Flyin’ High: JDSLabs C421

jdslabs_c421_05

Back in 2011, John told me that he was working on a new portable amp with a slim form factor. I was so impressed with the JDSLabs Cmoy’s sound quality that I told John that I would be very happy if I can get the Cmoy’s sound quality unchanged but in a slimmer package and with USB recharging. I think the sound quality of the Cmoy is high enough for most people (me included), and the only thing missing from it are general convenience features such as USB recharging and a slimmer form factor. John assured me that the C421 was going to be better than the Cmoy in every aspect. Honestly I had my finger crossed then, as I’ve witnessed the Cmoy beat many amps costing more than it.

Prior to the C421, there were already several slim portable amps in the market. The TTVJ Slim and the ALO Rx (currently at Mark II) were among the first slim portable amps, and though they are both great sounding amps, I wanted something lower priced that I can recommend to a wider group of people. The Headstage Arrow was a pretty good amp with great features and price (when it first came out), but since then have seen a price increase to the current $299.00 price tag, and I’ve always thought that it fell short on the soundstage performance. Aside from these models, I know that Leckerton’s UHA-4 amp has been getting good reviews but I’ve yet to listen to it. You can also get amps like the RSA Shadow and the Pico Slim that are both slim and tiny, but their limited power output and relatively premium price means that they are quite niche. Perhaps the most phenomenal entry to the slim amp category is Ibasso’s D-Zero, released last year with an aggressive pricing of $109, complete with a built in USB DAC. It was a solid entry from Ibasso and I do recommend it once in a while, but the sound wasn’t quite as nice as I want it to be.

I’ve evaluated a lot of portable amps on the market and I think the sweet spot is on a slim form-factor amp, priced within the $100-$200 range (of course the cheaper, the better), have a relatively nice sound (even on par with the Cmoy would’ve been enough), and comes with all the convenient features such as USB recharging and gain settings. The C421 seems to hit all the checkpoints, except for the sound part, which at that time I’ve yet to listen to. And to be honest, I wasn’t that enthusiastic about it, as I only see it as another amp builder’s attempt to move up from a basic Cmoy assembly to something more advanced, but hardly ground breaking.

Initial Impressions on the C421

I don’t remember when I first received the C421 amp prototype, but I was definitely not too excited about the sound. It was the AD8620 version, and the only thing I can attribute to it is that it has a pretty good, punchy bass. Soundstage was quite flat, high and mids are quite dry. I gave it to some friends for them to audition, and they were also quite lukewarm about it. At that point I thought that the C421 would be just a slim amp with no other special qualities and I was quite disappointed. I wrote John an email explaining my impressions, and to my surprise he replied by sending me another C421. (I don’t intend to bash the AD8620 version, rather I just want to tell the story as it happens. I also am aware that JDSLabs recommends the AD8620 version so it’s up to you which version to get)

The second C421 was different. It had the OPA2227 op-amp, the same op-amp that John installed on his JDSLabs Cmoy. The treble/midrange/balance was among the best I’ve heard on any amps. The soundstage were extremely good, possessing all the right width and depth and with good ambiance. Midrange is among the sweetest and clearest I’ve heard from a portable. I immediately fell in love with this version of the C421, and I knew then that the Cmoy is not going to get much use from that moment on.

I noticed that the bass was a little loose and not as punchy as I’d like it to be (bass boost OFF), but overall this is among the best sounding amps I’ve listened to. It wasn’t as powerful, as dynamic or as impactful as the TTVJ Slim or the ALO Rx, but to my ears the C421 has the best tonality among all the slim portable amps I’ve listened to. In fact, I find the tonality to be so good that I very rarely use the bass boost feature as that adds bass quantity significantly, and to my ears the bass quantity is just right on the flat setting (I just want it to be a little more punchy).

(from now on any references, both mine and Lieven’s to the C421 will be based on the OPA2227 version).
Continue to the next page…

Flyin’ High: JDSLabs C421
4.67 (93.33%) 3 votes

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226 Comments

  • Reply March 22, 2012

    Haja Randrianarison

    Seems really

  • Reply March 22, 2012

    Haja Randrianarison

    Seems really nice, it’s been a long time since we saw an amp which was as thin as the Alo amp 😀

    • Reply March 22, 2012

      L.

       and we really like it a lot!

      • Reply March 22, 2012

        Mike

        And the C421 is actually a bit slimmer than the ALO Rx Mk2. 

        • Reply March 23, 2012

          Haja Randrianarison

           Omg !

  • Reply March 22, 2012

    Chong Yuxuan

    JDS Labs seems to recommend the AD8620 over the OPA2227 which you guys seem to like alot….

    • Reply March 22, 2012

      L.

      Well now you know how both sound, and we clearly prefer the OPA2227 🙂

      • Reply March 22, 2012

        Jeff Kong

        just to side track a bit. Did you guys have the chance to try the AD8066?
        just curious :3

        • Reply March 22, 2012

          Mike

          Nope, not the AD8066. 

          • Reply March 22, 2012

            Jeffrey Kong

            figured, otherwise you guys wouldve written something on it : D

        • Reply March 23, 2012

          Mike

          Well I just remembered I should have one or two AD8066 laying around somewhere… all I need to do is desolder the OPA2227 and install the 8066.. 

        • Reply March 23, 2012

          Mike

          Talked to John over email earlier and he mentioned that the AD8066 version may be phased out. He told me he preferred the AD8620 and OPA2227 versions better. 

          • Reply March 23, 2012

            Jeff Kong

            Thanks for the info!

          • Reply March 23, 2012

            John Seaber

            To clarify, we’ll probably remove the AD8066 from the item page within our store. Opamps are manually placed on c421, so anyone is welcome to request a custom opamp, even if it’s not listed (assuming it’s stocked).

            Regarding the AD8620 vs. OPA2227 debate, I enjoy both. This is a hugely conflicting decision for many. If you can’t decide, follow Mike’s advise. A small portion of customers have my ears, but more of the population seems to agree with Mike’s interpretation.

  • Reply March 22, 2012

    Jeff Kong

    Thanks for this review!! Been looking forward to this.

    Mike, what do you find lacking in its appearance? :3
    I have to say it looks great for the most part…it could use a massive logo of some sort like the other amps

    • Reply March 22, 2012

      L.

       I like it too 🙂

      • Reply March 22, 2012

        Jeff Kong

        dont know if I should love or hate you guys…these reviews…tempted to buy this… 
        ><

        How does the case feel in terms of touch? very smooth or slightly rough?

        • Reply March 22, 2012

          Mike

          The black colored part are quite smooth. The silver are less smooth, but nothing sharp.

        • Reply March 22, 2012

          L.

           You know you love us 😉

  • Reply March 22, 2012

    Fabio_Rocks

    Mike is my Wallet’s biggest enemy…

    • Reply March 22, 2012

      L.

