pl | en

Preamplifier + power amplifier

White Bird Amplification

Price (at the time of the review): FIREBIRD: 4920 PLN | IRONBIRD: 13 260 PLN/pair

Contact: ul. Sikorskiego 12
46-200 Kluczbork ǀ Polska |


The tested product was supplied by:

WHITE BIRD AMPLIFICATION is a tiny Polish company specializing in the designing of headphone amplifiers, power amplifiers and preamplifiers. It makes devices upon orders, which makes it possible to choose particular components, tubes, features and even chassis type. Although it started with inexpensive products, over time it also developed solutions that place its amplifiers in the high-end class. And that's what the line preamplifier and two monoblocks we tested represent.

HITE BIRD AMPLIFICATION is a company run by Mr. Piotr Bocianek. The name (that means stork, ed.) tells you immediately where the company's name and logo came from - a stork in flight. Next year, the company will celebrate its 10th anniversary. It was founded in 2009 by Mr. Piotr and his father. Mr. Bocianek senior has been working with tube circuits for over 30 years. Now, however, the main burden of developing new designs rests on the shoulders of the son.

Preamplifiers | The company located in Kluczbork offers three line preamplifiers, of which two are actually the same model, but offered as unbalanced (single-ended) and balanced (balanced) version. For this test we received the "Balanced" version. Their special feature is a fully tube design, but with a semiconductor power supply.

It is easy to see that a very important element of a design for Mr. Bocianek is the power supply section. Therefore, all its preamplifiers are dual-mono designs, including power supply. This improves the channel separation. The cheapest device, called Phoenix, is an input selector that offers additional inputs to a preamplifier. As an option one can order it with a phono preamplifier.

Power amplifier | In turn, there are four power amplifiers, two of which are actually the same model, in mono and a stereo versions. They are all tube devices utilizing such output tubes as: 211, 300B and KT88. Power amplifiers also feature separate power supplies for the left and right channel, which is an extension of the idea we've already talked about describing preamplifiers. Tested Ironbird is the most expensive amplifier in this company's lineup - it costs PLN 13,260 with solid wooden boxes, this particular version does not feature a feedback controller but it sports a metal front panel.

Headphone amplifiers | And last but at least there are four headphone amplifiers, that I started my adventure with this brand with, already in 2012 (HF | No. 98). They still offer the model I reviewed back then - Virtus-01, but there is also the Virtus 300B, that I reviewed in September of the same year (HF | No. 101). And finally, there is another model, available in two versions, the HPA Master and HPA Master Pro. They are all tube devices, so-called OTLs (OTL = Output TransformerLess).

Owner, designer

The beginnings of the White Bird Amplification date back to January 2009 when, after graduating from Opole University of Technology, I began my adventure with the production of tube audio equipment. The history of my passion, however, had began much earlier, with tube guitar amplifiers.

Following the principle that necessity is the mother of invention, I decided to learn how to build such amplifiers myself. I was lucky that my father - a tube electronics enthusiast - wanted to help me acquire theoretical and practical knowledge already in my early childhood, which ultimately resulted in the fact that electronics became also my passion.

The road from tube guitar amps to audio components was not long. After achieving my goal in the field of various amplifiers for electric guitar, I decided that it is worth developing my passion also in the direction of designing and building devices for music lovers. The experience gained earlier helped me to implement this plan and, over time, transform the passion into a professional practice. At the very beginning of the White Bird Amplification, I was mainly involved in the production of tube headphone amplifiers and preamplifiers. Today, my company's lineup includes also amplifiers and preamps of a more complex design.

My constant search for new solutions results in the development of more amplifier models so that the customer has a bigger choice not only in terms of particular models, but also in terms of customization of his unit by selecting some components or inputs/outputs configuration.

In addition to our ambition to manufacture components of the highest quality and to provide customers with individually customized products, we do our best to calculate prices fairly, that is, so that they reflect their real value. Very often, in the world of high-end devices, a sales policy is applied which assumes aggressive marketing based on setting excessive prices in relation to the actual value of the equipment. We leave it to those who profess the principle that the price is a commodity. White Bird Amplification guarantees its clients fair offer both in terms of the declared quality of our devices and their price.

We plan to constantly develop our business to meet the expectations of customers all over the world, but at the same time we want to remain a small manufacturer, use our skills and handcraft, and offer the possibility of personal contact with designers at any time.

