TRAFOMATIC HEAD ONE
When it comes to hi-end components, Eastern Europe is often good at offering something really exotic : cool turntables, lavishly appointed tube amps. Or very exclusive headphone amplifiers ...
"The Trafomatic Head 2 belongs to this Clan ... and so does the Head One "
MADE IN SERBIA
The Experience Head One is designed around the super-linear Russian 6S45P triode tube and delivers up to 2 x 300 mW.
In order to be able to optimally adapt the amplifier to the impedance of the connected headphones, the output transformer has multiple secondary windings and taps, which can be selected using a rotary control switch on the front panel. This, unlike the typical OTL solutions, allows for perfect matching of impedances for the different types of headphones. As with all our amplifiers, ensuring "lossless sound quality" on all outputs was a major design goal for this amp.
In line with the design principles and philosophy of the entire Experience series, a high quality power supply was implemented with extreme care. This includes a low inductance toroidal transformer, a tube rectifier, double L-C filtering for the anode voltage, and top quality double C-core output transformers.
Headphone impedance connection values are 30, 100 and 300 ohm allowing for a variety of dynamic headphone models to be driven with ease.
To enhance tube-rolling pleasure, Trafomatic has opted for a low noise tube / soft start rectification design for the Experience Head One -- an indirectly heated EZ80 or EZ81. This, whilst many competitive devices in this price range with a similar concept use semiconductors for rectification. Other quality parts include Rubicon electrolytic capacitors, an Alps potentiometer, metal-film resistors, and more.
The "small" Trafomatic Head Amp has two RCA inputs on the back panel. These inputs are selectable via a small toggle switch located under the sockets.
In addition, the Experience Head One offers a nice and useful option : The switch for setting the connection impedance has an "alternate" position that is labeled "Lineout".
This means that the headphone amplifier can also be used as a tube preamp.
that sports 2 output sockets on the back - one for connecting a power amplifier and one for connecting a subwoofer.
TRAFOMATIC HEAD ONE SPECIFICATION
Class of Operation
PUSH PULL Class A
2 x 6S45P and 1 x EZ80 (EZ81)
230V/50Hz- 115V/60Hz selectable
Headphone Output Impedance
Gain / Line Output
Output line voltage
THD 1% – 3.2V
THD 2% – 6.4
THD 2.8% – 9V
Maximum output power on headphone output
THD at 100mW/1kHz
Output for headphones
¼” Neutrik connector
Inputs / Outputs
2 x RCA Inputs / switchable
1 x RCA Sub-Out + 1 x RCA Line-Out
1 Veff – Input impedance: 47 Kohm
Headphone and Line out 20Hz (-3dB) – 57KHz (-3dB)
Subwoofer out 20Hz (-3dB) – 18KHz (-3dB)
Minimum load resistance on “LINE and “SUB”
2k ohm both outputs simultaneously
1k ohm single output
W 200 x D 280 x H 150mm
Price $ 2,050
hX-Host Sound & Vision
A VERY SPECIAL TUBE -- THE 6C45P -- FINDS ITS WAY FROM MIG
FIGHTER RADARS INTO OUR HEADPHONE AMP
Trafomatic's founder, Sasa Kosic, known for a long list of tube amplifier designs that have gained an enviable reputation over the years, has done it again !
His latest product is a really "sweet" headphone amplifier -- The Head One.
This is a very special product. It has two line inputs (with selector at the back) but also two outputs, one Line Output for a power amplifier and one for a subwoofer ! This is a really convenient "bonus" as it can completely -- and very competently -- replace the preamplifier in a system that does not have many sources.
On the front, in addition to the volume control (which is connected to a blue Alps of 100kΩ), there is a switch for selecting headphone impedance (or for the Line Output)
With three different positions (for 30, 100 and 300Ω), it is compatible with some of the most demanding headphones on the market. Delivering 18dB gain, it can even "drive unconscious" most power amplifiers ... and all of this from one triode per channel, with less than 2dB negative feedback, and operating in single-ended Class A ... of course.
How is this done? This "drive prowess" can be credited to Sovtek's not-so-common 6S45P tube, a very special beast. This is the modern audio variant of a triode made for the radars of the MIG-25 fighter jet, which, because it is still in production, can still be sourced at a reasonable cost.
Sasa says that the only similar type is the Telefunken ECC8020, but since they cost 100 euros each and have been out of production for decades, he did not even bother to consider it. The third tube we see on the Head One is a Tungsram EZ81 rectifier.
The power transformer is shielded inside its "top cover", while just below it, in the main chassis, are the output transformers. The whole basic circuit is implemented on one board. A second board contains relays : We were surprised to discover relays on a second board at the back of the device which pointed to the fact that the front selector knob is not just another large-axis switch pot !
