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The CV5 is a “vacuum tube / solid state hybrid” amplifier. It delivers the low output impedance,...

ALO Audio Continental V5

Rating:
4.33333/5,
  • The CV5 is a “vacuum tube / solid state hybrid” amplifier. It delivers the low output impedance, tight bass control and sonic detail you expect from amplifier (Rx) with the added spatial qualities and sonic lushness you’d expect from a vacuum tube based amplifier (CDM).

    The 6111 vacuum tube is placed at the input stage of the cv5 running in Class A. Since the 6111 is a dual triode, left and right channels share the same vacuum tube without issue. The CV5 is class a tube input and class ab solid state output.

Recent Reviews

  1. Loquah
    A great headphone amp (earphones, not so much)
    Written by Loquah
    Published Nov 23, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Sound quality, neutrality (with 6111 tube), black background with headphones, lots of power
    Cons - Slight hiss with earphones, prone to noise from phones, wifi, etc., possibly a bit expensive when it's not ideal for BOTH headphones AND earphones
    I was fortunate enough to have the V5 lent to me by fellow Head-Fier, @d_marc0 and I really enjoyed the time I spend with it. I'll post my full video review below, but my summary points are:
    • Fantastic sound quality
    • Beautifully made
    • Very compact
    • Plenty of power for all headphones
    • Slight hiss on earphones
    • Very noisy when used near a mobile phone (on earphones only, not noticeable on headphones)
    At $800 USD I think I'd probably look elsewhere as I am more of an IEM user when I'm out and about so I'd buy a desktop amp for my headphones with this kind of budget, but when it's on special or second hand for around $500 or less I think this is a fantastic amplifier for headphone users and would highly recommend it!



    ALO Continental-8514_DxO.jpg ALO Continental-8515_DxO.jpg ALO Continental-8517_DxO.jpg ALO Continental-8520_DxO.jpg ALO Continental-8522_DxO.jpg ALO Continental-8523_DxO.jpg ALO Continental-8526_DxO.jpg ALO Continental-8519_DxO.jpg

    images

    1. ALO Continental-8518_DxO.jpg
    2. ALO Continental-8526_DxO-narrow.png
      Adu, d marc0 and Wyville like this.
    1. d marc0
      Excellent take on the V5 mate. Cheers!
      d marc0, Jan 6, 2018
      Loquah likes this.
  2. ExpatinJapan
    A kiss on the hand may be quite Continental
    Written by ExpatinJapan
    Published Jul 28, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Smooth, swap out tubes, lush, detailed, clarity, small footprint
    Cons - May hiss with the odd sensitive item.
    ALO Continental V5 Review
    - Expatinjapan

    ALO Audio Continental V5 review
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    ALO Audio Continental V5 with Campfire Audio Nova.​

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    ALO Audio Continental V5 review
    -expatinjapan, with contributions by jeffri

    https://www.aloaudio.com/shop/continental-v5/
    This review has taken some time to come about for several reasons, first being that we were blessed with a new born baby around the time the amplifier arrived, which of course meant delays all around.
    Second the many different pairings that had to take place to get a clear idea of what the Continental V5 was capable of. Both in terms of dap and earphone/headphone pairings.

    Then to make things more complicated there being three tubes to try out, and of course Head pie being a glutton for punishment had to try them all, then back to the many daps and earphones/headphones switching around.

    I have always lusted after the gorgeous ALO Audio Continental from the V1 with its retro looking cool diamond logo and was more than excited when Head pie was offered two Continental V5s, one for review and one for a contest giveaway.

    My hardest choice was which to retain..black or silver. in the end I just flipped a coin. The choice was too difficult.

    On with the show...The ALO Audio Continental V5!

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    ALO Audio Continental V5 tube amplifier, Hifiman MegaMini, ALO interconnect and JOMO PLB.

