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ALO RXMKIII IMPRESSIONS

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

For those of you reading it means you have heard that Ken at ALO Audio has just released a balanced portable headphone amp with a little twist a "Bass" knob.

 

 

For those of you who have never heard the RX series portable amps. The MKI, MKII and now the MKIII you really have been missing something. I think I met Ken about 5 years ago. when he had a small portable built on a familiar circuit. I saw him at an LA Head-fi meet down by LAX. We had been e-maling back and forth. He sold me my first dock line out :). He took me around to meet Ray Samuals and told me which headphone amp I needed :) The SR71A. I thought I had the Holy Grail portable set up then..... Fast Forward to 2012. My newest set up was ridiculous. The LCD3, CLAS DAC, iBasso DAC and a RS SR71B. I bought the later, the Ray Samuals SR71B because I really thought that by going Balanced I would squeeze the last bit of Hi Fi out of my system :). I really didn't think I could improve my system. There were things about it though that I did not like sonically. I missed the musical signature of the RXMKII which was velvety smooth and interacted with the highs in a way that I liked. The SR71B had a bit of a harsh frequency in the 5K range I believe. Way up there but to be honest I did not like it and I thought it was not very musical with all the other pieces of the puzzle. I was using an iPod Classic as well, even with a dock out I still think it is a brighter unit than say the iphone or iPod Touch. Don't ask me why as it is just spitting out numbers but I heard the difference. Anyway...
 
I heard Ken had a Balanced amp coming. Like a lot of people I watched his forum, I kept emailing him. Then I heard he was coming to LA for a little meet Alex Rossen was putting on at The Village (Recording Studio) in Santa Monica. I hustled down there for a quick minute to see Ken & Alex and hear the mythical RXIII. Although I only spent 10 minutes with this portable Balanced amp I was convinced that I had found a hit above what I had been listening to. Of course I asked Ken can I just take one of these :) He smiled and said that within a few weeks he would have his first shipment. So I waited "sort" of patiently. 
 
I now have possession of this wonderful piece of musical gear and I do mean Musical! I have listened to more music in the last week than I have in the last couple of months. This little box has made music fun for me again. All the things I have ever complained about or felt that my little portable system have vanished right in front of me. I would never have thought that the combination of my favorite little amp and a bass knob could do that but I will try to explain why.
 
If you are unfamiliar with the sound signature of the RX amp. I will start by saying that it is a very smooth sounding box. The coloration is subtle and what I consider only in the best possible way. Mids are full and true. Guitars and midrange instruments are right where they should be in a mix. Vocals sit on top of the mix. They seemed to be represented the way they were when they were mixed. The Bass was strong but never over done. I suppose that the only thing I ever wanted was a way to EQ things ever so slightly because possibly the recording was not great or to suit my taste depending on what headphone I was using. I really felt like it was the perfect amp for me. I say "me" because we all have different tastes and we all listen to different styles of music. I happen to listen to a pretty big cross range but mostly I listen to guitar driven music. Yes I am mainly a guitar player and it's what I do for a living. I have spent a large part of life in a studio or on a stage and am always chasing a sound :)
 
The RXIII. At first thought the idea of a bass knob means that you are a lover of Bass and need to over annunciate the frequency. I thought well this is for people who love electronica or something... I could have not been more wrong. First off the Bass knob is so subtle and what it does is mind blowing. Yes it does increase the Bass frequency and yes you can get the drivers in your headphones moving. Yes it is fun. What is true about this amp? Less is more. When you get over the fun factor and you get down to some serious listening you find that when you pull back the bass knob once you have turned it on and engaged it you hear how it affects the treble, yes the treble. I have been accused of having doggie ears and the high end sometimes gets the best of me. I find it to often to be harsh even when listening to Hi Res files. The digital world and that frequency are not a great pairing. The RXIII has changed that. Rolling in that Bass just ever so slightly puts a little warm cushion around the vocal frequency. Not dark, not murky. Just a nice musical softness. I was in awe of this feature. Yes I loved having a little more low end when I needed it but what I got was this beautiful high end that I had never heard out of a portable set up. I do realize by the way that I am quite fortunate to have an amazing set up with top notch cables & cans, this amp sent it into the stratosphere.
 
The other bonus besides ironing out unsightly treble is that I have been listening at lower volume levels. Quite a bit lower actually. I just flew with open back cans and I hardly pushed the volume at all (I am sure those next to me were quite happy about that). The fullness is so lush that I no longer have to turn up the volume to fill my head with music. This amp will save my hearing. I can now listen a lot longer without fatigue. This amp has been changing my life simply by the way I am now listening to music. I was playing Lossless files next to 256 AAC files and I will be honest I did not find myself over thinking the quality. In fact the genius of this amp is I was not listening to the quality of anything I was just listening to music :). I have to say because I am a professional musician I find myself examining music all the time. To be honest... it's a pain. I just realized as I am typing this out that for the first time in years that I can relax and listen to some digital music without frowning at how bad somethings sound. I can put a record on almost any crappy record player and like it better than what was coming out of my iPod but in the last few years some smart people like Ken Ball ( and Alex Rossen and not to leave out Steve Eddy at Q Audio) are changing that. I thought the CLAS was a huge leap forward and it was but this is as equally a big leap.
 
Lucky for me there will be some great reviewers that can put things out in technical terms. These same people have helped me make some great purchases. I hope this steers you towards your next great purchase. I am excited by this amp. It sounds that good. Truly!
 
Thanks for your time. M

Edited by monotune - 5/13/12 at 11:54am
post #2 of 15
Thread Starter 

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post #3 of 15

Excellent review M!

post #4 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by monotune View Post

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i think i might have fallen in love right here

post #5 of 15

So - did anyone try this one with CIEMs yet?

post #6 of 15

Rx MK3-B shipped on Monday and arrived on my doorstep today.  The packing design was nice -- unboxing it was lovely. 

 

It's evident that break-in time, if needed, will be completely enjoyable.  All sorts of happiness, right from the start. beyersmile.png

post #7 of 15

iPod + Solo + MK3-B + JH13 PRO

 

 

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                Rodrigo Pita


Edited by rmappita - 5/24/12 at 5:28pm
post #8 of 15

Others have noted that the bass adjustment is subtle.  And it is subtle at first.  In my case, what I was used to was loudness

controls; something like the bass boost on my car radio.  Those give a big first impression -- but after a few seconds

it's apparent these controls apply changes to much more than just the bass.  The low mids are shifted and almost everything ends up

sounding muddy.  IMO.

 

But the bass adjust on the Rx MK-3b seems really just about the bass.  Actually it is wonderful that it does not hit me over the

head.    I listen a good bit with  my AKG K-702s.  I always use the bass control with these -- it nudges those low bass notes

just as needed, but without detracting from the beautiful clarity of this model.  Most of my listening is with this combo:

K-702s and Rx MK-3b with just a bit of turn to the bass knob.  Wonderful feature.

 

No surprise, but I never need to use the bass adjustment with my Beyerdynamic DT990/600s.  No reason to add bass there -- they've

got plenty.  And the Beyers sound very nice with this amp... so I am also using these headphones much more than I did previously.

 

All listening is single-ended at this point.  Hope to get a balanced cable for my HD-650s this summer... and looking forward to it.

post #9 of 15

These CLAS sandwiches look godlike. I want one!

post #10 of 15

I'm waiting for the balanced clas before I pull the trigger on RXMKIII.

post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by basman View Post

I'm waiting for the balanced clas before I pull the trigger on RXMKIII.

Wouldn't that be a fabulous combination.  Sigh.  

 

I'm loving my Rx MkIII just as it is, either single ended or balanced out.  But yes... I can only hope that balanced CLAS can be (please....) about the same cost as current CLAS.  Am I dreaming?

post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by flatmap View Post

Wouldn't that be a fabulous combination.  Sigh.  

 

I'm loving my Rx MkIII just as it is, either single ended or balanced out.  But yes... I can only hope that balanced CLAS can be (please....) about the same cost as current CLAS.  Am I dreaming?

yeah we are dreaming and it's a nightmare and torture until I have it on my hands.

post #13 of 15

My knowledge of balanced outputs and inputs is very limited hence this post. There have been rumors and I have been told by a good source that Cypher Labs are close to announcing a balanced version of the Solo, so my question is, would there be any point in using a balanced Solo with the RX Mk3-b if I don't have have balanced headphones to use with it?

post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Musicdiddy View Post

My knowledge of balanced outputs and inputs is very limited hence this post. There have been rumors and I have been told by a good source that Cypher Labs are close to announcing a balanced version of the Solo, so my question is, would there be any point in using a balanced Solo with the RX Mk3-b if I don't have have balanced headphones to use with it?

 

To get the benefits of balanced operation, your headphones do need to be re-cabled.  

post #15 of 15

I've always found the MkIII to be quite brilliant in it's sound. Nice for certain headphones but not all.

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