My New Audio Note UK Oto Phono SE Signature integrated amplifier*

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Seafinch, May 31, 2018.

  1. Seafinch

    Seafinch Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Utah
    After a wait that almost broke me, a brand Oto Phono SE Signature finally arrived at my house last Saturday. I've been listening relatively casually over the past few days - but let's be honest, I'm a SH.tv forum member - so I've already made numerous judgements on this unsuspecting amplifier. When I haven't been judging I've been letting it run in and I'm closing in the 100 hour mark (tomorrow probably). The phono stage will take a little longer to reach that mark.

    Before I put my thoughts judgements on the screen I should tell you what else I'm running (just listing the vinyl setup as it's my main source)...

    Linn LP12 w/Ekos & Hana SL > A23 DL103 SUT > Oto Phono SE Signature > Devore o/93 Speakers

    Audio Note AN-V interconnects and A23 Speaker Cables.

    Even though I had read plenty of reviews and comments about this amp (let's be honest I read everything that has ever been written about this amp at least three times) during my 10 week wait, I still had concerns that the low end wouldn't compare to the Line Magnetic 508ia amp that I was coming from, and initially while I was trying my best not to judge, I judged. The first 30 to 40 hours sounded great, but the low end authority just wasn't quite there, but starting at at about 40 hours everything kind of fell into place. The low end is now deep and taut, the low mids are full and meaty (but never muddy) the mids are liquid and the highs are sweet. It's exactly what I had read it would be - go figure.

    I've gone through a lot of gear in the past few years (i've only been into the hobby for 4 years, as I knew how much trouble I'd be in once I did jump in) and there have been a couple iterations that were very engaging, but never like this. I work from home and have a detached garage/office (the garoffice) and spend 80% of my work hours in there - plus a handful of evenings each week. It's been hard to work this week - not cause of the allure of new gear - but because of the allure of music. My setup has never been this inviting - there has been versions (Cronus Magnum II + Harbeth c7es3) where everything sounds good and certain albums give you that "in the room" feeling, but for the most part there's not enough air, dynamics or correctness of tone to get you there but for the occasional album. Then there have been iterations (LM508ia + Devore o/93) where everything is just a little too exciting all the time - it rarely took you to that emotional place, but boy could it boogie.

    Just this evening I've listened to Evans' Waltz For Debby, Holland's Conference Of The Birds, Mac Demarco's Old Dog Demos and am now spinning Songs: Ohia's Travels In Constants and each one has has been an experience - I recognize that the the first two are killer recordings and would be hard to mess up on any system and the latter two are practically bedroom recordings, but that's just what I mean, no matter what I throw at it I'm transported to the place where the recording was made, whether it's the Village Vanguard or Jason Molina's home.

    I know I've still probably got a good 100 more hours of break in before I'll really know what I'm dealing with, but for now I'm extremely happy. ALSO worth noting I've got a pair of AN-E / Spe HEs on their way to see if they can dethrone the o/93s. I'll be sure to keep this thread updated as I get to know that pair of speakers and as I begin to roll some tubes - I've ordered some Raytheon 5751 Windmills - if anyone else has any suggestions for tubes, I'd gladly take them.

    I'd like to thank @Warren Jarrett at the Audio Home for his help in the ordering process - he was unbelievably helpful and answered more questions than a dealer should ever have to. Also, @Rolltide for humoring me with conversation when I got bored of reading Oto Sig reviews for the the third and fourth time, @JeffC for talking me off the ledge several times when I didn't think I could wait any longer, and to @Richard Austen for littering the entire hifi internet with invaluable AN information - seriously - I've learned so much from your vast AN knowledge.

    I know... I didn't tell you anything about soundstage and imaging - you'll just have to wait til next time. More later...

    [​IMG]

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    Last edited: May 31, 2018
  2. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    Glad you finally got what you've been waiting for for so long, buddy! I was plenty sure the wait was going to be worth it so I'm glad I was right. :)

    For those interested in this amp but who don't feel like waiting, there's one for 4K (about $900 off the price of a new one) on USAM. No affiliation.

    Audio Note OTO SE Signature w/phono

    Love the front panel on these amps. As classy-looking and elegant as I've seen.

    [​IMG]

    The insides look good, too. :)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Seafinch

    Seafinch Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Utah
    Looks like I messed up the pics in the first post. Here they are hosted somewhere else.

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    Last edited: May 31, 2018
  4. Shiver

    Shiver Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    Congrats. Think the Oto will be my next purchase.

    That looks a really inviting and restful space.
     
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  5. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Congrats - the OTO is a terrific amplifier - - good enough to be a final amplifier with the right speakers.

    As for speakers, a lot has to do with the room speaker interplay. I can live with dozens upon dozens of speakers - amp and CD topologies are a different matter.

    You would think this would be the reverse given that speakers and rooms have much greater influence on frequency response while an SE Class A tube amp versus 200 watt class A/B SS amp both operating within their range not pushed to distortion have very little difference in frequency response - but then again the devil is in the details.

    As a vinyl guy - when the time permits try and borrow an AN CD player - it helps when vinyl first people create a CD player.
     
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  6. Seafinch

    Seafinch Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Utah
    Thanks!

    And, will do!
     
  7. finn

    finn Well-Known Member

    Those images are of the standard version of the Oto SE, not the Signature version. Internal components are significantly different.
     
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  8. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    Possible. I merely took images from an ad which supposedly featured the SE version.
     
  9. Whoopycat

    Whoopycat Forum Resident

    Location:
    Des Moines
    Congrats! Looking forward to your comparison of the O/93 with the AN-E.
     
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  10. jerico

    jerico Forum Resident

    Location:
    Philadelphia, PA
    Gorgeous room there. Music must sound fantastic there! Grats!
     
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  11. Seafinch

    Seafinch Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Utah
    Me too! Problem is, I see several people saying those HE AN-Es need close to 400 hours of break in - so it might be awhile.
     
  12. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallejo, CA
    Are you going to try to re-orient the space to put the AN-E's in the corners?
     
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  13. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallejo, CA
    From the picture we see he has an Audio Note DAC and no transport, I'll conclude he's not a spinner.
     
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  14. Seafinch

    Seafinch Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Utah
    Yes. That’s my plan. My room is pretty ideal for corner placement.
     
  15. Encore

    Encore Forum Resident

    Location:
    Denmark
    Yes, they do. And be aware that the regular HE/Spe (hemp) starts out boomy in the bass and looses that boom as it breaks in. The HE/SPe(or x) Alnico versions start out the opposite--weak in the bass and get fuller sounding as they break in. Mine were actually not a pleasant experience (in my difficult, bass-sucking room) until they were broken in. They sounded shrill and really not very good. So I put them opposite each other and fed them a reversed-phase, bass-heavy signal and had them work like that for at least a month (don't quite remember) before I listened to them again. And I have loved them ever since :D IMO the real magic begins with the Alnico models. Unfortunately, because they are $$$ :cry:
     
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  16. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Here is the OTO SE Sig which has much beefier transformers.

    [​IMG]
     
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  17. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    And also be aware that if you let the speakers sit for a long time - they will require another break in. Not as long. I was fortunate with my Alnico AN E that it was the dealer demo so no break in required.

    The AlniCo is rather startling because of the speed as I had gotten quite used to me E/Lx which I also loved so at first the AlniCo can come across as lean. But the ear adjusts quickly and now I think it is spectacular. Acoustic instruments - louder passages are stunning. They will be more stunning when I can afford to actually put better front end gear on it as well. I have some tide me over gear at present.

    Empress Silver Signature - every person in Hong Kong (owners) keep raving that I simply must get the Signature version of the amps but you know that costs 50% extra lol. The TT3 has finally been released - so umm I want one. I saw the power supply so I am betting that that $8,000 rumoured price from 3 years ago is a total pipe dream now. :shake:
     
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  18. Otlset

    Otlset free-range audiophile

    Location:
    Temecula, CA
    Yeah I agree, the light from above gives the space an ethereal/inspirational kinda feel -- very uplifting! Happy for you Seafinch, this is really special!
     
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  19. Encore

    Encore Forum Resident

    Location:
    Denmark
    To me, it's a matter of musical engagement. I may have written about this before. If so, apologies. The first time I heard AN Alnicos was at a friend's place, and I was completely unable to sit still. They were so engaging. The next time I visited him, he had swapped the Alnicos for the regular HE/SPe without telling me. They were the same finish, so I didn't know. But this time, I weren't carried away by the music to nearly the same degree. Sure, the HE/SPe were not bad, but I felt that these were not speakers I couldn't live without. It was only later that he told me that they weren't the same speakers that I heard the first time.

    I'm not saying it doesn't make sense to try to analyze what the Alnicos do differently, but in the end it is simply a question of this intangible parameter: musical involvement. For me at least.
     
  20. Ulises

    Ulises Forum Resident

    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Congrats! Gorgeous-looking system. Will be following your speaker shootout with interest.
     
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  21. Potential Energy

    Potential Energy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle
    That room is fantastic, well done.
     
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  22. Encore

    Encore Forum Resident

    Location:
    Denmark
    BTW, the Raytheon 5751 Windmill is a fantastic tube. I have tried several other tubes in my AN DAC 5-ish, and I keep returning to the windmill. It just does EVERYTHING right.
     
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  23. Seafinch

    Seafinch Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Utah
    Great! That's what I've read - hoping it proves true in the Oto.
     
  24. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    Congrats on your new OTO. I have one (in silver) and I can tell you from experience, the sound can be "changed" by switching out tube brands. Warning, this can drive one crazy, but it's possible to flavor the thing with just ONE tube change and that is the lone 12AU7 that is on the linestage side, in the front. I believe AN UK sends out Ai Tele clones as input tubes, correct? At least that's what I got. When I want to try a different flavor, I switch out the single ECC82 with either an Amperex Bugle Boy Holland (for more air, etc.) or something else, maybe Mullard for a less dramatic sound.
     
  25. Seafinch

    Seafinch Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Utah
    Thank you! Extremely helpful. I’ve got some 12au7s laying around. I’ll see what happens...
     

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