Music enthusiast review of the RW Audio Amp1 - Excellent starter amp for CANAM head-fi'ers
Sep 7, 2009 at 1:53 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 6

dweaver

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Dec 23, 2008
Posts
8,338
Likes
2,008
OK before I get started on this review I should state this is my first headphone amp other than what is built in the various sound cards and portable MP3 players I use and one Fiio E5. This is because I have until recently not been interested in spending money on a separate AMP as I felt it was too expensive and “unnecessary”.

I started to change my mind when I attended a headphone meet a while back. While attending the meet almost all the other people there had an amp of some kind for their headphones. In my listening to various phones I was impressed on how most sounded on an amp as compared to my un-amped sources. Enough so that I ended up trying my own headphones (most of which were/are supposed to not need or really benefit from an amp. The difference was quite amazing really. In particular one head-fi enthusiast had his own home built amps and clearly was very knowledgeable about amplification in general. As we talked I found out that this individual was actually manufacturing his amp and not just making it for personal use. So I wheedled out of him that he was just getting ready to start selling his amp. So I made him promise to contact me as soon as he was ready.

So here is my music enthusiast review of the RW Audio Amp1. I will be comparing this amp against my Ipod Touch 2G and my Auzentech Forte 7.1 with headphone amp. The review will discuss how my various headphones sound using each source, plus I will also discuss an op-amp upgrade available from RW Audio Amp1.

AD700 – These headphones have a large soundstage and are considered bass light by most users. The midrange is distant but not veiled. The treble is clean and powerfull.
  1. Ipod Touch 2G – The sound of the AD700 from the Ipod directly is clean and pleasant. The highs are very clear and present and the midrange is distant but again very clear with no veil. The bass is fairly deep but a bit muddy and only a bit of presence. There is an overall sense of blending effect.
  2. Auzentech Forte 7.1 – There is a small amount of improvement in the treble, midrange, and bass over the Ipod Touch. Everything is slightly more emphasized and due to the warmth of the default Op-Amp setup in the Forte the AD700 sounds a little richer in the bass and lower midrange department. Instrument separation is slightly better than the Ipod Touch as well. The soundstage is pretty much the same.
  3. Ipod Touch plus RW Audio Amp1 – Every aspect of the headphones are improved except for the soundstage which stays about the same. Treble and instruments like cymbals became much crisper and nuances in guitars higher range became more pronounced. Bass became even tighter and accurate with a definite increase in presence.
  4. Auzentech Forte 7.1 plus RW Audio Amp1 – The combination of the Op-Amp built-in to the Forte and its own headphone combined with the Amp1 created an interesting combination. For most music this combination worked favorably with the AD700 but some genre’s definitely became to analytical, this was most notable in 70’s rock.
  5. Auzentech Forte 7.1/Ipod Touch plus RW Audio Amp1 with op-amp upgrade – The sound of the Amp1 is changed dramatically with the op-amp upgrade. It goes from being an analytical amp to a richer amp that is more fun to listen to. The effect with the AD700 is almost a perfect combination making the AD700 have more bass and better midrange without affecting the treble. I have been thinking of upgrading away from my AD700 but this opamp/amp combination adds to the overall sound quality of my AD700 I am very happy to listen to them for a while longer.

