This quick review was first posted on the GSA Forum a few weeks ago... thought it may be appreciated here...
- Graham Slee Voyager, portable headphone amplifier.
- Audio-technica ATH-M50 headphones.
- iPod120GB (5th or 6th gen.?).
- Sendtation PocketDock line-out mini USB adapter.
- Audio elevation iLead.
After around five years using the Bang & Olufsen A8 clip-on type earphones, it was about time to upgrade my portable listening. I had long since decided to find a good portable headphone amp and managed to listen to a few different models including an iQube V2, iBass D4 and a HeadAudio amp that I cannot recall the name of. I spent a few hours going over discussions and reviews on the HiFi forums and various blogs that I could find. The more I read about the Voyager and Graham Slee products in general the more intrigued I became, the Voyager was not the cheapest of the bunch, but then again, in HiFi terms, it represented a lot of bang-per-buck. Headphones I considered were the Sennheiser HD25, Beyer T50p and the B&W P5. After listening to the B&W P5, I wer on the verge of buying that until a friend that is a sound engineer at Denmarks Radio, said that I should try a headphone that he had been using at work. That turned out to be the Audio Technica ATH M50, I were sold, it was better in every respect to what I had heard in the B&W and miles ahead of my old B&O A8, it was also a reasonable price.
I really like a wide variety of music, but my preferred listening tends to be Blues, especially acoustic blues, I also like rock that is driven by a strong bass line and good percussion sections.
The Voyager has been burnt in by setting my iTunes library to shuffle the 9000 track library and hooked upto the headphones playing at a high, but not deafening, level. I am now onto my fourth battery so it must be around the 150 - 200 hour mark
I put together a playlist with music (All ripped to AIFF 48k 16bit) to do some listening….
Into the Mystic – Van Morrison.
The voyager pushed this track along with great clarity, the bass guitar can be heard holding the music at a good pace. The horns are crisp without being too harsh.
New York sessions 67 - Van Morrison.
Van Morrison at what I think was his peak. Vans vocals stand out with the passion that is easy to hear with this combination of Voyager & ATH M50. It is also fun to hear the American influence with the Mowtown style backing singers, and the fact that the studio engineers are quite willing to let the tapes roll whilst the musicians are clearly just having a blast…
Down in the hole – John Campbell.
This track is all about bass guitar and the powerful, gritty voice that John has. I can only remember hearing this track with more presence on a very high end system that cost well over £60,000. The Voyager & ATH M50s create a real depth and presence to this track that it deserves.
The Trinity Session – The Cowboy Junkies.
This is one of my all time favorites Cds. It was recorded in a small church in downtown Toronto. Again the Voyager produced a very solid and realistic soundstage. The atmosphere of the session and the environment can easily be heard along with instruments being moved or placed on stands.
Bang Bang – Kira.
Rock from a great vocalist with a gritty, down to earth voice that works well with a good rhythm section and some good lead guitar solos.
Cold sweat – Kira.
Another track from Kira. This the amp / headphone combo really does transport me back to the front row of a smallish venue in Copenhagen, with the bass being strong enough to feel the music without overpowering the character of the vocals.
Walk on – Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry.
Acoustic guitar, Harmonica and vocals from a duo that influenced more that one-generation. I have heard this Album many times, on many different systems, but so far this is by far the most engaging an FUN way to listen to these wonderful musicians. There is no shrillness or lack of bass that make it just works.
Driftin Blues – Eric Clapton.
This is a recording from his time with John Mayall. Another firm favorite. The feeling of being at the concert is very real, the only thing lacking is physical effect of the bass guitar & drums, turning up the volume produces a well balanced sound that, with a little good will and a couple of whiskeys produces the feeling of bass….
I could go on and on…. This combo of Amp / Headphone has me finding new nuances in the music that I know well, much of the time it is like hearing a fantastic LP from a band that you had never heard of before and wondering how you had missed such a great band… I have found myself not only going back to my favorite Lps, but also finding out that lots of those Lps that never really got much playing are being listened to with renewed enthusiasm.
As you can guess, I REALLY like this combo. Regarding the Amp itself, it was delivered with 2 scratches on the back, not really a sound issue, it just pissed me off somewhat. The plastic case probably is very hardwearing, but I am sure some potential buyers are put-off by it. I think a rubberized covering would be an improvement in use as well as appreance. The Contour / Flat switch is now more or less permanently on Flat, although there are a few recordings that benefit from the contour. I found that before the burn-in the contour was used rather more, I am sure that I still have some way before the burn-in is complete.
Regarding the switches in general, they both perform flawlessly, I would however prefer another method, maybe something along the lines of the wonderful volume control, this has the feel of a finely engineered piece of kit. In general, I think if Graham could persuade Apple to stock this amp on their store it would be an instant hit, although they might ask a certain Mr Ive (another Brit.) to give it a quick cosmetic once over….
As proof of my appreciation for Mr Slees fine engineering and audio talents, I will be in the very near future putting together a home Headphone system with his Ultra Linear at the core….