       So I’m not? Good 😀

  • Reply March 22, 2012

    hamid inomhodjayev

    Thanks for the both reviews. How C421 compares to ALO Continental? Is ALO much superior? I wanted to use either cmoy or ALO Con. with HM601. 

    • Reply March 23, 2012

      Mike

      The ALO is the better amp.

  • Reply March 22, 2012

    Chris Allen

    Great review, Mike!  What’s the size of this thing?  Is it roughly about the same size as the Fiio E17?

    • Reply March 22, 2012

      L.

       It’s on the second page 😉

      “Measuring only 97,5mm x 14mm x 62,5mm “

      • Reply March 23, 2012

        Chris Allen

        Oh, somehow missed that; thanks!  That must make it no larger than an iPhone.  A super plus!! 🙂

  • Reply March 22, 2012

    2xdaaim pp

    mike is this the one i tried before?

    • Reply March 23, 2012

      Mike

      Yes though I don’t remember if you’ve tried the newer OPA2227 version.

  • Reply March 22, 2012

    Ryan Lovell

    Why no Fiio comparisons?  Does this best the E11 or even the E17?

    • Reply March 23, 2012

      David Ulrich

      I think I can deduce this answer for you.  Mike found the e11 to be a better amp than the e17.  He also said the JDSlabs Cmoy bested the e11 (at least in terms of sound quality).  In this review, Mike says the C421 trounces the Cmoy.  Using this train of logic, the C421 annihilates both the Fiios.

      • Reply March 23, 2012

        Mike

        Thanks, David.. yes I missed the Fiio comparisons — I was mainly focusing on the slim amps.

    • Reply March 23, 2012

      L.

       I’ll try to get an E11 comparison up this weekend

  • Reply March 23, 2012

    Spencer Chan

    You know it’s coming…how about vs PA2v2 (I’m in the market for a new portable amp)

    ….and any news about the v200, L? 😉

    • Reply March 23, 2012

      Mike

      Of course different sound signatures and all, but I would compare the PA2V2 with the Cmoy.

      • Reply March 23, 2012

        John123John

        PA2v3!!!

        • Reply March 23, 2012

          Spencer Chan

          I wish… i usually dont like plastic but with the PA2v2 i LOVE it.

        • Reply March 23, 2012

          Mike

          Are they coming out with a PA2V3?

    • Reply March 23, 2012

      L.

       Sorry man, no news yet 🙁

  • Reply March 23, 2012

    Alex Lee

    I like Lieven am cursed with the high low gain.  (an oxymoron no?)

    • Reply March 23, 2012

      Mike

      You got the early version? 

  • Reply March 23, 2012

    David Jones

    Hi Mike and L.
    Love your reviews and am after some advice , was planning on buying the Fiio E17 when becomes available for use with my iphone 3gs  and hd598 and my vaio laptop with hd598 . Having read the C421 review which would you recommend to me , I listen to a broad range of music but mainly indie , acoustic , rock , soul .
    Cheers
    David

    • Reply March 23, 2012

      Mike

      David,
      I would go with the C421 in that case, since you don’t need the E17’s USB DAC function.

  • Reply March 23, 2012

    Don Vittorio Sierra

    Mike, reading the review I was unclear if this amp powers all headphone impedances well. Can you perhaps try comparing the c421 to the jdslabs cmoy using the hd580/600 and push it to around an average 100db level or something just a little below rock concert levels.

    I know for instance that the cmoy is practically garbage with my low impedance cans. The JDSLabs CMOY runs out of steam faster than an ipod with low impedance cans but is truly outstanding with my 300 ohm senns or 250 ohm Beyers.

    • Reply March 23, 2012

      Mike

      Good point, and we did miss talking about headphone pairings. Probably should edit in those information since more people are going to ask. 

      I think these days it’s almost a given that any decent amp can drive high impedance cans quite easily. The Cmoy is not that great with low-impedance and I’ve made a not of that many times, but I don’t think the Ipod is better than the Cmoy.

      • Reply March 23, 2012

        Don Vittorio Sierra

         Well as far as high impedance cans and amps, the FiiO E10 for instance which is supposedly a powerful portable is pretty weak and lack dynamics with 300 ohm senns while the jdslabs cmoy slams like an E9 while having a better tonality at the same time with those cans.

      • Reply March 24, 2012

        Don Vittorio Sierra

         So in this specific case of comparing a jdslabs cmoy with the c421 for the hd580/600, which one wins in sounding good at relatively loud volumes?

  • Reply March 23, 2012

    justin biliran

    Hi sir! Would this amp be good when paired with the iPod/iPhone plus HD25/Marshal Major/any of the ATH SJ series? Thanks!

    • Reply March 23, 2012

      Mike

      Justin,
      I haven’t tried it with the Marshall or ATH SJ, but it works great with the likes of the HD25-1 and the Philips Fidelio L1.

      • Reply March 23, 2012

        justin biliran

        All right sir thanks! Would you say I should update my amp from the PA2V2 to this?

        • Reply March 23, 2012

          Mike

          Perhaps not urgently.. the PA2V2 is a very nice amp already.

          • Reply March 23, 2012

            justin biliran

            All right. More savings for me. 😀

  • Reply March 24, 2012

    ocswing

    So what’s the actual price?

    • Reply March 24, 2012

      L.

      Again, that was addressed on page 2: price point ($184);)

      • Reply March 24, 2012

        ocswing

        Kind of buried there. I did a cursory search with ctrl+F and saw references to price points of other amps rather than the amp in question itself. Just a suggestion to have that information be more prominent in the future.

        • Reply March 24, 2012

          L.

           Yes Sir!
          Normally the price info is at the bottom of the article, uess we didn’t this time 😉

        • Reply March 24, 2012

          Mike

          Yes, that’s a good point. Next time I’ll make a note to make the price info more obvious.

  • Reply March 24, 2012

    Chris Wy

    Nice review! I’ve already ordered an O2. Perhaps I will get a c421 in the future. 

    • Reply March 24, 2012

      L.

      Thanks Chris!

  • Reply March 25, 2012

    Aric Ross

    Hi Mike, love the site man. very clean, concise, and reliable. I have been in the market for my first amp since the I heard about the E17, which I thought I’d get until I read this review…. I listen to just about everything, Zepplin, Floyd, Ratatat, White Stripes, Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal the Black Keys and just about everything else there is.

    For playback I use either a laptop(m-15x), J3, or a sansa clip. I have a pair of ATH M-50 cans, but down the road I’m thinking about investing in some Grados SR325i’s or the new Phillips Fidelio.

    That being said, is the c421 your amp of choice in the sub $200 category?  or should I keep waiting for the E17?

    • Reply March 27, 2012

      Mike

      Aric,
      Amp section wise, the C421 is better. If you want to listen from a laptop, I think the E17 is the one I would get because it comes with a DAC.

