Although Chinese made, the hybrid 307a is designed with input from the UK and US as well as the Chinese. The ‘team’ were Audio Design Services’ former Chairman David Hopkins, Joseph Kwong of Napa Acoustic in the US and Des Zhai from David Audio ADS (China) – they manufactured public address equipment. These guys were initially meeting to discuss developments in the public address sector of products but found they were all very keen on valve based amplifiers and over a period of nearly ten years their hobby turned into a marketable product.
The 307a is a hybrid, it retails at £249, is a 25w per channel tube hybrid and, whilst Mistral were not really fans of MP3, they acknowledge the existence with an ipod / usb input – this input caters for iphones up to an iphone 4 and rather than add yet another cable for iphone 5, the USB input will be replaced with a Bluetooth input which launches in September.
There is a pair of matching 307s loudspeakers available as well as the 307c+ CD player.
Arriving in a very well packed manner and thick outer box I removed the top piece of polystyrene to reveal the amp in a cloth bag and the accompanying accessories. Immediately I reached in with one hand and grabbed the amp and was surprised to feel the weight of it. I took it out of the cloth bag and thought ‘this looks well made’. The small orange LED lights under the tubes gave a little added glow to emphasise the fact that the tubes were an integral part of the design and didn’t look tacky.
Now I’m not going to start talking about the partnered equipment or cables etc for this amp, it would be way too pretentious of me to slap on £20k’s worth of cables and the same in equipment, so I’ve set it up nice and basic with a squeezebox and some real everyday ordinary cables etc. just like someone with some common sense would do if purchasing the amp. Speaker wise I will be listening to a pair of electricbeaches M1NX single driver speakers.
We’ll see how she fairs and maybe ill do a quick look at the Mistral powering my main system just for the hell of it.
So – The Sound
Stings ‘Walking On The Moon’ was nice and sparkly in the treble and also had great air. There was great potential in the rhythm. Potential you say? I don’t think it’s one of the best recordings out there, it has fantastic cymbals, yet lacks a bit of coherence and the amp seemed to want to lend its hand to something rhythmic but was crying out for a better recording possibly.
‘Kingston Town’ UB40’s classic and back in the day my first test track whenever demoing new kit. Fantastic sparkling treble and a more layered bass tone. The Mistrals top end absolutely shines, I love my Dared 6CV for its top end but I think the Mistral has the edge in airy sparkle, maybe not as complex, but the musicality it displays is wonderful going down into its open midrange and further balanced in to the quality it gives the bass on the track. It certainly had the cohesiveness I felt the previous track was unable to give the amp, rather than the other way round. A further quick note whilst listening to some more tracks from the ‘Labour Of Love 2’ album is that the amp produced a very nice slap and punch to kick drums and vocals were really starting to impress me a great deal through the single driver speakers.
Chris Jones’ ‘Long After Your Gone’ gave a good rasp to guitar and I could clearly hear the rubbing and gentle tweaking of strings, with a deep fluid bass note. The vocals were strong, full bodied and sounded natural and well placed in the soundstage. Instrument dynamics were also convincing and interesting in an amp of this price.
The Cranberries ‘Dreams’ sounded great, fast, bags detail with great tempo and the Mistral dealt with the track admirably.
‘Ode To My Family’ showed good separation and sound staging with a clear and concise central focus which was vibrant with just that touch of tube magic and appeal, I can see why the 6N1 is an industry favorite (or is it just the Chinese) for small inexpensive amps which have a tube preamp.
Celine Dions ‘Beauty And The Beast’ has some beautiful vocals which were delicate and well focused and actually expressed what I would deem as emotion (huh?!) from an amp which costs as much as a good night out for me and the missus!… I’ve gotta find a fault within amp but can I at this price point, surely? With what it’s telling me musically…
Don’t speak too soon young man I told myself, noticing a button labelled with the devils word ‘bass boost’ …oh my!
So I plucked up the courage and pressed it……noooo, I knew I shouldn’t have I was hit with a claimed +6db bass boost, it felt like more believe me.
