HiFi Review – Cover Story Addiction Alert! – Audio Note COBRA Integrated Amplifier

“Audio Note’s integrated amplifier comes with: 28 watts of output power per channel (Class  A); built-in DAC decoding circuit; three sets of digital inputs (coaxial, USB-B, and Toslink optic fiber); and a full-function remote control (volume adjustment, mute, and input selection). With such a combination and priced at only a little over HK$40,000 – what a pleasant surprise!”

“If you love the flavor of vacuum tubes, have high standards for music replay, and need something that is easy to use that can also work with music streaming services / music files, you must not miss the Cobra!”

“As the largest developer and maker of super-premium amplifiers in Europe, Audio Note keeps the most important manufacturing processes in-house, such as their custom-made transformers and film capacitors, and the Cobra’s superb double C-core output transformer that is tailor-made for Audio Note with precision hand-wound [copper wire].”

“When it comes to digital-to-analog signal simulation, Audio Note still consistently insists on not oversampling, not using noise distortion, jitter reduction or re-clocking, and removing all digital filters required for oversampling. The filtering is done in the analog circuit. It is their belief that removing all above-mentioned unnecessary mainstream practices and adding filtering in the analog circuit would be more conducive to maintaining good bandwidth, phase accuracy and dynamic coherence. This effectively maintains the original sound of the music, accentuates the difference between different recordings, and brings out the dynamic contrast.”

“Audio Note’s design and material selection truly set them apart from the others; it all comes from their founder Peter Qvortrup’s perseverance and attention to sound and music. Their design and material selection have never merely focused on quantitative technical specifications, rather, their choices are based on the overall integration and their ears’ experience of the sound performance. ⋯ Audio Note’s faithfulness to musicality makes their sound pleasant to the ear, while not forgoing the analytic ability and a smooth, coherent range from low to high frequencies. The Cobra checks all the basic but important boxes: a clear high-frequencies, a meaty mid-range, a powerful mid-low range, and a strong bass.”

“When streaming pop music on Tidal, the searing hot live ambiance came through with the crowd’s dynamic and vivid noises, …female vocals are equally appealing, with unpretentious and poignant emotion…… When James Levine conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in Meditation, their presence comes across well in proportion to the compact room, filling it with strong sound and the atmosphere of a large ensemble.”

“When I changed over to the Luxman D-03X CD to play actual CDs, it further affirmed that the Cobra handles both dark and light tones well with a hint of warmth and no loss of analytical ability. The tones have good contrast, with no restraint or any mechanization…. The intonations bring out a drawing power from the music, an emotive energy, with rich yet moderate harmonics in the back, in contrast with the tranquil background that reveals an ethereality. ”

“Cobra re-created the lively atmosphere of the Big Band Sound in the 140-square-feet small hi-fi room at our office. Elegant yet funky, the dynamic movement in the music makes people want to shake their heads to the music.”

After the field testing, we can confirm the following:

1) When streaming music through the Cobra, it really does enhance the aural experience;

2) Each channel on the Cobra is driven by two EL34 tube amplifiers with 28-watt Class A push-pull, enough to drive most speakers of average sensitivity within an area of 200 square feet;

3) The Cobra has inherited Audio Note’s infectious musical appeal;

4) When the first, second, and third points above can be achieved at this price point, we can confirm that the makers intend to convert more users / players into addicts with the Cobra. ”

–        River Chan