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Looking for a portable amp to use with a DBA-02 + Cowon J3 that's around $100 or less

Discussion in 'Portable Headphone Amps' started by jaybz, Jun 7, 2011.
  1. jaybz
    Hi, Head-Fiers.  I'm currently looking to replace my FIIO E5 with something better and also more durable for use during commutes.  My E5's output jack is no longer properly connected to the circuit board so I figured it's time to upgrade.  I also own an RE0 and a SoundMagic PL20 as backup so most people here would correctly deduce that I prefer analytic sound signatures.  I mostly use the E5 to boost bass and I'm not motivated to get a top of the line amp yet because the J3 doesn't have a line out and so far, the E5 has sufficed, but just barely.
    I'm currently leaning towards the FIIO E11 but am also considering the FIIO E7 and SoundMagic A10 but I am wondering about other alternatives as well.  The E11 pretty much bumps off the iBasso T3D off my list due to the E11 review here at Head-Fi.  The digiZoid ZO which I also read up on sounds like it colors the output, specifically, it also boosts the mids, so no go on that.
    [Edit: I just realized that the E11 is still on pre-order so info is very limited atm so I'll skip the questions about the E11]
    I'm also interested in the E7 because of the USB DAC functionality since when I'm at work, I use my laptop to save my J3's charge, but I read in an E11 review here at Head-Fi that the E7 can sound grainy at highs which I fear will happen when it is paired with the DBA-02 plus it's also bulkier and more expensive.  Is the E7's grainy highs that bad on a DBA-02?  How does the E7 compare to the E5 in terms of those grainy highs?  Is the E7 at par or better than the E5 when it comes to boosting bass in terms of volume and quality?  How does the E7 compare to the Soundmagic A10?
    I am open to considering other portable amps in the same price range, and perhaps some that are a bit more expensive if the SQ and bass boosting is considerably better.  Is there anything else I should be considering?
  2. munkyballz
    Just get the Digizoid ZO and pair it with the DBA-02.  Perfect match, imho.  Destined to meet and mate.
  3. jaybz
    I've been looking for info as to how much the ZO was boosting the mids and it turns out that according to the RMAA graphs I've seen so far, it isn't really pronounced and it appears to be quite impressive. That said i doubt that the ZO would be my best choice. The ZO is more expensive than the E11 (currently), which already appears to be overkill for me, and the ZO does not have an external volume control which I have found quite handy.
  4. Brooko Contributor


    Hi - not sure if it was my review of the E11 (and comparison with the E&).  If it was, just want to clarify .....
    The E7 is a really good transparent entry level DAC, and not a bad amp either (a tad underpowered) - it can just be a little cold (very analytical).
    The E11 is a great little amp - also very transparent, seems to have plenty of power, but it's just a little warmer than the E7 - which "for me" - I found more enjoyable.
    I also enjoy detailed, balanced cans (SRH840) - and both the E7 and E11 were great.  Neither made highs grainy.  I prefer the E11 because I've discovered recently that I do like the faintest touch of warmth - the E11 provides that.  However I still use the E7 as my DAC, and love the clean sound it produces.  I'll be pairing it with an E9 in 2 weeks.
    My comment in the review (regarding grainy highs with the E7) was specifically referring to my AD700's which can be a little grainy at times with certain tracks.  I've never found this with the Shures.  I kind of doubt that it would cause your DBA-02 to become grainy, as they seem to be quite well balanced.  I'll be able to tell you eventually when I get my Brainwavz B2 - supposed to be sonically close to the DBAs.
    Anyway - my setup is/will be E11 (portable) and E7+E9 +desktop).  That way I use both according to their individual strengths.
  5. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    You sure you really need to amp? I'm kinda satisfied by my S9's output stage driving IEMs. Heck, I even liked it driving my HD600, but that was the time my vintage CDPlayer was screwing up.
  6. caracara08
    i have a j3 and jh16s.  i just got a ibasso t3 used for 90$ to try out to see i ftheres a difference.  i was pretty surprised.  more bass, detail.  i had to turn off my added bass in my EQ and redo it completely but it sounds better than it used to.  that fiio e11 was an option too, but since my jh16s are sensitive there probably would have been some hiss.  also the size of the T3 is truly amazing. i had no idea it was so small.  its literally like a skinny, light weight zippo lighter.  
  7. ziocomposite
    I think the cmoybb 2.03 is pretty good.  Plus it is in an altoids can ;P.  I love the bass boost function it has as well.  
  8. jaybz

    Hi, thanks for the input. Yeah I think it was your review.  Good to know that the E7's grainy highs aren't that bad.  That certainly puts my mind at ease.  I have been looking for a DAC as well but I didn't really need one as much as I need an amp.  The E7 hits two birds with one stone.  I don't really need the E11's power, at least not yet, and while I probably won't mind the slight warmth it adds, I still prefer the E7, at least until I can compare them myself.
    Well as far as my DBA-02's are concerned, I don't really need an amp with the J3.  The J3 drives it just fine and there's practically no difference with the amp and without *if* I have bass boost off.  I've tried using M3B to kick up the bass a bit but I didn't like the results, I felt that it muddied up the bass too much if you get past 3.  The EQ works slightly better, and is sufficient for some songs that I listen to.  I turn off the E5's bass boost for those songs, but for the rest, I have it on.
    Apparently, I do *need* the amp for my PL20s though.  Even without the bass boost, the bass sounds a bit better with the E5 than without.  My guess is that the bass rolloff is more pronounced with the PL20s.
    Whoa, JH16s?  Aren't those the 8-driver IEMs? [​IMG] Anyway, I found that using the EQ to compensate for bass rolloff on my PL20s "overwhelms" (for lack of a better word) the highs, though I'm not sure if the results are the same for your JH16s.  And I expect the muddy effect of Mach3Bass will probably be even more noticeable on the JH16 compared to the DBA-02.  The iBasso T3/T3D, however,

    I knew about the cmoy but I wasn't aware that cmoybb existed.  Let me go read up on the thing.  Just curious, what customizations have you done on your cmoybb?
  9. ziocomposite
    Here is the site I purchased from 
    I don't have anything out of the ordinary on my cmoybb except the gain which is +3 only.  It has been customized to enable battery recharging (usually not included), separate A/C adapter, & 2 rechargeable batteries.
    I've used it with my Zune HD & Cowon S9.
    Headsets/IEM's used:
    ATH m50 
    ATH AD700 
    Fischer Audio FA-011
    Klipsch Image S4
    The best part about it when I use it with my IEM's is that annoying hiss can be reduced.  If I were to use my Zune, the Hiss is present at about Vol 20. (Max 30)  And usually I don't need it that high anyways =P.  But with the cmoy, I can put the Zune volume @ 15-19 and adjust the volume with the cmoybb.  Sure it will still produce hiss if I turn it up more than 3/4 but that is just way too loud anyways.  Now when it comes to music, I'm not into all that technical jargon but I can tell it sounds good to my ears.  Better than w/out it.  My sister loves music/sings/plays the guitar and she has a better sense of when the amp is used.  The way she described it to me is w/o the amp, the music is "loose".  With the amp, it sounds "firm" which she liked a lot.
    I'm actually on the edge if I want to sell my cmoybb.  Why?  Well, I bought a leckerton UHA-4 since I found myself actually stationed on a pc more than I thought I would be.  Now if my pc didn't emit an ugly signal noise, I'd have been happy with my cmoybb amplifying it from the pc.  (I've tried other macs/pc's and yeah it's my damn computer lol)  The thing is the cmoybb still performs wonderfully.  Depending on the music, I can add that bass I want when I want a little more umph.  It will not shake your skull but it is a nice quality bass boost.  Like I said, it's difficult for me to tell the difference with the 2 amps when it comes to sound quality which is so subjective.  Price wise cmoybb $60basic (mine $90because of extras lol) leckerton-uha4 $199.  It all comes down to how you will be using it.  I used the cmoybb & Zune HD combo on the move for a whole month and had no problem.  IEM's & low ohm headphones (160 & below)  I would stick with the cmoy bb.  
    Take this with a grain of salt, my ears are still virgin to any "HI-FI" equipment and actually am glad they are.  Ignorance is bliss and I wouldn't have it any other way.  The cmoybb is more than enough to satisfy my needs and ENJOY my music =).  Which is why I don't want to sell it, but I won't be using it as much & would be a waste =(.  I'd rather have someone enjoying it as much as I did and still do.
  10. kmhaynes
    Another option is the SoundMagic A10, which is reviewed to have a slightly warmer, more musical sound, which might be nice for the DBA-02 -- waiting for it to come to me, and hoping the same for my dry HF5.
  11. jaybz

    Ohh, the battery recharging feature is exactly what I'd want to get added.  Did you request those modifications upon ordering, or did you do the mods yourself afterwards?
  12. jaybz

    I have been looking into the A10 as well.  I really like the result of my current set up aside from the fact that bass is a bit lacking so *slightly warmer* might not be what I'd want.  It really depends on how much warmer it actually is.  I might end up liking the result, but until I am able to listen to the effect, I am going to go with more neutral amps.
    I'm about to order the FIIO E7 since I do need the DAC as well and I will be using it initially for my portable audio setup, however, I'm starting to like the cmoybb much better and I might end up getting one as well sometime down the road.
  13. ziocomposite

    If and when you purchase the cmoybb.  There are other accessories/options available in the store (Check the left side).  If you buy the recharging feature they will install it prior to shipping.  Also, let them know ahead of time if you will be using it with a LOD or not plus the main use of the amp (IEM/Headphone/ohm(s).  Feel free to ask them any questions before you purchase.  Very helpful and good guys there from my experience =D

  14. jaybz

    Awesome.  Thanks for the info.  I will most likely buy one at some point just because the E7 is rather bulky.
  15. willmax
    I was in the market for a portable amp myself not long ago, after being very disappointed with an iBasso T3 I bought for $119 and ended up sending back to the manufacturer.I started considering the FIIO E7 but it had some poor reviews here on head-fi. To not be disappointed again I reckoned my safest bet was to buy a Cmoy amp, I pondered between the above mentioned CmoyBB from JDS Labs as well as the BSG Cmoy from Bioscience, I bought the later and I love it!
    The BSG Cmoy is a bit cheaper ($50)  than JDS Labs one, the finish of the tin seemed very professional, both have the same Opamp, BSG's Cmoy has a gain switch as opposed to a bass switch (which I read somewhere on Head-Fi that the bass switch somehow clipped the high frequencies).
    I think you cannot go wrong either way you decide to go BSG or JDS.
    Here is the link to the one I bought:
    I'd recommend having a read in BSG's ad as it thoroughly explains what to expect from his cmoys amp, also if you have any questions just ask the guy he is very helpful and always answers promptly.
    PS: I use mine with a MS1 headphone and Xears iems, the so 

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