Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Vsonic VC02 Review

Vsonic VC02 Review

First Impressions:  Vsonic are certainly putting more effort into presentation.  The box looks rather impressive for not a lot of money and you seem to get a ton of tips.  The tips I must confess I absolutely love.  The “Sony Hybrid” style of tips have been around for a while.  They have a black otter sheath and the core is a colour corresponding to size and length.  Vsonic have swapped that over so you got the bright colour on the outside.  Not only does it make it quicker to tell what’s what but the look fab.  Okay I can see it boing an issue if you love colour X but colour Y are the ones that fit you.

Onto listening, I’ve been waiting to hear these with anticipation as they have had much positive praise and it’s a Vsonic.  Every Vsonic I’ve heard has just smashed it for sound to £ so I’m expecting these to superb for the money.  First thoughts are not that great.  Maybe they want a burn in maybe I’ve just set my expectations too high?  Everyone else seem to just adore them so maybe it’s me?

N.B.  This is actually the second review I’ve written for the VC02.  The only bit that’s the same is what’s above.  I had fit and sinus issues with these.

Source 1G iPod Shuffle with and without a 75 ohm adapter added, FiiO E7/E9 combo and the Fireye DA.

Lows:  For something with such a tiny driver you might think that they may have some trouble low down.  Maybe they won’t sound full or go reach down deep.  You’d be perfectly reasonable in your assumptions but you’d also be wrong.  You see because these fit like a BA’ I mean they are sealed and they need to go in brain implant deep (I’m not joking) there is almost no air for them to move.  The tiny little air pocket in your year means these stay superbly taught for something so very, very cheap.  The bass also has great articulation and nuance.  It lacks the rock solid rigidity of a good BA but you’d never think to complain when you’ve paid this little.  Granted you may be unhappy with the quantity of bass, its sitting at more or less monitor quantities (a bit more) which while accurate isn’t what everyone wants.  The quality though is what I’ve come to expect from Vsonic, the depth is particular here is first rate.  Being soooooo sealed it can reach all the way down.  Combined with its agility, texture and balance between speed and fullness it’s a stellar combo.  Vsonic are really becoming the IEM maker to hope to match when it comes to sound quality per £.

Mids:  Male or female, it really doesn’t matter the VC02 shines.  I might say they actually are fractionally better with richer, so more frequently, male vocals.  These haven’t quite got the outright clarity to do very breathiest, airiest vocals out there but I’m really thinking about things like the RE-0.  These just don’t have the same detail, nor the openness.  Vocally the only slight complaint I might make is the lack of air and space to them.  These are very sealed and that has an acoustic payback.  Not really to say it’s a flaw, it’s an acoustic choice and the price you pay for high isolation.  The detail levels are not quite at good introductory BA IEM’s but still pretty flawless.  You have to keep in mind that these are so cheap because everything I’m comparing them to in my head cost more and even then those that are great in the mids can’t perform as adeptly in the lows.  In BA things as you bump the low end quantity the mid clarity nosedives but here its god spades of both.  It’s a bargain stunner.

Highs:  You know me, I’m a bit treble sensitive and here they slip up a little.  Vsonics often have a little flair in the lower highs to emphasise the edge of a note.  These do that too but they don’t quite have the same flair as its more costly siblings and I find these can be a touch abrasive.  Not ear ravaging monsters but on treble heavy songs these don’t give me a tableau of delicate shimmering light dancing across a moonlight pond.  Think more that pond, but it’s at a fish farm and someone’s just thrown in a scoop of fish food.  When the treble gets splashy and abundant that edge become just too evident for my ears.  The extension I think suffers a bit too.  For the money its fine and the detail that’s here is tremendous.  The problem again is that in my head I’m comparing it to the likes of the RE-0.  Just stay away from the most busy and treble abundant music and this is really impressive in a way I’ve come to expect from Vsonic.

Soundstage:  Not very big.  Being soooooo deep seated these don’t have expansive space, they are rather larger and fuller sounding than you’d think for being so in the brain but open and shallow fitting things pretty much always do this rather better.  Instrument placement is fine, very good for the price.

