Revolutionary: The Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo (CLAS)

CLAS_07

After months of waiting, I’m very happy to finally get my hand on the revolutionary Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo (CLAS) device.

Everyone knows that the CLAS is the first of its kind, as it is the only portable device that gives access to the Ipod’s digital data, bypassing the Ipod’s internal D/A conversion. This concept was first seen on the Wadia i170 Transport, later also on the Onkyo ND-S1 which I also happen to use, but neither docks work on batteries, nor do theycome with their own digital to analog conversion circuitry. Last year, HRT also released the iStreamer device which also had the ability to extract digital data from the Ipod, but the iStreamer also requires AC power for operational. Now, I’ve recently learned of the existence of another portable Ipod dock-amp like the CLAS, this time from Japanese manufacturer Fostex. While I can’t be sure who ultimately have the right to claim to be the first, I think it’s quite agreeable to say that both devices are the “firsts” of their kind.

While I’m still waiting for the Fostex HP-1 to arrive from Fostex Japan, Ken @ ALO Audio have sent me the Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo, along with the signature ALO USB dock and mini-to-mini cable. Paired with the ALO Rx Mk2 which belongs to my friend Peter, I am very excited to be able to experience the Solo first hand.

WHAT DOES IT DO?
To do a quick recap, the typical digital audio signal chain goes like this:

SET-UP A
This is the typical direct set up. On this set up, the Ipod is doing all of the task of producing the signal for the headphones, starting from providing the digital music file, encoding the music file, feeding it to the digital to analog converter, passing on to the internal amplifier, and finally out to the HD800 headphones. As you can see, the Ipod is responsible for doing all that hard work, which gives us a less stellar result out on the headphone side.

SET-UP B
You’ve got the typical portable amp set up, where a portable amplifier, such as the ALO Rx Mk2 takes the amplifying job out of the Ipod’s internal amp. As a result, you get a more potent amplification circuit capable of delivering higher power output at a finer resolution level. And yet, on this set up, the critical Digital to Analog (DAC) conversion is still handled by the Ipod’s internal DAC. The typical Imods doesn’t alleviate this problem too, as it still takes the signal after it has been processed from the Ipod’s internal DAC.

SET-UP C
On this set up, you have the Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo taking over the critical Digital to Analog conversion process, as it is able to extract the digital data out of the Ipod’s storage media, and perform the Digital to Analog conversion inside the CLAS. The result is a superior source signal, which then can be passed to a superior amplification circuit such as the ALO Rx Mk2, before finally getting to the headphones. Indeed, this is by far the best method, as it provides the optimum sonic quality at each part of the chain.

The CLAS (bottom) with the ALO Rx MkII (top). Identical footprint, but different thickness. This side reveals the output side of the CLAS, available both as digital or analog signals.

 

On the back side is the connection to the charger, as well as the USB socket for the digital data input from an Apple Ipod device.

 

GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE CLAS
The CLAS accepts the digital data from the Ipod through the USB socket on the back panel. Transmission method is through Asynchronous USB, in which a low jitter clock inside the CLAS serves as the master clock for the data transmission. The data is then passed on to a Wolfson D/A chip (the actual chip model is not revealed by Cypher Labs). Despite the USB port, it is important to note that the CLAS does not have the necessary services to act as a USB DAC. Data resolutions are limited to 16/48, which is the resolution that typical Ipod devices will accept.

As a general rule of thumb, the CLAS is compatible with all of the recent Ipod/Iphone/Ipad models, which includes the Ipod Classics, all versions of the Touch, Nano, and Iphones, and the Ipad.

My shipment from ALO consists of the Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo device in its own packaging. Included with the CLAS packaging is a generic Cypher Labs USB Dock cable, three Cypher Labs rubber bands, and a 5Volts charger for the CLAS. The CLAS device retails for $579, while a CLAS and ALO Rx Mk2 package is available for $998 from the ALO Store. The CLAS device was still sealed inside its plastic packaging, which implies a brand new unit with no burn in time. Additionally, ALO also shipped me a pair of ALO reference USB Dock cable, as well as an ALO mini to mini interconnect, terminated in Neutrik L-angles, which sells for $198.

The stock USB dock cable that come with the CLAS is quite long and would be useful for using with the Ipad.

 

These are the cables from ALO.

 

SOUND IMPROVEMENTS
The improvements are obvious. Compared to the same system without the CLAS (Ipod Classic > ALO SXC LOD > ALO Rx Mk2 > HD800), I’m getting a bigger soundstage and a more distinct separation that fills up almost the entire cups of the HD800’s headstage. One of the issues that I’ve always had with Ipods in general is how the mids always sound congested when compared to the higher quality sources. Not anymore with the CLAS. The mids are now open with no congestion. Going back to the Ipod’s internal DAC gives me a more muffled sound, and though I can still hear the instrument separation pretty well, the whole band was taking place on a smaller soundstage that seems to only fill half of the HD800’s large sphere. Of course, we wouldn’t expect anything less but a much improved soundstage projection out of the CLAS.

COMPARED TO THE HIFIMAN HM-602/HM-601
Afterwards, I went on to proceed the comparison to the Hifiman HM-602, which was my current favorite DAP. The amplifier and headphone remains the same, and likewise the music files. The primary difference between the two sources is that the CLAS takes on a more lively and dynamic sound, where the Hifiman is more mellow, warmer, and more midrange oriented. The CLAS is better on soundstage width, blacker background, and instrument separation, while the Hifiman gives a deeper soundstage depth and also a better sense of ambiance. I think the difference character between the two DACs (Wolfson vs Philips TDA1543) makes the Hifiman more suitable for Acoustics, Vocals and Jazz. While the CLAS would be more suitable for mainstream Rock, anything fast-paced with a lot of strong beats.

THE CLAS AS A DIGITAL TRANSPORT
The low jitter, bit perfect Asynchronous data transfer of the CLAS makes it a good candidate for an excellent digital transport. I tested the CLAS as a digital source feeding S/PDIF signal to the Grace m902, and while the resolution was not as good as compared to my CEC TL51XZ belt driven CD player, the CLAS did offer far better level of convenience as I had hundreds of CDs available on the Ipod’s storage system.

END WORDS
The portable HiFi industry have grown tremendously, and there are a lot of choices when it comes to choosing an audiophile player these days. While most of these audiophile players come with a strong audio performance, none of them is able to match the overall package that you get with the Ipod and Iphone platform. For some player, like the QLS QA-350 that I reviewed a while ago, the UI is so primitive that I’d rather use a plain Ipod Shuffle rather than having to deal with that kind of UI.

I think the real selling point with the CLAS lies in its compatibility with the Ipod platform. To this day, there are no other players that can compete with the superb user interface, storage size, and popularity of the Ipods. The success of the Iphone also makes the CLAS an even more appealing solution as you can have a smart phone and an audiophile player in one package — something that can’t be done on the other systems. Combined with the additional solutions offered through the App Store and the Itunes, none of the other player comes even close in offering the full-scale solution that a user get with an Ipod.

I’d like to congratulate Cypher Labs for pulling off one of the most revolutionary solutions to high end portable music listening.



System used for review:
Headphones: Sennheiser HD800
Amplifiers: ALO Rx Mk2, Grace m902
Source: Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo, Hifiman HM-601, Hifiman HM-602
Transports: Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo, Ipod Classic 120GB, CEC TL51XZ
Interconnects: ALO AlgoRhythm Interconnects

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135 Comments

  • Reply March 2, 2011

    fransiscus yogi

    woww, yet another nice review mike 😉

    but its pretty expensive system for a portable setup, is it worth the price/performance to buy item ?

    • Reply March 3, 2011

      Anonymous

      Price/performance is always a tough deal, especially when you want the best stuff, you’ll probably get a very low price/performance.

  • Reply March 2, 2011

    Metalboy

    Very good review 🙂
    Do you know if it works well with custom Iems?

    • Reply March 3, 2011

      Anonymous

      Yes, of course it does work with custom IEMs. 🙂

    • Reply March 12, 2011

      Erieg

      It works great with custom IEMs. I use a set of quads from 1964 Ears and they sound AMAZING. I have been throwing the Arrow 3G in the mix as well. I love the Arrow dearly but the sound is better with the MKII. Yes, I know it shouldn’t matter.

      (iPhone 4->Solo->MKII->Quads = Bliss)

      • Reply March 14, 2011

        Anonymous

        Thanks for the impressions.

        Nice amps you have there. 🙂 I’m writing a review of the Arrow and the Rx Mk2. 🙂

  • Reply March 2, 2011

    tinytim

    hi can you compare to hifiman 801

  • Reply March 2, 2011

    jendol

    nice review mike. clas was not available when I ordered my alo rx mk2. I wonder how will this ‘super ipod setup’ compared to older generation ‘best ipod setup’ (rwa imod+vcaps box+blackbird or any other variation)

    • Reply March 3, 2011

      Anonymous

      Good question. I think the CLAS set up would be better technically, as the source quality can’t be matched by the internal Ipod DAC. Other than that it’s a question of different sound signatures, especially with the Vcap dock (and you can get different brands which will alter the sound in different ways).

  • Reply March 2, 2011

    Itsmestevo

    As always very good review, Thanks!

    Sorry for a stupid question.
    How dose it works w iPhone, can I still make/receive phone calls?

    • Reply March 3, 2011

      Anonymous

      Let me check on that and get back to you.

  • Reply March 2, 2011

    eugenius

    I’m sorry, I can’t get excited about another wolfson-in-a-box, this time with an Apple tax payment as a feature. Mike, please don’t drink the kool-aid and stop saying “revolutionary” so much. 🙂

    • Reply March 3, 2011

      Anonymous

      Lol.. different toys for different people, right?

  • Reply March 3, 2011

    Sperandeo

    Is it worth the price and weight? I have a nice portable setup that uses the ipod classics internal DAC. (with TTVJ Millet Hybrid amp)
    I also have an iDecco that turns the ipod into a pure digital source. (just like the solo and Wadia) To be honest the difference between my portable setup and my iDecco is not HUGE. To be honest sometimes I forget I’m on the iDecco and think I’m still hooked up to my portible. I don’t listen to the iDecco and say “Wow, there is no comparison to my portable setup”. I can’t justify spending the money or carrying around another brick unless it makes me say “WoW Weeeeeeee”

    • Reply March 3, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Sperandeo,
      I think your question is very valid. And yet at the same time such questions can’t quite be answered by other but yourself. I fully enjoy the quality I get with high quality sources and headphones. And yet there are times when I go out with nothing but an Ipod nano and a plain PX100 headphones just because I want to keep the size down.

      It is also important to see how revealing your headphones are, and the kind of music recordings you listen to. Some recordings are not very good (actually the majority of mainstream pop stuff), and going to a superior source won’t reveal additional details because the recordings never have them in the first place.

      It’s always best if you can have an audition before comitting to purchase an expensive gear.

      Cheers.

  • Reply March 3, 2011

    Lanangjalang

    show me the rig bro…

    • Reply March 3, 2011

      Anonymous

      I will, but the CLAS is already going around to Peter and some other people who’s looking for an audition.

      • Reply March 3, 2011

        jendol

        I am listening to the same setup now; iphone4+CLAS+AloRx Mk2+hd800 old deep purple and led zepellin albums

        • Reply March 3, 2011

          Anonymous

          What happens when you receive calls on your Iphone?

          • Reply March 5, 2011

            jendol

            the music fades away when a call comes in, and fades back in when we finish or reject the call

            • Reply March 5, 2011

              Anonymous

              Nice! Thanks for the info

              • Reply March 7, 2011

                Itsmestevo

                Dose it mean that i can use a iem w mic to make calls?

                • Reply March 7, 2011

                  Wijayanto Soelivan

                  No, I believe you cannot.

                  • Reply March 7, 2011

                    Anonymous

                    I was a bit confused at first, but I think Wijayanto got it right. The
                    CLAS wouldn’t have the necessary analog-to-digital circuitry to make
                    that possible.

        • Reply March 8, 2011

          Lanangjalang

          little bit out of topic here but your -oh that’s so 70s- tunes, rock! dude…

          • Reply March 8, 2011

            Anonymous

            Read today that Def Leppard is coming out with a live album. Hopefully sonic quality will be good.

  • Reply March 3, 2011

    Yaska

    Must try this with my T1 next week

    • Reply March 3, 2011

      Anonymous

      Yaska, you can try talking to Dayak. I’m sending him the CLAS next week.

  • Reply March 3, 2011

    Terrybd05

    Mike, waiting for your review of Nationite S:flo2 !!~..dual WM8740..!! 🙂 $ >180 Us

    Cheers!!

  • Reply March 3, 2011

    Deckhand Davy

    As always, another great review, Mike! This is pretty ground breaking for the iPod community and I can’t wait to see some more products that will have this same capability.

    • Reply March 3, 2011

      Anonymous

      Thanks, Dave!

  • Reply March 3, 2011

    Inado

    Mike,
    What do you recommand between
    1- An iPod + Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo + Ray Samuel SR71-B
    and
    2- HM-801
    with IEM UE10 and Ultrasone 8.
    Which conbination give a better sound ???

    • Reply March 3, 2011

      Anonymous

      Inado,
      With all respect and not trying to evade the question, I’m sure you know
      that both systems will produce a totally different sound signature that
      can’t quite be stated as one being better than the other.

      I have a quote that works really well for scenarios like this: “In
      high-end audio, the name of the game is system synergy.” Chip Stern

      Now, let me share some thoughts that will help you decide.
      1. Ipod + CLAS: You get all the good stuff that comes with an Ipod.
      Superior UI, Itunes support, up to 240GB capacity, etc. The Hifiman UI
      is pretty outdated when compared to the Ipod, and you’ve got to carry a
      LOT of SD-cards to match the Ipod’s built in capacity.
      2. Signature wise, the CLAS is more lively and dynamic. The HM-801 more
      laid back and grand. Alternative Rock, Progressive, anything fast, the
      CLAS would be better. Female vocals, classical, jazz, the HM would be
      better.

      Hope that helps.

      Cheers,

  • Reply March 4, 2011

    Wijayanto Soelivan

    Nicely reviewed, Mike. So the CLAS device runs off batteries? Any spec of the battery? Run up time etc?

    • Reply March 4, 2011

      Anonymous

      The quoted battery life is 8-10 hours.

  • Reply March 4, 2011

    Inado

    Mike,

    Using Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo in my portable system does an iMod from Wiplash or RedWine Audio would make a change in the sound quality ???

    • Reply March 4, 2011

      Anonymous

      Nope it won’t make a difference. Sell your Imod so you can have money
      toward purchasing the CLAS.

      • Reply April 16, 2011

        Suhayb Hafiz

        Would it matter which ipod/iphone/ipad I used with the CLAS or would some models/generations sound better than others with the CLAS?

        • Reply April 16, 2011

          Anonymous

          I havent tested it, but in theory the difference should be irrelevant.

  • Reply March 4, 2011

    bb

    Sorry, but the price is ridiculous. For $1000 which is the ALO price of the CLAS plus the Alo RX, you can just get and carry a MacBook Air…. nuff said. Of course, either way, “portable” is a bit of an exaggeration.

    • Reply March 5, 2011

      Anonymous

      Well if a laptop is what you need…

      • Reply March 5, 2011

        bb

        It either fits in a pocket or a bag. Since the CLAS plus AMP plus DAP would need a bag, then the laptop is just as practical.

        • Reply March 5, 2011

          Bulmanxxi

          Not to mention the silliness of paying a $1,000 to make an iPod sound like a MacBook, which you can buy for that thousand and keep your iPod for on-the-go as well…

          • Reply March 5, 2011

            Anonymous

            Got your point. 🙂

            • Reply March 5, 2011

              Glen Waverley

              MacBook Air-based rig on the go: MacBook Air + USB DAC (iBasso DB1) + portable amp (iBasso PB2) + IEM + Phone (everybody needs a phone)

              iPhone-based rig on the go: subsidized iPhone + DAC (CLAS) + portable amp (iBasso PB2) + IEM

              • Reply March 8, 2011

                bb

                And it that’s somehow supposed to be worth $2,500-$3,000… don’t think so

            • Reply March 5, 2011

              bb

              Word is that HRT is planning to bring a similar battery device plus a built in amp… if the price is right, say under $300, then we are talking…

              • Reply March 7, 2011

                Anonymous

                Amazing. I don’t see why they can’t do that. All they have to do is take
                the iStreamer and change it into a battery powered device.

                • Reply March 7, 2011

                  bb

                  Yup, they just need to fit in a nice amp as well… But that’s the main idea. Or, of course, if Apple would just provide a digital out of their devices… Camera Connection kit on the iPad is one way (but they could come up with an adapter-less solution) – either way, no need for CLAS at all.

    • Reply March 6, 2011

      Erieg

      As someone who has both a Macbook and the Solo/Rx MKII I can tell you that there no comparison.

      • Reply March 7, 2011

        Anonymous

        I haven’t compared a typical Macbook output to the Solo/Rx Mk2, but on my Powerbook, the difference is quite big.

        • Reply March 7, 2011

          bb

          Add a uDac-2 (or similar) to the Macbook and voila…

          • Reply March 8, 2011

            Anonymous

            Why not add a Lavry DA11 while you’re at it…

            • Reply March 8, 2011

              bb

              To keep the price in the same ballpark as the CLAS+ALO+DAP

  • Reply March 6, 2011

    tinytim

    i dont see how it can be better than the 801 when the DAC is so much superior in it. you should do a detailed comparison to find which is the best overall.

    • Reply March 6, 2011

      Glen Waverley

      How about a better clock?

    • Reply March 7, 2011

      Anonymous

      The PCM-1704 based HM-801 has a more laid back, darker signature. Soundstage image, ambiance and low level detail is still better than the CLAS, but you don’t get all the good things that you get with an Ipod-based CLAS.

  • Reply March 8, 2011

    hongcheol

    I was wondering if you have compared the DAC in the CLAS to some desktop non-portable DACs as I have heard it actually competes very well. I do not think that the DAC will be on par with the DAC in the HA-160D, but if you have made any comparison I would wish to hear from you on this.

    Sorry if english is not too good.

    • Reply March 9, 2011

      Anonymous

      Good question. My Burson is out on a loaner, gimme time until I get it back.

  • Reply March 25, 2011

    Parol

    Hi mike, just wanna check with you on how the sound signature will be like when paired with the RSA SR71b amp in balanced setup?

    • Reply March 25, 2011

      Anonymous

      I think you will mainly hear the RSA sound on such a set up.

      • Reply March 25, 2011

        Parol

        Will there be an improvement in sound quality wise?

        • Reply March 25, 2011

          Anonymous

          Improvement compared to?

          The CLAS needs an amp to work, as it is a pure DAC+transport box.

  • Reply March 25, 2011

    Parol

    Improvement in sound as to w/o the CLAS?

    • Reply March 25, 2011

      Anonymous

      Well, I think the article covers how the CLAS improves the sound in
      compared to a regular Ipod. Do you want me to rewrite that here? Sorry,
      I don’t get your point.

      • Reply March 25, 2011

        Parol

        🙂 i guess i will have to go try out and listen to the sound signature myself then. Thanks Mike!

        • Reply March 25, 2011

          Anonymous

          That would be the best way. But I just read the two paragraphs I wrote comparing the CLAS to a stock Ipod and the Hifiman HM-602/1, and I think it’s quite descriptive of the impression I had.

          A friend asked me about the CLAS today, and I would’ve told him to read the article here. 🙂

  • Reply March 25, 2011

    Parol

    ! more question, do you know of any other better grade cables besides the ALO reference cable with USB-1/8 output? I am also thinking of having 1 cable with 1/8 input & balanced connector (4 pin male) to be fed as input into RSA sr71b.

    • Reply March 25, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hmmm… not that I know of. I’m sure you can ask Whiplash or ALO to make one for you.

      So you gonna feed single ended signal to the balanced input of the Protector?

      • Reply March 25, 2011

        Parol

        i am still trying to find a cable with balanced input into the balanced input of the protector but have yet to find one so far. Pardon my ignorance as I have just recently embarked on this portable audio journey 🙂

        • Reply March 25, 2011

          Anonymous

          The CLAS doesn’t do balanced output though.

          I think you’re overdoing it, especially if you’re still new, I suggest you stick to simpler set ups. If you have extra budget, get a few amps and see which one you like best. It’ll help you learn about gear and sound signatures better.

          • Reply March 25, 2011

            Rchew

            So I’m guessing that I should stick to single ended input then. Thanks for the info.

  • Reply March 27, 2011

    Rudi0504

    Hi Mike, it is very nice review, on Wednesday i got one SOLO ( CLAS ) follow your recomendation.

    I have one question, now my IMOD can not run anymore through this SOLO ( CLAS )

    Is that correct Mike, that SOLO can not uise for IMOD ( Ipod Video with Modification ) ?
    Please advise, thank you

    Cheers

    • Reply March 28, 2011

      Anonymous

      The problem may be with the Ipod version that you’re using and not about
      the fact that it’s been modded. The Imod only bypasses an internal
      capacitor, it does nothing to the digital section and shouldn’t
      interfere with the CLAS. I think the recommended Ipod to use is the
      Classics, Touch, and Ipads, and Iphones. Perhaps you can use it with an
      Iphone and see how that works.

      • Reply March 30, 2011

        Rudi0504

        I have already try SOLO to my : IPOD Click Wheel 1st Gen ( Black and White )
        IPOD VIDEO 1st Gen
        IPOD Video 5th Gen ( I MOD )
        For all my IPOD above, SOLO does not works.especially for IMOD came out on the Display
        O K to disconnect.
        The Two IPOD still can play Songs , but NO Sound came out .

        With my Iphone 4 G works very good, SOLO Sound Quality a bit better than my IMOD

        Thank you Mike and

        Cheer

        • Reply March 30, 2011

          Anonymous

          Hi Rudi,
          I think the SOLO doesn’t support those older Ipods you’re using.

  • Reply April 7, 2011

    Johnblacker08

    So I bought the Solo but honestly I probably return it. I didn’t find the sound to surpass my other high end portable (602), and the battery made me have to plug it back in to AC too much. I bought it due to all the hype, but the $600 cost only brought my ipod to entry mid-fi desktop level. To tell you the other portable gear I have, Hifiman 602, Beyerdynamic T50P and Ultrasone PRO900. I think this product is good for the short-term, but chinese companies and other companies will probably come out with much cheaper ipod out solutions soon. All IMO of course.

    • Reply April 8, 2011

      Anonymous

      Thanks for the honest comments, John.

      • Reply April 10, 2011

        Rachelle Gomez

        Quick question Mike … one of the thing that is partly appealing in this setup is that I can use the regular ipod classic 160gb that I have now …

        And then I’ve been hearing it’s very imminent that Apple is going to begin offering 24 bit music and 24 bit functionality in their players in near future. With iPods typically being refreshed in the fall, I could easily see Apple offering 24bit music and functionality in their iPods this September, in which case I would just get this new iPod and throw it into this setup.

        Overall, this kind of rig gives me more confidence than going with something like Hifi players, which are awesome but seem to have problems with reliability (and also the storage issue.)

        I know I’m rambling, but my concern is with the solo only having 16/48 capabilities. Why would they do that? Considering some will use this out of their computers — which have 24-bit ability, and with new players coming that are sure to also be 24 bit … it seems like a mistake on their part to limit themselves like this.

        Your thoughts? Maybe 24/44, 24/48 and 24/96 is just a firmware update away ….

        • Reply April 11, 2011

          Anonymous

          Hi Rachelle,
          When Apple starts offering 24 bit stuff in the future, it will take many
          many years before you can get the majority of albums re-released in
          24-bit. I personally wouldn’t worry too much about the 24-bit capability.

          Between 16 and 24 bit, yes the 24 bit offers an upgrade in sound, but it
          is not a huge jump in sonics differences when compared to the 16 bit
          version of the same recording. And this was through the ears of seasoned
          listeners, with some $1K+ worth of headphone rig, and with high quality
          audiophile recordings. If you were listening through a portable rig and
          the average mainstream rock recording, I bet you can’t tell the
          difference most of the time.

          I think many people are impressed with 24 bit recordings simply because
          the original source material were recorded in much better conditions,
          and that’s the part that makes the most difference. But comparing the
          same recording, 16 vs 24 bit versions, most people would be hard pressed
          to tell the difference.

          On the other hand the concern about going for the Ipod based CLAS system
          and the Hifiman based system is far more tangible in my opinion.

  • Reply April 10, 2011

    anouk

    Hi Mike, will you be doing a full review of the sound quality of the hm801 versus the cypherlabs and the fostex? For me the hm801 is alluring since then i can do with an all-in one oslution and the digital transports that i could combine with my iphone would result in at least a three-piece system of probbably more or less the seem price as the hm801. Greetings, Anouk,

    • Reply April 11, 2011

      Anonymous

      Anouk,
      I haven’t planned to, although it sure is a good article to do. Perhaps
      when I get the fostex that would be a good time to do the round up.

      Briefly, the quality of the PCM1704 in the HM-801 is universally agreed
      to be one of the best, most musical DAC chip around, next to the TDA1541
      Phillips. Wolfson chips, while good, have not yet attained to that
      legendary status. Likewise I find the source quality of the HM-801 to be
      better than the CLAS. Obviously you need to listen to good proper
      recordings, most preferably live recordings with a lot of ambiance
      details to be able to see the difference. But on the average rock
      recording, the livelier CLAS sound may be the better choice as
      instrument separation is also clearer than what you may hear on the
      darker sounding HM-801.

  • Reply April 11, 2011

    Jason Suarez

    $1000 O_O
    Great review Mike.

    I disagree with you on the Ipod classic UI, I hate not having the ease of folder support on my 80GB 6th Gen. As for the IPhone UI, my dad uses a folder-based program called Flac Player XD. (I had know idea Apple would allow such a thing in marketplace)

    Also, I don’t know whether you knew or not when you answered jendol but the 4th and 5th Gen ipods used a very good Wolfson DAC that was completely rendered useless by a bad amp and cheap signal cabling/internals. An ” rwa imod” ran the Wolfson’s signal through hifi cabling straight to the line out.

    Though I think the Hifiman line killed the rwa imod for good when they released the HM-601/602, you made it sound like the HM-602 and CLAS are equal but different, so does that change anything when the rwa imod does the Wolfson DAC the justice it deserves? If the Wolfson in the 4/5gen Ipods is inferior thats different though, I’m still learning lol

  • Reply April 29, 2011

    Bcretty

    Any recommendation for a portable amp to run between an iPhone 3G, Cypher Labs Solo, and, ZXAC recabled Senheisser HD-25- II. I’m especially fond of my HD-25-II with my Soundquest SQ 84 home tube headphone amp.

    Thanks.
    Kidcoleco

    • Reply April 30, 2011

      Anonymous

      What kind of a sound are you looking for?

  • Reply May 2, 2011

    syafrudin syukur

    alamak!! cantik nian.

  • Reply July 24, 2011

    Wilsen

    I have a question. iPod > CLAS > DAC > AMP   vs   Laptop > DAC > AMP.
    Do you think iPod > CLAS setup is better than laptop as a source or it is just a waste? My dac is W4S-2 and my amp is leben cs300xs and my headphone is LCD2. I have ipod touch and i am thinking to buy Clas.

    • Reply July 26, 2011

      Anonymous

      The CLAS is meant as a portable set up and I think the Laptop > W4S-2
      set up would be much better than the Ipod > CLAS.

  • Reply August 30, 2011

    Soyamilk

    i’m looking to get he algorhythm solo. however the only thing stopping me is it being unable to be connected to anything else (like laptops) as it’s made for portable iDevices. do you think there is a possible chance for it to connect to a laptop? thanks alot!