All White Bird Amplification devices are our proprietary designs. We do not clone ready-made, popular circuits. At each stage of the project we do everything from scratch, which can be confirmed, for example, by the original appearance of our amplifiers, whose housings are made differently than for most models from other manufacturers. It gives us the ability to place all transformers (power and output ones) inside the amplifier housing, not on the top panel. Such layout allows only to use the space on the top of the device exclusively for tubes.

One example of such a solution is the flagship model called Ironbird that operates in Class A. It is a single-ended tube amplifier (class A) in the form of two monoblocks. Each audio channel (right and left) is operated separately by a single mono amplifier in its own housing. As a standard, each amplifier features two direct heated power triodes - 211 and a double triode 6H30Pi EHG or its equivalent as a driver.

| Firebird Balanced

WBA's catalog starts with the Blazebird model, and the Firebird Balanced is the second one from the top. This is a tube balanced preamplifier, with three tubes per channel. It is can be used with many different tube models. On the manufacturer's website one finds information that ones of the listed valves can be used in it: 6922 EHG (ECC88), 12AU7 EHG (ECC82), 6H30Pi (6N6P), ECC88, 6N23P, 6N23P-EW, 6DJ8 etc. The tested unit featured ECC88 / 6DJ8 produced in the Netherlands by Amperex, NOS tubes, and 6922EH by Electro-Harmonix from the current production of this Russian company. The choice of tubes significantly changes the sound of the device, so you can adjust it to your taste.

There are two tubes operating in the gain stage and one being an input buffer. The volume level can be adjusted by a classic attenuator or a high class resistor ladder by Khozmo Acoustic; we tested the latter option. It is a Polish (!) company specializing in resistor ladders volume controls. The make of these is simply stunning! As an option one can also order a remote control that allows user to adjust volume and also turn the power on or off.

Firebird is relatively small, with tubes protruding from the top of the device and two knobs on the front. It is a dual-mono design, with separate power supplies for each channel. The preamp features two fully separated gain modules. Each channel in this version is equipped with its own anode and heating power supply and power transformer. The goal is to improve the channel separation.

The preamplifier can be ordered with a various selection of inputs and outputs. The reviewed unit featured three RCA inputs and one XLR, as well as four outputs - two RCAs and two XLRs. The reviewed unit allowed, for example, an input balanced signal (XLR) to be sent to unbalanced outputs (RCA), and an unbalanced input signal (RCA) to balanced XLR outputs. This is a very versatile solution allowing user to use all possible configurations.

Active groups of outputs (here - XLR or RCA) are selected with a small switch placed on the front panel, next to the input selector knob. There is one more switch on the back panel, which allows user to choose the gain. And, finally, one can also choose the color of the LED on the front panel; the options are: red, yellow, green, blue.

| Ironbird

Ironbird is a power amplifier divided into two monoblocks, each based on two 211 triode, operating in parallel in a single-ended circuit. The physical separation of channels is an extension of what we have already seen in the preamplifier - the desire to reduce crosstalk. The directly heated 211 transmission triodes are, next to 845 and 300B, the best known power tubes often used in the most demanding applications; The 300B was designed to amplify audio signal, while 211 and 845 were originally created for some other use and only later utilized for audio. The use of two 211 triodes in a parallel circuit allowed manufacturer to double the power of the amplifier - Ironbird offers up to 40 W per channel.

| Trioda 211

A directly heated 211 triode was developed as early as in the 1920s and was based on other tubes that worked well during World War I operations, and more specifically in the US Navy broadcasting devices. These tubes were used in newer broadcasting devices during World War II. Many of the best NOS tubes available today come from that time. The military designations of this tube are: VT-4-C, VT-4B and VT-4C.

Comparing its characteristics with other famous triodes - 45, 2A3 and 300B - we can find out that 211 - and also its "sister" 485 - have a much more linear gain characteristics. The downside is very high anode voltage - up to 1250 V - and a lot of heat that such a tube emits. The most models can be found on the secondary market, these are called NOS (New Old Stock) tubes. Currently, this model is produced only by two Chinese companies - Shuguang and Psvane - and the German company Elrog (ER211).

The most famous amplifier featuring these tubes today is the Kondo OnGaku. One should not forget about another remarkable amplifier from Japan, the Air Tight ATM211 and that also our own Jarek Waszczyszyn started his audio adventure with 211; his first amplifier was custom made for Janusz, the host of Krakow Sonic Society meetings.

