Heaven 11 is a boutique amp builder in Montreal Canada, run by Itai Azerad, designer of the Billie Amp. I reached out to Itai to inquire about checking out the Billie and received a call from Itai to talk about just that. Not long after a Gold Billie Amp and some different hand-made knobs showed up at my door. I was very excited to dive into this review and wasted no time getting the Amp in and set up which is very basic. After you unpack the unit you just need to put the tubes in and hook up power and a source. I am a firm believer that power amps should only have a power button, and 2 channel pre/integrated amps should limit the “features”. The Billie offers a simple front panel with a volume knob and a source selector, not a bunch of extras to clutter the circuit. Multi-Channel systems are another animal altogether but with 2 channel, simple is better, at least to me.
The Billie Amp runs between $1650 and $1750 U.S. depending on the finish you select, gold being the more expensive option. Also available are a variety of different knob options for around $50.00 for most. If you are into the look, the Gold looks superb with the walnut knobs, the contrast is striking. Speaking of striking, the whole amp has a premium sleek appearance with a simple face. Another thing to note about the controls is, the Billie has a remote as well to control the volume from where you are sitting. The Volume knob is a motorized analog style. You can also use the remote to change songs and some other functions as well. It fits in just about anywhere in both appearance and size. Don’t let the small size fool you, it packs 120 watts into the chassis as well as an excellent DAC, and Tube Preamp.
I tried out the Billie in a few different setups so let’s break it down into the different combos used. The first thing I did was connect my Martin Logan Aerius I’s to the amp’s speaker terminals and run my Fiio M9 through one of the analog inputs. My next setup used the pre-outs and my Nakamichi PA5. Lastly, I tried the Billie as a Headphone Amp. Each scenario had its own set of pros and cons.
Billie as an Integrated Amp
The Billie Amp is a great Integrated amp, and how I actually preferred it. While it is not pushing crazy numbers in the watt department the 120 watts at 4 ohms is plenty to drive almost any speaker. The Tube pre-stage adds warmth and richness to the sound before being output through a solid-state power amp, which pairs very well. Some solid-state amps seem to be able to pull all that tube sound right out, the Billie’s power stage certainly does not. Playing various FLAC files from my Fiio, there was plenty of detail to hear without getting into that harsh almost clinical sound. Detail reminds me of the sharpness on a photo, too much and it takes away that natural look and makes it feel “edited”
The sound stage is wonderful, especially in the depth, if not as much in width. When you melt into the music there is a real sense of three dimensionalism due to the depth created through the Aerius I’s with the Billie. I really appreciate a sense of depth, and if I had to pick either width or depth, I choose depth every time. Channel separation is pretty ideal as well, contributing to the excellent imaging you get, Maggot Brain was pure bliss.
Billie Amp as a Pre Amp
After spending a week using the Billie Amp on its own I wanted to test it out with my Nakamichi PA5 Stasis amp. They just did not have the synergy that the Billie has between the Pre and Power amp it uses internally. I don’t want it to seem as though it sounded bad, there just wasn’t the character and warm tone. The Nakamichi stripped away any warmth there was and really dialed up that sort of clinical bodiless sound. Out of the interest of science, I also tried my Nobsound tube power amp. The Nobsound is an interesting little amp, not boasting much power but does have a pleasant tone, especially paired with the tube pre-stage of the Billie. If you want to use the Billie as a preamp I recommend trying out some different tube preamps to get the most out of its sound profile. The Nakamichi is a wonderful amp and I think it really enhances my Marantz SR7009 but it just doesn’t pair with the Billie in a way that I cared for anyways.
Billie Amp as a Headphone Amp
My next step in testing out the Billie was using it as a headphone amp. I moved the amp out to our front room and got out the wonderful Meze 99 Classics, which paired in every way with the Billie Amp. The look of Gold and Walnut wood matches the tone and richness of the amp/headphone combo. If you follow us on social media you probably saw our post about a match made in Heaven 11, a terrible pun I know, but it really is. In regards to using the Billie with headphones, the only negative thing I can say about it is I wish there was a balanced output option. Even without the Meze’s echoed what I heard through my Martin Logan’s. warmth, richness, and full-bodied music. Any roll-off in the highs or lows is subtle and goes pretty much unnoticed. Live music was especially lovely to listen to on this combo.
