**Note this is my first product review, be kind!**
The past few months have been a journey in portable audio. My job has me traveling quite a bit, and in an effort to bring a little “home” with me I started auditioning quite a few portable solutions.
I started my way at the bottom, auditioning Cmoy’s, E7/E10’s and the like. When those devices lost their luster I worked my way to the midrange with the cheaper ibasso’s, HEA-4 and XM4. Now this past week I have stepped up to some of the pricier portable solutions. First up in my review set is the iBasso PB1.
Testing methodology and equipment:
All of my listening occurs on a laptop over FLAC using MusicBee, running through WASAPI to a Fiio e10 as my portable DAC. (My DB2 shipped today, so count on this being updated) The 2 cans I will be using in this review, are the two I use 90% of the time. My Denon 2k's and Senn 650's. The Denon's are bone stock, while the 650's have a balanced recable allthough I will have to wait until my DB2 gets here to hear the balanced goodness. I went with the PB1 over the PB2 as nothing I am driving warranted me spending the extra cash for 2.5w. 1.4w will suit my needs to a T, and save a bit of green. My taste in music is quite varied. I'll pick a few of my favorites and see how it stacks up to my previous portables as well as some of my much larger (And pricier) desktop solutions.
Power Source: Builtin Rechargeable 12.6V LiPolymer Battery Pack
Frequency Response: 10Hz~100 KHz 0.5dB
Signal to Noise Ratio: 104dB
Output power：Up to 1400mW into 32Ω
Gain: +6dB/ +15dB (Balanced Output)
0dB/ +7.5dB (Single End Output)
Battery Life: >20 Hours
Battery Charge Time: 4 Hours
Recommended Headphone Impedance: 8~600D
Case dimension: 2.2W x 3.2L x 0.95H (inch)
55W x 81L x 24H (mm)
Weight: 140g or 5oz
Slipknot- People = S**t
Think what you want of my music selection, but I’ve always loved slipknot. When you first hear the group, allot of people think it’s just another angry white boy band, screaming into the mic. However if you sit down and have a real listen, the music itself is quite interesting. (No matter what you think of the meaning) The best way I can describe slipknot tracks are “soupy.” There’s allot going on. Huge drum kits, strong bass and lead guitars, quick changes and diversions and a huge amount of attack. The tracks themselves can be quite complex with a great emphasis on rhythm. Take note here that this track is greatly hampered by my DAC, but it’s the only one I haven’t sold off so it will have to do for now. I find that the E10, while being a great little box, can get overwhelmed by overly complex tracks.
Using the Denons, I immediately noticed the bottom end being much more controlled than the iBasso D2+ Boa or the Fiio offerings. The track has a pretty heavy kick throughout and it is well defined and forceful. The word that immediately comes to mind is “textured.” I notice the Denons don’t seem to have that boomy quality that I often noted from this selection anymore. Very controlled. I pick up that this amp doesn’t seem to color the bottom end as some of the others tend to. Tight and controlled is what I would have to call it. Midrange seems a little brighter than previous.
Fire up the 650’s. Smooth and balanced. The tighter low end is there, but of course has a bit less quantity. The mids sound quite a bit more defined than I remember them from my previous portables. Maybe almost TOO defined for this track personally. I love big bottoms.
Skrillex - Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites
I was one of those “dubstep is for kids!” trance fans for the longest time, but Skrillex brought me around. He has a unique sound, with some killer drops and loads of bass.
Again controlled and detailed bottoms. I’m a basshead at heart, and this track through the Denons makes me a very happy man. When the drop hits and that declining bass drops down low a big grin goes over my face. Here’s where I start to notice a big difference. The bottom end is as deep as a well. Maybe the Denons have been craving the voltage all this time. Much deeper extension when comparing it to the D2, the HEA-4 and the XM4. I’m in love. Soundstage almost sounds a bit wider here. Sounds a little more "airy" but nothing too extreme.
The 650’s extension is much improved as well, but honestly they still sound like they could benefit from more power. Hopefully when they are running in true balanced mode they will straighten up, but then again I’m comparing them to my home setup which is in the 2k range. Maybe I’m just expecting too much. Anyway they still sound fantastic with that midrange sounding much better on this track.
KoRn - Daddy
I'm a huge KoRn fan. They have such a neat way of mixing various competing sounds in their tracks and have a strong emphasis on bass guitar. I’ve often noted that in allot of their tracks the lead guitar often sounds like it doesn’t even need to be there. Jonathans voice is great in this track, very course and visceral. You can really hear the emotion in it.
Again much tighter low end on the Denons. However I also notice something different. The treble has more sparkle to it, in particular the cymbals near the big break-down at 3:40 sound more pronounced and crisp. I’m loving it. My wife comes in my office at this point and sees me banging my head away. Sorry honey I was getting into it! She shakes her head and walks out laughing.
I notice the same thing on the 650's, in particular that spot at 3:40. I've listened to that part hundreds of times. Over this amp it sounds much closer to my home setup than previously.
I think I’ve found “the one.” For people who don’t want to read the ramblings above, I notice distinct changes in the low end. Much more control and texture than with any of the previous try-outs. But that was kind of expected with this much of a jump in power. What I didn’t expect was the changes to the mids and in particular the changes to the top end. I’ve noticed details I’ve never heard on any of my other portables. It tends to sound a little warm, but not nearly as warm as some of the other options. (Fiio comes to mind.) All in all this is what I've been looking for. In the next week or so I should be getting my DB2. I'm really excited to see what this thing can do when being fed a more refined signal.
Edited by nmxdaven - 12/22/11 at 2:44pm