Black AMP Testimonials

“I have been a longtime tube enthusiast though I have listened to and owned many discrete amps as well. At the end of the day, smoothness they provide has been the driving factor. When I first listened to the Black Amp, I knew it was different. It is the smoothest discrete amp I have ever listened to. It has speed and articulation without sounding clinical. I have struggled to find amps that have authority with the T-1 headphones I use primarily. This amp has no problem with them at all. It has relegated my WA-2 to only get occasional use at this point. I have both a Yulong & Cambridge Audio balanced DAC and both are very good pairings with this amp. I have not used the single ended side of the Amp, but as a balanced device it is miles beyond anything I’ve heard that is even close in price.

For my T-1’s this is a perfect amp, but it does a great job on my set of TH-x00 as well (totally different listening experience between the two sets of cans) and I have listened extensively with the HD-800’s and Alpha Primes. I never thought I would move on from my VTL or my WA-2 but the transparency and presence of this amp are amazing and it does it without becoming dry or clinical. I am looking forward to Austin Audio Works future offerings”

Tim L

This amp brings a clarity to the table that is missing from my other amps. It is SS obviously, so it has a speed and transient attack that is fast but not not overly square or grainy. This is true from bottom to the top of the frequency response, with upper mids and lower treble being fast and clear without any steeliness and glare. The FR is balanced and nothing jumps out at me as out of place. The bass is textured and detailed. The voices and mid centric instruments are neither forward nor recessed – everything is in place. Overall I think the amp is a click to the right of neutral, and this probably enhances its sense of clarity …..Really, this is a tube amp at heart but without most of the drawbacks of tube amp. Yeah I really liked this amp and was bummed when it left. I think it kills in sound in it’s price category if you’re looking for a tube sounding amp without having to deal with tubes.


“Being an audiophile means that you are an explorer, an adventurer and (let’s face it) at least a little bit of a masochist. I have spent many, many years on my personal sonic journey, and have heard transcendent highs and grating lows in that time. Speakers, headphones, DAC’s, turntables, moving magnet, moving coil, solid state, tube, digital, analog, professional grade, high-end, boutique, lo-fi, summit-fi, etc. are all manner of gear that has passed through my life. Around 2012, my quest became centered on headphone rigs, as I was confined to small quarters and could not spread out and set up a speaker rig. I dove quick and deep into this equipment category, and soon after getting my bearings, ended up owning HD-500s, T1’s, HD-800s and JH-16s. However, somehow driving these amazing beasts to their highest potential proved to be harder than I had thought it would be. I had naively approached amplifiers as somehow second-tier to speakers, but these new and highly resolving headphones demonstrated to me that there was so much more to amplifiers than I had originally appreciated. So again, I dove straight in. I tried solid state, tube and hybrid set-ups at varying price points and power levels, but there was always something keeping me from achieving what I knew was possible. Some amps stayed longer than others, but the synergy I craved was only ever glimpsed, not fully achieved. That is until Barry Thornton showed up with his current-mode “Black Amp”. Holy moly!

The Black Amp has done what I have always felt was impossible – it is a solid state amp that is more listenable and lovable than tubes. It has tamed the sometimes shrill HD-800’s, while at the same time remaining clear, precise, fast, open and unfathomably powerful. It plays a magic trick on your audiophile senses; you start out amazed at some specific aspect of the sound quality like how fast and accurate it is, or the incredible soundstage, or the intense blackness of the background, or maybe it’s the deep slam that it can deliver, but then that analytic amazement just melts and you are just left with a deep well of satisfaction and enjoyment as you forget to analyze any further, you just keep listening. Seriously, this thing can be so hard to review because it is just so engaging to listen to. It draws you into a space INSIDE the music — you become the flow, the timbre, the texture and the rhythm. I probably look like an idiot every time I listen to this thing because it either plasters a smile on my face or I am eyes-closed and enraptured. There has never been a single piece of equipment that I have encountered that has brought me as much satisfaction and joy as “The Black Amp”. This thing is something magical to behold”

Scott P

Buttery smooth highs with good HF extension, completely fatigue free even at higher SPL or with harsh tracks, nice I/O flexibility, mellow timbre and cohesive tone, good spatial rendering, compact size, would probably allow me to listen to any HD800 without crying tears of blood.

Ed C

I plan to get one because:
Super non fatiguing
Excellent clarity, separation, and tone. Some things that stood out which I didn’t notice mentioned in other reviews:
 Piano tone is really, really good, the weight and feel was just right
 Bass has good extension despite being lighter
 The Black Amp is very chill without being warm or rolled off in the treble. I need more chill in my life.
 I found the previous point especially surprising because the treble is both extended and clear. I have never heard this without music getting “hot” sometimes. I think Barry used some black magic to keep this amp smooth with this treble.
 The noise floor (I think that is the term) is excellent. I turned the volume all the way up and heard no noise whatsoever. Can’t say the same for the Black Widow or Stratus.
 What really sold me on purchasing the Black Amp in the near future is the excellent tone, clarity, and separation coupled with fantastic smoothness.

 Stevie Wonder, Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing. Fantastic piano and the detail and balance made this song come alive.
 Stevie Wonder, As. I didn’t realize this song can sound a bit muddy until I tried with the Black Amp and all mud and haze was gone. Also noticed some tizz with Another Star on the Black Widow which wasn’t there at all on the Black Amp. Black Widow’s slam was too much for me on both As and Another Star.
 Stay All Night (live), Joan Shelley. I liked the more extended bass of the Black Amp and found the tone of her voice more “right”.
 Piano Concerto #2, Brahms. The clarity, blackground, and tone are great. Especially piano (as usual). Really good with faster and/or busier passages.

“Larry H”

Some obserations about The Black AMP reporducing music on his HE6ES headphones “B” reports from the SBAF Tour:

Andra Day Cheers to the Fall
Again, clear vocals. I have heard this with an unpleasant edge and hardness, not today, just a clear diva performance full of expression.

Clifford Jordan Quartet Blues in Advance
A live jazz club recording, saxophone filling in for the vocals, none of the hard edges that I have heard before with this phone but plenty of bite, Again clarity for whispering cymbals, acoustic bass clean resonant, and full, no bloat, piano very clear with great timbre, all natural sounding.

Hilary Hahn Violin concerto #1
Lot’s of delicate low volume playing in the intro
Sweet violin that sounds like… a violin, ethereal here and much later when played with more force tempo and energy makes me think of a shade of bluegrass in the tone, orchestra is always well spaced out and well resolved, there is height and width and some depth, so far no fatigue and yep I am rediscovering the music
jump ahead to:

Kendra Shank Photograph
If I hadn’t already figured out what I was hearing it became apparent here.
The song starts off with a string of chimes tinkling during a light intro. What I heard were more chimes, as if there were 24 being lightly strummed instead of the 8 I was hearing before. I also discovered them throughout the song. I had heard them in later spots before but never this often or clear, so resolution is apparent.

“So far, halfway thru my playlist, I think the HE6SE has never sounded this good.
Bass guitar is resonant with good tone and decay and goes as low as needed with no drop off, excellent separation on all instruments, cymbals , chimes, strings, orchestral, classic rock, opera, jazz, vocals have all been upgraded, very easy to follow a single instrument or just sit back and feel like your hearing it all. It’s always going to be headphones but that sax is front center left near the piano, percussion is wide and articulate, guitar center, gentle and subtle on full display, loud, complex and busy, easily distinguished with resonances and decay from all instruments realized.

In all, I would say it’s like having a new headphone, so much more delicacy and resolution.”

“Brian H”