June of 2012
Vorzüge [plural]: Advantages; Merits; Preferences. Clever name for a high-end boutique amplifier manufacturer, please tell me more. Well, their website maybe holds the answers? Pictures seem to have been uploaded in August of 2011. Okay. It’s been out a while. Why so little buzz? Stock photos of a studio mixing table, close-up shots of headphone amplifiers and black & red & white as far as the eye can see. Have I entered Knight Rider’s headphone blog? Click-click. Silver solder with gold compound. Gold plated PCB. Sure, I’m probably part of the correct demographic audience – having all sorts of cables, amps and headphones around the house – but that wasn’t really the information I was searching for. How do they sound?
An avid googler might find a thread here and there on various headphone communities, but after thorough reading… not too many listening impressions. A part of me thought, to quote the late Geroge Carlin: “Leave the symbols to the symbol-minded (simple-minded).”
But another little part of me (the one that makes my fiancé say “Another headphone amplifier?!”) was aroused. I contacted Vorzüge via e-mail requesting some technical specs for their main products, the two headphone amps VorzAMPpure and VorzAMP Duo. Combining website info with their reply, the amps seemed to be almost identical except for the EQ-function. I’m not going to disclose the information I received, since it contained a confidentiality disclosure agreement, however, let’s put it like this. In a perfect world maybe, but highly unlikely. So I started laughing and thought that all those classes in digital electronics in my distant youth just saved me several hundred dollars.
Fast-forward 4 months to September
I seemed to listen to music everywhere but, in front of my desktop amplifier. So I – reluctantly – sold off my La Figaro 339 with a whole bunch of tubes and ventured deep into the transportable world. Purchased most of the upper-end amps available. ALO Audio’s The National, The Continental and The Pan Am, Leckerton Audio’s UHA-4, Triad Audio’s L3 and last but not least Vorzüge VorzAMPduo. The quest was to find an amp both suitable for multi-armature high-sensitivity/low-impedance CIEMs as well as orthodynamics, in my case the LCD-2 and subsequently the LCD-3.
I must add that I bought the VorzAMP mainly hoping to burst the bubble on all this mysticism. So, heavy negative expectation bias, check. I saw myself probably listening to it, not be that impressed and maybe and in a worst-case-scenario give it to my non-audiophile brother-in-law. Boy was I wrong.
Note: I may sometimes refer to the amplifiers in plural, but I have only listened to the VorzAMPduo. Assumptions are based on the fact that only the EQ-part differs between the two amps according to Vorzüge.
VorzAMPpure and VorzAMPduo are very-very similar. Their dimensions are 83 x 66 x 18 mm. The Pure weighs 140 g, including dual lithium batteries of 3.7V/1000mAh each, stated to last for 30 hs. The Duo differs from the Pure by having a 2-band EQ, treble and bass, in on/off-configuration, adding 10 g, whilst removing 4hs of battery life.
These solid little works of art sets one back 430 and 520 USD respectively. And when I say solid I mean solid. Not like the Triad Audio L3 impresses with its brick-sized manners, the VorzAMP is hands down the most well-built headphone amplifier that I’ve ever listened to. To put it in words is complicated. It’s like explaining the feeling one gets when sitting in a Porsche. All the small details make up the whole. In this case the switches, the non-scratch metal finish, the perfectly printed text, the slightly recessed input/output jacks… I could go on for a while.
However, being this small, the layout of the front panel is tight. As much as I like the “use every mm”-approach, forget about using two cables with plugs with diameters over 8-9 mm’s. Oyaide and Neutrik plugs are recommended. The supplied “Vorz-cable” with Rean plugs works great, but those straight plugs and a total length of 20 cm ain’t especially pocket-friendly.
Supplied is also a quite high quality velour pouch. Nice! Fits the Vorzamp and a smaller source. In my case I keep a headphone-cable rolled up in there. Also supplied is a cheap wall-wart with USB-A output and a USB-A to USB-B-mini (not micro) cable. You don’t have to contemplate about the latter items cheap/poor build quality, since the battery life of 20-25 hs means that you rarely need to use them in the first place.
Continued on Page 2, does the inside match the outside?