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CIAudio VHP2 initial & final impressions - Page 2

post #16 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by oicdn View Post
WOOT! Looking forward to it! What's the MSRP of those beasts?
$580! Lol. This will truly be a battle between the GL and this thing. Since the price range is almost the same and people are saying they're both neutral amps. Which will be the neutral king of budget amps!?

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post #17 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by oicdn View Post
WOOT! Looking forward to it! What's the MSRP of those beasts?
The prices of the VHP2 and VAC1 can be looked up at ciaudio.com.

Initial Impressions

For a few days I was going for an extreme Slum-Fi setup with the Audio-Technica ES7, as all my other headphones were temporarily away. (They arrived back today.) I have to say that the VHP2 does a nice job with the ES7, helps add even more soundstage to it.

I'm listening now with the K701 and temporarily my dCS P8i. While I don't entirely like the sound of the P8i (heard first with a balanced Beta 22), the VHP2 does a good job from it as far as I can tell. I can of course say that the balanced Beta 22 decimates the VHP2 - really no comparison at all, there was so much more of everything with the Beta 22.

There are two things I really don't like about the amp that have nothing to do with sound. First is the form factor. The cubic shape just doesn't appeal to me at all and I'm not sure what the reason for it is. Second is the lack of a power switch. Really can't understand the reason for this. I could understand the lack of a power switch on the VHP2 itself since it comes with a wall-wart, but no power switch on the VAC1? This always-on config is a poor decision.

From a purely operational perspective I vastly prefer the approach of the HeadAmp Gilmore Lite stack - it's a nice-looking stack (when stacked) and it has a power switch.
post #18 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Asr View Post
The prices of the VHP2 and VAC1 can be looked up at ciaudio.com.

Initial Impressions

For a few days I was going for an extreme Slum-Fi setup with the Audio-Technica ES7, as all my other headphones were temporarily away. (They arrived back today.) I have to say that the VHP2 does a nice job with the ES7, helps add even more soundstage to it.

I'm listening now with the K701 and temporarily my dCS P8i. While I don't entirely like the sound of the P8i (heard first with a balanced Beta 22), the VHP2 does a good job from it as far as I can tell. I can of course say that the balanced Beta 22 decimates the VHP2 - really no comparison at all, there was so much more of everything with the Beta 22.

There are two things I really don't like about the amp that have nothing to do with sound. First is the form factor. The cubic shape just doesn't appeal to me at all and I'm not sure what the reason for it is. Second is the lack of a power switch. Really can't understand the reason for this. I could understand the lack of a power switch on the VHP2 itself since it comes with a wall-wart, but no power switch on the VAC1? This always-on config is a poor decision.

From a purely operational perspective I vastly prefer the approach of the HeadAmp Gilmore Lite stack - it's a nice-looking stack (when stacked) and it has a power switch.
Great impressions! Lol, sorry to here you don't like the cubes. I think it has something to do with space I suppose. Just my 2 cents.
And the no power switch... I read somewhere, forgot where about why he chose this design. He said that electronical parts last longer with continuous voltage/current/orsomethingtodowithelectricity running through them compared the ones you can switch on and off, giving an example of a light bulb, saying that most of the time the bulb blows when you turn it on. But yeah, I forgot where
post #19 of 29
Asr,

please compare VHP2 w/VAC1 vs. VHP2 alone

I found that VHP2 alone lacks a bit of dynamic when driving high impedance cans.
post #20 of 29
X2
post #21 of 29
They look nice. Where are they made in ?
post #22 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Audio-Omega View Post
They look nice. Where are they made in ?


In USA I think. By Dusty of CIAudio, used to work with Audio Alchemy before they quitted.
post #23 of 29
Oh, and Asr, would you also check if there is soundquality or soundsignature difference between high gain and low gain modes? Mine has, and so did Jpelgs piece. More forward or aggressive treble.
post #24 of 29
CIAudio products are really nice. I love my VHP-1. It sounds lovely and looks pretty snazzy too!

I'll eventually supplement it with a VAC-1, when I have some more cash. =)

And yep, they are made in the USA. It's unusual these days to have some piece of techy gear made in the USA.
post #25 of 29
My VHP-2 says "Handcrafted in USA" on the back. I assume in California, since that's where CIA is.

This is a quote from Srajan Ebaen in his 6Moons' review of the old VHP-1:


"After all, the most common headphones do not present such punishing loads that 25lbs monster amps become relevant. Whatever has a 1/4" plug on its tail will be perfectly copasetic with the CIAudio amp. If you insist on heavier, bigger and more expensive, indulge your beliefs but know that you're being excessive. The curve of diminishing returns hangs a really sharp right just past today's boxes. That means the smart shopper will be perfectly happy not going any farther..."


I agree. I really look forward to what Asr finds, especially since I have valued his reviews so much when I search & research here, and it should be fun to see if he agrees with the 6Moons and Wes Phillips/Stereophile VHP-1 reviews.

