Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphone Amps › Mini-Review: Portaphile V2^2 Maxxed
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Mini-Review: Portaphile V2^2 Maxxed

post #1 of 48
Thread Starter 
Intro

Ever since I first discovered the Portaphile amps, I've always wanted to hear one, but there was always something preventing me, either funds, or the lack of opportunity (i.e., the 2006 National Meet), or finally the lack of availability (since Cesar discontinued them back in the summer). Thanks to the very generous Romanee, who loaned me his much-valued Portaphile V2^2 Maxxed, I have now been able to sample this high-end portable amp. A very big thanks to Romanee for this loaner, as without his generosity I don't think I would've been able to demo one otherwise.

Romanee's Portaphile V2^2 Maxxed isn't just an ordinary V2^2 Maxxed either. This one has all the upgrades - LT1210 in the power supply and Black Gate 1500uF NX caps - and it's burned in to boot!

You guys might ask why I'm bothering to review this amp when it's not even available from Cesar. Well, that might be true, but it's still available in the used market, and this amp is also highly underrated and deserves as much praise as it can get!

Equipment Used

Sources:
- Arcam CD73 w/ Black Sand Violet Z1
- Cambridge Audio Azur 640C V2 w/ Iron Lung Jellyfish

Interconnects:
- Signal Cable Silver Mini and Analog Mini interconnects

Test CDs

Alison Krauss - Now That I've Found You
Jewel - Spirit, This Way
Massive Attack - Blue Lines, Mezzanine
Orbital - Middle of Nowhere
Porcupine Tree - Deadwing
Radiohead - OK Computer
Snow Patrol - Eyes Open
Thievery Corporation - Sounds From The Verve Hi-Fi
The Crystal Method - Vegas

Frequency Response

Compared to the 2005 HeadAmp AE-1, the V2^2 Maxxed has much better bass strength and extension. It passed my frequency test with flying colors - although since I don't have my ATH-AD2000 at the moment, I couldn't really test its extension as well I would've liked to. Still, with the quintet of the K171S, K501, K601, K701, and SR225, there were no apparent deficiencies in the amplification stage - just strong, clear sound all the way up and down.

I found the overall sound of the amp to be slightly aggressive (though not forward in any way). A bit more emphasis on the treble than the mid-range, as it offers a crispness and edginess that in no way is harsh, but gives just the slight impression of being aggressive. Somewhat similar to the sound of the AD8397 that I heard with my old SuperMini-III, but not entirely similar - I found the AD8397 quite aggressive, but the V2^2's implementation of the AD8610 doesn't seem as aggressive.

Bass on this amp is really just a glory to behold - deep, powerful, and full of inner force. It brought out the bass on the K601 and K701 to new levels - there was more push, a better sense of force behind low bass notes. It's too bad the headphones don't extend as low as they could though, as it sounds like they're the limiting factor, not the amp. However, if the HeadAmp GS-1 is truly transparent through the entire spectrum, then the V2^2 seems to have an emphasized bass, as it has more bass presence in comparison. It's the kind of bass that seems like it'd be able to render the earthmoving boom of a thunderstorm, or the waking-up-of-the-dead bass slap of a very large drum. There's also more warmth to the mid-bass that provides a gentle, analog quality that sounds more intimate than detached - but don't get me wrong, it's not a tubey sound at all, it's just on the warm side of solid-statey.

The V2^2's mid-range seemed relatively flat to my ears - in contrast to the GS-1, which has a definitively warmer mid-range (but keep in mind I don't find the GS-1's mids very warm on their own). An interesting result, and this makes it an ideal partner for copper interconnects along with a warm source and warm headphones. In fact, I found music to be somewhat on the dull side with my silver-core IC and more pleasant & lively on the copper-core IC.

The treble is another area where the amp shines - although it's a tad on the aggressive side as already mentioned, it's also very clean, clear, and defined. There's enough air on the edge of the frequency extreme that lets it breathe, yet it also has that sense of being very precise, with an almost razor-like definition. This didn't make it pair very well with the Cambridge CDP, as the CDP has the exact same treble signature - a pairing like this is clearly only for the treble extremists who demand ultimate precision. However, on its own the amp is just fine and isn't terribly treble-offensive - it's just that the other components it's used with should be carefully considered, as it merely brings out whatever it's fed, particularly in the treble.

