Ecoute Audio... Bluetooth Tube Amp Headphones?

Anyone else see this?

I remain firmly skeptical. Especially with the lack of any sort of menu on their site, let alone a name for these cans. It does give specifics though, such as “Korg Nutube 6P1 Double Triode Thermionic Valve.”
I want to believe, but at this point I just can’t.


There’s no way…

Been used in guitar pedals and some synths for a bit, not sure how they would fair in phones

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The picture looks like a Nutube, they are very compact, and you could certainly put one in a headphone, not convinced it’s worthwhile and microphonics will probably be an issue.

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I’d be willing to bet it’s a hybrid, and even then the difference in battery life doesn’t seem like that much…

Hi folks!

It is in fact real :slightly_smiling_face:

You are correct that it’s a NuTube part.

I’ve been working on the project.

Korg Japan has provided support.

The implementation of the part didn’t take a whole lot of tweaking, it’s very stable.

Nelson Pass’ evaluation of the part mirrored our own experience. You can find documents and videos published by him on the topic.

Someone here mentioned that it’s likely a hybrid design. That is correct. In context, it was plausible, but silly, to use as an output stage. (we tried, lol).

The rest of the circuit is already very solid. Unlike (every) other wireless headphones, we are not utilizing the Qualcomm on-chip DAC. We pull the digital signal from the chip, pull it into a legit Burr Brown DAC intended for HiFi separates, and then use the tube SET part as a preamp to drive a nice A/B output stage.

For those who aren’t experienced/trained listeners, they would likely argue the added cost of the preamp isn’t worth it. In the context of their perspective, I would agree with them.

For trained listeners, when you activate the tube SET preamp, you will instantly hear the soundstage broaden and instruments/voices occupying their own defined and stable place in the mix. A trained listener IMHO will definitely pay for the refinement. There’s nothing else like it that I’m aware of, and I see/build a lot of gear.

Also note that the microphonics are not a big deal. Yes, if you tap on the sides you can hear it, but if you’re sitting around enjoying music, you’re good.

I’ll pop back later to answer any questions you folks might have. Happy listening :sunglasses:

Called it!

The problem for me is I tend to lean more towards wired if I’m stationary. When I’m moving it depends on what I grabbed. Still, the only real time I’m using BT is when I’m moving around, either doing something around the house, going for a walk, or I’m in a store while running errands

I should clarify. Around the house you’re not going to hear microphonics either. Unless maybe you’re working out and really ‘thumping’ around.

Also, while stationary, wired, and wireless, would be an option in this case.

Hi I’m interested in the headphone but I have one concern having used portable tube amps/daps before will there be heat shapng or will the cups get nice and warm.

If I recall, nutubes don’t get as warm or use quite as much power, but I could very well be mistaken.

Correct. Thermally it’s not a big deal.

There’s also a layer of cold foam that rests against the head to wick heat away (no sweaty head :crazy_face:), and there’s ventilation through the vents on the sides.

When this project will be launch on Kickstarter?
Is there any chance to use 4.4mm balance cable?
Which bluetooth codecs available for this product?
If you’re so serious about sound, how about using LDAC? I already made an early reservation and hopefully it will launch soon. I like to suggest it will be included a nice carrying case and stand.

Soooooo…. Is there anything happening as of late? It’s been quite some time and I don’t see this on kickstarter yet.

From what I understand, they will launch it very soon.

Out of curiosity because your posts have left me unclear, you’re saying you worked on the project, but aren’t part of the company? Or you were when you worked on it, but aren’t anymore? Or something else entirely? I also totally understand if you don’t want to answer.

Either way, I enjoy the Nutube implementation in my Cayin N8ii DAP. It truly does make a noticeable difference and it imparts some significant tube euphonics when I switch into tube mode. Before I had tried it on the N8ii and the A&K SP2000T, I just figured the Nutube stuff was likely to be more gimmick than anything truly worthwhile, but I admit that I was proven wrong once I got to hear it. That’s not to say that I know the implementation in these headphones will be good, but I certainly think it has potential to be. Using a Burr-Brown DAC instead of the onboard Qualcomm DAC (this is what the Fiio BTR Series, Qudelix5k, and other bluetooth DAC/amps do) is another step in the right direction so hopefully they pull off something that is truly a cut above the consumer oriented bluetooth sets we’re used to seeing.

Given that they’re going on the third year of development that we know of, hopefully they’ve really taken the concept of putting out a truly hifi level bluetooth set seriously and the timeframe is indicative of their commitment to making that happen instead of compromising and cutting corners in order to release the product quicker. I guess we’ll see.

Totally understand. Happy to explain my role/involvement, and my background.

A friend of mine is funding the project. He knew I did technology commercialization and product development for premium/high-end audio products. This has been my entire career. I started obsessively collecting and reading Hi-Fi magazines and tech/computer mags when I was … 11? I was a weird kid, lol. The product creators and engineers applying ‘real tech’ to audio products were my heroes.

My first audio-tech start-up was late 90’s/early 00’s and positioned as a technology supplier; networkable DSP based amplifier modules. Classic too early story. Most of the heavyweight brands at the time dismissed it out of hand. Class-D amplifier technology could never sound ‘Hi-Fi worthy’ and networked music/audio in homes? Who’d ever want to buy that!? Fun fact: The exact part we settled on using in our modules after lots of architecture fooling was recently introduced as a groundbreaking innovation by a well known character in the Hi-Fi industry.

