The Burson Soloist looks and feels like a scaled down high-end stereo power amplifier, but the Soloist is a headphone amp. The chassis is constructed from thick slabs of machined aluminum that dissipate the heat from the amp's Class-A electronics. The amp would appeal to Ferrari and Leica camera owners who appreciate no-holds-barred industrial design. The Soloist is the real deal.… Read more
It was just a few weeks ago when my buddy Tyll Hertsens was raving about Colin Shaw's Sicphones amplifier Kickstarter project. Hertsens never steers me wrong, so I contacted Shaw, and a few days later I received the amp. Hertsens was right. This design uses a newly available SemiSouth silicon carbide transistor, and the amp sounds amazing. If Shaw makes his Kickstarter goal he'll be able to sell amp kits for as little as $229, and assembled amps for $279! DIY-ers can spring for just $35 and get the Sicphones amplifier PC board, assembly instructions, and parts source … Read more
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Some "portable" headphone amplifiers aren't all that small, but the Firestone Audio Fireye Mini is downright tiny.
It's just 1.5 inches by 1 inch by 0.5 inch, and the soft-rubber-shelled amp weighs almost nothing, so you can hang it off your iPod, iPad, iPhone or any device with a 3.5mm headphone output. Plugging in a headphone turns the Mini on and lights a bright blue LED, unplugging turns the amp off. Charge the Mini via the USB connection and it'll play for up to 24 hours. It's available in green, gray, purple, red, and white.
I have fond memories of the original Aragon 4004 power amplifier from my days when I worked as a high-end audio salesman. That was in the late 1980s and the big 200 watt amp sold for a lot less money than the reigning high-end amps of the period. The distinctive styling, with a "V" cutout in the 4004's chassis, made it stand out from rows of lookalike designs at the store. While the Aragon amps sold for a couple of thousand dollars, they were more affordable than most high-end amps. A few years after the 4004 arrived … Read more
It's impossible to keep up with all of the new headphones crowding the market, but great-sounding headphones are still pretty rare. The Noontec Zoro is the rarest of the rare, an audiophile-oriented design that's affordably priced.
The headband and earcups' high gloss finish conform to the fashion of our times, and the headphone's build quality is good for the money. The hinged steel headband allows the headphone to fold up and fit inside the included soft carry case, and the user-replaceable headphone cable is tangle-free and plugs into the left earcup. Both ends of the 48-inch long, … Read more
Blackie Pagano's skills as a repair technician and designer of one-of-a-kind electronics and speakers have ensured a steady stream of happy customers. He started in New York City, relocated to LA and lived there for seven years, but now he's back in NYC. He's played guitar and bass since he was 11, been a roadie, then a live sound engineer, a recording engineer, and a studio tech; through it all, he's been just a guy who loves building stunning works of not just art, but art that also sounds great.
Pagano mostly makes his living repairing … Read more
I was shaken and stirred by the Bowers & Wilkins P5 on-ear headphones back in 2010. It set a new standard for sumptuous sound and build quality for very small, on-ear headphones. Designed with portable music players and phones in mind, the P5 was definitely a step up from most ear buds, and the sound was easy to listen to over the long haul. The P5 ($300) is still around, but B & W recently introduced a similar, but less expensive model, the P3 ($200).
When I unboxed the new one I decided to first judge it without directly comparing … Read more
Is the music from your iPhone sounding a little lifeless? The Vamp could bring your audio back from the dead with a built-in headphone amplifier and digital-to-analog converter (DAC) that bypasses the iPhone's audio circuitry.
Designed for Apple's iPhone 4 and 4S, the Vamp is also a very solid-looking case that's made from "aircraft-grade metal." Inside, there's a high-quality DAC and two 150mW amps (at 32 omhs) to drive headphones of various sizes. A rechargeable 2,200mAh battery powers the setup for up to 8 hours, which isn't very impressive for a high-end headphone amp.
It also serves as a backup battery for your iPhone, which will undoubtedly leave you with even fewer hours of music. … Read more
I've reviewed my share of portable headphone amplifiers, but ALO's new Rx-MK3B just might be the best on a number of counts. First, the amp is compact, just about the same size as an iPhone, but twice as thick. ALO invested two years of engineering and development time in the Rx-3B, and makes it in the U.S.
The Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo is a portable digital-to-analog converter designed only for use with iPhones, iPads, and iPods, but it won't work with computers (it's not a USB DAC). There are precious few portable DACs that can … Read more