Music On A Budget: Sub $100 Portable Amps Shootout

sub100_amps_04

If you have been following the updates on this website, then you may notice that my recent obsession with sub $100 amps started when I reviewed the JDSLabs Cmoy. I’ve known the Cmoy design for a long time, but it was the JDSLabs that really sealed the deal for me. Obviously the JDSLabs, or most of the other sub $100 portables here isn’t going to match the technicalities of the more costly amplifiers reviewed in The Usual Suspects. But we never expected them to anyway, and so as long as they don’t erase the details out of the recording you’re listening to, I think we’re all fairly content with the level of technicalities these amp provides. On the other hand, there is almost no correlation between an amplifier’s musicality and its price tag, and in this aspect, with as little as $60, you can get an amplifier that is just as musical as the $300 or even the $500 offering. Now tell me if you aren’t excited with that.

Below you can find a diagram, shot with a proper scale, of the amplifiers we’re looking at. The AMB Mini3 used is the high-performance version.


Now, let’s move on to the review.

 
Continue to the next page…

Music On A Budget: Sub $100 Portable Amps Shootout
3.25 (65%) 8 votes

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285 Comments

  • Reply June 29, 2011

    Impatience

    Yes! It’s here! I was actually on Headfonia waiting for this article as you posted it, and then I saw it in the “Related Posts” bar on a post I just loaded.

    • Reply June 29, 2011

      Anonymous

      I know. I was just replying to your post earlier today asking when this is going to be published. I felt really bad and so I went on overdrive mode to finish it and it’s here.

      Hope you like it.
       

      • Reply June 29, 2011

        Impatient No Longer

        It’s awesome! Everything I was waiting for! Excellent work.

        Sorry about making you go inter overdrive mode though. 😀

        • Reply June 29, 2011

          Anonymous

          Thanks man. Comments like that make all the work worth it. 

          • Reply July 16, 2011

            captouch

            Do you think the cMoyBB and PA2V2 would power 600 ohm DT880’s sufficiently?

            • Reply July 18, 2011

              Anonymous

              It is probably not the best amp for the DT880 600s, but I think they
              should be able to drive it to really loud levels. Anyway I tested them
              with the 300 Ohm HD800s — and the 600 Ohms DT880s is not that far
              different in terms of voltage requirements.

  • Reply June 29, 2011

    Erik Wijnands

    Excellent write-up! Thanks! Will help a lot of people out. I’m quite interested in the A-10. I really want to put it up against my Arrow. 🙂

    • Reply June 29, 2011

      Anonymous

      Oh, that would be an interesting challenge. 🙂

  • Reply June 29, 2011

    James McProgger

    SI was waiting for this as well, o I guess my step up in this area would be upgrading the mini3 standard to Hi-performance… I kinda saw that coming.

    Thanks!

    • Reply June 29, 2011

      Anonymous

      Definitely go for high performance. 

  • Reply June 29, 2011

    TheMiddleSky

    wah, I can’t see any “recommended” words on Mini3.

    I like JDS Labs the most (well, except PA2V2, never heard it), but I think Mini3 is really good, the spectrum is balance and have clean sound while still has good weight of bass.

    I feel JDS without bass boost is a bit too lean in bass section, while adding bass boost will make the sound like covering with “thin fog”. Mini3 has cleaner sound overall while the bass still has good weight.

    looks like I have to try PA2V2 too yeah?

    • Reply June 29, 2011

      Anonymous

      The Mini3 is good if you isolate the performance and only listen to the “bass”, “mids”, “treble” — you’ll find that it’s the most articulate, cleanest, best transients, and so on.

      As a whole, the sound is just not happening.

      As for the JDSLabs, it is one of those non-perfect amps and yes the low bass is weak (didn’t I write that in the article?), but as a whole, the music is happening better.

      Sort of the same argument with the Beta22 vs LM1875 GC if you ask Donny or Danny (they’ve tasted it both).

  • Reply June 29, 2011

    Adrian

    You say that the cMoyBB is “Mellow,” so what happens when you play fast, energetic music on it? Does it sound bad? Does it get congested?

    I want to know because I’m choosing between the PA2V2 and the cMoyBB to get along with the Shure SRH940, and it seems like the cMoyBB would be a better choice because of its bass boost that could help compensate for the SRH940’s bass lightness. However, I do often listen to energetic music, so if the cmoy can’t handle it, that would be a problem.

    • Reply June 29, 2011

      Anonymous

      It doesn’t get congested, but it would slow down the pace of the music slightly.  That’s what happens if you play fast music (i.e Linkin Park, Incubus) with mellow amps.

    • Reply June 30, 2011

      Anonymous

      In all honesty I don’t think the cMoy BB is a bad choice even for Linkin Park. It’s just not as good as the PA2V2. It’s a mild mellow — not a big mellow amp if you know what I’m saying.

       

  • Reply June 29, 2011

    Haja Randrianarison

    I’ll have to test the Cmoy Jdslabs one day, as actually I would prefer the E11 🙂

  • Reply June 29, 2011

    Albert

    Hi Mike, does the Mini3 provide sufficient juice to drive the HE-500 and LCD-2? If any, which of them you prefer to pair with the Mini3 synergy-wise? Cheers.

    • Reply June 30, 2011

      Anonymous

      I think the E11 is better for those Orthos. 

  • Reply June 30, 2011

    Anonymous

    Some slight edit on the article:

    “The JDSLabs is the better all rounder of the two, but sometimes the
    JDSLabs feel too warm and too mellow for fast and agressive Rock, and
    the PA2V2 does the job better for those music.”

    into

    “The JDSLabs is the better all rounder of the two, but the PA2V2 does the job better for fast rock music.”

  • Reply June 30, 2011

    Austin

    Nice, the FiiO E7 is still one of my favorite budget amps to date.

  • Reply June 30, 2011

    jendol

    I really like jdslabs cmoy that I borrowed from you last time, but now…… I am looking forward to try Pa2v2

  • Reply June 30, 2011

    Anon

    How do these compare to the iBasso  T3/4/D?
    They’re slightly more new, but can easily be under the $100 price point when you get it used.

    • Reply June 30, 2011

      Anonymous

      I actually tried comparing it to the T3D and I think they were not so good for the price. The T3D had a clearer instrument separation than all the amps here except for the Mini3, but it just stops there. The soundstage was really constricted and narrow, the frequency response was more of a top-bottom sound. It was hard for me to get excited about it at all.

  • Reply July 1, 2011

    Angel Melendez

     I was definitely waiting for this! Nice review on these guys… but… still… DON’T KNOW WHICH ONE TO PICK!!! lol

    I just got an Nuforce Icon HDP to connect my oldie DVD (via coxial to play CDs), my cheapo LP player (via RCA), still haven’t used it as a DAC. But I can say that as a headphone amp is doing Ok (connected my MP3 player too… this is the best “transport” of the 3 I have connected so sound via this one has definitely been the best). Good definition, good volume, didn’t noticed an upgrade in soundstage but what I did notice is that as an amp this is not “warm/dark” at all (at least to my ears). So yes, listening with the 940s might induce some headaches! lol But I wont be using the 940s at home. I’ll use the 440s until I get me some Senns(650 or 598… love 598 looks but it seems that the 650s are more complete…)

    Still, I want one of these cheaper amps to use at work and Since I’m always carrying the cans around, I’m afraid of the tin Altoids can construction/constitution… I’m not sure if it will last long… and also the use of 9V batteries… don’t know. The E11 looks great, seems to be a great little unit, has rechargeable phone battery BUT paired with the 940s I don’t think it will be a good pairing from what I’ve read… Finally, that would leave me with PA2V2 and Soundmagic…

    arrgghh this is too difficult!!! 😉

    What do you think!?
    Based on your input, I’ll bite! :-p

    Thanks for this awesome shootout!

    • Reply July 1, 2011

      Anonymous

      Go with the JDSLabs. The Altoids case is fine, it makes you worry less
      about scratching your amp since it’s a cheap case (I always have to
      carefully baby my expensive amps whenever I use it.)

      Also order it with the option of having a recharging circuit built in so
      you don’t have to worry about changing batteries.

      • Reply July 1, 2011

        Angel Melendez

        😉 Will do.! Thanks and keep it up! I enjoy reading and learning about this stuff!