    Via the ALO Audio website:
    THE CV5 IS A “VACUUM TUBE / SOLID STATE HYBRID” AMPLIFIER. IT DELIVERS THE LOW OUTPUT IMPEDANCE, TIGHT BASS CONTROL AND SONIC DETAIL YOU EXPECT FROM AMPLIFIER (RX) WITH THE ADDED SPATIAL QUALITIES AND SONIC LUSHNESS YOU’D EXPECT FROM A VACUUM TUBE BASED AMPLIFIER (CDM).

    THE 6111 VACUUM TUBE IS PLACED AT THE INPUT STAGE OF THE CV5 RUNNING IN CLASS A. SINCE THE 6111 IS A DUAL TRIODE, LEFT AND RIGHT CHANNELS SHARE THE SAME VACUUM TUBE WITHOUT ISSUE. THE CV5 IS CLASS A TUBE INPUT AND CLASS AB SOLID STATE OUTPUT.

    Unboxing
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    Simple and gorgeous packaging

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    Build via ALO Website:
    THE CV5 ENCLOSURE IS MACHINED FROM A SINGLE BLOCK OF ALUMINUM. THE MARKINGS ARE MACHINED INTO THE ENCLOSURE SO THAT WEAR IS NOT A CONCERN DURING THE LIFE OF THE AMPLIFIER. MACHINED VENTILATION HOLES ALLOW THE TUBE TO BREATH EASILY AND KEEPS THE UNIT COOL DURING NORMAL OPERATION.

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    headphone jack, High and low gain switch, input jack.

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    Charging port, and a grill to let the tube heat breathe and escape.

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    Extras: Rubber bands for stacking, a charger block and cable, carry bag, instructions and warranty and a leather case (in the white box).

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    Decisions, decisions...

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    Smexy silver or black?
    both look fabulous.

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    Specifications
    *From the ALO Audio website:

    -SIZE: 92.5MM (H) X 58MM (W) X 20MM (D)
    -FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 10HZ - 300KHZ +/- 0.1DB
    -INPUT IMPEDANCE: 110K (LOW GAIN) / 10K (HIGH GAIN)
    -OUTPUT IMPEDANCE: < 0.5 OHM
    -GAIN (LOW): -10DB
    -GAIN (HIGH): +10DB
    -OUTPUT POWER (INTO 32 OHMS): 325MW PER CHANNEL, RMS
    -PREMIUM LOW ESR AUDIO-GRADE POWER SUPPLY CAPACITORS
    -USB CHARGER INPUT (SAME AS RX) 5V
    -HIGH / LOW GAIN SWITCH (GREAT FOR IEMS AND FULL-SIZE HEADPHONES)
    -ONE 6111 DUAL TRIODE TUBE, USER CHANGEABLE (TUBE ROLLING)
    -16V POWER SUPPLY (+/- 8V)
    -20-SECOND MUTE CIRCUIT FOR TUBE WARM-UP (BLUE LED ON DURING WARM UP)
    -LOW OUTPUT NOISE AND MICROPHONICS
    -UP TO 9 HOUR PLAY TIME
    -LOW VOLTAGE WARNING (FLICKERING LED)
    -CHARGING LED (ORANGE = CHARGING, GREEN = CHARGED)
    -CHARGING TIME APPROXIMATELY 4 HOURS
    -HIGH-GRADE CNC BILLET ALUMINUM ENCLOSURE WITH CNC MACHINED MARKINGS

