I would be interested to hear your experiences with portable amps and if you have found any special or even magical combinations with certain headphones. All price ranges are fine for purposes of discussion, but if you've found a bugdget headphone that really comes to life with your amp I would love to hear about that. Please post your thoughts.
As a studio owner I have some pretty sophisticated amps for my mastering rig, etc. I've never really been motivated to invest in a very good prtable amp. But in doing a large series of reviews here I thought I would check out the ultra-budget FiiO E6 (approx. $25 USD).
I know it's as basic as it gets but have found it certainly worth the money. It's one of those "gateway" products that has started an interest for me in other portable amps. (I'll be posting a full review soon)
All things considered, most of the 30+ headphones I have sound "better" with the E6 and a few actually sound worse. That's not surprising considering the primary function of such a device to boost hard-to-drive headphones that would otherwise sound anemic out of a portable player.
I know a lot of readers are going to comment on how crude the E6 is compared to other amps and I'm sure there's truth in that. Especially "low-end" are the two preset EQ settings; one for bass boost and one for a V-shaped curve. The usually don't sound very good.
But sometimes an unexpected surprise (or even revelation) comes along. Among the headphones I'm currently testing is a very unusual headphone, the German Maestro GMP 160 (approx. $120 USD):
This featherweight semi-open circumnaural has a very detailed, revealing, and almost clinical sound. It has almost no clamping pressure and although very comfortable, it makes the bass response just a bit weak. I started experimenting with the E6, and to my amazement the 'bass boost" EQ preset made for a fantastic synergy with this headphone. It is really sonic bliss and the end result is something that to my ears truly rivals headphones costing $400-$500. I'm still shocked at how superb it sounds.
So, let us know if you have any other similar stories...
(Note: I understand there are now fakes of the FiiO E6 on the market and there is a thread here regarding that. So beware!)