Tube amplifiers are usually large devices - the higher the output power, the bigger they get. Their weight come mostly from transformers – the power and output ones. The WBA monoblocks feature huge output transformers, that also looks great. It is made by a Polish company Trafonica, and the particular model is TF8-30SE (you will find more information about this component below the test).

But the power supply also adds to the total weight as there is a separate toroidal transformer for the heater voltage for 211. The output tubes are driven by a single, 6H30Pi EHG double triode, which can be easily replaced with another tube. The reviewed unit featured – using an adapter - a NOS Tung-Sol 5687. In turn, 211s came from the current production of the Chinese company Shuguang Electron Group.

The monoblocks' chassis is quite heavy and deep. Its front panel can be made of aluminum or - as in the tested unit - of granite. In the middle there is a VU-meter displaying the output power, as well as an on/off power and another one that changes the feedback value. There is a RCA input, but an XLR socket can be used by customer's request. However, regardless of input socket it will accept unbalanced signal.

The devices are really well made, solid, with attractive design elements. This is a non-serial product, we have no doubts about it, but a particularly refined and aesthetic one. The elements and components used are of very high quality.


The WBA system consists of three components and requires a lot of space. So I decided to place it a similar fashion as some other, separate systems before, such as Phasemation, Audiopax, Thöress and Einstein. It means that the preamplifier was placed on the top shelf of my Finite Elemente Pagode Edition rack, and the amplifiers on the floor, on top of Acoustic Revive RST-38H platforms.

I connected my Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition player with preamplifier and the latter with monoblocks using Acoustic Revive cables. In particular these were: XLR-1.0 Absolute and XLR-1,5 Triple-C FM. The amps were powered using Power Reference Triple-C, and the preamplifier Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version.

  • TEST: White Bird Amplification VIRTUS 300 | integrated amplifier
  • TEST: White Bird Amplifications VIRTUS 300B | headphone amplifier
  • TEST: White Bird Amplification VIRTUS-01 | headphone amplifier

  • Recordings used in this test (a selec- tion)

    • Aquavoice, Silence, Zoharum ZOHAR 168-2, Master CD-R (2018);
    • Frank Sinatra, Where Are You?, Capitol Records/Mobile Fidelity UDSACD 2109, „Special Limited Edition | No. 0261”, SACD/CD (1957/2013)
    • Gary Burton & Chick Corea, Crystal Silence, ECM Records/ Tower Records
    • Universal Music LLC PROZ-1091, „ECM SA-CD Hybrid Selection”, SACD/CD (1973/2017)
    • Jean-Michel Jarre, Oxygene, Dreyfus/Mobile Fidelity UDCD 613, gold-CD (1976/1994)
    • Mateusz Franczak, Night-Night, Too Many Fireworks Records 2mf027, Master CD-R (2018)
    • Rage Against The Machine, Rage Against The Machine, Epic/Audio Fidelity AFZ 244, „Limited Edition | No. 0115”, SACD/CD (1999/2016)
    • Renaissance, Scherezade, Warner Bros. Records/Audio Fidelity AFZ 183, „Limited Edition | No. 0281”, SACD/CD (1975/2014)

    Japanese issues available at

    The White Bird Amplification system delivers warm, simply tube-like sound. But how good it is! It's a tube in a tube, warmth in the warmth. It is not about deviating sound character in such direction, but about the internal "intensification" of this character. It's also warm, dense, even sweet sound. One of the border conditions of "tube" sound is a slightly rolled-off treble - and that's what one gets here. It is not that obvious, because the instruments are fantastically "present" and natural, but you try hard enough you will find it.

    Take, for example, the Gary Burton & Chick Corea Crystal Silence album, released by Tower Records, a Japanese record sales house. It's a "DSD flat master", ie the material from the analogue tape was transferred to DSD without any correction. This means, in addition to the fantastic naturalness of the sound, a lot of noise. It's a noise from a tape. The WBA system withdrew this noise, it behaved like a classic turntable. It was not a clear darkening of the sound, no sir, the "tube" character in this case means something else. It means the vibrancy of the instruments - the piano and the vibraphone in this recording - but with the reduced "spark" at the top of the band.