        • Reply July 1, 2011

          Anonymous

          Thanks, Angel. 🙂
           

  • Reply July 1, 2011

    JB

    Hi it’s me again. Will the AMB/Ferds Mini^3 be a huge step over the PA2V2 and E11? I’ve had an offer for the AMB at $70-$85 and the Ferds at around $40. I think I can get the PA2V2 at $70 (on how to get it, I still don’t know) and the E11 at $60 available locally. I’m going to pair it with a HD25-1 and iPod 4th gen or iPhone 3GS. My music is mainly rock. Will it be worth the extra dough. Thanks

    • Reply July 1, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi JB,
      Technically, the Mini3 will be a huge step up over the PA2V2 and E11. No contest. If it’s a high performance version, you’ll notice it right away. I mean the Mini3 will beat a lot of the $300 amps in technicalities.

      I am not so sure about the non high-performance version though. 

      • Reply July 1, 2011

        JB

        I am not sure if it’s the high performance version of mini^3 (sorry noob) but it’s the 5 gain version. BTW, do you know if the AMB mini^3 is different from the Ferds one?

        • Reply July 1, 2011

          Anonymous

          I don’t know, never heard about the Ferds until now, actually. Why not
          just get the AMB version just to be safe?

          I believe the gain has nothing to do with the low-high performance version.

          • Reply July 1, 2011

            JB

            All right sir thanks! Have to wait for the next payday though. 😛

          • Reply July 1, 2011

            Anonymous

            Well doesn’t we all have to do that? 😉

          • Reply July 2, 2011

            Donunus

            Ferds is a local DIYer here in the Philippines. He can make whatever configuration of mini3 you want 🙂 I’m not sure though which particular one you are talking about for $40

            • Reply July 2, 2011

              Anonymous

              I see… well if he ships internationally then that can be a good source
              of Mini3 builds. I do wish he uses the Hammond enclosure though.

  • Reply July 1, 2011

    Namaku_die

    Hi mike, I very interesting to try jdslabs or pa2v2. I will very happy if you loan Us both amp (in west java meet au-id). Now I cannot log audiophile-id, i don’t no why…

    • Reply July 1, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Namaku,
      I will try to send them to Neob.

      • Reply July 1, 2011

        Namaku_die

        ok thanks mike…BTW  do you cant log to au id same like me?

        • Reply July 1, 2011

          Anonymous

          The forum is down. No access for the next few weeks.

  • Reply July 2, 2011

    Danardono Anjar

    it seems mini 3 is the winner of this contest.
    do you know where can i get Mini 3 in Indonesia ?
    i guess its very hard to find local seller. also, looking at the website you recommend, does mini 3 could be customize as well ? i mean the package, whether the color or the knob.

    • Reply July 2, 2011

      Anonymous

      Danardono, 
      The Mini3 is  DIY amplifier, meaning Do-It-Yourself. That’s why it’s so difficult to get it. Most people buy the kit from Glassjar (I provided the link) and do the soldering and assembly themselves. 

  • Reply July 2, 2011

    Luis Trujillo

    Great review.

    Hi Mike I’m waiting on the FiiO X3 DAP but until that gets out, wich amp do you think would be the best choice for this setup:
    Ipod nano 3th gen–>LOD–>amp–>sennheiser HD555.

    I’m looking for: mids, musicality and soundstage.
    I am also considering getting the Fostex T50rp

    I’m open for suggestions.

    • Reply July 4, 2011

      Anonymous

      The JDSLabs should be best for what you’re looking for: mids,
      musicality, and soundstage. Upgrading to the HD558/598 is also a good
      choice as soundstage is much more improved on the new models (even
      better than HD600).

      The Fostex T50RP is a hard headphone to like. You can try it, but it’s
      one of those polarizing headphone. I happen to like it, but it lacks a
      great deal of bass punch and PRaT and so I don’t think it’s a headphone
      for everyone.

      • Reply July 4, 2011

        Luis Trujillo

        thanks,  btw. would the AD8620ARZ they sell make a big diference sound wise?

        I like the construction of the PA2V2 but I guess I could get it later.

        yeah I’m not so sure on the fostex maybe I’ll just save the money and get an HD25-1 in the future. if I can sell the 555 I might consider upgrading them to 558/598, better than HD600? that sounds great.

        any way thanks.

        • Reply July 4, 2011

          Anonymous

          Hi Luis,
          I really can’t say much on the  AD8620ARZ as I have never listened to it.

  • Reply July 3, 2011

    rico suave

    herro

    which one of these amps will best suit the hd 595 the most?  genre of music is jazz to pop.  muchos gracias

    • Reply July 4, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Rico,
      JDSLabs Cmoy.

  • Reply July 4, 2011

    Erik nk

    great post,

    I recently purchased a shure se215k, one micro balanced driver IEM,
    which one of these amps will best suit my IEM? If JDSLabs Cmoy is your answer, what’s the 2nd best suitable amp? I’m very anxious about durability of JDSLabs Cmoy.

    I also am a big fan of classical / jazz / acoustic fan.

    thank you very much,

    • Reply July 5, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Erik,
      I think you can try the AMB Mini3. The soundstage performance is even better, but it is a DIY model.
       

  • Reply July 5, 2011

    James McProgger

    Hello Mike!
    How is the battery life of the PA2V2 compared to the mini3 HP and the Fiio E11?

    • Reply July 5, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi James,
      If there is one thing I tend to miss on portable amp reviews it’s the battery life. I don’t know, I just always seem to miss the count.

  • Reply July 7, 2011

    Nicklotr

    Hey Mike,

    I just purchased the PA2V2 from Gary and was pleasantly surprised when he quoted me the $60.00 pricetag which actually covers  International Shipping charges!! And he kindly reminded me that my country doesn’t support his AC Adapter due to the voltage difference and as a result the pricetag of the amp alone is $56.00 inclusive of International Shipping!

    I also purchased the CmoyBB and its pricetag of $60.00 excludes International Shipping charges which is about $8.00.

    Hence, I’m technically paying $12.00 lesser for the PA2V2 which is a huge + for me. Thought you might like to point this out to the international buyers as well. Thanks for the insightful article though 🙂

    Sam

    • Reply July 7, 2011

      Anonymous

      That is awesome, Sam!

      Don’t you just love these sub $100 amps? Well let me know how you like
      it when they arrive.

      • Reply August 5, 2011

        Nicklotr

        Heyy Mike,

        YES, the amps are Awesome for their price! I particularly adore the CMoyBB as they sound really good for my range of classical music. Very musical indeed. PrAT factor on the Pa2v2 was solid and enjoyable for my rock and trance also. Despite the shortcomings you pointed out in your review, I would agree with you that the amps are definitely recommended whether you have a budget or not. Somehow, I also like the minty smell from the CMoyBB tin also hehe.

        I dun really know how to describe what I hear in words as well as you do, but I really appreciate the amount of effort you put to make your reviews as accurate and detailed as possible. Thanks! 🙂

        • Reply August 6, 2011

          Anonymous

          Nice!

          I love it when people get the right gear for their ears, and for a low price too!

          Thanks for the compliments too. I’m glad you like them. They are really a steal for the price and I think more people should be going after these amps.

    • Reply July 15, 2011

      Anthony Mistero

      hey how much was the adpater for your counrty? to suit the PA2V2

      • Reply July 16, 2011

        Nicklotr

        Will update you when I get one within the next week!

      • Reply August 5, 2011

        Nicklotr

        Heyy Anthony,

        Sry was out of town for the past 2 weeks. I just bought my adapter for about S$14 bucks. 500mA, Voltage can be adjusted in the range of 3-12 VDC. The Tips can also be adjusted to fit either the PA2V2 or the CMoyBB. Just be careful to fit the (+) and (-) of the tip and sleeve properly as I accidentally busted my CMoyBB capacitor with reversed polarity T.T

        Good luck
        Sam Wu

  • Reply July 7, 2011

    Sofus

    Hey Mike,

    I took a chance on the cmoy for my ipod touch+MDR-Z1000 and the result is a clear and noticable improvement on soundstage and fuller mids, just after a couple of minutes of testing it! With the NiMH-charger for just a couple of bucks, I think it’s extremely good value for the money. Now the next step is to ditch the ipod for a HM-602 I think for a musical, non-fatiguing sound… would you recommend that combo with my Z1000 and cmoy or do you have another suggestion?

    Robert, Sweden.

    • Reply July 8, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Robert,
      Yes I wouldn’t be surprised as I totally enjoyed the JDSLabs with the HD800, and the Z1000 is also a very transparent headphone that will show any changes in the upstream components.

      As for the HM-602, how do you find your current Touch + JDSLabs + Z1000 to sound? The HM-602 will be warmer sounding than that set up, but if you like it then go ahead for it. If you want something more neutral but better source quality, you can get the Fostex HP-P1.

      http://www.headfonia.com/the-fostex-hp-p1/

      • Reply July 8, 2011

        Sofus

        I think I still have too little review time with the cmoy to give a straight answer as of yet, but it does sound really good, but I want a player with a good dac and supports FLAC since that’s what I use at home for my speakers and headphone rig (Benchmark DAC1+Lyr+LCD-2). HP-P1 looks really really nice though, just a little expensive perhaps 🙂

        • Reply July 8, 2011

          Anonymous

          Yes, the HP-P1 is a little expensive.

          Well if you want FLAC support the HM-602 would do it.

  • Reply July 9, 2011

    | @Matson Log

    […] On A Budget: Sub $100 Portable Amps Shootout http://www.headfonia.com/?p=10227 […]

  • Reply July 14, 2011

    bookaboo

    hi mike,

    i was just wondering if the pa2v2 or jds labs cmoy will be better at reducing sibilance in the hd25. i like the overall sound presentation of the hd25 but am constantly being annoyed by the sibilance. or is it time to try a new headphone such as the ath esw9 or dt250.

    • Reply July 15, 2011

      Anonymous

      Bookaboo,
      I doubt the amps will reduce sibilance. Basically sibilance are caused by excess presence on the top treble, and the only way to reduce it is through EQ-ing down the top treble heavily. Try -3dB on 16kHz.
       

  • Reply July 19, 2011

    Kissed By Kakashi

    Hello Mike, 
    I’m really wondering if a portable amp can drive a Sennheiser HD 600. I’d like to use this headphone with a Cowon J3. Is it imaginable to get good results ?
    If not, what versatile circumaural headphone would you sugest for a portable player ?
    Thanks !

    • Reply July 20, 2011

      Anonymous

      Yes there is a lot of portable amps that can drive the HD600 to very
      good levels. The JDSLabs Cmoy is one. The Fiio E11 is another one. If
      you want even better sound, you can spend more and get something like
      the RSA SR-71A or the ALO Rx — they would do a much better job. You can
      find the review here:
      http://www.headfonia.com/the-usual-suspects-12-portable-amps-compared/

      Actually most of the amps in that Usual suspects review can drive the
      HD600 without breaking a sweat.

      As for recommendations, there are lots of choices.
      The Senn HD558/598 http://www.headfonia.com/old-and-new-hd555-hd558-hd598/
      The Audio Technica AD-series
      http://www.headfonia.com/audio-technica-ad-series-ad300-ad700-ad900-ad1000prm-ad2000/

      Those are some that I can think of at the moment.

      • Reply July 21, 2011

        Kissed By Kakashi

        Thank you very much Mike, for the advice and the very clear answer. I already own the E11 and I think I’ll get another amp soon. I’ve just read your QLS player review and I may buy one, or the future Fiio X3 to use with the HD 600.
        Thanks again !

        • Reply July 22, 2011

          Anonymous

          Great!

  • Reply July 20, 2011

    Simon Guilmain

    I just bought a portable amplfier made by Neco Soundlab and it drive my HD650 very very good. Mike if you can I recommend you to add this little beast to your portable reviewed amplifier. This is a product made in UK and can be found at http://cgi.ebay.ca/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=140567286218&ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT

    Also this is my first post here and would like to thank you for all the good reviews you are doing. One of my FAV audio site!

    • Reply July 21, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Simon,
      Isn’t the Neco amp just a variation of the Cmoy design? If that’s the
      case then the sound should be good — assuming the build quality is
      good. But overall it shouldn’t be too much different than the JDSLabs
      reviewed in this article.

      • Reply July 21, 2011

        Simon Guilmain

        Hi Mike.
        It’s based on the Cmoy but build as dual mono using two opamp. The soundstage is amazing and the bass very refine. Like I said it drive the HD650 and they sound amazing.

        • Reply July 21, 2011

          Anonymous

          Hi Simon,
          Actually an extnsion of that concept is the PBA amp, which is a quad
          mono Cmoy with very sophisticated LM317/337 based power supply
          (http://www.headfonia.com/earfonias-pseudo-balanced-amplifier-pba/) The
          soundstage is improved and likewise bass texture. But the overall
          signature is still very close to a regular Cmoy.

          I think the Cmoy design is nice in the sense that it’s simple and can be
          extended to designs like the dual mono used in the Neco. It also happens
          to be very fun sounding as I’m sure the Neco is. It’s a bit redundant to
          do another Cmoy-based amp review though.

          I hope you understand. 🙂

          By the way my friend also takes pride in his dual-mono Cmoy. It is a
          nice and fun sounding amp indeed.

  • Reply August 3, 2011

    JohnO

    I just bought  a Sony MDR-XB1000 from Japan (70mm drives) and I’m going to buy a Fiio E7 or E9. Just want to know your opinion with wich one should I buy. I’ll mostly use it with my laptop, you think I would get better quality from the DAC, or get the E11 and get the advantage of the double power output (150mW vs. 300mW) would be a better deal? Do you think that E7 power output is enough for these cans?

    • Reply August 3, 2011

      Anonymous

      Yes the power output shouod be enough for the XB1000.

      Nice headphone, I really want to do a review on it.

      • Reply August 3, 2011

        JohnO

        Sorry, my mistake… I was comparing the E7 with E11, not E7 with E9.  But by your answer I’ll assume that I will get more from the E11’s extra power than from the E7’s DAC feature, am I right?
        About the headphones I just couldn’t wait. There wasn’t any information about when it would reach Europe so I ordered it from Japan. And I’m not disappointed at all. But I think my macbook doesn’t have the power it needs to handle them. It gets the xb1000 pretty loud but I think a 10-15% increase in power would be perfect, just to deal better with the low frequencies. I’m really curious to see your thoughts about these headphones. When you have the opportunity to try it, do this: put them in your head and go watch yourself in a mirror. You will laugh for 5 min.

        • Reply August 4, 2011

          Anonymous

          Hi John,
          Sorry I seem to be confused as well..

          I’ve never listened to the XB1000, but from the XB700 and the XB500, I don’t think that the XBs are built to be fine monitoring headphones but more to a fun bassy headphone. Hence I think it would benefit more from an amplifier (i.e E11) and less so from a DAC (i.e E7).

    • Reply August 3, 2011

      Anonymous

      Oops sorry I missed the question. The E7 has limited voltgae out, so I would recommend getting the E9 with it.

  • Reply August 6, 2011

    Anonymous

    When you have the opportunity, give the Zo amp a listen. Since the day I purchased mine, I’ve never listened without it, no exaggeration. Besides, the EX1000 + Zo combo pairs even against my JH16’s. Yes, you read right.

    • Reply August 6, 2011

      Anonymous

      Yes, thanks. That sounds really amazing. I plan to review it really. Zo shipped one unit to me but I haven’t received it yet.

  • […] se tiraron un review ademas del modelo solo y de comparacion a otros amplis bajos los 100usd Music On A Budget: Sub $100 Portable Amps Shootout | Headfonia, Electric Avenues PA2V2 | Headfonia, a gusto personal entre un E5 un PA2V2 o un JDSLabs, me gusta […]

  • Reply August 20, 2011

    jb

    Hi sir! I finally got the PA2V2 a while ago and I agree with you that it pairs really well the HD25. Good thing I followed your advice. I like it better than the E11. When I used the E11 with my iPhone and HD25, it was more of a bass boost and little to no obvious improvements to the mids and highs while the PA2V2 gave more body to the sound. The lows were more impactful and detailed, the mids are cleaner, and the highs were more enjoyable without any harshness. The PA2V2 is a great amp. Bang for the buck! Plus Gary is really nice. 🙂

    • Reply August 20, 2011

      Anonymous

      Glad to hear that, JB. 🙂

      • Reply August 20, 2011

        jb

        Hmm I just encountered this now. When I used IEMs, the sound was better but it has a lot of noise. Any recommendations on how to fix this? Do I need to tinker with the gain switches? Sorry noob and thanks in advance. 🙂

        • Reply August 20, 2011

          Anonymous

          Yes, I don’t think the PA2V2 comes with a gain switch.

          If you can do a little DIY, you can ask Gary on which resistors to change to lower the gain.

          • Reply August 20, 2011

            jb

            All right sir thanks! I already emailed Gary about this a while ago. It isnt much of an issue to me as I stopped using IEMs for now. BTW, I am not sure about this, I think the PA2V2 has gain switches inside, the two knobs inside the amp above the battery.

            • Reply August 20, 2011

              Anonymous

              Ow, it does?

