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Portable Amps item created by lllee, Jun 4, 2010
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Headphone Amplifier Review - PA2V2
A Portable Headphone Amplifier: Introducing the Pocket Amp 2 - Version 2 (PA2V2) - Joseph Kendall
Creator and owner: Gary Ali
Price: $60CAD delivered in Canada, Confirm with Electric Avenues as these prices might change with exchange rate and delivery location.
G’day follower and Welcome!
I first heard about the the PA2V2 more than a year ago from a friend on the Australia Stereonet Forum (stereo.net.au).
Sometime later I had the chance to have a quick listen at a local Audio get together (GTG) which intrigued me greatly.
Since then as many of you know I have become somewhat of a nomad travelling the world, so I now had the calling to put together a decent portable rig.
I'll be honest normally I’m not huge on doing reviews since there are so many talented individuals out there, who do an amazing job but every once in a while something comes up that I must share.
Once I received my amp I decided to use it for a period of time before completing this review to ensure proper “burn in time” if you believe in such things for solid state electronics. So after approximately 100 hours of daily use its time had come.
Audio-Technica ATH-A900 Headphones
Sansa Fuze 8GB + LOD w/ Gold plated Pailiccs 3.5mm
Panasonic 2600mAh NiMH Batteries.
All testing was done off battery without the power supply connected.
Introduction I was in the market for a higher quality portable amplifier than the small Fiio E3 which I bought for $20 on fleabay. So I contacted Electric Avenues through their website and promptly received a reply from Gary Ali the owner and creator of the PA2V2.
After a few weeks of corroborating my interest through emails back and forth I ordered my amp. I recommend purchasing your amp directly from gary through his website as it is cheaper than fleabay and definitely a lot easier. I must attest that he has hand built over 8400 units and delivered to more than 60 countries to date. If this doesn’t speak volumes then stop reading here and go back to hunting some kangaroos
Less than a week after payment was received by Electric Avenues I surprisingly received my package in the mail. Call that a fast turn around! It arrived in a heavy duty Padded satchel which had inside a zip lock bag with all the goodies inside. The amp was then again protected within its own bubble padded bag. A nice personal touch was the hand written sticker saying “Enjoy the Amp Joe” by Gary affixed to the ziplock bag.
AC wall adapter with wire twist tied all packaged within an OEM box within mini headphone mono jack (US socket 110v)
A headphone splitter cable, Stereo 3.5mm Male to two 3.5mm Female adapter
Gold plated 1' Male to Male 3.5mm cable to attach source to the amp
Amplifier Build: The amp looks to be built into a DIY ABS plastic black case which is extremely rugged and sleek. After initial inspection it is evident that attention to detail and design have not been overlooked.
Over the past few months it has taken a couple of falls and not even a single mark is present. The only issue is after being dropped I found was the batteries sometimes became dislodged from the holder. I handle my equipment with uttermost care but with something so small and with my very long headphone cable, tripping on it or catching the cable on things unfortunatly happens.
Next the connections and volume potentiometer are set into a clear red coloured piece of acrylic plastic. Personally I wish the power connector was located on the rear but due to the battery holder being on this side it was not possible.
The other reason why all the I/O’s and volume are on one side is for manufacturing simplicity and having the shortest circuit paths as physically possible.
Upon internal inspection everything is well laid out. By the look of it the components are surface mount and some extremely large capacitors which are high grade.
The volume potentiometer is Swiss made and extremely good quality as is the knob is of professional quality much like the ones found on professional a/v equipment. The pot moves smoothly but also with weight like a high quality motorized volume control on an AVR or Preamplifier.
Compared to many DIY and manufactured amps this is one a great size as it fits in the pocket of my dress pants with the Sansa Fuze mounted together. Definitely smaller than a number of mobile (cell) phones that I have used over the years.
Now to insert or change the batteries the amp has to be opened by unscrewing the two countersunk screws on the bottom. Only requiring two rechargeable NiMH AA batteries I thought was excellent (compared to popular CMOY amps that need dual 9v batteries)
Ease of use: One of the strong points of this amplifier is the ease of use. With only two 3.5mm jacks for input and output, a smaller jack for power, a power switch and volume pot I cannot see my Oma (Grandmother) even having issues. Once all the connections and made you only need to turn on the amp and toggle the volume to your liking.
Many have spoken of having to set their Digital Audio Players (DAP) to around 60% or whatever works the best for them. I never had this issue as I am using a LOD which disengages the volume functionality of my DAP and bipasses the internal headphone section.