      • Reply August 5, 2012

        Aric Ross

        Well a few months down the road and I have the E17. its a great product I LOVE THE BUILD QUALITY. However, when I bought the E17 I didn’t realize the DAC was the most prominent feature. and Id’ say 75% of my listening experience uses a sansa clip as a source which I believe has a decent DAC to it, not very grainy like my laptop or droid razer.

        So how does the E17 compare to the C421 just as an amp?

        and scaling up in the amp world to such products as the contenental Vs. the SR-71 how does the cost Vs. audio improvement compare to the later comparison of amps? or is the “WOW” factor there in the top of the line portable amps to justify paying triple the price of the C421?

        Obviously you wouldn’t get 3 times the amp performance, but I’m curious what you have to say of the diminishing returns curve and how hard its at work in this comparison.

        Sorry for the long winded questions by the way. I need to go to a meet or something… lol, but you do a great job of answering my long winded questions!

        • Reply August 6, 2012

          Mike

          Aric,
          As I’ve said earlier, the C421 is a better amp compared to the Fiio E17 🙂
          I think it’s always hard to judge amp improvements by the dollar. I know we all want easy answers, but the same thing applies in just about anything. You buy a golf club, clothes, shoes, bikes, smartphones, the extra price can be justified by people who can discern the quality improvements. Not everybody can discern the quality improvements, but for those who do, I think that jump from the C421 to the SR-71 can be justified. But again you need to take into account that people’s financial situations are different. Some people make $60K a year, some make $100K.

  • Reply March 25, 2012

    Alok Juyal

    Nice review! for now I am content with my Continental and E11 🙂 But reading these reviews will tempt me into trying something sooner or later. Saving for the JHs for now… Alok

  • Reply March 26, 2012

    EraserXIV

    I think a very interesting comparison would be with the iBasso T5. The D-zero really isn’t supposed to be in the same class as the C421. Have you heard the T5 and could you make any comparisons?

    • Reply March 27, 2012

      L.

       I have only heard the T3, and the C421 blows it to oblivion

    • Reply March 27, 2012

      Mike

      I haven’t heard the T5, but the T3D was so overrated IMO I was really underwhelmed with it. Unless the T5 is a BIG step up from the T3D..

  • Reply March 27, 2012

    Juan Roman Magdaraog

    Had my c421 a few months now. I wish the low battery indicator was on the front. I usually don’t notice it’s on and then it just dies.

    • Reply March 27, 2012

      L.

       That’s a good remark. Personally it hasn’t bothered me as I charge it during the day so I never am without battery in the morning or evening

      • Reply March 27, 2012

        Juan Roman Magdaraog

        I guess I should get into the habit of daily charging, like my phone and I wouldn’t have to worry. You’re right. Now I feel silly for not doing that, but I still think the light should be in front. Also, I didn’t realize how tiny the actual LEDs are!

  • Reply March 28, 2012

    julian

    I’ve finally decided on the HD650. 🙂

    Now, I’ve been reading a lot about amps and the JDS labs c421 looks promising. At its price range, it seems to have lots of positive feedback. Have you tried your c421 with the Senn 6×0?

    • Reply March 28, 2012

      L.

      I have been using it daily for hours at work. It’s a nice sounding combination, but you better like the Senn darkness cause this amp will make it more pronounced. Soundstage and detail wise this combination is limited, but it is fun. With a better amp the HD650 would do much better of course, but as I said, I’ve been using it like that ever since I got the C421, so it must be good 🙂

      • Reply March 29, 2012

        julian

        That’s good to hear. 🙂

        You’re still using opamp 2227 right? May I ask what DAP do you use with your office rig? DAP>c412>HD650

        • Reply March 30, 2012

          L.

           Laptop – Fiio E10 – C421/2227 – HD650 . Great little “budget” rig 🙂

  • Reply March 28, 2012

    Jeff Kong

    quick question, by RX are you referring to the first gen or mk2?

    • Reply March 29, 2012

      Mike

      Jeff,
      Mk2 or Mk1, the sound signature is the same. The Mk2 is slightly better, that’s all. 

  • Reply March 29, 2012

    thx1000

    I have read this review several times and came so close to ordering a c421/opa2227.  However, I am also interested in your opinion of the ALO National before I buy.

    • Reply March 29, 2012

      Mike

      Sure, I have yet to receive the National though.

  • Reply April 5, 2012

    Fredo

    will the c421 put out more power than my first gen RX? I wanna be able to drive all sorts of cans…

    • Reply April 5, 2012

      Mike

      I haven’t done an absolute A-B, but the Rx is extremely powerful and I’d put my money on the Rx.

  • Reply April 7, 2012

    jean xavier Henriel

    Hello and many thanks for this review.
    I have a i basso d-zero and i want somme help to find a better amp for an ipod ( better soundstage, better mid, better details …) to drive a grado SR325
    between this c421 or amp HP audinst  per ups another one (? )what will be the better choice to have an amelioration for a price between 100 and 200 dollars ?

    • Reply April 7, 2012

      Mike

      Jean,
      Better soundstage and mids, go with the C421.

      • Reply April 8, 2012

        Mutnat

        Have to agreement, I own both and the. C421 buries the D-Zero in all those categories. It is also a bit less forward, slightly darker but not overly dark (just enough to avoid fatigue on my HD25’s), just all around better. It does lack a DAC though, but for iPod listening the dad on your D0 is useless anyway.

  • Reply April 10, 2012

    Anson5

    What DAC will you recommend to pair with C421 and Audio Technica ATH-ES7 for desktop use?  Is Audinst  HUD-MX1 a good pair-up?

  • Reply April 10, 2012

    Scott Boyer

    I’ve had my c421 (2227) for a few weeks now. It’s very impressive for a portable.

    If you like the sound of the JDS BBcMoy, then you’ll love the c421. It takes all the best attributes of his cMoy (great smoothness and mids as well as large soundstage) and adds detail and even more depth and layering. It’s a cMoy on steroids!

    • Reply April 10, 2012

      Mike

      Thanks for sharing your impression, Scott. Glad you like it.

  • Reply April 13, 2012

    zaynel

    After reading your review, I can’t stand not to get it.
    I got my C421(2227) for about a month now. simply just loving it!
    Looking out for a portable DAC now, but have no idea which to get?
    I am using Iphone4s playing FLACs.
    Do I really still need a DAC? will it give me a big improvement?
    Which are those that are more recommended to pair with C421?
    budget around $150 +/- may be stretchable slightly if It’s a really good choice.

    • Reply April 13, 2012

      Mike

      Zaynel,
      Unfortunately the portable DACs are a lot more expensive than $150. Both the CLAS and the Fostex HP-P1 are around $500 and more I believe.