              I see then.

  • Reply August 22, 2011

    Jech

    May I know which of these amps works the best for Alessandro MS1i?

    • Reply August 23, 2011

      Anonymous

      I’ll recommend the JDSLabs.

  • Reply August 26, 2011

    Eamonn Keogh

    which amp would work best with Beyerdynamic DT 770 pro (250 ohms) headphones?

    • Reply August 27, 2011

      Anonymous

      Try the JDSLabs Cmoy.

  • Reply August 27, 2011

    Meep

    Which amp should I use with the ATH M-50?

    • Reply August 29, 2011

      Anonymous

      Try the PA2V2 or the Fiio E11.

      • Reply August 31, 2011

        Arianne

        Hello I’m planing to buy my 1st headphones, which is the ATH M50.

        The M50 like you said is an all rounder, the CmoyBB is too, so why just don’t pair them together?

        • Reply September 1, 2011

          Anonymous

          Well, you can pair them together and it would sound pretty good. For me, the bass section of that combination will be too loose. They will also be moderately laid back together and won’t deliver a good pace.

          • Reply September 5, 2011

            Arianne

            What do you think if I pair it with the Fiio E7/E9 combo?

            • Reply September 6, 2011

              Anonymous

              I think it will be better.

  • Reply September 26, 2011

    Jason Suarez

    Hey Mike. I just bought an NIB iPod Video 80gb and I’m having problems with
    driving headphones. 

    I had read that the iPod Video puts out 30mW+30mW into 16 ohms (versus the iPod
    Classic’s 30mW+30mW into 32 ohms) and it really does need more current for large headphones.
     
    Which amp do you think would pair best with the AGK K271?

    • Reply September 26, 2011

      Anonymous

      Any Ipod is underpowered for the K271. What’s your budget?

      • Reply September 26, 2011

        Jason Suarez

        I was originally interested in deciding between two amps in your review, the Fiio E11  due to its adjustable gain and power output, and the AMB Mini3 due to its technicalities, which attract me as I like analytical sound.

        I’ll be willing to pay more to get the AMB Mini3 prebuilt for me -knowing it could cost up to $180 from a diy amp builder- so If there is another portable amp at that price range I’d consider it, but it would be nice if one of the cheaper amps in this list could do the job 🙂

        • Reply September 27, 2011

          Anonymous

          Jason,
          I still remember how the K271 sounds, and I think for the K271 the Mini3 would be best.

          • Reply September 27, 2011

            Jason Suarez

            Thanks Mike,
            your description of the Mini3 is exactly what I like to hear in audio anyways and I was hoping you would say it pairs well. Good thing the Rockhopper Audio website is back up 🙂

            • Reply September 27, 2011

              Anonymous

              Sounds good, Jason.

        • Reply September 27, 2011

          Anonymous

          Oh and the K271 is actually not that easy to drive, and while some of the sub $100 amps may be able to do the job, I can’t be sure since I’ve never used them with the K271. And so just to be safe, I would go for the Mini3. It has the potential to drive the K271 well.

  • Reply October 1, 2011

    CCE

    I have a audio technica ath-T500, bit aggresive n forward. What kind of portable amp u recommend for it?

    • Reply October 1, 2011

      Anonymous

      I assume you want things to not be quite as aggressive and forward? Then the JDSLabs CMoy.

      • Reply October 9, 2011

        CCE

        yea…i like it more balanced and detailed.
        Thanks mike!

        • Reply October 10, 2011

          Anonymous

          Yes, JDSLabs Cmoy.

          • Reply October 11, 2011

            CCE

            What would you recommend if I want to get a DAC/AMP?

            I want to get a portable amp that can be brought around(means with reasonable battery life and durability) that can work as a decent DAC for my laptop as well.My budget is below $200 and SQ is my priority, followed by balanced sound and wide soundstage. It can be a separate DAC and amp pair if the overall size is not too big. =)RegardsChi Eng.

  • Reply October 3, 2011

    z3r0h

    is there any amp recommendation for ath-ad900? i want an amp that enhance the bass and SQ as well if possible.

    • Reply October 3, 2011

      Anonymous

      The JDSLabs Cmoy should do. Especially if you’re not using an amplifier at the moment.

      • Reply October 3, 2011

        z3r0h

        wow, quick reply.. i’ll try it then i’ll report back to u. thanks~

  • Reply October 16, 2011

    Guest

    Which amp would you recommend for the Ultrasone Pro 900?

    • Reply October 17, 2011

      Anonymous

      The JDSlabs Cmoy should pair nicely.

      • Reply October 18, 2011

        Guest

        Thanks for the answer, also how would you recommend keeping an ipod and the Cmoy together? Should I just use rubber bands? Or is there something more convenient?

        • Reply October 19, 2011

          Anonymous

          Rubber bands are fine. Some people use velcro too. 

  • Reply October 17, 2011

    Newbie

    Hi,
    Which amp would you recommend for the Sennheiser hd 380 pro?

    • Reply October 18, 2011

      Anonymous

      I’ve never had the experience with the HD380, sorry.

      • Reply January 25, 2012

        Extreme_reza

        Hi Mike,
        Which amp for ipod classic 6 gen pairing with marshall major?

        • Reply January 26, 2012

          Mike

          Reza,

          You were complaining about the sound of the Major just now right? Better find the right headphone first.

  • Reply October 25, 2011

    MikeM

    Hey, first off thank you for the amazing review. This has been by far most straightforward and helpful I have found. Down to business ( please 😀 ):

    I have a pair of HD555 modified to HD595. I love lots of bass ( but not muddy fake bass) and love clear audio in all of the other ranges. Would the PA2V2 or a modified CMOY (modified from bass switch to bass knob) be better? If you have not tested with knob, stock for stock which would you recommend?

    • Reply October 25, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Mike,
      Thanks, glad you like the article. The PA2V2 isn’t quite the bassy amplifier kind. The Cmoy would give a good bass with the boost on but you will lose some clarity on the bass when you turn on the boost.

      • Reply October 28, 2011

        MikeM

        Thank you for your reply. So basically overall the PA2V2 will be clearer? I don’t want to sacrifice clarity for bass. I’d rather have less bass and more overall clarity. Sounds like the CMOY will have more bass but only with bass boost on, which will than lower clarity?

        IF I am understanding what you said correctly, I think I have decided on the PA2V2

        • Reply October 28, 2011

          Anonymous

          HI Mike,
          The Cmoy and the PA2V2 are both very clear sounding amps, but the PA2V2 has a slightly brighter signature which should help with boosting perceived clarity level.

          • Reply October 28, 2011

            MikeM

            Geez your quick. Ok thank you for all your help to help me decide.

            • Reply October 28, 2011

              Anonymous

              You’re welcome Mike. 🙂

  • Reply October 30, 2011

    Patrick Tam

    Hey, great reviews on this site!
    I just bought an ATH-SJ55 based on your review, and I loved it!
    now the next thing I would like to buy is an amp. I’ve got my eyes on the FiiO E11, what do you think about the combination? or is there a better combo? I listen to almost all genres of music from Classical, Jazz, Acoustics, Techno even Metal, which is the best of all above?

    • Reply October 31, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Patrick,
      I think you should be fine with the E11. There isn’t quite a best universally amplifier-headphone combination as they would be slightly different for different music. I may also look at the JDSLabs Cmoy for the SJ-55 for Jazz, Classical and Acoustics. The E11 would be good with Techno and the PA2V2 for metal.

      • Reply October 31, 2011

        Patrick Tam

        Right, thanks for the reply. One more thing though, where can I find the JDSLabs Cmoy in Jakarta?
        thanks before 🙂

  • Reply November 7, 2011

    Andy

    Just got me the TMA-1 and loving it–with some EQ, that is.  Unfortunately I power them with my mighty ipod nano (2nd gen), and cannot load my custom EQ on it.  Would an amp change the “EQ” of my TMA’s??  My custom EQ setting in iTunes is flat from  32-500, and a gradual rise from 1k to 16k (the 16k being the highest at +3 decibels).  I mainly listen to hip hop with a little bit of house.

    I’m interested in the PA2V2 and CMOYBB and was hoping one of these might be the magic bullet?

    Love the site btw–newbie here!

    • Reply November 8, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Andy,
      I don’t think an amp would give you that much of a change (like +3dB at 16K). Sorry that’s why the TMA-1 is recommended with recordings that have hot treble in the first place.

    • Reply November 8, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Andy,
      I don’t think an amp would give you that much of a change (like +3dB at 16K). Sorry that’s why the TMA-1 is recommended with recordings that have hot treble in the first place.

