The Little Country III is Proof You Don’t Have To Spend $1000 or More on na Tube Headphone Amp to Get That Coveted Audiophile Sound!
“If you’re like many audiophiles you spend a lot of time critically listening and are forever analyzing everything. But how about this instead, you put on your favorite music, relax into your most comfortable chair, and experience pure musical bliss without any tweaking or tinkering – The Little Country III lets you do just this”
Worth the Wait
A while back the Firestone engineers sat down with a major goal in mind; to improve on one of their Flagship Products, the Little Country 2. Owners and reviewers alike raved about the outstanding performance of the LC2 and called it an outstanding value at $499.00. Talk about a tough act to follow.
Even though the task looked daunting and there was constant pressure to get the new model to market, they would not be rushed. The circuitry wizards at Firestone Audio left no stone unturned in their efforts to tweak and massage the LC3 until it performed just right.
Well, by all accounts it’s been well worth the wait.
The improvement is evident the first time you sit down with the Little Country III.
Beautifully Detailed Sound
The Little Country III turns every listening session into an lush Audiophile experience. It features a rich, beautifully detailed sound from top to bottom and a superb soundstage. You’ll find yourself lost in the hypnotic, musical experience.
Every once in a while an audio product comes along that exceeds the expectations of even the most demanding listener, and so it is with the LC3.
Compatible with the world’s best headphones
As you would expect the LC3 is compatible with the worlds best headphones and you’ll definitely want premium quality headphones or earbuds to fully enjoy the LC3. Those “throw away” ear buds you got with your MP3 player won’t cut it here. I’ve listened to the LC3 with Grado RS1 (32ohms), AKG K701 (62 ohms), and Sennheiser HD600’s (300 ohms). They all sound superb but to my ear the LC3 tends to favor the lower impedance units just a tad.
The external gain switch lets you adjust for any brand or model of headphones from 28 ohms to 300 ohms.
Meet the Little Country III
The LC3 received many important design changes and upgrades. The most significant being the addition of the all new power regulation module that now occupies the lower section of the main unit. The power supply unit is now in seperate module. Black is now the standard face plate color.
The three sets of gold plated RCA plugs are for Input, Bypass and Preamp output. The LC3 accepts its input from any source component including CD/DVD players, phono stage, Tuner, DAC, and even your iPod or other portable player.
To make sure the power transfers safely and efficiently between modules the LC3s power cable is equipped with threaded connectors. Gone is the push in S video style cable from the LC2.
On the rear panel you’ll find the gain switch and AC power connection.
Lets take a look under the hood
Why all this fuss about power conditioning?
In high-end audio the power supply and power conditioning sections make up a large percentage of the cost of every component. Most Audiophiles understand that a source of clean, consistent, regulated power is essential for great sound and a low noise floor. This fact was not lost on the Firestone engineers who paid special attention to this section. As we constantly preach here at Audiophile Products;
Better power = better sound.
The Power Supply Module houses a large toroidal transformer. It easily switches between 110 – 220Vac. You’ll also find the power switch on the back of this module
A Serenly Quiet Tube Headphone Amp?
You won’t find that old TUBE AMP HUM with the LC3. The Firestone designers successfully engineered the LC3 to run very quiet. This helps reveal more of the low level detail in your music, detail you may not have been hearing, detail that was previously veiled by noise. You don’t need me to remind you that Low Level Detail is where you really discover the magic in your music.
The main audio section features a pair of 6922 tubes. The 6922 in its various forms remains the long established standard for Preamp and Headphone Amplifier tubes.
A Brief Note on the 6922 Tubes
The LC3 is shipped standard with Electro Harmonix 6922EH tubes, I enjoy the EH tubes but being an insatiable tweaker I couldn’t resist rolling in a few NOS (new old stock) 6922’s into the LC3. I tried about 4 or 5 different tubes – my current favorites are the Amperex 7308 USN-CEP. The 7308 is a premium version of the 6922 and Amperex appears to have really gotten this tube right. To my ear they bring out more soul in the music, with a more fully resolved midrange. Of course your mileage may vary; this is one of the fun aspects of tube audio. You can tailor the sound to your liking with the various tube brands and models.
