After an evening of Ghostbusters, it’s hard to want anything more than a date with the Sigourney Weaver of 1991. Keymaster? That’s me. Hell yeah! But, returning to my desk, I am met by another comedy great – or the likeness of one. Indeed, Bender lives on in ALO’s Pan Am, a wonderfully competent full-size headphone amplifier/USB DAC that just happens to, like Bender, enjoy galavanting around different spaces.
Centrance’ entrance at TouchMyApps is the Mac mini-sized DACmini PX, an all-in-one DAC/headphone amp/power amp that plays with the big guys. Most of you already know Centrance and are familiar with their excellent USB DACs for guitar, microphone, and headphones. You know that their audio devices are free of noise. You know that they put on a steady and graceful show no matter what they are driving. You know that this review will end with a kiss.
GoVibe products have come a long way, thank God. Remember the Hippo Box+? Rife with mis-labelled parts, a broken website, and costing a pretty penny for what, essentially, was just a battery box, it was embarrassing. It sounded good, though, and therefore got away with a TAP. Today, GoVibe, together with its cheaper Hippo branch, is generally a badge of quality. The VestAmp+ is a high-performance headphone amp with a 24bit DAC thrown in for good measure.
Just slightly bigger than iBasso’s fabulous T3, hippo audio’s second self-branded portable headphone amp is a diminutive, but well-punctuated statement product. iBasso’s effects-be-damned neutral sound is damned in return as the box+ sways the portable audiophile with ‘rich’ sound, the sort made possible only through a Butterworth low pass filter: the sort of sound that has made Head-Direct’s Hifiman series famous.
On 19 December 2009, I attended one of the most eye-opening meetings of my life: the Tokyo OFF Headphone Audio Meeting. While that is a rough translation of the actual event’s title is underwhelming, the current crop of small Japanese audio makers who peeked in is amazing. I have been smitten by the nearly perfect ALO Rx headphone amplifier, but what I heard at the meeting smashed most of my expectations in terms of what is possible in portable audio. Carrying an amp with an iPod can be annoying, but in my opinion, the jump in sound quality is worthwhile – very worthwhile. Matt MacBeth who designed the audio circuitry of the ALO Rx said in TMA interview that 2010 will be the year when portable audio overtakes home audio in terms of quality. In terms of price/performance, that certainly is possible, and in terms of possibility, that much is certainly true.
With all the latest audio wizardry coming from smaller, boutique manufacturers, it isn’t surprising when one of the world’s largest headphone companies jumps into the fray with new headphone amplifiers. Audio Technica will debut the made-for-iPod AT-PHA3i in the spring of 2010 and the more traditional AT-PHA10 on 11 December, 2009.
Nary does news get me all tizzied up, but this bit is hot. The Head-Direct RE2 inner earphone which earned a GRAB from TMA has received another price reduction in a new bundled package with the miniature E5 headphone amp from Fiio (which retails at up to 25$). If you are looking for an excellent, but flat-line neutral dynamic listen, the RE2 is one of the best earphones (if not the best) in its price category. Enjoy!
Check it out: RE2 and Fiio E5 combo 39$
Imagine winning the 32GB iPod touch from Hexus.net and then snagging a huge deal from one of the headphone world’s sleekest amp manufacturers: Ray Samuels. At Headfi, he is one of the most respected and dedicated professionals whose research has created the excellent SR71-A, Hornet, and now the tiny, IEM-focused Shadow. Therefore, Headphone Solutions‘ contest is a bit more involved: you must register and provide a good-quality review of any of the products they carry. The contest ends on 30 November.
Contest Rules after the gap:
ALO’s new design isn’t just a beautiful face, it has several exciting improvements under the bonnet. One of course, is that it sports dual lithium batteries in a dual-charging circuit, meaning lots of power, and if I am hearing what I think I am hearing, sustained bass output. For inner earphone users, the Rx sports the world’s first production-level dual-stepped attenuating circuit, meaning that even at low volume levels, the signal remains perfectly balanced. ALO’s new amp is charging now, but preliminary listens have revealed that this amp’s crisp midrange and bass is a hell of a good pair for electronic music. Look for our review in mid-late November.
ALO’s now infamous Cryo Dock, too, will get a goodly write up along with the offerings from another unique company: Twisted Cables which is the brainchild of Headfier Qusp and for Australians, a matter of national pride!
To get your hands on one, visit ALO’s Rx webpage.
TMA have been following the production of this amp from its ‘top secret’ days until it was publicly introduced at the Rocky Mountain Audio Festival.
If you have been waiting for our review, look no further: ALO Rx Headphone amp in Review: Double the battery, double the fun.
In a follow-up to last month’s review of the Fireye I headphone amplifier review, TMA will continue our look at Firestone products with the unique Fireye II USB/DAC headphone amplifier. Unlike the Fireye I, this unit does not accept analogue inputs and it is not a stand-alone amp; it functions 100% from USB ports as a plug and play audio device, and thankfully has a manual volume pot for volume attenuation. Its specific function is to create a clean audio signal for headphone listening from a computer, a job which it does quite well.