      • Reply November 8, 2011

        Andy

        Gahh that’s a shame!  Thanks for the reply though 🙂

        • Reply November 9, 2011

          Anonymous

          Yea, too bad. 🙂

      • Reply November 8, 2011

        Andy

        Gahh that’s a shame!  Thanks for the reply though 🙂

  • Reply November 7, 2011

    Andy

    Just got me the TMA-1 and loving it–with some EQ, that is.  Unfortunately I power them with my mighty ipod nano (2nd gen), and cannot load my custom EQ on it.  Would an amp change the “EQ” of my TMA’s??  My custom EQ setting in iTunes is flat from  32-500, and a gradual rise from 1k to 16k (the 16k being the highest at +3 decibels).  I mainly listen to hip hop with a little bit of house.

    I’m interested in the PA2V2 and CMOYBB and was hoping one of these might be the magic bullet?

    Love the site btw–newbie here!

  • Reply November 24, 2011

    Andi

    Nice comparison, thanks a lot – found it quite interesting. I myself own the JDSLabs and am a great fan of it, can’t speak for the others though. I can say for sure the external DC adapter increases overall dynamics a lot; I got a switchable adapter that is currently on the cmoy’s max. level of roughly 24V (its regulated, and i checked thrice with a voltmeter). The part with the rechargeable circut suprised me, i wasn’t aware this was possible (im using a rechargeable 9V-Block battery on the go, and recharge it at home with a seperate battery charger) – If only i had known that before 😀 But hey, its still an awesome device for 55$.

    • Reply November 25, 2011

      Mike

      Yes, I’ve gotten the new version with the rechargeable battery too.

      You’ll be surprised how good the JDSLabs Cmoy really is. I mean, I’ve made a lot of recommendations for the JDSLabs, but I think the word “Cmoy” really has a “budget” perception strongly attached to it. I’ve used it to create some mind blowing set ups with the Hifiman players and the Sennheiser HD800. The Cmoy scales up to the source very well. It is totally smooth and free of any weird artifacts. The soundstage and ambiance is among the best in portable amps. It’s just amazing, and with a high end dynamic headphone like the HD800 it truly will blow people away.

  • Reply November 26, 2011

    M Rezadwiarianto

    mike,what is better for hd 25,jdslabs cmoybb or pa2v2?
    thx

    • Reply November 28, 2011

      Mike

      I think both are good, but the sound of the PA2V2 is more in tune with the HD25-1’s signature.

  • Reply December 5, 2011

    Zaid Saleem

    hey mike can u share a quick thought on the cmoybb vs the FiiO E6 which im hearing much praise about … how would these two compare in overall sound quality?

    • Reply December 5, 2011

      Mike

      Hi Zaid,
      I’m doing a review on the E6. The two are not even close, the E6 is very nice but the CmoyBB is miles ahead.
      I think frankly speaking the CmoyBB can take on some $200-$300 portable amps.

      • Reply December 6, 2011

        Zaid Saleem

        i do appreciate the quick reply mike not to be a nuisance.. but can you compare the overall sound quality vs the headstage arrow (which may sound as a bit far fetched comparison to others) but as you said it may compete with some higher budget amps, therefore just giving me a quick thought would do

        but if you conclude the headstage arrow being a viable upgrade to the cmoybb is it worth the extra 200+ smackers? disregarding any bass boosting requirements as i am in for the overall SQ

        thanks again Mike for the advice

        • Reply December 6, 2011

          Mike

          Alright, Zaid. 

          The simple Cmoy design leads to three things: 
          – One is the weak low bass performance. With the bass boost on it may not be so obvious, but when the boost is off, you can notice that low bass is quite weak and not as linear as on the Arrow. Articulation on the bass section is also not very good. 
          – On the other hand signal path is very short on the Cmoy leading to a very transparent of the source kind of a sound. Likewise micro details are also very good and among the best in portable amps. 
          – The simple design of the Cmoy, perhaps also combined with the short signal path, usually also gives a very good soundstage performance. And in this case the Cmoy is indeed very good. Soundstage is very spacious and deep with a superb soundstage image. I’m not even talking on the basis of the $60 price here, but compared to portable amps in general, the soundstage is among the best. 

          Now the Headstage Arrow’s $200 price. I think that can be justified. You get a very slim enclosure which is a very strong point in portable amps. You also get much more features like USB recharging which I think makes things a lot more convenient than the 9Vs on the Cmoy. 

          So, yes I’m not here to judge each company’s price policy but I think both amps are great amplifiers.

  • Reply December 14, 2011

    Reza

    hi mike
    i want to buy jdslabs for hd 25,does this amp slowing down the PRaT?
    im afraid that this amp gonna slowing down the PRaT factor

    and one more question
    does hd 25 improve more with recable or amping?

    thx mike

    • Reply December 14, 2011

      Mike

      Hi Reza,
      I won’t worry about it too much. The JDS is not a PRaT monster, but it’s not terribly slow either. With the HD25-1 you should still get good PRaT. Cable and amps: yes and yes.

  • Reply December 14, 2011

    Isaiah Mackler

    Hey Mike!
    I asked this question on Facebook but here I go: Which of the sub $100 portable amps would you recommend for a Grado? I’ve had the SR80i and am getting a SR225i but I imagine that the amp you recommend would work for most in their line…

    • Reply December 14, 2011

      Mike

      Hi Isaiah,
      I would recommend either the JDSLabs Cmoy or the PA2V2 for the Grado.

      • Reply December 16, 2011

        Isaiah Mackler

        In a non-related question. I was running the HD598 out of the E11 but thought it really lacked the oomph that the E9 had. The E9 does a much better job revealing what the HD598 is capable of? I don’t understand electronics so I have no idea if it is sheer power or what. Which of these sub $100 amps do you think would make the most out of the HD598?

        • Reply December 16, 2011

          Mike

          Hi Isaiah, 

          For the HD598, out of these sub $100, I would recommend the JDSLabs Cmoy.

  • Reply December 16, 2011

    Fabio

    Recently I read an article pointing out flaws in the Mini3:

    http://nwavguy.blogspot.com/2011/05/amb-mini3-diy-headphone-amp.html 

    Can you comment on this?

    • Reply January 10, 2012

      Mike

      It’s just somebody’s opinion. If you listen to the Mini3 you’ll find that it has excellent technical characteristics for a portable amp.

  • Reply January 10, 2012

    SaraKerrigan

    Which of these Sub $100 Portable Amps best suits a mid-centric Vsonic GR06?

  • Reply January 10, 2012

    SaraKerrigan

    Which of these Sub $100 Portable Amps best suits a mid-centric Vsonic GR06?

  • Reply January 22, 2012

    Paul Wang

    Hello, thank you for the wonderful comparison.  What would you recommend for a ultrasone 580?  I enjoy hiphop, but will not sacrifice clarity for bass

    • Reply January 23, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Paul,
      Try the JDSLabs Cmoy.

      • Reply January 29, 2012

        Paul Wang

        Thank you very much, Mike.  Your feedback is extraordinary!

  • Reply February 8, 2012

    Dominik Howland

    Hey Mike,
    First of all: YOU HAVE AN AWESOME WEBSITE! I enjoy a lot of reviews and comparisons…
    About a month ago I bought a pair of Audio Technica ath-m50. I love them, but I would like to improve the soundquality and bass-quality/quantity with a portable amplifier. Wich would you recommend? 
    I have not a big budget and not very much websites are shipping cheap to Italy…
    Thanks! 🙂

    • Reply February 8, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Dominik,
      Thanks for the compliments. What exactly do you think you want to improve?

      • Reply February 8, 2012

        Dominik Howland

        The overall sound quality, but most important thing is the bass quality…
        I listen to a lot of electronic music like dubstep, electro house, drumstep, drum and bass and also lots of Burial/Volor Flex-music style.

        • Reply February 8, 2012

          Mike

          Get a different headphone. That’s the first thing I’d recommend.

          I think the AIAIAI TMA-1 is good for what you listen to.

          http://www.headfonia.com/aiaiai-tma-1/

          • Reply February 8, 2012

            Dominik Howland

            I am a student and not made out of money…so this is kinda difficult 🙁

          • Reply February 8, 2012

            Mike

            Hmmm… okay I still think that it’s best to start with the right headphone to get the right sound. But if you can’t, give the Fiio E11 a try. That would be my best bet for your situation. 

          • Reply February 8, 2012

            Dominik Howland

            Hmmm… I the m50 really such a bad headphone? I can’t compare to others. 
            I don’t know if I should sel them and get better headphones or buy a portable amplifier.

