LUMINARE - version 2016
with remote control and prepared for DAC setup


AWARD - best headphone amplifier 2016 more then 1000,- USD

"The best is the enemy of the good ... "

AUDEZE present here goods on the show CANJAM 2015 in Cosa Mesa with AudioValve`s LUMINARE ...

of course you could also use at Audeze on the CANJAM another established headphone amplifier - but you didn't,
you had consciously chosen to Luminare. Why Audeze had probably done it - everyone knows the answer .....

The story of LUMINARE.

I do not really know why I have driven this project forward not many years ago. I think I was busy with a lot of other developments as well as trivial things like earning money for example. Perhaps mine is simply unaware that their headphones and amplifiers are experiencing a large hipe for years.

Anyway, the beginning of 2014 resulted in discussion with colleagues that I would have some products in my program that seemed almost ideally suited to put with the requirements of the headphone market apart.

No sooner said than done.

First, the IMPEDANCER befell a technical revision, it was expanding the range of applications for the RKV Mark 2 significantly, especially as a female teflon connector for headphones STAX was inter alternates. The bias voltage was obtained from the voltage signal, so no external power supply is in advance required. VERTO was born and VERTO laid the foundation for all further considerations in this topic, culminating now in the product with the name LUMINARE.

I can excuse at this point only for me actually that I started so fundamentally important development in the headphones sector so late (I slept through) and had thus deprived the public a potentially groundbreaking product. Many of you have their money invested now possibly poorly because there was nothing else on the market - that really am sorry.

But now back to Luminare.

It seemed to me as the basis for such a project, the OTL circuit of the RKV downright awesome. First, they had already claimed stable over decades in the market and on the other they had characteristics that should prove to be just the Luminare be extremely efficient and more full development. There would be for example the superior damping factor, low internal resistance, high bandwidth, and not least the low harmonic distortion he always particularly distinguished the RKV.

Now it was in principle "only" about output transformers so be interconnected in the OTL principle, which can be obtained if possible upright with transformer all these benefits. The advantage to couple a outpt transformer to an OTL circuit is that the repercussions and influences on the circuit itself ( either headphones or transformers ) are considerably lower. And this brings a projection on presence in the music, the listener will appreciate very quickly.

Everything else on this project was for me then just "routine". A new circuit board develop, expand the circuit according to the light of all electro - physical principles and my over 45 years of experience in this topic.

And ladies and gentlemen, I am more than satisfied with my work,
I hope you are there also -  Helmut Becker

The initial work on amplifiers for electrostatic headphones, ranging in AudioValve back to the year 1984. For this period Becker developed a stereo signal modulated constant current source realized with tubes of the type 6CK4, Headhpone for Jecklin float (s. diagram). The principle worked very well and was sold at the DIY scene and also submitted for a patent. Becker had at that time, however, his entire creative force for the development of medical laboratory equipment for hematology, to determine the clotting times of blood plasmas such as Quick, PTT, AT-III, etc. dedicate came across Europe in every hospital to use (blood coagulation ball - method). For this reason, the passion for audio electronics unfortunately had to again and again stand back and "ESV" never went into production. But documents from this early history prove that Becker with completely unorthodox creative solutions to progressive ideas for converting audio tube concepts - also worked for electro static Headphones - and since everything to be able to take park in claim without a university measuring instruments. So it's not that Becker has dealt only recently with the topic headphone amplifier, but for over 30 years.



power consumption: 80 VA nominal -  120 VA full load
power switch ON / OFF
headphone protector
+10 dB gain switch
2 x switchable inputs 1+2
input 1: set XLR jacks with parallel RCA  
input 2: RCA only 2 pair jacks as  signal IN / OUT loop
1 x RCA PRE - OUT,  -20dB
2 x NEUTRIK Combo jacks 6,3mm + XLR
1 NEUTRIK 4 pin headphone jack
1 x STAX Teflon female connector
1 x ALPS Potentiometer
1 x 3 mode switch, LI - OTL - STAX
2 x 8 watt / 200 ohms load
tube: 4 x ECL 85 ( 6F5P )
damping: 600 ( 200 ohms load )
and more ...


In summary, this means:

Note: Thus is L U  M I N A R E  the ONE AND ONLY  headphone amplifier on the market that is able to drive all standard headphone loads, starting from 3 ohm up to 145.000 ohms.

preliminary user manual link [EN]

deutsche Bedienungsanleitung [DE]

We ask anyone who would like to add something to the user manual of homemade experience with Luminare to a corresponding text note to Mr. Becker.

