If you aren’t ready to take the wild walk on the DIY side, but still want to really get down and dirty with tweakable headphone amps, there are a very few options available to you. One of them is to experiment McGuyver style with cotton, fish, cookies, and an oiled grouse to achieve a truly experimental sound. But if lock picking DIY isn’t your thing, there are only a few choices on the market. Some such as Graham Slee, Firestone, iBasso, etc., offer headphone amps with user-replaceable op-amps and slightly modifiable circuits, but no one outdoes MST, a one-man operation out of Akihabara Japan. MST’ FiQuest project is as ground-up tweakable a design as is possible in a pre-fabbed design. In a way, it is the audio evangelist among portable amps.
Feel free to discuss the FiQuest in our forums.
Firestone have hammered the last studs into their newest audio block just in time for Christmas. The Fubar IV headphone amp/DAC continues the tradition of excellent price/performance for which Firestone are famous and even enjoys a price reduction from last year’s model. This amp sports USB input which makes enjoying high quality music from your computer a breeze and in the same breath, hooks up to SPDIF and digital coaxial input for direct lossless listening from HiFi sources. Finally, it has also wormed its way into my heart with its excellent pre-amp and even-Stephen sound.
ALO, a name highly respected for the manufacturing of hi-end audio interconnects and iPod line-out cables has firmly stepped into the world of analogue headphone amplifiers. Already, they have partnered with Red Wine Audio to produce the high-end solid state battery-powered Amphora headphone amp, and now, partnered with GR9 Technologies, are introducing the Rx, which in their own words, is your ‘prescription for sound’. I say, ‘touché’.
The Koss Porta Pro — which recently saw its 25th anniversary — has spawned look-a-likes, sound-a-likes, and a slew of pragmatic wannabes which can be as easily stowed and toted. Love it or hate it, the Porta Pro has left a deep imprint on the portable audio community for years and will probably continue to do so. Incidentally, whenever I strap the caboose of my brain into a new headphone, I mentally compare it with my rusty old Koss. Jays’ v-Jays, though dressed in simple plastic and fitted into seen-it-before ear pads, has become a landmark headphone which surpasses many erstwhile favourites, including the stodgy Koss Porta Pro.
Among many hidden and official features of the new OS, there is speculation, hype and perhaps even a bit of placebo stirring among the enthusiastic audiophile crowd; apparently, the new OS has improved the sound of both the iPhone and the iPod Touch. I am a keen member of headfi, a great headphone-devoted forum where you can geek out with enthusiasts, trade, sell, barter, discuss and make noise about your favourite phones, amps and cables. Since 2004, I have been perusing heafi and since 2006, verbosely posting. In my short time, I have seen the coming and going of many hype threads and and others that are true treasues. As a portable audiophile, I am more than interested in claims that OS 3.0 improves iDevice sound quality.