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ALO Audio RXMKIII Balanced Portable Amplifier Impressions

Discussion in 'Portable Headphone Amps' started by monotune, May 13, 2012.
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  1. AnakChan Moderator
    @Chexxchexx, I'll PM ya as the direction's going off topic :D.
  2. ericfarrell85
    Running my ES5's balanced (CLAS as source) has yielded interesting results. The soundstage is definitely wider and deeper. There is the perception of improved handling or control of the drivers and an increase in detail extraction (which may just be better stereo separation). There is I think a price to be paid for these advantages. The presentation is more distant (and demands an increase in volume to bring it forward), less visceral and the edges not as outlined or focused. Also the ES5's, which I would call energetic in signature, is more sedate run balanced. I almost feel the balanced setup is more refined, but less fun. I would need more time to determine which of the presentations I prefer, but they are ostensibly different. 
  3. ChrisSC
    Hey Eric,
    I see on your sig you run a dx100 or CLAS to an ALO-RX-mk3 to some CIEMS.  Which DAC do you find pairs better with the rx-mk3?  I'm really impressed by the new dx100 firmware update, but would love to hear your thoughts about which setup you reach for more often.
  4. lee730

    I'd love to hear your opinion as well. I've asked you about it on the DX100 thread but never got an update on the comparison :).
  5. ericfarrell85
    The DX100 (latest firmware) is the better DAC. The little time I've spent with the DX100 > MK3 saw me grinning and showing all of my teeth. I believe the DX100 has a fair edge in transparency, imaging, clarity and extension. The one area that I'm not certain about is dynamics. I simply haven't spent enough time with the DX100 to reach a fair conclusion. The CLAS has been my go-to portable setup for a lot longer than the DX100 and I'm likely that much more habituated to the CLAS that I find myself using it more often. On the go it's very difficult to discern between these two units as the attention required for critical listening simply isn't there. When I'm at home neither setup receives any attention, particularly because I'm finding portables, even customs, uncompetitive to the bigger setups.
    My general feeling towards the DX100 is that I'm sitting on an abundance of potential, but haven't shown it the proper attention. My feeling is if someone is going to use either setup portably, with ciems, than it really doesn't matter; they're both phenomenal. If the intended use is more transportable and quiet, focused listening sessions can be had, the DX100 really gets out of the way and cleans the transparency window and would be my recommendation. 
    lee730 likes this.
  6. dj nellie
    I'm coming to the conclusion that the MK3 was just not meant to work with a wide range of headphones.  It seems to have been designed with harder-to-drive full-size cans in mind, namely LCD-2/3 and HE-500/6.  
    With the 3 headphones I've tried on it so far (Ed. 8, DT1350, UERM), the MK3 exhibits noticeable hiss.  With my custom UERMs, the hiss almost drowns out the music unless I'm listening to a very loud song.  It's a shame, because the amp otherwise seems to have a very dynamic, natural and detailed sound signature.
    These are my impressions with the -dB as a source, outputting single-ended to the MK3.  I'm definitely looking forward to seeing if any changes occur when outputting balanced from the -dB, but that will have to wait until my -dB gets replaced with one of the fixed units.
    I suppose it's near-impossible to design a "jack of all trades" amp, one that works well with everything from sensitive IEMs to demanding full-sizers.  The SR71b came close, since it had a totally black background even with IEMs, but suffered from channel imbalance at low volumes and gain that jumped too high with the slightest touch of the pot.  I also found the SR71b to sound a bit dull and lacking detail, flaws which the MK3 seemed to avoid.
    So unless my unit is somehow defective or there are IEMs out there that aren't sensitive (I'm not aware of any), I don't think this would be the ideal amp for IEM-only users.  If most of your listening is done with a relatively hard-to-drive over-ear headphone, then the MK3 is definitely worth considering, but even then only if you request that the gain be lowered from the standard setting.  What I heard from the LCD-3 with the MK3 (before I sold it) was very impressive.
    All just my opinion, and I still haven't had that much time to listen to the MK3.  And I'm down to only 3 headphones that can be used with the MK3, so it may not be totally representative of what people are hearing with other headphones.
  7. lee730
