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Audio-Technica made a S$113,888 headphone amplifier and I got to hear it

Audio-Technica made a S$113,888 headphone amplifier and I got to hear it

Behold, the Audio-Technica Narukami headphone amplifier.

How much would you pay for a headphone amplifier that was designed with purity in mind, to bring out the best in your headphones, and look good while doing it? About S$113,888, it seems.

This is the Narukami(HPA-KG NARU) and it's Audio-Technica's flagship headphone amplifier. Like most ultra high-end audio equipment, it was designed to both look and sound great.

The chassis is crafted using very rare Kurogaki (black persimmon wood). This particular type of wood is renowned for its beautiful black stripes.

Internally, the Narukami features a fully balanced circuitry that uses four ECC83S gold tubes in the signal amplification stage and four made-in-Japan Takatsuki TA-300B tubes in the power stage.

To match the impedance of the tubes to the headphones, the Narukami uses custom-made Lundahl amorphous core silver wire output transformers. These are said to cost around S$5,500 a pop and the Narukami uses four of them.

The Narukami features both balanced 4-pin XLR and single-ended 6.3mm output. It can deliver up to 1.6W per channel at 32 ohms. It can also be used as a pre-amplifier to drive speakers.

Although the Narukami wasn't designed as a complete system – Audio-Technica says customers should use it with whatever headphone they choose – they have thoughtfully created a matching headphone called the AW-KG Naru. This is a closed-back headphone that has matching Kurogaki wood ear cups. If it looks somewhat familiar, it's because it's based on the ATH-AWKT.

The AW-KG Naru headphone has matching kurogaki wood ear cups.

I had the opportunity to audition the Narukami and I liked what I heard. It accomplishes the rare trick that it seems only very expensive tube amplifiers can do, which is to sound clean yet natural and inviting at the same time.

All too often, a clean sound is associated with a lack of emotion, but that's not the case here. The Narukami is clean but it also hasa dash of that 300B goodness, that tube amp aficionados love.

And like many other good amplifiers, regardless of what headphones you put on, the Narukami seems to amplify its strengths and highlight its weaknesses – so make sure your headphones are up to the job.

The price is very high but I would argue the Narukami achieves its product brief. It sounds good, looks fantastic, and will easily takecentrestage in any audiophile's collection.

Availability and pricing

The Audio-Technica Narukami is S$113,888 and that includes the AW-KG Naru headphone.

According to Audio-Technica, only 10 sets were made and production is limited by the availability of kurogaki wood. I've been told thattwo have been sold here and rumours suggest that all the other units have been accounted for as well.

If you want to get your hands on one, you'd have to wait for Audio-Technica to procure more wood, or somehow convince one of the 10 owners to give up theirs.

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