Tube Preamp Buffer: Little Bear P5-1 ver1.2 Review 0

South Korean song artist Park Jae-sang, professionally known as PSY, is famous for his k-pop single hit “Gangnam Style” which went viral in August 2012. He said that music is the world’s most famous and powerful language. It is unarguably true. Music also is a key factor to good health. How so? Listening to music relaxes the physical and mental state, and boosts the mood. It serves as a distraction to any discomfort experienced. What is music if it sounds terrible? Regardless of whether you are a music lover, a musician, an audiophile or just a casual listener, you share the same ground with others when it comes to playing your favorite music – to listen and to enjoy it.

What good way to listen to your favorite music by having its sound amplified while being played in audio equipment? Sound amplification takes you into two different methods, using either a tube or a solid-state amplifier. Little Bear P5-1 version 1.2 is a tube preamp buffer wherein sounds coming from a solid-state amp/receiver are modified. It includes features that widen the sound stage in an ever smooth blended musical front.

Features

  • It comes with 6 panels and 4 screws.
  • It utilizes 2 Peking 6J1 tubes.
  • It utilizes gold RCA for both input and output interface.
  • The PCB circuit layout is well-designed.
  • It comes with two models: either using a 110V or a 220V transformer, which will depend on the buyer’s country.

Pros

  • It minimizes noise and offers a warm sound.
  • It is compatible with the desk headphone amplifier or the home power amplifier.
  • Assembling it is easy, fun and quick.
  • Switching to the right tubes makes it perform beyond its price point and makes it worth buying.
  • Great sound quality even at low volume without having the need for equalization.
  • It’s best used on streaming devices such as smartphones.
  • Sounds gets better as it is left turned on constantly.

Cons

  • It needs to burn in for a period of time to fully feel the sound changes and effects.
  • The stock tube might produce an audio quality that does not fit your taste and might require you to spend for an upgrade.
  • It doesn’t employ phono preamp which converts phono to line level. It’s useful when working for audio types of equipment: stereo systems, computers, and speakers, and intensifying its signals.

Summary

If the Little Bear P5-1 version 1.2 was a Hollywood artist, it could have won an OSCAR award already. It brings the music and the receiver to a whole new level. The sounds generated are spectacular. It doesn’t even require equalization just so you could experience listening to a live band and it takes only a few bucks to do so. It’s not the zenith for vacuum tubes as sound amplifiers; it is merely its beginning.

Its simplicity and elegance which accounts for its well-structured PCB (Printed Circuit Board), easy-to-assemble parts and basic capacitors make it affordable and worth the hassle. You can enjoy listening to your music as its excellent point-to-point wired, high-end parts bring quality, noise-free warm sound. Having problems with the transformer’s compatibility issue? Don’t worry. It comes with a 110V or a 220V model. However, you need to be patient and allow the device to burn in a time period for the changes to take effect. The 6J1 tubes are replaceable with other types to allow you to pick your most favored sound quality. Have in mind that P5-1 ver1.2 does not support phono preamp.

Possible Alternatives

Since it is lacking a phono preamp feature which supposedly allows high fidelity turntable with the amplifier or receiver by having the right level and tone – that’s using direct turntable without the need for a USB output or a line which in turn makes the realistic, airy and seamless sound. There are other tube preamp buffer products that support phono preamp like YAQIN SD-CD3. SD-CD3 is a two tube buffer processor which also allows tube rolling. Switching from different vacuum tube can be quite costly but is worth the investment after a good sound quality is achieved.

Alternatively, you could have a solid-state amplifier which utilizes electronics: diodes, and transistors, if you are not a fan of tube amplifiers. It is smaller, lightweight and more portable. You don’t even have to do tube rolling and bias adjustments. It only needs little maintenance, unlike tube amplifiers that require sockets and parts cleaning. Having one for yourself totally saves you from a costly upgrade in the expense of sacrificing the benefit of a better sound quality which tube amplifiers offer. Whatever audio amplifier you prefer, it all comes down to sound as a matter of opinion.

Verdict

Little Bear P5-1’s specialty is trying to take off the digital edge while producing a warm sound. The tube preamp buffer makes a great and right-on-the-budget addition to streaming audio types of equipment: phones, mp3 players and etc. Little Bear P5-1 can be assembled easily within 5 minutes or less. It saves you a lot of time so that you could test it right away. The stock tubes, 6J1, might not give you the sound quality you are looking for but it can be replaced with other tubes so that you could hear different sound signatures and probably settle for the tube which offers the best sound quality for you.

The sound produced has no trace of extra noise of any kind. It has adequate power to run the tubes. Once the tubes “burn in” in a period of time, it slowly get better and more detailed, and the sound slowly becomes amazingly warm, lush midrange, and incredibly smooth. It works great with headphone and home power amplifiers as the soundstage increase. Although it does not utilize a phono preamp, it still works great in modifying and enhancing the amplifiers sound quality to make it better.