Little Country 3 Specifications:
- Tubes: 2 X 6922 (Electro Harmonix)
- Opamps: Burr Brown OPA2604
- Frequency Response: 15Hz ~ 80KHz ; -1dB ( 100 ohms load )
- Max. Output: Voltage -7Vrms Current -90mA
- Output Impedance: < 0.1 ohms
- lnput Impedance: 10K ohms
- Inputs: 1 RCA
- Outputs 2 RCA (1 preamp out and 1 bypass out) 1 – 1/8″ headphone jack
- Input Voltage: 110 or 220 VAC (switchable)
- Power Supply easily switches between 110 or 220 VAC
- High-end stepped potentiometer
- The shunt/series switch, changes how the circuit “sees” the volume control. Adjust to suit your taste, default setting is series
- 1/8” to 1/4” headphone jack adaptor cable included
The Little Country III Package Includes:
- The Little Country III Headphone Amp / Preamp with 6922 tubes installed
- Power Supply Module
- Power transfer cable with threaded connectors
- AC power cable
- 1/8″ to 1/4″ gold plated headphone jack adaptor cable
- Allen Key
- Owners Manual
- Warranty card
What about the Warranty?
The Little Country III comes with a full two year parts and labor warranty.
And the price?
After a year in development the Little Country III emerges as the new gold standard for a headphone amp / preamp in this class. Rarely does a product undergo such a major redesign and upgrade without a corresponding major price increase to match. One would certainly expect a significant price boost over the $499.00 previously charged for the LC2.
But surprisingly with all of the extra features and obvious increased costs, the Little Country III is priced LOWER.
Right now you can own the Little Country III for the low price of just $447.00! This is not a typo, the Little Country III with numerous changes and upgrades is priced $50.00 less than the LC2!
Here’s a recap of the changes and upgrades for the LC3
- New Power Regulation Module for smooth power and sound
- New soft start circuit provides protection to the tubes and audio circuts at power up.
- New Headphone and speaker protection circuit
- New Separate power supply module (This by itself is a $117.00 upgrade)
- New Twin 6922 tubes
- New External Gain switch, makes it easy to adjust for different headphone impedances, also adjusts the preamp gain.
- Upgraded components used throughout (Exactly what would you expect after a year in development)
- New Threaded power transfer cable
- New Gold plated RCA connector
Interview (questions/answers) about Firestone Little Country 3
Q. Hi Todd, Thanks for letting me know about the release of the Little Country III, So far I’ve been hearing good things about it. How does it compare with the Little Country 2 ? What are the main differences?
A. Hi Dave,
It’s nice to hear from you, thanks for your inquiry.
As you know, prior to the LC3 the Little Country 2 was the flagship product of the Firestone Audio lineup. It combined a hi-end tube headphone amp and preamp in an attractive package that sounded great. Reviewers and owners alike raved about the Little Country 2 and with good reason, the sound quality was outstanding and it was a great value.
But the Little Country 2 was not without its gremlins. The dreadful S type “power transfer cable” would come loose and cause a myriad of problems; this was compounded by the power switch being located right beside it on the back panel. The stock Electro Harmonix tubes were “bass fat” and muddy, (admittedly the tube thing was an easy fix). There was also the internal gain switch that turned a 5 second task into a five minute one. The LC2 also had some issues with “current rush” to the tubes at startup and had little protection for headphones and speakers.
So what has Firestone Audio done to address these issues?
First of all, the Little Country was off the market for over a year. The Firestone engineers performed a complete and major redesign and addressed all of the issues above and more!
The Little Country III Headphone Amplifier / Preamp with Power Supply module
- The Power Supply unit is now in a separate module and connects to the main unit with a high grade cable with threaded connectors. No more S type cable. Yeah!
- They’ve added a brand new power regulation module that has a built in “soft start” circuit to protect the tubes and also added speaker and headphone protection circuits. This new Power regulation module is also responsible for a high degree of power conditioning which adds tremendously to the sound quality.
- The tubes have been changed to 2 x 6922. The 6922’s remain pretty much the defacto standard for preamps. Yes the LC3 still comes standard with Electro Harmonix tubes but I enjoyed listening to it for over two months with the EH tubes and only recently switched to Telefunken. The point is the 6922EH are not horrible but there is room for improvement here in my opinion and there are loads of different 6922 and derivatives to choose from on the NOS market.
- The LC3 now has an external gain switch as it should.
These are some of the more notable changes and upgrades. All in all I would say that Firestone has done an outstanding job of improving on what was an already excellent product and I highly recommend the LC3 to anyone looking for a hi-end tube headphone amp. And it costs less now too!
We welcome your questions, comments and feedback