I was fortunate enough to get on Todd's review list for the TTVJ Portable (Slim), tried it for two weeks with my UE11Pro and AKG 701, and promptly ordered my own unit!!!!!
Cutting to the chase: oh baby, I LOVE this amp!!!
First let me say that when it comes to serious listening, I am inclined to head straight for my home rig. My set-up has some serious gear in it -- the speakers alone are mind-blowing -- and frankly I am not expecting to achieve anywhere close to this kind of listening in my portable setup. How could I? There are serious physics involved. So while my expectations are not high for portable audio relative to my home system, I am fussy nonetheless. Fussy Fussy Fussy.
I want slam, I want clarity, I want accuracy, I want the sound to emerge from complete silence, I want the music to feel live.
And yes, I am also a fan of relative warmth in sound -- I favor honey over ice.
Not surprisingly, I gravitated to UE11Pros for my portable rig because they are warm, they are bassy, they have some serious slam. For me, they are an attempt to make up for that thin iPod/iPhone sound -- they add some heft to it. I love them. And while I considered portable amps, and indeed use one fairly regularly as a DAC (Total Bithead) I wasn't convinced there was a portable out there that was worth carrying around.
Until I found it.
The Slim is everything I hoped it would be. It expands the soundstage of the UE11Pros, helping to mitigate that claustrophobic sound that happens with all IEMs. It has a warmth like maple sugar on pancakes -- warm enough to run, but thick enough to coat your fork. It just feels smooth, sometimes even a bit laid back but without feeling recessed or muted. Bass is powerful and dynamic, highs are clear without ever ever becoming shrill or harsh. And mids -- oh the mids!!!! -- if you are a jazzhead this amp belongs in your collection! Horns, voices -- Annie Lenox sounds like buttah on a sweet potato. Dee-lish. (My apologies for the all the food analogies -- I am heading out to dinner soon!).
With this amp you will forget you are listening to an iPod. There is nothing digital about the presentation at all.
What's great too is that this presentation is consistent across all sound levels. You can listen loud or soft and it feels the same -- there is no need to crank this amp to get it to sound good. And for me, the best thing of all is that there is no hiss. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Music emerges from a complete void. I don't need to explain to fans of Classical music how important that is! And with the revealing nature of the UE11Pros I really thought it was an impossibility -- but yes, I can confirm, the Slim is Dead Silent.
There is good synergy with the AKG 701 too, but for different reasons. With the UE11Pro, the Slim tames and tightens the bass, making is less boomy. With the AKGs, The Slim tames the high flatness of these headphones; adds some meat to those clinical bones. I'm sure the AKGs would love to be driven with more authority, but they like the Slim just fine.
Ergonomically, the Slim is great. It is -- yes, -- slim; perfectly matched to the Classic or iPhone. Despite some marks on the finish of my unit out of the box, I'd say build quality is excellent. Battery life seems great but I haven't formally tested that, and no I have not had any battery issues. Gain ranges from zero to twenty and the way the switch is designed there is no way you will accidentally flip it to the wrong setting. The volume attenuator is simply brilliant -- very precise increments, no way to inadvertently increase the volume, and there is a colored light to indicate how loudly or softly you are setting the amp. SO helpful! Thoughtfully, the amp is designed to resume playing at your last volume setting, so there is no way to blow your head off -- unless you intend to, of course. Very nicely thought out, very well done.
Sadly, there is still the dreaded on/off "thump." Why why? I hate the thump! But it isn't enough so that your ears will bleed, so I'm ok with that. And yes there is the dreaded RF interference with the iPhone, making it imperative to use it in airplane mode.
My version does have a DAC and it works fine -- again, no noise or hiss, nice and quiet. I don't hear as much of a difference between DACs as I expected, but I think these are becoming rather generic at this point.
As for equipment used, I tried the Slim with my Classic, my Nano, and my iPhone, all with an Ear Candy Lite LOD. Musically, my tastes range from classical to trip hop; dance to trance; jazz. Thoroughly eclectic.
And finally, at the risk of rendering my entire opinion as that of a tin-eared booby, I could find no difference at all between my brand-new unit and the "burned in" review unit. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Not that I expected to hear a difference -- I still find it unimaginable to think that these amps need "burn in" -- but if there was a difference, I didn't hear one. So there! I've admitted it!
Flame away, but I see no reason to burn this puppy in for 100 hours. Buy it, and enjoy!
Bottom line? If you are a clinical, thin analytical ear-splitting-highs-Etymotic-lover, don't buy this amp. But if you value warm neutrality, spaciousness, musicality, slam, and smoooooooth, just get it over with and buy this thing. It is one awesome amp.
I cannot fathom why there is not more press and buzz about this amp. It deserves a large and loyal following.