Impedance Select||Rotary switch|
|Analog Inputs||3 x RCA|
|Analog Output||6.3 mm Phono Jack|
|Global Negative Feedback||None|
|Dimensions (WxDxH) mm||300 x 320 x 230|
The amplifier also comes with discs that go under the spikes to prevent the amp from digging in to surfaces.
The HA2 SE knob has more than average resistance when turning the pot and could use slightly smaller increments of increase, but it is not hard to dial in my ideal listening level with my hand. The remote control raises the volume too quickly, and while it is a handy feature, I find myself having to aim directly at the unit and fiddle with the volume buttons a bit before settling in on the level I want. When turning the unit down it sometimes drops too low with the remote.
Works Flawlessly and efficiently. The Trafomatic Head 2 is very similar to the Auris but is push pull and has the knob conveniently in the front. The Auris instead has it in the back because the input selector is in the front. Selecting the right impedance option is critical to getting the best out of the Auris and your headphone of choice. UPDATE 5-20-2017 During this review I had the amplifier mainly at the 600ohm and 300ohm positions for my Atticus and 50ohm position for my Odin. I find that I wish the amplifier had an even lower impedance selection for my Odin and that the 100ohm position sounds the most controlled, separated, and resolving for my Atticus and HD650. The higher impedances give a little more bloom and increase the decay the higher I went up on the impedance knob. The 50ohm position loses a bit of oomph and dynamics compared to the 100ohm setting. The 100ohm setting has me re-appreciating the amplifier and scoring it even higher than before.
You can select between EL95 tubes and PL95 tubes. When I first got the amplifier I left it on PL95 because those are the tubes that ship with the amplifier. I accidentally hit the switch in the back and turned it to EL95 which caused my tubes to make all kinds of noises. I had to scrap those tubes and purchased EL95 tubes and all noises sans a faint hum only audible without music playing ceased. Unfortunately I can’t report on a difference between the EL95 and PL95 options but I plan on keeping this amp long enough to provide updates. The amp does respond well to tube changes and while the slight results between the Genelex Gold Lions, Stock, and Black Plate D-getters, aren’t transformative, the differences are easily noticeable. The Gold Lions open the sound up a bit so I have kept those in for the most part.
After swapping all of the tubes out I still hear a faint hum. Hum usually doesn’t come from the tubes but bad tubes can make it worse. The hum lessened but never left which is a minor set back to it’s overall performance. Fortunately it is very low on my Meze Classics, hardly audible on the Atticus, and undetectable on the Odin.
UPDATE 6-9-2017: In both locations I lived in and everywhere I set the amplifier up in Portland I had a faint hum. Now in Phoenix the hum is totally gone. My other amplifiers have not had any hum. Now the Auris is fine with a blacker background. Scores reflect this.
Sure it says 1W but it is getting my Custom T50 to levels far too high for comfort without clipping or getting distorted yet and so it doesn’t make them as punchy as some other higher powered tube amps I have heard can. I would still feel very comfortable throwing anything but the HE-6 and Abyss on the Auris.
- BASS EXTENSION 95%
- BASS BALANCE 99%
- LOWER MIDRANGE BALANCE 98%
- MIDRANGE PROPER BALANCE 95%
- UPPER MIDRANGE BALANCE 96%
- TREBLE BALANCE 87%
- TREBLE EXTENSION 90%
- BASS CONTROL 92%
- TONE DENSITY (BODY , OPPOSITE OF THINNESS) 94%
- MACRO DYNAMICS (SOFTS TO LOUDS) 83%
- MICRO DYNAMICS (SMALL GRADATIONS OF VOLUME) 85%
- SOUND STAGE WIDTH 89%
- SOUND STAGE DEPTH 90%
- BLACKNESS OF BACKGROUND 84%
- CLARITY 86%
It is hard to nail down the sound signature of the Auris. It reminds me of the Phonitor E/X in terms of sounding natural and unbiased. It is a bit warm and punchy sounding with good tonality.
The bass of the Auris is very punchy. If you want an amp that can make your headphones sound more upbeat and lively than the HA2 SE is a great option. It is not for those preferring a laid back and relaxing sound. This is regardless of headphone pairing. Even my somewhat demanding Modded T50 sounds punchy on the Auris. Even turning the impedance selector to 300 or 600 ohms made my Atticus bass sound more focused and hard hitting than I hear it on my Mogwai with tighter leading edges and better control. This performance in the lows is pretty much ideal.
Sub bass doesn’t sound rolled off to my ears at all and were it for bass alone I think the Atticus would be hard pressed to find a better mate. The Kenzie can answer that call with it’s 600 ohm output sounding just as tight and punchy as the Auris but it can’t do the same thing for planars like the Auris can. The Odin sounds good as well when using the 50 ohm impedance option and I find the synergy to be wonderful. It actually makes some of the other amps I have sound a bit loose and less poised and has me reassessing my gear which is a good thing. It is not uncommon for reviewers to change their impressions of former gear when something else comes along that betters it. It’s not the absolute best I have heard for planars but it is exceptional as an all arounder. I can’t call it elevated but the tonal weight of the bass is satisfying. My Meze Classics have never hit this hard in the mid bass before. The timbre and consistency of bass guitars, cellos, and synths all sound their best on the Auris.