          • Reply February 8, 2012

            Dominik Howland

            ahaha… I didn’t want to kid you with the “Hmmm…”, sorry.  

  • Reply February 17, 2012

    Kenny Tan

    Hey Mike,
    I’m a newbie here who bought the Senn HD555 a year ago and the RE-ZERO two months ago. I own the Fiio E5 and tried both of my phones on a friend’s E11 (didn’t like the RE-ZERO + E11 combo); which of these amps would be best for both (I think I’m leaning towards either the PA2v2 or the Cmoy but still open to other suggestions)?

    • Reply February 17, 2012

      Mike

      Kenny,
      What is the question here?

      • Reply February 17, 2012

        Kenny Tan

         Oh, sorry for the crappy phrasing, my question is which of these budget amps would you recommend for my 555 and ZERO (to improve sound stage and clarity).

        • Reply February 17, 2012

          Mike

          Hi Kenny,
          Try the JDSLabs Cmoy.

          • Reply February 17, 2012

            Kenny Tan

            Thanks for the quick reply, I’ll order it as soon as possible (can’t wait to hear what the craze is all about).

            • Reply February 17, 2012

              Mike

              Hope you like it. 🙂

              Please don’t get your expectations too high though, after all it’s $60.

  • Reply February 28, 2012

    Jake Chan

     Hi Mike,

    In your opinion which of amp should I pair with a stock HD 25? I currently own an E6 and an E11 but both of them muddies the sound.

    • Reply February 28, 2012

      Mike

      Try the Pa2v2. It’s a very nice pairing with the HD25-1.

      • Reply February 28, 2012

        Jake Chan

         Which one? The one from JDSLABS or Electric avenue? Is it better than a CMOY? I’m looking to tame the treble and maybe improve it’s low end bass.

        • Reply February 29, 2012

          Mike

          Jake, 
          If you want to tame the treble, get the CmoyBB. You can add low end bass by turning on the bass boost. It’s not going to be the most transparent low end bass since it’s a bass boost, but at this price range, it’s difficult to get a proper low end bass. 

      • Reply February 29, 2012

        Jake Chan

         My bad I got it confused with JDLABS P4V2 LOL

  • Reply February 28, 2012

    Benjamin Benito

    Thank you for the informative article.  Will the CmoyBB or PA2V2 be the best match for my Shure SE530 and Grado SR80i? 

    • Reply February 29, 2012

      Mike

      Benjamin,
      The CmoyBB will give you a more spacious sound and a sweeter midrange. The PA2V2 will be better in giving a good speed and pace to the music.

      • Reply February 29, 2012

        Benjamin Benito

        Thanks Mike.
        I am leaning toward the CmoyBB. Should I request a Low-Z version or will the standard build work with the Shure SE530 and the Grado SR80i?
        Aloha,
        Ben

        • Reply February 29, 2012

          Mike

          There are a few points to consider, but I think in all you should read about them on the CmoyBB review as I went more in depth on that article: http://www.headfonia.com/60-pack-of-awesome-jdslabs-cmoy/

          Basically what I found is that the standard version gives a better, more spacious sound. The Grados however benefit from the low-Z version’s higher current on loud passages.

  • Reply March 5, 2012

    Eric Kong

    Hi Mike 
    Your reviews are great & provide superb insight!!

    Just have a question on what is your best recommended setup pairing with:-
    – Sennheiser HD-25 ii & Ultimate ears Triple Fi 10 IEM?

    Many thanks

  • Reply March 10, 2012

    Tomas Van de Wiel

    Aye Mike,
    First i want to say your website has helped me a lot already, your reviews are very clear!

    Now to my questions: I have read your parts about the Cmoy and i think the sweet midrange and warm feel of this amp is quite perfect for me. You have written about the highs a few times but i’m still not really sure. Aren’t the highs overpowered by the midrange? I mean, can i still hear them clearly?

    Also, i’m about to buy the ATH-M50 to run with the Cmoy since it’s pretty much an all-rounder, but will these cans suit the warm feeling?

    • Reply March 10, 2012

      Mike

      Tomas,
      Don’t worry the clarity is still very good. Treble is laid back, but it’s clear enough. This is not one of those over-thick, mid-centric sound.
      Yes I think the M-50 would pair well with the Cmoy.

  • Reply March 17, 2012

    Roy Neo

    Hi,
        I am looking for a portable amp that would pair up nicely with the Ultimate Ears Triplefi 10.I would prefer to have the trebles untouched and the mids be raised forward.I am not looking so much into bass,but if the portable amp does improve bass,then great!Genres that I listen to,if needed,would be faster-paced genres like Metal,Rock,Punk and Alternative.Please recommend me a suitable portable amp that fits into my budget of below US$100.Thanks.

               Regards,

    • Reply March 17, 2012

      Mike

      Roy,
      Try the JDSLabs Cmoy.

      • Reply March 23, 2012

        Roy Neo

        Thanks,mate.

  • Reply March 24, 2012

    Eric Zhou

    I have the Sennheiser HD598, and I mostly listen to jrock/jpop, which of these Budget amps would you recommend?

    • Reply March 24, 2012

      Mike

      Go with the JDSLabs Cmoy.

      • Reply March 24, 2012

        Eric Zhou

        Ok, and thanks for the quick reply.

      • Reply March 24, 2012

        Eric Zhou

        Oh, and one more question, do you know where i can buy them for a good price?

        • Reply March 24, 2012

          L.

           @JDSLabs? 🙂

        • Reply March 27, 2012

          Mike

          You have to go direct from JDSLabs. Try googling the link.

  • Reply April 6, 2012

    jean xavier Henriel

    Hello mike many thancks for this review 
    i have a ibassi d-zeo to dire my Grado sr325 and i am not really sasified with it (too neutral)
    could you recommand me one of those for this configuration : Ipod —) line out ans grado sr325

  • Reply April 29, 2012

    Ody Crosslinx

    Hey great review! Anyway which one would you suggest me: PA2V2 or cmoyBB? I listen mostly to rock, soul, rnb, hip-hop

    • Reply April 30, 2012

      Mike

      Ody,
      Both are great amps. The CmoyBB comes with an option to give you added bass for RnB and Hip hop.

  • Reply May 4, 2012

    Ricardo Hernández

    On your cMoy’s review, and in some posts in ths thread, you cite your experiences using it to successfully drive the power hungry HD800; but on this review, particularly on the FiiO E11, you say it’s the only one that does “the job” driving the theorethically less demanding HE-500. The question would be: Is the JDSLabs capable of adequately driving the latter? I ask this since I’m planning on getting the HiFiman. Thanks in advance.

    • Reply May 7, 2012

      Mike

      Ricardo,
      The HD800 is not a power hungry cans. Not PX100 light, but not power hungry. HE-500 is much more demanding. I don’t know how the tiny E11 is able to drive the HE-500 but it just does. The JDSLabs Cmoy shines with high impedance headphones like the Senns, but not so with low impedance like the HE-500, I wouldn’t recommend using the Cmoy for the HE-500.

  • Reply May 7, 2012

    John Edwards

    which would you recommend for the sennheiser hd 25 ii?

    • Reply May 8, 2012

      Mike

      John,
      Try the PA2V2.

  • Reply May 7, 2012

    John Edwards

    I failed to mention that I primarily listen to hip hop, but would not sacrifice clarity for an “artificial” bass. Was torn between pa2v2 and the cmoyBB, but then I was recommended the e111 so now I’m back to phase one lol.

  • Reply May 20, 2012

    Zac Caslin

    I’m not sure if they fixed the volume on the A10 since you reviewed it, but I have been able to mow my lawn with it my front pocket with no problems. Have you tried a newer one from a different batch?

    • Reply May 22, 2012

      Mike

      That sounds good, Zac. Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to try the newer A10s.

  • Reply May 20, 2012

    Sushant Arya

    hey mike,i m in an urgent need of your help..i m planning to buy a full sized headphone..nd my budget is maximum 80 $……..i basically listen to rap, rnb nd david guetta nd edward maya…my focus is on sennheiser,shure nd audio technica..i want to use it outdoors as well…my source is my htc one v nd hp pavilion g6…if u want i could buy an amplifier as well but i could spend a maximum of 40$ on my amplifier…………all i had ever used is my creative ep 635…plzz reply………..