    Does this mean concentrating on the midrange, or on the vocals? Well, of course, it does! It's an amplifier that seems to be created to play "crooners", meaning Frank Sinatra, Martin Dean, Nat 'King' Cole, but also Chet Baker. You could hear their genius in the "presence" and saturation of the sound. Probably because it's an amazingly relaxed sound. There is actually everything in it that should be there, because there is a wide panorama, a strong foreground, and all this with the tonal balance shifted towards the lower midrange.

    The volume of this presentation, i.e. the subjective size of instruments, space, etc., is very, very large. This is not a performance in a mop closet, but full-blooded one with proper momentum. You can play any jazz record, or with Baroque classical music - but also with Beethoven's late quartets, for example - and you will spend most of the evening enjoying every minute of it. Or you start your evening with Norah Jones, Adele, Diana Krall, Mark Knopfler, and so on, and in the meantime you will probably spend a fortune on Japanese releases of your favorite CDs and SACDs because you will know how good these will sound with this system.

    To be clear, this is not a particularly resolving amplifier. I mentioned "Japanese" releases because of a certain type of sensitivity of their creator, not because they can deliver huge amount of details that this system could extract. It won't do that. First of all, in the sound of the tested system details do not appear as independent entities and never attract attention, secondly a listener is simply enchanted with the tonality of the performance.

    As I said, the lower, dense midrange plays a leading role in this sound. It flawlessly blends with the upper and middle bass. The amplifiers therefore seem to control the speakers effortlessly. Even my Harbeths M40.1, that are not an easy load and sound best with high-end solid-state amplifiers, were led on a short leash, wagging their tails for their master, walking proudly near his leg. Maybe they had their own goals and ideas, but they were deeply hidden, because the most important was what the MASTER told them to do.

    All these advantages will also become clear with electronic music. Take Jean-Michel Jarre's Oxygene, in the only digital version that makes sense, i.e. prepared by the Mobile Fidelity Labs, and you will dive into this music as quickly as with music of - say - Cohen. You will get a saturated sound with analog keyboards really warm and deep. It will not be a "paper-sound" of a large part of digital machines from later years.

    But it also quickly became clear that this is a system that focuses our attention on the listening axis. Yes, with jazz recording in which the producer separated the left and right channel, it was spectacular, but in stereo, where a continuity of the panorama is very important I could hear that the tested amplifier pushes it closer to me, saturates the foreground, so that there is no such a spectacular "depth" as with other tube amplifiers. In other words, it is not a device that exposes the "air" with which the instruments "breathe". They are "here and now".

    But this "here and now" is insanely good in how perfectly it is displayed. There is no room for mediocrity and for listening with one ear. It draws you in. Even more so, that the amplifier is able to deliver a really low bass. He played the Aquavoice's Silence album, especially track number 1, generating lower bass notes with ease. It sounded better than with many, even high-power solid-state amplifiers.

    The lowest bass was not as well controlled and well defined as by, for example, Hegel H590. But that's probably not what it was about. Even though it is a recording requiring lots of current, Ironbird did not even hesitate, showing this track with all its grandeur, also with the sounds out-of-phase surrounding me. It was deep, powerful, close performance. I sat inside a "bubble" of sound surrounded by sounds. The amplifier presented this disc better than many transistor amplifiers, nominally with much higher output. Although the lowest bass was not as clear as I remembered it, everything above had a high temperature and it was this emotional temperature that was more important than the ultimate control.

    Knowing all that, you can also easily reach for rock music. But deliberately. The Rage Against The Machine played right after Aquavoice surprised me with power and fantastic presentation of bass guitar, as well as cool vocals. However, it did not have the aggressiveness, the edge which is needed for this type of music - here the treble roll-off and softening of the leading edge worked against the requirements of the sound engineer. But the Renaissance, Camel, Caravan – yes, these sounded really good. But also with them you will not get a big depth and proper perspective that are part of this music.


    The White Bird Amplification system consists of the Firebird preamplifier and Ironbird power amplifiers. is a "targeted" system. It is absolutely "tube-sounding" and organic. It will allow users to play any music with it, because it does not lack power, but they will end up with smaller ensembles anyway. Because vocals, guitars and violins sound amazingly well with this system. It is extremely naturally sounding, which allows for long listening sessions without fatigue.

