Tube Amps for Pocket Change Nobsound NS-08E

Nobsound NS-08E


Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $50

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Simple looking but attractive
Fantastic sound
Lovely glowing tubes
Minus
Blurrrrp Dinnng

THE VERDICT
Cheap, cool looking, sounds great. Best $50 I’ve spent in ages.

The Amazon page for the Nobsound [I checked and, surprisingly, you didn’t make up that name. —RS] claims “exquisite appearance and outstanding hi-fi performance.” And then it advises me to “Take it home, you will like it!” Apparently, I did do the former, though for the latter, don’t tell me what to do, Nobsound. The front of the amp says, “NS-08E,” but it’s listed on Amazon as the Nobsound 6J9.

Given that name, it’s probably not surprising that the two tubes rising from the middle of the small chassis are of the 6J9 variety. As with the Brav Audi, this is also a hybrid amp; the tubes here act as buffer stages while solid-state output devices do the heavy lifting of motivating the headphones. The copper-colored, machined-metal faceplate is easily the nicest single component of any of these amps. It came with a “QC PASSED” sticker on the front that I left on as a comforting reminder, but you can remove it if you want. And the volume knob even has classy detents as you turn it.

After being aggressively unimpressed by the V2, I didn’t expect much from the Nob. In my nearly 16 years of reviewing, I’m not sure I’ve ever been more wrong. No joke, this thing is fantastic. Not “fantastic for $50” but legitimately fantastic. The soundstage is huge, and there’s a lot of power to bring out the best in a pair of headphones. I sat for over an hour, trying new songs on different headphones, just because of how great the Nob made things sound.

With the Oppo headphone, Chvrches’ “The Mother We Share” came alive: It was balanced and controlled, and it had full bass, with a wide soundstage. All of those things were less prominent via the PC’s headphone output, or via my iPod playing the same file. The Oppo didn’t sound bad either way, but subjectively, I liked the sound via the Nob over the PC’s headphone output or the iPod directly.

Through the FiiO A3, the Oppo didn’t sound as big, though it was still quite neutral and natural. Good, but the Nob gave it a bit more energy for bass, and a sharper attack.

The Nob also gave the Sony headphone more immediacy and attack. When I cued up the Grimes track, the drums and synths hit—whereas on the V2, they were more blub blub blub.

Julia Nunes’ “Then OK” sounded wide open via the Beyerdynamic headphone, with the uke and drums taking on clarity without being harsh. Direct from the iPod, it was a touch more mellow but not quite as open.

With the same track on the FiiO A3, the Beyers sounded warmer, with less treble than on the Nob. These ’phones seems to really like the A3.

The biggest difference with the B&W in-ear headphones was that the bass was somewhat tighter and more controlled with the A3.

The only major issue I found with the Nob? When you first turn it on, it emits a fairly loud “blurrrrp” through the signal path. Not ideal if you’re already wearing your headphones. (In fact, maybe leave your ’phones unplugged when you turn the amp on.) That, and there’s a small amount of background hiss, though it wasn’t noticeable when music was playing. Also, if you tap it or bump it, the output rings a little (like a tiny bell), but again, it’s not noticeable when playing music.

For $50, it’s easy to love the Nobsound. It looks cool and makes your headphones sound better. Hard to beat that.

Specs
Dimensions (WxHxD, Inches): 2.72 x 2.87 x 4.37
Weight (Ounces): 6.53
Inputs: 1/8-inch stereo (1)
Outputs: 1/8-inch stereo (1)
Output Power: ≥ 1100mW (32 ohm)
Output Voltage: N/A
Output Impedance: N/A
Compatible Headphone Impedances: 18 to 600 ohms
Price: $50

Company Info
Nobsound
nobsound.com

COMMENTS
pw's picture

As long as I have read S&V you have never mentioned Dared Audio or other Asian brands.. I wonder why?

X