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    User notes (From the ALO Audio website):
    -TURN ON THE CONTINENTAL BY ROTATING THE VOLUME / POWER KNOB CLOCKWISE UNTIL THE POWER INDICATOR LIGHT ILLUMINATES.
    -SET YOUR GAIN LEVEL; HIGH FOR HEADPHONES AND LOW FOR EARPHONES.
    -CONNECT YOUR EARPHONES OR HEADPHONES TO THE AMPLIFIER WITH THE VOLUME AT A LOW LEVEL.
    -ONCE CONNECTED GRADUALLY INCREASE THE VOLUME TO FIND A COMFORTABLE LISTENING LEVEL FOR YOU.
    -REMEMBER THAT PROLONGED LISTENING SESSIONS AT HIGH VOLUMES CAN POTENTIALLY DAMAGE YOUR HEARING.
    -PLEASE NOTE THAT SOME IEMS MAY BE TOO SENSITIVE TO BE USED WITH THE CV5 SAFELY.
    -CHARGE TIME FROM A FULLY EXHAUSTED BATTERY IS APPROXIMATELY 4 HOURS TO FULL.
    -IT IS RECOMMENDED TO NOT LISTEN AND CHARGE YOUR CV5 WHILE USING THE SUPPLIED POWER CHARGER.
    -IF YOU REQUIRE LISTENING WHILE ALSO CHARGING THE AMPLIFIER, PLEASE CHARGE YOUR CV5 VIA STANDARD USB PORT FROM ANY COMPUTER.
    -THE CV5 USES A HIGH-GRADE MILITARY NOS VACUUM TUBE FOR AMPLIFICATION.
    -THIS TUBE IS SENSITIVE TO CELL PHONE SIGNALS AND TDMA NOISE.
    -FOR CRITICAL LISTENING PLEASE KEEP YOUR CELL PHONE IN ‘AIRPLANE MODE’ OR MOVE IT AWAY FROM THE CV5 WHILE LISTENING.

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    User manual
    https://www.aloaudio.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Continental-CV5-Manual-Front.pdf

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    iBasso DX200, ALO Audio Continental V5, ALO Audio SXC 8 mini to mini, ALO Audio Litz cable and Campfire Audio Jupiter

    Tube rolling

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    The swapping out of the various tubes is a fairly easy process. I was hesitant at first to try it due to the tubes looking delicate but in reality they are quite sturdy, although caution is advised.

    CDM Disassembly. Good additional information.





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    Beast stack `For science` iBasso DX200, ALO Audio Continental V5, ALO Audio SXC 8 mini to mini, ALO Audio Reference 8 cable, Campfire Audio Andromeda.


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    iBasso DX200, ALO Audio Continental V5, ALO Audio SXC 8 mini to mini, Effect Audio Thor ii+ cable and 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter and Campfire Audio Vega.

    Sound
    I sampled the Continental V5 periodically over a long period of time. Due to all sorts of reasons and excuses.

    Some of the additional sources that arrived at Head pie in the meantime and have been tried with the ALO Audio Continental V5 are not pictured. Such as the Opus#3 and Opus#2.

    Although with many daps additional amplification is often not actually needed as the more modern and powerful daps (not all) have oodles of power for todays IEMs and most headphones. although of course not all.

    Why choose the ALO Audio Continental V5 then? Perhaps you have a weaker source that could do with some extra power, maybe you are fan of that tube sound, an aficionado or fan of ALO Audio or are excited by the fact that you can swap around the tubes to tailor or `color` the sound in way that is desirable to your ears.



    The basic ALO Audio Continental V5 starter pack provides the user with the 6111 tube. This is a good tube to enter into with in my humble opinion. It doesn`t stray too far in any particular direction, is fairly natural and veers towards what could be termed neutral, although being a tube this isn`t strictly so. It does have some warmth in the low end and and retains the smooth lush tubey goodness.
    Vocals are luscious. It has great control. Quite listenable and non offensive, keeps the intended recording with a touch of tube. probably the best all rounder.

    I found the 6832 to be the most hard hitting, more powerful sound overall, lots of low end punching, music is fairly balanced overall. Quite warm and all enveloping compared to 6111. The lows and mids can sometimes move into each other. Nice sound stage. Quite controlled also. Can be picky with some genres. Can it a bit brash and forward at times.

