Triad Audio L3
Pros: Best audio quality you can get in a portable amp, period.
Cons: Yes it's a brick and yes the battery pack it comes with is pathetic and yes the dumbest thing of all Triad charge $800.00 and no charger.
If you want the very best audio quality out there this is still the best portable amp I've found. I've been searching for the last four or five years to find to something better and wasted a heap of money in the process. The list of quality portable amps I own is about as long as your arm. The closest amp I've found to so far is the ALO MK-3B+ but it's still not as good as the L3. I've got two amps still coming that might be a chance the Centrance M8 and a Just Audio AHA-120. I put a pre order in for the M8 and from the feedback I've read so far that's probably not going to cut it either, so that leaves the AHA-120.
Managing the L3.
Ok so Triad charge you $800.00 and don't even supply a charger. So here's what I do, don't even bother buying a charger the battery pack in the L3 is a joke anyway. Remove the two screws and open up the L3 and take out the battery pack. The battery pack is stuck in with a type of adhesive so gently lift it from either end while holding down the board it's attached to and it will release. Replace it with two iPower Pro Lithium 9v batteries IP9V520 this will give you around 10+ hours running time. As I recall the original battery pack took 4 or 5 hours to charge and lasted between 2.5 to 3 hours max. When traveling I carry an extra two charged batteries and switch over as needed. Important to remember if you do have a charger for the original battery pack DON'T USE IT TO CHARGE THE LITHIUM BATTERIES. The lithium batteries have to be removed each time and charged on a lithium charger.
Pros: power, grip, driving fidelity for low and high Ω headphones, good build quailty
Cons: no 6,3mm headphone jack, poor interface elements, poorly labelled
The full review of this nice amp is up at TouchMyApps. For the sake of brevity, the L3 is a fascinating amp because it is positioned in the market as a premium product. It certainly does a good job of performing into any set of headphones and earphones. Low Ω earphones don't daunt it, and unless you are pushing 100% volume at high gain WITH bass boost, the signal will remain strong into DT880 600Ω level headphones from the battery. Mains will fix any errors otherwise.
There is a slight noise in the signal with sensitive earphones and the output pops when power is pushed on/off.
The real problems are in its layout, which is sub-par for an amp of this price. The front panel is too cramped, the input is too close to the bass boost pot, the gain switch is up for low and down for high, and there is no 6,3mm headphone jack despite harbouring RCA inputs (presumably for hooking up to a hifi system).
The L3 performs, yes, but with so many other trade offs that don't point to an amp of 800$. I'd take a Tralucent T1 and with the savings get a desktop amp of equal power for use with a HiFi. That is the best of both worlds.
I do not own this amp. I am borrowing it.
Pros: build quality, portability, battery pack improvement
Cons: size (transportable), sound requires battery pack, doesn't drive 300 ohms well
This says it all really - it's a lovely transportable rig with the battery pack, but this Lisa III rig lacks the effortlessness and dynamism of the best desktop amps at this price, and in the $1100+ range, that's a lot of money for something which didn't drive the full-size 'phones I have well. Thankfully they're desirable enough that a quick buy/sell was easy, but this wasn't the rig for me.
Made me wonder what an ODAC + PSU would manage too - this is the best implementation of the Lisa 3 I've seen though, and a really solid product. I disliked the bass boost (worthless addition to any amp imo though), and didn't like that the PSU light glowed even when off, but the amp led glowed only when on - this kind of thing can lead to a bad experiences!
Sound was lovely - well balanced through the mid range, clear treble and well-detailed throughout, lacked a little control compared with the desktop amps but no lack of bass or harshness in the highs. Value is only because it's "a bit better than average for it's price point" (against current crop amps), but it's certainly worth an audition.
Pros: Very good performance with a good source. RCA inputs as well as a 3.5mm socket. Bass boost.
Cons: Heavy (445g!) and bulky. Recessed front jacks. Needs a full-size headphone socket.