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REVIEW: PenguinAmp Caffeine portable headphone amp w/BASS BOOST - Aka HEADSTAGE LYRIX - Page 6

post #76 of 138
yep, and how can you tell the difference?
post #77 of 138
Thread Starter 
Well, I at least know that if the amp was built in September 2007 or later that it would be the AD8397 that you want. There are some older ones out there with a TI opamp and less power, but I have no idea when the changeover to AD8397 occurred. With the 8397 he had to use dual ground channel rail-splitters to handle the extra current and extra power.
post #78 of 138
I'm amazed that something of this price can sound as good as the headsix.

Hmm, but should I still save for the headsix though?

or how about a Xin superMini3?
post #79 of 138


Originally Posted by HeadphoneAddict View Post
Burn-in - capacitors form and electrons align, and current flow is improved, etc...
Even so, the fact remains that all electrolytic caps have a set lifespan as set forth in the manufacturer's specifications. For example, many of these caps are rated to last 5,000 hours at a given temperature. So by burning in these caps, despite the improvements in sound, you are at the same time speeding up their ultimate demise.

I also find it curious that one would get too excited about the sound "getting better and better" over time. The reason being because who is to say if those changes will ever stop. If an amp takes 200 hours to start sounding fantastic, do those sound improvement changes stop at 200 hours? Or does the sound continue to change at 300, 400, 1000 and more hours? If it continues to change, wouldn't the sound at some point start to become "excessively refined" (i.e., in an undesirable way)?
post #80 of 138
Thread Starter 
The main advantages to the Headsix are that it is a comemorative issue and part of the proceeds go to head-fi and the rest to support a charter sponsor of head-i, it is very small and almost as small as a Predator or Tomahawk, and a 9v alkaline battery will last 100 hours instead of 50-60.

As for caps burning-in and life span, many of these caps are rated at 80 degress C, and these never go above 30 or so. And, once they have formed and stabiliEd there are very few changes. They take so long because of the lower current of these small battery powered devices.
post #81 of 138
Larry, I certainly appreciate the explanation about burn-in. I had not given sufficient thought to the lower voltages of these amps, and that part makes a lot of sense.

I also appreciate your comprehensive review and followup posts about the Headsix and Lyrix and Caffeine amps. I've been pondering a good headphone amp for some time (for possible matching with an AKG K702 or Denon AH-D2000 -- or possibly the D5000), and with "less than $200" being my price limit, these amps seem to give a lot of performance for the Dollar.

Your reviews of the US$185 Headsix show it to be about on part sound-wise with the US$159 Lyrix after burn-in. Indeed, you mention that the US$69 Caffeine gets better sound than the Lyrix in some respects. In such a case, the Caffeine would appear to be the most logical choice, at $116 less than the Headsix, unless you want to keep an amp in your front shirt pocket all day long. And while I fully understand the need to support this site financially, the Headsix is still $26 more than the Lyrix and $116 more than the Caffeine.

The amp with the most bang for the buck is without a doubt the Lyrix. For $26 less than the Headsix, despite a marginally larger chassis, you get crossfeed, bass boost and a great USB DAC! Even without the DAC, the crossfeed (and to a lesser extent, bass boost) would make me lean in the direction of the Lyrix. But the fact you get that for a lower price too makes the decision pretty easy. And so in light of this, I am quite surprised that there is such a dearth of info on the Lyrix versus all the posts and information I was able to Google up about the Headsix. Both amps have been out for a number of months now, so I would have expected to read more articles on these amps, from a diverse number of sources.
post #82 of 138
At least you can find articles on the headsix and caffeine.....

Sounds like the caffeine will blow the headroom total airhead right out of the waters.
post #83 of 138
I am planning on grabbing one of these to power my Grado SR-80s through an iPod LOD.

Is the "Penguin Caffeine" that costs $69 dollars plus $7.50 shipping (off of PenguinAmp.com) the same one you reviewed? There seems to have been some price and name changes, so I want to make sure I am getting what I think I am getting.
post #84 of 138
Thread Starter 
As far as I know, the Caffeine at penguinamp.com is the same as what I reviewed. I am not sure what differences if any there is with the Pro vs Ultra or why there were name changes.