    The sound character is somewhat similar to the Kondo OnGaku (100 000 EUR) and Phasemation CA-1000 + MA-1000 (150 000 PLN + 69 900 PLN). The Japanese masterpieces are more resolving, offer better differentiation, more momentum, but the Polish system cost only a fraction of their price. And the performance-wise the difference is much smaller then what price difference suggests. Polish system offers high quality, fantastic performance. There are no clearly drawn instruments' bodies, no deep soundstage, but what it does offer is sound with so-called „soul”.

    PAWEŁ ŁOPKA | Trafonica
    Owner, designer

    One of the most important components of the tube amplifier is the OUTPUT TRANSFORMER. The class of the amplifier itself depends largely on its (transformer's) quality. The best known are transformers made in Japan. But those used in the Ironbird amplifier look equally professional. As it turns out, they are manufactured in Poland by Paweł Łopka. Below you will find a few words from him written especially for the readers of "High Fidelity".

    Formally, my company has been operating only for two months, but I have been dealing with output transformers for 17 years... Not to bore the readers, let me tell you only briefly what my vision for the output transformers is and how it differs from other products of this type.

    Transformers are to be uncompromising and of the highest quality, that is:

    • the best core material in its category: iron-silicon sheets with high permeability and low loss - cores featuring HiB sheets with a maximum thickness of 0.23 mm subjected to quality control according to appropriate standards - in Poland this is probably a matter that needs some work,
    • an appropriate winding sectioning system, it is especially important for transformers with 4R and 8R taps (I admire the work of manufacturers who offer transformers with 4R, 8R and16R taps),
    • coils wound coil by coil and layer by layer (a solution popular in Japan) and adequately insulated, this ensures almost perfect repeatability of the coil's RLC parameters, which is not certain with coils with a chaotic coil used by most manufacturers,  
    • transformer coils individually designed regardless of the geometric dimensions of generally available cores and carcass accessories. In short, we first design a coil for particular technical specification, and then a core for this designed coil, which has unusual dimensions - that is more expensive in production, especially in small quantities, and additionally there is a problem with the carcass (it has unusual dimensions and you have to custom manufacture it),

    • vacuum impregnation of windings with stove varnish. In general, most manufacturers use simple immersion impregnation in slow-drying varnishes. Vacuum impregnation is the only one in the case of coils with a large number of tightly wound coils that guarantees saturation of all coils with varnish, whereas the stove varnish guarantees us to cure inside the coil (slow-drying varnish will not cure). This method is more time-consuming and expensive, but only this way you can get properly impregnated coils, which is extremely important in the case of loudspeaker transformers, especially those with high Ra,
    • the production process is practically manual - the winder that I use contributes only to a small percentage of time of the coil production,
    • perfect make of the finished product.

    That's, roughly, my concept of the product's features. Unfortunately, before a full range of transformers is developed, some time will still have to pass (prototyping is time-consuming and expensive). For the time being I am focused on transformers for SE and PSE systems, however, some work on ones for PP has already started. To do it all really well, one has to overcome many problems that I can not describe here ...

    Technical specifications (according manufacturer)

    | Firebird
    Input impedance: 50kΩ
    Output impedance: 85Ω
    Amplitude of input voltage: 2 V – 12 V (max)
    Anode power supply: 200 VDC
    Heater: 6.3VDC
    Tubes: 6922 EHG/12AU7/6H30Pi x 4
    Power consumption: 40W
    Weight: 11kg
    Dimensions (W x H x D): 400 x 360 x 80mm

    | Ironbird
    Output per amplifier: 1 x 40W/4Ω/8Ω
    Input impedance: 20kΩ
    Impedance loading: 4Ω/8Ω
    Amplitude of input voltage: 2V – 12V (max)
    Anode power supply: 1300VDC
    Heater: 6.3VAC, 10VDC
    Inputs: 1 x RCA | 1 x XLR
    Power consumption: 500W
    Fuse: 3.15A
    Weight: 25kg
    Dimensions (W x H x D): 280 x 490 x 150mm


    Reference system 2018

    1) Loudspeakers: HARBETH M40.1 |REVIEW|
    2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
    3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
    4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
    5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
    6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
    7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|


    Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
    Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
    Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

    AC Power

    Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
    Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
    Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
    Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
    Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
    Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
    Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
    Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
    Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
    Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
    Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|


    Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
    Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
    Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

    • HARMONIX TU-666M "BeauTone" MILLION MAESTRO 20th Anniversary Edition |REVIEW|


    Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

    Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

    Record mats:


    Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

    Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC