Top Mall-Fi poster. The T in META42. Formerly with Tangentsoft Parts Store
Sep 27, 2001
Let me split your question into two that I think you're asking. First, what are the benefits of a META42 vs. a sub-$200 commercial headphone amp? (I'm including the Creek OBH-11 and the top-end Airhead, for what it's worth, which are $199, so technically....)
...can run on many different power schemes so it can go from very portable to _trans_portable (lots of batteries for high-powered components; big) to wall-powered, or any combination of all three.
...has a tweakable sound. Change the op-amp, the output buffer setup, the gain level, and all the passive components to make it sound the way you want it to.
...has lower overhead involved, so it should give you better sound for less money. (See below for caveats.) There is no staff to pay, no rent to a warehouse, 800 number toll bills, distributor markups, etc.
...is understandable by mere mortals so you can build it yourself
...can be made to look the way you want it to. Use any case you like, pick a power LED that matches, use knobs, jacks and switches that give the look and feel you want.
Bottom line, a commercial amp is what it is; they're fairly hard to tweak, and you often don't want to anyway because that voids your warranty. Which brings us to the advantages of a commercial amp:
- Commercial amps have return privileges, and often have a way to audition the components in your system. META42 builders don't build overhead into their prices to allow for this kind of thing. Even if they did, each META42 that someone makes is unique, tailored to the buyer's specs, so the builder can't easily re-sell it. Who wants to buy a META42 at full price that isn't tailored? So, if returns were allowed, the META42 builder would have to re-sell it at a loss, and raise the prices of new amps to compensate.
- Commercial amps are usually distributed through a network so that you can go and see and listen to one of these amps before buying.
- Commercial amps are arguably better looking. To be sure, there are good-looking META42s, but you don't get labelling and other nice touches that you get on a commercial amp.
- A commercial amp can be bought and installed in a day. If you make a META42 for yourself, it takes a fair amount of time to build it. If you get someone to build one for you, you have to wait for them to build it.
- The META42 has a tweakable sound, but that doesn't mean that you can make it sound like any other arbitrary amp. If another amp has a sound you prefer, it may be that you have no choice but to get it instead of the META42.
Now for your second question: how does the META42 compare to a CMoy? Think of the META42 as an uber-CMoy. The only advantages of the CMoy are size and price -- they're cheaper and smaller, due to a lower component count. The META42 sounds a lot better, and it's still reasonably small and inexpensive, as headphone amps go.
For the official word, go to my META42 pages. The first page is probably most helpful, as it will give you a better sense of what the META42 design is all about.