Review: oBravo HAMT-3 headphones with HPA-1 mobile headphone amplifier and TK-3 tuning kit
oBravo is a recently created Taiwanese brand. Its founder, David, says that more than twelve years ago he set out to create something he couldn’t find on the market: headphones that would allow him to enjoy the sensation of high-end snare rigs. According to his own words, he encountered so many difficulties that he was on more than one occasion on the verge of throwing in the towel.
Luckily, and thanks to the support and help of a good technical team, and after creating some technical patents on transducers, they have designed headphones that have given them international recognition (selected in the iF Design Award in Germany and awarded in some forums influential as the best headphones of the year), and with them they hope to position themselves as a reference brand worldwide.
We have for this test two components of the brand, the HAMT-3 MKII headphones and the HPA-1 amplifier . Yes, before we have been able to read no less ambitious statements from other manufacturers, such as Kennerton, Audeze or Pionner, with no negligible results. Let’s see if oBravo is also up to the task.
oBravo HAMT-3 headphones with HPA-1 amplifier and TK-3 tuning kit – Construction and design
I’ll start by talking about headphones, which are the most important in the design section.
The oBravo HAMT-3 mkII are orthodynamic headphones with a classic cut in its design. It is the most logical trend when a brand starts, as happened at the time with Audeze, for example. It must be understood that in the beginning, brands focus above all on obtaining relatively safe design solutions, conventional if you like, that facilitate production and lower time and costs, so that they can focus on the technical development of transducers and the enclosure, which usually translates into sound quality. Following this guideline, oBravo offers us a simple design, but quite clean and neat. More than on other occasions, I must admit, both in aesthetics and in weight and ergonomics.
The headband has a very fine metallic structure, covered with synthetic suede (alcantara) on its outer face. On the inner face a fiber of synthetic material similar to nylon, more austere and resistant, is superimposed on it, and in the central part of this inner face there is a padded area, which nevertheless is still covered with the same material. The pad is not soft, and it feels like it is durable. The tension is quite correct and comfortable, the headset holds well and does not squeeze. This is something that, although it seems basic, not all the brands achieve in their beginnings: we have seen heavy or uncomfortable headphones due to excessive pressure. Fortunately, this is not the case.
The cups are made of aluminum, except for the back, finished in natural acacia wood. The pads are made of the same material as the headband, synthetic suede (alcantara). The compromise between aesthetics and ergonomics is very well resolved, and we can say that, beyond personal tastes, the headset deserves a good note in this section. The cables transmit good quality to the touch, and the connectors are also very careful, even from an aesthetic point of view.
The amplifier is made of aluminum housing, well worked, polished and without any visible imperfections. It conveys a lot of quality in the finish, and can not put any major fault. I will say, however, that its size has surprised me a bit. It is very small, and when connecting the headphone cable, the weight of the connectors (with a balanced 4-pin connector, as can be seen in the photos, to which an SE adapter must be added) is greater than that of the amplifier itself. And it is not surprising, since they are as big as him. I do not know why such a small size has been chosen, since the headset is not small, and it is difficult to understand that the set is intended to be portable, as the amplifier apparently intends.
From a functional point of view, the amplifier is extremely simple: it only has one small RCA jack input and one output of the same type for the headphones. We also have a 5-pin mini usb type cable connector for battery charging. It does not have an internal DAC, nor any other function such as selection of gain or output impedance. It is clear, therefore, that it is an amplifier designed and dedicated to the headphones of the brand itself.
To conclude this section, we will say, then, that both components have a finish and level according to a high-end product, but with a certain inconsistency in their size when understood as a set.
oBravo HAMT-3 headphones with HPA-1 amplifier and TK-3 tuning kit – The essentials: Sound
I am going to start by explaining the character of their sound from an overall point of view, and then go through the nuances of it. This description, and this is important, refers to the headphone connected to the brand amplifier. Later I will comment on its synergy with other teams.
Closed in nature, the earpiece features a well-defined “U” tonal profile, with a tonal balance that tends slightly to warmth. We will find, from the outset, a somewhat withdrawn midrange, the bass well present, and the resolute and airy upper part. I say in “U”, and not in “V” with all the intention. It is not the bass or the treble that stands out a bit, but the deepest bass and the highest treble.
I have said “up front” before because it is almost what one expects in a profile of this type, but I must admit that in this case, despite the fact that there is this effect, the result is quite adequate in terms of naturalness. of the mid-range, the most important in the final result in the evaluation of any team. Assuming this point, the mid-range appears natural in timbre. His recess is something you do almost immediately, it is not excessive. It is somewhat transparent, perhaps, and may in some cases lack a body.
This headset would be easily analytical if it weren’t for the extraordinary quality of its bass. This is present at all times, fortunately in a very refined way, thus compensating for the transparency of the mid-range and giving the overall balance that warm touch that I mentioned before. Surely the low frequencies are what would stand out the most from this model, being a pleasant bass, of extraordinary depth, and also enveloping. This is where one can understand to a certain extent the intention of the brand to emulate as much as possible a team of high-level boxes, since this bass is dynamic, it has punch and also the virtues described above. In short, it makes listening pleasant and elegant, providing a very different touch to that which one can find in other models on the market. It is not an approach to the sound of boxes in the dynamic style and I would almost say that the physical of an orthodynamicist to use, as an Audeze achieves, or in a different way to a dynamic headset like the Focal, but rather it resembles more to an old equipment with that sound. so voluptuous and pleasant that it results when connecting the loudness effect in low volume listening. The only thing left for me is to admit that in this aspect it is unique, regardless of whether it is something that everyone likes or convinces.