    The 6BF7 wasnt an early favorite, the 6832 caught my ears first of all, but the the 6BF7 in the end had a bit more control overall whilst retaining body and overall dynamics. It seems to a be a slightly more laid back version of the 6832. Very pleasant to listen to. Thick. A bit more low end spread as well. Goes well with most music. It can be termed `fat and muscular` without veering into the steroid rage zone.

    So the order from neutral to warm/colored would be 6111, 6BF7, 6832 imho.



    I think my results just echo and confirm Head-fier Jeffri findings which follow below.
    The differences aren`t miles apart and I had a hard time deciding which tube to leave in at the end of the testing.


    Tubes and their differences
    Another perspective courtesy of Head-fier jeffri
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    Posted on Head-fi (5/2016)
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    `I found that the default 6111 tube to be the most neutral and colorless, just give a bit of warmth and a bit of softness.

    The 6832 is warmer, somewhat elevated mid bass, so it have bigger impact and thicker midrange, not as soft as 6111 though.

    The 6BF7 is also a bit warmer than 6111, but not as much as 6832. It has a more linear low end and is the softest sounding overall.

    Anyway, that depends a lot to my memory, as there is some considerably delay between tube changes and I changed it once a month or so. I didn't speak much about the high end because there is not noticeable differences that I can make out right away.`

    7/2017 Update from jeffri:

    `6111 is the most neutral sounding, it would bring down the bass impact a bit, so the bass is softer than without Cv5. However, it adds a bit of warmth and body to the midrange and bring out more texture to the vocal. What is more interesting is on the high end, it seems to elevate a bit and perhaps some in the presence region. I found that it has a more convincing imaging and a wider soundstage that feels surrounding me.

    The 6832 is the one I have the most fun of. First thing I noticed is of course on the low end, it has a bigger impact, which seems to elevate the mid bass more as I don't hear much of the sub. Midrange is a bit smoother, warmer if you like, although I don't hear as much texture as I would on 6111. The high end is a bit laidback and it seems to have a narrower soundstage but I think imaging is still as good as 6111.

    The 6BF7 is a quite interesting one. The bass is soft, the softest of the three, but certainly is more elevated than 6111. While not having as much impact as 6832, it is more linear and extend to the sub more. The midrange is also smoother and thicker, maybe even so than 6832 and add a lot of body on the lower midrange. However, the high end is more laidback, even the presence region seems to recess a bit. The result? Narrower soundstage and less precision in imaging. But on the other hand, the sound is more intimate, sweeter and I love that, especially on track that don't have a lot of stage.
    Overall, I think 6111 is a great all rounder, while 6832 is more on the fun, exciting sound. Finally, the 6BF7 is good for those that is looking for intimate and sweet sound.`

    Thank you Jeffri!

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    Hifiman Megamini, ALO Audio Continental V5, ALO SXC 8 mini to mini and Jomo Audio PLB.

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    Tube swapping

    Tube swapping was effortless. Then also closing up the device at the end.
    Although on some occasions when testing at home I could slip the cover back on (to keep out dust) and not screw the screws back on right away.
    Admittedly i was a tad nervous at first, but as i had watched Kens CDM video tube swapping video on youtube it was practically the same process.

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    Value
    You can`t go wrong If you`re a tube lover on the go to select the Continental V5.
    ALO Audio has a long history of creating excellent products and this being one of their latest and (imho) greatest products.
    Great sound, solid build, small footprint, swappable tubes.

    The Continental V5 is US$799.

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    Giveaway (closed)

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    Congratulations again to Micah who has since started his own audioprimate blog
    and I hope to see the Continental V5 reviewed in the future.

    Overview


    The ALO Audio Continental V5 is of course filled with tubey goodness.
    being the fifth rendition of their famous tube amp series the V5 certainly comes in strong, smaller than its predecessors and with an option to change/roll tubes to suit ones sonic preferences the V5 is certainly a winner.

    Build as expected being a product of ALO Audio is impeccable, beautiful to look at from a design perspective, easy to use, strong metal enclosure and overall gorgeous looks.

