Audinst is mostly known for there wonderful HUD-MX1 DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) & headphone amp. Everybody loved it because of the performance to price ratio, and still serves as a very good budget recommendation even today at under $200. Recently, Audinst released another product, entitled the AMP-HP, a much smaller device than the HUD-MX1, without a built in DAC and built specifically for amping. The AMP-HP is priced at $160, so it will be interesting to see how it fares up against the competition, since there aren’t many amps of its price range.
The Design & Build
This will obviously be the first thing that strikes you. Both the design and the build quality are marvelous for the price range that it’s in, and even rivals amps that are twice the price.The TTVJ Slim is a good one to compare to, since the AMP-HP has slightly better build quality. Both the frame and the design are highly polished, with aluminum covering the entire frame in a natural aluminum color and anodized black sides. The design of the amp, which is rather unique, has a slightly oval-ish shape to it. For the most part, its flat on the bottom/top, and round on the corners, with a small hump on the top to accommodate the volume knob. The aluminum is very high quality and no durability issues have arisen as of thus fare, but don’t expect the amp to be flawless after banging it around or dropping it a few times.
On the front of the AMP-HP is a volume knob that turns almost 360 degrees, an on and off switch with a green LED indicator when it is on, and fades to dark when off, as well as an input for headphones that will only work with 3.5mm jack heads, so no 1/4 inch plugs here. On the back there is a line in for hooking up your iPod or other media player, a few hieroglyphics, and a DC in for charging. It’s quite unusual for me to see a DC in instead of a micro USB or mini USB since that’s what most of the portable amps I have tried used. On the contrary, as long as it charges, that’s the only thing that matters right?
Prior to burn in, I wasn’t huge on the Audinst AMP-HP, it just sounded, at least in my opinion, boring. After an overnight burn in however, everything was refined and cleaned up. After a 50 hour burn in, there was no question about it, this was easily going to become one of my favorite amps to date. The first thing that hits you is the tonal balance of the AMP-HP, with very little coloration ever present throughout the spectrum, something that I like to see a lot on amps when it comes to my preferred signature.
Driving the HE-300 provided pretty good synergy, as the rather slow low end of the HE-300 sped up a click and was brought forward slightly. As an added bonus, soundstage is increased in both depth and width, with a speedier overall presentation than some of the other portable amps I have tried. When used in conduction with the SR80i’s, the low end was very impressive, a lot more noticeable than on the HE-300. The SR80i felt like a very balanced headphone since the rich & extended lows of the AMP-HP matched perfectly with the rather detailed highs and sweet mids of the SR80i. There isn’t much resolution in the treble area, and I really can’t recommend these if you are looking for more sparkle.
The HE-300 only needed about a 11 O’clock gain and 9 O’clock gain on the SR80i. While I haven’t tried other full sized headphones with the Audinst AMP-HP like the Audez’e LCD-2 or the Beyerdynamic T1, I’ll definitely have a chance at the local audio meet this week over at the ALO Audio shop. Before you discount the driving factor on these though, I highly recomend you go and check out Mike’s (Headfonia.com) review of the Audinst AMP-HP as he covers almost everything you need to know about the power that the Audinst AMP-HP has. That link will be at the bottom in case you need to check it out.
If you haven’t noticed yet, there is a small hump on the top of the AMP-HP to accommodate the volume knob. While I definitely don’t mind the fact that it is there, it may be a problem for some people who like to use a lot of portable rigs. Th thump gets in the way of using the iPod on a straight angle, so your iPod may be slightly lopsided when you are going to apply rubber bands or something to keep it in place (the hump prevents velcro, so that’s not an option). There is a very simple workaround to this though: just place your iPod on the back of the AMP-HP, although the AMP-HP will now be rocking on it’s side when you go to put it on a table. I can never win, can I?
The Audinst AMP-HP is a great balance between entry-fi and HiFi. There aren’t any amps around in the $160 price region, and I think Audinst has made a confident step into this midrange market. Tonal balance is the pinnacle sound signature of the AMP-HP and the build quality is something to die for in a amp of this price. The small form factor makes it very good for portable use (albeit the hump is quite annoying) and drives pretty well.
Edited by Austin Morrow - 12/22/11 at 8:04pm