Auglamour GR-1

Rating:
4/5,
  1. B9Scrambler
    Auglamour GR-1: Style and Substance?
    Written by B9Scrambler
    Published Jul 5, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Unique design - Material quality - Clean sound with plenty of power
    Cons - Heavy - Battery capacity doesn't match what is advertised - Fit and finish of the shell
    Greetings!

    Today we're checking out Auglamour's entry into the portable amplifier market, the GR-1.

    Auglamour has been around since 2015 and has built their brand on the offering of stylish, well constructed, and inexpensive products, supplemented by an outstanding auditory experience. The GR-1 is their most impressive product, and in my experience is one of the best examples of an extremely affordable yet high quality product that completely belies it's price tag.

    Let's take a closer look.

    Disclaimer:

    A big thanks to Chi with Penon Audio for sending over a complimentary sample of the GR-1 for the purposes of this review. This thoughts within this review are my own and do not represent Penon, Auglamour, or any other entity. No financial incentive was provided to write a positive review or otherwise.

    At the time of this review the GR-1 retailed for only 69.00 USD: https://penonaudio.com/auglamour-gr-1.html

    What I'm looking for:

    When it comes to portable amps, and DAPS for that matter, I take a pretty casual approach. If you're looking for an in-depth look at this thing with measurement graphs going over THD, sine waves, etc. you'll want to look elsewhere. None of that matters to me, nor do the components inside that make the device tick. All I really care about is ease of use, how well it can drive my headphones and earphones, and if they still sound good to me plugged into it. Great battery life is a bonus. This review will be mainly my subjective experiences with the GR-1 and how it has served me over the last six or so months.

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    Specifications:
    • Shell Material: MIM titanium alloy
    • Compatible headphone impedance: 16Ω ~ 300Ω
    • Battery Capacity: 3.7V / 2000mAh rechargeable lithium polymer
    • Charging time: less than 3.5 hours (charger specs - DC5V / 2A)
    • THD+N: 0.0003% (1KHz)
    • SNR: 112dB
    • Gain: +10dB
    • Output power: 150mW (32Ω load)
    • Charging port: Micro-USB port
    • Frequency response: 10Hz – 100KHz (+/-0.5dB)
    • Usage Time: ~8hours
    • Size: 20 x 75 x 100mm
    • Weight: 239g
    • Op AMP: Texas Instruments OPA2604
    • Capacitors: ELNA
    • Switch: ALPS brand with operational capacity of 10,000 flips
    Packaging and Accessories:

    You know exactly what you're getting and what it's going to look like because every side of the dense white box the GR-1 comes within contains an image of the unit from the front back and side, minus the top and bottom containing the inputs and outputs. A missed opportunity to those that care about packaging, like me. Also on the back is some contact information for Auglamour and their website; www.auglamour.com.

    Lift off the lid, remove a cardboard cover which has the Auglamour log printed in matte black on one side and some of the contents on the other, and you're greeted to the GR-1 and a beefy Monster 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable nestled within some foam. You are also provided with the obligatory Auglamour medallion whose purpose I still have yet to determine, outside of simply been a cool addition. Lift out the foam insert to find two Auglamour branded rubber bands for binding the GR-1 to your mobile phone or player, a USB micro cable, and the instruction manual. Mine is in Mandarin which I don't speak, but you can find an English version online with a bit of searching if needed. In all you get:
    • GR-1 amplifier
    • 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable
    • 2 rubber bands
    • USB cable
    • Auglamour medallion
    There aren't many frills, but everything included is of great quality. The medallion is flawlessly machined, the Monster cable is extra thick and durable with case-friendly connectors, and the GR-1 itself, well, we'll get to that next.

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    Build:

    The GR-1 is crafted from fantastically high quality materials. The titanium alloy shell is expectedly bulletproof. There is no way you will ever break it. Scratches and maybe some dents, sure, but breaking it? No, I don't see that happening. You could set this on a busy street and let cars run over it all day and it'll look worn but it'll still work.

    Speaking of worn, it does show wear nigh immediately upon use. The metal has this odd matte coating over it that rubs off with ease. All the angular peaks littering the top of the shell and on the back where it rubs against my player when they're strapped together, the coating is completely worn away. In most instances that happened the first day of use. The coating gives the GR-1 an appealing look, but it wears off so quickly that the application of it seems useless and only to the detriment of the product. Still, it's a purely cosmetic thing and doesn't take away from the durable nature of the product, and the amazing sound quality it outputs.

