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First Impressions: Whiplash Audio WhipMOD and Elite TWag Reference WhipLOD Combo

post #1 of 113
Thread Starter 

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Foreword

 

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:

 

  1. The WhipMOD itself is produced by a yet unknown company, Innovative Audio Design
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

 

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Test Preparation

 

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!

 

 

 

Note:
The WhipMOD itself requires between 100-200, and the Elite Reference WhipLOD 300 hours of burn-in to achieve optimum tonal balance and maturity.  The reviewed units pictured here have not yet achieved these targets so I expect further improvements.

 

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But I digress and continue with describing the test methodology and equipment that will was used.

 

Test Equipment

 

Amps:  the two most neutral amps in my present inventory were the Pico Slim and the RSA Shadow, so I decided to use these.

 

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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

 

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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.

 

Comparison Tests

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Conclusion

 

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.

 

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Edited by warp08 - 9/6/10 at 4:02pm
post #2 of 113
Wow nice review warp. How do you feel the whip mod compares to the Hifiman HM -801?
post #3 of 113

Do you think there is a discernible difference between the "Fat Boy" and ALO's triple pipe cryo LOD?

post #4 of 113

Bloody hell that LOD is as big as my leg... almost.

Nice write up as always Warp.

 

Also I'm interested to know how the WhipMOD compares to your HM-801.

Another way of getting this answered would be to ask, can we expect to see the WhipMOD added to your Battle of the DAPs thread? I'd very much like that.


Edited by Hero Kid - 9/5/10 at 8:27pm
post #5 of 113
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by skoog5600 View Post

Do you think there is a discernible difference between the "Fat Boy" and ALO's triple pipe cryo LOD?


Although I once owned ALO's SXC triple pipe LODs, it's been a long time ago, so I cannot directly compare them at this point.  I did switch to the first Whiplash TWag LOD when it was released, after I found it to have better synergy with the TWag IEM cable I was already using (both being TWag), and that was a jump in SQ.  The Fat Boy LOD is just taking that one more giant leap forward.  So this is--at best-- a speculative answer.

 

Perhaps the best way would be if I had a chance to compare them would be to use the ALO LOD+IEM replacement cable combo against the equivalent Whiplash combo.

 

Another minor issue I had with the ALO LOD was that because it was unshielded, it had attracted RF-interference from my iPhone and other cellular devices nearby.  It didn't occur all the time, but frequently enough to be annoying.  I don't know if it happens with every one of them, but it did happen to mine, so that was another reason why I switched to the TWag LOD.

post #6 of 113
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by travisg View Post

Wow nice review warp. How do you feel the whip mod compares to the Hifiman HM -801?


Thanks, Travis.  I had not had a chance to compare this combo with the HM-801, but I can tell you that I prefer to have them both.  Each of them can do things the other can't or not as well.  Let me quote for now in the interest of saving time from my own PM sent in response to a request from another Head-Fier for my opinion on this subject:

 

 

If mobility, large onboard storage and longer battery life/gapless playback is important for you, you will almost certainly be better off with a good amp and the WhipMOD/LOD combo, especially the Fat Boy LOD (my term for it).  If you have a large investment in iTunes music content, this is something you can only leverage well on the xMod platform.

 

If none of those are particularly important for your portable setup, the HM-801 with the GAME adapter card may be a better bet, especially if you have or plan to purchase high-resolution music files recorded at 24/96, which the iPod platform cannot process.  Bear in mind, you will also have to factor in the purchase of at least 1x32GB SDHC cards for the HM-801.  The HM-801 can also operate as an external DAC/Amp for your computer due to it's modular construction, which cannot be accomplished by the xMods. In terms of specs, the PCM-1704UK dual-DAC chipset in the HM-801 is superior to the Woolfson found in the xMods, but that's only part of the total equation.

 

I'm afraid this is all I have in place of a real answer for now.

post #7 of 113
Thanks warp. Also if you get a chance to hear the Meier Stepdance you should give it a try so far it's the best sounding portable I have heard out of these amps.
Rsa protector
Rsa hornet
Rsa p-51
Rsa shadow
Lisa 3
Alo rx
Pico slim
I would love to hear your take on it also
post #8 of 113

Quite frankly I wouldn't compare anything using your iPhone. Its a waste of time as it's not meant as a stand alone music player and you lose a lot because of that reason. Compare apples to apples, pardon the pun. Imod vs. Whipmod - ALO LOD vs Fatboy. Otherwise it's a waste of time and irrelevant.

 


Edited by skoog5600 - 9/7/10 at 5:11am
post #9 of 113
Who said anything about an iPhone ?
post #10 of 113
Sorry should have referenced warp's post number 5 when referring to the iPhone.

Anyway still a waste to use the iPhone as the main source for music even if amped.

IMHO
post #11 of 113
I agree
post #12 of 113



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by skoog5600 View Post

Sorry should have referenced warp's post number 5 when referring to the iPhone.

Anyway still a waste to use the iPhone as the main source for music even if amped.

IMHO
 


Warp was not using the iPhone as a source, he said that it caused RF interference when it was nearby.

RC


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by warp08 View Post

 

Another minor issue I had with the ALO LOD was that because it was unshielded, it had attracted RF-interference from my iPhone and other cellular devices nearby.  It didn't occur all the time, but frequently enough to be annoying.  I don't know if it happens with every one of them, but it did happen to mine, so that was another reason why I switched to the TWag LOD.

post #13 of 113


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Reima View Post



 


Warp was not using the iPhone as a source, he said that it caused RF interference when it was nearby.

RC


 


 

In that case, my iPhone when nearby the Imod and ALO has never experienced RF interference.

 

As for iphone, point taken in this case, but there are many folks out there that are using their Iphones and offering up reviews.

 

I am not dissing Craig's products, in fact I have his most recent creation (Twag OM), and extremely pleased. It's just that people jump on this bandwagon at a moment's notice without waiting for a thorough comparison.

post #14 of 113

Hi warp08,

 

Was your test done using the LOD with Black Caps or without?

 

Thanks.

post #15 of 113
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by frankieboy21 View Post

Hi warp08,

 

Was your test done using the LOD with Black Caps or without?

 

Thanks.

 

With BG caps, although for the Pico Slim they are not strictly necessary.  They are for the Shadow.

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