A good friend of mine (Ralf Ohmberger - Germany) has explained the theoretical concepts to the RKV basics in various treatises. People what have fun has got to the theory, this may like to study for better understanding its theme.

Slew Rate

Output Power

Frequency Response

Output Resistance, damping factor

Distortion factor

linear Distortions

nonlinear Distortions

Phase Shift (measurement)


Rear side connector panel


Suivre les discussions du forum pour plus d'informations au sujet du Luminare !

Follow the forum posts for more information about Luminare !



OTWIN MAAS - Moderator OPEN-END-MUSIC, Germany
.... das mir nicht anderes übrig bleibt als zu sagen:

"Dies ist der beste Kopfhörer - Verstärker mit dem ich jemals zu tun hatte"

"Den Violectric V281 konnte ich mir im Vergleich mit dem Luminare anhören. Er ist ein gelungener KHV, der aus meiner Sicht klanglich über dem Vorgänger V200 steht, jedoch in der Gesamtbewertung nicht an einen Luminare heranreicht. Er hat nicht dessen Klarheit im Klang, stellt nicht dessen dreidimensionalen Raum hin und erreicht ihn auch nicht in Sachen Klangfarbe bzw. natürlicher Darstellung. Aus meiner Sicht bedient ein Luminare eine Klasse, die komplett über einem V281 liegt." [ O. Maas)

The Violectric V281 I could listen to me compared with the Luminare. He is a successful amp, which is in my opinion sound than its predecessor V200, however, does not come up in the overall assessment of a Luminare. He does not have the clarity of the sound does not put out its three-dimensional space and also does not reach him in terms of tone and natural representation. In my view, a Luminare served a class that is completely a V281. [O. Maas)

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.

Aucune importance si le casque connecté présente une haute ou une basse impédance, une sensibilité élevée ou faible, qu'il soit électrodynamique ou isodynamique. Quel que soit le casque utilisé, je n'ai jamais connu un tel résultat que celui obtenu avec le RKV 3. Il ouvrira les portes sur de nouveaux mondes.

review by Dr. Martin Mertens, EAR - IN, 2/3 - 2015  ( RKV 2 + 3, basic concept for LUMINARE )



LOW IMPEDANCE mode: - test load 32 Ohm:
( max: 8 watt power output / ch.  )

1 Khz   - 0,1 watt - 0,06 %
1 Khz   -    1 watt - 0,15 %
1 Khz   - 4,5 watt - 1 %

10 Khz - 0,1 watt - 0,06 %
10 Khz - 1 watt - 0,15 %

bandwide: 15 - 100.000 Hz
damping: 15

min.: load 3 ohm  ( 3 watt / 0,33 watt - 0,15% )

OTL mode: test load 220 Ohm.
( max: 8 watt power output / ch.  )

1 Khz   - 0,1 watt - 0,015 %
1 Khz   -    1 watt - 0,08 %
1 Khz   - 3,3 watt - 1 %

10 Khz - 0,1 watt - 0,08 %
10 Khz - 0,5 watt - 0,1 %

bandwide: 12 - 150.000 Hz
damping: 600
gain: 32 dB

max. load 2000 ohms

tested example:
1200 Ohm load: 5.5 Watt max:

New Audeze "Prototype-Z"

STAX mode: ( auto gain control )

bandwide: 15 - 150.000 Hz
bias: 300 + 580 VDC
Vpp: max: 1700 VAC
gain: 34,5 dB + 15,5 dB = 50dB


gain overview :

Mode:  Low-Imp         signal on the black headphone jacks + 16.5dB /  and STAX connector 32dB + 6dB  ( galvanic coupled sym. balanced complementary output STAX connector signal )  + 38 db
OTL                  + 32dB ( amps gain only, step - up transformer less ) - STAX connector no supported
STAX only       + 50dB (   32dB +2,5 dB auto gain increase  +15.5dB galvanic coupled balanced step up tranformer ) all other jacks not supported



Description of some technical details ...

The output impedance at Luminare with negative feedback (physical concept: closed loop) is defined as follows.
The control is based on the principle of negative feedback of the open loop gain ( 133 dB ) of the amplifier. However, since there is
a closed loop. Dynamically because the amplifier tries to keep active voltage at the output losses in upright because he
continuously compares its actual value (feedback) to the desired value (signal) and continuously readjusts addition,
through the entire range.  

