Custom Boutique Amplifier: Radu Tarta, Shiny Eyes- “End Game DHT” Headphone Amplifier

Beautiful photo credit to Souldriver.

The biggest compliment I can pay a piece at times is often one ignored or glossed over in the audio community, specifically, when a piece puts me in a trance like state that allows me to easily relax while listening. It may not seem obvious to some but the whole point to sitting down for a listening session, at least in my household, is to relax and allow tension and stress to dissipate. If you have ever heard the term, “getting lost in the music” this is exactly what I’m talking about. I’m a simple audio enthusiast and I would like to share my thoughts on a recent piece I acquired, a hand-made, by Mr. Radu Tarta,“Shiny-Eyes” End-game-DHT model headphone amplifier.

I first learned about Mr. Radu Tarta, Simple Pleasure Tube Amps and his builds a few years ago reading another Audio enthusiasts comments over at, Glow in the Dark Audio web page. When the opportunity arose to purchase a used model of his Shiny Eyes Headphone amplifier I did what I could to get my hands on it, and after several weeks of various set-ups and listening sessions I am extremely pleased I was able to add it to my small collection of audio equipment.

The amplifier itself is a large, heavy piece that has a substantial footprint and presence. Radu gives a full breakdown of parts build and his thinking behind the creation of this piece on his website. The amplifier uses 300B tubes and is built to take advantage of their qualities while providing the classic traits of good linearity, and very low noise. The wood has beautiful grain, everything all together, the entire package, has a simple but hefty and beefy look to it. This, in my opinion, is a piece you can use to showcase and maximize the properties of other really good associated equipment.

I’m not a reviewer and I don’t have years of experience in the music industry with an in depth knowledge of the very fine nuances of sound character. What I am is an overstressed, high strung individual w/ high blood pressure and an intolerance for anything that annoys me nowadays, I’m at an age where I’m thankful to make it to the end of the day and I just want some piece and quiet before I start the grind again. I may not know music, BUT I can very much appreciate beautiful sound, as a matter of fact since my eyesight is failing I think my ears work better than ever. The Shiny Eyes amplifier Mr. Tarta has created provides a power signature which I found to be on the extremely relaxing part of the musical spectrum. In conjunction w/ an older Berkeley Alpha Reference series DAC and a pair of Sennheiser HD800S headphones I found myself in a blissful state of relaxation. Everything about the combination was spot on for a session of listening to music and not necessarily evaluating the equipment. The sound felt delicate yet with a grand sense of space, absolutely had “meat on the bone” and a liquid midrange texture that one is either a fan of or not. It was easy to simply close my eyes and allow the rich sound to wash over me like gently lapping waves on a warm beach. The music itself was filled with rich vocal, jazz, indie, and blues tracks which were absolutely perfect for the character of the equipment combination. It was easy to repeat sessions with this combination of equipment over and over because I found it without flaws or irritations of any kind.

My personal preference would have been to purchase one of his custom 300B SET speaker amplifiers, unfortunately the cost for a new unit was prohibitive for me and I jumped at the chance to purchase this dual use model used, fortunately it has speaker taps and is capable of producing at least 6 WPC. I am blessed in that I own several pair of higher sensitivity speakers rated at over 94 db sensitivity and I was excited to try them all eventually. The first pair to be mated to the amplifier are a pair of older, 1976 Klipsch K-horns, rated at over 100db sensitivity. The speaker crossovers have been recently professional re-freshed and I was extremely pleased at the performance of the combination 300B amp with these speakers. The K-horns work well with solid state amps and their performance thus is either to your liking or not, my personal preference though is to mate these speakers to tube based amplifiers, this is where their performance in my opinion shines and their house sound signature sounds best. The Shiny Eyes played to every strength these speakers have, at no point did the amplifier seem to stress and at all normal and even some extended listening volumes there was no sign of clipping or distortion. One major quality this amplifier seems to exhibit is a great sense of open and “delicate sound” along with the ability to provide for great scale in the soundstage.

Next up were a pair of 12 ohm Spatial Audio M4 Triode Master fully upgraded models. At 12 ohm and 93db sensitivity I was initially worried there would not be enough power to drive them with any proper sense of dynamic range. The numbers may suggest otherwise but I was pleasantly surprised at the performance. This is like a “match made in heaven”, the character of the amplifier along with the open baffle design of the speakers produced the most eerily holographic soundstage I have heard to date, as good as the most well designed professional showroom. This is such a beautiful combination, I give it my heartiest recommendation for anyone who has a preference for feeling like they are sitting amongst the performers.

This amplifier was built with a purpose in mind and as such the builder provides a piece that performs as described with no shortcuts taken that my untrained eye or ear can discern. At seven ($7,000) thousand dollars not including 300B tubes it comes at a substantial monetary cost that only you can decide the personal value of. There is no shortage of builders who will build you a high quality amplifier for less and also allot more, Radu’s piece comes in somewhere in the middle as far as cost relative to quality of the material used in the build.

Hashimoto brand iron used.
Substantial and quality connectors used.

The amplifier itself exhibited a dead silent noise floor, completely black, “void quality” background, grand soundstage relative to depth, height and width along with excellent control of low end notes with no instances of clipping while performing in any of my set-ups. The tube roll is not particularly uncommon and all style required are available on the open market. Sound character is tuned around a more traditional representation of the 300B tube. Performance, build, design and implementation of all combine to give the amplifier character worthy of an end-game performance piece.