      • Reply April 13, 2012

        zaynel

        Oh wow that’s way over my budget! but will it make a big improvement or just a slight? is it worth too save-up and getting them?

        can those cheaper DAC/AMP work too? like the Fiio E17?
        Thanks

        • Reply April 13, 2012

          Mike

          If you feel it’s way over your budget, I’d just not worry about it and enjoy the music as it is.
          No they don’t work with computers.

          • Reply April 13, 2012

            zaynel

            True. Thanks for all the advises.
             

  • Reply April 19, 2012

    fneuf gazouille

    Firstly, I really like your website. Reviews and comments are always very valuable, it’s a pleasure to follow your work.

    Well, I’m considering buying a C421 or a CmoyBB (I previously considered the D-Zero), but yet can’t decide which. I need your experience 🙂

    Here are 4 parameters that might help set the scene of my research:
    1 – I’m a large music enthousiast, from classic to hardrock with a slight inclination for electronic,
    2 – I tend to prefer well definite sound signature. Something that can be described as favorising separation of instruments, details. Where everything has to feel lively and “at its place”. A full but tight bass, meaning punchy not boomy. To me, the bass needs to be controlled.
    3 – For reference my full size hi-fi set is built around a ROTEL RA-05 amplifier, exploiting an ESI Juli@ soundcard and feeding JMLab Chorus 726S column speakers,
    4 – I plan to use my portable AMP with mainly 2 sets: Grado SR80i and Yuin PK3,

    With those information, which amplifiers between the CmoyBB and the C421 would you recommend me? Is one a difficult combination with one of my current headphones?

    • Reply April 19, 2012

      Scott Boyer

      Just gonna jump in here as I own both amps.

      No contest, get the c421. It has far superior clarity without bloating the bass.

    • Reply April 19, 2012

      L.

      What Scott Says, If you don’t need a usb dac and don’t have a budget limit and only look at the amp part, then the C421 is the best amp, no doubt.

    • Reply April 20, 2012

      fneuf gazouille

       Thanks for your answers.

      I’m a bit and a bit more on the go, so far my music source for trip have relied on HiMD or smartphones. But as it goes one day I might also rely on a portable laptop. That’s why I considered the D-Zero with its DAC. But now I tend to think that I should look for an EMU 0404 USB to do the trick.

      About the C421, between the AD8620 and OPA2227 versions:
      – will one be a better pair for one of my current headphones (SR80i or PK3) ?
      – or on the opposite is one of those amp known to be pointing out some defaults or exagerate one of the characteristics of those phones ?

      • Reply April 20, 2012

        Mike

        Fneuf,
        I would still get the OPA2227 for the SR80 or the PK3.

        • Reply April 23, 2012

          fneuf gazouille

          Thanks for your reply.

          I just figure out that my current smartphone, a Nokia N8 has the ability to deliver digital audio stream via its USB On-The-Go feature. Then its DAC is pypassable. The first condition is that the external DAC should be driverless. So I ordered a Fiio E7 as a nobrainer to try this out.

          Which external DAC (as tiny as possible) would you recommend as a great buddy to pair with the C421 ? Gathering from your reviews I’m notably thinking about an “HeadStage USB DAC Cable”+”JDSLabs C421” combo.

  • Reply May 2, 2012

    lcamtai

     Hi Mike I just did what you recommend me. I bought a Fiio E10 and now
    waiting for my JDSLabs C421. Thanks for your helpful, intelligent,
    useful advice.

    I am using Fiio E10 on my HD598 and the sound is clearer, more clarity
    and mid is awesome but I do not really like the bass boost on Fiio E10.
    Of course it can add more quality bass and but sometimes it breaks out
    the total balance or tonal of the songs so I just enjoy using Fiio E10
    without bass boost setting.

    However I still have a question for you. I am a kind of guys who always
    think economically (or at least I could) so it is still true in
    audiophile. I only choose headphones that can play many genres as many
    as possible and that is why I chose HD598. After reading many your
    reviews and recommendations I planned out my paths of headphones such 
    as HD598 -> Hifiman HE-500 -> Stax SR-009. The question is JDSLabs
    C421 can pair well with HE-500? Of course at an acceptable quality
    (like 70-80% of HE-500) before I have more money to invest in better
    DACs/AMPs?

    Thanks Mike again. Long live Heafonia, long live everyone and long live audiophile.

  • Reply May 7, 2012

    Geoffrey Mo

    Hi Mike,
    Do you think the C421 is sufficient to drive the HD650 properly?
    Thanks!

    • Reply May 7, 2012

      L.

       I use the C421 daily at the office with my HD650. And while it does a sufficiently & good job, the HD650 on a full sized setup does sound remarkably better, but that’s only normal.

      • Reply May 10, 2012

        Geoffrey Mo

        I see, so it should be enough for it to sound like a proper HD650. Thanks!

      • Reply May 14, 2012

        Damián Bonadonna

        How do you use an open back headphone in the office? Just curious because my office is pretty quiet and I think everybody will listen to my HD598 🙁

        • Reply May 14, 2012

          L.

          I have my own private office, just for me. And my Senns

        • Reply April 9, 2013

          L.

          private office 😉

    • Reply May 8, 2012

      Mike

      Geoffrey,
      Yes.

  • Reply May 12, 2012

    Damián Bonadonna

    Hi Mike,

    Would you pick this one over MS 2 or DACport LX? I am also like you interested in fuller mids and instrument separation. The LX looks superb but I don’t know if it will alone provide those full mids!

    As you may know is for the HD598 :D.

    Looking for simplicity! And to connect to Laptop mainly (to Android is a nice to have).

    Thanksssss!

    • Reply May 12, 2012

      Trent_D

      MS2 or Dacport LX are DACs. The C421 is a amp. They are two very different things.

      • Reply May 13, 2012

        Damián Bonadonna

        Thanks Trent. It happens that quite often I read Mike recommending them for their fuller mids. So maybe… they will alone provide a really good upgrade.

        My notebook has a Realtek AC269 and with the HD598 I cannot hear any hiss, noise… nothing. I guess they are sounding a little harsh in the treble side so maybe an amp is better than a DAC. And I can use the amp with my SGS too.

        But I’m just thinking still not decided what to get.

        • Reply May 14, 2012

          Mike

          Just an idea… get the C421 and a cheaper entry level DAC like the Fiio E10. Both would still fall under the price of one Dacport LX.

          Then you can listen to the C421 alone out of the Realtek.
          The E10 alone without the built in headphone amp.
          The E10+C421.

          Then you’ll know if the DAC or the Amp will make more difference in your case.

          Or better yet get an E10 with a Cmoy, just so you’ll have a better idea of what you need: a DAC or an amp.

          All those components I recommend should help you to get fuller mids, smoother treble, and better instrument separation.

          • Reply May 15, 2012

            Damián Bonadonna

            As always, thanks Mike!

