Sparkos Labs Aries Headphone Amplifier and Preamp

Sparkos Labs Aries Headphone Amplifier and Preamp

All of Sparkos Labs' discrete op amps and voltage regulators have come together to form their first piece of actual audio gear.  The Aries Headphone Amplifier and Preamp.  It utilizes their Pro discrete op-amps for the main audio path, their DIP8 discrete op-amps for managing line-level inputs and outputs, and their discrete voltage regulators in the power supply.

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Aries Headphone Amp

sparkos labs aries headphone amplifier

It all comes down to this.

All of our discrete op amps and voltage regulators have come together to form our first piece of actual audio gear. The Aries Headphone Amplifier and Preamp. It utilizes our Pro discrete op-amps for the main audio path, our DIP8 discrete op-amps for managing line-level inputs and outputs, and our discrete voltage regulators in the power supply.

All of this coupled with a precision stepped attenuator volume control and an interactive touch screen display yields what is quite possibly the finest headphone amplifier and preamp that mankind has ever known.

Inputs And Outputs:

The Base model comes with 2 RCA inputs and a 1/8" front panel input. Optionally, one can obtain a set of XLR inputs and a pair of both RCA and XLR line level outputs to enable the unit to function as a preamp with the Full Model. The headphone output is a standard 1/4" jack on the front panel. All Connectors are Gold Plated.​
Sparkos Labs Aires Back


Input selection and gain settings are handled through a touch screen display.  The volume and balance controls can be swapped as far as which one is which and are used to control a 64 step relay switched attenuator.
Aries Front Sparkos Labs


The main audio path is on the right-hand side of the unit and consists of two pairs of our SS2590 discrete op-amps that make up the input and output stages with the relay switched stepped attenuator in-between them.  Our SS3601 and SS3602 discrete op-amps handle the XLR inputs and drive the preamp outputs.  There are no capacitors in the signal path, and potential DC offsets are handled by a DC servo.  The power supply is regulated by a pair of our discrete voltage regulators, and the toroidal power transformer is shielded with Mu Metal for extremely low magnetic field pick up and hum.  The AC power input is universal and can work with either 115V or 230V.  Both the signal and ground side of all inputs are switched with high-quality latching relays Switching the ground side of the inputs (rather than just tying them all together) will prevent ground loops from forming between interconnected pieces of equipment.  The micro-controller that controls the attenuator and runs the touch screen display will go into sleep mode when the unit is idly playing music to further reduce noise.
Aries Headphone Amp Insides

Stepped Attenuator:

The volume and balance controls are implemented with a reed relay switched stepped attenuator. Using reed relays eliminates much of the annoying "click and clack" that relays have when switching, and instead has a much quieter "ting and tick". The attenuator is 64 steps, 1dB per step, and will mute when the volume is turned all the way down. The resistors inside the attenuator (and in the audio path as a whole) are all precision 0.1% tolerance thin-film resistors. The attenuator has a constant output impedance of 180 ohms for extremely low Johnson noise that is consistent across all volume settings. Stepped attenuators give a superior right to left volume level matching that is critical when listening to headphones on a Headphone Amplifier. Pot or Rheostat based volume controls, even the good ones like the Alps Blue Velvet, typically have something like a +/-20% tolerance so the left to right channel matching can easily be off by a couple of dB. The output impedance of such volume controls (and associated Johnson noise) also varies by where the volume control is set. For example, a 50K volume control set to the middle will have 12 times the noise (22dB) of the Aires volume control, and about twice the noise as the entire Aires Headphone Amplifier.
Aries headphone amp Stepped Attenuator

Sparkos Labs Aires Headphone Amplifier

  • 2 RCA Inputs
  • Front Panel Input
  • Optional XLR Input And XLR And RCA Outputs
  • 3 Gain Settings +10, +20, +30 dB
  • 64 Step, 1dB Per Step Attenuator For Volume And Balance
  • 120V/240V 50Hz / 60 Hz AC Power Capability
  • No Capacitors In The Signal Path
  • DC And Overdrive Protection
  • 2Hz - 350 KHz -3dB Bandwidth
  • Precision 0.1% Tolerance Thin Film Resistors
  • 355mA Peak, 14V Peak Output Capability
  • Dimensions: Width 12.5" Height 4.0" Depth 12.5"
  • Mu Metal Shielded Power Transformer
  • Fully Discrete Audio Path Using Our SS2590 Discrete Op Amps
  • Discrete Voltage Regulation Using Our SS78XX / SS79XX Discrete Regulators
  • < 0.1 Ohm Output Impedance
  • High Damping Factor
  • 16 - 300 Ohm Headphone Impedance
  • Touch Screen Control
  • Customizable Touch Screen Colors
  • All Connectors Are Gold Plated
  • 1.6 uV RMS Noise at 0 db Gain 20 Hz - 20KHz Unweighted
  • 9400uF Per Rail Power Supply Capacitance
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5.30 Kg
By on 30 Jul 2020 (Sparkos Labs Aries Headphone Amplifier and Preamp) :

Sparkos Labs Aries Headphone Amplifier

The Aries is a true audiophile standalone headphone amplifier. Build quality is great and volume and balance control are really exceptional. Provides more than enough power to get the best out of my headphones in an unbalanced out. No distortion and great transparency and clarity and has worked great with demanding planars or IEMs I have. The biggest compliment I can give it is that makes you want to listen more to your headphones and get the best pair possible as a complement to speaker sessions (or live events when one will be able to attend them again). I have the full model as that was what was easiest to try and buy in these difficult times (I use an unbalanced RCA connection) but unless you really want the balanced inputs, I would go for the base model.

Try it for audition, and like me, whatever the hole it burns in your pocket, you won't want to send it back.

What I really like: Easy to use, the front 3.5mm input connector (great for DAPs), the volume and balance knobs and the small click when you move up and down, the Sound
What I miss: A remote (I know not that important for a headphone amplifier and an issue with the top spec volume and balance control design), a screen "off" mode"

Top marks to Mark and the Audiocom team who were most professional and helpful to a new customer in difficult circumstances.


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