Fleawatt Custom Amp - Wonderful, Budget not Withstanding.

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. Read 3241 times.

Ultralight

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 381
Yowzer moderator, I postd this in the wrong forum. This should be in the amplifier forum.  Please move if you wish.

I know very little about chip amps.  I also have not been asked for a review but feel that this is worthy of a quick shout out for its fantastic abilities.  I have received SO much fantastic help in Audiocircle that I can never repay the debt. 

Fleawatt basically takes the TPA3116 and pushes it with many modifications. What you are paying for is his expertise as to what works and what doesn't.  My guess is that implementation is key.

Some of you may have read my account of my 2+ years speaker search in the speaker review forum. I've paid less attention to my amp and DAC.

Basically for amp, I'm comparing this again the Decware Zen UFO (2 watt SET)

My speakers are Omega RS5 Bipoles at 97db efficiency.  I did a review on the Omega Super 3i.

My Dac is the Line Magnetic 502ca which has both tube stage and pure solid state output.

Recently there was a road trip of the Fleawatt started in the Omega form.  It was a $150 unit.  To say I was impressed was an understatement.  It had bass authority, punch, speed, clarity, resolution and felt like a SET-lite to my ears in the expansive soundstage and wonderful 'air'.  (Subjective feelings of course)  Unfortunately, due to a trip that took me out of town, I had only about 3 hours on it before having to ship it to the next tester.

So I ordered a Fleawatt that is better specified.  It is his $245 version.  Now that I've had it for a few weeks, I can say that I am thrilled.

In short, I call it the 'Zen-lite'.  This is NOT damming it the Fleawatt with faint praise at all. My Zen that a friend sent me is the latest spec and upgraded with step attenuator along with direct bypass for external preamp if desired.  It runs 5 times more than the Fleawatt if you were to pick it up from Decware. By the way, Fleawatt has owned two Decware Zen and also rave about their qualities.

Why 'Zen-lite'?   Above all, it has that wonderful 'air' and large soundstage that reminds me of both the SETs I've owned.  This is of course running the Omega RS5 based speakers which I believe to be amazing values. The presentation just feels 'luminous' - a subjective word I use for SET amps for the presence I hear. Yes, I realize that some may write me off the moment I say that the Fleawatt is 'set like' in the 'air' as it is solid state.  I'm but an amateur (though with a developed ear) but I do believe my contribution will be most helpful if I report things as I hear them.

How is it 'lite' relative to the Zen that cost 5 times more?
1. The Zen is famed for being holographic with the RS5. It is. The Fleawatt is less holographic but still possess a wonderfully spacious soundstage along with tremendous soundstage which I really value.
2. The Zen, with tube swap can have fatter mids.  The Fleawatt is accurate but given that the RS5 has less 'body' in the mids compared to the Omega Alnicos, but rewards with greater dispersion and faster transients, at times I'd more of the tube warmth.  But this is the nature with solid states - that what you get is what you stay with.  I note that not once have I ever felt that the Fleawatt was tinny/sharp/sizzly on the top end.

BUT - there's another intriguing factor with the Fleawatt. It can take voltages from 8-24 volts.  I have two power source at 15V and 24V.  The 15V is more typical Fleawatt that I run.  The 24V gives the trebles even more air and spaciousness.  So you can customize it a bit.  If you have a variable power supply, I supposed you can turn the voltage between 8V and 24V to taste.  I've not tested this ability but it is intriguing.

Note that I also did compare the Fleawatt side by side with another very highly touted sub $500 solid state amp which has been compared with about half a dozen other sub $500 commercial amps and supposedly beat them all.  In the end, I preferred the Fleawatt for its overall subjective 'magic' and huge soundstage though the other unit had denser mids. I'd say both are comparable depending on your priorities but the Fleawatt is significantly more affordable even with my more tricked out version.

In short, I have been listening to the Fleawatt for few weeks now and it is just wonderful.  This is an amp that I can LIVE with as my ONLY amp.  Given the other two SET amps that I have had, for me, this says something.

Coupled with a dual driver wide baffle Omega RS5 speaker and a good dac, for me, this is a wonderful system.

For a budget system, I am not sure if one can do better. I'm keeping the amp.

UL
« Last Edit: 21 Mar 2016, 06:20 pm by Ultralight »

MarkR7

Re: Fleawatt Custom Amp - Wonderful, Budget not Withstanding.
« Reply #1 on: 16 Mar 2016, 05:45 pm »
Nice review and write up of your Fleawatt UL! Thx!  :thumb:

Do you think a quality tube preamp in front of the Flea will get you more bloom, fullness, and 3D?

Cheers!

md92468

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 207
Re: Fleawatt Custom Amp - Wonderful, Budget not Withstanding.
« Reply #2 on: 16 Mar 2016, 11:45 pm »
FWIW, there is a Fleawatt currently available on A'gon for $250. If I could deal with only having one input I'd be all over it. Definitely intriguing.

