Rebel AMP Headphone Amplifier – Green For Win
I always said it is time to rebel against the system, and someone finally did, by building the Rebel AMP. They rebelled against all those big time companies making headphone amps, by making something which should overtake them, despite being made by a single guy. Rebel AMP is a full Class A Amplifier, made in Europe, and it costs about 500 USD, and is made of metal, so it will get compared to other nice headphone amplifiers like Feliks Echo, Aune S6 PRO, and Audio-GD Master 19. The pairing list will include iBasso SR-2, Sennheiser HD660S, and Dan Clark Aeon Flow RT.
Rebel AMP is special. It is green. It is unique. It is made by hand. And it really resembles closely another amplifier, from Schiit. Sadly, they decided to not cover Europe and so at the moment I haven’t gotten to review any Schiit product yet. On a brighter side, I do have a ton of experience with amplifiers, from other companies. This includes both solid state amplifiers, and OTL ones, with special feature too. Rebel AMP is made responsibly, tested before being send, and has the full support of the maker behind it. It is also slow to be released, sold in batches, and you really have to camp on their website, because it is worth its money so much that it is often sold out.
It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Revel. I’d like to thank Revel for providing the sample for this review. This review reflects my personal experience with the Rebel AMP. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it. The purpose of this review is to help those interested in The Rebel AMP find their next music companion.
The build quality of the rebel amp is perfect, and it is made tough, like a tank. You could say that it looks natural, but the green color is rather explosive and lively, but far from natural. It really outshines its surroundings, and will be noticed easily on your desk.
The front includes a switch that helps it switch between having the pre turned on or off, and a gain switch too. The gain can be set in three modes, with bottom being medium, middle being low and top being high. You can hear it switching to high in between the switches, so be careful what volume you’re at, if you like to play it risky. The headphone output is a single ended 6.3mm large headphone output, and next to it there’s a LED to indicate that the Rebel AMP is working.
The volume wheel is lovely, it is large and damped, so it doesn’t turn too easily, and offers a satisfying feel to it. It also has little to no channel imbalance for the entire volume range. It is perfectly matched above 9 o’clock, so if you find yourself needing to turn it lower, you could switch the gain.
At the back of the unit we have an input in RCA mode, a PRE output in RCA as well, an AC in in a cattle plug type, and a fuse, next to the power switch. I love the fact that we have a fuse, because in certain countries we have voltage fluctuations and you know the amp won’t burn, although the switch may.
Judging from the serial number, I would be willing to say that the Rebel AMP sells rather well, since I have the 20074th unit. Jokes aside, it does sell well, and all customers thus far have been really satisfied, and I myself noticed absolutely no issue with it, as long as you like the green color. This is a big thing, because there are tons of other options out there if you want something less vibrant as far as aesthetics go, so only for those color lovers the Rebel AMP will be a delight.
I liked using it as a Pre too, it has a really clean and crisp sound, with no distortions. Slightly warm and musical, makes for a perfect Pre for any system, especially if you have active speakers and need a pre to control the volume. I am using an Adam Audio Speaker setup for my personal listening, and I really like having a pre, although I will admit they require a DAC too in that chain.
The sound of the Rebel AMP is really powerful, controlled, yet has good nuance and refinement. There’s a slight warmth added to the entire sound, with an excellent musicality and sweet mid presentation, and an energetic, uplifting treble.
The bass is deep, punchy and very transparent. This means that the Rebel AMP plays and acts exactly as the song asks it to. It has a natural speed, has excellent weight, and some extra, as the entire sound is slightly warm. This means that there is slightly more bass than what most people call a neutral sound. This has proven to work well for all the headphones I tested the rebel with, and there was nothing that sounded off or too warm. In fact, that extra warmth adds some body, and as most headphones lack in this respect, it gives a more satisfying sound and impact.
The midrange is perfectly musical, with a really sweet presentation. The signature is slightly wet and liquid, rather than dry. This means that guitars and guitar solos in particular will sound nice played through the Rebel AMP, but it won’t be analytical in general. The soundstage is its strongest point, or rather the stereo imaging. This means that the sound is extremely precise about the space, with a pin point accuracy. The soundstage has a natural overall size / width / height. This helps a lot with music not getting lost, but having a very clear separation between the foreground and background instruments. Especially with a harder to drive headphone like HIFIMAN Sundara, or Harmonic Dyne Zeus, you will totally notice the spatial cues and the sweet way Rebel AMP is able to place the actors in the scene.
The treble is actually pretty energetic rather than rolled-off. I noticed some folks calling this a smoother sounding AMP, and while I agree that the mids could be considered smooth, the treble surely can’t. The treble is sparkly, healthy, has excellent life, and peppers a very vivid overall sound. The textures of the Rebel AMP are strong, satisfying but it is never grainy, thanks to the slightly wet character. I think that there was a pun about it sounding like a “Hulk”, but my review and its release is far too late from the avengers movie to make much sense of this.
