Vorzüge VorzAMPduo in review - there's none more black
Full review up at the front page!
Sample gallery can be found at Vorz's gallery page.
Impressions based on a few hours with a sample unit.
Upon tearing into a sample, I realised how beautiful a hunk of metal can be. Not because Vorzüge necessarily do anything special, but because the unit I had been listening to at Fujiya Avic (a great headphone store in Tokyo), looked like a sample unit.
Fresh from its vacuum blister, the VorzAMPduo's black matte sucks in light, and never lets it out again. It has me humming 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' while prodding the amp's blackness with broken fingernails. It was a truly beautiful moment. It is small enough to nestle smoothly into a pair of tight jeans, even connected to a nano 7G (okay, so that isn't a big package (not at all what she said), but compared to the sound you get, it is a hard idea to swallow. So much impressive sound from such a small box is incredible.
But moments fade. Eventually my prodding had to come to something and that something was wonderful. I plugged my trusty (and dirty and old) Audio Technica CK10 into the outport, my iPod nano 7G (brand new) into the import, lit up the amp, and dropped my lower lip. Why?
Well, Vorzüge is a new company to me. I'm sure it is to you, too.
The first impression that popped between my ears and out from my teeth was BAAAAASSSSSSSS. That's long for 'bass', and how long it is. Vorzüge's amp in stock bass switch setting isn't a bass monster, but it delivers a very very pleasing low frequency that effortlessly steps back and forth to and from the midrange. It is slightly laid back, smooth, dark. It paints a relaxing picture even with the CK10 in. Its attack is windy, rumbling longer than some other amps, but delivering similar punch.
For lack of a good analogy, it is less of a transistor sound and more of a valve sound. That is of course without the bass switch flicked, and using easy to drive earphones. Those earphones, the CK10 are dubbed by some to be bass-shy. Snarky little bastards to call them shy, eh? A person who has never used two speakers instead of 2,1 or used Etymotic or Beyerdynamic; a person who thinks 'Beats by Dre' is synonymous with top quality - that sort of person might think the CK10 bass shy, but then they probably have had their bass tasters burned off years ago at some hearing loss party or another.
So, when my jaw dropped (and after I had sense to pick it up again), it was real. The CK10 haven't sounded so lively down there since the dawn of the z02 (review to come). Then, I flicked on the bass switch. Mother of gold (and yes, internal wiring is gold (I found this out while dissecting the VorzAMPduo. Don't tell Musica that I dissected the amp, they'd have my head I'm sure), bass is intense. It doesn't top out, either, like some EQ switches do, and holds great detail even under stress.
I've not used an amp so well-rounded in its EQ presentation since the Graham Slee Voyager. Similar levels of polish are noted here, though I find the Slee more suited for colder sounding headphones, and for powering headphones of lower Ω ratings and rather high sensitivity. Seeing as how the VorzAMPduo and pure are tiny amps, it is no surprise; Vorzüge's aim seems to be portable. I think they'll be damned if they don't make the absolute best in class amps for the portable audiophile and I'll be damned if I can argue against them.
There is also a treble switch. It is cool. But I think that Vorzüge put more energy into the bass circuit. Treble induces a sibilant hiss up top, not too much mind you, but it is noticeable. And background noise increases just less than twofold. Again, since background noise is low, it isn't a big problem, but for very sensitive earphones, it makes itself known.
For instance, the CK10 can pick out a bit of background noise. The CT7 multiply that noise by about 2. The treble switch does that again. This leads me into the 2nd slight misstep of this amp: gain. It is simply too high for the volume pot, for the output power, and for sustained voltage.
I plugged a pair of 64Ω phones (admittedly very tough mofos) into the Vorz and enjoyed much too loud volume and perfectly clear signal even when feeding bass and treble circuits to about 11 o'clock - 12 o'clock on the pot. The pot goes to about 5 o'clock. What that means is that instead of control, Vorz opted instead for the fast road of volume soon, volume now.
Users of headphones will have no problem. Users of sensitive earphones will notice that they never have to leave the minimum mark, and that a slight bump will case intense pain in the ears. The gains NEEDS to go down especially for Jerry Harvey, FitEar, and Sleek Audio users.
What's my opinion?
Well, the Vorzüge comes at a hefty penny, something to the tune of 400-700$ depending on which model you order and which part of the world you live in. I've not tested battery life yet as I've only been listening for a few hours. The Vorzüge came charged and shows no signs of sudden death. And I'm so glad. It's much smaller than an iPhone, well made, and there's none more black. Its background, too, is black. There are few amps that describe as many details as the Vorzüge can on silent passages, and all of them that are in the same league are incredible works, many of them as expensive or more expensive than the Vorz.
I also hope that Vorzüge work on the gain setting as it is too loud at base volume for IEM users who may will to juggle balance issues on a high volume pedestal. It's dangerous work. If you have regularly sensitive earphones or high impedance headphones, or simply don't desire to trash your eardrums, this amp is simply, wonderfully, a keeper. I'm hard pressed to find an amp that I've liked as much at first blush. The Graham Slee Voyager may be the other one, but then, it is a headphone amp first, and an earphone amp second. The Vorz seems to do the opposite. It is great with headphones, but excels with middling sensitive earphones. No, it redefines excels as it is addictive. I've no doubts as to its performance, though I'm quite sure the ALO Rx will still stomp the pile for overall output quality. I don't actually care so much, though.
Later, I'll be taking it on the train, the bus, testing for interference, doing hardware tests, and pairing it with Algorythm's Solo to see how it compares to the competition.