Pocket Class A DIY Headphone Amp by XRK971

I crossed paths with XRK971 a few months ago on the diyaudio.com forums as we worked concurrently on Class A single-ended headphone designs. Although we did not collaborate and our parts choices differed, our overall topologies share a strong resemblance. After chatting a bit, we exchanged some parts so that each could hear what the... Continue Reading →

iFi iDSD Black Label: Swiss Army knife utility, top tier sound and flexibility that does everything extremely well, so much value it’s just unfair to the competition

Pros:  enough power to drive an HE-6 while having enough finesse to feed a Kaiser Encore, plays everything natively, flexible inputs and outputs, flexible sound through XBass and 3D that leaves the core of the mids alone Cons: 3D can sound artificial on some tracks, black on black fonts, difficult to see volume knob level... Continue Reading →

iDAC2: an excellent portable performer especially with the iPurifier2

Pros:  Transparent neutral/cold signature, good sound, good value, plenty of outputs, nice soundstage, USB bus powered so no power cable or brick to carry around Cons:  Slight treble emphasis may be off-putting to some, timing imperfect without iPurifier2 List price: $299 Acknowledgment The iDAC2 was provided on loan to me by iFi along with the... Continue Reading →

Airist Audio Heron 5: power and grace in form and function

Pros:  articulate, silky smooth, neutral, black background like the dark side of the moon, power to spare Cons: doesn’t mate well with low impedance phones, no impedance measurements provided for low and high jacks, stepped attenuator volume control lacks sufficient steps and is noisy on step switches List Price: $1000 Acknowledgment Thanks Airist Audio for... Continue Reading →

Questyle CMA 600i: who needs a stack of components when CMA600i does it all so well? DSD256, fantastic clarity, plenty of drive. Heck yes, I want it.

Pros: Excellent clarity, dead silent noise floor, drives my HD600 as well as my Heron 5, balanced topology, clean pre-amp output, audibly excellent signal to noise ratio Cons: Soundstage could be wider (still average/above average), tiny indicator on volume control List price: £1199 from SCV Distribution or Audio Sanctuary in London ($1,299 in USA from... Continue Reading →

RHA DACAMP L1: flexible like a yogi [with the right headphones]

Pros:  Good tonality, 12 steps of treble and bass adjustment, lovely volume knob, good pairing with RHA CL1 and CL750, power output good for all IEMs, excellent format compatibility, fantastic sound when fed by a DAP Cons: Impedance too high on balanced output (4.4Ω), soundstage somewhat small compared to competition, amplification too weak for hungry... Continue Reading →

iFi Micro iCAN SE: Powerful, clear, excellent sound with some sonic flexibility

Pros:  enough power to drive the HE-6/AKG K1000/name it to sufficient volume, very good sound, flexibility for different sound preferences, good value Cons: sounds dull without switches engaged, demanding headphones don’t reach potential in spite of copious power, lesser amps may sound better with lower demanding gear Acknowledgment Thanks iFi for lending me this review... Continue Reading →

Arcam rHead: a solid black brick of audio goodness worth building on

Pros: Good power, excellent build quality, compact form factor, pairs well with IEMs all the way to full-size cans, nicely musical Cons: Stage depth not as great as my other amps, some details and natural edges are smoothed over Acknowledgment Thanks Arcam of Cambridge for including me in a UK tour in exchange for my... Continue Reading →

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