“My favorite place to vacation is anyplace by the ocean.” Nina Arianda
Bravo Audio LTD was established in May 2010. They are a Chinese company developing Tube Headphone AMPs, Tube speaker Amps, USB DACs and Guitar Amps. They were one of the first companies to produce affordable, high quality tube amplifiers. Today I’m reviewing the Bravo Audio Ocean.
The Bravo Ocean was sent to me by Bravo Audio for the purpose of this review. The opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product. I’d like to thank Henry from Bravo Audio for the opportunity to test the Ocean.
The Ocean came in a fairly compact white and blue box with Bravo Audio logo on the front and a QR code on one side. Opening this up I was presented with another plain white box. Inside the second box is the amplifier, seated in some nice, sturdy black foam with the tube pre-installed. There’s also the small power adapter included and a little User’s Manual.
The Ocean is made of a high quality brushed aluminium and feels strong and well built. The blue color is rather striking and is matched by black front and back panels. There’s an U shaped protector that sits over the tube for protection against knocks. While this makes it more difficult for those wanting to roll tubes, I find it a sensible addition and it also adds to the overall aesthetic of the unit.
My only gripe with the build is the lack of any feet on the amp. Some simple rubber domes on the bottom would help raise the amp off the surface allowing better airflow and would help to keep temperatures a bit lower.
On the front panel we find the power switch, 6.35mm and 3.5mm headphone jacks, a (very bright) red power indicator LED and the volume knob. The power switch is sturdy and the volume knob is smooth with a nice amount of resistance to it. On the back panel is the power socket, a 3.5mm line in, RCA line in and RCA line out.
This is my first experience with a tube amp and the sound is in line with what I was expecting but surprised me as well. It adds a bit of weight to the low end and fills out the sound spectrum with a subtle warmth that’s very pleasing. What surprised me the most however was the fact that very little detail is lost in the music and the highs don’t lose any of their sparkle or impact. The Ocean seems to add some airiness and a nice analog presentation.
Arne Domnerus Group “Jazz at the Pawnshop” album [flac]
Helen Jane Long “Embers” [mp3 320 kbps]
Ludovico Einaudi “Islands” album [flac]
The Pineapple Theif “Your Wilderness” album [flac]
Michail Eick “Midwest” album [flac]
Bass extension is good and the Ocean doesn’t appear to suffer from any ‘slowness’ that is sometimes attributed to tubes. Kick drums retain their punch but sound a little fuller overall. Midrange sound natural and warm making the Ocean great with vocals and classical music. Listening to “Indaco” by Ludovico Einaudi and “Embers” by Helen Jane Long, violins, cellos and piano sound fantastic and rich with good tonality. Highs retain their sparkle as I mentioned above and extension is good. While playing Arne Domnerus Group’s “Barbados” from “Jazz at the Pawshop” cymbals and high hats remain clear throughout with no noticeable roll-off and they don’t get lost in the busy drum solo sections.
The aluminium body of the Bravo Ocean does get quite hot but hey, it’s a tube amp so this should be expected. This thing has ‘powah’! Serious, brain melting power. I never take the volume knob past 9 o’clock (7 o’clock is the minimum!) I haven’t tested it with anything super inefficient or with very high Ohms but I’m confident it has the grunt to push any headphone you could throw at it. There is a slight channel imbalance at very low volume but this disappears before 8 o’clock on the knob and was never an issue for me.
Unfortunately I don’t really have anything to compare the Ocean with so this review will be a ‘standalone’ effort.
This is a good option for anyone who wants to dip their feet into tube amping without having to spend a ton of cash. The Bravo Ocean pairs particularly well with neutral sources and cold or bright headphones but worked well with everything I tried. For those that want to tube roll the Ocean works with 12AU7 tubes which are abundant and can be found quite cheap online. This is a great little amp and is a no-brainer recommendation.