  • Reply May 22, 2012

    Jim

    sorry, double post

  • Reply May 22, 2012

    Jim

    Hi Mike,

    What would sound better between:

    1) Laptop -> E17 -> RE-262
    2) iPhone4S -> C421 -> RE-262

    I know that the C421 will beat the E17 coming from the iPhone4S, but I’m curious between the 2 setups above, I’m assuming the E17 DAC > iPhone4S DAC whereas the C421 AMP > E17 AMP so its hard to tell which is better.

    • Reply May 23, 2012

      Mike

      I think you’ve got that right.. the E17 DAC is very good compared to the iPhone and on the other hand the C421 amp is also very good compared to the E17’s.

      I don’t think it’s going to be as simple as which is going to sound better, as having a good DAC has its own advantages and having a good amp also has its own advantages.

      Perhaps an analogy is like cooking. Fresh ingredients + Bad chef, or Bad ingredients + Good chef, which will give you the best food? 😉

  • Reply May 23, 2012

    PCMM1

    Mike, I would like to ask how is C421 when compared with Just Audio uHA-120?
    I am now thinking of uHA-120 (Upgraded of vol control pot version) and this. ^^

    • Reply May 23, 2012

      L.

      Hi. The C421’s soundstage is slightly better, music feels less compressed, and its the airier of the 2 amps. The µha is the darker one with the better bass. Both are very enjoyable & fun, but I think the C421 has the edge over the µha in total, and it has a gain and bb switch 😉

    • Reply May 23, 2012

      Mike

      L should be the one you listen two as I’ve never listened to the uHA120, but L has.

      • Reply May 23, 2012

        PCMM1

        Thanks Mike and L.
        I know which one suits me more. ^^

  • Reply June 2, 2012

    John Kim

    Hi Mike. How is the volume on low gain? I was hoping to use this with my ES5, but I’ve heard that the volume is pretty loud for sensitive IEM’s.

    • Reply June 2, 2012

      L.

      It is indeed, its milimeter work…

      • Reply June 3, 2012

        John Kim

        Yeah, I don’t mind training my fingers for that but the thing I’m worried about is channel imbalance at very low volumes.

        • Reply June 3, 2012

          John Kim

          Oh, and my files are all matched to a volume of 80db using mp3gain compared to the ~96db of most original music files so I guess this might help?

          • Reply June 4, 2012

            Mike

            John I will check on that and get back to you.

          • Reply June 5, 2012

            Mike

            John,
            I tested this with my JH5 Pro. I don’t have a problem with the loudness levels, it’s just that at extremely low level listening levels, there is some channel imbalance (like with all analog pots)

            • Reply June 6, 2012

              John Kim

              Ah great. Thanks for testing that out for me. I do listen at low levels, but I don’t think there would be a problem with that. Now to decide on 8620 vs 2227!

              • Reply June 6, 2012

                Mike

                You’re welcome John.

                PS: You know my thoughts on the 8620 vs 2227. 🙂

                • Reply June 6, 2012

                  John Kim

                  I do indeed. Your review makes it clear who the winner is, but some head-fiers think otherwise. Tough decision!

                  • Reply June 6, 2012

                    Mike

                    You should go with OPA2227. 😉

  • Reply June 19, 2012

    Stephen Loke

    What DAC would go well with this?

    • Reply June 19, 2012

      Mike

      Stephen,
      You can look into the recommended DACs section, they should all pair well with the C421.

  • Reply June 21, 2012

    Stephen Loke

    Which version of the C421 do you think will sound better with the HD25-1 II (AD8620 or OPA2227?)

    Thanks.

    • Reply June 21, 2012

      L.

      As you probably read (I hope), we are 2227 fans, on Head-fi, where you asked the same, they will probably say 8620 😉

    • Reply June 21, 2012

      Mike

      The OPA2227.

  • Reply June 25, 2012

    Chris Wen

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for the great review!
    I am currently considering buying a C421 for my ER-4B. I somehow worry that the C421 may still not powerful enough to drive the 4B well (I dont mean perfect.). I have a D-Zero and 1/2.5x Objective 2. However, when playing with these two amps, the sound out of 4B is thin and distant. Perhaps I should make things easy and get a Phonak 112. No reason to attempt changing the 4B acoustically to another earphone anyway.
    Have any comments? I am always happy to exchange opinions with gurus like you:)

    • Reply June 25, 2012

      Mike

      Chris,
      The ER4 doesn’t need a lot of current, just voltage. I’m quite confident that the C421 has enough voltage gain for the ER4B.

      Generally the D-Zero and the O2 are thinner in mids than the C421, so this may be the pairing that you’re looking for. Go for the OPA2227.

      • Reply June 26, 2012

        Chris Wen

        Hi Mike,

        Thanks for the recommendation! I think you are right about 2227. I read some other comments on these 2 versions. It seems 2227’s warm sound is going to work better with ER4B that has an analytical sound.

        • Reply June 26, 2012

          Mike

          Yes. I like the OPA2227 C421 with the ER4P/S.

  • Reply June 28, 2012

    Hendry Lim

    Mike, Which version of the C421 do you think will sound better with the JH16 (AD8620 or OPA2227?)

    • Reply June 28, 2012

      Mike

      I haven’t tried this with the JH16, sorry.

  • Reply July 5, 2012

    Mohammad Ashraf

    Thanks for another wonderful review. Since you have used both the National and C421 which one would you recommend for sensitive IEMs(XBA-4) and analytical one (ER-4S). It seems like national from what I have read has more warmth wherease the JDS lab amp has more detail.

    • Reply July 6, 2012

      Mike

      Yes I think you are right. I would go with either one. Personally I like the National better as it is darker and has fuller lows, which IMO fits both the XBA4 and ER4.

    • Reply November 22, 2012

      Mike

      The ER4S: National would give you more bass weight (that’s what I’d go for), C421 would give you more warmer mids. Both are good choices.

      XBA-4, I don’t really have too much experience with it but the Portaphile 627 totally transformed it.

  • Reply July 17, 2012

    Eyal Sade

    how does it compare to Little Dot mark 1 ?

  • Reply July 18, 2012

    Eyal Sade

    how is it compared with the Audinst MX1 ?

  • Reply August 6, 2012

    Alfani Gunawan

    is it worth to upgrade cmoy jds labs to c421 with this price tag???

    • Reply August 6, 2012

      Mike

      I think so, but everybody’s wallet is different.

      Not only do you get better sound but also better features and a more portable enclosure.

      • Reply August 7, 2012

        Alfani Gunawan

        do you have c421 unit for demo on your store which open next saturday?

        • Reply August 7, 2012

          Mike

          Yes we should have that.

  • Reply September 1, 2012

    Damián Bonadonna

    Now I’m understand why the pics are overexposed 😛

  • Reply September 4, 2012

    Mike

    Both amps are nice, though I like the JDSLabs better.

  • Reply September 11, 2012

    alf

    which is better for HD650, C421 or RSA hornet

    • Reply September 11, 2012

      Mike

      I would go for the RSA Hornet.