ES7 – I picked up this headphone for use at work due to its portability but have become enamored with the sound quality and differences of this headphone over my AD700. This phone has slightly less treble in comparison to the AD700 with a bit more metallic sound. The midrange is much closer and in your face (think 2nd or 3rd row at a concert versus 12-15 row). The bass of the ES7 is much more present than the AD700 with a small tendency to be over powering. The soundstage is not that bad for a closed headphone but obviously smaller than the AD700. These are a very nice sounding 70’s rock headphone.
  1. Ipod Touch 2G – The sound of the ES7 directly from my Ipod is a bit muddy at the lower end with the bass and mid-bass blending together a bit. The treble is nice but not as clean as my AD700. The midrange is more upfront than the AD700.
  2. Auzentech Forte 7.1 – All aspects of the ES7 are slightly enhanced in comparison to the Ipod Touch with a warmer sound than the Ipod due to the Auzentech‘s op-amps.
  3. Ipod Touch plus RW Audio Amp1 – The sound quality of the ES7 are hugely improved with the Amp1 and my Ipod Touch. Bass stops being muddy while also becoming much more present with no blending of bass and mid-bass. The treble and midrange are also improved and tighter sounding. The overall effect is a more balance headphone.
  4. Auzentech Forte 7.1 plus RW Audio Amp1 – The difference of the ES7 and the AD700 is quite apparent in this combination as the ES7 did not sound to analytical but sounded even nicer than the Ipod/Amp1 combination due to the ES7 stronger bass and midrange than the AD700.
  5. Auzentech Forte 7.1 plus RW Audio Amp1 with Op-amp upgrade – The combination of the warm sounding Auzentech plus warm sounding op-amp upgrade proved to be too much for the warm signature of the ES7 headphones for me. I liked it but found it was tipped to far in the one direction.
  6. Ipod Touch plus RW Audio Amp1 with op-amp upgrade – This combination was very nice as it made for a very rich sound. It made the bass of the ES7 stand out even more while adding to the midrange in a nice positive way without changing the treble.

I have to say this headphone amp has been a great improvement in my music listening and is worth the price I paid considering how it has improved both of my main headphone’s even though they were/are not supposed to benefit from an amp.

I think I will mainly be using the RW Audio Amp1 with its op-amp upgrade as I prefer the comfort of my AD700 phones over the ES7 but will also be able to hook up my Ipod Touch with the Amp1 and use my ES7 to get a significantly different sound in comparison to my AD700 for when I want a change In sound or I want to listen to a specific music genre that benefits from the different combination.

One more thing I would like to point out. The amp enhances the main qualities or lack thereof of your headphones. I have a pair of JVC HA-DX1 headphones that I found to be very bass light (even in comparison to my AD700) and this amp in its default configuration did not change the signature of these phones much (the op-amp did help make the phones warmer though). The same thing happened with my Phillips HP910’s as they became even more bassy and muddy with the amp as it enhanced this “quality” of the headphones. So don’t expect miracles from the amp as it can only work with what it’s given.

For anyone in North America and Canada specifically, RW Audio's Amp1 is an excellent option vs purchasing overseas. The amp is simple and elegant with an eye towards craftsmanship and ear towards the audiophile in all of us. For anyone who is on the fence about an amp, RW Audio has made an excellent starter amp that might be all the average listener will need.

BTW just to be up front. I have no vested interest in RW Audio beyond meeting the owner at a head-fi meet and taking a liking to his amp while there. I am promoting him a bit at the end of this review simply because I like the amp I purchased from him and I want to help get word out to others about his products and services so others can take advantage of them as well.
 
Nov 26, 2009 at 5:46 PM Post #2 of 6

Peteyglad

Head-Fier
Joined
Mar 19, 2007
Posts
90
Likes
10
Nice review. I have one on order with the op-amp upgrade. Looking forard to seeing the mailman that day
k701smile.gif
 
Nov 26, 2009 at 6:58 PM Post #3 of 6

dweaver

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Dec 23, 2008
Posts
8,338
Likes
2,008
Kewl, I'm looking forward to hearing your comments about the amp.
 
Nov 28, 2009 at 10:38 PM Post #4 of 6

Peteyglad

Head-Fier
Joined
Mar 19, 2007
Posts
90
Likes
10
Quote:

Originally Posted by dweaver /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Kewl, I'm looking forward to hearing your comments about the amp.


Will do, but don't have much to compare it to. Just a RW Audio Amp0, RW Audio Amp.5 and a C&C Box v2 portable amp. If it rivals the Amp0 I will be mightily impressed!
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top