Example: The OTL mode provides Luminare 1V without load resistance and 0.998 V at 60 ohm load resistor.
From these data you  calculated easily approximated the output impedance of the amplifier for this load resistance 0,12 ohm.
The fact of wanting to determine the output impedance by incorporating the tubes, is simply nonsense.
It's not the tube determines the output impedance, only the overall OTL concept. of the circuit is the basic for the definition of the
output impedance of this circuit concept - this applies equally to RKV 2 + 3 and Luminare.
The output transformer is not
part its gain loop.
Who is interested in the incoming circuit design, can read my patent in 1982.   Click here



Explanation of the automatic gain circuit in Stax mode.

Luminaire has a elecronischen sensor that detects whether the Stax fashion a dyn. headphone is plugged or not. Using this electronic the user can choose whether he wants to increase the gain in the Stax mode or not. When the Stax fashion a dynamic headphone is plugged into the headphone jacks, the Verstärkungerhöung is overridden. This is only effective if the Stax fashion no dyn. Headphones equal time connected with the Stax headphones. A green LED on the front left on the board signals this condition, LED on means increased gain.




This LED indicates when the bias voltage built up for the Stax headphones and stable.

If you turn on the amplifier, reducing the volume and wait until this red LED goes off. As long as this red LED seems light up, all outputs of the amplifier is short-circuited and thus protect the headphones when the amp load or un - load the internal caps. This is always the case when the amplifier ON and OFF switches.

The transformer was installed outside of the amplifier. This has the advantage on that the heat of the power transformer remains from the device and, second, that no stray magnetic fields cross the output transformer or the circuit board and modulate them. In addition, the transformer was covered with a layer of transformer sheet and thus absorbs stray magnetic fields. Then the transformer with a 2-component potting shed was in a metal cup.

( describtion coming soon .... )




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.


Technical explanations for RKV2 and LUMINARE  that show why this concept provides such good results

The picture below shows you the max. Output voltage before start soft clipping in OTL mode at 220 Ohm load per channel - at 43 Vrms are on each channel 8,3 watts



play your high end streaming audio files from your mobile phone ( App: USB player pro ) with this setup and listen to any type of headphones - as STAX with up to 24 bits and 384 khz


AudioValve`s DAC ...

Audio Valve will offer in the future for some products a highend DAC as expansion module. First, the our headphones amplifier series RKV 2 + 3, as well as Solaris and Luminare will be. Our DAC is an absolute audio highend Product with exellente parameters and product characteristics, the orieniert at currently trendy technology.  User this technology knowing the musical possibilities of this module appreciate when they see, was to what components and techniques resorted.

But the DAC alone still makes no really good signal - source. Only in a balanced environment, consisting of a super power supply with selected components of the DAC, the stuck in his ways bring full retribution for. Why did not save here and DAC embedded in a power supply that provides all these requirements under all conditions.

The market to various vendors for DAC`s is full us we did not really easy for us in the choice for a demanding, yet affordable DAC - tried a wide variety - but think that we offer DAC module in it will convince every respect absolutely and is perfectly aligned to our amplifier range.

We would particularly like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Manfred Penning - circuit designer for more than 40 years - under andererem for RESTEK, BMC Audio and so on, all known German established products that are known worldwide. Mr Penning has with its commitment and its audio expertise considerably helped to pave the way for the success of our DAC.

The date for delivery of the LUMINARE - DAC devices in series, we have taken on March / April 2016 in the eye.

AudioValve - LUMINARE -Thumbnails preview




Features of AudioValve USB - DAC

- XMOS 500 MIPS processor
- Sampling frequencies: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz, 352.8kHz and 384kHz
- rf metal case shielding
- 16-, and 24- bit resolution
DSD Audio over PCM frames. DSD64 (2.8224MHz and 3.0720MHz) and DSD128

Galvanic isolation (outputs, two oscillators)
NDK low jitter oscillators 45.158MHz and 49.152MHz
- No switch mode power supplies in the PCB board
- Master clock outputs: 45.1584/49.1520MHz and 22.5792/24.5760MHz (I2S 22.5792/24.5760MHz are reclocked by edge from 45.1584/49.1520MHz)
- Both the USB part and the generators with the reclock are fed by two different external power supplies.
- 2 external separate power supply highest accurate state
- No drivers needed for Linux with UAC2 compliant kernel
- No drivers needed for MAC OS version 10.6.4 and above
- ASIO/KS/WASAPI/Direct Sound drivers are necessary for Windows XP to 8 (32 and 64 bit).