    While durable as heck, fit and finish could definitely be improved upon. The shell is made from two parts held together by four small bolts. These two sections really don't line up particularly well with uneven gaps and spaces. The bottom, where you'd plug in the USB cable for charging, and where the charge LED indicator is located, you find the metal is lacking the brushed texture found everywhere else which breaks the up design's coherency. Again, purely cosmetic but it is very noticeable.

    The 3.5mm in and outputs firmly hold whatever is plugged in. The on/off switch moves with a tight 'snick', and the volume know moves smoothly with only a slight imbalance at extremely low volumes, something that I've run across in nearly every budget amp and player with a physical volume knob.

    Overall the GR-1 is wonderfully build with adequate fit and finish. Still, it looks awesome and it'll survive nearly anything you toss at it.

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    Ergonomics:

    The GR-1's ergonomics are just okay. While quite heavy, the shape fits nicely in hand and feels good to carry. When you start interacting with the device, I found the volume knob stubby and that it was too close to the input. When changing volume, I always found my fingers brushing against the input cable. The plus side of such a stubby volume know is that it seems to stay out of the way. I rarely changed the volume accidentally.

    The on/off switch is nestled between the input and output ports and can be a pain to get to when you've got cables plugged in, especially if you're using something with 90 degree angled jacks. A better location for the switch would have been on the bottom opposite the LED jack beside the USB port. The current location does prevent accidentally turning on or off the device, however, so that's a plus.

    Battery:

    The GR-1 is rated at eight to ten hours of battery life with a 3.5 hour charge time from a 2,000 mAH battery. Mine, upon opening it up to take a peek, has an 1,800 mAH battery. Huh.

    I got around eight hours of use, likely because I generally listen at quite low volumes, and expect most to get less. In daily use I found the GR-1's battery life perfectly adequate. If I were traveling, I'd probably want more unless I had easy access to a charge location every night. At least it's easy to upgrade to a larger battery if you want.

    In regards to charging, the GR-1 refilled within around 3 hours from my laptop's USB output. That's not particularly quick, and it feels it. It would be great if Auglamour updated the GR-1 to support quick charging in a future iteration, and a battery that's the advertised size.

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    Using the GR-1:

    The GR-1 has a reasonably uncolored signature sitting somewhere between my Walnut F1 and Topping NX1, both of which lean towards a brighter, thinner sound, and the warmer, full-bodied sound of my desktop amp, the TEAC HA-501. An aspect of the GR-1 that has been particularly appealing is the black background, free of noise even when paired with hiss-prone earphones like the ClarityOne EB110, and to a lesser extent the Campfire Audio Polaris.

    Another aspect of the GR-1 that has been outstanding is it's ability to run pretty much anything I toss at it with headroom to spare. Be it the thinksound On2, Havi B3 Pro I, ADVANCED Alpha, or even the HiFiMan Susvara which I did spend some time with through the GR-1, it has never struggled to hit a comfortable listening volume (which is much lower for me than most, though my wife who listens much louder had no issues either). Even on bassy tracks where I found my planars stressing and overpowering my other portable amps, the GR-1 powered through without any noticeable distortion. Only once the battery was nearing empty did it run into issues outputting the power necessary. The only headphone that it didn't really suit was unsurprisingly, the Susvara. It lost sound stage and micro-detail through the GR-1, most notable when listening to it back to back with the HA-501.

    Due to the GR-1's weight, I ended up using it as I would a portable desktop amp. It spent a considerable amount of time paired with my Asus FX53V gaming laptop being used for music, movies, Youtube videos, and of course gaming, when I traveled to visit relatives, work on reviews in a coffee shop, etc. While I don't think the FX53V needs an amplifier as the on-board card is surprisingly capable, it was nice to have the extra power and easy access to a dedicated volume controller which my laptop is missing (fn + f11 or f12 to lower and raise volume). When I did run it with a DAP, I generally picked something small and light like the Shanling M1 or HiFiMan MegaMini. The GR-1 is hefty enough by itself. I did run it occasionally with the HiFi E.T. MA8 which made for one heck of a brick that weighed a ton and was as inconvenient as you would expect a pairing like that to be.

    Final Thoughts:

    The GR-1 is an inexpensive amp with a stylish design, a clean, uncolored sound, and with it's titanium alloy shell is pretty much bullet proof. It's battery life is decent but could be better (especially if what was installed inside matched what was advertised), something you can also say about it's fit and finish. Weight is where the GR-1 struggles as a portable amp. You know it's it's your pocket because it's dang heavy, hence why I used it more like a compact desktop amp. As long as you're okay with lugging around a chunky device, the GR-1 will impress with it's driving power, black background, and flexibility with a wide variety of headphones and earphones.

    Thanks for reading!

    - B9Scrambler

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