Fit:  This might be a bit longer than usual.  Remember I said this was the second review I’d written?  This it seems is the reason why.  I have had the VC02 for weeks and taken forever to write it up as I just did not get on with it.  Frankly I just was not hearing what everyone else was.  I tried every tip in the box, several others too and they all gave me the air pressure not equalising problem.  They just wouldn’t equalise.  It left them muffled and the highs particularly abrasive no matter what I did.  I only solved this by discovering that getting some foam tips (I had already done so) and sticking these in deep, very, very deep.  Deep enough that these aren’t super comfortable.  These you see while being very narrow  bodied have a wide tip.  It’s also deep enough that it concerns me that while removing them I could lose a tip in my ear.  Sure as hell not something I’d want to have to pull out my ears in a hurry.

Comfort:  Not painful per say but unpleasantly deep and for that depth the nozzle is too wide.  Given a couple hours and I want them out.  I’m sure you would get used to this as a friend used to use a pair of ER-4’s with the triple flanges daily without issue.  I called them the Ear Rape 4’s with those tips.  Still I’m pretty used to things in my ears and these bothered me.

Cable:  A bit on the thin side, nicely flexible and most unusually at this price detachable.  So should you break it you can get a replacement.  Yey for replaceable cables!

Microphonics:  Wear them down and there is just tons.  You can wear them up even though clearly the design isn’t meant to be.  I couldn’t stand it wearing them down but wearing up mostly fixes the problem.

Accessories:  Tips, tips, tips galore!  You get 7 pairs of the fancy coloured hybrids, 3 pairs of more typical silicon tips and a silicon biflange pair.  You get a shirt clip (you’ll need if you wear them down) and a little baggie.  I’d rather have seen a real case but hey, what’s ebay for?  Also for all the tips they come with I still needed to use comply’s.  Sealed and rubber tips don’t work for me.

Isolation:  For a dynamic its utterly first rate.  It’s up there with BA stuff.  They are sealed and can go in deep.  The sort of thing you’ll be fine with for just about anything.  Even okay for a daily Tube commute or long flight.  Just remember you’ll easily get run over as you will not hear any traffic coming up behind you with these in.

Amped/Unamped:  They made some changes but as next to nothing so I’d hardly bother.  Adding impedance made a nice little difference to the top end however.

Value:  Other than the fact I just found a pair of GR04’s for £24 I’d say these were pretty unbeatable.  At £32 these are every bit as good as I’ve come to expect from Vsonic.

Conclusion:  This review is very different to the one I wrote first.  So while this one is pretty glowing of the sound quality of the VC02 it’s prefaced with a gigantic caveat, you have to shove them in so deep to get them sounding right, at least I did.  I normally don’t have any issue shoving things in deep, I’m pretty used to it in fact.  Still with these it took seeing someone else comment on the need to stick them brain implant deep.  Frankly, the nozzle width is not conducive to that depth, not for my ears anyway.  From what I’ve read it seems to be a rare thing that anyone’s had problems with these but I certainly did.  I often have sinus trouble and so for me sealed dynamics often don’t mesh well with my ears.  So for me I was about to reject these as just not working for me at all.  Turned out they just needed for me to be placed unpleasantly deep.  So deep I don’t think I’ll ever use these again once this review is done.  I’m not happy with it, physically and the fear that the tips will get stuck in my ear. 

Fit aside, these are really impressive.  Acoustically these are just what I’ve come to expect from Vsonic in that they are soooooo cheap and sound jaw dropping good.  Even with the change of acoustic signature here, the move to a more monitor like balance with a tiny tint to the low end yet still outstanding.  Every review I have seen about these has been outstanding and I can see why. Vsonic are like acoustic crack yet dishing it out at a price that beats everyone else.  Granted you don’t get the Dunu like bundles, the little baggy you get is just rubbish but I don’t care at all.  The audio quality here is first rate, beyond first rate for what they cost and I can see the VC02 doing what the GR06 did.  Being so hard to get a hold of the price went up quite a bit.  That’s not how prices are supposed to go. 

Still, that caveat I mentioned.  Now it seems that it’s been rather few people that have any trouble with these but these are dynamics and they are sealed.  If that’s a combo that’s given you issue before then be warned. 

Acoustically these are stunners.  Like most of what Vsonic have done, they sound superb and are priced at a level that batters the competition.  These may not be tuned to be as bassy as some would like but there is the GR line for that.  Sound wise these punch so far about their price that it’s just not funny, not funny at all if you’re trying to compete with them that is.

Vsonic VC02 Quick Review

Vsonic VC02 Quick Review

Brief:  A Vsonic I haven’t loved.

