HeadAmp Blue Hawaii SE Electrostatic Headphone Amplifier (Playback 56)

Headphone amps and amp/DACs
HeadAmp Blue Hawaii SE Electrostatic Headphone Amplifier


“Kevin Gilmore goes into detail on the (amplifier’s) circuitry in his HeadWize article. Apart from technical explanations in this article, Gilmore says his inspiration for the design was the expensive and rare Stax SRM-T2 amplifier which was also solid state with a quad of EL34 tubes. Stax has not had a ‘statement’ amplifier since the SRM-T2.”

The amp is designed in what we would characterize as the minimalist chic style. By this we mean that the styling of the amp is deliberately understated, so that instead of emphasizing dramatic visual details, the amp’s appearance invites viewers to savor the Blue Hawaii’s overall fit and finish quality, which are simply superb (this amp is lovingly handcrafted and looks the part in every way). If you go to HeadAmp’s site, the photos simply do not do justice to the execution of the design. The metalwork and engraving, along with the fit of the parts, is excellent.

Two final aspects of HeadAmp’s approach deserve comment. Unlike some high-end electrostatic headphone amps (e.g., the Woo Audio WES) the Blue Hawaii SE is basically offered in one configuration, with one carefully chosen set of tubes (the aforementioned matched Mullard EL34’s), one power supply, one quality level for all of the other core parts used in the amplifier. As Justin Wilson points out, “the Blue Hawaii SE has no capacitors in the signal path, so there is much less reason to have to upgrade.” Expanding on this point, Wilson adds that,

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