UPDATE 5-20-2017: The bass on my high impedance headphones sound the most controlled and punchy on the 100ohm taking my opinion of the bass performance of the Auris even higher but the above impressions seem a bit overzealous to me. I find the 300 ohm and 600 ohm settings to do better than my upgraded Mogwai for bass performance but still could stand to sound just a little tighter compared to the SPL Phonitor E unit which I scored only decently for control compared to the Cayin i-HA-6. The . I may have lost my bearings a bit and apologize for that. The 100 ohm setting brings it to a level of control that bests all of the tube amps I have reviewed on Earphiles so far yet not the solid states sitting right at the level of the SPL E unit but with a little more body and thump. The 600 ohm setting adds warmth and sounds less neutral as does the 300 ohm setting to a lesser extent.
The midrange of the Auris is decently clear but has almost spot on balance. All alone the midrange of the Auris is open, somewhat warm, relatively clear, excellently balanced, and controlled with good body. It never sounds thin but delivers the goods with substantial tonal weight and a bold timbre. When it was the only amplifier I was using for a moment, I was very satisfied with it’s performance and thrilled that my compulsion purchase didn’t become a disaster. The lower midrange through the upper midrange sounds very even and neutral without any real bias and even if I could detect one I bet a tube swap could fix that. Perhaps the frequency balance has some wiggle room for a little more upper mids but that’s about it.
Comparing it to my upgraded Mogwai:
Firstly, with the Odin the Mogwai has more decay and sounds slightly more wet than the Auris HA2 SE but also sounds more unhindered and less compressed than the Auris delivering those last bits of realism. The Mogwai opens up the Odins midrange more. Now calling the Auris compressed in the midrange is not at all what I am saying. It still does bloom and sound free with good hear through factor, but just slightly less than my Mogwai (with upgrades and good tubes 2.25kUSD) which is just a bit more free, bloomed, clear, and natural. That is not to say that the Auris is not clear or that it doesn’t sound analog as it does both of those aspects better than the Makoyi and is almost as clear as the SPL Phonitor. It is more dynamic and better layered than the SPL units providing better texture and warmth. I just personally feel that if the Auris had a blacker background than the midrange would sound more pure.
The transients of guitars and tambourines sound more controlled on the Auris than the Mogwai though. I feel like the Auris is very good at handling lots of instruments in the midrange and provides adequate bite without smoothing over textures.
Secondly, with my Atticus the Auris sounds just as free as the Mogwai but more direct and concentrated yet better controlled. The only grounds the Auris gives the Mogwai is on a little bit of purity and resolution. That purity had the Mogwai ahead on my books for the Atticus at first but the fact that the Atticus sounds just as bloomed but is more controlled with better transient response gives the Auris the lead in midrange performance. The Auris makes the Atticus resonate with richness yet without adding too much reverb to an already reverberant sounding headphone. Going back to the Mogwai on with the Atticus and the midrange loses poise and gains sloppiness. Likewise I prefer the HD650 on the Auris, all while still wanting just a bit more of the purity and refinement that the Mogwai delivers.
UPDATE 5-20-2017: The Auris gains a slightly drier and clearer sound with the 100 ohm setting. The decay is quicker giving the amplifier an even more accurate sound.
The Ampsandsound Kenzie is a different stroke. Its midrange for high impedance headphones sounds more realistic, detailed, clear, and free than both amplifiers, leaving the Auris sounding good…even great, just not as exceptional in comparison. However, once you throw a demanding planar on the Kenzie’s 32 ohm output all bets are off leaving the Auris the best all arounder on my desk but bested in certain aspects by other gear I have heard.
The treble is snappy, clear, and balanced. I also think the Auris has decent treble extension as I never feel it is taking away the air from any of my recordings. I have set the SPL Phonitor E as my reference in regards to balance and the Auris is darker by a little bit. It does have some tube sweetness but I still consider it balanced. The HA2 SE is also better extended than the other tube amps I have had experience with lately. I would not go so far as taking a bright headphone and trying to warm it up with this amp. Most of the headphones I have here range from dark to neutral and I have actually found the Auris to open up a couple of them due to it’s expressive qualities and good extension.
Treble sparkle is there but do not expect it to transform a dark headphone either. Cymbal brushwork sounds distinct and clear with decent detail. I can’t say the treble is raw or coarse sounding but it is not smoothed over or glossy either. The treble has good body and solidity; never sounding harsh, splashy or diffuse. I believe my upgraded Mogwai sounds more distinct and realistic in the treble with my Kennerton Odin. There is a little graininess as well compared to the more biting, harder, snappier, treble of the Mogwai. I also hear a bit more resolution in the Mogwai as well up top making me prefer its raw treble a little more.
