As a longtime TWagger and iMod user, I have been looking forward to experience this combo. Up to this point, the RWA iMod arguably represented the pinnacle of sonic excellence the modded iPod platform was capable of providing. Aside from the DIYMod-crowd, no single challenger had emerged for quite some time.
When Craig made his first official announcement of his own branded entry into this marketplace, I have been excited, because knowing how he operates, it was clear he wouldn’t have chosen to do so if he believed to have a better product. But a belief system even when combined with effective branding and marketing only goes so far with this Head-Fi’er. At least that was my initial reaction when I first scanned the announcement.
On second and third reading the following key facts sprung into focus:
- The WhipMOD itself is produced by a yet unknown company, Innovative Audio Design
- Even though the announcement was spearheaded by the WhipMOD itself, Craig’s wording indicated that the he’s also launching a set of upgraded Reference WhipLODs intended to be sold as a bundle.
- Due to the nature of listed enhancements (SCSCag and Cryo-Freeze Process) of the WhipMOD over the RWA iMod in combination with the WhipLODs and the new Overmold (OM) TWag series IEM replacement cables, Craig essentially found a way to system match his cabling from inside the player all the way to the amp and from the amp to the IEM for optimum results.
Fast forward to Aug. 3rd when I finally received my 120GB WhipMOD with the Elite Reference (“Fat Boy” as I call it) WhipLOD. I have done exhaustive listening sessions over the past two days with this configuration against my trusty 240GB RWA Super iMod, which have served me well in the past six months. The comments below apply to the system as a whole, however, I must point out that the Fat Boy giant LOD—which could probably do a decent job as a hook to tow a decent-sized trailer—while undoubtedly pricey, is worth every single penny of it. Quite simply, it is the MotherLOaD of LODs, looks, acts and most importantly sounds like it. Regardless of what kind of LOD it replaces and the iMod or iPod it plugs into (it’s available with or without BlackGate caps), it simply obliterates every one of them. Highly recommended!
But I digress and continue with describing the test methodology and equipment that will was used.
Amps: the two most neutral amps in my present inventory were the Pico Slim and the RSA Shadow, so I decided to use these.
IEMs: although both JH16 and JH13 Pros are an excellent choice with these combos, these comparisons were conducted exclusively with the JH13s because of its neutral sound signature. I have started out switching between both, but it became apparent that the JH16s +6dB bass hump (while pleasant) had abstracted some of the finer nuances during A/B switching between the iMod and WhipMOD.
IEM cable: 48” TWag OM edition with straight Oyaide connector
Test Methodology and Photo Shoot Comments
Simple A/B/A switching of sources only, several repeat sessions of each test track at normal listening volume, kept at the same level for both sources. All tracks sampled below have been encoded in high-bitrate Apple Lossless Format.
Photography: I apologize for not removing the plastic wrap of the WhipMOD for the photo shoot. As I have discovered, all my iPod cases I own only fit the “fat” 5th generation iPod model. Until the new case I have ordered arrives, I’d rather not remove the plastic to avoid scratching the front or back panel of the WhipMOD.
Session 1 (paired with HeadAmp Pico Slim)
Bella Sonus: Enamoured Track #2 “Gypsy”
Smoother bass representation, slightly expanded soundstage and a more importantly, more musical sound quality, similar to the effect of switching to the TWag cable vs. stock IEM cable. There is more sparkle in the music out of the WhipMOD; when compared to this representation, the iMod’s tonality was more sterile, somewhat lifeless.
Rebecca Pidgeon: The Raven Track #12 “Spanish Harlem”
More pronounced, tighter bass, but the main attraction here is the airiness in Rebecca’s voice. The WhipMOD just adds that extra layer of realism, which I got used to listening to the SACD version. Not quite at the same level, but it is definitely there with the WhipMOD and barely perceptible when listening to the iMod.
Session 2 (paired with Ray Samuels Audio Shadow)
Rebecca Pidgeon: The Raven Track #13 “Remember Me”
Switching back and forth several times in an A/B/A fashion, this particular track highlighted another important element, perhaps in conjunction with switching to the RSA amp. The WhipMOD, overall, also yields a more laid back representation in contrast to that of the iMod, which has a bit more forward sound signature.
Sade: Soldier of Love Track #2 “Soldier of Love”
The title track on this album is a challenge for most unbalanced sources and amps, because of the visceral mid-bass slams that lends it a measure of violent overtone, especially when combined with Sade’s vocals represent large voltage swings making instrument separation difficult. Yet again, the WhipMOD achieves better results in the busiest passages of this track, by yielding superior results. There was a slight audible distortion coinciding with these bass-slams on the iMod, while the WhipMOD managed to carry them thru seemingly effortlessly.
At least to my ears, the new WhipMOD/Elite Reference TWag WhipMOD is a new force to recon with in portable audio source gear, especially when paired with a top-of-the-line portable amplifier and IEMs, preferably with the new TWag IEM replacement cable for best synergy.
But what if you already own a DIYMod or RWA iMod? Is it worth selling it and upgrading to the WhipMod? That’s a tougher question. From my subjective point of view, if you want the very best portable iPod gear available on the market today, this is it. In the end, however, it comes down to personal preference. Depending on your listening habits, music preferences, existing equipment and most importantly, your budget, you may choose to send in your existing 5th generation iPod for a $200 WhipMOD treatment and get the best WhipLODs you can afford later. If you already own an iMod or DYIMod and a TWag IEM replacement cable, you may want to consider the Elite Reference (“Fat Boy”) TWag WhipMOD upgrade first, which may offer the single biggest bang for the buck in my opinion.
For those lucky enough to want and can afford it all, taking advantage of one of these bundled discount detailed in the official announcement may be the best bet, while available.
Edited by warp08 - 9/6/10 at 4:02pm