"You're being excessive" is often the story here, that's for sure, though, isn't it, to the point of cold, icy, metallic percussiveness.................
post #26 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cankin View Post
Asr,

please compare VHP2 w/VAC1 vs. VHP2 alone

I found that VHP2 alone lacks a bit of dynamic when driving high impedance cans.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MaZa View Post
Oh, and Asr, would you also check if there is soundquality or soundsignature difference between high gain and low gain modes? Mine has, and so did Jpelgs piece. More forward or aggressive treble.
I'll do both of these eventually and will post the results when I get around to doing the full review.

2nd Impression

I'm convinced that I don't like this amp paired with the dCS P8i. Then again I didn't really like my former B22 with the P8i either, so I guess that's a good thing.

The amp is sounding pretty good otherwise so far, and it actually drives the Grado HP2 pretty well too - it increases the spatial field and gives the bass more tactility and agility. I've heard better from my Grado HP2 though with the Cary CAD-300 SEI at CanJam '08. That Cary amp was a beast!
post #27 of 29
Thread Starter 
3rd/Last Impression

Before I turn this over to silence until the full review, I thought I'd add another installment.

The amp is definitely very decent-sounding. Well it's hard to make a bad-sounding amp but I've heard my share of low-quality amps, and from what I can tell so far, the VHP2/VAC1 is not one of those, it's actually pretty good. While I haven't gone into a full-critical listening session yet, it seems to be doing a fine job at what an amp should do, and it works nicely with both the Grado HP2 and AKG K701. It's actually surprisingly good with the Grado HP2 - good strong bass and speed.

I switched over to my Plinius CD-101 CDP yesterday and the sound definitely shifted back to something that was more my flavor - faster, more treble, and more spatial air. So the amp is definitely transparent too.

And with that I'll leave this thread to run its course into the archives. Will be posting a full review in August sometime.
post #28 of 29
Thread Starter 
Final Impression

Apologies to those who might have been anticipating a full-length, organized review from me on this amp, but I'm going to have to cancel it. A full review will not be coming soon or anytime in the future.

Final thoughts of this amp?

It's definitely a capable amp and it's driven everything I've thrown at it with relative ease, including the Grado HP1000/HP2; Audio-Technica ES7, AD2000, W5000, W2002; and AKG K701. The Klipsch IMAGE X10 and UE triple.fi 10 Pro too, though the IEMs did reveal some background hiss on the amp at high volume (no music playing but connected to source). In contrast, I clearly remember the HeadAmp Gilmore Lite as being completely silent throughout the entire volume range when I tested it with the Audio-Technica CK7.

The VHP2 has the sound of a basically transparent amp. More than once I felt like I was not listening through an amp, which made me recall my days almost two years ago with the HeadAmp GS-1. Clean & clear with a nicely polished tint.

Something about the amp feels slow though - I haven't gotten the impression that its speed is nearly as good as on a HeadAmp amp. In lieu of direct comparison I can't say this conclusively of course, but it does seem like it trawls over very fast notes. In reference to my previous balanced Beta 22 it's a definite step down (but then again I also listened to the B22 primarily in balanced mode so that's not a completely fair comparison).

Treble & bass extension is good but without another home amp for comparison I can't say anything conclusive here either. It hits low enough for standard purposes (and sounds fine with the AD2000) and goes high enough to at least sound clean around the edges. (I haven't formally critically listened to either aspect.) Soundstage too is wide, though the depth impresses more, it really enhances z-axis projection if it's on the recording and the source component carries it through.

I think the best thing I can say about the amp is that it sounds very good and can tackle the varied demands of different headphones with relative ease. It should be a fine solution for anyone who doesn't want to buy HeadAmp for one reason or another (probably the most notable issues being lead time and communication delays). Though in my personal case I vastly preferred the sound of HeadAmp's Gilmore Lite.

Build quality between the Gilmore Lite and VHP2 is relatively on level - both are tough and durable and are nicely finished. Both are cased in brushed aluminum chassis but the Gilmore Lite is completely & professionally sanded over (by hand, I might add) for a very smooth feel. Its form factor, loop output, and power switch give it an edge too, for me at least. The VHP2 has loop output too but its cubic shape and no power switch were definite turn-offs for me.

My personal recommendation: HeadAmp Gilmore Lite over the VHP2, primarily due to craftsmanship & build quality (lots of time obviously goes into individual Gilmore Lite amps), sound, and technical specs (there are more published specs of the Gilmore Lite/Dynalo than the VHP2, which show the GL as the more capable amp). Right now I understand that lead time is an issue when buying from HeadAmp, but whenever this is sorted out I see no reason to not recommend the GL over the VHP2.

I will post internal pics soon.
post #29 of 29
Thanks, Asr!

It's a very easy amp to ignore, in a good sense: "More than once I felt like I was not listening through an amp" is an apt comment, and probably why I can't shake it.

I suspect it will never be exciting enough in concept or sound for the average Head-Fier, who often is looking for something else beyond competence, simplicity, reliability, and a good price. Look at the rat's nest pics just posted elsewhere of Singlepower guts, which cause my heart to skip a beat. Somehow that turns others on; it makes me vaguely ill.

I've never heard the GS-1, but yes, as you say, the VHP-2 probably appeals to those who otherwise might like one of the Gilmore designs. I absolutely bought a CIA because I didn't want to wait for an amp. And also because Stereophile and 6Moons liked the original VHP-1.
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