MT-602 is not my first encounter with the Xduoo brand, which belongs to a TA-05 model. But just like the first time around I’m again having a hybrid tube headphone amplifier on the bench.
Build and Connectivity
xDuoo MT-602’s design took a new turn compared to TA-05. First of all, it’s smaller, packed in a sand-blasted grey aluminum body. Except for the protruding tubes on the upper side, the red volume knob also makes sure the look feels fresh and modern. I’m usually not a fan of punchy bright colors but for some reason, it looks just right in this case, especially while it’s working and tubes are glowing.
On the back panel, we find two pairs of RCA outputs. One is reserved for line-input while the other one is a variable pre-amp output. So yes, you can use this little thing as a small tube preamp too. It’s power with 12V DC and the laptop-sized brick is provided in the box. The front panel hosts a power switch, volume knob, and two headphones outputs, a smaller 3.5 mm one, and a bigger 6.3 mm. A little bit unexpectedly, there’s another auxiliary 3.5 mm input in the corner too. You’ll surely not hear me complain about connectivity here.
As already mentioned, xDuoo MT-602 is a hybrid amplifier. This means that tubes are used in a pre-amp stage while class A transistors provide power and grunt in the power-amp section. This is a scheme many products revert to trying to capture the soft and natural presentation of tubes, but without losing the power and control of a solid-state solution. That said, xDuoo claims a power of 1300 mW into 32 Ohms, with 15 dB gain, saying it’s suitable for headphones ranging from 16 to 600 Ohms. Looks promising on paper, but let’s see who it behaves in actual use.
So let’s get this out of the way first – does Xduoo MT-602 offers a warmer sound signature, as you might expect from a device with glowing orange tubes protruding from it? Yes, it does, but only to some extent, limited to a certain part of the frequency spectrum.
The Bass region is weighty and voluminous. When mass and boldness in lower registers are needed, this amp will provide. The bassline is not noticeably slow and sluggish, but it is also not the quickest one either. Pleasantly rounded is the description that comes to mind. Great thing is that texture was not sacrificed in the process. Vibrating bass strings sound like vibrating strings and not as a faceless sweet mass. This praise-worthy texture retrieval continues over the midrange section too. The upper midrange is actually the part responsible for that is open and textured sound. Because of it, listening to a saxophone, for example, is a joy. We get both bold instrument body and raspy airy texture on top of it. If anything, that whole upper midrange part is slightly more pronounced than I’d consider perfectly neutral. Luckily, it’s done in moderation and not overcooked to the point to become harsh or picky in any way. The highest region is again very clear and resolving. If you have hoped for a sweet and roll-off treble response, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
So tonally, I really liked this little hybrid amplifier, but what about other things? Dynamics are just fine, nothing to complain about, but also nothing to write home about. This is not a heavy-hitting kind of amplifier, it’s more the type of listener that appreciates smooth sailing. Sound-staging on the other hand is as good as it gets at this price point. There’s a decent sense of width, but not much depth and three-dimensionality though. Layering is quite capable with enough air around instruments.
This section will be short as xDuoo MT-602 possess enough power to drive almost anything that makes any sense pairing with budget amplifiers (yes, I’m talking to you guys that are using LCD-3 paired with fifteen times cheaper amps – stop doing that, it’s not appropriate sound quality wise first and foremost). Tonally, it’s open and bright, not too much so it shouldn’t be a problem for any headphones that are not overly bright (the ones with huge and wide hills in the upper midrange part of the frequency response).
If used with sensitive in-ears, MT-602 will produce noticeable static background noise. Also, the volume knob offers louse volume control resolution and things become too loud too quickly. With that, I’ll conclude that this is a big cans amplifier, not suitable for sensitive in-ears.
xDuoo TA-05 is also a hybrid tube/class A transistors amplifier but with clearly different tuning. Its bass is even more voluminous, mid-bass and midrange are warmer and with more bloom, while the highest frequencies are tamer and sweeter. It sounds as warm, bloomy, and sweet as someone could wish for if you’re after that kind of tuning. MT-602 on the other hand is more neutrally tuned, reveals more texture, and it’s brighter up top. Which one is better? Well, you’ll have to decide that one for yourself. I do prefer MT-602 but you might feel differently.
Topping L30 is a typical solid-state amplifier. It sounds clean, fast, and precise. Bass punch is decent, edges possess good energy. It sounds cleaner than MT-602. On the other hand, tone timbre and texture are not that pronounced. In that department, MT-602 has a slight lead to my ears. No matter how many times I went back and forth I couldn’t really decide on a clear winner here. It boils down to your taste and choice of music I suppose. If slow music with raspy vocals, saxophones, and other acoustic instruments is what you’re listening to most of the time, I’d give a slight edge to MT-602. If faster-paced tracks are your thing, you might appreciate a slightly punchier bass-line and more muscly presentation of the L30.
L30 is also dead silent even with sensitive in-ears so there’s that too.
To come clean, I expected yet another very warm and sweet-sounding amp, but xDuoo went in a different direction this time and I do believe it’ll pay off. I like this compact styling more than the old, vintage, and chunky one too. The price to performance ratio is great and if you don’t plan to use it with in-ears, and you find described voicing appealing, I can’t think of anything particular that should prevent you from seriously considering xDuoo MT-602 as your headphone driver.
|XDUOO MT-602 – CHARACTERISTICS
Rated Power: 1300 mW @ 32 Ohm