Detail & Soundstage

The V2^2 isn't an extreme detail freak - compared to the GS-1, anyway. It failed to pick up the extremely fine and nuanced micro-details that I've grown accustomed to with that amp. That doesn't mean it's anti-detail though, it's just not at the level of the GS-1, and this is saying a lot! Am I trying to compare a <$300 portable amp to a $750 home amp? Believe it!

To put it simply, nothing about this amp is lacking in terms of detail, it just simply falls short of the mark in providing micro-detail, but for less than $300, there's absolutely no reason to fault this. It's able to capture subtle changes in tone and timbre, extremely quick leading edges, and every kind of clink, whink, and tink you could possibly think of.

Soundstage is also very well-defined on this amp - it's not as airy and far-ranging as the AE-1, but it provides a better sense of forward projection. In fact I found myself on more than one occasion instinctively trying to stand up as if to get a better view of the stage. It's a great partner for the K701 in this aspect, as it makes the soundstage that much more 3D and introspective, and really makes you feel like you can peer into any direction and get a sense of what's going on there.

Overall

There's absolutely no question, the Portaphile V2^2 Maxxed is not only a steal at under $300 (if you can find one used), it's also THE best-sounding portable I've heard yet. That's not actually saying a whole lot as I haven't heard too many portable amps, but this amp blows the doors off the Little Dot Micro+, Xin SuperMini-III, and HeadAmp 2005 AE-1. I certainly hope Justin is pulling out all the stops to make the AE-1 revamp a whole lot better than the current design.

And actually you can still order a V2^2 Maxxed from Cesar at portaphile.com, go there and check the News page! Looks like he's producing very limited quantities while the Shohin is in development!

Thanks again to Romanee for the generous move and letting me trial this incredible amp! In my listening tests it proved to have enough power for all my AKG headphones and found a unique synergy with each one.
post #2 of 48
this really sound like my kind of amp. musical and good bass. probably a good upgrade from my pa2v2/portable rig. damn or thanks Asr
post #3 of 48
From reading your review, I should imagine that the maxxed V2^2 has the same slightly detached and cool midrange of my X^3 upgraded with BUF634's and LT1210 (plus self-added tantalum caps). A bit of a pity 'cause otherwise it'd have been quite satisfying (and musical although not the most detailed amp ever heard).
post #4 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrea View Post
From reading your review, I should imagine that the maxxed V2^2 has the same slightly detached and cool midrange of my X^3 upgraded with BUF634's and LT1210 (plus self-added tantalum caps). A bit of a pity 'cause otherwise it'd have been quite satisfying (and musical although not the most detailed amp ever heard).
Thanks ASR for the in depth review.

Just a note on the differences between Andrea's X3 amplifier and a V2^2 Maxxed.

The X^3 uses lower quality (thick film vs thin film), lower precision (1.0% vs 0.1%) resistors than the V2. The X3 also uses Nichicon Muse FG caps as opposed to the Black Gate caps found in the V2. These are two different sounding amplifiers.
post #5 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Asr View Post
Intro

Ever since I first discovered the Portaphile amps, I've always wanted to hear one, but there was always something preventing me, either funds, or the lack of opportunity (i.e., the 2006 National Meet), or finally the lack of availability (since Cesar discontinued them back in the summer). Thanks to the very generous Romanee, who loaned me his much-valued Portaphile V2^2 Maxxed, I have now been able to sample this high-end portable amp. A very big thanks to Romanee for this loaner, as without his generosity I don't think I would've been able to demo one otherwise....
Yeah, I had the totally maxxed out V2^2.. I enjoyed it.. Still miss the bass impact, & some of its other attributes. What a battery eater though.. & never got around to buying a PSU for it.. For 242.00 it was a steal..
post #6 of 48
ASR thanks for the review. I am getting a brand new one from Cesar as he had some parts available and agreed to build me one. Should arrive this week and to burn in it goes (I will probably burn it in for at least 200 hours).
post #7 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pappucho View Post
The X^3 uses lower quality (thick film vs thin film), lower precision (1.0% vs 0.1%) resistors than the V2. The X3 also uses Nichicon Muse FG caps as opposed to the Black Gate caps found in the V2. These are two different sounding amplifiers.
Although I agree on the facts, I have a 'informed belief' that it's the chips (and also the circuit topology) that determine the tonality/timbre more than anything. After all the Nichicon Muse FG are "specified for audio", and said to deliver a rich(er) sound even in their datasheet.
post #8 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrea View Post
Although I agree on the facts, I have a 'informed belief' that it's the chips (and also the circuit topology) that determine the tonality/timbre more than anything. After all the Nichicon Muse FG are "specified for audio", and said to deliver a rich(er) sound even in their datasheet.
What would Cesar know anyway? He only makes them.
post #9 of 48

200 >>>>> 350+, if you will...

