The Viva Egoista 845, where extreme high-end audio meets Italian style
If Ferrari ever made a headphone amp, it would look and sound like the Viva Egoista 845.
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Behold the majesty of the Viva Egoista 845, some might say it's too large to be a headphone amp -- it's more akin to an integrated amp -- but it's gloriously over the top. No one needs an Egoista 845, but no one needs a 789 horsepower Ferrari either, but if you have the means, why not? I think of the Egoista 845 as the 812 Superfast of headphone amps, they both exist for moneyed folks who crave the very best, practicality be damned. This much I know for sure, the Egoista 845's sound with the best headphones is va-va-voom fabulous. And at $13,800, it's a whole lot more affordable than the $335,275 Ferrari 812 Superfast.
My all too brief encounter with the Egoista took place at the Headphone Annex, at the In Living Stereo audio showroom in New York. The amp has been in production since 2014, but it's just now that I finally got to spend some quality listening time with it. Egoista certainly lived up to my expectations, the amp's sound has soul, lots of it.
Power is rated at 15 watts per channel, and while that sort of juice isn't required with most headphones, it'll come in handy with the cutting edge breed of headphones like the Audeze LCD4, Hifiman Susvara and the Abyss AB 1266 headphones. Those power hungry beasts have humbled many a high-end headphone amp, but Egoista breathes life into those headphones. I've noted over the years that a lot of high-end headphone owners collect headphones, and it's those guys who buy very high-end amplifiers like the Egoista. It's good to be rich.
The amp lacks digital connectivity, analog connectivity runs to four pairs of stereo RCA inputs and one direct input that bypasses the Egoista's preamp stages. There are separate left and right channel balanced XLR headphone jacks, two stereo XLR headphone jacks, plus two standard 6.3mm headphone jacks. For technically inclined readers, the Egoista is a zero negative feedback, pure Class A circuit design with one 6N1P tube, one 6SN7GTB tube, two 845 tubes and two EH5U4GB tubes.
The Egoista is hand crafted in Italy and features specially designed output transformers designed for use exclusively with headphones.
While you might expect the Egoista's sound might be overly rich and warm with six tubes, it never once sounded that way. The sound was neutral and stunningly clear, you never got the feeling the Egoista was coloring the sound, it certainly did not.
I listened with a few different sets of headphones, including my Abyss AB-1266, and while I know this headphone well, it sounded shockingly better with the Egoista. First the midrange was more natural with voices, it sounded more human than I've heard from this or any other headphone before. The purity of the sound along with the sheer immediacy of it grabbed my attention.
The AB-1266's out-of-head imaging is always a treat, but it's even more so with the Egoista. The Focal Utopia headphone was beyond vivid, and even the more affordable headphones like the $599 AudioQuest NightHawk was transformed by the Egoista.
If the Viva Egoista 845's price is out of bounds, the company also offers the somewhat smaller Egoista 2A3 tube headphone amp for $9,750 in the US. The prices are for the amps in Viva's standard painted finishes, custom ordered automotive paint finished amps are available for a $500 upcharge for either Egoista amp.