    • Reply August 31, 2011

      Anonymous

      Nope, don’t see it working with a laptop for now.

  • Reply September 2, 2011

    Reckoncile

    How does this compare to the iMod/WhipMOD + ALO Rx MkII?

    • Reply September 3, 2011

      Anonymous

      I briefly touched on the Imod subject on the article:

      SET-UP B
      You’ve got the typical portable amp set up, where a portable amplifier, such as the ALO Rx Mk2 takes the amplifying job out of the Ipod’s internal amp. As a result, you get a more potent amplification circuit capable of delivering higher power output at a finer resolution level. And yet, on this set up, the critical Digital to Analog (DAC) conversion is still handled by the Ipod’s internal DAC. The typical Imods doesn’t alleviate this problem too, as it still takes the signal after it has been processed from the Ipod’s internal DAC.

      An Imod still uses the Ipod’s stock DAC, but providing a cleaner line out signal by bypassing some components along the output path (I think it’s the caps, but I’m not so sure). The CLAS does this entirely a different way by using a separate digital-to-analog conversion process. The result is cleaner separation, clearer separation, wider soundstage, and blacker background.

      That’s based on the Imod though. I’ve never listened to the Whipmod, but it should be roughly similar.

  • Reply September 20, 2011

    Scottmc77

    I see that ALO also offers a combo of the CLAS and Continental amp. Have you tried this combination yet and if so how does it compare to the CLAS with the RX Mk2?

    • Reply September 21, 2011

      Anonymous

      Yes I did try the CLAS with the Continental. 

      The CLAS improves the source section and other than the same comparison points that I wrote between the ALO Rx and the Continental still applies (please read the Continental review for more details).

  • Reply March 26, 2012

    Fabio_Rocks

    Hi Mike. 

    I was wondering about amps pairing. What do you think CLAS plus  fiio e6 or fiio e11 pairings? Does it sounds terrific compare to Iphone 4 headphone out?The Fiio e6 pairing is nice because is very portable (more than the fostex HP-P1) 

    Thanks dude!

    • Reply March 28, 2012

      Mike

      If you’re going to go the CLAS route, I would feel bad about pairing it with an E6. At least use something like the JDS C421.

  • Reply June 29, 2012

    Copper David

    Hi Mike,
    Which is a better portable DAC for ipod Classic in term of sound quality improvement, Fostex HP-P1 or Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo?

    Besides these two, is there other good portable DAC that works for Apple iDevices?
    Most of the time, I listen to raggae, dance, pop, rock and trance with my ipod classic.

  • Reply October 16, 2012

    Kartaar singh

    I listen to mostly classical , vocal , drums , harmonium , i mean all natural stringed or percussion instruments ,

    Headphone is hd600 ,
    For amp i am considering continental over l3, as it will be more open sounding.

    My question is will hm602 pair well with continental or should i go through the clas route only ? If u hv any better suggestion reg headfone / amp , i can consider that also.

    I previously have hd 650 which is good except for very lil bass, i dnt like high treble , a more dark sound but clear so will get headfone recabled.
    Recordings arent really good sometimes and since all natural instruments n vocals so i dont really need a solid state amp.

    I have almost read all your reviews about things i can buy in budget.and it helped a lot to decide , bt i m stuck only at source thing now

    • Reply October 17, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Kartaar,
      So the question is betwen the CLAS to the HM-602?

      Sound wise, the CLAS would be more neutral, blacker background, more spacious.
      The HM-602 is warmer, fuller mids, better ambiance, better three dimensionality.

      If you’re going to add an amp (and you need an amp for the HD600), the CLAS’ footprint matches the Continental very well. With the HM-602, it’s a bit trickier as the footprint is not exactly common. Usually I use easy to drive headphone or IEMs with the HM-602 since I don’t like adding an amp to the 602 (mainly due to the footprint thing).

      • Reply October 20, 2012

        Kartaar singh

        Thanks for the reply mike ,
        for vocals and classical , drums would you recommend a L3 over continental ? for source i think i can lock on Solo and hd600 for headphones. amp is the question now ?

        • Reply October 20, 2012

          Mike

          I think I’d go for the L3 just for the bass impact which is important for classical and drums. Vocals, the continental.

          I wouldn’t sweat over the choice though, both are great. Day to day use, I’d probably take the Continental just based on the fact that it has a smaller size and a good footprint with the CLAS. If you want to feel what the most powerful portable amp out there feels like, get the L3.

  • Reply October 22, 2012

    Alfani Gunawan

    which cable do you reccomended for LOD2USB? alo sxc22 or alo sxc 24 or whiplash or etc?

    • Reply October 22, 2012

      Mike

      I use the copper from ALO. Never really compared it to the SXC or others.

      • Reply October 23, 2012

        Alfani Gunawan

        still thinking is it worth to upgrade LOD2USB because its digital

        • Reply October 23, 2012

          Mike

          Alfani,
          Digital signal is sent as electronic signals.

  • Reply December 8, 2012

    Anajab

    Hey Mike, what are your thoughts about the old CLAS vs the new CLAS?

    • Reply December 12, 2012

      John Clare

      What Anajab said!

      • Reply December 19, 2012

        L.

        Mike has the new one, I can’t help you

  • Reply December 19, 2012

    John Clare

    For anyone curious, I just A/B’d the CLAS (version 1) against the iPhone 5 with the Wolfson DAC equipped lightning adapter and a Fiio L9 LOD. The amplifier I used in both cases was the ALO National. I naively thought that since the lightning adapter has a Wolfson inside it that it might be a substitute for the CLAS. Results? Well the lightning adapter DAC combo does give a respectable quality output but the soundstage is much smaller than the CLAS combo. The sound from the lightning adapter DAC combo seems somewhat muffled and lacking the clarity and power of the CLAS combo too. Oh well! So the CLAS wasn’t a waste of money! Phew.

    The combos were:

    1) iPhone 5 -> Lightning adapter -> Fiio L9 LOD -> National Amplifier -> DT-770 AE headphone. (This combo makes use of the Wolfson DAC in the Lightning adapter)

    2) iPhone 5 -> Lightning adapter -> CLAS -> National Amplifier -> DT-770 AE headphone. (This combo uses the DAC in the CLAS)

    On a related note, as ALO predicts on their web site (but never seemed to confirm), you can use the lightning adapter as a pass through for the CLAS, as I’ve shown in combo (2).

    PS: Mike, you should get some forum software on here!

    • Reply December 19, 2012

      Gorboman

      I’ve seen a lightning to usb cable picture somewhere. It’s in a blog but I don’t remember which blog. Have you tried one of those?

      • Reply December 20, 2012

        John Clare

        Hi Gorboman. I’m not sure which cable you mean. Do you just mean a lightning sync cable that comes with the new apple products? What’s the point? It should work fine for connecting the CLAS to an iPhone 5 or any other new apple product. If you mean the extended (0.2 m) lightning adapter, that’s actually the adapter I used to test its DAC.

        • Reply December 20, 2012

          Gorboman

          John & L: I’ve googled and found that it’s the one from Double Helix Cables. Looking from the picture, it seems that you will not need an adapter.

          Link to product: http://www.doublehelixcables.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=3&products_id=102

          • Reply December 20, 2012

            John Clare

            Oh I see what you mean. I saw that a while ago. They just shortened and re-clad a stock apple cable. Anyhow, I didn’t get the adapter for listening to music – I got it so I could use my old apple cables for charging. I wouldn’t ever use an iPhone 5 as a portable source unless I had to. Too delicate, and too little storage space. I just did the test to compare the quality of the lightning adapter’s Wolfson DAC to the CLAS.

      • Reply December 20, 2012

        L.

        Don’t you mean the stock cable? I just got a brand new Gen 7 ipod, I’ll try it tomorrow with my CLAS

    • Reply December 19, 2012

      L.

      Thanks for the post/info, John!

  • Reply April 20, 2014

    Jagan

    Is it possible to listen to browser audio like youtube using clas db. I can able to listen to music using various player but when I listen to audio from browser it hasn’t been cached by clas db.

    • Reply April 20, 2014

      dalethorn

      Which browser? On iPod or iPhone?

      • Reply April 20, 2014

        Jagan

        Dell inspiron running window 7.

        • Reply April 20, 2014

          dalethorn

          I have to try some things in settings on my Windows 7 – I will try to find out.

          • Reply May 22, 2014

            Jagan

            thanks for ur reply. it worked very well.

            • Reply May 22, 2014

              L.

              You’re welcome

    • Reply April 20, 2014

      L.

      Yes it is, that’s the point. It means your windows settings aren’t correct. You should set the db as your default player. But I do suggest using better quality than youtube

      • Reply April 20, 2014

        Jagan

        I am using wav files for audio player. Sometimes i need to listen to youtube or soundcloud. In that time i can’t utilize the clas db. The sound is coming from laptop headphone out. I have dacport lx and schiit modi. If i change the default audio device it is working fine. But it won’t be the case with clas db.

        • Reply April 20, 2014

          L.

          That is weird. Have you asked Cypherlabs? They are very helpful even on twitter

          • Reply May 22, 2014

            Jagan

            clas -db worked very well. the issue is it hasn’t set as a default audio device automatically. u need to set it manually.

            • Reply May 22, 2014

              L.

              Yeah, that’s what we said 😉

        • Reply April 20, 2014

          dalethorn

          Answered below. Control Panel.

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