Licensed XMOS USB Audio 2.0 Stereo Driver( 226) for
can be downloaded in april ...


In order to operate the DAC in Luminare, some software is required on your mobile phone or your computer. On your computer, you must install a high-end audio player, such as JRiver [ http://www.jriver.com/ ] and also a USB driver that supports the connection between the DAC to the computer and / or a mobile phones. Adroid mobile phones do not need this driver, in this case satisfies a good audio player such as the "USB Audio Player Pro" with corresponding transmission cable.

Luminare - DAC has a smart sensor, if you are using Input 2, is automatically set to DAC - switched mode when + 5V coming from the computer's USB port. If this USB port voltage is absent, is input 2 available.
Input 1 operates autonomously and independently of the use of the DAC




When it comes to the best DAC / Headphone amplifier in the world goes, the air is thin.
Then one might fall a dozen devices. Starting this year, you can expand the list - since AudioValve the Luminare with USB - DAC board presented.

The in the EAR IN magazine 2-3 / 2015 presented AudioValve RKV Mk III belongs the handful headphone amplifier which for me absolute world top class belong. The Luminare represents the latest evolution of the headphone amplifier from the Kassel factory AudioValve. And I fall right now with the door into the house - in the presented stage with built-in USB DAC will cost the unit 4.200 Euro retail.

So consider carefully whether you are reading this test further, or whether they do listen to the Luminare once
myself ...

The ALLINONE  - allrounder


The amplifier circuit is based on the developer Helmut Becker preferred tube circuit which even in RKV Mk III
has been used and the different modes of operation allowed. It is immensely powerful for a headphone amplifier.
Depending on the mode makes the Luminare 4 to 5 watts per channel. On the front there are connections for virtually everything it on headphones gives. This starts with two combination jacks that either a 6.3mm stereo plug or a 3-pin XLR connector to record. Here, up to two headphones asymmetrically with the conventional plugs or alternatively a symmetrical Headphones are connected via two XLR connectors. Also, for the symmetrical connecting headphones more commonly used 4-pole jack connector can be found on the front. Moreover, Helmut Becker finally come to meet the many Stax fans.

The headphones were on RKV 2 operate only using the attachment Verto, which provided the bias voltage and the high signal voltages for operating electrostatic headphones are necessary. When Luminare you have this option built the same so that the front and a Stax-6-pin socket for Stax - Standard and -Pro Headset "graces". Overall, one can at Luminare so well run as any reasonably standard headphones.

On the back there are two entrances, implemented between which on the front can be switched on. Input 1 can be asymmetrically is via RCA or balanced XLR via. The second pair of RCA jacks next input 1 is a signal output of the pre-amplified and volume-controlled signal outputs - the Luminare can therefore be used as preamplifier
(as DAC and). Input 2 simply provides two parallel RCA jack pairs, so you can loop through the input signal easily.
Optionally the Luminare like our tester can be equipped with a DAC board. This is obviously not a solution of the bar, but a specially developed for use in Luminare board, on a converter is a suitably programmed XMOS chip, the digital PCM data 24-bit / 384 kHz and DSD processes up DSD128. Input 2 automatically switches from analog to USB at once into the USB port to a digital signal bears. The second analog connection is therefore retained.


Among the three modes of Luminare amplifier circuit is OTL Mode to clear preference for normal headphones. This mode is for headphones with an impedance of 50 ohms - applies here: the more, the better. And what of Luminare kindled here music is breathtaking bend. Common criteria can hardly cite. That tonality, dynamics, Timing, resolution and whatever else used to assess is, simply are perfect, should be self-evident. Here it's more
the elusive aspects that can easily experience a music, a go under the skin, making goosebumps let you laugh or cry, and we describe HiFi writers struggle with that.  And this elusive, complex and yet so simple music brings the
Luminare so clear, of course, and sovereign over how I really rarely seen.

This holds true as well for the Stax port in conjunction with the corresponding headphones of Luminare in tonal
resulting in regions where the Stax own amplifier can only dream. In Transmit mode, the also for the operation of low impedance Headphones to shut suited to 3 ohms, a little goes by the magic of lost OTL operation, however, we move here still on a level achieved by few other headphone amplifier makes the DAC any time the impression that he exploits the talents of the amplifier, which in this combination is simply top notch testimony to the digital section.