  • Reply October 8, 2012

    Damián Bonadonna

    Hi Mike,

    As you may know, I bought C421 and Dacport LX based on your recommendation :).

    Where I’m living now, the HD800 is around 1400 USD which I guess is a good price. The HD650 is around 500 (not so good price).

    My “high-end” headphone now is the HD598 but I find it a little fatiguing and thin sound. The most expensive HP I have is the B&W P5, but is mostly for the office, I think the HD598 is a better performer overall.

    So, I’m looking for a relaxed sounding pair to mostly listen to acoustic/voice-centric songs and rock/pop like Oasis, Lifehouse, Norah Jones and Adele. But I really listen to a wide music range, except electronic/rap stuff. By relaxing I mean not fatiguing, but I want the musicality to be there.. mostly mid range and bass (not bloating).

    My question is, would it be a crime to buy an HD800 and use it with my combo? I don’t really want an uber expensive headphone amp cause I usually travel a lot, moving the amp is kind of a limitation. The sell Asgard and Lyr around here. But again, I really want to avoid big boxes.

    As always, thanks for your inputs.

    • Reply October 8, 2012

      L.

      Senn HD650 gets my vote

      • Reply October 8, 2012

        Damián Bonadonna

        Hi L, thanks.

        For what I read the HD650 is also very scalable. Now.. knowing that is a 10 years old headphone, how it does compare with recent offerings like HE400/HE500?

        I might want now only one headphone for home use and so many options are driving me crazy :P. The problem with not so mainstream headphones is that they are difficult to find here. I bought the P5 because the only similar option was the HD25 Adidas, and was expensive too. Also, for office use the P5 look better and really I don’t like the plastic construction of the HD25.

        For the HD650, I know it is praised everywhere so it is kind of a safe bet. I can also try it soon. What I also think is that the looks are not of my taste and that they get scratched easily.

        What other options do I have as a real step from the HD598?

        • Reply October 8, 2012

          Nick Tam

          Take a read on Mike’s review on the HE-500. HE-500 works far better with pop music as opposed to the HD650 for slower paced jazz and classical, but driveability wise, I’d still say the HE-500 is harder as a good solid state is really needed for the job. You could pair lower end amps and always feel that it’s never enough. With the scalability of the HD650 however, low end gear works great as well. Going higher end however, rather unlocks the HD650’s potential as a resolving and technical headphone.

          The HE-400 is a very good step up in my opinion and you don’t need something ridiculously powerful to drive it so it’s technically more easier on your wallet than the HD650. I have not ABed these two however so you’re going to have to ask Mike to take a trip down memory lane.

          • Reply October 9, 2012

            L.

            I wouldn’t advise the HE-500, you would need a good amp (I prefer it on tubes, not ss) and it isn’t the best for your genres. I would say the HD650 is best for pop, not the 500 (which is best for jazz, etc). The only other option, if you want an open headphone is the HE-400, which doesn’t need amping, and it is a great alrounder. You can also check out the HD25, good price and good sound, but on ear and plastic ( but very durable).

            I love the look of the HD650 🙂

            • Reply October 9, 2012

              Nick Tam

              took a listen today, perhaps jazz does work better on the HE-500 but it really still is hard to drive as heck, but honestly I don’t see how the 650 plays pop well :

              • Reply October 9, 2012

                L.

                I think it does. HE-400 does it better but still good on the 650. What kind of pop do you have there :p Let’s let Mike decide 😉

                • Reply October 9, 2012

                  Damián Bonadonna

                  Actually, what I call pop is Adele or Lifehouse. I listen a lot to Chris Cornell/Eddie Vedder/Coldplay style, mostly now acoustic and vocal stuff. I really don’t like actual UK TOP40 for example, too much electronic in there..

                  Problem is that I don’t own a high end headphone, so I would need a all arounder. I really like the W3000ANV that is closed, so is a change from the HD598. Now.. for 1200 USD, does it justify it? I don’t know… It is closed, which means that I might use it as an office headphone too.

                  I really like to read this much about headphones, but taking the plunge and decide for one is really difficult for me :P.

                  I’m starting to like the non-fatiguing and laid back nature of the P5. I can listen to Adele without piercing my ear drums. I read that HE-500 can be a little fatiguing and I don’t want that. The OP2227 add a touch of warmth but I don’t use it always.

                  I want to thank you Lieven and Mike for discussing this here. Is really constructive for me :).

    • Reply October 8, 2012

      Nick Tam

      No, it would be a waste to buy the HD800 and get the most out of it. Look harder for good deals on the HD650, something like this.

      http://www.accessoryjack.com/sennheiser-hd650-open-dynamic-headphones-grey.html

      Asgard and Lyr have a smaller footprint that you think to be honest. They’re incredibly small. Where are you based?

      • Reply October 8, 2012

        Damián Bonadonna

        Hi Nick,

        I’m based in middle east now, I should be more time in Dubai but I travel a lot for work so I don’t have my own place yet.

        I guess I will have to keep the HD800 for when I stay in one place and put some nice amp for it.

        Middle east in not a good place for audiophiles (I’m not but I try). Not many options here.. and if there are the prices are not that good. HD650 is 517 USD in Dubai.

        I guess I messed up buying the HD598, because if I buy the HD650 I guess the former will not get used that much. As they are open I can only use them at home, and for office I bought yesterday a P5 (expensive as hell in Kuwait, but it was my birthday present :P).

        • Reply October 8, 2012

          Nick Tam

          Like I said, you can get the HD650 for a good price on the online site I’ve showed you, free shipping worldwide too. I’m not discouraging you to get a HD800 but the nice amps that work best for the HD800 tend to be huge tube amplifiers.

          The HD800 at 1400USD is good price, yes but I’m also telling you that you should try both cans first. The HD650 is far more easier to appreciate than the HD800 running out of something like the Schiit Amps. One of the many problems I see that with flagships like the HD800 is that people buy and sell them out almost immediately because it doesn’t work for them. Synergy wise, the HD800 won’t fare well with pop music either.

          From P5 and 598 to the 650 and 800 is a massive leap, seriously.

          • Reply October 9, 2012

            Damián Bonadonna

            I’ve just checked they have free shipping, thanks!! 🙂

            They also have the wooden ATH, they are not that recommendable as the HD650? (W1000X, W5000 and W3000ANV). I know they are quite expensive and closed, but they beuty always caught my attention.

            • Reply October 9, 2012

              Nick Tam

              Mike has highly praised the W3000ANV, check out his review.

              • Reply October 9, 2012

                Damián Bonadonna

                Nick, I think I’ve read every review here in HF haha. With so many praised headphones is very difficult to choose one. I also check hed-fi, innerfidelity and audiophile.com. Almost everyone agrees on the HD650 being great and scalable. I also read in CNET that they were happy with the HD800 out of an iPod.. so it is kind of polarizing. If I buy the HD800 and it works as the HD650 but then I gain 1000X scalability I might invest for years to come. Hahaha this is crazy.. so many options!!

