Visited the wonderful Billy at Noisy Motel in Prarahn (Melbourne) last night to tinker with some amps.
First off i would like to thank him for making the time to meet me at 7:30 PM on a Sunday!
So this place is like Charlies Chocolate Factory for personal audio freaks. i LOVE visiting, and there is always something new. (which is hard because i seem to be there a fair bit lately)/
The visit prior i auditioned 10-20 full sized cans from the phillips Fidello, a choice of the entire Fischer range, entire Beyer range, and everything else you can poke a stick at. For me being a listener of many genres but a maker of beats, my choice lay between the epic Fischer Audio FA002, Bayer DT990 Premium or DT770Pro. Due to bass versatility and the closed nature i ended up with my beloved DT770 250ohm pro.
This time i was auditioning amps. I mention the above so that you who are familiar first hand with both or either the beyer sig / JDS labs magical audio voodoo, can identify with my findings.
So i looked at the Aune T1, i wanted the Aune T1, i needed the Aune T1. It flirted with me, tube all glowing with that big shiny volume adjuster and single toggle. It would have been mine, but it wasnt portable, and its connections didnt suit, so i let it go (for now). I am a previous owner (gave it up 24 hours ago) of a fiio e17, which i must say does a fantastic job for $130odd+cables! It has a very user friendly and actually usable interface. Heaps of options, other than the useless volume limiter/attenuator that wont let you go above the factory set 60 (unless im too impaired to work it out?) it is very loud, and quite detailed compared to the cheaper fiio's, not by bounds and leaps though. The EQ boost options where what i liked. I could (within reason) correct what i didnt like about certain cans. I could dial down the trebble in ultrasones to negative, and dial up bass- or vice versa with cans like cops.
I came to a fork in the road between admitted addiction and online reviews from my fellow headfi'ers, the reverberation of my wifes voice , and the mock voice i make for my wallet.
I chose to try to justify the change to my wife, ignore my nagging little bitch of a wallet, give in to my fiendish addiction like a crack head in the snow, and of course, read more head-fi!
So from hearing what you guys had to say, i had to look no further than the 02, (and an odac) - which was too big. and the c421 with either of the opamps to suit my taste. There were other considerations like the pico which i didnt end up demoing, and the predator which im unfamiilar with and may look into in the not to near future, as i cant imagine needing anything more than what i got. THe battery life is attractive, but not $350 more attractive. THe 32 bit DAC sounds great too- but you would assumably need a driver for it that can lead to all sorts of dramas i wasnt up for, at this point in time, i needed a good amp.
So the c421 it is. I got black plates n all because their cool, and why not? got an LOD and a rubber strap, im set! There is on and off, lots of cable options, volume, some led's to indicate on off charge etc, and two other toggles. One for gain low/high, one for bass boost on/off/....ON!
The switches on this thing are SUPER SATISFYING to flick, they are smooth and stiff and recessed and rounded and metal and great! Its like the miniature equivalent to shutting a European car door. So satisfying. The bass boost is so well done. When i first saw the design i thought to myself "wheres the adjustment in that?" "what about a LITTLE bass, or a BUNCH of bass for songs that were mastered differently or in different eras?". Somehow, (and this is why i refer to JDS labs mystic brand of audio voodoo), its just the right amount, for just about anything (to my taste). I dont really know how or why, but when i flick that switch no matter how hard on this sleek little black metal box i try to be, i cant imagine wanting to tone it up nor down. Even in the "off" possition it performs wonderfully. Engaging the gain will double (or there abouts) the output volume. It does this without any of the other naties associated with the word "gain". Its just louder- no negatives or additive. The units internals are as simple and sleek as its all metal black super slim externals, (i had a look when changing out the plates for black).
I have no misgivings or regrets or further need with this thing, it powers my 250ohm cans with effortless ease. Its crystal clear, its detailed, its revealing but honest and warm enough to please everyone (opamp2227). Its not a consumer grade headphone amp, but at $200 there was either a pricing miscalculation, or you would be mad not to have one.
I left the house with $800 in hand to buy an amp, i came home with $600 and my favorite amp to date.
I wont comment too much on the sound in detail, suffice to say i LOVE IT, and cant imagine improvement in any way, i think you should try it yourself and make up your own mind. Our ears all vary, but the quality and craftsmanship of this amp does not!
If your in Australia jump on Noisy Motel and have a peak. (intended spelling).
Thanks Billy, my impecable pusher man of choice.
Edited by mrbigsby - 12/23/12 at 2:35pm