Quote:
Originally Posted by mrarroyo View Post
ASR thanks for the review. I am getting a brand new one from Cesar as he had some parts available and agreed to build me one. Should arrive this week and to burn in it goes (I will probably burn it in for at least 200 hours).
Go for 350+ hours. Seriously. Black Gate NX caps do benefit from that much time. I've posted a lot of notes on this, but at 270+ hours it sounded very impressive but not quite there.

At 350+ the highs cleaned up and regained the sparkle that was somewhat subdued by some grain or edginess during the "burn in" curve. Lows became uniquely well defined, and a seductive layered imaging developed -- thanks to the LT1210 in the power supply.

With all upgrades in but before the LT1210 was added, it lacked the remarkable imaging, transparency and fine detail that you'll hear when it's fully matured. The LT1210 has 1Amp max output, and it does give the amp great ease and headroom, in addition to the great frequency extension up and down, and the 3D image that lets you hear into the music and almost around the performers -- on very well-recorded tracks, at least.
post #10 of 48
BTW -- Great thanks to Asr for (in addition to his always interesting thoughts) HIS generosity in lending me his Rudistor NKK.01, which I still haven't figured out (yes I can turn it on -- I meant sound-wise) -- though it does have a deluxe feel, and a wide, spacious and sometimes lush/sometimes punchy & snappy sound. Rather chameleon-like. Always love Rudi's large shiny volume knobs.
post #11 of 48
I bought mne from a Head-Fier used, and it came in great condition and burned in. I really like it. Very Happy Camper.

BTW MRARROYO, The iMod rocks. Thanks. The PV2^2maxxed with it with my ALO Cryo is sweet.
post #12 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete7 View Post
What would Cesar know anyway? He only makes them.
Quite perceivably, I and Cesar were referring to different aspects of sound quality, you know. I must have said already somewhere that I'm greatly focused on timbral quality.
post #13 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Romanee View Post
The LT1210 has 1Amp max output, and it does give the amp great ease and headroom, in addition to the great frequency extension up and down, and the 3D image that lets you hear into the music and almost around the performers -- on very well-recorded tracks, at least.
Not to sound pedantic (just for the sake of correct information) -- be aware that the LT1210 in this 3-channel amp doesn't deliver nearly any current at all (its max current output is likely in the uA range, not even mA). So the 1A output capability is completely irrelevant. What makes it better than the previous BUF634 virtual ground driver, must merely be the near-0-ohm output impedance, unlike that of the BUF634 operated open-loop (like here), which is a few ohms, as such much higher even than the Pimeta TLE2426's typical 0.0075 ohm output impedance.
post #14 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Romanee View Post
Go for 350+ hours. Seriously. Black Gate NX caps do benefit from that much time. I've posted a lot of notes on this, but at 270+ hours it sounded very impressive but not quite there.

At 350+ the highs cleaned up and regained the sparkle that was somewhat subdued by some grain or edginess during the "burn in" curve. Lows became uniquely well defined, and a seductive layered imaging developed -- thanks to the LT1210 in the power supply.

With all upgrades in but before the LT1210 was added, it lacked the remarkable imaging, transparency and fine detail that you'll hear when it's fully matured. The LT1210 has 1Amp max output, and it does give the amp great ease and headroom, in addition to the great frequency extension up and down, and the 3D image that lets you hear into the music and almost around the performers -- on very well-recorded tracks, at least.
Will do, what is an extra 100 hours.
post #15 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by LDMES View Post
...BTW MRARROYO, The iMod rocks. Thanks. The PV2^2maxxed with it with my ALO Cryo is sweet.
iMod is in my list. I am waiting for the 120 Gb 1.8" Hard Drive promised by Seagate to do both at the same time.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Portable Headphone Amps
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphone Amps › Mini-Review: Portaphile V2^2 Maxxed