Audiotechnique Listening Chapter equipment review
Audio Note Cobra Integrated Amp
Strong Musicality with Sweet, Delicate Vocals

DATE : 9 Mar, 2021
CATEGORY : High-end Audio

“The appearance of Cobra is similar to Audio Note’s flagship amplifier, the Ongaku. This already caught my eye…. The Cobra’s price point is really attractive for Audio Note. It comes with a digital input and a decoding function, which caters to the new generation of enthusiasts and is convenient for playing digital files and streaming music.”

“Audio Note’s Cobra integrated vacuum tube amp has a preamplifier section…. There is also another secret weapon in the device – the manufacturer’s own tailor-made double C-core output transformer. Backed by this high-quality output transformer, it becomes easier for the Cobra to drive different speakers… A crucial part of Audio Note’s Cobra is its built-in DAC decoder, which allows for three digital input sources…. When it comes to the digital signal conversion, the makers of Audio Note have their own unique insistences: they simply do not use any supersampling, upsampling, digital filtering or clock processing.”

“The sound of the Cobra is indeed very musical, especially when playing the violin. You can hear the strings vibrate, and the resonance diffuses once the sound is emitted, which produces an elegant linger that is quite alluring. Female vocals sound even smoother, more natural and sweeter, which leaves a strongly intoxicating sensation…. With the Cobra pushing the Alumine Five SE speakers, they pass the test when playing music with large dynamics, low-frequency rumbles can also be heard.”

“The Cobra replaying the violin is not to be missed. The smooth, silky sound it emits is irresistible… I played a track from the recent hit album John Williams in Vienna to try it out. Thanks to the Cobra, the front and back layers of sound stage are clearly relayed with decent dynamic contrast performance. Its interpretation is not wild, but rather a gorgeous and noble tone full of musical expressiveness. I wonder if this is the tone of the Great (Golden) Hall itself in the Wiener Musikvereins?”

“The Cobra’s built-in DAC is really not weak, it seems upon hearing that there is a bit more in the low frequencies, and the overall impression is closer to the sound of Audio Note in my mind. This is not something I anticipated before. Afterward, I try to stream music on Tidal which can only be used as a reference, but the results are also unexpected. The digital ‘flavour’ seems significantly reduced, which made for more comfortable listening and a greater sense of musicality. I don’t know if this performance stems from the decoder, or if it’s the magic of the tube amplifier itself. I really can’t tell.”

“The Cobra’s built-in DAC is by no means sloppy. It is definitely not an afterthought or a giveaway. If you have always listened to music in files and on streaming platforms, this DAC can surprise you, and it feels more musical upon listening, which is quite rare. It has further boosted the value for money of this Cobra!”

– Lee 388

Audiotechnique March 2021

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