That company was called N.M.I. Devices (Network Media Interface). We only had a landing/contact page because our goal was to be the source of innovation for big brands so there’s basically no record of it’s existence.

Next I decided to try my hand at the consumer Hi-Fi space. That company was called Mass Fidelity. We had a slow start. First we made traditional Hi-Fi stuff. Speakers and amps. That wasn’t make ends meet. Because of industry friends I knew that Sonos was growing like crazy - even though most consumers hadn’t heard of them. Lots of installers were spec’ing them in because it eliminated a huge expense for them - wire pulling - and consumers could use their existing computers to control everything which was a big deal at the time.

I decided to pivot into that space because my other love - ‘computer tech’ - could be applied. We built our own Linux distro (StereOS - too good to be true or what? lol) and I worked with a friend in the Philippines to create the hardware for a ‘developer system’ that I showed at a Hi-Fi show in Montreal. We integrated Grooveshark - I had become friends with one of the founders (RIP), YouTube, and personal storage. Because we had such limited resources, we got around the app thing - which was an absolute nightmare at the time; blackberry needed to be supported, and it wasn’t clear if Palm’s new smartphone was going to be a hit or not, lol - by broadcasting a website from the systems that could be password protected if desired, but more importantly easily accessible by any phone or computer.

Too early again. For clarity, too early to get strong support from distributors in the global Hi-Fi sales channels. Squeezebox had an early adopter following but hadn’t blown up/been acquired by Logitech. Sonos was in a sort of purgatory in the CI channels. The idea of consumers wanting to pull music from streaming services and home networks and blast it around the house in the context of ‘Hi-Fi grade equipment’ was still too weird. However, I did have two other things that I’d been working on.

One was a bluetooth DAC, which was initially sneered at. Until they listened to it and saw how easy the experience was. That was the first product ever listed on the apt-X website.

Then I got into advanced acoustic rendering technologies which IMHO is the future, but who knows how long it’ll take. The technology I first worked with was provided by a Swiss crew, and it was acquired/integrated into Sennheiser’s Ambeo program. They’ve gotten the closest to how I think the technology should be used.

After that, some consulting for big audio-tech/Hi-Fi companies, and joining forces with some friends to bring a company called Periodic Audio to life. We’ve got some pretty awesome stuff about to drop. That company’s mission has been compact, high-value, and cutting edge electromechanical/electronics implementations. No over-ears though.

A few years into the Periodic Audio journey, my friend - who’s funding the project - asked me to work with them on the concept of a headphone that had tubes integrated into it. That’s Ecoute.

You should have seen the first prototypes they showed me. LOL. To be fair, it actually worked and used ‘real’ tubes. But it would’ve been a nightmare to produce, and virtually impossible for the customer to maintain - which you have to do with tubes.

Initially my view was that the tube part should be moved outboard as an accessory to be done properly. But to Kendal’s credit (one of the founders) he stuck to his vision and ended up finding and introducing me to the NuTube part.

At the time, there were no mobile products using it. It had only been integrated into some pro stuff for stage musicians. Then I found a presentation Nelson Pass did on it. He did an exploration of the device and came to the conclusion that not only did it work just like an S.E.T. stage, but that it was very well implemented and suitable for battery operation.

That’s the only stamp I needed on it to move forward. Nelson Pass is one of very few people in the world that have allocated the time to plunge the depths of what’s missing in measurements as they relate to audio amplification and how those missing elements and seemingly inconsequential details that can sometimes be observed impact our perception of reproduced sound.

The first design that integrated the NuTube didn’t sound that great. It was more of a proof of concept though. But having the experience of hearing ‘the first pass’ at hundreds of Hi-Fi products, if you’re paying attention, you acquire the ability to hear potential. It irrefutably had that; in spades.

I talked to my friend who’s funding it a few days ago, not even about this project, but he said they were getting ready to launch. The first prototypes were working well before covid. That threw a monkey wrench into timelines, but in the end I think a blessing in disguise. A lot has happened on the technology front since then that will yield a much more exciting product, and we’ve had time to play with lots of little details.

So, while I don’t know exact timelines as I’m not in the day to day, I do know it’s coming soon and it’s technology platform will be a lot more mature than if it was launched years ago, as originally intended. :slight_smile:


Well that was a very thorough and well received update. Thank you very much. I’m even more excited now than I originally was. Was getting worried that it was becoming a pipe dream.

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Wow, thanks for the breakdown! I wasn’t expecting something that thorough at all. FWIW, I have been a gear head since I was in the single digits. I used to read Hifi magazines, drum gear magazines, saxophone/jazz mags, etc. When gear is a part of a hobby, I tend to dive right into that side of things.

Sounds like you have had a very cool career in audio. Doing something you’re that passionate about as a successful career makes life much more satisfying and fun, IME. Also, your explanation of your background and involvement makes me think these headphones have a good shot at being quite good so I’ll have to keep my eye on them for a possible release so I can see and hear how it all turned out. Thanks for sharing and answering questions. That’s very cool of you to take your time to help out with that. :+1::sunglasses:

P.S. I hope you think about coming around the forum more often. We’re always lookin’ for gearheads and audio/music lovers who know their stuff! :metal::sunglasses:


I’m a member of the écoute FB group that only has 9 people in it so far. I’m pretty excited to see where this project goes, for sure. I’ve already asked a few questions, and receive marketing bullet points in response. Steve Liddle is the fellow running the group. Anyhow, Thanks for the in depth overview of the potential of this product.


Shall do :slightly_smiling_face: