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Alex Cavalli is to headphone amps what John Curl is to phono stages: not only the best-known designer of that type of product, but also the only one most audiophiles can readily name. Monoprice is to electronics companies what Amazon is to retailers: an often-resented competitor that consistently undercuts their price margins. When you combine the two, you get the Monoprice Monolith Liquid Platinum headphone amp by Alex Cavalli ($769.99 USD).

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Reviewers' ChoiceAs we watch an increasing number of companies throwing lots of money and metal into the design and manufacturing of headphone amps, it’s a good idea to consider what we really need in a headphone amp. What we don’t need is a powerful output stage or a big power supply, because headphones typically require only a few milliwatts of power -- roughly one-thousandth as much power as most speakers need. Nor do we need a heavy, elaborately machined metal chassis, because headphone amps needn’t be bulky. What we usually need is just a user-friendly design, a couple of inputs, and enough power to drive most headphones. The Schiit Fulla 2 desktop DAC-headphone amp ($99 USD) seems to be built with these goals -- and only these goals -- in mind.

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Reviewers' ChoiceSince the rise in popularity of high-quality headphones, driven at least in part by the ubiquity of smartphone use, we’ve seen many products aimed at enhancing the listening experience of those on the go. iFi Audio’s xCAN can be described as a high-quality headphone amp designed to inconspicuously mate with your smartphone and fit in your pocket or purse. What distinguishes the xCAN from other similar products is its lack of a USB input for its internal DAC, which can be accessed only via Bluetooth. So who is the target demographic? First, the budget-conscious might be interested -- the xCAN costs only $299 USD, vs. iFi’s xDSD at $399. Second, perhaps, are users uninterested in fussing with USB connections but who want to enhance their smartphone listening experience by using what are still the two most common audio outputs: Bluetooth and the 3.5mm headphone jack.

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Reviewers' ChoiceWith so many audio formats out there, audiophiles may be reluctant to invest in a new DAC-headphone amplifier. What if some download service starts releasing 16x DSD files or 64-bit PCM files? What if a company conjures up a new technology that promises to . . . I dunno, automatically search the Internet to find out who the mastering engineer was on a recording, then tune the sound to compensate for the phase shift of his mastering compressor? If we buy a new DAC-headphone amp today, and someone comes out with some “must have” technology tomorrow, we face the shame of having a hopelessly out-of-fashion component in the gear list in our online audio forum profiles. The iFi Audio xDSD ($399 USD) seems built specifically to qualm such fears.

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Originally published on SoundStage! Xperience

“Schiit happens.” It’s not the sort of language usually found in an owner’s manual for a headphone amplifier like Schiit Audio’s Jotunheim ($399 USD). No, an owner’s manual is usually full of bland marketing copy, loosened rules of grammar, regulatory warnings, and stultifying technical detail. I almost never use them, and unless you’re a novice audiophile, neither should you. The folks at Schiit seem to agree. In the preface to their safety instructions, they state: “The following is required by the roughly 9,542 government agencies and regulations we have to comply with. If you have some common sense, they should seem pretty straightforward.” Who are these guys? I did some digging.

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Originally published on SoundStage! Xperience

Compact, portable DACs that plug into a laptop’s USB port, extract up to 24-bit/96kHz digital audio using the jitter-eliminating asynchronous protocol, and provide amplified output for headphones and line-level output for preamps, are common enough these days. But in 2012, when AudioQuest introduced its first DragonFly DAC, the concept turned heads. The most attention-grabbing element was no doubt that the DragonFly was the size and shape of a USB memory stick. That such tiny hardware could make possible the playback of high-resolution audio through headphones -- not to mention a high-end audio system -- seemed nothing short of amazing.

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Latest Comments

Brent Butterworth 1 days ago Schiit Audio Fulla 2 DAC-Headphone Amp
@headphoneryanOnly at shows. Yes, I expect to be reviewing another soon, probably from their next ...
headphoneryan 3 days ago Schiit Audio Fulla 2 DAC-Headphone Amp
Have you tried any other Shiit amps? Up coming reviews?
@Brent ButterworthThanks, I guess that in the future I will find myself experimenting with this amp ...
Brent Butterworth 10 days ago Schiit Audio Fulla 2 DAC-Headphone Amp
@Mauro Hi, Mauro. Sorry, but the best answer I can give is "maybe." The HP50s are ...
Hi Brent, very interesting review on a very well priced product! I have no experience ...
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