Overall Sound Impressions
I like the Billie Amp, I really do. I prefer the sound with my Martin Logans more than many setups I have tried. I say this often but I don’t want to send it back to Itai, but at the same time, I want others to enjoy this little amp with a big heart. It was a pleasure to listen to for the time I have had it. More and more it seems there are bargains so to speak to find in the world of HIFI, the Billie amp is no exception at 1750 but sounding like it should cost more. As I write this the Billie Amp is sitting atop the Michi X5 which costs $7000 dollars and weighs nearly 100 pounds, one does not necessarily sound better just different to each other but the overall quality of the sound of the Billie is not lacking compared to the Michi. In terms of similar-sounding amps I have heard when it comes strictly to tonality, I would say the MA252 from McIntosh, not exactly the same but close. Between the MA252 and Billie, I prefer the Billie at least combined with a typically bright speaker like the Martin Logans. The MA252 isn’t quite as comforting and welcoming to someone who is not deeper into the world of Hifi.
The Billie Amp brings high-quality sound to anyone who wants to try it out. The setup is simple, the controls are simple, all you need to add is speakers and a source of music to get started. We need more of this in our hobby, at every level really. Not everyone who enjoys music at a higher level wants the complexity of separates yet still wants quality which for a while was hard to find. I have noticed more 2 channel integrated options coming out recently, offering people with less space or looking for a minimalist approach an option. One of those I mentioned above is the MA252, but at $3500, double that of the Billie, it may put some folks off. I really enjoy that Heaven 11 gave the Billie pre-outs as well though, for those who want to grow their system and use a separate power amp.
Playing vinyl through the Billie really plays right into its hand, the richness of vinyl added to what you already get from the Billie is something to be cherished. The whole experience is quite enjoyable and I highly recommend getting a turntable to go with your Billie amp if you don’t already have one. The one I use is an Audio-Technica LP-7 with an Ortofon Bronze cart. Which the table at least is another well priced piece for the quality you get.
120W RMS 4Ω / 60W RMS 8Ω
2 x ECC99 [12BH7 compatible]
32bit / 192KHz
HI-RES, HD AUDIO compliant
3 Analog Inputs
1 x vinyl [MM phono stage]
2 x RCA line inputs
2 Digital Inputs
2 x S/PDIF optical inputs
1 Wireless Input
1 x Bluetooth aptX/AAC/A2DP
1 X stereo speaker terminals
[accept bare wire, spade connectors,
or 4mm banana plugs]
1 x volume-controlled pre out
[for subwoofer or active speakers]
1 x 1/8″ (3.5mm)
110-120V 60Hz or 220-240V 50Hz
[Factory configured / not user-selectable]
14.25″ x 8″ x 2.75″
36.2cm x 20.3cm x 7cm
[L x D x H excluding tubes]
12 lbs. net / 13 lbs. shipping weight
5.4 kg net / 5.9 kg shipping weight
When I think who the Billie amp would be ideal for, I come back with a pretty broad audience. It is great for people just into the hobby, those looking for a second system, those who want 2 channel tube sound, and so many more people. I think for me If I owned one I would primarily use it in a livingroom system, its size and warm sound really lends itself to that environment. I can picture it sitting on a buffet or low console table with a pair of bookshelf speakers looking perfect and sounding just like it looks. It will likely become my go-to recommendation for anyone new to the hobby as it has an entry-level price but upper range sound. I will say there are some features missing from the Billie, though missing depends on what you want, I think it would be nice to have a dedicated sub out for those who want to use a sub as well as a power amp. One other addition I would like to see would be balanced inputs as well as a balanced headphone out. However, at the price point, I wouldn’t call them missing, but would be a nice option for say a Billie Amp+. One thing to note as well is that the Billie Amp may not be something for those who like to tinker so to speak, There are no tone controls, or screen to go through menus. I don’t think it would be a big deal to most music listeners as many people prefer not to mess with the sound through tone controls, but something to certainly note if you are one of the folks that like to tweak your system.
Overall I think Heaven 11 put together a great package at a competitive price. With a good amount of power, inputs, and a pair of pre-outs, you get a comprehensive amp that won’t break the bank, won’t take up a ton of space, or look out of place in just about any room of the house. If you are in the market for a compact system the Billie Amp needs to be on your shortlist of products to try out.
For more information on buying a Billie Amp and accessories click the button below,
- 125 watts per channel at 4 ohms
- rich, smooth sound signature
- brilliant design
- multiple analog inputs and 2 digital inputs, including phono stage
- tube preamp
- compact size
- easy to use
- solid construction
- no internet connectivity
- no USB connection
- no dedicated sub out
- more difficult to find a complementary power amp than some others
Heaven 11 provided Hifi Chicken with the Billie Amp for review, this review was not paid for in part or full by Heaven 11 or any other groups or interested bodies.