Supersharp: Apex Glacier

apex_glacier_09

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.

 

apex_glacier_06

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…

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
  • http://www.facebook.com/ptexia 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?

    • http://www.headfonia.com 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.

      • Justin

        Any chance pairing this with the HD25? Thanks!

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

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

          • Justin

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

          • 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.

  • http://gorboman.wordpress.com/ 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.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

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

      • http://gorboman.wordpress.com/ 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?

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Yes the dial can be turned on infinitely.

          • http://gorboman.wordpress.com/ 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.

  • http://www.audioexcursions.com/ 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.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Yes exactly, and make it sound good too!

  • http://headfonia.com/ Valentin

    Very interesting review. Very interesting amp.

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

    /V

    • http://www.headfonia.com 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.

      • http://headfonia.com/ 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.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          NICEEEE

          • http://headfonia.com/ Valentin

            :)

  • 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.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Ooh that is a good question.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mampus Ijul Naera

    Nice review, Mike!

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

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Nice!

  • Trent_D

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

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

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

  • http://www.facebook.com/cameleondragoon Alan Tan

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

    • Michael

      me too… and with Nexus7 tablet may be??

      • 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!

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Thanks for confirming, Todd!

  • 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?

    • http://www.headfonia.com 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.

      • http://www.frogforum.net/ John Clare

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

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

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

          • http://www.frogforum.net/ John Clare

            Hehe, that’s a long way….

  • 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

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

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

      • 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!

  • 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!

    • Kiet

      Confirmed!!!

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

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Thanks, Todd!

  • 1lazysheep

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

    • 1lazysheep

      so it only works with the galaxy S3?

      • 1lazysheep

        i’m conversing with myself

        • http://twitter.com/TurokRocks1 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.

          • 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

            • http://twitter.com/TurokRocks1 Turok Rocks

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

  • 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

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Someone should try this out.

  • 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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 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.

  • 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

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

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

  • LCH

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

  • 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…

    • http://www.headfonia.com 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.

      • Clemmaster

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

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

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

  • Ryan

    Hi Mike,

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

    • http://www.headfonia.com 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.

      • 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…

        • http://www.headfonia.com 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

          • 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?

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

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

              • 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?

                • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

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

                  • Ryan

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

  • Yongky

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

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      You can but why?

      • Yongky

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

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

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

          • Yongky

            because i own lx :D

            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

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              Why not trade the Lx for glacier?

              • Yongky

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

  • 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.

    • Yongky

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

      • 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.

    • http://www.headfonia.com 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

      • brainstew

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

  • 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?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Yes a step up, more power, bigger soundstage

      • Bas Haenraets

        Thank you Mike! Ordering in progress…

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Hohoho enjoy

          • Bas Haenraets

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

  • Pingback: Apex Glacier Dac/Amp & ADL (Furutech) Stride Dac/Amp()

  • Pingback: WTS: Apex Glacier Dac/Amp & ADL (Furutech) Stride Dac/Amp - www.hardwarezone.com.sg()

  • Pingback: WTS: Apex Glacier Portable 24/96 DAC Headphone Amp - www.hardwarezone.com.sg()

  • 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..

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Sound, the Apex.

      UI and overall convenience, DX50.

  • 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?

  • Sergio Mejia

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

    I appreciate your comment

  • 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

  • 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. =)