Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphone Amps › Yet another cheap amp thread. Please help anyway.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Yet another cheap amp thread. Please help anyway.

post #1 of 41
Thread Starter 
Okay, I know something exactly like this thread is always on tap here, but I've been searching and reading, and -- though I've really learned alot from this site about what's out there (heck, I've even started reading reviews of opamps!) -- I'm running into the limitations imposed by my experience and non-engineering education, and I've begun to find it difficult to compare apples to apples. Many products (or even makers!) are no longer around, others have been updated, and prices have risen. So I'm bringing it up again. Apologies for the long post, but I'm hoping this thread will become an all-in-one resource for newbies like me and people of limited resources.

I've got a Zune 80gb and just purhased some UE super.fi 5 pro IEMs (21 ohm impedance, 199 dB/mW sensitivity) . The UEs are an enormous improvement over the stock "premium" buds, but really reveal the limitations of the Zune's internal amp (and lack of equalization). Highs are great, but mids lack just a bit of definition and presence and lows aren't thumpity enough. So, I clearly HAVE to have an amp.

You'll also want to know that I'm using WMA lossless files. Not as good as FLAC, I'm sure, but it's a portable, and ultimately, I seldom use it in really great sonic conditions. Isolation may be great with the IEMs, but that airport/jet engine/taxicab drone isn't ever going to disappear, so I don't think buying a $300 amp is really appropriate. I can't justify more than, say, $125 for a portable amp, and really would be happier if I could stick to around $50.

$50, of course, would limit me to a cMoy amp, perhaps one by biosciencegeek. I've also considered paying a bit more for one of blackinches'/three3three3's cMoyBB v2.01s. Juice2214 sells for $35, which is even nicer. In the other direction, Penguinamps' Royal Amp is available at $99. Should I not even consider a cMoy? Why not? If I should consider it, does t3t3's PCB construction offer a real improvement over the other two (at least theoretically)? I do like the idea of being able to easily switch opamps out easliy.

For that matter, should I just be grabbing a FIIo at their weirdo $.01 cost/$19 shipping pricing? They seem kinda noisy compared to other options, but the price is right. No volume control, though. (on the other hand, no lineout for the Zune...)

A Travagan's colors ($59)? Like the FIIo, there's no volume control.

How about a Mini-box D at $80? Love the form factor, but perhaps that volume pot will get noisy?

The Headroom Total Airhead ($99)? I'm not sure what components it uses, which is troubling, but not unique. It's rather bigger than most other options, too. But it does have some crossfeed, which sounds like kind of a good idea.

Or the C&C Box+ ($109)? The older Box v2 fared poorly in Skylab's comparo, but C&C claims the new one is significantly better, and the size/form factor seems lovely.

Rockhopper's selling a Mini3 at $125. Based on the giant review roundup posted by Skylab, that represents a lot of bang for the buck. But it's also a lot of bucks, given my self-imposed limits. Is anyone else building them?

The iBasso Boa is crazy expensive, given the conversion rates right now. Looks like over $160 US right now, and that's out of my range (and into competition with some better products I think).

The Practical Devices XM4 may be a consideration, as they're available on eBay right now (01Jul08) at $130 Buy-it-Now. But the company's website indicated that they're suitable for 'phones with impedance as low as 23 ohms...which is 2 ohms higher than the UEs. I don't even know what would happen if I tried using it. Anyone? Anyone? It brings up a good question: how much amp is TOO much amp, when you're talking efficient IEMs?

I've seen various other options in the price-range, but honestly, I'm getting to the point where I can't keep them straight. And I'm sure that wiser heads
can point out anything I'm missing. So, please, wiser heads: do your thing!
post #2 of 41
how about pa2v2? i think it sells for $50~$60 on ebay.
post #3 of 41
Quote:
You'll also want to know that I'm using WMA lossless files. Not as good as FLAC, I'm sure, but it's a portable, and ultimately, I seldom use it in really great sonic conditions.
FLAC and WMA lossless are sonically identical. They are both contain 100% of the original data from the WAV file they were made from. I would even go as far to say as WMA lossless is better because they have better compression ratios and less encoding time. However, they are not nearly as universal as FLAC. Just a bit of a clarification here.

As far as amps go, you don't have a huge variety of very good options. I was in your position as well and actually just ended up saving up for the Boa. I use it just as much as a home rig as a portable one. It has the all important DAC as well, so I upgraded two major components at once. It give you all the amp you need for portable listening and a good clean source for home listening on the computer.

I think if you don't want to get the higher priced Boa, you should pick up something very cheap. You don't want to spend loads of money to end up stuck in a middle ground where you want to upgrade again. In which case you will just have spent even more money than if you just dropped the big bucks in the first place. I feel like one of the <$50 CMoy would be what you are looking for if you are not going to jump right up to the Boa.
post #4 of 41
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tjumper78 View Post
how about pa2v2? i think it sells for $50~$60 on ebay.
Well...it's not exactly sexy-looking, and the thickness is over 1 inch, which is somewhat irritating for a portable. That said, would you say that the sound makes it worthwhile?
post #5 of 41
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DayoftheGreek View Post
I think if you don't want to get the higher priced Boa, you should pick up something very cheap. You don't want to spend loads of money to end up stuck in a middle ground where you want to upgrade again. In which case you will just have spent even more money than if you just dropped the big bucks in the first place. I feel like one of the <$50 CMoy would be what you are looking for if you are not going to jump right up to the Boa.
That's just the kind of reasoned advice I was hoping for. At the price-point, do you consider the Boa the best option? There are quite a few amps in the $150-200 range...