                Whatever I but I really want to justify the investment as we are not talking about 100 USD.

                • Reply October 9, 2012

                  Mike

                  Damian,
                  There is no way you can be happy with an HD800 out of an Ipod.

                  I think you should try the HD650. I don’t want to push it too much, but it’s far more popular than the HD800 and for reasons other than simply the price. If one day you decide to spend $3,000 on a big tube amp, the HD650 scales up very well so you’ll be able to appreciate the improvements as well.

                  • Reply October 9, 2012

                    L.

                    yes, I would never get the HD800 for your musical preferences

                • Reply October 9, 2012

                  Nick Tam

                  Thing is, headphones that jump at you with it’s sound is so easy to appreciate at first listen out of a simple setup, but it’s the Sennheiser bunch that grows on you which Mike and L. would agree on as you scale up your source and amplification components

                • Reply October 9, 2012

                  Nick Tam

                  I don’t object most reviews as long as they don’t have objectivity in mind… because the biggest slap in the face to those reviewers is that if all headphones are “ideally” tuned to a flat frequency response, there’s no point making headphones.

                  CNET isn’t objective but look at headphones from “pros” and “cons” perspective such as listing “stiff cable” and “high $$$” as cons also don’t pay much attention to listening to headphones but at least don’t dismiss the Sennheisers as crap headphones, but honestly doesn’t give much impressions on sound. I would say they are more orientated towards the general consumer crowd.

                  CNET probably doesn’t have that sort of appreciation towards audio gear as readers on headfonia have, and they don’t really have much comparisons to reference their opinions on headphones.

                  What I honestly love about headfonia is that it is purely subjective which is what musical listening is supposed to be, and that is understanding that different headphones work for different people and music. Just like how people think Monster Beats are awesome headphones. (As a fashion accessory, I give it to them). Subjective tests such as soundstage imaging, resolution and clarity simply can’t be “measured” physically, and everyone’s opinions here counts.

                  Honestly, go with the HD650. You won’t regret it. I think I’ve dedicated myself to become an exclusive Sennheiser listener and an exclusive Bottlehead Crack user. I may consider getting a pair of HD700 as well but for now, upgrading my Crack and rolling in tubes actually made me slap myself in the face as I’ve realized that the HD650 is far more resolving than what I thought it was capable of. It isn’t the most resolving and technical headphone out there, but the HD650 was always symbolic of the Sennheiser sound which I’ve grown to appreciate and enjoy so damn much.

          • Reply October 9, 2012

            Jack Knight

            do you know cheaper online store that have price like you post here? http://www.headfonia.com/open-back-shures-srh1440-and-srh1840/#comment-655654410

            • Reply October 9, 2012

              Nick Tam

              No not really. Those prices I’ve posted are pretty much exclusive to local retail sales in Hong Kong only.

  • Reply October 13, 2012

    Eyal Sade

    how is it when compared to the pico slim ?

    • Reply October 13, 2012

      Mike

      Sorry what compared to the Pico Slim?

  • Reply November 17, 2012

    Mike

    Hi Max! Yes the C421 is a good amp!

  • Reply November 17, 2012

    Trent_D

    Mike and L, I have a chance to try the c421. I know that Cmoys do a very good job with high impedance headphones. Would the c421 even be an improvement with the hd650?

  • Reply November 18, 2012

    Eli Segal

    Hi Mike,

    Great review!

    I’m trying to decide on an amp for my DT770/250 & HD25-1

    Both are good in bass and highs are a bit harsh, so I’m looking for a somewhat darker amp that doesn’t accentuate the bass (but do have bass boost for when I’m riding the bus).

    What do you think would be more suitable for this? (300$ range)

    From what I’ve read it’s between the C421 and the Array Headstage 4G

    Thanks,

    Eli

    • Reply November 19, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Eli,
      The Headstage 4G is a bit harsh on the treble. 3G actually is better for what you’re looking.

      Another option if you are open to suggestions is the Matrix Mini Portable

      http://www.headfonia.com/the-320-portable-dacamp-matrix-mini-portable/

      • Reply November 19, 2012

        Eli Segal

        Thanks Mike!

        Do you consider the C421 (2227) to be dark or bright sounding?
        Can you recommend on other options as well? the Matrix Mini is on the heavy expensive side of things.

        • Reply November 19, 2012

          L.

          It’s dark. didn’t the review give that away? 😉

        • Reply November 19, 2012

          Trent_D

          Can’t you use the e17 to lower the treble a bit via it’s digital controls?

          • Reply November 19, 2012

            Eli Segal

            I can and I am, but with the e17 I have to remember to lock it so the buttons wont pressed by mistake (and I keep forgetting and find it on the go without charge too many times). Also, I want a better amp the sound stage of the e17 is pretty small and the sound is not as smooth as I want it to be

        • Reply November 19, 2012

          Mike

          Eli,
          The Apex Glacier is not a dark amp. The C421 is darker but the darkest is Matrix Mini. If the Matrix is too much for your budget you can look at the ALO national as well

          • Reply November 19, 2012

            Eli Segal

            Thanks for the quick replies.
            I’ve read your review on the National, sounds pretty good.
            But I’m worried it will have too much of bass impact on my already bass heavy DT770/250. am I right to worry about that ?
            Could it be a problem?
            Thanks!

            • Reply November 21, 2012

              Eli Segal

              Mike?

              • Reply November 22, 2012

                Mike

                You’re asking about the National + DT770/250?

                The National has a tight full bass that’s not like the usual amplifiers (say Cmoy) with bass boost on. The sound is very nice, it’s not the boomy loose excessive bass.

                I would even use it with the DT770 80Ω which has more bass than the 250Ω.

                • Reply November 25, 2012

                  Eli Segal

                  Thanks!

                  If it’s ok I want to ask the same regarding the Matrix Mini.

                  In the review for it you mention that there is a lot of bass in it.
                  So, as I think that the bass in my DT770 is more than enough and sometimes too boomy as is, would the Matrix Mini make it more boomy/bassy?

                  Thanks again,
                  Eli

                  • Reply November 29, 2012

                    Mike

                    Nope it would be good. The Matrix Mini’s bass is tight and well controlled. Not boom boom type.

  • Reply November 22, 2012

    John Clare

    I bet you’ve made your decision in the months since then, but I thought it might be nice to let others know my experience with the AKG K550 and the c421.

    I’m using the following: iPod classic -> CLAS v1 -> c421 -> AKG K550. I am not a bass head but for a lot of rock, pop and electronica I find I need to use the bass boost switch on the c421 to be happy with the bass impact. Ad frankly then it might feel a little too punchy for my liking at times.

