ALO/ Red Wine Audio Desk Top Headphone Amp (Amphora) W/ PHOTOSI have had another head-fier's Amphora arrive today, while he is in Iraq serving our country. It is my job to do the burn-in, listen to it, and let some other local head-fiers like Blutarsky, Sherwood and Naamanf listen to it as well. Then it will go on to some Florida head-fiers for more listening and enjoyment.
The Amphora is beautiful, as you can see from the photos.
Music played (lossless): Patricia Barber "Companion", Helge Lien trio "Hello Troll", Shelby Lynn "Just a Little Lovin", Jack Johnson "Sleep Through the Static", Arvo Part "Tabula Rasa", Wayne Gareth Trio "Shock", Portico Quartet "Black and White Sessions", Tsuyoshi Yamamoto "Smooth Jazz Festival", Diana Krall "Live in Paris", John H. Clarke "Acoustik Guitar".
I am currently comparing the Amphora with iMod vs my iMod > ALO Vcap dock with cryo silver x mini IC and silver/silk LOD > burned-in RSA P-51 Mustang (total almost the same price as Amphora without dock). I did some switching out the P-51 amp for Pico, Predator and iBasso D10 with LTC6241HV opamp as well. I also briefly plugged the P-51 mustang into the pre-amp out of the Amphora with a Soloz 12-strand Litz-braid RCA-mini so I could move back and forth between the two amps, with the iMod as the source. So far, with just 3 hours on it I am really digging this amp. I have tried most of my headphones for a little session with the Amphora, and nothing I have sounds bad with it.
At this early point in the game the Amphora still beats the Pvcap/Mustang rig with my woodied recabled D2000. Basically these phones are like a re-cabled D5000 since the cups and cable were the only difference between D2000 and D5000, in reality they sound better than a markl modded D5000 or a stock D7000. The Denon and Amphora were made for each other - end of story.
With Sennheiser HD600 the two rigs are approximately tied, but with the Sennheiser IE8 the Amphora is noticeably better than the Vcaps/Mustang or other amps.
With Grado RS-1 and bowls the Mustang is a little warmer and more pleasant sounding, but the Amphora is not bad at all and really shines when I switch the pads to flats.
With ATH-ESW10JPN the Amphora is a clear winner, being more transparent and neutral, while the Vcaps/Mustang gives them a warmer slant with a slightly edgier sound.
With my Edition 9 the Amphora also sings as well as it does with the D2000, and the Edition 9 that I have been thinking about selling suddenly sound like they are worth keeping. The Amphora is simply cleaner and more transparent with my APS V3 Edition 9 than the Pvcap/Mustang or any of my other portable amps.
With my Westone ES3X IEM the Amphora wins again for most transparent sound. With the music paused or no iMod plugged in I have noticed there is a very very slight low-level hiss on the Amphora with these very sensitive 124dB/mw custom IEM. This hiss is not bad and is about the same low background level as with the Apogee Duet, so it doesn't interfere with the music at all or in any way. NOTE: The volume knob is a joy to use even with highly sensitive IEM.
As I listen to this thing I start to become more attached to it. As a matter of fact, I am already working on selling some stuff to buy one for myself.
EDIT 11:00 PM -- As I spend more time with the Amphora, the hiss with Westone ES3X is a little more noticeable between songs than I initially thought, but it is still not heard during the music playing except between tracks. It does not change or increase with the volume knob or input selection or when no source is plugged in, and also appears on the P-51 or external amp when the amp is connected to the pre-amp out of the Amphora. Normal listening with the Goldpoint volume knob on low gain with ES3X is about 10-11 o'clock = 8-10 clicks up from zero. The hiss is not heard in the music once I get past the first 2 clicks and onto the 3rd click of the Goldpoint. Quiet listening volumes for going to sleep would be above that level at 3-4 clicks on the volume knob. With a Shure volume attenuator I don't have to roll the volume control on the Shure more than about 2-3 mm to make it quiet. With the Shure attenuator the normal volume listening with the ES3X occurs with the Goldpoint at 11-12 o'clock instead of at 10-11 o'clock without it. So, the 2-3 mm roll on the Shure volume means about 2 clicks more needed on the Goldpoint for the same music volume.
My impressions of the Amphora are still very favorable, as it is the best sounding portable amp in the house right now, and it is still relatively fresh out of the box. I wont know how much burn-in will affect the sound until I hear how it might change over the next 10 days. I have found it sounds even better when using my Macbook with the Pico DAC/amp as source, or my iBasso D10 optical DAC to feed it. Studio Masters 24/96 recordings out of the Macbook via optical DAC are impressive. I will try it later with my PS Audio Digital Link III DAC or Apogee mini-DAC as my source.