Our amp came "broken-in", so we proceeded directly to audition. The rectifier tube ensures a quiet start of the amplifier. In less than five minutes the Head One shows what it is capable of ... and from there on it improves even more, reaching its maximum performance after about half an hour.
Choosing the right output impedance is important so that the Head One can drive your headphones properly. It's not so much a matter of gain level (unless you have very "unconscious" headphones :=)) A wrong setting will alter the tone of the sound, and a higher than specified impedance setting will result in a "hazy" sound.
The feature that impresses with the sound of the Head One is its breadth. The way the higher harmonics unfold is fantastic. Below, we note a slight emphasis in the mid-range spectrum, which brings the vocals a little ahead of the mix.
The lows exhibit a bit of the "classic roundness" that is typical for tube amps. it is immediately obvious that the first octave is very low, but the rhythmic sense remains very good, and the control is impeccable. The Head One's imaging (as a preamplifier) is very wide, and "height" is exemplary.
The first row of musicians is in front of the speakers, while the depth is more than satisfactory ... even at high volumes.
If we were to judge staging in "ideal" terms, we would say that the resolution at the back of the scene is greater at the edges than in the middle, but the performance is in any case excellent.
I do not know if it is the quality of the output transformers, or of the special tube ...or both that is ultimately responsible for this amps exemplary performance,
but I do know that the Head One, for its asking price, is without doubt a very good headphone amplifier indeed ! ... as well as a very good line preamplifier.
It generally offers the great sound we've learned to expect from good tubes, but it combines this with an unusually wide frequency range and with a rhythmic gusto more commonly associated with a good transistor amp.
This is a device that is not only aimed at headphone fans.
Very good headphone amplifier
Stunning treble response
Impressive and "big" sound
If it also had a remote control volume, it would be even more practical as a preamplifier
The Trafomatic Audio Head One is an excellent headphone amplifier, but is also a "small" line preamplifier with "big" performance well above its price range. We highly recommend it for both uses.
Head-Fi User Reviews
I've had my Trafomatic Experience Head One for a few days now and have put some hours on it. It is driving my HD600s, which I find to be a match made in heaven.
This amp has bested everything I have heard so far. I'm not trying to put down the other Head Amps I have owned, because they were really fine amps for the money, but these are my only real point of reference for comparing the Trafomatic. I also realize that these head amps cost about 3-4 times less than the Trafomatic, so they should perform less impressively. But, once again, it is my only point of reference.
Compared to these amps, the Trafomatic is better in every desirable category. For starters, the sound stage is huge. I had no idea a headphone sound stage could be this large. It has layers upon layers of sound. I feel surrounded by the music. The imaging is sublime. I can pinpoint the exact position of instruments and voices. I don't have the vocabulary to describe it, but there is just an immense sound signature. It is alive. There is just so much sound and information surrounding my head. It is very holographic and 3-D. I have never experienced such an expansive image ever before. There is tremendous separation. However, it is not fatiguing. I am not under sensory overload. It all comes together in beautiful musicality. Yet, there is tremendous air in this tapestry of sound. Everything is sewn together in a wondrous atmosphere.
The sound is very neutral, but there is a hint of warmness. It also has a touch of liquidness and midtone tube magic. Warm and syrupy this amp is not. This amp is clear, precise, but very musical. It has a hint of sweetness to it. This amp does not have flaws to my ears. There is nothing fatiguing about it. No strident tones. Accurate, but musical.
The bass runs deep. It is tight and accurate. Not at all boomy. When the song calls for bass, the amp puts it out. This amp seems to have power to spare in spades. It can dig deep when needed and never lose focus, clarity, or control.
There's not a whole lot more I can say about this amp that has not been said already. My biggest impression is just how much sound this device puts out. There is sound everywhere.
The Trafomatic is a true masterpiece. It is without a doubt the best musical experience I have ever had ... and for me its price was still within reach.
Just got this head-amp some days ago and already find it to sound very good on various phones of differing impedance and power requirements. The amp has a selector switch for 30, 100 and 300 Ohm phones plus line out. I have a pair of Audeze LCD-2 but my favourite phones are by far the Sennheiser HD800 which truly shines with this amp.
The treble is extended and the lows are tight and go very deep. Even though it is a tube amp, the tonality seems very neutral and is by far the most detailed amp I've heard. Still, there is so much bottom grip and dynamics that listening through this amp becomes truly engaging. The amp conveys PRAT in spades.
I must admit that the high ranking is also due to the item's performance as a preamp that offers inputs for two sources which is better than most.. I use it also as an input stage in front of my regular power amp and it far outshines my Conrad-Johnson Premier 17Ls2 mkII in my stereo system - which is a big bonus. I've come to respect the designer of this head-/pre-amp.