Price:  £32 or about US$50

Specification:  Driver:  3mm High Dynamic CCAW Drive units, Impedance: 16ohm +/- 10%, Sensitivity: ≥100dB (@ 500Hz), Frequency Response: 10Hz- 25kHz, Channel Balance: ≤2dB @ 500Hz, Distortion: ≤2% @ 105dB, Rated Power: 10mW, Maximum Input Power: 30mW, Plug: 3.5mm dual-channel plug, Cable:  1.3 TPU cable, 4X20 Silvercore wire

Accessories:  7 pairs of Hybrid tips, 3 normal silicon tips and 1 biflange pair of silicones.  A shirt clip and a little baggy.

Build Quality:  Buds seem good, cable is a bit thin but since it’s replaceable who cares.

Isolation:  Very good.  For a dynamic it’s about the best there is.  You can sit these deep and its right up there with BA drivered stuff.

Comfort/Fit:  Comfort was fine for me unless I wore down and shallow as they kept moving when the cable pulled.  Fit though was another issue.  I have sinus issues and often sealed dynamics don’t equalise the air pressure in my ears well.  They did not here well at all.

Aesthetics:  Clean and understated.  I like the silvery grey cable and silvery grey buds.  Nothing fancy though.

Sound:  I think that with the fit issues I had meant that I didn’t hear what it seems everyone else does.  These did not work out for me.  They were not only boring and lifeless but the highs I found grating.  They despite overall feeling slightly muffled managed to have an abrasive edge in the lower highs that just killed me.  These I constantly wanted the volume lowered and anything but the softest songs I quickly skipped.  Everyone else seems to love them but I couldn’t.  Otherwise they have a very monitor like balance at a very low price.  The bass it’s very articulate too and the mids are pretty good.  The detail level is pretty high for the cost.  As for the highs, like I said they just grated on my ears.  Extension I didn’t think was great and they didn’t have the shimmer of a dynamic.  Mostly what I got was hard edged.

Value:  Everyone else loves them but for my money I’d take the GR04 in a heartbeat over these.

Pro’s:   Detachable cable, high isolation, monitor like balance.

Con’s:  Too sealed, fit issue for me, abrasiveness in the highs. 

Cowon EH2 Review

Cowon EH2 Review

Thanks to Advanced Headphones www.advancedheadphones.co.uk for the sample (AMP3’s sister site)

First Impressions:  This is the first time I’ve seen an IEM from Cowon.  A company I am familiar with but for their DAP’s.  It has been suggested they are in fact made by T-PEOS and there are many similarities to the H-100 so it’s a fair bet they share a great deal.  Still I’ve never heard of T-PEOS before and Cowon is a very much more established name.  Visually I rather like the tips that they come with, rather reminiscent of the Sony hybrids but the coloured firm bit extends to the tip and makes for a rather prettier looking tip.  It also means you can always tell what size of tip you have on there.  Clearly there has been much attention paid to the build, the cord is a red woven one and the buds and jack are shiny metal.  It’s a rather premium finish I must say.

First listen and I note a hint or air pressure issues.  I’m thinking that’s the sealed but contains a dynamic driver inside.  I can see swiftly a tip swap to some comply’s.  Acoustically they are a real attention grabber, much BA like accuracy but a most unBA like bass response.  There is some seriously potent action going on deep down.  It’s quite unlike anything else I can think of.

Source:  FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio 3rd anv and Hisoundaudio Rocoo BA.

Lows:  The low end of this hybrid IEM feels a bit out of step with the rest.  The lows I think are just being taken care of by the dynamic driver and the rest by the BA.  If it were a speaker this would what you get from the likes of a 2.1 system and that’s just what it reminds me of.  The bass depth is vastly superior to any BA.  In the deepest lows it just seems to roar out of nowhere.  On The Beautiful South’s “Your Father and I” The low end is positively thunderous and has endless quantities to hand if you choose to EQ it up.  It’s almost like a sub that’s a bit mismatched to the rest.  This is likely to be the case always when having a dynamic and a BA at work together as they do things so differently.  The purist in me has a bit of an issue with it much like anyone having a sub turned up too high would likewise irk me.  Its hard to just look at the bass on its own. 

Its quantity is rather boosted, particularly the lower you go and it feels like it dips a bit before it hits the mid range.  I think it’s to stop the two differing drivers crossing stepping on each other feet too much.  The quality though is very nice.  The driver doesn’t have to do anything but the low end and it feels very clean.  It’s very full bodied and controlled.  It’s got plenty of speed and punch too.  It was equally happy doing slow and melodic bass and then being hurled some cheesy bouncy pop.  It’s like a rather good sub at work here.

Mids:  Clearly the mids aren’t at centre stage as the IEM is pretty V shaped and there is a noticeable and I’m sure very deliberate spacing between the lows and mids.  Mids are very BA like, they have a dryness and openness that a dynamic won’t do.  Vocals though doo feel a little compressed and lack liquidity.  They aren’t beautiful and flowing.  Vocally this means they are much better suited to non-vocal centric stuff.  I’m really thinking that pop music is what these are being aimed at.  Detail and clarity not unlike you get with many TWFK things just rather recessed.  Also I not that at times they can get a little shouty in the upper mids.  Not sibilant but Miss Aguilera does reach at and scream at you from time to time which can be tiresome.

Highs:  I really quite like the highs.  They remind me of those you get in the TWFK stuff but without quite the same quantity and savagery.  The detail is very good and there is lots of detail.  The extension isn’t superb but about the same as most other BA stuff is.  Here though it begins to trail away earlier so is much more refined and genteel on the ears.  I like the way it’s less brutal but keeps all the detail you want.  This works particularly well and songs that shall we say aren’t a product of the world’s greatest mastering.  Let’s face it much pop music is the sonic equivalent of a Pot Noodle.  You might enjoy it but let’s not pretend it’s a serious or quality product.  It is about having a good time and so is the treble here.  The decay is pretty nice and linear, cymbals have just enough impact and trail away very well for a BA.  A bit abundant, rather a lot of detail but just walking on the right side.  It takes a quite a bit of finesse to pull it off so nicely.

There is a little bit a peak in the lower highs that make them feel a bit focused and shouty from time to time but sibilance is thankfully absent.  Not something to pair with hard and brittle treble.

Soundstage:  Quite large actually, I think this must be the work of them sitting rather out of the ear.  Sealed things normally feel a bit more in your head.  Placement isn’t what I’d call stellar but the sense of scale these project is quite impressive.  Also don’t expect thee to be the distance and air of more open dynamics at this price range for these are still sealed.

Fit:  Aside from a hint of air pressure issues these were no bother.  That was cured by using Comply’s and it’s not as issue everyone would get anyway as I have crappy sinuses.  Mind you if I was wearing these down and using the hybrid tips I could see it get annoying as they are quite weighty and would move as you do.

Comfort:  Wearing these up as any sensible person should they were absolutely fine.  The buds are a bit heavy and prone to move if worn down though.  As always wear up then if it’s a problem.  Otherwise they sit rather shallow and were perfectly comfortable.

Cable:  Very, very nice.  I’m never sure I love things in hooker red but it’s the first I’ve seen a woven red cable.  I can’t deny it looks good.  Its feels truly premium too.  The jack and Y splitter seem equally fancy being polished metal, some care has clearly gone into this.

Build:  The buds are solid lumps of metal.  They very much appear to be sturdy and quality.

Microphonics:  The usual story.  Wear up practically none, down you do.  Nothing out of the ordinary about it in this regard.

Amped/Unamped:  They didn’t really seem to be all that fussy.  The bass did get more controlled and tuneful when amped but otherwise not a vast amount of difference.  They cared far more about other things.

Isolation:  Really rather good.  For something that has a dynamic and sits shallow I’d have expected less.  These are rather sealed mind and so you get one of the better dynamics in terms of isolation.  Its not up to more typical BA standards but I’d be perfectly happy using this day to day.  Not many dynamics I can say that about.  Perhaps not something to use on a daily Tube commute but you could also do a lot worse.  As always, it’s easily enough to block out that bus coming up behind you so do ensure you look where you’re going or you’ll be putting yourself up for a Darwin award.

Accessories:  You get loads of tips 9 pairs I think (the foamies and gone by the time they got to me) so you really should be able to find a good fit.  Not only that the tips come in with a foam filling and without.  If truth be told I didn’t notice all that much difference but I only tried them for a very short while before settling on Comply’s anyway.  You also get a 6.25mm to 3.5mm jack if you need that.  You also get a little pouch and a brush on a stick.  What that’s for a have no idea.

Value:  These are sitting at £139 and that’s a fair bit for most people to spend on earphones.  I’m pretty comfortable saying you get what you pay for.  The build is rather wonderful.  The finish on the cable is very visually appealing.  The sound too is just as attention grabbing and I cannot imagine anyone buying a pair and not seeing why they cost what they do or thinking they got screwed.  However maybe not one that aimed directly at purists.

Conclusion:  I really couldn’t make up my mind about this think.  It’s very unusual and you would think I’ve heard just about every sort of sound there is out there.  These at first made me think WOW, the bass is prolific and riotous when it wants and the treble can be scintillating.  The mids though, I’m if anything thing a bit of a mid head and while the quality of the mids is there they get rather over eclipsed.  The clarity means they are perfectly clear but I want more and then there is that mid / bass transition.  They don’t mesh.  This is just weird.  You see normally there can be a bit of mid/bass bleed in bass heavy things and a bit of a bloat in the region but here it’s the opposite.  It just made the bass feel like its didn’t entirely belong with the rest of the sound.  it’s not exactly a bad thing, it’s just unusual to hear in an IEM, its more what you can get from a 2.1 speaker set up.  I am sure we have all heard one at some point and the owner has cranked up the sub so that it feels like it doesn’t quit belong.

I feel I’m being a bit of a an old fart.  So sure the EH2 lacks true sonic purity, its sound isn’t perfectly integrated etc etc this isn’t exactly a W4 worrier.  Of course I don’t for one second that what Cowon were aiming for as it’s not what most people would want anyway.  What they have done is take a BA driver for the clarity that they do and knowing BA drivers can’t do “consumer” levels of bass they have stuck in a dynamic that can.  Clearly it’s a hard, very hard thing to do as practically no one does it.  Back in the days of yore there was the famous Super-Fi 5EB that did this and it, well, looked fugly and was widely reputed as being very poorly integrated.  I never heard one but supposedly its bass was wildly out of step with the rest and that was with all the money UE could throw at the problem.

This conclusion could become very long and very inconclusive I think.  The EH2 just isn’t really like much else.  Cool and dry mids, cool clean highs yet big potent bass.  If anything I’d compare it to the old Denon C751 and maybe to an extent the TF10.  So potentially the ideal IEM for listening to fast, electronic styles of music.  Where you want that bass response but no warmth softening things elsewhere.  When Toca’s Miracle 2008 is played the bass is stupendously vigorous and potent. It’s a really rare combination of features as both of those can be had no more.  It’s a most rare sound, most interesting sound, and most impressive sound too.  Just a bucket load of fun and I find that I don’t really want to part with it.

Cowon EH2 Quick Review

Cowon EH2 Quick Review

Thanks to Advanced Headphones www.advancedheadphones.co.uk for the sample (AMP3’s sister site)

Brief:  BA clarity with bombastic bass.

Price:  £139 (they currently have £15 off so £124)

Specification:  Driver Unit Balanced Armature Unit + Dynamic Receiver Unit [2 WAY SYSTEM], Impedance 32Ω, Max Power 100mW, Rated Power 3mW, Sensitivity 105dB Frequency Range 20Hz to 22,000Hz, Plug 3.5mm & 3P, 24K Gold-plated Stereo Plug, Cord 1.2M, Braided & Balanced Type

Accessories:  9 pairs of tips, 6.25 to 3.5mm jack, soft case, “necklace” (lanyard) and a brush.

Build Quality:  Very plush.  The buds are polished metal, the cable is woven and hooker red.  It looks fancy and I’d say is sure to please those who care about how things look on the street.

Isolation:  For something with a dynamic it’s very good.  It’s practically at BA levels.  I’d have thought so sealed would have given me more issues but no.  It’s good enough for everything bar long flights or daily Tube commutes.

Comfort/Fit:  Heavy if worn down but up all was good.  No issue on either front.  I did get a touch of air pressure problems but complies cured that.

Aesthetics:  Pretty, shiny, red and attention grabby.

Sound:  V. Starting with the bad, the mids are recessed.  Nicely clear and cool but the highs are more forward, the mid/high cusp can gut rather shouty at times (looking at you Miss Aguilera.) being a BA the highs are very clean and clear too.  Very nicely delicate if a tad abundant.  Though when we turn to the bass things change to the dynamic driver.  Bass here is big.  Its big potent, punchy and powerfully fast.  It’s got nothing else to deal with so it shows of its talents when you hurl big bassy tracks at it.  Its really capable with slow or fast but which the cool and dry BA taking care of the rest it all works at its best with fast pop.  Its explosively capable and monumentally entertaining to play with.  Rhythmically quick and dynamic it love to get let off its leash and fly all over the place acoustically.  Fun, fun ,fun is the order of the day.  Slow and smooth jazz and whatnot though isn’t really done so well.  There is a touch of integration issues between the drivers and vocals are a bit back.  Still slap on some Miss Perry, Miss Allen or Miss Gaga and you’ll be sure to have a great time with all the EH2’s energy and enthusiasm.

Value:  Cost a bit but sounds super entertaining and looks like every penny.  Looks far nicer than Mr Dre’s offerings and sounds infinitely better too.  Purist audiophiles though may like a more sedate sound signature.

Pro’s:   Bass, its pretty epic. Great detailed highs with a good crisp/delicate balance.

Con’s:  Dramatic V shaped sound leaves mids a bit far back for slow vocal centric stuff.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Nuforce MMP Review

Nuforce MMP Review

First Impressions:  For some reason I expected a bigger box.  Opening it up the box is very compact and rather nicely all tucked up into itself.  After opening, it was a bit of a bugger to put it back the way it was for storage but that’s hardly a concern.  The amp itself is a little bigger than I expected its mightily light too.  I presume its due it being a plastic case rather the metal you get and the FiiO E5 so despite being a bit big for a tiny amp its effortlessly light.  It’s nice to see it takes a micro USB to charge rather than the more common (in little amps anyway) the mini USB.  Of this I much approve as I like I’m sure most people do, have a bucket load of micro USB cables to hard for phones and such.

First listen and I notice that it doesn’t have its own volume control, it does have a high or low gain option but given I had planned to use with my Ipod’s Line Out that’s not going to be an option.  Still that’s not what most would use it for, in the real world it will be hooked up to a phones HP out.  Still as I had the Ipod out a quick flick between its HP out and HP out to the MMP, trying with the Senn HD515’s there is a pretty stark difference.  The big cans thrive on more power particularly in the upper ranges.  Could it be the amp is like its kin, the Icon Mobile and a touch bright?  Time shall tell.

Source: Ipod 5G via HP out and Galaxy Nexus.

Lows:  So many little amps were focused around the old FiiO’s model.  Give a bit more power and offer a bass boost button.  There is no bass boosting button here.  The lows therefore are more dependent on what your headphone or IEM can do and how it responds to more power.  As I flick between the E5 and the MMP with the HD515’s in use there isn’t the stark low end difference quantity wise.  I get the distinct impression the MMP is spitting out a lot more power, and I mean A LOT.  The bass isnt more plentiful but it’s a damn sight quicker and a considerably cleaner.  Of course the 515 really responds to amping but god they sound completely different.  Not entirely unlike the Fireye Mini, just a better version of it in everyway. (Sorry Fireye.)  The bass feels so much more exuberantly alive and vigorous.  The power, the speed, the control are all so vastly improved.  Of course I have to give the Icon Mobile a bash and the lows are still better on the MMP.  I still think a bass boost button wouldn’t go a miss but the amps largely flavourless administrations of the audio mean it should appeal far, far more to purists than the crowd that normally are pursuant of the mini amps out there. 

Mids:  Much like the bass there is essentially no flavouring here other than the colossal power boost.  I might say they are more open and dry but it’s hard to say how much is just down to things being better driven and not adding any warmth as some amps are want to do.  One things for sure if you’re after a warm, mellow amp this is not it.  Clarity and cleanness are what’s to be found here.  Mids on hard to drive things open up, become more expressive and most notably on the 515 much more holographic.  IEM’s responded less noticeably as they just don’t have power demands in the same way.  Still everything benefited particularly those things on the warm and heavy side.  I might say this more open presentation made mids seem a little more forward but really its just adding some clarity.  They being more clear could be mistaken for pushing them forward. Maybe a nice combo for warm and bass heavy things.

Timing on the mids felt much improved.  They felt the extra power at work gave them room to breathe.  Its like taking a car and putting in a wildly more powerful engine.  It does what the previous engine did but it feels effortless and as though its giving you its fullest potential.