    The Triad works wonders at low volume listening. You won't hear hiss during music playback on low gain. That is what you call a dynamic amp. But it is rather big. Around the same size as a DX100 just slightly longer. You also won't get 100% of its true potential from batteries. It will fully shine with a dedicated PSU. I got a Firestone PSU with it and it does wonders to the sound.
  8. Musicdiddy
    I have a similar dilemma myself. My go-to headphones are ACS T1Lives that are very sensitive and which I get a fair amount of hiss from. The main problem is because I do a lot of listening in bed I don't like the volume too loud but it needs to be turned up to a certain level otherwise I get channel imbalance, and by turning the volume up it is too loud to be comfortable. I have a pair of Beyerdynamic DTX 501P portables which I got for on the go listening, IMO these are very good but when comparing to my customs there is something lacking.
    David Maudlin at CLabs confirmed to me that the gain has been lowered on the -db Solo but do I want to go the expense of buying the new Solo and selling my original. I did think I would get a decent pair of closed back headphones but if the cups are too big it is uncomfortable when listening in bed. Oh decisions!
  9. mirari
    Will I be able to use a balanced iem cable hook up to the mk3 with an ipod and a standard LOD cable? I've read somewhere that some people where having issues so I wasn't sure if this was possible.
  10. dj nellie
    Yes, you can do that.  Not sure what issues you're referring to, the only one I'm aware of relates to the balanced output of the Solo -dB.  The MK3 works fine.
    I did some comparisons between my MK3 and Pico Slim, using my Edition 8s (the headphones I hear the least amount of hiss with when using the MK3).  The Slim had more clarity and treble definition, due mostly to the black background and lack of hiss.  But in every other respect, the MK3 sounded clearly better to me; the soundstage was much more expansive and 3-dimensional, and the tonality was more life-like.
    Just some thoughts for anyone considering these 2 amps.  I would still choose the Slim if I mainly used IEMs and sensitive over-ear headphones, but for less-sensitive/high impedance full-size headphones, the MK3 definitely has some nice sonic qualities.
  11. EtherMD
    I do hear a background hiss using the ALO Rx Mk3-B with Shure 535 IEMs at low gain with no music playing. It doesn't seem bothersome unless I'm listening to a really quiet recording. Listening on either low or medium gain with my Audeze LCD-2's, I don't hear any background noise. I haven't heard the SR-71B, but I do have a RSA Predator (my first headphone amp) which has an absolutely black noiseless background. I happen to like the RSA house sound, but find at compared to the Rx Mk3, the Predator is overall more laid back with pronounced bass. The Rx Mk3 seems clean and linear. There is great bass, but it's not overpowering and the highs are also clean and not exaggerated. For me, my Alo Rx Mk3-B plus CLAS has become my primary home rig for use with full size phones while my RSA Predator & IEMs has become my go to travel rig.
  12. dj nellie
    Does anyone else hear a high-pitched screeching noise when you touch the bass adjust knob?  It only happens when the amp is in certain positions, like with only the volume/bass knob end of the amp hanging off a table edge.  If I'm holding the amp up by its sides, I don't hear the noise.
    It's not a huge deal, since I can just pick up the amp and not hear this noise, but it's annoying when it does appear.  I hear it both with my DT1350 and custom IEM.  Just wondering if this is a flaw in my amp, or if others have noticed it too?
  13. AnakChan Moderator
    Hi Rx Mk3 owners. Have any of you tried a USB DAC balanced IC into the Rx Mk3? I've already got the CLAS -dB and tried that and heard some hum issues on high gain. But I'm wondering if anyone has tried any other brands like iBasso DB2?
    Thanks in advance.
  14. slwiser Contributor

    I have the iBasso DB2 and have not used it with my Rx Mk3, good question.  I think I will have to listen this combo and see what I hear.  Since having the DX100 as my music server I have been using it exclusively and had not thought about putting the DB2 into the mix or if I did, it was a while ago and it did not make any impressions on me that would cause me to keep it in the mix.  I do hear the slight hiss you are speaking about but it really does not bother me when music is playing.
  15. Anthony1
    I have a balanced out to balanced in IC from my RX3B>-dB but only SE out to my LCD3s. I have turned the volume up to the max on high gain and there is no hum coming out of the LCD3s only the annoying scratching on the volume pot on the RX3B
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