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"Transportable" Amp/DACs

Discussion in 'Portable Headphone Amps' started by ShredderCO, Sep 21, 2018.
  1. ShredderCO
    Hey, I am looking for a transportable (as opposed to fully portable) amp/dac in the $750-1000 new or used range. I prefer a rich lush sound.

    I currently use a Dragonfly Red to power Audioquest Nightowls and Senn HD700s. It drives the NOs just fine, but I think the Senns could use a bit more power. I am also looking for enhanced performance and may at some point get a pair of planars that will also require additional power.

    At Can Jam/RMAF the weekend after next, I hope to hear the Woo WA8 and 11, which on paper look like good options. The ALO CDM also seems to fit the bill (although they will not be attending). I have ruled out the Hugo and Flow because they have a leaner signature that what I want.

    I was wondering if there are any other boxes I should consider? Regardless of whether they will be at CJ.

    Thanks for the help.
  2. tracyca
    ALO Audio CDM is unbelievable it sounds as great as it looks. It is truly a Treat! Tube rolling is also a fun plus.
  3. ShredderCO
    It does look cool. Enough juice for a planar? Perhaps Audeze LCd-2? Thanks.
  4. ShredderCO
    Wondering whether the Ifi iddd micro black label fits on this list? Anyone know enter it is in the same league as the Woo or ALO. Looks interesting and great price.
  5. kukkurovaca
    I don't have the black label, but specs-wise it's probably your best if you're worried about power for hard-to-drive planars.

    I do have an ALO CDM, and I love it, but it is not a particularly powerful amp, so depending on the requirements of the planars you're looking at, you might want to rule that out. Also the CDM runs very hot (not as badly if you use the Sonotone tubes) and the DAC has a very smooth tuning that some people don't like.

    Also, there are some additional transportable options if you include amp-only units rather than amp/dac combos. Phatlab Phantasy is more powerful and more tube-y than the CDM and with a blacker background, but very microphonic and high output impedance.

    There's also Analog Squared Paper tube amps, which are gorgeous semi-custom, and Mass-Kobo.
  6. ShredderCO
    Thanks. I am intrigued by the ALO, I am a tube fan. What headphones do you like with it?
    Thanks. I am intrigued by the ALO, I am a tube fan. What headphones do you like with it?

    That Analog squared stuff looks awesome, but I do want an amp/dac.
  7. kukkurovaca
    My headphone collection isn't extensive. HD800+CDM is great via the balanced connection. CDM is great with IEMs, with the caveat that it hisses with some that are prone to that. My CDM mostly gets used with Audeze iSines.

    The CDM is underpowered for Fostex RP driver planar headphones. More sensitive planars might be fine, especially via balanced connection.
  8. ShredderCO
    Any more ideas? Anyone hear both wa8 and Ifi? Thanks.
  9. ShredderCO
    Well, on Saturday, i will hear the Ifi, and the two Woos. I will let everyone know what i think.
  10. Koolpep
    I have the ifi micro disc (not the black version which is better) and have had the WA8 for review. The WA8 with its tunes and overall tuning has some lovely lush and liquid character to it with warm, full sound that still has a lot of details. But the idsd micro is no slouch either. It’s the Swiss Army knife of dac/amps. What this thing can do is insane, so configurable and versatile. And a lot of power on tap too. It’s also more portable. I love them both, but the WA8 gets my vote for musical enjoyment but you can live happily with the idsd too and enjoy the added feature set.

  11. ShredderCO
    Very helpful, thanks.
  12. ShredderCO
    So, I spent about three hors at RMAF Can Jam yesterday. Had a great time.

    I spent a fair amount of time listening to the new Woo WA 11 mostly with the new Focal Elegia closed back headphone. I also listened to several cans with the Ifi idsd micro bl, the Ifi people were kind enough to let me borrow one to listen with whatever cans I wanted. I was immediately impressed by the Woo. It's ss and I would not call the sound tubey. However, like a good tube amp, it had a full rich sound and holographic imaging. Also, super quiet (unlike earlier demos I have read about) with great detail and clarity. Sounded great withe Focals. If price was not an issue, i would have put in an order. Side by side, the Woo sounded better than the Ifi to my ears although not by that much. Overall signature was quite similar, i was favorably surprised by the tonal richness of the Ifi. Not quite as detailed and lacking a bit of the Woo's clarity and separation. If the Woo had killed the Ifi, i would have found the extra cash. They were so close, however, that I decided to save a few dollars and ordered the Ifi. The differences in sq were obvious in the side by side, but they were close enough that I didn't think i would regret the decision to go with the less expensive box.

  13. ShredderCO
    I was looking for a pair of closed back headphones as well. So, i listened to all of the obvious contenders-LCD2, LCD XC, Elegia (brand new as of Friday), Aeon, Beyerdynamic TP5, Audio Technica, Campfire, etc. I also listened to quite a few open backs to help decide if i was giving up too much by going closed-LCD2c, Focal Elear and Clear (I had read that they did not leak much and they leaked less than many, but still leaked quite a bit), new Meze planar, Hifi Man, etc.

    I ended up going with the new Elegia which i purchased from Moon Audio with a show discount. Just a great sounding headphone. Excellent detail, tone, punch, and musicality. I liked it better than the Elear which I found a touch bright and aggressive. I preferred the Clear, which is just a stunning headphone. However, the Elegia was close enough and I wanted closed back. I could have easily lived with the LCD2 closed, very listenable and engaging, but ultimately lacked the punch and transparency of the Focal. I found the Aeon to be too laid back, the Beyer too bassy, the At bright, and the Meze too pricey.

    I have been an audiophile for decades but am new to cans. So, i also spent a lot of time with speaker systems. Vinnie Rossi' new amps with Spatial and also with Harbeth were my favorite rooms. FWIW.
  14. ShredderCO
    One last thing. As you would expect, the headphone companies were demonstrating their cans with very high end desk top amp/dacs. i wasn't in the market for a deskyop so i did not keep track of all the models (I do recall Benchmark, Sony, Schiit). I thought the Ifi and Woo fared very well in comparison and better a number of the desktops.

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