The amp sounds beautifully balanced and wonderfully musical already so why put a button that you know teenagers who are lucky enough to own one are going to press and just wince or duck for cover as there drivers fly across the room as they already have the volume up at 99.9%?!
For a purist like myself …
No, I can understand for horrid thin sounding poorly recoded mp3’s this could help to beef things up a bit.
Also for low levels and tiny speakers, maybe I can understand this feature but take it from me the amp already wounds well enough voiced.
The iPod Connectivity
I applaud Mistral for recognising the requirement of this feature on the amp and they provide a black and white cable for the ‘Feng Shui’ of the colour of iPod or iPhone being used. Also included is a nice and simple rubber dock which can grip and accommodate all sizes of the Apple devices.
I’m not really an iPod fan, I don’t like the interface and nor do I like iTunes but I did recently buy an iPod Classic for such instances like this review, so I unpacked it, plugged it into my Mac and up came iTunes.
After 20 minutes of cursing and funny looks I had loaded some lossless files as well as mp3’s onto the little sucker!
I allowed the playlist to run as I sat and listened to tracks from Ben Howard, Fleetwood Mac, Norah Jones, Bob Marley, Eric Clapton plus others and I can report that the sound quality was very nice, not quite as good as the Touch but extremely acceptable and would be a joy to anyone who decided to use a portable Apple device. It’s so simple to connect to the Mistrals rear USB port and play. There are EQ settings on the Apple devices also which help to tailor a little the sound to the setup.
All in all a well thought out feature which will make the unit more appealing to a wider potential customer basis.
Spotify from my touch sounded great! Bags of detail and punch, the 320kbps from having a premium account never let the side down and sounded very close to my own ripped music, although not as refined, it could be argued that the music sounded more fun and exciting. I love the cleanliness of the tube front end implementation on the Mistral, it never sounds dull or boring nor does it sound edgy or brittle.
I had to push the amp into my main system, utilising the PS Audio Dac and my Ayons, with all the cables I normally use.
Norah Jones amongst other female vocalists sounded surprisingly controlled and accurate, lacking high end refinement, which was to be expected but sound staging was amazingly stable and intriguing.
Male vocalists such as Damien Rice and Chris Jones had texture and tone and lower end body to their vocals.
Instruments were clean crisp and musical, there wasn’t large ambient effects or dynamics, although there were great details and a presence of a full display which characterised the music in a familiar way as well as carrying over the characteristics which were so greatly appreciated in the previous more minimal setup.
For sure, with the better components in place the amp gained a good few percent in performance showing that there is flexibility in the potential of its ability dependent on source (it hadn’t previously hit its wall with a budget source).
Where my main system is racked is underneath a large worktop used as a desk, so for me to have one of these running the PC speakers is simple as my dac has four sets of outputs, in this case I can really feed the amp a good front end and be completely satisfied with its sound quality as an add on to an already established system
For someone who was to buy one as a completely separate system, the Touch on its own is fantastic as a source and so flexible as it can be used wireless to stream.
The Bottom Line
Consider a seriously well constructed T-amp or something such as the vintage Pioneer A-400 and add a simple yet well implemented valve pre amp, not like some hybrids out there which lend a willowy and droll valve pre section to either a good solid state rear or a class D and your left with a tight, punchy cute little extremely well made, solid amp which can express a midrange, sparkle in the highs and create a decent rhythmic bass note in a very attractive and musical way which will have you convinced there is something more substantial on song.
Order Code : DT-307A
Power Output: 2 x 25W
AC Power: 220V~240V 50/60Hz
Vacuum Tube Type: 2 x 6N1
THD at rated power: =<0.1%
Frequency Response: 15Hz – 25kHz
Bass Boost: +6 dB
Inputs: AUX, CD, iPod IN, 3.5 Jack
Signal/Noise ratio: =>85db
Dock Adaptor: Universal / iPhone & iPod play from 30 pin conector
Remote Control: No
Finish: Silver & Black / Aluminium