    That’s my main criticism of the K550 headphones – they are just a little low on bass impact. My other headphones are the Sennheiser HD558 and those don’t need the bass boost switch.

    I’m mulling switching to the limited edition DT770 so I don’t need the bass boost switch of the c421 but retain an otherwise similar sound to the K550. At least, that’s the plan!

    • Reply November 22, 2012

      Mike

      Thanks, John.

      I share the same concern about the K550: bass impact.

      • Reply November 22, 2012

        John Clare

        Thanks Mike. I just had a thought. If I want to get that more impactful bass (but not as heavy as c421 bass boost switch), which option do you think would be better:

        1. Replace the c421 with the National, or
        2. Replace the K550 with the DT770 Limited Edition?

        • Reply November 22, 2012

          Mike

          Replacing the headphone is going to be the better choice. Gets you there faster.

          Have you listend to the HD650? That Senn is king when it comes to bass impact.

          • Reply November 22, 2012

            Trent_D

            I am listening to the HD650 right now with the C421 (out of the dacport lx) and it sounds very nice. I was surprised what a big step the C421 was over the cmoy. Now I just can’t wait to hear how much further the crack takes it.

            • Reply November 22, 2012

              Trent_D

              and, PS, I just recently bought the HD650 to replace my K550.

            • Reply November 22, 2012

              L.

              thx for reminding me 😉

            • Reply November 22, 2012

              Mike

              That’s nice Trent.

          • Reply November 23, 2012

            John Clare

            Thanks Mike. I haven’t listened to he 650 but I’ve been avoiding it because I need closed phones for my normal use :(.

            • Reply November 23, 2012

              Trent_D

              L did say the C421 was a nice pairing with the DT770 LE. They sound like a really good deal.

              • Reply November 23, 2012

                L.

                A warmer tonality and good bass. + You have the option ti turn off the bass boost on the C421

            • Reply November 23, 2012

              Mike

              In that case just go with the DT770 😉

  • Reply December 8, 2012

    Eli Segal

    Hi, I just got my self a c421, but, in my ears the sound is almost identical to the E17, are they that close in sound or I’m missing something?
    Would the Matrix Mini be a noticable upgrade?

    Thanks!
    Eli

    • Reply December 8, 2012

      L.

      Should be different. what are you listening with?

      • Reply December 8, 2012

        Eli Segal

        iPod > LOD > C421 > DT770/250

      • Reply December 8, 2012

        Eli Segal

        Does it need a lot of burn in time? I gave it about 20 hours

  • Reply January 7, 2013

    Regis

    Hello there, I’m looking at the c421 for my AKG k550’s but I’m not sure which version to get…your review makes me think the OPA2227 version would be best but I want confirmation. Also is the impedance on the amp low enough for the k550s?

    • Reply January 7, 2013

      L.

      The new version with the ferrite change and the 2227 should be just fine!

      • Reply January 7, 2013

        Regis

        so the 2227 would complement the akg k550 more than the AD8620? would make sense since the ad8620 is the more clinical sounding of the two versions and the k550 definitely needs more mid presence and bass, right?

        • Reply January 7, 2013

          Mike

          The AD8620 is not clinical. It’s more forward and the bass is punchier, but the soundstage is smaller and the mids are more congested.

          I really don’t think going either with the 2227 or the 8620 would make enough of a difference to the K550.

          Going with a different headphone is a better option.

          • Reply January 8, 2013

            Regis

            What amp or dac would be best for k550s? I just want one with low impedance and bass boost. I like the k550s and find them really unique so ill keep them. Love them for classical, acoustic performances, jazz and the like but of course, they dont work at all for me for pop, rock, metal and edm but what would you suggest as the best semi-open or closed headphone for more synthetic genres or fast pass bass rhythms? Price doesn’t matter. I was saving up for ed8’s but interested in your opinion. I want comfort and bass impact, specifically in sub bass.

          • Reply January 8, 2013

            Regis

            What amp or dac would be best for k550s? I just want one with low impedance and bass boost. I like the k550s and find them really unique so ill keep them. Love them for classical, acoustic performances, jazz and the like but of course, they dont work at all for me for pop, rock, metal and edm but what would you suggest as the best semi-open or closed headphone for more synthetic genres or fast pass bass rhythms? Price doesn’t matter. I was saving up for ed8’s but interested in your opinion. I want comfort and bass impact, specifically in sub bass.

          • Reply January 8, 2013

            Regis

            Mike?

  • Reply May 19, 2013

    lcamtai

    What will happen if I connect Audeze LCD-2 re 2 with C421. My friend has a LCD 2 and I would like to borrow him just for a test for few days. Reading on the internet that LCD2s are amp picky and the manufactures said that LCD2s need at least 1mW to shine. Just curious if Mike has ever tried to pair high impedance output headphones or hard to drive ortho headphones with C421 yet?

    Thanks so much.

    • Reply May 19, 2013

      Dave Ulrich

      Do you already have the C421? It isn’t sold anymore new. It was replaced by the C5.

      • Reply May 19, 2013

        lcamtai

        Yes, I have C421 OPA2227 which I think is the most powerful OPA among 3 OPAs. I bought it in August last year.

        • Reply May 20, 2013

          Mike

          I don’t think I’ve tried that but I can give it a try

          • Reply May 20, 2013

            lcamtai

            Thanks and wait for your results.

            • Reply May 20, 2013

              L.

              I’ll try it later as well. just for you! 😉

              • Reply May 20, 2013

                lcamtai

                Thanks and try C421 with Fostex Mad Dog as well. However I have already thought that C421 does not have enough power to drive LCD but Mad Dog is another story. Look for a new review Mad Dog with Alpha Pad. Is Alpha Pad idea of Mike?

                • Reply May 20, 2013

                  L.

                  Don’t have that one, sorry

                • Reply May 22, 2013

                  Mike

                  I tried the C421 with the LCD-2. Sound was good, loudness level was good. I just didn’t hear the bass impact that the LCD-2 is famous for.

            • Reply May 20, 2013

              L.

              Sound is ok but there’s a big but. With the bass boost off, the sound is really lacking in bass, but with the BB on, there isn’t enough power to keep the bass in control. Bass heavy music was a no go. Imo

  • Reply October 10, 2013

    Ike

    Hello Mike! What about this C421 (AD8620) compared with Sony PHA-1? Would the sound change so much from C421 to PHA-1? And how about if i use with UE900 and HE-300 for PHA-1? Is it worth to change from C421 to PHA-1 with iPOD Classic i have?

    • Reply October 11, 2013

      Mike

      You will gain a superior DAC section if you’re just using an iPod Classic. The problem is that I’ve listened to two PHA-1s so far and the sound quality is very different. One PHA-1 I won’t even bother get to replace the basic iPod. On the good PHA-1, however, it’s definitely a step up from an Ipod+C421. Funny thing is that the PHA-2 I listened to was also not as good as the “good” PHA-1. Figure that out.

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