Earlier than expected the AUDIOVALVE Team is happy and proud to annouce the new headphone amp RKV MARK III. Based on the legendery RKV MARK II ( since 1982 ) Mr. Becker – the designer – has developed this new headphoneamp with unique new and interesting features. It will be launched by beginning of November.
The below pictures are shown our also new ivory edition for all models, which are coming with a special high quality ivory colour chassis, special cables and some extra components.
Egal ob mit hoher oder mit niedriger Impedanz, mit hohem oder geringem Wirkungsgrad, egal ob dynamisch oder Magnetostat – keinen der angeschlossenen Kopfhörer habe ich bisher so erlebt, wie über den RKV 3, da öffnen sich tore zu neue Welten. No matter if high or low impedance, high or low efficiency, whether dynamic or magnetostat – none of the connected headphones I have ever experienced so how about the RKV 3, it will open doors to new worlds.
review by Dr. Martin Mertens, EAR – IN, 2/3 – 2015 ( RKV3 REFERENCE classification 1.0 )
Audio enthusiasts who listen to their music via headphones usually have more than one pair of headphones for their enjoyment. To take this into account, we have developed the new RKV Mark 3 headphone amplifier. This amplifier is designed to offer optimum performance for a variety of low to high impedance headphones. This amplifier will give hours of immersive fatigue free listening and works flawlessly over the entire frequency range. This amplifier is a must have for anyone searching to discover new depths in music and sounds via headphones. The new RKV MARK 3 headphone tube amplifier is a beauty. It’s ability to render fully believable, 3D images, replete with harmonic richness is unparalleled. That’s what it comes back to, again – music. Amid all the subjective observations and objective measurements that one can muster, the ineffable, emotional feel of the music is what many of us are seeking. And it will be so easy you’ll wonder how you ever survived without it. The RKV MARk 3 is simply such a stellar performer it doesn’t leave much left to be desired.
AudioValve puts most of our budget towards the sound quality of our design and components rather than all of the audio jewelry and marketable designs featured by some of the comparable sounding amplifiers on the market. We would say on sound alone it outclasses its price point, for design and fit and finish it fulfills our expectations of an established company in this price range. Sound wise this amplifier ticks all the boxes, great tonality, world class 3D sound stage, a noise floor on par with all but the very best valve based amplifiers, and macro and micro dynamics in spades. The sound quality of the RKV MARK 3 is of absolute top reference level for an OTL based headphone tube amplifier. The pros to this are rock very low noise floor, low distortions, high frequence range, high damping, very natural and musical tonality, wide impedance matching, perfect open soundstage and so on. This amp isn’t for the weak of heart – this is an audioholic’s . Highly recommended is an understatement, we can’t tell you how impressed we have been with the development of this headphone tube amplifer.
On the left side of the front aperture , the two jacks for headphones and three rotary switches. The headphone jacks are connected in parallel when using the 6.3 mm connectors. For the use of XLR connectors , take the lower bushing for the right ear and the top of the left ear .
In the middle of the front panel you find the alps volume pot, right the balance control and left the power switch. When the unit is in operation, a green LED lights in the switch.
The excellent results the headphone amplifier RKV MARK 3 provides, aren`t only based on the sophisticated design of the circuit board.
A perfect developed circuit design is only perfect when it is implemented in accordance with the practice.
For all these products AudioValve theoretical and practical symboise is harmonious and coherent.
This leads to a matchless musical reproduction of all sound sources.
Also in RKV Mark 3 is a fully automatic biasing servo controller to use. In our new approach we have chosen a OPA134.
In this picture you can see the left section of the board, the phono section and the right headphone protector. The phono module is classic old school style and built with hand selected components, and fantastic musically.
The headphone protector reliably protects the headphones from pulses that can occur when switching ON or switching OFF the amplifier. The outputs of the amplifier are shorted for this time both on power as in both cases.
Months in ongoing testing of the Mark 3 was developed to perfection. In many updates over and over again the case,
the circuit and PCB layout has been optimized. At the end of this long period, we got the perfect product in front of us.
and the 10 kHz squarewave is absolutely fast ( OTL – mode )
– CLIPPING / OVERLOAD circuit –
When the red sine wave at the output of the OPA reaches the upper or lower limit of supply voltage (out of range), one of the two red LED ( green / blue wave ) lights as an indication of an overload of the amplifier. Then either the volume is too high, impedance is mismatched, or a tube of this channel is faulty.
1 – case color: standard – black or silver –
SPECS: OTL mode:
SPECS: IMP ( transformer ) mode:
SPECS: MM phono – section:
and here is the list up with the extra features, of the IVORY version of the RKV III, which includes of course all other models in IVORY version :
This all increases the musical authenticity and also the fine resolution of the tonal balance of both channels.
