Maverick Audio's $199 Tube Amplifier
By James Grahame
Last night's episode of Top Gear offered a look at the Chinese automotive industry, which has gone from almost nothing to almost respectable in less than a decade. The same can be said of the burgeoning Chinese boutique stereo industry, which sometimes serves up suspiciously good deals. Like this one.
The Maverick Audio TubeMagic A1 is either an oddly named Audi subcompact or a shockingly affordable hybrid integrated amplifier. For the sake of my sanity, I'll go with the latter. The diminutive 10" W x 2.1″ H x 6.5″ D case features a brushed aluminum front panel "in black color" with a power switch, large volume knob, smaller audio source selector (RCA analog in on the rear or line in from the front panel) and a headphone jack. That's it. The back panel is similarly spartan:
The hybrid Class A/B circuit incorporates a pair of matched NOS 6J1 tubes that feed into a solid state final stage capable of driving 20W x 2 into 8 Ohms. It's a necessary compromise to get reasonably high volumes out of an inexpensive design. If you enjoy experimenting with your gadgets, the company offers several tube upgrades including a pair of military grade factory matched Raytheon 6AK5 tubes for $45.
There's a special treat in store for late night music lovers -- the headphone output is driven solely by the tube circuit. It's beefy enough to drive heaphones with an impedence of 16 ~ 600 ohms with an output power of between 300mW ~ 1000mW. As the company succinctly points out, "It has tons of power to drive any kind of headphones on the planet."
All in all, it's a rather appealing package if you're looking to put together a simple stereo system for your office, garage or basement. Paired with sensitive bookshelf speakers, the A1 should adequately fill a small space. The A1 sells for $199, plus around $30 to ship the unit from China by DHL.