Audition Music List: For many years I have been using a list of specific songs as follows:
Sarah McLauchlan - Angel
Andrea Bocelli - Con te partiro (Time to say goodbye)
Alison Krauss - It doesn't matter
Cascada - What hurts the most (Yanou's Candelight Mix)
Blue October - 18th Floor Balcony (Within hidden track at the end)
Coheed and Cambria - Wake Up
Princess Superstar vs Mason - Perfect Exceeder
IIO - Rapture (At the end)
Dirty Vegas - Days go by
Bass Hunter - Dota
Vivaldi - Summer
The headphones I am using for this review are the Audio Technica ATH-A900
These are rated at 32ohms which while not extremely hard to drive (Like the Sennheiser equivolent eg HD600) but it isn’t a 'walk in the park' either as lower impedance In Ear Monitors or standard earbuds. The rated output power is up to 200mw depending on the headphone impedance.
Volume was adequate and rather loud. Definitely loud enough for people passing by to hear my music even with the A900 closed backs. Although still not ear splitting levels like I am used to from a desktop amplifier but who am I kidding it's portable!
Dynamics/resolution/staging/bandwidth: Listening to my all time favourite audition song 'Angel' by Sarah McLauchlan was a blissful experience. It sounded as if she was sitting in front of me performing a personal rendition. The piano was lifelike and no discernable colouring was present. The low notes of the piano that dip down to to 30z are evident with minimal to no roll off.
Next I moved onto testing with male vocals by Andre Bocelli. After about 1 minute I slowly stopped analysing the equipment and was happily enjoying the performance. This alone speaks for itself. The treble was never shrill but definitely present possibly a little forward for my liking. The midrange is accurate I would have to say it is presented in a recessed or relaxed manner. Not too relaxed to be unrealistic or flat sounding.
For midrange testing I have always made use of the dance song Rapture (At the end) by IIO from 2003, in this song there is a constant melody line almost like an xylophone. The unique tonality of the xylophone usually creates oscillation in the midrange on most systems. The PA2V2 with Audio Technica ATH-A900 ROCKED MY WORLD! Better than eating kangaroo cooked on a campfire. Throughout this song it also has the low bass note that rumbles every four bars is present and well defined.
I wanted to listen to a song that would put this little amplifier through its paces in the bass response.
After recently having the honour of visiting the annual Movement Electronic Music Festival 2011 (DEMF) in Detroit, Michigan I discovered an amazing artist who doesn’t hold back on his bass mixes. Song by artist is definitely hard work for the PA2V2 at high levels. I had to lower the volume a couple of decibels in order to have enough headroom to ensure the amp wasn't pushed to audibly distorting
Having heard this song live on a line array system sporting 16 separate 18" high powered horn loaded subwoofers I must say I am somewhat biased. Amplifier performed better at lower levels for the deep extension. Rolling off at around 30hz with my Audio Technicas in tow. I must clarify that many have said the A900's are bass light but I digress that only major bass junkies would have an issue. Myself, I have never had any quelms with their bass capabilities.
I completed the rest of my audition list and then went through the same process with my home audio system. For most of the songs I actually preferred the sound of my headphones! They just felt so personal and close to the musicians. The PA2V2 only somewhat trailing behind when I turned up the wick on my Electronica music with bass hungry beats. The treble could benefit from a little bit of taming (aussies are used to taming things haha).
Predominantly being from a purist Hi-Fi, High end Home cinema and money is no limit PA installation background my appetite is what you might call hard to please.
I have to admin I was surprised with this little guy. I cannot expect amazing SPL or drive capabilities from a portable amp powered with only 2 AA batteries that lasts so long. The clarity and honesty of this amplifier are excellent. A little on the large side in comparison to my Sansa Fuze but I have to commend Electric Avenues for being able to fit so much into such a compact device.
Now after a couple of months of daily usage (3+ hours of travelling) I am proud to say I do not have a dingos breath of buyers remorse. I absolutely love the fact that people ask me regularly what on earth is “that” and then I give them a listen. Even just with simple comparison tests a number of people have purchased their own from Gary! The PA2V2 is an amp that just keeps on giving. I can honestly say I am proud to have this amp in my pocket and it has become my daily mate.
Home Audio Followup of the PA2V2: I was looking for a good easy to use Digital Audio player for my home system. The Sansa Fuze just doesn’t have the oomf for line level input that my Outlaw 990 Home Theatre Processor/Pre Amplifier requires. So purely out of curiosity I tried it with the PA2V2 (Sansa Fuze V1, + LOD).
