OK, I've had my T1 for a couple of weeks now and have listened to enough different things that I think I can comment somewhat intelligently about it. The "Oh boy! New toys!" phase is over, so I hope this is a little more objective than it would have been when first received.
First off, Gavin at Tralucent is great to work with. The amp was shipped quickly and arrived faster than either one of us anticipated. He followed up, which was a nice touch. Based on my experience, you can expect a smooth transaction without the frustrations of ordering from some other Asian suppliers.
I've been listening to the T1 with quite the variety of equipment and I have to say I'm more than pleased with the sound. The definition is excellent and I haven't heard anything at all unexpected, which is a wonderful thing they way I like to hear my music. Using the amp is a noticeable improvement over driving IEMs directly with my source equipment.
* Motherboard audio (Realtek ALC889)
* Squeezebox v3 (Burr-Brown PCM1748E)
* Samsung Galaxy S 4G (Wolfson WM8994, DAC maxed, +2 dB analog max)
* Fiio E17 (Wolfson WM8740)
* Hifimediy Sabre USB DAC (ESS ES9023)
Data is lossless off original CDs. Music -- Jazz, solo, small group, big band, live, studio, Fusion, Progressive Rock, some Pop/Indie, some Electronica
* Grado SR60i/SR80i
* Senheiser HD25-1 II
* Brainwavz B2
* Sony MH1C
* Blox M2C
* Etymotic HF3/HF5
* Etymotic ER-4PT, with and without "Genuine - Etymotic Research Convert P-to-S Cable Adapter ER38-24 Free Shipping!" (available for $16 on eBay)
No issues driving any of the headphones/IEMs to levels that I consider more than adequate.
Edited by jeffsf - 12/13/12 at 8:59pm
The Senheiser's bass tightened up enough so that they were much more listenable for my tastes. The Grados were what you would expect from Grados, though perhaps a little better
No issues with sibilance or harshness that I don't expect. The B2s are too sibilant for me on certain tracks (on any amp); the Etys handle the same material brilliantly. I expect cymbals to have an edge, drum rim-shots to be sharp, and to be able to hear fingers sliding on guitar strings. Basically live Jazz should sound live, not to be "easy listening" in its sonic signature. The T1 didn't improve the B2 sound for me, but I didn't expect miracles.
Soundstage depth seems very good on the T1 and there is no sense that there is anything in the aural space that shouldn't be there. There is no audible hiss that I have heard, at any level.
I don't know how quite to explain this, but with the Etys, there is so much great detail that I almost want to hear more. For example on Peter Gabriel's Mercy Street (So, 2002 remaster), I can very clearly enjoy not only the richness of the harmonies, but also distinctly hear and place the very low level overdubbing of voice that was used. However, I find my self wanting even more from the sound. "Just let me even more clearly hear that mix." I don't know if it is there at all in the source material, my brain wanting a true "live" space with all its real echoes and reflections, or just my long-faded memories of studio monitors and Wilson Watt/Puppies being triggered by something that is amazingly detailed for a total of around $500 USD. I don't think it is a negative, just revealing of what my brain wants to hear in the glorious sonic space that the combination can produce.
The T1 isn't going to make poor source material or transducers sound dramatically better. If anything, you're going to find that some of your source material isn't quite as good as you might want. Same for transducers -- on a Mac or my SGS4G, the HF5s and the ER-4s are pretty close in sonic quality. Drive them with the T1 and all of a sudden the more open soundstage of the ER-4s becomes evident.
Without implying anything negative about the Fiio E17 at roughly half the price of the T1, the T1 provides a tighter bass and better soundstage all the way around (using the same DAC). I would say that the T1 is also cleaner on percussion and detail like fingers and picks on guitar strings than the E17. Assuming you have a good source, I would consider the T1 a meaningful upgrade for ~$150 USD over the current Fiio pieces (their Mount Blanc / E12 is not out at this time).
The battery life seems to be very good, typically running for a couple days' of use between charges, though see my comments below. When the time comes, replacing the "9 V" Li-po battery shouldn't break the bank (~$18-20 USD for what is probably a similar one from Thomas Distributing, for example). Confirm with Tralucent before ordering anything though!
The supplied mini-to-mini cable is very nicely finished, and works well when going from either my Sabre DAC or my SGS4G to the amp in a desktop situation, When moving around, I tend to use a 3' Monoprice cable laced through my belt loops with the phone in one pocket and the amp in the other. If someone wants to send me a better cable, I'll happily use it. For now, I'll spend the money replacing the first-generation CDs I have that I now know aren't standing up to the revealing power of the T1 and Ety ER-4s.
Based on sound quality and my experience with several headphones and IEMs with the unit, I can highly recommend it at its current $230 USD price.
First, let me be clear, I haven't heard anything bad out of the T1. Quite the contrary! But a review is a review, and you should know what you're getting into.
The power switch on the back can be accidentally switched on in your pocket or briefcase. It sucks to get to work and find out that your amp is dead.
You can't use the amp while it is charging. Thankfully, it runs for a few days of reasonable use before needing charging, but if that switch got toggled... :(
There is no "low-battery" indication.
The front panel is too crowded. I find it hard to easily adjust the volume, especially when there is a straight plug in the input jack.
Charges with mini-USB. I have phone chargers (micro-USB) coming out my ears everywhere I go. Mini-USB ones are pretty rare now. I had to buy a couple micro-to-mini adapters to keep in the car and at work. (Edit -- I should be clear that I don't think the micro-USB is all that great mechanically, so there is no really clear design choice on this one.)
The blue front-panel LED is bright, really bright. Too bright for use on the bedside, at least for me.
The machining on the recesses for the front-panel jacks isn't up to par. At first I thought I was looking at big holes and hacked-down plastic jack bodies on the inside, but it is the way the front panel was machined.
This is a great sounding amp if you are looking for accurate reproduction. It is a significant improvement over direct-drive from my phone or my Sabre DAC even when increased volume isn't needed. The battery life is more than sufficient for my needs, though do protect the on/off switch when you move around. I'm very happy with my purchase!