  • Reply June 3, 2012

    Brandon

    Hey Mike,

    I’m trying to decide between the CmoyBB and the PA2V2 to go with a pair of Denon DJ DN-HP500. Some say they would be in the same class as the K-81/K-518DJ and HD-25. I listen to a variety of music. Sometimes I love listening to Progressive House and then switching up to Drum & Bass. I also care a lot for vocals and hearing every instrument. Ex: Grizzly Bear, Gotye, Radiohead, deadmau5, Noisia, Justice, etc.

    Thanks, Brandon

    • Reply June 4, 2012

      Mike

      Brandon,
      The PA2V2 may be the better one to go for, it’s faster and has better attack and pace. But I’ve never tried it with your Denon.

      • Reply June 4, 2012

        Brandon

        Thanks Mike,

        I was leaning more towards the PA2V2 anwyay. I think it would suit the Denon a lot better. Thanks again.

        • Reply June 5, 2012

          Mike

          You’re welcome, Brandon.

  • Reply June 16, 2012

    titanium1

    Hey, Mike. I have sennheiser 650. I don’t now what is the best from this list for me. I love listening electronic music. Infected mushrooms, shpongle, differend kind of trance, etc. Plz help me 🙂

    Thanks, Roman

    • Reply June 16, 2012

      Mike

      Roman,
      An amp for electronic music, trance, try the Fiio E11.

      • Reply June 17, 2012

        titanium1

        Thanks, Mike !

  • Reply September 10, 2012

    Mike

    The RE262, I really don’t have too much experience with it.

  • Reply October 2, 2012

    Simon

    The jds can drive good the DT 990 pro 250ohm?
    Thanks mike.

    • Reply October 3, 2012

      Mike

      Simon,
      Never tried it directly with the DT990 250Ω but it shouldn’t have a problem judging from my experience with the 300Ω Senn HD650 and HD800.

  • Reply October 12, 2012

    Fabien

    Hi Mike,

    Which of these would you recommend for the ATH ES10? Am I right in thinking that the Cmoy is a good fit in that it will avoid “overdoing” the bass on these headphones?

    • Reply October 13, 2012

      Mike

      As long as you turn the bass boost off, the Cmoy would be good.

  • Reply October 14, 2012

    Jeremiah Jerome

    hi i am currently shure se215 i brought it cause of the better bass that it offers when compared to the se315 and about with are using armature driver, but i need a some extra bass kick which would you suggest. thanks.

    • Reply October 15, 2012

      Mike

      Jeremiah,
      Bass kick, I think one of the best is still the Triple.Fi 10 which is a triple BA. The SE315 I thought was still a dynamic (micro dynamic or whatever Shure called it).

      • Reply October 15, 2012

        Nick Tam

        To clarify, 315 is single BA which is why the 215 is often favored for having better bass kick.

        Also consider the Sony MDR-EX600 as their dynamic drivers have really good controlled bass to it if the TF10 isn’t your thing.

        • Reply October 15, 2012

          Jeremiah Jerome

          but in terms of amp and dac which should i get, i am also planning on getting JH audio iems are they really that good for the price that they are charging?

          • Reply October 15, 2012

            Mike

            Jeremiah,
            JH Audio is really good. Amps and DAC, later when you already got the IEM. 😉

            • Reply October 15, 2012

              Jeremiah Jerome

              okay thanks.

              • Reply October 20, 2012

                Reesh

                Hi Mike, I just got the JH5 and loving them! I’m looking for a cheap portable amp to pair with my Galaxy s3 (have a ud100 dac on the way). Which of these amps has good synergy with the JH5s? Thanks

                • Reply October 20, 2012

                  Mike

                  I don’t really have a good recommendation from this for the JH5 to be honest. I’d just use it direct from your phone, or if you can swing the budget, the Pico Slim is about ~$300

  • Reply November 3, 2012

    Ranon Sim

    Hi there,

    I just purchased a standard cMOYbb v2.03 and am currently pairing it with the bose oe2(32ohm), samson sr850(32ohm), superlux hd668b and a panasonic rp-htf600(55ohm).Surprisingly, the difference in sound quality(e.g. soundstage) w/o bass boost is almost insignificant if not absent when driving it using my mp4 player(a sony A864 walkman). Also, when connected to my laptop, the hissing noise coming from the headphone is really audible when the volume knob is turned about half-way up. Any idea whether this could be due to a faulty amp unit or that my set-up isn’t ideal? Will the difference in sound quality only be perceived when driving bigger ohm headphones because right now I don’t have any above 55ohms and am not sure what to do…Thanks:)

  • Reply November 6, 2012

    Guest

    hi mike.jsem from Czech Republic and I can not english.where power amplifier is suitable for shure SRH 440? I listen to rock, alternative and pop.thanks for answer.

  • Reply November 6, 2012

    Daniel Krol

    hi mike.i am from Czech Republic and I can not english.where power amplifier is suitable for shure SRH 440? I listen to rock, alternative and pop.thanks for answer.

    • Reply November 7, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Daniel,
      Try the Cmoy from JDSLabs.

  • Reply December 3, 2012

    Atriya

    Hello folks; I have an HE-400 and a dacport lx. For a sub-$100 amp, would you recommend the Fiio e11, cmoy bb, or something else? (looking for best synergy) thanks!

  • Reply January 2, 2013

    KAran Khan

    Hi Mike, I was thinking to buy Fiio e11.

    I would be using it on my Mobile Samsung Galaxy Ace. I really don’t know should i go for a good in ear headphones or first try it on Fiio e11 with onstock in ear headphones then after a couple of year (when my budget get lil fine) jump on to better in ear headphones. I generally listen to psychedelic trance music which has more electronic with beats and bass from Kindzadza, Sonic Species and this radio station: http://www.trancemoon.com/home.html

    One more question is that i don’t know whether my phone has good DAC. So E10/E7 if used could give a better difference??

    • Reply January 2, 2013

      Mike

      Karan,
      If you’re going with an In Ear, I would recommend just using it without an amp. In Ears are generally easy to drive and doesn’t require amping. Adding an amplifier in the chain is unnecessary and adds bulk.

      As for the DAC, I’m pretty sure that the DACs on the E10 & E17 are better than any mobile phones internal DAC, but that’s just an educated guess.

      • Reply January 2, 2013

        KAran Khan

        Thanx for quick reply!! Then would buy a decent In ear headphone, i have searched for these:
        VSonic GR02 BassEdition

        SoundMagic E10

        Brainwavz ProAlpha (ViSang R02)
        VSONIC GR99
        Sennheiser CX-180
        Sennheiser CX-175
        MEElectronics M11+

        Any thought for the above for trance music?

  • Reply January 9, 2013

    Dustin Johnston

    Hi Mike,
    Looking for a portable amp for my PS500’s. Is the CmoyBB the one to go with. mids and vocals are my main concern here.

    Thanks,

    Dustin

    • Reply January 9, 2013

      Mike

      It’s a good amp but I don’t recommend it for Grados. What’s your budget?

  • Reply January 9, 2013

    Dustin Johnston

    I should also note that my source is an HM-601 and sometimes use my 4th gen ipod classic as well.

  • Reply January 9, 2013

    Dustin Johnston

    Thanks for the fast response. I`d like to keep it around 100 dollars though I might push it up to 200 if there`s a really good recommendation. I figured the cmoy because I heard it`s similar to the RA-1 which I found had great synergy with my RS-1`s I had a few years back. What are my options, and thanks for the speedy reply!

    • Reply January 9, 2013

      Mike

      Yes the RA1 is great for the RS1. Actually what you can do is email John at jdslabs and tell him you’ll be using a grado and he can tailor build the cmoy with a higher output current capacity. Ask him as well if you can have a same opamp as on the Grado RA1.

  • Reply January 9, 2013

    Dustin Johnston

    Thanks for your help Mike. Much appreciated! I love the simple look of the cmoybb. Definitely a sweet looking amp that doesn`t look like it takes things too seriously

    • Reply January 9, 2013

      Mike

      Yes it’s a really nice amp. I hope John can do those customizations

  • Reply January 9, 2013

    Dustin Johnston

    What would you consider the reference amps for the PS500`s to look into. I will have more of a budget in the future and looking for something in the next year or so. Any suggestions?

  • Reply January 9, 2013

    Dustin Johnston

    Thanks Mike, I`ll check the link out!

  • Reply October 20, 2013

    Aakshey Talwar

    Hi
    I have a HD 650. I want a bright/lively portable amp with good forward mids. Budget is sub $100-150. I am debating between Fiio E12 or O2 or CmoyBB. Which one do you recommend? Will be using with an ipad or iPhone.
    Thank You
    Aakshey

    • Reply October 20, 2013

      Dave Ulrich

      The mids are a little thinner on the O2, and while the cMoy has good mids that are a bit forward, it isn’t the liveliest amp.