The main competitors you guys have been asking me to compare the Rebel AMP with are the Feliks Echo, which is an OTL AMP, but also the Aune S6 PRO, and the Audio-GD Master 19, which is considerably more expensive.
Rebel AMP vs Audio-GD Master 19 (500 USD vs 880 USD) – I know you guys asked me to compare those two, but Master 19 is considerably more pricey than the Rebel AMP. For that price, it has more features, works better as a Pre, and even has a balanced output. I would say that the sound is even more dynamic, more vivid, and more punchy for the Master 19, which costs more than the Rebel AMP. Rebel AMP is warmer, where Master 19 is more neutral. This actually means that it is simpler to pair the Rebel AMP with most headphones, as brighter signature cans may become fatiguing with the Master 19.
Rebel AMP vs Aune S6 PRO (500 USD vs 650 USD) – S6 PRO comes with a DAC, so this part will compare the S6 PRO standalone, versus using it as a DAC for Rebel AMP. The first huge difference that I noticed was the driving power, which is much higher on the Rebel AMP, especially on Single Ended. Even on Balanced, S6 PRO is rather conservative with its power, where Rebel AMP rages with the strength of a thousand suns (in comparison). The sound is wider on the S6 PRO, with better instrument separation, while it is more punchy, more dynamic, more vivid on Rebel AMP. They are comparable in details and overall clarity. S6 PRO is better for IEMs and really easy to drive headphones, while Rebel AMP is better for hard to drive planars or dynamics.
Rebel AMP vs Feliks Echo OTL Amplifier (500 USD vs 500 USD) – The one thing that I loved about the Echo was the midrange. It is so musical, juicy and detailed that it is hard to compare it to anything else. The Rebel AMP, compared directly to the Echo sounds more bassy, warmer, more impactful in the lows, but the Echo sounds more open, more airy, with more emphasis on the upper midrange and the treble. Depending on the headphone, Rebel AMP has better control and impact delivery with Planar Magnetic Headphones, while with Hard To Drive Dynamics, the sound is more juicy and cleaner on the Echo. Echo can color your sound for your speakers, through its line out, but it does not feature a Pre OUT, which is a big feature for the Rebel AMP. Both are made really well.
I picked a few important headphones to pair with the Rebel AMP, and those are the Sennheiser HD660S, iBasso SR-2, and Dan Clark Aeon Flow RT. There are way more headphones I want to pair with the Rebel AMp, and which I used with it, especially the Harmonic Dyne Zeus, but this review only allows for so many comparisons.
You should keep in mind that I always try to find hard to pair examples to showcase how something sounds while put on the spot, rather than going with the easiest pairs, like an Audeze LCD-2C which pairs nicely with almost everything. The DAC used for most of those pairings has been the AAdac from Audio Analogue, as well as Singxer SDA-2.
Rebel Audio Rebel AMP + iBasso SR-2 (500 USD + 500 USD) – When I first reviewed the SR-2, I noted that it is a really natural, somewhat smooth, and usually relaxed headphone. With the Rebel AMP, this changes a bit, and the sound becomes more open, cleaner, more spacious, with more emphasis on detail, vividness and impact. In fact, this pairing sounds like it is on steroids, but the Rebel AMP still presents no distortions with the SR-2, even at audaciously high volumes.
Rebel Audio Rebel AMP + Sennheiser HD660S (500 USD + 500 USD) – When you have a HD660S, you know you want a strong amplifier for them, and Rebel AMP is once again strong enough to drive the mighty can from Senn. The best part about this pairing is the bass impact, which is funny given how bland the bass of the HD660S usually is. I like the fact that Rebel AMP can go really low with the HD660S without distorting, and the overall detail is excellent too. The soundstage ain’t the largest, but no source will make a HD800 out of the HD660S.
Rebel Audio Rebel AMp + Dan Clark Aeon Flow RT (500 USD + 500 USD) – I absolutely loved the fact that the Rebel AMP can properly drive and control the Aeon Flow RT. Those headphones make little puppies out of LCD-2C, Sundara and even Zeus. I’ve no clue why such a midrange priced headphone is so hard to drive, but someone, somewhere made an amplifier strong enough to drive the Aeon Flow, and the Rebel AMP gives them a ton of life, a beautiful presentation with tons of detail, and an airy, yet non fatiguing treble.
Value and Conclusion
Rebel AMP actually has an excellent value. This is the thing I like about it the most, as it has both a great build quality, excellent sonic performance, and you can even use it as a PRE. At this price point, that makes it an excellent all-rounder from someone who makes them by hand.
Being hand built also means that there’s far more attention to every detail. Most chinese DACs and AMPs are made in large factories, where little things can get messed up, and you can end up spending weeks fixing the issues. With Rebel Audio and Rebel AMP, chances are you will never have to worry about such things, as the Amplifier was tested before being sent to you.
There’s also the soundstage and imaging that are top notch, regardless of the price we’re looking at, paired with the driving power, all of those making the Rebel AMP an easily recommended Amplifier, if you can manage to grab one while it is in stock.
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Full Playlist used for this review
We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature. PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality are all revealed by those songs. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music!
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