I say the latter because that fan looking for a faithful and fast bass will surely prefer other models on the market more in the line of a Sennheiser hd800. This headset that we have tested does not go so much in the line of seeking that maximum technical precision as of the enjoyment and subjective emotion of music. Even so, I insist that in the long run it is not excessive, and knows how to find a pleasant and reasonably natural tonal balance that achieves what I personally consider essential in a team: that it does not tire and like it more and more, that it grows with listening.
The upper part is extremely decisive and very detailed. It does not present imperfections such as hiss or shrillness of any kind, but it can sometimes take too much prominence. Regarding this I must say that the headset comes standard with a treble attenuator, a filter that can be placed in front of the transducer inside the cup. I haven’t needed to use it, but it’s okay that it’s a possibility. It shows on the part of the manufacturer the awareness that it is the high frequencies that most determine whether or not a headset adapts to our tastes.
Moving on to the scenic aspect, which I consider essential in a high-end headset, the oBravo performs superbly. The scene is wide, detailed and with a very good location of each element. In addition, it is not a unique scene, but it adapts perfectly to the recording, being natural at all times. It conveys in a convincing way the space that is reproduced in the listening, with the reverberations and silences that help us to identify the relative size of the sound room. This, in my experience, is something that only highly technical headphones achieve, and in this case the result is outstanding, even more so when we know that we are talking about a closed room.
In short, the headset is always musical and versatile with any genre and recording, and can be used interchangeably with music, listening to the radio (it brings a good body to the voices) or cinema and other multimedia activities.
Combinations of oBravo HAMT-3 headphones with HPA-1 amplifier and TK-3 tuning kit
This is surely the section that has surprised me the most about this headset. I have previously mentioned that the assessments correspond to the brand’s own headphone + amplifier set. And it is, in this case, something essential.
I have been able to test the headset with very different amplifiers, with dedicated high-end preamps, mid-range amplifiers, headphone jacks from DACs and CD players, and even portable players (iPads) and mobiles. The result is very uneven, and I can say that it is surely the headset that offers the most and most radical changes according to the equipment to which it connects of those I know.
I think it is quite clear that this is a headset designed and designed to work using its own amplifier. It is without any doubt with the team that I have obtained the best results. The sound is more balanced and dynamic, more natural and correct than with any other.
The second combination that has convinced me the most has been when connecting it to an iPad (I have tried it with two models, the iPad2 and the iPad mini 1). On this occasion the result is also outstanding, and except for the dynamic aspect, which the amplifier achieves (as expected) with higher performance, it can be said that it sounds almost completely in the rest of the sections. For many fans it will undoubtedly be more than enough.
Leaving these two combinations, no other has completely convinced me. When connecting it to a Rudistor Rpx100, in balanced, the result is very good too, but it seemed somewhat dark overall, and the same dynamics as with the amplifier of its brand is not achieved. And the rest of the combinations I just don’t like. If we plug it into the headphone jack of my Marantz sa8003 CD player, the profile changes completely, becoming dull and extremely dark, as well as compressed on stage. And connected to the output of the Benchmark, which has always given me good results even with hard headphones such as the LCD-2, it turns out that in this case the midrange retracts much more than with other equipment and its bass practically disappears. The result, for me, is simply inadequate, lacking in body and naturalness. Neither connected to mobile phones (I have tried Samsung and Huawei brands) I have obtained good results. It just sounded artificial to me.
I want to clarify on this occasion that I am not talking about nuances that may depend on the subjective taste of the fan. The differences with the combinations that I have tried are very marked, almost dramatic in some cases, as I have tried to explain. In other previous analyzes the different combinations are more or less correct, but in this one it is something more important: I am talking about whether it works correctly or not. For all the aforementioned, I find it essential that the headset is purchased with the brand’s amplifier.
However, I can’t help but think that there will be other equipment on the market with which it works well, since its cable with balanced connector indicates this. If it had been designed for the exclusive use of the brand, a simpler cable, with a narrow and lighter SE connector, would have been chosen.
Either that, or perhaps the brand reserves to release a higher level amp prepared for the balanced configuration.
oBravo HAMT-3 headphones with HPA-1 amplifier and TK-3 tuning kit Conclusion
oBravo has released a set of headphone and amplifier designed to work together with a very attractive and suggestive result. Musical in character and versatile, it excels in offering exceptional and unique bass, coupled with high-level stage construction.
With very careful finishes, and with a more than acceptable ergonomics, it can be a highly recommended equipment for those who seek in this hobby equipment that transmits musical feeling and the enjoyment of good listening in old-school snare equipment.
oBravo HAMT-3 headphones with HPA-1 amplifier and TK-3 tuning kit Points in favor
- Extraordinary in the low frequencies.
- Good overall balance, with a warm cut without being dense or dark.
- Good stage representation.
- Good construction and comfort.
oBravo HAMT-3 headphones with HPA-1 amplifier and TK-3 tuning kit Weaknesses
- Very unpredictable in combination with amplification.
- Very heavy cable for the ampli of the house.
Read more about headphones we reviewed.