I went straight to my critical song, Sarah McLauchlan - Angel. All I could do was smile. I have found the digital audio player that I have been looking for. I have used Creative X-Fi, M-audio Audiophile and duo, E-MU, Edirol, plus many other computer sound cards. I enjoy the PA2V2 with the Sansa Fuze just so much more. Less clinical but never overly “warm”. I think I will have to purchase another one now to be permanently installed in my listening room for the 2ch system.
For integrity reasons I must explain that I have not been endorsed, biased or coerced by Gary of Electric Avenues in writing this review.
With all audio components there are trade off's and compromises. Portability vs power output vs battery life are all aspects involved in the balancing act of headphone amplifiers. While there are downfalls with the PA2V2 I am personally happy as a whole with this piece of equipment.
I must also thank you for reading my review. I hope I have been a help in some way in finding your audio nirvana.
Keep those tunes spinning!
Pros - Home-made, excellent SQ, price, independently-controlled gain levels per channel
Cons - No charging indicator, no bass control
I bought this amp as an attempt to make my Bose OE sound a bit better. It failed to do so... simply because the Bose OE doesn't like any kind of amplification. After reading some forum posts, I decided to buy the Sony MDR-XB700 and they are mind-blowing with this amp, and a lot cheaper than the Bose OE. These love to be amplified and it really shows the PA2V2's true potential.
As for the battery life, I have used it for about 5~6 hours and the batteries are still holding their charge. I don't use it a lot to actually measure how long the batteries will last but, for me it's good enough as it is.
SQ is pretty good. Coupled with the FiiO L3 LOD cable on an iPad 2 (playing lossless tracks), the quality is insanely better than the iPad 2's built-in amplifier.
Support from the creator of this device is top-notch. I wish most sellers were as supportive as he is.
As for the draw-backs, there is no charging indicator. Gary says that if the amp is turned on, the batteries will not be over-charged but, when the unit is off, there's no way to tell if the charge is complete and he suggests not to leave it connected for over 8 hours. Not a deal-breaker for me but still, over-charging batteries by accident can result in physical damage, or worse.
Another missing thing is that there is no bass boost control. Also not a deal-breaker for me since I rather prefer natural sound that can show the headphone's potential without EQing them, which is a plus. Also, for the value, it's not an important feature anyway.
As it is, this amplifier is a great upgrade coming from a FiiO E5. Lasts longer, higher power output and SQ, and it's still portable although bigger. For $60, you can't go wrong.
Pros - size, cost, power, value
Cons - none
I read about this portable amp because I was looking for some volume boost when listening to my music on my Samsung Galaxy smartphone. I picked up some Shure 840s a while back and had been burning them in on my desktop listening to my collection. This amp is perfect! I strap it to my phone with an elastic (I'm primitive so far in my rig set up) and drop it in my pocket and wear it around the yard as I work outside getting ready for the summer when I plan to use it extensively. Got it from Bay Bloor Radio in Toronto as it is a short half hour from home, and Alex was the sales guy to see downstairs. Call first to make sure he's got them in stock. With tax, 90 canadian, and you can't beat that especially with other portable amps costing 2,3, and 4 times the price, while waiting weeks to have it arrive from overseas. I love this thing, man! I saw Rush play at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton Tuesday night, and promptly spent Wednesday and Thursday after work with my Rush collection, my Shures, phone and my awesome PA2V2 cranked, just like I was at the concert again.
What I enjoyed most about my purchase..I'm proud I bought Canadian, from an intelligent, talented Canadian engineer who takes pride in what he makes, and makes an affordable amp because he cares about what he does, and that is to help others enjoy music ... LOUD music. Thanks Gary
Pros - Good build quality, fantastic battery life
Cons - None
Overall a fantastic little amp. I've been carrying it around for a few weeks and there's been nothing to complain about so far. Build quality is definitely there and audio is great for such a small amp. Battery life is fantastic! I've gotten about 100 hours of use every charge.
Pros - cheap, good starter amp, customer service
Cons - no light to show it's charging,
Great little amp. Can be had for $60 on Gary's website. Can't power higher end headphones however.