Delievery time : min. 6 weeks after order, as these amps will be produced
out of the regular production, single piece selected handmade.
|Dear Mr. Becker,|
I am glad to send you today in April 2017 my updated testimonial for the Audio Valve RKV Mark III headphone amp driving my Abyss AB-1266. Since I am very happy with your product it is a pleasure for me to deliver you details of my experience. If I could select only two of my hifi products for the lonely island I would definitely choose Abyss 1266 headphone and AudioValve RKV III together – they made a sonic dream come true for me.
Before I start I want to state that my testimonial reflects what I hear and what I like, it is subjective. Other high end enthusiasts may rate it differently. My ability to compare to other products was limited since I have heard only a limited amount of products in direct comparison.
Testimonial Audio Valve RKV Mark III headphone amp driving Abyss AB-1266 – comparison with Cavalli Audio Liquid Gold and Headamp Blue Hawaii driving Stax SR 007 / 009
Behind the purchase of expensive high end equipment there is often a long individual high end track record. So what leads to the fact that I am a satisfied owner of Audio Valve RKV Mark III?
My Stax track record
I am a loyal long term customer of Stax. I love these headphones with their silky, smooth presentation and resolution, especially when hearing classical music. I ended up with a Stax SR-007 MK2 together with the tube amp Headamp Blue Hawaii. Years of wonderful listening experience made the STAX combinations to one of the best investments I made in high end.
The tube amp SRM 007t was for long time my favorite of all STAX headphone amps primarily because of the sonic qualities in reproducing classical music. I love classical music. But also pop and jazz, so at the end I like it all! I upgraded some time ago to Headamp Blue Hawaii. It is an improvement in comparison to SRM 007t: more dynamics, deeper and tighter bass, more neutral. The differences are audible, but the sonic experience with Blue Hawaii is not worlds apart, so I think for prospects best choice is to check whether the upgrade is worth the huge amount to pay based on your personal judgement. Most listeners prefer the SR-009, some prefer even the older initial SR-007 to the current MK II version. I ended up to prefer the current SR-007 MKII. My ears rated the SR-009 as to bright, a little bit too lean and mechanical sounding, not so natural and lush like the SR-007 MK II. Yes, many criticize the SR -007 MK II in having too much energy and not enough precision in the low frequency range. Yes, I hear also this, independend whether driven by Stax 007t or Headamp Blue Hawaii. But it did not reduce my fun listening to Stax – at least until the Abyss entered the scene, will come back to that later.
Since some years headphones are my first choice of listening
In the last years my focus towards headphones increased because of two positive drivers: my young daughter (unfortunately not sharing my loudspeaker passion) and all these new headphones and headphone amps entering the market and getting highest recommendations from the audio press.
Reading all these enthusiastic reviews I was afraid I could miss something hearing only to my good old Stax. So I tried an Audeze LCD-2 sometime ago. A very good headphone with great look and feel. But at the end I had to recognize that after the attractiveness of being new and exciting was gone I did again prefer the Stax for most of my listening – regardless of the type of music. Only in the case of heavy rock or pop with extensive low frequency energy I used the Audeze. With the Audeze I did not hear the high frequency resolution of the STAX that is so important to me, I missed the delicate characteristics which makes the STAX so special, taking care of every musical detail.
Someday having a lot of time during holiday being spend with reading hifi magazines I detected a strange looking new high end model called Abyss AB-1266. I read some reviews about it and decided to buy it from Hifi-Studio am Falkensee (Uwe Heile), paired it with AudioValve RKV III. What a great ground breaking experience! It confirmed a old rule: after 7 seconds you know whether you like it or don’t like it, whether something new and special is happening. As well as the Stax the Abyss offers me a similar level of smoothness and liquid sonic. But the Abyss AB-1266 combines it with greater dynamics, incredible bass performance and a tangible and grounded sound. It is by far more dynamic and transparent in the lower frequencies – without the disadvantage that the Abyss does produces too much energy in the lower frequency range. That difference reveals very clearly the weakest point of the Stax (007 MK II). The sound with Abyss is also very lush – I love this. I hear dynamics, details and precision I dont hear with the Stax. The Abyss is so good that you can’t stop listening to your jazz, pop and rock recordings. You hear it like never before. For me this headphone represents a huge milestone in headphone development. Even with classical music the Abyss beats the Stax, but the distance is not so huge as with the other music genres. Definitely the best headphone of the world I heard so far – at least when driven by AudioValve RKV III.
AudioValve Mark RKV III
So let`s come to the amplification part. Today there are so many choices, every month new headphone amps announced – good times for headphone audiophiles! But if you want the best and the also the ideal match for your specific headphone (s) the amount of choices can be reduced.
I only heard a very small portion of the available headphone amp choices the market offers. So I am not able to give general ratings like “best headphone amp in the world”. And to reduce the scope of my comparison even further – I heard these amps with these headphones: Stax SR-007, Stax SR007 MK II, Stax SR-009, Audeze LCD-2 and Abyss AB-1266. An assessment of a headphone amp could be and sometimes definitely will end differently depending on the headphone you drive.
I heard the Violectric V200, Fosgate Signature, Bryston BHA-1, Cavalli Audio Liquid Gold, Headamp Blue Hawaii, the headphone amp of my Accuphase C-2400 preamp and the Audio Valve RKV Mark III.
My absolute personal favorite is the Audio Valve RKV Mark III. Smooth and very dynamic. This powerhouse is also strong in subtle details. The Abyss is so lively with the Audio Valve. It seems that the Abyss need some freedom to play, may be you know that kind of passion by a symphony orchestra being directed by a great conductor encouraging them to play without too much control – they will play being inspired. The Audio Valve has that kind of smooth characteristics that I like with Stax – without harshness. It seems to me not being a deviation to neutrality and power. Pop and Rock are sounding great. Incredible bass performance – so tight and deep. And in addition a very delicate reproduction of tone colors and a very three dimensional sound I never experienced so good with headphones before. I dont even miss loudspeakers, since I don`t have the feeling of music playing between my ears.
I compared my AudioValve with the Cavalli Liquid Gold driving my Abyss. I like the AudioValve by far more. More natural, lush, dynamic, threedimensional – it sounds fluent. The Cavalli sound more dry, mechanical, lean. Often the advantages and disadvantges of components playing on the same overall level are distributed in a balanced way. My ears tend to really LOVE the AudoValve: I can`t detect a criteria were the Cavalli has a sonic advantage for my ears. And for me it is a huge different. That was and is still a surprise to me, many rate the Cavalli as best choice for the Abyss. The difference is greater that the difference between Stax SRM-007t and Headamp Blue Hawaii.
In addition to the sonic merits I love the RKV III because I can see inside the amplifier. I can imagine where the music finds the way through the circuit – without being harmed. The glow of the eight tubes is wonderful. Audio Valve and Abyss are both not looking reduced like purist “Bauhaus” style. After some weeks in my home I now think they represent a “good and characterful looking couple”.
I also like the company behind Audio Valve. Mr. Becker has been long in the business, his company can offer a tradition, he is passionate, knows the basics of electronic engineering. He is one of that technical oriented small size company owner that keeps the economy going! He is very responsive to me. I can talk directly to him. If you prefer to talk to a smart sales guy representing your high end company of choice look elsewhere 😉
The Violectric V 200 is not so dynamic, it sounds also smooth, very controlled, a little be controlled in comparison to the Audio Valve, with less bass power in comparison to Audio Valve RKV Mark III. Considering the price I rate the performance as very good. But knowing what the AudioValve can do hearing with the Violectric is no fun anymore. I sold the component.
Summary and general experiences
So I urgently recommend all headphone enthusiasts to try to listen to Abyss and AudioValve RKV III. I am glad that I contacted Mr. Becker a year ago. Listening via Audio Valve RKV III and Abyss is the best listening experiences I can imagine.
In addition to my sonic experience I want to share also my practical experience in day to day operation.
I use the RKV III now since one year. It worked all the time trouble free without any problem. Important for me is also the fact that you don`t hear any hiss or hum, also no noise during start up or shut down procedure.
Take care in the case that you connect the RKV III via Y-adapter to your source. When switched off or in the case of the inputs not being selected the source will see a reduced resistance. No panic, there is not a risk of a damage but you just need to know that the level in case of a parallel connected amplifier is reduced.
With the Abyss I prefer the RKV Mark III 64 Ohm impedancer setting. It is smoother in comparison to the 128 Ohm setting, may be the listener looking for dynamics of pop and rock will prefer 128 Ohm.
In my configuration I needed a longer headphone cable for the Abyss. I purchased a cable called “Headphone Harness” from small US based niche company Jena Labs (distributed in Europe by emotionalaudio in Netherlands). A good decision. Look and feel is very good. Sounds very good, but I did not spend effort to compare to the JPS cable. The cables of both channels are stranded together and the strand is very flexible. So the handling is better than with the original Abyss cable.
Volker R., Hamburg, April, 2017
Warranty and tube Note
On each board is the model name of the product and the name of the tubes is set. So if you are not sure which tube you need, please look at the circuit board and watch what is written there (PCL805 – or ECL85 (6F5P)
In mid-2015 has been changed from PCL805 on ECL85 that affects the models RKV all, Luminare and Solaris.
The warranty is void if the top glass of the amplifier is taken within the warranty period. Also void the warranty, if other than that we offer tubes are used for the so-called “tube rolling”. To buy new tubes, please contact your dealer, he has recommended tubes on stock. Incidentally Tube Rolling is simply stupid in the models RKV, Luminare and Solaris. You can convince yourself by knocking on the tubes, they will not hear any knocking sounds in the headphones.