(In case it's not clear, I have no financial interest in Fleawatt...don't know the guy...just passing along information).

Ultralight

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 381
Re: Fleawatt Custom Amp - Wonderful, Budget not Withstanding.
« Reply #3 on: 17 Mar 2016, 02:42 am »
MarkR7,

Not sure.  As I don't have a tube preamp - or a preamp of any kind.  But it does sound intriguing.

You may of course, mail me yours and I'll be happy to test it for you.... :lol:

UL

Holygeezer

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 23
Re: Fleawatt Custom Amp - Wonderful, Budget not Withstanding.
« Reply #4 on: 20 Mar 2016, 04:41 pm »
"Note that I also did compare the Fleawatt side by side with another very highly touted sub $500 solid state amp which has been compared with about half a dozen other sub $500 commercial amps and supposedly beat them all.  In the end, I preferred the Fleawatt for its overall subjective 'magic' and huge soundstage though the other unit had denser mids. I'd say both are comparable depending on your priorities but the Fleawatt is significantly more affordable even with my more tricked out version."

What solid state amp are you referring to? Inquiring minds want to know.

Ultralight

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 381
Re: Fleawatt Custom Amp - Wonderful, Budget not Withstanding.
« Reply #5 on: 21 Mar 2016, 10:01 pm »

What solid state amp are you referring to? Inquiring minds want to know.

Holygeezer,

Super busy day - but popping in here to reply.  Not sure if this will satisfy you but here's an attempt on why I did not mention the other amp, not because it is bad - but because it is very good and I'm afraid that others will jump to the wrong conclusion since I did not keep that amp.

Here are some thoughts:

1. Audiocircle has been very helpful to me.  For example, I never really believed that a single full range drive would be satisfactory as I've been listening to multiple drivers with crossovers and flat pannels with woofers etc.  Surely one small driver can't possibly match let alone exceed the musicality of more complex speakers right?  But then I could not ignore the many repeated rave about Omegas.  They were intriguing to say the least.  Finally I tried and a pair and was 'blown away', so to say.  What persuaded me?  The many positive raves.   I did not get much help from negative reviews so my focus on the things that really worked for me. 

2. I also know that many of the equipment manufacturers are small companies, perhaps even with just one craftsperson who has to put food on the table.  Most do it out of love of the craft. There are probably easier ways to make a living. So I really want to honor these people - without faking it of course by false overly positive reviews.

3. In addition, I know that a negative review can really impact sales for a company.  On a different forum than Audiocircle, I posted some negative comments about a setup that is well into the four figures.  It was a large company and I did not think much of it.  However, I got a call from one of the company's lead guy and we chat for 90 minutes.  It was super cordial and they did not ask for me to change anything.  They simply wanted to hear first hand my experience. During that exchange, the gentleman mentioned in passing that my one review had a profound impact on their sales with some specifics.  I was stunned.  They did not ask me to pull my review and I did not as that would be a compromise, but that made me more sensitive about the impact of written word on the web.   (I'll say no more about that company  so please don't ask....but my respect for that company just jumped sky high! 8) )

4. I also know that what does not work for me may work well for another.

5. Given all of the above, I am very reluctant to list a negative review, or what can be perceived as a negative review for any equipment, especially for smaller companies.  Negative reviews really never did much to help me.  I received much help for positive reviews such as with the Omegas, Decware, and Fritz's speakers.  I am reluctant to do harm to any company - especially smaller operations.   The larger companies, if they already have a lot of positive and negative consumer reviews, I am more willing to share my own negative experiences as it is one among many.  Logical or not, that's my own personal sentiment.

When I compare, my comparison is a commendation. For example, when I say that the Fleawatt is 'zen-lite' for me, it is not a knock on the Fleawatt at all.  It is actually a genuine praise as I am comparing it to something that cost 5 times more, and is a unit that is widely touted as being top of the class for a $1K+ SET amp to match with the Omegas.  I've been listening to my Fleawatt for many many hours in the past few days.

6. I do however, demand of myself that I do not exaggerate the positives in any review.  If I can't be totally honest and instead, exaggerate, then there's no point in my sharing anything at all.

Does this help?  This is why I intentionally not mention some of the smaller company brands that I tested if I do not have a genuine rave for them.

UL
« Last Edit: 22 Mar 2016, 03:34 am by Ultralight »

md92468

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 207
Re: Fleawatt Custom Amp - Wonderful, Budget not Withstanding.
« Reply #6 on: 25 Mar 2016, 01:12 pm »
I recently picked up an upgraded Fleawatt from Derek...it's a wonderful little piece. A little jewel. And more powerful than you might think...right now I (temporarily) have it powering a pair of Ohm Walsh 2000s, which are (too generously, IMO) rated at 88db/6ohms. The little guy holds its own...certainly not the way my Blue Circle DAR does with those speakers, but better than I expected (at 1/10 the cost of the BC). I suspect that when my 93db Spatial M4 Turbos arrive next week I'll be in for some fun. Always great to support an entrepreneur, too...