Oh, and re: FLAC, I'm sure you're right, but I've read a ton of posts on various fora where people get kinda snippy about FLAC being superior to other lossless formats. I've only listened to WMAL, myself, and didn't want to expose myself to excessive flames.
post #6 of 41
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DayoftheGreek View Post
[The Boa] has the all important DAC as well, so I upgraded two major components at once.
A good point, Greek. I had considered the total Bithead for the same reasons. Of course, the Total Bithead has it, as well, as do others...
post #7 of 41
I can vouch for the Minibox-D's volume pot that mine has never been noisy. Well, for now.
post #8 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elladan View Post
That's just the kind of reasoned advice I was hoping for. At the price-point, do you consider the Boa the best option? There are quite a few amps in the $150-200 range...

Oh, and re: FLAC, I'm sure you're right, but I've read a ton of posts on various fora where people get kinda snippy about FLAC being superior to other lossless formats. I've only listened to WMAL, myself, and didn't want to expose myself to excessive flames.
There are always people who "think" they hear a difference in lossless file types. When it comes down to it, the only difference between the types are compression ratios, compression speed, and compatibility. Don't talk to "those" people. I might get flamed too, but I'm sure there are a few sane people who will back me up.

As far as the the Boa goes, I didn't hesitate to buy mine for very long once I looked at all the options and here is why. I will never be able to hear every amp/DAC in the price range. That means no matter what I get will be an improvement and I will like it. All of these products have a group of people who stand by their sound quality. With this in mind, I can pretty much rule out sound quality (all of them will be great, just different) and I can make my decision on other features. I picked the Boa because it has a rechargeable battery (awesome feature), comes with a great warranty, has very solid reviews, its light and tiny, it looks the best, comes with an AC/USB converter for charging as well as an 1/8" cable and a nice leather pouch, shipping is QUICK (I got mine in 3 days from China), and its a new product. I like to buy newer products because I feel that there is a huge quality improvement over pretty much all old products in the price range.

EDIT: Just to address the sound quality as well, I've seen lots of guys who do buy an obscene amount of amps compare the Boa to the high end ones.
post #9 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elladan View Post
Well...it's not exactly sexy-looking, and the thickness is over 1 inch, which is somewhat irritating for a portable. That said, would you say that the sound makes it worthwhile?
I have not heard the Mimi3, but if I were you I would skip the $50-60 for a pa2V2 and get a used Mini3 on the FS forums here for $90-100 (earleir today there was one with an external wall wart and the custom end panels for $100 I think, and you can find them cheaper if you are patient). The pa2V2 is a fine starter amp, and Gary deserves everyone's business, but for the small price increase the Mini3 should be a much better investement and will tide you over much longer than the pa2V2 (which from my experience does help the bottom end and give a much fuller sound but also is not very detailed and makes everything overly warm).
post #10 of 41
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DayoftheGreek View Post
As far as the the Boa goes, I didn't hesitate to buy mine for very long once I looked at all the options and here is why. I will never be able to hear every amp/DAC in the price range. That means no matter what I get will be an improvement and I will like it.
Wow, thanks, Greek. I'm beginning to regret the entire friggin' weekend I spent scouring the web for reviews of amps and opamps. The feedback here has been so quick and reasonable (even where contradictory!) that, if I were somewhat less OCD about searching out information, I think I'd still have been able to make a good decision based solely on Head-fiers experience.

I'll have to give it some thought; the Boa is definitely more than I want to spend right now...[cont. in my next post!]
post #11 of 41
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mlarn View Post
I have not heard the Mimi3, but if I were you I would skip the $50-60 for a pa2V2 and get a used Mini3 on the FS forums here for $90-100 (earleir today there was one with an external wall wart and the custom end panels for $100 I think, and you can find them cheaper if you are patient). The pa2V2 is a fine starter amp, and Gary deserves everyone's business, but for the small price increase the Mini3 should be a much better investement and will tide you over much longer than the pa2V2 (which from my experience does help the bottom end and give a much fuller sound but also is not very detailed and makes everything overly warm).
[cont.]

...but my reading had really pushed me toward a Mini3. In fact, it was rockhopper's price that set my upper limit, as I thought that might represent the best bang for the buck at the near-entry end.

I wish I had seen this one for sale, because I think I would've jumped on it.

Again, I appreciate all this great advice. I still haven't established why cMoys are not competitive on a price-dependent basis, but it does seem that the upper end of that market is not justifiable.
post #12 of 41
how much are CMoy amps?
are they a solid amp for their priice?
post #13 of 41
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JG33 View Post
how much are CMoy amps?
are they a solid amp for their priice?
JG33, check ebay; you can get them anywhere between $20 and $100, depending on construction. Most, but not all come in mint (e.g., Altoids) tins. I'm unable to comment on sound, since I don't have one -- part of the reason I started the thread!

Do people have strong opinions on crossfeed for IEMs?
post #14 of 41
yea, $20 eh? i haven't seen any, only $35+

Yea, i was meaning on starting one of these threads, but i wanted to continue research to see if i really need one. And i'm still not sure. But heck for under $50, might as well try one and get into these. I have a Cowon d2 which i bought mainly on the sound quality, and touch screen, as well as i got a sick deal on it. and i have v-moda vibes.
post #15 of 41
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JG33 View Post
yea, $20 eh? i haven't seen any, only $35+
Try CMOY ALTOIDS WINTERGREEN HEADPHONE AMP AMPLIFIER - eBay (item 180258172569 end time Jul-02-08 10:40:20 PDT)

It's not a buy it now price, but it hasn't moved thus far; there's even one one there at $12-something right now. But I don't think I'd buy it.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Portable Headphone Amps
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphone Amps › Yet another cheap amp thread. Please help anyway.