    • Reply October 21, 2013

      Mike

      CmoyBB

    • Reply December 26, 2014

      Alberto Martinez

      What did you buy? I have an HD600 and I have same question?

      • Reply December 26, 2014

        dalethorn

        Are you also using iPad or iPhone?

        • Reply December 27, 2014

          Alberto Martinez

          PC Windows 7 or iPad Mini usually connected to Audioquest Dragonfly v1.2 and this DAC connected to the portable headphone amplifier to buy and then to HD600; other headphones used are Senn PX100-II and Senn PX450 noise cancelling.

          • Reply December 27, 2014

            dalethorn

            For low budget I would get the E12, for 2 reasons. One, the power to drive the HD600 with headroom to spare, and two, quality of build for portable use.

            • Reply January 11, 2015

              Alberto Martinez

              After reading and reading I have decided to increase my budget for portable DAC/Amp to $600-700 and more choices are Centrance HiFi-M8 and iFi micro iDSD to be used when travelling with Senn HD600 or PXC450 or PX100-II connecting to iPad and/or PC Windows 7.

              Which one do you recommend? Any other alternatives?
              Thanks in advance

              • Reply January 11, 2015

                dalethorn

                Centrance or Theorem seem good choices. Configuration, compatibility, portability, battery life – those would be deciding points.

                Never mind Theorem (for phones etc.) You just need usb, but self-powered DAC/amps are needed for more output power.

                Edit: I need to check more things.

              • Reply January 11, 2015

                Headfonia_L.

                For Ipad and PC, I can recommend the theorem and Centrance. The Ifi is the most neutral and analytic. The theorem the most musical and the Centrance the most powerful

                • Reply January 11, 2015

                  Alberto Martinez

                  Thanks; this is like to choose among BMW, Audi or Mercedes, all of them are the best ones but you want to be sure you buy the best one as it will be used for a long time (and it is not cheap). Doesn’t the potential hires limitations to 48kHz on CEntrance and Theorem affect to your election?
                  Which configuration do you suggest to recommend iFI?
                  Thanks a lot for your patience.

                  • Reply January 11, 2015

                    dalethorn

                    The 48 khz limitation is inherent to Apple devices, and some of the Apple-compatible DACs will play 96 khz or more when used with computers.

                    • January 11, 2015

                      Alberto Martinez

                      Then, what sense has to use an Apple devices as DAP storing on it 24/96 or 24/192 FLAC flies (thru FLAC Player App i.e.)?

                    • January 12, 2015

                      dalethorn

                      I never used a FLAC player on the Apple device, although if I were interested in having just a few FLAC tracks for a specific testing purpose, then I might install such a player with those tracks, in addition to any 44/48 khz WAV tracks I use for testing now. Besides, unless I’m doing testing in a hotel room somewhere where it’s very quiet, and I have only the iPhone or iPad etc. and my FLAC player …. well no, that’s not practical. For portable use I’m in noisy places most of the time, and for me the point of having a hires device in those places is for things I can hear – tightness and detail of bass, correct instrument tone etc. – but not the really fine detail that I hear at home where it’s very quiet. So at home where I will hear the things I mentioned (correct tone etc.) PLUS the fine details I hear only when it’s quiet, then that’s when higher resolutions like 24/96 are better, and then I use a computer. And that’s why if you buy a $700 Apple-compatible DAC/amp, it’s good that it can process 24/96 or better from a computer.

                    • January 12, 2015

                      Alberto Martinez

                      Good approach and some differences with my mobile use. Yes, you are right, part of the time listening music will be on train/plane which are not the quietest places (that’s the use of PXC450) but I spend a lot of nights at hotels reproducing the same quiet environment as at home, and there is where Apple device plays a key role, as part to be close when layed on bed and I want to have same capabilities as with computer. I will come back to the Headfonia_l.’s criteria to take the decision. gggrrrrr 😉

              • Reply January 11, 2015

                dalethorn

                Some of these allow direct plug-in to iPad or iPhone, but some require the “Camera Kit”. I suggest caution when using a camera kit, because you can eventually end up with a kludge that’s unsatisfactory. For example, to take full advantage of the fine detail afforded by the DAC, you would want to run entirely on battery power (so no AC line noise gets in). Every additional device with its plugs and jacks degrades the signal slightly, and you can lose the advantage of the external DAC by adding extra components. I think you’ll be happier if you can plug in one box with one cable, for best sound quality and convenience too.

  • Reply November 29, 2013

    Gabriel

    I’m new to headphone amps. I think I’ve read every post on this website involving them, and I would love to at least try a cheaper one like the CmoyBB or PA2V2, but there’s one thing I’m confused about. How does the amp affect soundstage? It is possible I could lose soundstage using a cheaper amp like the two listed?

    I’m just running K550s straight out of an iPod right now.

    • Reply November 29, 2013

      dalethorn

      I think you’ll find eventually that soundstage isn’t just some design aspect of a headphone – it’s the result of a combination of factors, and probably the biggest factors are high quality drivers, well-designed driver housings, and frequency balance – smoothness without peaks and suckouts being the most important aspect. All those high-tech things that the reviewers here mention, whether it’s grain, black background, PRaT and so on – those don’t exist separately in a vaccuum, they’re a result of how everything works together. Just turn down the treble sometime and hear how soundstage and other things can suffer. Everything counts toward good sound. Those amps will no doubt improve your soundstage, but the better connection you get to the better amps – the more you hear of some amazing things.

    • Reply November 29, 2013

      Mike

      Gabriel,
      It’s going to be a long discussion and I really don’t want to go there.

  • Reply December 20, 2014

    Cliff Red Elk

    I have a Fiio E6 and I want to step up a bit. I have an iPod 5th gen and V Moda LPs. I was thinking about the JDSLab Cmoy. Do I need customization? Or could I get one that is cheaper on Amazon? Or should I go with the E11?

    • Reply December 21, 2014

      dalethorn

      I hope someone else answers this, but in the meantime I use the LP and several small amps, except the Cmoy series. Either the Cmoy or the FiiO should be great, using the LOD cable, since the LP is efficient enough and the amps will improve the soundstage and help the bass be more solid.

      • Reply December 21, 2014

        Cliff Red Elk

        Thanks, I am most likely going with the Fiio E11, because I have enjoyed the E6 for awhile now. I am not as picky as some. I would like to have the best sound around, but I will make do with the best in my price range. I am in school and I have a five year old, so I have to research to get the best affordable items.

        • Reply December 21, 2014

          dalethorn

          The E11 should be good. All the FiiO’s I’ve had are good – using mostly the E07k now.

          • Reply August 24, 2015

            Syed Hakimiey

            Hey, dale! since you said you owning E07K, I would like to know, which great to pair with Fiio X1 DAP. DAC is bonus,mostly for portable setup,Amp. Between Fiio E07K, E11K, iBasso D Zero MK2? Love details and wide imaging.

            • Reply August 24, 2015

              dalethorn

              I would choose iBasso – there’s a chance of improving or changing the sound quality, not so with the FiiO amps. Be sure you can return it if you don’t like it. It’s very hit-or-miss with those components – personally I would stick with the X1 alone unless I need much more volume, and then upgrade to a better amp later.

              • Reply August 24, 2015

                Syed Hakimiey

                You think. After reading review about X1 on this site, as reviewer said, the sound open to new whole level through line out, instead of headphone out. That’s make me thinking about get an external amp. Is it true?

                • Reply August 24, 2015

                  Headfonia_L.

                  Of course it is, I said so 🙂
                  The LO is better than the integrated amp, but please use a decent amp and not some sub $100 Fiio amp, that won’t improve anything (except for maybe make it less noisy)

                  I’d think iBasso or Cypherlabs or Fiio E12/A

                  • Reply August 24, 2015

                    Syed Hakimiey

                    If you say so, maybe I would go with ibasso then. Thanks to both of you, for answered my question.
                    Loves Reality by Lost Frequencies btw. 😉

                  • Reply August 25, 2015

                    dalethorn

                    Yes, for sure.

      • Reply December 21, 2014

        Cliff Red Elk

        I bought a Fiio L9 LOD in the past, but it shorted out too fast. Any suggestions?

        • Reply December 21, 2014

          dalethorn

          I thought the LOD cables I have are really good quality. Since they cost so much, somebody could be selling fake versions cheaper. Anyway I have a couple of L3’s that work very well.

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