TTVJ Slim: First Impression
TTVJ named the new portable amp the “TTVJ Portable Headphone Amplifier”. Since TTVJ already have a hybrid tube portable amplifier, I thought that calling the new amp as a “TTVJ Portable Headphone Amplifier” might get people confused. Some have been calling it the “TTVJ Portable with Stepped Attenuator”. Clear enough, but quite long to speak or to type out. I find “TTVJ Slim” as the best name the public have come out with for the amplifier, and that’s the name I’m going to use throughout this article. I hope Todd doesn’t mind.
Together with the ALO Rx and the RSA Shadow, the TTVJ Slim creates a new generation of portable amplifiers where the volume control no longer utilizes conventional potentiometers. Unlike the tiny RSA Shadow, however, the TTVJ Slim and the ALO Rx takes a more conventional size that’s roughly the size of an Ipod Classic, though much thinner than previous generation amps.
I really like the look of the TTVJ Slim. