Supersharp: Apex Glacier

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Disclaimer: I purchased the Apex Glacier from Todd @ TTVJ.

 

There are so many good things to talk about the Apex Glacier amp that I really don’t know where to start. It is a phenomenal amp, excelling in all three areas of design/build, functions, and lastly sound quality. It is the slimmest, sharpest looking amp I have ever seen. The raw stainless steel enclosure is something I’ve never seen before in portable amps. Not only does it better the usual tradition of anodized aluminum cases, but it also ends up looking extremely sharp. It looks quite phenomenal in photos, but I don’t think that the photographs are able to tell the whole story. As much as I try to capture the best angles of the Glacier, I still think that this amp looks better in person.

Of course the sound is where it matters, because without a good sound, it’s just a fancy looking amp. And yet, it is the sound of the amp that drives me to open up my computer in the middle of the night and started writing this review, as I can’t quite stop thinking about the sound of the Glacier! It’s quite different than the last few amplifiers I’ve listened to, and the more I think about it, the more I can relate this sound with the bigger Apex Peak amplifier that I reviewed a while ago.

Having guys like Todd of TTVJ and Pete Millet behind the amplifier puts a lot of weight and credibility into the amplifier. It shows the moment I started learning how the amplifier operates. The digitally controlled volume control that doubles as a power button. The color changing LED that multi functions as a power, charging, and volume level indicator. The flushed in gain button, though a bit of a hassle compared to regular gain switches, does ooze class as you don’t have toggle switches protruding from the casework. The three levels of gain is really monstrous, and though it doesn’t have the raw power of the Portaphile 627 I just reviewed, the Apex Glacier still ranks confidently as one of the most powerful amps out there. At the maximum gain settings, you can bring any orthodynamic full size out there, short of the Hifiman HE-6, and expect a respectable driving power. I must wonder, with a case that slim, and a USB DAC build inside, how does they manage to squeeze in all those sophistication with the digital controls and that sort of a power output? This is an amp designed and built by people who really know their stuff.

 

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Sound Impressions

The sound is not like a lot of the amplifiers I’ve reviewed recently: those warm, weighty lows, slightly dark sounding amps. Nothing like those, the Glacier is a much faster paced, lively and with an exciting forward midrange. It’s like having a little bit of that Grado/HD25-1 forwardness injected into the system. To be honest it was a little bit of a shock for me, having been acustomed to mostly laid back, dark amps with weighty lows. The Glacier seemed too upfront, too impolite for me when I first listened to it. The presence of the extremely smooth Portaphile 627 amp only makes things worse at that time. My ears were just used to the Portaphile 627 type sound, not the fast forward sound of the Glacier.

As I began to try pairing the Glacier to different headphones, I begin to notice two things: that guitars are always awesome with the Glacier, and that this amplifier has such an excellent PRaT to its sound that I seem to be constantly toe tapping no matter what I play. The fast and forward presentation really injects live to slow and/or dark headphones, in particular the Hifiman HE-300, Hifiman HE-4 and the Fidelio L1 with which I think the Glacier is the best amplifier I’ve heard those three headphones with. It’s also an excellent pairing with the LCD-2 and definitely one of the best portables I’ve listened to the LCD-2 out of. Maybe I just got lucky with all these pairings, but I was cleaning my storage where I have a lot of headphones I haven’t used in a long time. I happen to have the Glacier around, and so I used the Glacier with an Ipod as the source to test if those phones I have been keeping in storage still works, and surprisingly the Glacier really injects live into a lot of them. I was suprised to hear the kind of transformation on low-end headphones like the Goldring DR50, Sennheiser HD201, Superlux HD661, and the Koss KC25. I said to myself, this Glacier, is truly a music making device.

With the fast, forward, “solid-state” sound, the Glacier does lose a little smoothness and depth when compared to the more laid back sounding amps like ALO’s Continental or the generally dark and laid back Ray Samuels portable amps.

The sound still has traits of its older brother which is the TTVJ Slim. The Glacier inherits that wide spacious soundstage of the TTVJ Slim, the same midrange sparkle, but with a faster paced and better articulated bottom end (though losing some bass body in the process). I enjoy the faster paced sound of the Glacier more than the TTVJ Slim, but that’s merely a personal preference. The sound is a step more solid state, if you are familiar with the usual characteristics of solid state amps, especially if you remember the sound of the TTVJ Hybrid amp with its vacuum tube section. It doesn’t have the lushness, depth and coherence of the Hybrid, but the Glacier injects PRaT and energy unlike any other amps in the market.

 

DAC Section on the next page…

Supersharp: Apex Glacier
4.67 (93.33%) 3 votes

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96 Comments

  • Reply January 4, 2013

    Patrick Alvin Tan

    Mike do you think this will pair well with the senneheiser amperior? I’ve been looking for an amp to widen it’s soundstage or is the iBasso D-Zero better?

    • Reply January 4, 2013

      Mike

      Hi Patrick,
      I don’t have the amperior around, but to answer your question about the D-Zero, I think the Glacier is in a different class.

      • Reply January 5, 2013

        Justin

        Any chance pairing this with the HD25? Thanks!

        • Reply January 5, 2013

          Mike

          Hi Justin,
          I didn’t really like it. It was forward + forward.. a bit too forward for me.

          • Reply January 5, 2013

            Justin

            Oh I see. I was kinda expecting that response but asked anyway to be sure. 😛 Anyway, the glacier does seem to be a good amp+dac. Thank you sir! 🙂

          • Reply February 9, 2013

            Jims

            Hi Mike, not sure if you know which OP-AMP is used in Apex Glacier. Any possibility in replacing the battery easily by the user? thanks.

  • Reply January 4, 2013

    Gorboman

    They’re smart to include a step attenuator in the volume control dial. Without those steps, infinite rotating dial tends to malfunction after a long period of use.

    • Reply January 4, 2013

      Mike

      Sorry, I don’t quite understand what that means.

      • Reply January 4, 2013

        Gorboman

        Umm… Suddenly I’m not sure if this is the amp in question. Does the volume dial on the Glacier can be turned infinitely?

        • Reply January 4, 2013

          Mike

          Yes the dial can be turned on infinitely.

          • Reply January 4, 2013

            Gorboman

            I often see infinite dials without step attenuator tend build up more dirt over a period of time which messed up the dial sensor. Case study: car stereo head units. Once it’s dirty, you’d turn the dial but the sensor will have a hard time telling precisely whether the dial is moving to increase or decrease the volume.

            But with step attenuator, the sensor will know if the dial was moved and to which direction, which I think is a smart move.

  • Reply January 4, 2013

    Austin Morrow

    Excellent review, Mike. It still amazes me how Todd and Pete were able to fit in a board, and all the other components into such a slim chassis, it’s SO small.

    • Reply January 4, 2013

      Mike

      Yes exactly, and make it sound good too!

  • Reply January 4, 2013

    Valentin

    Very interesting review. Very interesting amp.

    Would you mind comparing it to the Rx MkIII in terms of driving orthos?

    /V

    • Reply January 4, 2013

      Mike

      Hi Val,
      I’m trying both with the LCD-2 now, and both feel equally as powerful. Punchy, dynamic, and plenty of headroom to kill my eardrums.

      • Reply January 4, 2013

        Valentin

        Interesting…

        I picked up a Zana Deux SE and will be selling off the Pan Am and look for a more compact portable SS-amp. So it’s between the Rx MkIII, Glacier or the VorzAMP that I already have.

  • Reply January 4, 2013

    Julius

    Wonder how this would stack up against the new Schiit Modi and Magni combo. I thought the Magni was better than the TTVJ Slim, but I’ve never heard the Dac options on it.

    • Reply January 4, 2013

      Mike

      Ooh that is a good question.

  • Reply January 4, 2013

    Ijul Naera

    Nice review, Mike!

    Tried Sony MDR-Z1000 with Glacier couple weeks ago, and… holy cow!

  • Reply January 4, 2013

    Trent_D

    Well, I was wondering what amp to pair with the he-300. Certainly one to try.

    • Reply January 4, 2013

      Mike

      Yes, it’s very nice with the HE-300.

  • Reply January 4, 2013

    Alan Tan

    i wonder if this item can use as a dac+amp for Galaxy s3, through a usb OTG connector

    • Reply January 5, 2013

      Michael

      me too… and with Nexus7 tablet may be??

      • Reply January 5, 2013

        Todd

        Yes, it works with the Galaxy 3. We had a customer come by our booth with the Galaxy 3 and the two worked very well together!

        • Reply January 5, 2013

          Mike

          Thanks for confirming, Todd!

  • Reply January 5, 2013

    Michael

    Have you tried it with the 770LEs?
    From what I read in the review it may be good for beter bass control and mid forwardness… No?

    • Reply January 5, 2013

      Mike

      Sorry I don’t have the 770LE anymore. 🙁

      It should add bass control and add mid forwardness, but I haven’t tried it personally.

      • Reply January 7, 2013

        John Clare

        Hey Mike, send me your Glacier and I’ll try it with my AE phones :).

        • Reply January 7, 2013

          Mike

          If you happen to be in town, I wouldn’t mind. 😉

  • Reply January 5, 2013

    Laurencewayne

    Mike- I just received the Glacier from Todd…paired with the Algo Rhthym solo db. (Todd has the combo specially priced.) Wow!! I have never heard anything so spectacular. The detail and smoothness is incredible and just as you noted a better articulated bottom. You may even like (a lot) the Fostex TH900 that we have discussed! Thanks for another great review.
    Laurence Wayne

    • Reply January 5, 2013

      Mike

      Thanks Laurence! You’re using the TH900 with the combo

      • Reply January 5, 2013

        Laurencewayne

        Mike-I am using the TTVJ combo (Glacier/Algo Rhthym solo db) with my Fostex TH900-need to put it down (just so hard) and plug in my AKG3003 for a test drive. BTW, I told Todd that after 20 years of being a customer I was going to miss talking with him as I won’t need to buy any more gear the rest of my life. (He was pleased I was so pleased, but asked that I call just to say hello ;-))
        But I ain’t leaving you, Mike!

  • Reply January 5, 2013

    Todd

    Thanks for the great review Mike. I think you hit the strengths and weaknesses right on the head.
    And the JH IEMs sound amazing with it too!

    • Reply January 5, 2013

      Kiet

      Confirmed!!!

      The Glacier drives well these headphones in my experience: UE11Pro, JH16, LCD2/3, HD800, AKG K3003.

    • Reply January 5, 2013

      Mike

      Thanks, Todd!

  • Reply January 5, 2013

    1lazysheep

    which android devices are working with the apex glacier? more specifically, which android versions?

    • Reply January 5, 2013

      1lazysheep

      so it only works with the galaxy S3?

      • Reply January 6, 2013

        1lazysheep

        i’m conversing with myself

        • Reply January 6, 2013

          Turok Rocks

          My Note2 works perfect with it, and with an app called “USB audio recorder pro” almost any android device (+3.1) will be able to dac/amp with many dacs in the market (you have to get it for a trial before buying). The S3 and the Note 2 are the only phones to have USB Audio from Samsung.

          • Reply January 6, 2013

            1lazysheep

            thanks, that’s good to know. unfortunately, i have an S2 and the app you mentioned specifically states that S1, S2, and Note 1 will NOT work.

            hopefully android will support USB audio from 4.1 forward. it’d be great to be able to use my phone as a DAP also

            • Reply January 6, 2013

              Turok Rocks

              Android 4.1 supports USB android, but its “Google” version which require new types of DACs (E18!!??)

  • Reply January 5, 2013

    Kiet

    Someone on head-fi confirmed that he can use the DAC section on iphone 4s by install the cameraconnector app together with the apple cck. If anyone can use the same trick, please confirm. Thanks

    • Reply January 5, 2013

      Mike

      Someone should try this out.

  • Reply January 5, 2013

    Ryanyk

    Hey mike how does the glacier sound with the he500? I have the glacier with me and I’m kind of deciding between the lcd-2 and the he-500.

  • Reply January 6, 2013

    Nick Tam

    How does this stack up against the RX MKII down memory lane? The RXMKII got cut in price so it’s interesting to see if the price tag of the glacier justifies itself against the competition from Alo. I’m thinking of using them for driving IEMs, the ASG-1 in particular, thanks.

  • Reply January 9, 2013

    Fraist

    Hey Mike, I was wondering if you’re gonna sell this on analoghead or not,since I’m interested in getting one in Indonesia.I read that glacier got some RFI issues if connected with a mobile phone,have you experienceed it while making this review?Thanks

    • Reply January 9, 2013

      Mike

      We are still discussing this at analog head. I mobile rfi issue happens with every amp I’ve come across.

  • Reply January 10, 2013

    LCH

    Hi mike how does the amp section compare with the portaphile 627?

  • Reply January 30, 2013

    Clemmaster

    Hi Mike

    How would you compare the Glacier to the Fostex HP-A3 in term of sound signature, technicality and drive capacity? Both with the USB DAC.

    [MODE: my life]
    I currently own the HE-500 and, recently, the Mad Dogs (w/ Dog Pads).

    Tonally, I think the HE-500 and the HP-A3 pairing is not far from the limit after which the sound will become too bright for my taste.

    My main rig consists of a Audio-GD SA-31 amp (for sure not dark, rather neutral but with a warmish tone) and a Metrum Quad or NFB-27 as a dac.
    For the record: the internal amp of the NFB-27 is too bright with the HE-500, it’s above the limit I mentioned.

    On the other hand, the Mad Dogs are too dark for my taste, even with the HP-A3.

    [/MODE]

    Do you think the Glacier would be a good pairing with a dark headphone like the Mad Dogs and open up the sound to something closer to the HE-500 + HP-A3?

    Will it be too bright for the HE-500? (Meaning that the forwardness of the Glacier might not be in the same region as that of the HE-500, resulting in a more open sound, yet without harshness being involved).

    Sorry for the long post…

    • Reply January 31, 2013

      Mike

      The Mad Dog + Glacier is quite nice, but it won’t make the Mad Dog into a HE-500 level bright.

      The HE-500, I would get the Portaphile 627 for it.

      Sorry for the short reply. I’m not too familiar with the Audio Gd units you mentioned.

      • Reply February 1, 2013

        Clemmaster

        That’s what I thought. thanks 😉
        Any comment on the comparison with HP-A3, voicing aside?

        • Reply February 2, 2013

          Mike

          Well if you’re asking about technicalities I think the HP-A3 is significantly better.

  • Reply January 31, 2013

    Ryan

    Hi Mike,

    Would this amp pair well with a pair of Denon D5000’s?

    • Reply January 31, 2013

      Mike

      Sorry no experience with the Glacier and the D5000. I would try finding a smooth sounding amp like the Portaphile 627 or the ALO Continental for the D5000.

      • Reply January 31, 2013

        Ryan

        Thanks for the reply Mike.

        I was actually looking at the ALO Continental & Portaphile 627.

        The thing is, I want to use it with my Samsung Galaxy S3, hence why I was looking at the Apex Glacier as it has the built-in DAC.

        Do you know if the Apex Glacier DAC would be much better than the Wolfson DAC in the S3?

        What about S3 & Apex Glacier through USB audio out VS. S3 and Portaphile 627/ALO Continental through headphone out?

        I’m trying to determine if bypassing the S3’s Wolfson DAC and using the Apex will result in significant improvement of the sound quality. Or whether I should just buy a $500 AMP like the ALO or 627 and use it through the headphone out…

        • Reply January 31, 2013

          Mike

          My guess is that the Glacier woud be better but I haven’t been able to test it with the SGS3.

          It would make for a kickass slim pack though, the two

          • Reply January 31, 2013

            Ryan

            Thanks for your reply.

            I think I’ll just pull the trigger on the Apex Glacier. Someone on Head-fi mentioned I should try and feed the Denons a clean sound as they’re already ‘coloured’. Can you speak to that?

            • Reply January 31, 2013

              Mike

              Well he may be right but I enjoy my HD650 more from a colored tube amp than a straight sound Lehmann BCL.

              • Reply January 31, 2013

                Ryan

                Hmmm…That makes it all the more confusing.

                Do you think the Denon D5000’s would have good synergy with the ALO Continental if I used the Hifiman HM-101 DAC through my S3?

                • Reply January 31, 2013

                  Mike

                  I think that would be one complicated set up to have that’s for sure.

                  • Reply January 31, 2013

                    Ryan

                    Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’ll probably just go for the Apex Glacier.

  • Reply May 25, 2013

    Yongky

    hi mike, what do u think if the amp section of glacier paired with dacport lx?

    • Reply May 25, 2013

      Mike

      You can but why?

      • Reply May 25, 2013

        Yongky

        no, i mean how was the impression?
        dac section on lx + with amp section on glacier = ?

        • Reply May 25, 2013

          Mike

          I’ve never tried it. It does have a usb Dac so why would you do that?

          • Reply May 25, 2013

            Yongky

            because i own lx 😀

            and im just curious is it worth it to buy glacier just because the AMP section?because i assumed that lx has more to offer on the DAC section…
            and from what i know is, it just difficult to find an AMP with fast paced speed just like glacier that good for rock music?any help?:D

            • Reply May 25, 2013

              Mike

              Why not trade the Lx for glacier?

              • Reply May 25, 2013

                Yongky

                hmm…lx has more to offer on DAC section than glacier right?im not gonna “downgrading” my DAC 🙁

  • Reply May 26, 2013

    brainstew

    How does the Glacier compare with the regular DACport? I own both but I’m not really sure which I like better. I think I am leaning towards the Glacier, but I’m not sure if it’s just because it’s new to me.

    • Reply May 26, 2013

      Yongky

      only time will tell 😀 so u think that you like glacier better?because i own lx and im looking towards to glacier but havent heard them yet…

      • Reply May 29, 2013

        brainstew

        Still hard to say… At the moment I have my DACport (1 ohm output impedance) or Apex Glacier with my main Fostex TH-900 headphones. The Glacier seems to be more spacious and lively but the DACport seems to have nicer mids and sounding more natural and seems to be more powerful. It’s hard to say which I prefer more.

    • Reply May 27, 2013

      Mike

      The Glacier has a more forward and sparkly upper midst, more spacious. Regular Dacport is slightly darker, less spacious but has a punchier bass

      • Reply May 29, 2013

        brainstew

        Which do you feel might have a more neutral sound? Is one technically superior to the other?

  • Reply July 15, 2013

    Bas Haenraets

    Hi Mike, I’m very much tempted to try the Apex Glacier. I now use a Headstage Arrow – would you say the Glacier’s a step up?

    • Reply July 15, 2013

      Mike

      Yes a step up, more power, bigger soundstage

      • Reply July 15, 2013

        Bas Haenraets

        Thank you Mike! Ordering in progress…

        • Reply July 15, 2013

          Mike

          Hohoho enjoy

          • Reply July 15, 2013

            Bas Haenraets

            Nice price: $375 for a demo model, straight from TTVJ. Hohoho indeed!

  • […] upgraded. Apex High Fi Audio Glacier Apex Glacier amp/dac review and appreciation thread Supersharp: Apex Glacier | Headfonia Apex Glacier Portable Headphone Amp and DAC The Apex Glacier receives great praises no matter […]

  • […] upgraded. Apex High Fi Audio Glacier Apex Glacier amp/dac review and appreciation thread Supersharp: Apex Glacier | Headfonia Apex Glacier Portable Headphone Amp and DAC The Apex Glacier receives great praises no matter […]

  • […] please email me at behumane23@yahoo.com.sg. Thanks! Check out the review on headfonia : Supersharp: Apex Glacier | Headfonia Features of Apex Glacier : The Glacier has a great headphone amplifier section. The DAC section […]

  • Reply December 31, 2013

    Migi Pradysta

    Hi Mike, between pure DAP such as DX50 and some Android phone + Apex Glacier, which one do u choose?
    Right now i’m using DX50. But the Apex Glacier is very tempting..

    • Reply December 31, 2013

      Mike

      Sound, the Apex.

      UI and overall convenience, DX50.

  • Reply February 23, 2014

    Sergio Mejia

    Hi Mike, Do you think that the Apex High Fi Audio Glacier, is appropriate for Shure SRH1440 headphones?

    Also looking at other alternatives found the “Bravo Audio Ocean Valve Class A Tube Mini Headphone Amplifier”, which I see has been made ​​even a reference on the page, yet, you would think that would be appropriate for 1440?

  • Reply March 1, 2014

    Sergio Mejia

    Hi Mike, do you think the glacier is right for JBL S700 headphones?

    I appreciate your comment

  • Reply April 26, 2014

    Red Kai

    HI Mike , did apex work on samsung note3 snapdrogon ? , between pure DAP such as DX90 or X5 and note3 + Apex Glacier, which one do u choose

  • Reply June 15, 2014

    MC

    Hi Mike, I’m having a hard time deciding between these amps (glacier, international+, & continental v3) for the HD650, PS500, and SE846 cans. I have the rsa predator for portable use and nuforce icon hdp for home use at the moment and been using these setup for years already that I thought it’s time to have something new on the table and came up with just the 3 amps to choose from. Having read your awesome reviews and also on head-fi forums got me down to choosing these amps. I have no chance to audition the above mentioned amps in my country so I rely heavily on reading reviews. Any help on suggestion/opinion would be much appreciated. =)

    • Reply January 22, 2015

      Nguyễn Công Bằng

      I’m interested in this comparison, too. Leaving here a comment for answers 🙂

      • Reply January 22, 2015

        Headfonia_L.

        I’m afraid Mike is the only one who can answer it, and he’s an a hiat

  • Reply January 7, 2015

    yozz

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for such impressive review..
    Actually I got one of this DAC/AMP few days ago and I feel good synergy with my Shure 1840 (totally agree with your review here since prior to own this amp I owned LX).
    Since I like Japanese song (which most of them emphasis on treble and upper mid), could you suggest alternative headphone for me to be paired with glacier? I prefer headphone with sweeter vocal and a bit deeper bass without sacrificing detail and smoothness of 1840.
    Thank you very much Mike..

    • Reply January 7, 2015

      dalethorn

      One of the planar headphones like the HiFiMan HE400i might be the ticket. I had the 1840 and several other Shures, plus some planars, and the planar seems like a more logical direction to go than just another dynamic like the Sennheiser 650. Shure’s 1540 is way too different from the 1840 I think.

      • Reply January 13, 2015

        yozz

        Hi Dale..
        Thanks for your suggestion..would try HE400i once I found it 🙂

        Actually I havent done any proper test on planar headphone due to limited time (only few minutes) and device I have (only centrance – that many people said it has not enough power to drive any planar headphone).

        I agree with you on 1540..I have tried it in a crowded sound fair (so not quite proper listening test too 🙂 ).. and it sounds bassy ( a bit boomy if I recall) compared to 1840.

        Would definitely try planar headphone next time paired with my glacier 🙂
        Thanks

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