    The smaller form factor is excellent as it means it certainly is a portable amplifier rather than transportable.

    The sound as mentioned is dependent of which tube is chosen, but aside from sonic signatures the overall performance is one of smoothness with a black background.

    I did not find it to get overly warm due to useful vents on the sides allowing any heat to dissipate easily. Of course the tubes themselves do get hot so having it ones pocket probably isnt the best choice.

    Its sound is detailed, matches fairly well with most IEMs I tried. There is a slight hiss at times with more sensitive IEMs, but using low gain and also allowing the tubes to warm up a bit can rectify this in some cases.
    Its sound stage is quite spacious, and it complements the source rather than obscures it.

    Going half to three quarters of the volume pot on the CV5 and using the dap to fine tune gave me the best result. Also only turn it on when all the cables are plugged in.

    I enjoy my listening sessions with the ALO Audio Continental V5 and find it to be a subtle piece of gear that adds a lil sumthin` sumthin` to the music and brings out a naturalness that takes off that digital edge.


    The ALO Audio Continental V5 is an amp for those audiophiles on the go who want to add a bit of power, play with some tubes to tailor the sound to their taste or just enjoy that lush tubey goodness.

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    Campfire Audio Andromeda and ALO Audio Continental V5

    Thank you to ALO Audio for sending Head pie two Continental V5 amplifiers, one for a giveaway contest and one for review.
  3. Currawong
    The Continental V5 packs a lot of punch for such a little amp.
    Written by Currawong
    Published Jan 5, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Surprisingly good headphone driving ability. Small size. Beautiful case. USB charging. Changable tube. Sophisticated circuit.
    Cons - Too much hiss for sensitive IEMs. Can't charge and listen at the same time.
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    A few years ago I remember meeting Ken Ball at one of the Tokyo headphone festivals when he had announced the RX3-B balanced portable headphone amp. All the rage at the time, the amp was challenging some desktop amps when it came to driving headphones. However one of the nicest amps at the show was the original Continental hybrid tube/solid state amp. With a touch of warmth and a fair degree of effortlessness it was a popular amp. 
     
    As getting the tubes was troublesome, the amp was available only periodically. As time went on, it saw changes and improvements to the design and is now in its 5th iteration. Unlike previous versions it is considerably smaller, holding the same outer dimensions as the latest Rx, though slightly thicker. 
     
    That extra girth holds a single Philips 6111 tube, unlike the Continental Dual Mono, which holds two. With the usual format of input and output on the front, the amp sports two gain settings of -10dB and +10dB for full-sized headphones, which seemed to cover everything I tested quite sufficiently. Charging is via a micro-USB socket on the back, and LED next to the tube, visible through the holes on the top, indicates the charging state. The volume control includes the power switch. 
     
    The compact design is, not surprisingly, well suited to stacking with the current flavour-of-the-year, the Chord Mojo.  ALO Audio is very familiar with stacked portable rigs, and for this purpose a couple of branded rubber bands are included.  A basic USB to micro USB cable and 300 mA charger are also included, along with a very basic carrying pouch and a leather case and a warmer-sounding tube are available as options. For this review I only used the stock tube. 
     
    ALO_Audio_Continental_V5-5498.jpg

     
    Powering on, there is a 20 second delay while the tube warms up, a blue LED glowing from within the case. After the LED goes out, listening is possible. To this end I tried a variety of headphones, from the HD800, MrSpeakers Ether Flow and HiFiMan HE1000 V2, as well as various balanced armature and dynamic IEMs. 
     
    Immediately apparent was that the CV5 could deliver good dynamics even into the big planars. MrSpeakers Ether Flow gave it no trouble at all, so I upped the anti and tried the HE1000 V2. While it didn't deliver quite the space of the Studio Six, it did a surprisingly good job, easily enough for me to forget what I was listening out of. With sensitive IEMs such as ALO Audio's own Campfire Andromeda, there was too much hiss, even on low gain, to be ideal. Less sensitive BA IEMs such as the Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered were fine, but I didn't feel that I got any benefit from the CV5 over whatever source I was using if it was already good enough with them. It was dynamic IEMs and full-sized headphones where I was most impressed.
     
