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Spider Surround Pro headphone amp/dolby surround decoder review

Firstly i would like to thank Spider for sending me this amp to review, I will write as honest a review possible.
This amp received over 50hrs of burn in, no changes were noted.

Gear Used: IPod Classic 160gb (rockboxed) > Standard 3.5mm interconnect > Surround Pro > Rockit Sounds R-Studio
Google Nexus 7 > Standard 3.5mm interconnect > Surround Pro > Hisound E212



Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality:
Packaging is attractive, a matte black box with a picture of the amp on the front and information about the amp on the back. The box slides apart and you will find the amp well seated in the in tray, with a belt clip below. Underneath this in tray you will find a 3 pole mini-mini interconnect, as this allows you to keep microphone and controls for iDevices/Android if you use them.

Accessories are a belt clip (actually very nicely finished and useful), a 3 pole 3.5mm interconnect and a micro USB cable for charging. The essentials are included which is good.

Build quality is good overall, it has a bit of an odd shape, but is compact in size. It is mainly made of matte black plastic which has a very nice finish, and the end plates are brushed metal. All switches feel sturdy, as do the input and output jacks, no problems with the build quality.



Design, Functionality and Hiss:
The design is good, it has a very odd shape, it is small but slightly bulky, it pairs very well with the supplied belt clip. The one problem I found is the input and output jacks are very close together, meaning that if you use slightly bulkier aftermarket cables, they are not going to fit.

Functionality is good, very easy to use with different settings. It has a 10hr battery life which is plenty for most people and the device really is plug and play. It is not so much an amp, as a Dolby surround converter, as the device has no volume controls you have to use your music players volume control. Which means no line out from players unless you have volume control on your headphones. There is a slight boost in volume when using this compared to the normal headphone output.



You just plug everything in, turn it on and listen away, it has 3 settings all controlled by 1 switch, you have Normal which is your normal headphone output, Music which has dolby surround for music and Movies which as you guessed is more suited to movies. It processes the audio differently for music and movies of course. But this is not a DAC, it just converts the analogue signal from your music player in to Surround.

Hiss is a problem with this, mainly noticeable when using sensitive IEM's (Hisound E212), this definitely adds some noise to the sound unfortunately. I do not have any technical specifications for this, so i do not know the output impedance or any other specs.



Sound:

Well we will start with the music setting, and I must say when I first started listening to this I was very surprised. I wouldn't refer to this as a proper amp as such, and it doesn't add any warmth or colouration to the sound, it just completely changes the presentation. For those who like crossfeed this is a great little device, you are no longer listening to 2 separate channels, it is all presented on one big stage. After listening only for a short time, if you switch back to normal stereo it sounds so detached and flat. This device makes your music have real depth and superb placement, it's a real enhancer of soundstage and imaging without taking away any of the details of the original recording.

The movie setting I used when watching Game Of Thrones and it also made it a more immersive experience. Everything becomes wider and deeper.

The best way to describe this device is by saying it changes your normal 2 channel stereo sound in to an immersive listening experience.



Conclusion:
I wont write about soundstage or instrument separation as it is explained in the main sound part. This device can greatly improve your listening experience if you dislike the way headphones portray sound, or if you just want a more open and speaker like sound from headphones.
I think it is great for watching films and series, but also when listening to music it makes it a lot more natural to listen to.

I think Spider have done a good job, and something different, but this can be greatly improved upon. I think they should go for making a proper headphone amp with Dolby support.

I tried my IPod Classic > Silver LOD > Surround Pro > Standard Interconnect > JDS Labs C5 Amp > Rockit Sounds R-Studio - and that was a great setup, as the surround converts the output, the C5 handles the driving of the headphones.
If something like that could be put into the C5 case, it would be an incredible device, but just the Surround Pro is a little limited in my opinion.

Tracks Used:
Skrillex – First Of The Year (Equinox) (320kbps MP3)
Paramore – Franklin (320kbps MP3)
Diana Krall – The Girl In The Other Room (FLAC)
Deolinda – Passou Por Mim E Sorriu (live) (ALAC)
Suicide Silence – Unanswered (FLAC)
Massive Attack – Angel (ALAC)
Eat Static – Dzhopa Dream (ALAC)
The XX – Crystalised (FLAC)
Funeral For A Friend – Bend Your Arms To Look Like Wings (ALAC)
Mumford & Sons – Little Lion Man (FLAC)
The Scene Aesthetic – Humans (259kbps MP3)
A Hero A Fake – Swallowed By The Sea (254kbps MP3)
Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, Spring Allegro (ALAC)
Johnny Craig – Children Of Divorce (161kbps MP3)
Deadmau5 + Kaskade – I Remember (Caspa Remix) (320kbps MP3)
Black Uhuru – Utterance (ALAC)
We Are The In Crowd – Never Be What You Want (226kbps MP3)
Silverstein – Discovering The Waterfront (320kbps MP3)
Concept Of Thought – Our Thought (FLAC)
Nirvana – Something In The Way (Unplugged) (ALAC)