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Are there any good portable amps?


ron mexico
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Wow, a few minutes at this site is like a slap in the face after spending a lot of time at head-fi.

Apparently I own the ultimate "hella shitty" amp, the PA2V2. I always thought of this as a temporary solution, necessitated by my purchase of an ALO dock connector (also apparently crap), and for $60, why not? It seems that there is some consensus here that portable amps are kind of silly, and do nothing to improve SQ, esp. if your source is a DAP.

As my source will be either a laptop or iPod (maybe iMod?) for the foreseeable future, and I need my gear to be portable (out-of-the-reach-of-children portable, room to room and home to office portable, not walking around portable), is there any product worth looking at as an upgrade to the PA2V2. The Headroom MicroAmp is pretty attractive. Or should I just save my money and wait until my children can be safely left alone with expensive electronics.

P.S. Right now my 'phones are the SR60s, but I will be upgrading soon (to what, I don't know yet, but I will have a budget of around $250-$300, so HD600 or 650s or maybe K701s are on my radar).

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Thanks jpak.

I use my iPod about 75% of the time (the other 25% I use a laptop). I think I hear a difference between the SR60s amped and unamped (I certainly can get more volume out of the amp), but I admit that it could be a placebo effect. My question concerns my future 'phones (see end of post), as well as the SR60s

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Personally I would look for an appropriate amp after you get a better pair of headphones. It seems a lot of people are buying amps and looking for headphones that would mate well with the amp, when it should be the other way around since headphones make the biggest difference in sound.

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Personally I would look for an appropriate amp after you get a better pair of headphones. It seems a lot of people are buying amps and looking for headphones that would mate well with the amp, when it should be the other way around since headphones make the biggest difference in sound.

That seems like great advice. I am simply thinking ahead (in case 1st quarter business is good and I have some extra cash :D)

But I am still looking for an answer to my original question. Some of the posts I read today make me question the value of any portable amp. Am I over-reading the negative comments about portable amps (and portable audio in general)?

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In my personal experience, the Grado SR-60 does not need an amp. Actually, I don't think you really need an amp with an iPod at all and I've been quite happy with the iPod headphone out with my etymotic er4p's ever since I decided to completely downgrade to a portable setup. If I were you, I'd completely skip out on thinking about getting a portable amp.

EDIT: Well you beat me to the post, so I guess I'll try to answer you question. I guess it depends on what portable amp you're looking for, but think about diminishing returns. In my experience (and to my ears), there doesn't seem to be too much difference between headphone amps as you spend more and more on them, and I feel much of what people hear is basically placebo. Are you willing to dish out $350 bucks for a portable amp that really doesn't make that much of a difference? I guess that's up to you to decide, but I'd skip out on a portable amp period. Like I said, I use the headphone out of my iPod and it sound just fine to me. I think spending a shit ton of money on a portable amp and dock lineout for the iPod is pretty silly.

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if you really want to go portable consider getting one of those IEMs from shure, westone, or ultimate ears. its stupid to get a k701 or hd 650 when you are going to use them with your laptop or your ipod.

great source/amp solutions for your laptop would probably be headroom total bithead, the meier porta corda mk3 with usb, or echo indigo.

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That seems like great advice. I am simply thinking ahead (in case 1st quarter business is good and I have some extra cash :D)

But I am still looking for an answer to my original question. Some of the posts I read today make me question the value of any portable amp. Am I over-reading the negative comments about portable amps (and portable audio in general)?

I don't know that you're over analyzing, but I do think that that performance of portable amps is overstated/exaggerated a fair bit. Even though I own a portable amp (a Mister X PINT), I do feel that if the situation allows then unless the majority of your time is "on the go" and you feel that that is a desirable scenario, then a stationary solution is better. That being said, the only scenario that I'd see mucking that up is if you can only spend 1001-150 max, which IMO the only viable solutions are portable, unless you can somehow score a dynalo or something of that sort.

But yes I don't really place much value into the whole X portable amp can compare with home amps, especially ones that are priced a fair bit higher. However, overall I do feel that certain portable amps/designs are ones worthy of looking at. But no I don't see a point in investing that much serious coin in a portable rig/

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It's not necessarily that portable amps don't make a difference, it's more a question of whether said difference is worth the large amount of money some portable amps cost. I think if your portable rig is going to be your main rig then sure an amp makes sense but as others have said get better headphones first and then get an amp.

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Well, I gotta say that the Headroom Micro amp with desktop modules is a pretty damn good portable...the downsides are low battery life and size, but if you're looking for a transportable amp then a power supply might do the trick.

but yeah the portable amp market is a bit silly at times.

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This is the amp Mister X builds, correct? Are there any other builders out there who sell assembled M3 amps? I am definitely not a DIY guy.

The mini cubed isn't in production right now since the boards are not available. The M3 is not a portable amp by any means. It needs a much beefier power supply than any portable would need. MisterX and SFT seem to be the only guys making the M3 right now.

Check here, scroll to the bottom: http://www.amb.org/audio/mmm/

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The mini cubed isn't in production right now since the boards are not available. The M3 is not a portable amp by any means. It needs a much beefier power supply than any portable would need. MisterX and SFT seem to be the only guys making the M3 right now.

Check here, scroll to the bottom: http://www.amb.org/audio/mmm/

The amp trhat he is talking about isn't the M3 desktop amp, it is the mini cubed amp discussed here on Headwize:

http://headwize.com/ubb/showpage.php?fnum=3&tid=6096&fpage=1

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The amp trhat he is talking about isn't the M3 desktop amp, it is the mini cubed amp discussed here on Headwize:

http://headwize.com/ubb/showpage.php?fnum=3&tid=6096&fpage=1

Right, and for the record this amp doesn't exist really. It should be thought of as an incomplete design exercise at best. Ti has talked recently about revisiting the Mini? at some point in the future but as far as I know there are no definite plans for when he'll do this. Also, Tangent is working on a replacement for the PINT but again there is no timetable for its release so for now the DIY portable selection is pretty damn limited.
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  • 2 weeks later...

interesting question and more interesting replies.

being that most seem to think a portable amp is a waste of money.

that would lead me to believe that most don't use a portable amp...

... so , I guess the natural question would be . then what headphones , earbuds and IEM's are the best , used with no amp out of an ipod or similar portable mp3 player?

thx O0

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interesting question and more interesting replies.

being that most seem to think a portable amp is a waste of money.

that would lead me to believe that most don't use a portable amp...

... so , I guess the natural question would be . then what headphones , ear buds and IEM's are the best , used with no amp out of an ipod or similar portable mp3 player?

thx O0

When I do go portable its with the ipod>Turbo dock 2 > cardas hpi > tomahawk > Sensaphonics. if I am staying away from home then i usually bring this set up cause i want the best sound I can get portable, and yes my ears know they dont have mR. G08 but it will tie me over for a few days. also I like the battery life of the toma and the synergy between the amp and my sensa's. I of course go ipod cause of the vast amount of songs on it. I usually bring some Koss clip on phones as backs up just in case my Toma or Sensa's go down..I am not running my $750.00 iem's out of a ipod headphone jack that has been rumored to screw up ear buds. I will go ipod headphone out with my koss cans cause at the $10. i picked them up for it wont bother me if they broke, and by that time i would be more pissed about something going wrong with my sensa's or toma.

in my jacuzzi last year i only used my ipod and koss cans mostly cause I didn't want to drop anything in the water and mess up something that costs big bucks. Ipod usually was in a zip lock bag and that would give me enough time to take it out of the water if she fell in.

I would be plenty happy going just ipod and koss clips portable all the time really, but the Sensa's sound and look so bad ass that you must for a long trip (amazing fucking headphones on a plane!).

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