Pros - Good Sound, Nice Value, Excellent Service
Cons - Power switch & Volume control, No Bass Boost
The PA2V2 is a good amp, Nice Value ($56.00) on EBay (Bids) back in Sept. they are going for around $70.+ when I checked a week ago. For higher end headphones it probably will not suit Your needs, sometimes it pushes the high's a little to high for My preference, the midrange is pretty good and the bass is only as good as the song was recorded (Zune, IPod) just not enough drive for bass hungry headphones. I have a pr. of GRADO 225i's and when I use them with My portable cd player I hear the difference in the overall sound! The Power switch & Volume control are to close together, You can turn the volume up to high by accident (Big Hands) without knowing until You turn the amp on. I have played with the gain screws but I can not find My tonal zone. Maybe it's just Me but I love overall music quality and this amp has served it's purpose for My 1st portable amp, I just need more. This is a good amp for lower end phones and louder music!
Pros - Size, rechargeable, lots of power, great improvement of detail & stage
Cons - A little bulky
I happened upon this little beauty* at Bay Bloor Radio in Toronto. It's definitely the best portable amp I've heard, especially for the money (seriously - $80?! How can you go wrong?). I use it with a SendStation PocketDock to get the sound out from the 30-pin dock, and they both really enhance the sound quality wonderfully! I also had the opportunity to talk with Gary who makes the PA2V2, and he was really dedicated to the product and very helpful. I'd call this a no-brainer purchase for anyone who's looking for a great sounding affordable portable amp!
*Okay, it doesn't *look* beautiful, but the sounds it produces sure are beautiful!
Pros - Amazing sound, best customer support, great entry price
Cons - a little big for perfect portability
I joined head-fi, looking around for replacement IEMs, and found people talking about headphone amps. After some research, I decided on the PA2V2s and couldn't have made a better choice for a beginner's amp.
I've tried this amp with an iPod nano, an iRiver iH-140 (rockboxed), a Cowon iAudio 9, and a Clip+ (rockboxed), with ER6s, ER-4Ps, and Grado SR80s. The amp warms the sound of the etys, but not to the extent that it distorts their characteristic sound. I noticed a larger soundstage on the Grados.
But the real treat, with all sources and with all headphones is the increased clarity and solidity of the sound. I was listening to Bill Evan's Trio - Live at the Village Vanguard this morning and the amount of detail (the lightest cymbal brush, ice cubes rattling in someone's glass) is ear-opening.
Finally, Gary was helpful and patiently endured many email questions from me as I was making up my mind. He's the best.
Pros - Durability, price, amplification
I bought some Beyer DT770 250ohm's that I knew I would need an amp for. Gary was extremely helpful and answered all my questions concerning the headphone working with the amp and which batteries I should get. He also enjoys the photos I send him of my amp with the headphones. I try to take some good shots .
The length the batteries last, of at least 100 hours, I've never run out of battery life on amp and I've had the same rechargeable batteries in it since I bought it. Sure I've charged them but its a pretty infrequent thing. An A+ amp to be sure compared to the Filo E7 since that is only 80 hours and I am not sure if that battery is replaceable or not. Gary's is .
Pros - incredible costumer support and service, sound, synergy, battery life
Cons - no crossfeed switch, usb charging circuit nor bass controls
For quite some time that I wanted to get a portable amp that could make the sound more lively, with low noise and still be able to pump enough juice to some more power hungry cans, and PA2V2 definitely suited me.
The amp was used with different gear, so I could check it was a good purchase (aside from all raving reviews) and I couldn't be happier. I listened through Philips SHP1900, SHP2000, Technics RP-F290, Pioneer SE-H33, Audio Technica M40fs, A&H XD-53 and some Numark HF125, plugged to a few computer onboard chipsets, an external Creative X-Fi, Echo Audiofire 2 and NI Audio 2 DJ. The first thing I noticed was an issue many people had, scratching and hissing while adjusting volume, but that is easily solved, just pop 2 rechargeable batteries and you're set, after they were inside the amp felt quite different, despite the batteries only suppose to serve as a noise filter. I've read people having hissing in different conditions than me, I only had that issue when using the amp without batteries, plugged to an outlet.
From all rechargeable batteries out there, I'm using 1700mAh ones that seem to last ages until the next charge.
It's good to have separate channel gain control and a bright red led to show that it's powered on.
Overall, the build quality is quite good, volume knob is sensitive at the right amount, the overall black look fits most environments. If the case was made from some metal, would give a more solid feel, specially since it's portable, but nonetheless there is no fault as it is well put together as it is.
If PA2V2 could be charged through usb, it would be perfect due to the low price and higher quality when compared to cmoy amps and Fiio E5, for instance.
It has already been said a million times before, but Gary, the guy behind Electric Avenues is helpful beyond measure and overall a great guy. Nowadays, more than ever, good customer support is quite important, and that's a thing that excels.
Great deal, recommended