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REVIEW: Einar Sound VC-01i Balanced SS Headphone Amp

post #1 of 88
Thread Starter 
I was asked by Edison of Einar Sound to review the VC-01i. This is a new venture, and so I had no idea what to expect. What is on offer is an ambitious, balanced headphone amp from this Canadian company that will sell for $599 - a very attractive price for a balanced amp.

When my review sample showed up, I was immediately impressed by the build quality, and fit and finish, which I think is borne out well by the pics:







The VC-01i has one unbalanced, and one balanced input, switched on the front. It has two unbalanced headphone outs, and one balanced. It has an IEC socket for the power cord. The specs are also pretty impressive – this is an amp which will work well with headphones of any impedance or sensitivity, no doubt.

Input impedance:20 KOhms
Maximum gain:10dB
Frequency response: 15Hz -- 40 kHz (-0.5dB)
Signal to noise ratio:>95dB
THD: <0.001% 18mW/300 Ohms
Channel separation:>80dB 10kHz
Output power:200mW/300 Ohms 、400mW/60 Ohms with unbalanced
380mW/300 Ohms、 700mW/60 Ohms with balance out
Output impedance:<5 Ohms
Power dissipation: <20W
Weight: 1.86 kg

For those interested, Einar also provided me with some measurements for the VC-01i:







Since I had just reviewed the balanced Audio-GD Phoenix, I spent a lot of time reviewing the VC-01i with my balanced DT880/600, which it certainly had no problem driving. I also tried it with the JVC DX1000 and Beyer DT990 unbalanced. I also did some level-matched comparisons with the Phoenix.



The Inner Sound of Einar Sound

The VC-01i is a very high quality amplifier. It is a very nice sounding amp that effortlessly produces music that gets the feet tapping fast, and which introduces no discernable character of its own on the music, which is always a good thing. Nice and smooth, essentially neutral, and with very good transparency. It doesn’t have any real weaknesses. I wouldn’t say that it provides absolutely state of the art performance in any one given area, but it is an exceptionally good all-around performer.

For example, I don’t think the VC-01i has quite the same level of overall transparency as the Phoenix, but it is nonetheless very good in this regard. And it’s half the Phoenix’s price. It doesn’t have quite the treble detail of the Decware CSP-2, nor quite the positively holographic imaging of the CSP-2, but it’s very close, and it costs less than the CSP-2 and has balanced outputs. And the soundstaging of the VC-01i is certainly quite good, perhaps lacking just that last bit of depth and width that the very best amps have.

Vocals were exceptionally smooth, and engaging. Female vocals were very well rendered – Fiona Apple’s wonderfully passionate “Get Gone” has he singing softly in parts, and belting it out in parts, and these differences were very clearly and cleanly supplied by the VC-01i.

The VC-01i has powerful, deep bass capability, and is very extended on the bottom. The deep bass present in “The Big Event” from “Crash and Burn” by Pat Travers Band was very involving and satisfying. Really nothing lacking here, except maybe the very last word in bass definition and control, but again, only compared to more expensive amps.

Higher up, the treble is smooth and extended. Little musical details like the various triangle strikes and widely varied percussion on Steely Dan's "Aja" were clearly delineated via the Einar amp. And most importantly, the overall sound is coherent, musical, and engaging. There are certainly no solid state nasties on this amp - far from it. It's not soft or rolled off, but just very smooth.

The level matched comparisons with the Audio-GD Phoenix proved that you do get some additional performance from the Phoenix for the extra money – it is the more nuanced sounding amp, and delivers a level of performance that the VC-01i cannot provide. However, it comes at twice the price of the VC-01i! For the asking price, the Einar acquits itself extra-ordinarily well. In fact, I cannot think of another SS amp in this price range that I would recommend over it, even without the balanced drive capability. The level of sound quality that the VC-01i musters may not shoot down the mighty Phoenix, but it certainly makes the VC-01i a serious contender in its price class, without question.


So What?

I don’t want to nit-pick the VC-01i. It’s a very, very good sounding amp, and a very good value. It’s got lots of power, and may be the most affordable balanced headphone amp there is – and it’s a very good one at that. At its price range, it is very, very easy to recommend, and I think very highly of it. Two thumbs up, and if you have balance headphones, then the thumbs are WAY up.
post #2 of 88
Aw, that's nice, they packed it in coffee beans so that you can have a nice cup of espresso while you listen.
post #3 of 88
Thread Starter 
LOL! Yeah they sent me some nice pretty pictures, and so I decided not to bother to take any of my own...no need, their camera is better than mine, obviously...
post #4 of 88
Nice review of a neat looking amp.
post #5 of 88
excellent review thank you
post #6 of 88
does Einar have a website? other than this thread, my google search gave me this : http://einar.com/.

looks like a sweet little amp, and i like the minimalist design. i wonder what's under the hood?
post #7 of 88
do they have a website? or how are they planning on selling these?
post #8 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by edulus View Post
do they have a website? or how are they planning on selling these?

Here is the site in China...
post #9 of 88
Quote::and may be the most affordable balanced headphone amp there is

The Little Dot Mk Vll is $200 cheaper.

Little Dot MK VII Technical Specifications:




Inputs:
Balanced: 2x 3-Pin XLR
Single-Ended: 2x RCA
Outputs:
Balanced: 4-Pin XLR
Single-Ended: 6.35mm TRS (1/4" Stereo jack)

Frequency Response: 6 Hz - 200 Khz (- 1dB)
THD+N: 0.001% (2 V RMS @ 1000 Khz)

Suitable Headphone Impedance: 8 - 600 ohms
Input Impedance: 20K ohms
Signal-To-Noise: 95 dB
User Selectable Gain Settings: Low (4x) and High (8x)

Power Output:
2800 mW @ 8 ohm
2600 mW @ 32 ohm
2000 mW @ 120 ohm
800 mW @ 300 ohm
post #10 of 88
Nice review, thanks! It's always good to have options in that price range, and it's like they're throwing in the balanced option for free.
post #11 of 88
Nice find. Pity there is no 4-pin XLR, but great if the overall sound is high quality.
post #12 of 88
Nice review. Thanks!
Sure looks like a great unit, especially considering its price.

Too bad it does not have a 4-pin XLR out though...
post #13 of 88
Very nice, and an attractive price! Although spec-wise, the LD MKVII looks to give it some competition. Still, I like the idea of buying an amp from my own country.

Question: What colour is the amp? Is it brown, or are the coffee beans and burlap colouring a black amp?

And yeah, while I can understand the desire to not go parading every last detail of the internals, I'd be interested for some details about what's going on inside.
post #14 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mehve View Post
Very nice, and an attractive price! Although spec-wise, the LD MKVII looks to give it some competition. Still, I like the idea of buying an amp from my own country.

Question: What colour is the amp? Is it brown, or are the coffee beans and burlap colouring a black amp?

And yeah, while I can understand the desire to not go parading every last detail of the internals, I'd be interested for some details about what's going on inside.
So its MADE in Canada is it.
post #15 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by ford2 View Post
So its MADE in Canada is it.
Well, when you put that way, good point. Made in Canada? Or designed in Canada with the blueprints sent to China?
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