    Like the Rx that came before it, the CV5 was designed by Vinnie Rossie (of Red Wine Audio fame) and has a complex power supply with output via a Texas Instruments headphone amp. Unlike the Rx the power output is much higher, at up to 325MW, and the gain stage uses the above-mentioned 6111 tube instead of an opamp. That set-up is obviously where the dynamics were coming from. What was surprising was the level of detail retrieval easily had me separating out the capabilities of various sources, despite the specifications of the amp not suggesting this. 
     
    I had thought, for instance, that FiiO's X7 with the un-amped AMO module might make for a good source for the CV5, the amp acting in place of one of the amp modules. However while it does, I had been using the CV5 with my Schiit Yggdrasil and the drop in detail going to the X7 was very apparent, as well as the DAP's more aggressive sound. I wonder if the warmer tube might be a good combination there, especially as the optional amp modules for the X7 carry this through as well. 
     
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    This lead me into a paradox. The CV5 was too good in many respects for a lot of gear I have here at the moment, yet the more resolving DAPs and DACs like the Mojo and AK380 already have very good amplification. That lead me on something of a search for useful devices to pair with the CV5.
     
    Soundaware's M1 and M1 Pro portable players, while quite warm-sounding, have a high output impedance and fairly limited headphone driving ability. With the CV5 in the chain, I could enjoy the warm and relaxing sound of the M1 Pro with full-sized headphones or demanding dynamic IEMs. 
     
    Another interesting device is the new Cozoy Rei portable DAC. An almost tiny, phone-powered device with around 35MW of output, it is quite suited to IEMs, but not at all anything demanding. Once run-in, the Rei made for a great source with the CV5, even if it isn't as detailed as some of the DAPs I tried, to the point I ended up spending quite a bit more time listening than I had previously planned with the combination, both through my iPad and my MacBook. The smooth, even presentation of the Rei worked nicely with the dynamics of the CV5, especially with the more picky planars I had on hand.
     
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    In the end I came back to listening through the HE1000 from my iPad via the Mojo and CV5. While it was a step down in micro detail from my main system, a lot of the music I like simply doesn't have that much to begin with. Most importantly, I could turn the volume up a bit and get plenty of enjoyment, especially that of the great depth that the Mojo can resolve from the music when used as a DAC.
     
    The strongest competitor to the CV5 in my inventory is HeadAmp's Pico Power. A far simpler design of a buffer and 3 transistors per channel, it's driven by two regular 9V batteries. With three gain levels it is more flexible as it works even with sensitive IEMs, but can't be charged externally. It is also the more neutral-sounding amp. While the CV5 is more relaxed, spacious and warm-sounding, the Pico Power is more up-front and forward. Between the two, I'd be hard pressed to choose, and it might come down not only to the presentation, but simply that I've forgotten to switch off the Pico Power a number of times and ended up with flat batteries, something less of a problem with the CV5.
     
    A few years ago to get a big sound and plenty of dynamics out of a portable rig, you pretty much had to buy one of the balanced amps and get your headphones or IEMs re-cabled. Now more often with components like the CV5 and Mojo, I'm feeling less and less that anything so complex as a balanced DAP or amp is necessary for high resolution. While the price, at over $700 is big ask for a portable amp, the Continental V5 packs very satisfying ability to deliver music to even quite demanding headphones, and can be used to build a compact and very capable portable rig. What is more, no longer is there the need for a major cable investment to do so.
      Aurion, d marc0, Valens7 and 7 others like this.
    1. DigitalCitizen
      Very interrested in a REI review!
      DigitalCitizen, Jan 5, 2017

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