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Modenaudio Lympha IT-HA-1: choose the finish of this great-sounding headphone amplifier awarded with a Qobuzism!

Headsets dedicated to listening are riding high, and consequently the amplifiers dedicated to them are also on a roll, leading to the emergence of devices coming from small companies wishing to position themselves on this niche, like Modenaudio with its Lympha IT-HA-1 model, which combines both very serious know-how and handmade build and aesthetic originality.

By Philippe Daussin | Testing Ground | August 17, 2018
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Modenaudio is a young handcrafting Italian company founded in 2016 in Modena, as indicated by its name, by three music enthusiasts who love quality sound reproduction.

The reputation of the design of Italian products in many areas being already solidly established, Modenaudio wanted to keep with this trend by developing the aesthetics of its first design, the headphone amplifier Lympha IT-HA-1, in collaboration with the Laboratorio Di Architettura B/155.

Modenaudio offers two standard box colors, anthracite gray and pure white, and four options of wood, walnut, durmast, cherry wood and ash, thus allowing you eight distinct finishes by combining the box tint and the wood essence. The Italian brand clarifies however that there is no limit in the choice of box color and type of wood, as a potential buyer can request something else.

Let’s now discover this original device, whose price could be considered high for a headphone amplifier, but that can be explained by a local handmade quality build and a wish for its designers to do something different, or even by an aesthetically unique device meeting the demands of its buyer, and which received our Qobuzism award for its excellent sound performances and its well thought out settings and commutations.

Presentation

It’s an original and refined presentation, to say the least, that is offered by the Modenaudio Lympha IT-HA-1 headphone amplifier with its metal box partially adorned with a wood block forming some kind of small stand encasing the volume setting button and equipped with a light guide indicating if it’s switched on.


Two 6.35mm Jack plugs are located on the left of the front panel, and connecting the headphones on the left one disconnects the stereo output in the back, the one on the right remaining without effect on this output. Between these Jack plugs is located a red LED indicating if the mute function is on or if a dysfunction has been detected.

On the top of the box are located the levers of four small toggle switches. The one located on the far outside activates the mute, the following one enables the gain in the amplification stages, the next one sets off the Direct function which puts the selected output directly on the bypass output, rendering the amplification completely ineffective, and the last one allows you to select Input 1 or Input 2.

Nothing much to write about about the connectivity on the back panel, two stereo inputs and one stereo output, which, as we just said earlier, can directly be linked to the selected input or deliver a preamplified variable signal, or, as was also already mentioned, be put out of service when you use the headphone Jack that is on the far left of the front panel. You will note the quality of the RCA plugs, as well as the quality for the power supply.


Manufacturing

The Modenaudio Lympha IT-HA-1 headphone amplifier is handmade with care and possesses several interconnected boards by strands of twisted wires, the volume potentiometer, an Alps model, located on the top side of the box.


The view below allows you to clearly see the different boards, starting with the power supply which uses a DC-DC conversion module delivering, from the +15V of the power pack, symmetrical voltage of around ±15V for the amplification section and of around +12V for the signal switching relays and the LEDs.


Then come a small board that includes the four quality toggle switches constituting the device’s commands, and the card hosting the two Jack plugs and the red LED signaling if the device is on mute or on default.

The top side of the amplification card is equipped with relays and passive components that are quite bulky, such as the array of pale yellow capacitors with seem to be polystyrene models, among the best possible then. The other components of the amplification, active and passive, are gathered on the bottom side that you can see below.


This amplification uses a classical structure where the voltage gain is obtained via an operational amplifier whose markings have been erased (we can only see OPA, which is a brand of very good models), while the current is delivered to the headphones through LME49600 integrated buffers built by National Semiconductor. Their cooling is handled by a large copper area on the printed circuit board.

On their right are located the components of the protection circuits presents on each channel. Their core is constituted of an LM2903 voltage comparator from Texas Instruments, which commands the mute relay when it detects the presence of a DC output, sign of a dysfunction related to the failing of a component and that can be fatal to a pair of headphones’ transducer coils.

Sound

For our listening sessions, we have used Qobuz for Mac/PC with a Leaf Audio USB DAC equipped with a Burr-Brown PCM5102 conversion chip followed by simple passive filtering, as recommended by the manufacturer, which avoids the use of an active filter with an operational amplifier using a high feedback rate, which, according to us, offers a better and more authentic sound restitution. We used our Oppo PM-3 reference headphones, as well as the new Hifiman Sundara model.

Under these circumstances, the amplification section of the Modenaudio Lympha IT-HA-1 offered us an excellent sound reproduction of Vivaldi’s album Vespri per l'Assunzione di Maria Vergine performed by the Concerto Italiano conducted by Rinaldo Alessandrini. This amplifier is powerful and we didn’t have to go into high gain, while at mid-levels the sound volume was already more than comfortable.

Therefore able to deliver high sound volumes, the Modenaudio Lympha IT-HA-1 doesn’t forget to offer excellent definition on the whole sound spectrum, which it analyzes with ease, from the lowest bass to the highest treble with great respect for timbers and has no difficulty following the very quick attacks and bite from the string instruments of the Concerto Italiano. The solo vocals and choirs are also treated with the highest regard, and if we understood Italian, we could have perfectly understood what was sung, even at very high sound volume, where the clarity of restitution remains intact and where there is also no feeling of oppression.

With the Hifiman Sundara headphones, which seemed to us to favor the spectrum going from bass to low medium, the restitution of Pink Floyd’s legendary album The Wall proves to be particularly striking but we had to go into high gain amplification and there again the Modenaudio Lympha IT-HA-1 didn’t need to be persuaded to blast decibels while delivering a dense and very clean sound reproduction, included at very high volume, and without omitting any music detail or sound effect, even when the lower frequencies are unleashed in powerful impacts, and without any resistance or difficulty from the device.

A device with very meticulous handcrafting and manufacturing, the Modenaudio Lympha IT-HA-1 headphone amplifier will certainly ask some financial sacrifice from the enthusiast wishing to buy it, but in return he will get a powerful device with excellent sound performances, whose refined aesthetics can be customized, and to which we have bestowed a Qobuzism!

Specifications
Instruction Manual (multilingual)
Manufacturer’s Website

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