Creator and owner: Gary Ali
I first heard about the the PA2V2 more than a year ago from a friend on the Australia Stereonet Forum (stereo.net.au).
Sometime later I had the chance to have a quick listen at a local Audio get together (GTG) which intrigued me greatly.
Since then as many of you know I have become somewhat of a nomad travelling the world, so I now had the calling to put together a decent portable rig.
I'll be honest normally I’m not huge on doing reviews since there are so many talented individuals out there, who do an amazing job but every once in a while something comes up that I must share.
Once I received my amp I decided to use it for a period of time before completing this review to ensure proper “burn in time” if you believe in such things for solid state electronics. So after approximately 100 hours of daily use its time had come.
Audio-Technica ATH-A900 Headphones
Sansa Fuze 8GB + LOD w/ Gold plated Pailiccs 3.5mm
Panasonic 2600mAh NiMH Batteries.
All testing was done off battery without the power supply connected.
- PA2V2 Amplifier
- AC wall adapter with wire twist tied all packaged within an OEM box within mini headphone mono jack (US socket 110v)
- A headphone splitter cable, Stereo 3.5mm Male to two 3.5mm Female adapter
- Gold plated 1' Male to Male 3.5mm cable to attach source to the amp
Over the past few months it has taken a couple of falls and not even a single mark is present. The only issue is after being dropped I found was the batteries sometimes became dislodged from the holder. I handle my equipment with uttermost care but with something so small and with my very long headphone cable, tripping on it or catching the cable on things unfortunatly happens.
Next the connections and volume potentiometer are set into a clear red coloured piece of acrylic plastic. Personally I wish the power connector was located on the rear but due to the battery holder being on this side it was not possible.
The other reason why all the I/O’s and volume are on one side is for manufacturing simplicity and having the shortest circuit paths as physically possible.
Upon internal inspection everything is well laid out. By the look of it the components are surface mount and some extremely large capacitors which are high grade.
The volume potentiometer is Swiss made and extremely good quality as is the knob is of professional quality much like the ones found on professional a/v equipment. The pot moves smoothly but also with weight like a high quality motorized volume control on an AVR or Preamplifier.
Compared to many DIY and manufactured amps this is one a great size as it fits in the pocket of my dress pants with the Sansa Fuze mounted together. Definitely smaller than a number of mobile (cell) phones that I have used over the years.
Now to insert or change the batteries the amp has to be opened by unscrewing the two countersunk screws on the bottom. Only requiring two rechargeable NiMH AA batteries I thought was excellent (compared to popular CMOY amps that need dual 9v batteries)
Many have spoken of having to set their Digital Audio Players (DAP) to around 60% or whatever works the best for them. I never had this issue as I am using a LOD which disengages the volume functionality of my DAP and bipasses the internal headphone section.
Sarah McLauchlan - Angel
Andrea Bocelli - Con te partiro (Time to say goodbye)
Alison Krauss - It doesn't matter
Cascada - What hurts the most (Yanou's Candelight Mix)
Blue October - 18th Floor Balcony (Within hidden track at the end)
Coheed and Cambria - Wake Up
Princess Superstar vs Mason - Perfect Exceeder
IIO - Rapture (At the end)
Dirty Vegas - Days go by
Bass Hunter - Dota
Vivaldi - Summer
The headphones I am using for this review are the Audio Technica ATH-A900
These are rated at 32ohms which while not extremely hard to drive (Like the Sennheiser equivolent eg HD600) but it isn’t a 'walk in the park' either as lower impedance In Ear Monitors or standard earbuds. The rated output power is up to 200mw depending on the headphone impedance.
Volume was adequate and rather loud. Definitely loud enough for people passing by to hear my music even with the A900 closed backs. Although still not ear splitting levels like I am used to from a desktop amplifier but who am I kidding it's portable!
Next I moved onto testing with male vocals by Andre Bocelli. After about 1 minute I slowly stopped analysing the equipment and was happily enjoying the performance. This alone speaks for itself. The treble was never shrill but definitely present possibly a little forward for my liking. The midrange is accurate I would have to say it is presented in a recessed or relaxed manner. Not too relaxed to be unrealistic or flat sounding.
For midrange testing I have always made use of the dance song Rapture (At the end) by IIO from 2003, in this song there is a constant melody line almost like an xylophone. The unique tonality of the xylophone usually creates oscillation in the midrange on most systems. The PA2V2 with Audio Technica ATH-A900 ROCKED MY WORLD! Better than eating kangaroo cooked on a campfire. Throughout this song it also has the low bass note that rumbles every four bars is present and well defined.
I wanted to listen to a song that would put this little amplifier through its paces in the bass response.
After recently having the honour of visiting the annual Movement Electronic Music Festival 2011 (DEMF) in Detroit, Michigan I discovered an amazing artist who doesn’t hold back on his bass mixes. Song by artist is definitely hard work for the PA2V2 at high levels. I had to lower the volume a couple of decibels in order to have enough headroom to ensure the amp wasn't pushed to audibly distorting
Having heard this song live on a line array system sporting 16 separate 18" high powered horn loaded subwoofers I must say I am somewhat biased. Amplifier performed better at lower levels for the deep extension. Rolling off at around 30hz with my Audio Technicas in tow. I must clarify that many have said the A900's are bass light but I digress that only major bass junkies would have an issue. Myself, I have never had any quelms with their bass capabilities.
I completed the rest of my audition list and then went through the same process with my home audio system. For most of the songs I actually preferred the sound of my headphones! They just felt so personal and close to the musicians. The PA2V2 only somewhat trailing behind when I turned up the wick on my Electronica music with bass hungry beats. The treble could benefit from a little bit of taming (aussies are used to taming things haha).
Predominantly being from a purist Hi-Fi, High end Home cinema and money is no limit PA installation background my appetite is what you might call hard to please.
I have to admin I was surprised with this little guy. I cannot expect amazing SPL or drive capabilities from a portable amp powered with only 2 AA batteries that lasts so long. The clarity and honesty of this amplifier are excellent. A little on the large side in comparison to my Sansa Fuze but I have to commend Electric Avenues for being able to fit so much into such a compact device.
Now after a couple of months of daily usage (3+ hours of travelling) I am proud to say I do not have a dingos breath of buyers remorse. I absolutely love the fact that people ask me regularly what on earth is “that” and then I give them a listen. Even just with simple comparison tests a number of people have purchased their own from Gary! The PA2V2 is an amp that just keeps on giving. I can honestly say I am proud to have this amp in my pocket and it has become my daily mate.
I went straight to my critical song, Sarah McLauchlan - Angel. All I could do was smile. I have found the digital audio player that I have been looking for. I have used Creative X-Fi, M-audio Audiophile and duo, E-MU, Edirol, plus many other computer sound cards. I enjoy the PA2V2 with the Sansa Fuze just so much more. Less clinical but never overly “warm”. I think I will have to purchase another one now to be permanently installed in my listening room for the 2ch system.
For integrity reasons I must explain that I have not been endorsed, biased or coerced by Gary of Electric Avenues in writing this review.
With all audio components there are trade off's and compromises. Portability vs power output vs battery life are all aspects involved in the balancing act of headphone amplifiers. While there are downfalls with the PA2V2 I am personally happy as a whole with this piece of equipment.
I must also thank you for reading my review. I hope I have been a help in some way in finding your audio nirvana.
Keep those tunes spinning!