Capital AudioFest Part 2: Aurorus Audio and Linear Tube Audio

Linear Tube Audio seemed almost omnipresent at CAF this year, probably because the company is local to the DC area.

The LTA headphone lounge was chock full of some of the best headphones on the market, as well as some brand-new and prototype models that were really exciting. Among these were two new headphones from a company called Aurorus Audio.

Amar from Aurorus Audio told me the headphones had been under serious development for about two years. There are two versions; a closed back called the Australis and the open back is called the Borealis. Amar had been reviewing headphones and giving feedback to local DIYers for several years before finally joining with Aurorus to help with tuning and development. The units use a 50mm 32ohm dynamic driver that Amar told me was identical to the driver used in the Kennerton Vali.

Jameson Mourafetis of F1 Audio wearing the Borealis Headphones .

Amar told me the Borealis and Australis would be priced at $899 USD and took inspiration from the Sennheiser HD600 and 650 for tuning references. The headphones were still in pre-production form, but Amar told me Aurorus is looking at December as rough release date. As usual, listening impressions should be taken with a grain of salt, but I think these have promise.

The open back seemed quite clean through the midrange, with more resolution than I’m used to hearing from the HD650, though with a similar midrange. The upper end and lower end were where the open back Borealis seemed to vary the most, with more sub-bass and less mid-bass than an HD650, and more extended and linear treble. The upper midrange on the Borealis had a tad bit of metallic harshness to it, but in chatting with Amar I got the impression he was well aware of this and had plans to address it in the production models.

The closed back Australis was similar, but with a bit more bass response, and a slightly more subdued and peaky treble. I was surprised at how similar the midrange sounded on both headphones, and the soundstage on the closed back seemed relatively open. I preferred the bass response on the closed back, though found the low-mids had a little more energy than I would like. Overall though, very clean headphones, and I always love seeing startup efforts from enthusiasts – this is how some of my favorite companies in the industry get started. We would not have ZMF, Dan Clark Audio (formerly Mr. Speakers) or Audeze without a rich DIY culture.

Going back to Linear Tube Audio, another small and relatively new local Maryland company, I finally got the chance to give the MZ3 and Z10e electrostatic amplifiers a listen. Where I had found the MZ2 mostly linear with a pleasant richness and warmth, the MZ3 was even more open sounding and dynamic. The Z10e with the supplied Stax SR-009S and Dan Clark Audio Voce, were superb to my ears. It was nice to take a listen to these amps after living with the MZ2, and having an MZ2 on hand to compare to was extremely useful as well. There’s a definite house sound, but also a real leap in quality between the different amplifiers in the LTA lineup, and I can heartily recommend giving any of their gear a listen if you’re in the market for a linear, low-output-impedance tube amplifier.

Up next: New Headphones from a familiar company with a new name!

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