When reading the relevant audio forums and chatting with audiophiles, I am constantly made aware of new devices and manufacturers whose products and philosophy seem to simply convince music lovers - without much marketing fanfare!
Many of these "pearls" are from Asia and are no longer unknown there. This is also the case in this case: I am talking about the products of the Japanese company Brise Audio, which the western world is slowly becoming aware of.
Brise Audio actually only produces very high-quality audio cables of all kinds - including IEM and headphone cables. The waiting times are sometimes an astronomical 3 months 😱 - A clear sign of how popular their products are!
However, I became aware of their latest product, a mobile headphone amplifier called "Tsuranagi". The special thing about this little amp is that it was never intended to be sold as a product.
"TSURANAGI Portable Amplifier was designed as a testing device for the development of BriseAudio's high-end headphone cable and high-end portable line cable (mini-mini cable) to create an ideal portable audio environment . "
Brise Audio cables are used for the internal wiring, and the electromagnetic wave absorbing shielding material and CNT (carbon nanotubes) used in their high-end cables such as MURAKUMO and YATONO are on the board installed to further improve the sound quality.
So the Tsuranagi was actually designed as a measuring instrument and not to "simply enjoy music".
Curious about this unusual story, I contacted Brise Audio and a short time later a demo of the Tsuranagi was ordered and the brand was added to our shop.
But before we get into the inner workings of the little amp, as usual, here are a few pictures of the Tsuranagi:
The Tsuranagi comes - like all Brise Audio products - in a black box with a golden Brise Audio logo. Inside, in addition to the device and a card with the serial number, there is a manual and nothing else earth-shattering. Everything looks very high quality and noble and the reduction to the bare essentials is completely ok.
The Tsuranagi is very classic - in contrast to some other "styled" devices such as the Cayin C9, Aroma Audio A100TB or Astell&Kern PA10 .
Latest the fat volume control and the toggle switch for input selection (4. 4mm or 2. 5mm) make it clear: This is old school - but in the best sense!
Oh yes, unfortunately the case is not included in the scope of delivery and there is none from Brise Audio. Fortunately, there are our friends from Vishnu-Leather, who have a suitable case for (almost) all devices.
So right after ordering the Tsuranagi demo, we also ordered a couple of transport cases from Vishnu. Needless to say, the quality of the leather and the workmanship are excellent as usual. 😊🙌
And this is what the whole thing looks like in the case. By the way, every imaginable color and stitching is possible.
I paired the Tsuranagi with the stunning Cayin N7, which acts as a pure DAC/transport. Yes, the N7 really blew my mind and currently I only listen with this great DAP. With the Tsuranagi, the N7 can show just how good its new 1-bit DSD DAC really is. (Spoilers: Hammer 🤩).
Oh yes If you're now wondering what a great interconnect cable this is: It's a Satin Audio Perseus 4. 4 on 4 4mm interconnect. (No, unfortunately the Tsuranagi does not have such a cable either). But Brise Audio also offer various interconnects.
With such a top-class combination, the connected headphones shouldn't be the limiting factor. So I chose another one of my personal favorites: The Unique Melody Multiverse Mentor.
The Tsuranagi is primarily a mobile amplifier for in-ear headphones - as you can already tell from the 2. 5 and 4 4mm inputs and outputs can recognize. But out of curiosity, I connected a "really big" headphone: The Spirit Torino Twin Pulse. What can I say: No problem for the Tsuranagi. The volume control is about 50% and I just enjoy the music.
Encouraged by the results, I got cocky and connected the CA-1A from RAAL - of course with an interface at 32 ohms. According to the manufacturer, the RAAL actually needs a conventional amp with at least 4 watts despite the interface.
But the Tsuranagi didn't care: he drove the CA-1A completely unimpressed like a big one. Unbelievable! 😱😍
So how does it sound?
I have already indicated it: the Brise Audio Tsuranagi is an "incorruptible" and in the best sense of the word neutral and extremely coherent headphone amplifier. As a reminder, the Tsuranagi was actually built as a measuring instrument to test Brise Audio's cables.
But that doesn't mean that the Tsuranagi sounds analytical and "flat". On the contrary: he presents the music as it is - without discolouration or "embellishment". Good recordings simply sound wonderful, bad recordings are mercilessly exposed.
stage & channel separation
Something that stands out is the stage that the Tsuranagi conjures up. He places the music incredibly three-dimensional and airy in the room. The instrument and channel separation contributes the rest to this impression: every instrument in the ensemble, the singers, everything has its place and can be clearly heard from the big picture without disturbing the interaction. Voices are haunting and extremely natural. The word that comes to mind here is coherence. I have not heard any other portable headphone amp at this level and very few desktop units. Bravo!
Well, what can I say: the details and resolution are beyond reproach and I have a hard time imagining that anything could be missing here. More is not possible!
Anyone who now thinks that, despite all the neutrality and naturalness, the dynamics could perhaps be neglected, is mistaken. I'm listening to "Beautiful Lie" from the +atman vs. Superman" by Hans Zimmer and the RAAL CA-1a just knocks the sub-bass over my ears. Crazy!
I have only tested the N7 by Cayin on the Tsuranagi so far, but this combo is a "Match made in Heaven". The 1-bit DSD DAC in the N7 seems to provide the perfect "feed" with which the Tsuranagi runs into top form. However, I will be testing more DACs & DAPs on the Tsuranagi in the future.
If I had made these impressions with the Tsuranagi in a blind test without knowing what amp was connected to the headphones, I would have seen a huge desktop headphone amplifier in my mind's eye, but not such a small, inconspicuous one black "box".
What the Tsuranagi in combination with the Cayin N7 blows my mind is absolutely unbelievable given the size and price. The fact that he not only gets along with RAAL's ribbon headphones (with interface) without any problems, but knows how to master them is simply impressive. I should probably change the title to "The Unshakeable".
I hardly dare say it out loud, but the Tsuranagi is arguably the best portable headphone amp I've ever heard. 🤩
If you don't believe it and want to see it for yourself, you should definitely test the Tsuranagi at home for free!