1 Comment

Sound: ********
Value: *********
(Read about our ratings)

Measurements can be found by clicking this link.

Since 2012, when AudioQuest introduced their DragonFly portable USB DAC and, in the process, created a new type of audio product, everyone else has been playing catch-up. Even Monoprice, purveyor of high-value, no-frills audio gear, has gotten in the game. Now another well-regarded cable company, Clarus Cable, is directly challenging AudioQuest’s current flagship DAC, the DragonFly Cobalt. Clarus introduced the Coda in December 2020, and proclaim it as the finest portable USB DAC now available.

1 Comment

Sound: ********
Value: *******
(Read about our ratings)

Measurements can be found by clicking this link.

With headphone amps available in so many configurations these days, it’s refreshing to find one as simple as the Topping A50s ($199.99, all prices USD). Simple amps are an increasingly good idea, because our ways of accessing music have been changing so fast. I remember about six years ago rolling my eyes while sharing a radio show with music industry guru Ted Cohen, who insisted that streaming would be the future of music distribution. Now I can’t remember the last time I listened to anything other than a streaming service. So while I can’t say how we’ll be listening to music in five years, I’m pretty sure that simple amps like the A50s will continue to work with any new source devices and technologies that might come along.

Write a comment

Sound: ********1/2
Value: *********
(Read about our ratings)

Measurements coming soon.

It’s amazing how many choices we have in headphone amps these days. I’ve covered portable amps, portable DAC-amps, component DAC-amps, amps with programmable digital signal processing, and more. The new EarMen TR-Amp ($249, all prices USD) fits into the portable DAC-amp category, with a twist: a rechargeable battery. The advantage of the battery is that the amplifier section isn’t dependent on the limited current available through the USB output of a computer or smartphone; the battery provides about ten hours of power.

Write a comment

Sound: *********1/2
Value: **********
(Read about our ratings)

Measurements can be found by clicking this link.

Reviewers' ChoiceI’m less demanding than Winston Churchill, at least when it comes to headphone amps. Churchill is often quoted as saying, “My tastes are simple: I am easily satisfied with the best” -- but with headphone amps, I don’t even need the “best.” I just want one that’s powerful enough to drive the notoriously insensitive HiFiMan HE6se headphones, and that has balanced output, because a lot of headphones I get in for review offer a balanced connection. And I want it to be affordably priced, which shouldn’t be too tough considering that even very demanding headphones need only about 1W of power. The new Schiit Magnius ($199 USD) seems like it was made according to my specifications.

3 Comments

Sound: ********1/2
Value: *******
(Read about our ratings)

Measurements can be found by clicking this link.

The new Helm Audio DB12 AAAMP follows the path least taken for top-notch sound on the go. Path #1 is a high-quality portable media player, like an Astell&Kern -- nice, but often pricey and complicated to configure. Path #2 is a portable DAC-headphone amp, such as the iFi Audio Hip-dac -- nice, but sometimes clumsy to carry and fussy about formats and connections. Path #3 is a small, analog-input headphone amp, such as the DB12 AAAMP -- an option many audiophiles insist is not nice, because it relies on the DAC inside the source device. And of course, that source device is typically a phone made by a tech company we assume is too colossal to care about audio.

Write a comment

Sound: ********
Value: *********
(Read about our ratings)

Measurements can be found by clicking this link.

Reviewers' ChoiceFounded in 2012, UK-based iFi Audio has been busy the past few years, releasing a slew of small audio products designed “to improve your music enjoyment.” iFi makes some lifestyle and hi-fi components -- two of them, the Aurora wireless music system and the Pro iDSD DAC, were recently reviewed by Gordon Brockhouse for SoundStage! Simplifi -- but most of what iFi does centers around improving the sound quality of earphones and headphones. A recent result is the diminutive Hip-dac ($149, all prices USD), designed to enhance the sound of a smartphone or other portable digital device by bypassing its internal DAC, headphone amplifier, and output.

Latest Comments

Beyerdynamic has 5 year warranty for the top-of-the-line models, T1 and T5.
Brent Butterworth 7 days ago Topping A50s Headphone Amplifier
@KrysalisI used the balanced output for the HE6se. Yes, the higher output mode should have ...
Krysalis 8 days ago Topping A50s Headphone Amplifier
Hi, was the testing on the HE6se done on the SE or balanced output?
And would ...
Brent Butterworth 12 days ago Beyerdynamic DT 770 Studio Headphones
@RagavIt wasn't to me, but if you look at the measurement, there's a few dB ...
@Brent ButterworthNice! What about the treble in the DT 770 pro? Is it really painful, knifelike, ...
Brent Butterworth 17 days ago Beyerdynamic DT 770 Studio Headphones
@RagavI have 990s ... somewhere ... I think. We tested them for a Sound & ...
Nice review! Totally the opposite of what was written in the wirecutter for these headphones....’painful ...
@Brent ButterworthIt's enough to go to youtube, right-click on a video and select "Stats for nerds". ...
Brent Butterworth 22 days ago The New Standard That Killed the Loudness War
@MauroI'm planning on doing more research into this, doing measurements on actual streams from streaming ...
@Brent ButterworthLooking at this website with recent albums on top doesn’t seem to support the hypothesis ...