I think the Headstage and Penguinamp often get ignored here because a couple of years ago Robert, the owner of those brands, copied the circuit topography right off the Meier Porta Corda III (or something like that) and sold them as Headphonia amps. He got caught and offered a voluntary recall, but then argued with Jan Meier over the roots of a public domain crossfeed circuit, and whether Robert could use that topography in his own amp designs since Xin uses it for his amps too. It was all very nasty, and most of head-fi has sworn off Headstage even though the designs are not copied from Meier anymore. I have had several email conversations with Robert, and believe that he has turned over a new leaf as he continues to build his Penuinamp and Headstage line of amps that are a real bargain for the sound you get.

The Caffeine Pro and Lyrix Pro, while a different circuit than Headphonia, still have a flavor similar to meier. Meanwhile the Lyrix "Total" Pro is a newer 4-channel circuitry with an AD8397 opamp in the main channel and LM6172 opamp in the ground channel, as well as upgraded caps. The Lyrix Total Pro is not quite as forward as the Meier Headsix and Cafeine/Lyrix Pro, but has a slightly more spacious soundstage that puts you in the 3rd row instead of 1st row or on-stage.
post #85 of 138
Hmm, maybe I should get one of these.

I guess I could sell it if I don't like it...

How durable is the casing?
post #86 of 138
Thread Starter 
The Caffeine Pro/Ultra comes in a Penguin Mints case, and is fairly durable. Since last October I have only had to push out 2 small dents like you would with "paintless dent reapir" on a car - using the back of my fingernail and pushing against the inside of the case. Fixed.
post #87 of 138
The Lyrix link I posted above is the only Lyrix product I can currently find for sale. However, here is Google's cache of that page. As you can see on the cached page, there are 3 different models of the Lyrix, and the text indicates there is an option for the "total" edition (as Larry mentions), bringing the total number of models to 6. But again, as it stands now, there is only 1 Lyrix model for sale, for US$159. And that the text on the page of that particular model makes no mention of 4-channel nor "op amp rolling" so such would indicate it is not a "total" edition. In such a case, as Larry mentions, the sound for the currently sold model would seat you in Row-1 versus the Row-3 of the non-existent "total" edition.

Although I still feel that the Lyrix is probably the best bang for the buck, it is very unusual how this Robert fellow handles his business. Out of stock, just wipe the product from your site and make sure no one can search for it on your site either. Seems really fishy. The proper way to do it is to put an "out of stock" or "discontinued" message on the old web page. In light of this, it would seem to make more sense to go with the Caffeine, which is apparently in stock and has Larry's approval on sound and durability. (I still would miss the crossfeed feature of the Lyrix though.)
post #88 of 138
Alot of amp makers will just delete the link of an item when it is discontinued (ie Meier Corda and Ibasso) like it never existed.
post #89 of 138
Well for what it's worth, I've also been in dialog with John Seaber concerning his Version 2.01 CMOY amps. I read Larry's rather aging review of an older Seaber model that lacked the volume POT. The new models are closer to what the Caffeine is spec-wise, but of course without the fancy internal look of the Caffeine. John also told me he has a new bass boost version with a separate variable boost that uses a POT rather than a flip switch. That allows for customization of the bass. For that reason I am very curious how his 2.01 sounds relative to the Caffeine.

I also am a fan of crossfeed, so I asked John about that since he is willing to add custom parts to his amps. With over 400 CMOY amps sold, John told me that only 2 people prior to me had ever asked about it. Even so, I'd still like to have it, but John feels there is not enough demand for it.

John Seaber also has a prototype version that is slightly larger than what will fit in a mint tin. He sent me a photo of the board by email. It incorporates a battery charger and the AD8397 op amp and sells for $90. He said that version will not be released to the general public, although he did not state a reason why. He simply promised me more information later this month (August) after his electronic re-evaluation of the entire circuit.

So the negative here is that I don't know how Seaber's current version amps sound relative to the Lyrix/Caffeine/Headsix. And yet, Seaber is very responsive to emails and his website is well organized and "honest." And that variable bass boost version is truly exclusive to John in that price range. Also, rather than just erasing all traces of an older model, Seaber ups the version number and explains the improvements on his site. I appreciate such transparency and forthrightness about one's past work. That's how good business works, and I really am not amused by the fact that "most amp makers" don't operate that way. Perhaps that's why the Headroom folks charge so much for their amps. They do good business and don't hide info on past efforts.
post #90 of 138
Does anyone happen to know what the stock opamp is on the Lyrix, or any specs for that matter?
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