Highs:  This may not have the scintillating brightness of its sibling but the high end was lifted a bit.  In part this is due to the extra power allowing things to be more properly driven.  Certainly it hugely sped up the treble on hard to drive things.  This is a bit of a two edges sword though, yes the amp improved things but it began to show up what the source lacks.  I noticed this most with the Ipod 5G as its HP out is less than accomplished in the high end.  So I think a pairing with something aggressive or gritty up top (thinking DBA-02) and the Ipod got rather abrasive. It’s a shame there was no volume control to use with its Line Out.  The highs were rather tamer on the Galaxy Nexus but then it uses MP3’s streamed from Google music so it’s never going to have the option of superb treble.  The amp however I felt made the most out of what it had to work with, just maybe not pair it up with brightest headphones.

In the Hand:  Light.  It feels lighter than it looks like it should, not in a bad way as it’s nicely constructed, just light.  It might have been nice if the corners were a fraction more rounded for in the pocket but visually its looked good.

Features:  Pretty basic on the whole, you get an on/off switch. A high/low gain switch, a 3.5mm input on the bottom.  More unusually for these sorts of things but like its sibling you get two outputs.  Yep you get two 3.5mm out sockets so if your someone that want to share music with someone close by they can plug it and hear what your hearing.  Oh and you get a little lanyard loop so you can attach something to it if you like.

Build Quality:  For a little amp it’s a bit pricey but you gets what you pays for.  The build quality is lovely.

Power:  Loads.  Upping things to the big HD600’s and I was able to use the high gain option.  Actually I didn’t notice a lot of difference between high and low gain so you could just always leave it on high and save some phone battery power.  (Edit:  I didn’t notice lots of difference on the HD600 but I certainly did when I put IEM’s back in!)  After all its going to need it more.  Volume wise it didn’t seem to want to go to insane with the big HD600 but everything else would with ease.  The 600 would too but the phone was up in the range to warn about listening too loudly for too long.  The 515 and any IEM I tried felt like they had all the power they wanted and more.

Transparency:  Easily the most transparent little amp I’ve heard. (TBH so it should as its easily the most expensive too.)  Naturally the form factor makes me want to compare it to the now aging E5 but there is just no comparison.  This is like a fresh spring breeze.  So open and free.  If anything it could be too open and transparent for those who like a rich sounding amp.  This is all about cleanliness and transparency.

Value:  As I’ve said before Nuforce stuff seems hard to come by if you’re not in the US.  In the US its just US$59 (£38.68) but in the UK I only found it at one place and it was £52 (US$79.33) as you can see that’s a large jump.  Eek!  Bargainlishious if you’re a US’ian not quite so much if you’re not.  For the same money in the land of Her Britannic Majesty your forgoing much functionality and making it compete with the E11 rather than the E6

Conclusion:  I have really quite liked the sound of this little amp.  Its functionality less so.  I miss no bass boost, not that I really want one but I can see many would and the real omission is no volume control.  To get any control you have to go back to the source and that’s going to be buried in your pocket somewhere.  Of course with the amp you won’t get volume controls passing through.  Having them on the amp itself would be really handy.  Now I don’t know if that was a trade-off to get the sound quality so high but it was a missed feature.   That’s the only gripe I’ve had with the MMP.

Acoustically I have found it a breath of fresh air.  Nuforce IEM’s are always on the rich, heavy side and their last portable amp, the Icon Mobile, was notoriously bright.  They complimented each other wonderfully though.  So I assumed this would be aiming for much the same but it’s not.  Here we have a little amp that is far more colourless.  Maybe you could say it’s very open and transparent nature makes things seem a little brighter but it’s only a human perception.  The highs are a little more noticeable due to its openness and as a mentioned it begins to show up what you’re feeding it.  I can see this working well with the rich warmth of Nuforce’s IEM’s but I didn’t try them.  I had planned to but once I started listening to the MMP it became clear that the amp belongs with better things.  Sorry Nuforce but your IEM’s aren’t high end stuff, while thought your NE-600x was a stunner for the money it nor your others are quite going to do the MMP justice. 

The MMP does not sound like it’s a little mini amp, it sounds like a proper portable amp.  It’s also clearly got the oomph of a much bigger amp too.  it’s just got endless power behind it and scales up very well to power hungry big cans.  The HD515’s just loved them.  The IE8’s too had a whale of time.  (Were Nuforce aiming to complement Sennheiser’s?) The power and transparency really made the best of anything that was warm and rich.  Nuforce claim on their website that “Your headphones will sound distinctly clearer” and I can confirm that yes they will.