REALREVIEW - Little Dot Mk III Headphone Amplifier

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A REALREVIEW Of The Little Dot Mk III Headphone Amplifier by George Sallit


Headphones have seen significant growth in hifi over the last few years. This was started by itunes and people using various portable devices with those awful ear buds. Yeuch. These headphones sounded awful and were very uncomfortable to wear. However, along comes Dr Dre with Monster Audio and they bring out the Dr Dre headphones. They were an instant hit and still dominate the headphone market.

When I used to commute, people using full sized headphones were common and it no longer looked geeky to use proper headphones. Great. I started to use full sized headphones again and when away from home used one of the little USB thumbwheel players, which used full resolution CD files and had a dedicated amplifier with an analogue volume control. And they sounded very good. As I was isolated from others I was not a pest with that awful tssh tshh sound coming out from the headphones.

Despite all that, for me, headphones were still very much an accessory. Yes, I had a set of Stax electrostatics but did not use them that much.

Fast forward. A few weeks ago I got to hear a really nice pair of headphones with their own amplifiers (Audeze) and they sounded really, really good. As the sound goes directly into the ears there are no room effects and the sound quality per pound was exceptional. I am a fan of valves and my two main systems are both valve powered so were there any valve powered amplifiers around.

Well lo and behold, there on the internet was a Chinese company selling valve powered headphone amplifiers. The Little Dot MK III is a SEPP (single-ended push pull) OTL design operating in Class-A. Well no big deal there has always been a few amplifiers around. But these were about £200. Can’t be much good.

After a good internet search, I found a guy in Maidenhead who directly imported them into the UK and was selling them at £180. He said if it was faulty then he would immediately replace it with a new one. What’s to lose?


The Little Dot Mk III headphone amp is actually solidly built and has the capability to run a whole range of alternative valves including 6H30Ps. (the super tube of ARC, BAT and other premier amp companies).The amplifier is fairly weighty and has a nice transformer. So, I turned them on and gave them a little bit of time to warm up and I then put on a few test tracks.

The mid-range was very good and natural with a spooky voice quality that sounds real as opposed to a very detailed but thin papery cut out of a person. Now this is a strength of valves but that can come with a soft bass and a rolled off top end. Well the bass went fairly deep and was not soft and waffly. In fact, it was quite good and kept the pace of the music going especially on rock music. The top end was a little rolled off but there was a reasonable amount of sparkle and cymbals still sounded metallic but without the air you hear with electrostatic headphones for example.

I took the amp around to a couple of audiophile friends and both were really impressed and bought the amp from China.

I could be really critical and say they do not go really deep in the bass, the top top end was rolled off and the dynamics were slightly softer than I hear with other high quality amplifiers. But for £200, getting a valve headphone amplifier that sounds this good makes them a bit of a Billy Bargain.

Hopefully we can get some more headphones/amplifiers in for review. I am now convinced that provided that you can deal with the different feel of headphones compared to speakers then you could get ultra high quality sound quality for not a lot of money.  Recommended.  

My US colleague recommends getting them direct from China via  David Zhe Zhe as his service is excellent. He is at :


Edited by George 47
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For those interested I used a set of Sennheiser Momentum on-ear phones and Sennheiser 202s and I heard them with Beyer 770s. The sources were Auralic Aries with an Audionote DAC2.1x and a borrowed AN DAC 4.1x, the Metrum Octaves and an Esoteric D03 DAC. I compared them to  the Audioquest Dragonfly and preferred the Little Dot but to be fair the Audioquest is aimed at the portable market. 

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Valve swapping seems to be all the rage with this amplifier. I read they will accept 6H30P valves as the power tubes and I had six of the blighters spare, I thought why not?  The first issue was to ensure that you have V2 or later. That involves turning the amplifier over and using a torch to check the Rev number on the PCB. A quick squint through one of the holes in the case base confirmed V4. No problems with a direct swap. The valves were a bit tight into their sockets but the swap was easy. No need to change any switches.

I left them on for an hour or so and listened. Some have criticised the Little Dot for its slightly soft sound, with a 'limited' bass. I think that is a bit over the top given its price but this tube swap gets rid of most of that problem. The bass now has proper weight and is still nimble and fast paced.  The overall sound sound  has tightened up a lot and the dynamics have improved in being faster. I need to listen some more but this improvement cost me not a lot (the new valve price is about £20-£25 each) and for me made a positive difference. It was well worth it.

I will now have to try an alternative 5654 driver tube with the Siemens being favoured. They are about £7 each. 

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