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Quickies:  The ESS 422H Heil AMT Headphones, the Linear Tube Audio Micro ZOTL 2.0, and Greensleeves on LP

05-26-2018 | By Robert H. Levi | Issue 97

ESS 422H Headphones

ESS 422H Heil AMT/Moving Coil Hybrid Headphones: New Current Production

Back in February when I reviewed these brand new headphones with their amazing drive system, they did not look like the current cans on the shelf today. They were pre-production and were supposed to be exactly like they are now in every musical parameter. Actually, some were, and some were not. I had the ones that were pretty close to current, but rolled a bit on top. 

The current issue ESS 422H feature real wood sides and are made of a brushed metal less heavy than the cans from early issue. They are easy to spot, more comfortable, better looking, and way less expensive at an introductory price of $195! The first ones off the assembly line were supposed to cost $695, but ESS decided to establish them as the best, most economical headphones ever, so down went the price...temporarily, according to ESS.

So how do they sound? Just glorious! Improved from about 500Hz and up in every way, they still take no prisoners in the bass region. The soundstage is wider, and they have more air and space overall. The definition and imaging is excellent, and clarity is now competitive with headphones in the $1000 - $1250 range. Being closed in, they isolate you better than any Ultrasone at any price, while the 422H gets very close to their much more expensive Edition 8 in performance. 

They are still 110dB efficient, and will work with anything you can find that outputs a signal. (I have had some difficulties with the E.A.R. HP4 reference headphone amp, though, so consider that a no go here.) They do quite well with the Berning ZOTL, the Grado Headamp, Headamp GSX-MK2, and every Benchmark Headamp known, so compatibility is not generally an issue. In fact, at $200, including a swell carrying case, adapters, etc., let's just say the ESS 422H are $1000 cans at an $800 discount right now. 

I see this happening all over the personal listening market as prices fluctuate wildly, and most are not an indicator of performance or quality! The ESS 422H headphones are strongly recommended.


  • Hybrid Driver Unit: 40mm moving coil driver, 20*30mm multi-fold AMT Air Motion Technology
  • Impedance 32 Ω +/- 15% at 1KHz, 179Mv
  • Sensitivity: 110 +/- 3dB at 1KHZ w/Vrms input= 179Mv
  • Power Capacity: 50mW, Max~100mW
  • Frequency Response: 20~20kHz at 1mW

Available direct from ESS for $195 introductory price for new production!


9855 Joe Vargas Way

South El Monte, California

Rick Caudillo CEO


[email protected] 


Micro ZOTL 2.0 Headphone Amplifier by Linear Tube Audio

(Under license from David Berning)

Well folks, I'll lead off by saying that this is one swell headamp, preamp, and amplifier with OTL output and massive outboard power supply. It sells for about $1800 right now at Upscale Audio in LaVerne, CA., with NOS tube upgrade and remote control. 

It's produced by Linear Tube Audio, whose site page on the Micro ZOTL 2.0 you can visit HERE. Go here for great pictures, construction options, special deals, specs, and pure audiophile fun!

As a headphone amp with three RCA inputs, this baby sings with a clarity just out of this world. In fact, at $1800 fully loaded, it is about 90% as detailed and tuneful as the best headamps at any price that I have heard to date. OK, granted it has only one 6.5mm output and a volume control, but wow oh wow, does it sing! Load it up to the gills with the finest GE NOS 6SN7 output tubes and Mullard 12AT7 small signal tubes, and fly to the moon. 

Built by hand in Washington, D.C., each unit is a work of wiring art. A Plexiglas cover lets you enjoy the innards safely and inspect all the cute expensive parts. (The ZOTL actually sounds better with the top off, but please be careful.)

OTL preamp outputs on RCA jacks power an amp to perfection. My E.A.R. 534 sounds great run from the ZOTL RCAs. Also included are five-way binding posts for a pair of efficient speakers able to come to full output at one watt of ultimate purity. (When you find these speakers, send me an email please. No hearing aids!) 

The performance on every headphone in my collection was exemplary. I was sucked in big time listening to this headamp, and wondered why anyone would want anything else...particularly solid-state. A Masterpiece! A Miracle! A David Berning Creation! What else can one say? Find one and try it. If you're in the Los Angeles area, ask Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio for a loaner! My highest recommendation.


  • Designed by David Berning - one of the world's premier amplifier designers
  • Hand-made just outside Washington, DC
  • External power supply - extremely low noise floor
  • Drive high efficiency speakers (95db efficiency or higher) to adequate volume
  • Transparent cover
  • Universal voltage power supply or high quality linear power supply
  • 3 selectable inputs
  • Class A preamplifier output
  • Transformer-less design eliminates intermodulation distortion inherent in all transformer designs
  • Simulates the correct transformer turns ratio using impedance converter
  • Low impedance output easily matches wide range of headphones and speakers
  • No heavy power or audio transformers
  • Optimized tube life expectancy of 10 - 20 years based on use
  • One year warranty including tubes (international pays shipping)

Pricing depends on options and tube selection. Basic model: $1295

Linear Tube Audio


[email protected]

301.448.1534 or 301.448.1364

Greensleaves rare Three Blind Mice Audiophile Jazz recording from 1978. Produced by IMPEX Records and available exclusively from Elusiv Disc


  • Amazing Premier of Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society 25th Anniversary Edition LP Sponsored by the Society.
  • Numbered Limited Edition 180 g Ultra Red Vinyl LP - Only 500 Copies! 
  • Rare Three Blind Mice Jazz Gem!
  • Analog Recording from 1978!

Impex has always had a special place in their hearts for Shoji Yokouchi's Greensleeves. Standards, original tunes, and traditional pieces (like the title track), are interpreted in unexpectedly funky, soulful ways. The master guitarist is given immeasurable support by organist Yuri Tashiro. Her playing is alternately moody and spry, fiery and funky. Impex's vinyl reissue preserves the original's clear, exacting sound (check out the bass on Tashiro's organ!) while improving surface noise and presentation. This rare gem of Tee Fujii's repertoire is yet another entertaining listen for Three Blind Mice fans from their friends at Impex Records!

Exclusive Features

  • Numbered, Limited To Only 500 Copies
  • LA & OC Audio Society 25th Anniversary Edition with "Our Original Celebration Label on Jacket and LP!"
  • 180g Vinyl LP, 33.3 RPM
  • Audiophile Red Vinyl, custom formulated for us by RTI, a Premiere Knock-Out Sonic Wonder!! You have never heard your system sound like this! Bass to the center of the earth! Guitar to die for! Glorious Hammond B-3 Organ! Best drums and bass ever! Definition and timbres more real than real, surfaces quiet as outer space, and a Grundman Studio's Production! An achievement just like you would expect from the World's Largest Audio Society and Impex Records!
  • Rare Three Blind Mice Jazz Gem

I cannot recommend this LP more highly as a reference disk, test disk, and system show-off LP, beyond your wildest dreams. It went through three test runs to get to this point and an original vinyl formulation had to be used to create the intense energy, slam, and dead quiet surfaces which produce you are there perfection. As with the Society, it may be said that this LP was also 25 years in the making!  

You will love the music and the performances to the max! 

Go here for yours before they are all gone! 

Order HERE


Only $34.99, and state of the art! 10/10