The Auris is a capable performer and if you are looking for an impressive amplifier the Auris may fit the bill depending on your priorities.
Macro-dynamics are decent. The Auris has excellent nuance and hard-solid tones that are responsible for its punchy sound. However I sometimes think it could have better dynamic range and openness. Compared to the Kenzie for high impedance headphones it seems slightly more compressed in the midrange but sounds more punchy on percussion and drums. Compared to the Mogwai for planars louds to softs are only minutely less contrasted, though the Mogwai does drive them better. The Atticus and HD650 sound more dynamic on the Auris than the Ampsandsound amps. Turning that impedance knob over to 300 or 600 is vivacious with the right headphones.
Micro-Dynamics or small nuances and gradations are clearly audible on the Auris giving it a very musically satisfying sound. I love the way the Auris handles percussion in the louds and softs. Especially since the Auris is very controlled and natural with strong resounding tones it is able to provide a good sense of drive and rhythm across a range of headphones.
The area I feel the Auris needs improvement on is blackness of background and purity. I find it decently resolving and the treble is detailed but there is a want for a cleaner and slightly clearer sound to some extent. Something like the iFi Pro iCan comes to mind that is cleaner and more polished sounding than the Auris yet is not punchy and balanced.
Just because I mention this want of a little more freshness and purity doesn’t mean I think overall clarity is lacking per se but when using a high impedance headphone and comparing the Kenzie to the Auris I feel the Auris to fall slightly behind the pricier Kenzie and Mogwai.
Soundstage is adequately deep and wide. The upgrades on my Mogwai as well as the PSVANE KT88 tubes make it sound it sound wider than stock so a comparison to my Mogwai loses a bit of relativity. I can’t recall the stock version but I feel the Auris is about the same in soundstage size. It has a very holographic sound to it with good layering, imaging, and separation but its width is not far reaching. Calling it modest would be a fair assessment. It’s size is about average for this price range.
Price to performance is exceptional. It’s build, options, and overall sound quality is exactly where it should be at for the price and were they to charge more it wouldn’t be hard to come to terms with.
FOSTEX TH900 – That was a very fun pairing musically but I find the TH900 to need some help with it’s bright treble. The bass was explosive as is to be expected but the neutral and well trained frequency response of the Auris neither helped nor worsened the issues I have with the TH900’s hollow mids and sharp treble.
ZMF ATTICUS – This pairing is bonkers. Almost as good as the Kenzie and Atticus Pairing. It controls the Atticus bass better than most amplifiers I have heard it on and makes it sound intense all without exasperating any of its weaknesses. At first I preferred the Mogwai pairing but after more time I ended up just getting too acclimated by how the Auris succored the Atticus’ dynamics and transients.
SENNHEISER HD650 (MODDED) – No real complaints other than that the graininess of the 650 comes through on the Auris pretty clearly. Otherwise it’s just as punchy and open as I have heard it elsewhere with my favorite midrange fully supported by the Auris. The 650 sounds like a high end headphone on the Auris for sure.
KENNERTON ODIN – That planar bass is being supported by a tube amp? Come again? Yup and I find myself always reaching for the Auris when I have the Odin on. Excellent pairing. I even prefer it over the Mogwai at times (when the Mogwai has KT88MKII tubes in them)
MEZE 99 CLASSICS – Wow this headphone scales and the Auris takes it to that next level making me wonder why other headphones cost so much! Same can be said of the HD650 to an even greater extent.
FOSTEX T50RP – My mod has a bit extra in the presence region that the Auris does not hide as well as a glare in the lower treble. This mod also has extra bass. The Auris makes this headphone punchy but it struggles just a bit when it comes time to make it rumble.; something that the Wolf Ear Makoyi made it do very well in comparison.
Do I recommend this amplifier? Yes but I feel like I am falling in love with all of the tube amps I hear lately. This Auris sounds exceptional to me in a lot of ways and is currently the best all arounder I have had come across my desk. It has helped me see the strengths and weaknesses of other gear in the process of me assessing the HA2 SE itself. I am going to chill on giving all of these amps a Redphile Award but once I get my bearings straight I have a strong feeling the HA2 SE will be Redphiled. It’s a lovely sounding and looking amplifier at an attractive price and no pairing has been a turn off yet.
Stay tuned and see how it does compared to other gear I will be reviewing.
After comparing this amplifier to the heavily praised Torpedo III(maxed out), I must say that this is an exceptionally good sounding amp. 1599 is not cheap but it sounds slightly more clear and is more spacious with just as much snap and pop. I am very glad to give it a solid recommendation. Sure the Torpedo is a little cheaper at 1300 dollars but its reputation puts it as an exceptional amplifier for the price, also it cannot drive any planars and the Auris can, being more versatile, prettier to look at, and with a remote. I own both and will be selling the Torpedo instead.