Pros: Clarity, Soundstage, build, dynamics, textured bass, crisp highs.
Cons: iPhone 4/4S only
So my Impressions:
I have said before, I am against selling what you win or are given, and I am not an apple fan, and have no interest in getting an iPhone. So what was I to do with the VAMP I just won? Well the original idea I had was to give it to my mother to troll around with with her K550's. But it seems fate had other ideas, my friend, helped me win the competition, he was the photographer. But recently he got committed to a psychiatric institution, and I went to visit him. He has an iPhone 4, and I was going to test it with my AKG K242HD and my Denon D7000. But i planned like a prized nob, his iPhone was just replaced, he had no music, and the VAMP was not charged. So it didn't happen. But he did enjoy the AKG's straight out of his iPad, I decided bugger it and left the AKG's and the VAMP with him.
The next morning I get 2 messages. "Holy Jesus!" "Thats all."
This particular friend of mine could not discern in quality between my D2000 and his skull candy Ink'd buds using my Xonar (albeit with stock opamps and no impedance adapter at that stage, which means it was harsh and had horrible bass bloat.) So I was quite confused. He says the AKGs sounded great just out of the iPad or the iPhone, but that VAMP, he said it even made the skull candies not sound like turd.
I feel I have to talk a bit about the AKG K242HD (same as the K240mkii with velour pads and no detachable cable.) They are underrated around here, and I know why, since this is out of scope I will keep it short (if anyone would like a full review, ask and it shall be done.)
Anyway, these $90 bargains I bought are transparent, they sound like whatever you plug them into, their sonic characteristics and quality is a direct reflection of the source/amp. That was very useful when opamp rolling. And in comparison my Denons (D2k or D7k) barely change at all, they are only affected by impedance mismatches, and having enough current and clarity from the source/amp.
I will be comparing to normal iPhone w/ Golden Ear and my HTC HD2 w/ 64bit NEON enhanced Neutron player, and my Asus Xonar essence stx (with THS4032 opamps in I/V) and an impedance adapter with the denons. The Asus Xonar STX + THS4032 opamps + AKG K242HD combination is a combo I think is particularly synergestic, and I recommend highly to anyone looking for a low budget high quality all rounder system.
Headphones: as stated above AKG K242HD, and Denon D7000.
So after getting all the music onto his iPhone in flac format using Golden Ear, we got down to business. I brought my D7000 along aswell, but unless otherwise stated, this is with the AKG K242HD
I used songs I knew very very well, and out of the box, the imaging and soundstage is magnificent, the detail retrieval was the biggest killer, it was amazing, I have heard some songs so many times I know every hit and echo backwards, and I was hearing almost double the details I have ever heard with either the AKG or the Denons, and thats the part that hurt, I couldn't help but think why the hell would I buy the D7000's if this is so good.
All the songs had a much more intimate feeling, and despite everything that the AKGs could show it was always musical, and the bass was the biggest surprise, it was beautifully textured, and the subbass just got the extra little push it needed on the AKGs (although I will note for heavy electronica an equalizer is still useful.)
I never felt the VAMP was slow, or hiding anything or overly bright, which the AKGs can be.
The background was also black, very black, impressively black.
When I plugged in my Denon D7000, there was improvement, but my time was much too little to give an affirmative answer, but I do think the improvement WAS NOT so great. The reason is because in the AKG's + VAMP combo the VAMP follows the single colourating (yes I just made up a word) component rule, where with the denons both are adding colouration, and the result was still great clarity, but nowhere near the wow of the AKGs and tbh, I would rather have the VAMP + AKG combo, there is no way I would be able to justify the D7000. But I would need more time to say how close they actually are, but from the brief experience:
AKG K242HD + VAMP >> Denon D7000 + VAMP/Asus >> AKG K242HD + Asus
This has taught me (actually just reinforced my belief) that just as implementation matters more with a DAC then the chip itself, that synergy matters greater then the sum of the components.
As a basic rule you want one colourating component in a chain. With the denons, they have their own strong natural sound so you want a neutral and transparent amp, which explains why except for the odd exception they are suited best for solid state amps. With the AKGs they are transparent in their sound and benefit from the added musicality of colouration in an amp. The HD800 fits into the same category from my reading.
The synergy between the AKGs and the VAMP is utterly disgusting (in a good way) and because of the transparent nature of the AKGs I can conclusively say the VAMP is a great product. So great infact that I almost considered getting an iPhone, and I would have, but I thought the VAMP would find a good home with my friend, so I gave it to him. And I will buy the Go-dap X based VAMP when its released. Now I just haveto tell my mother I have given way the VAMP I was going to give her.... gulp....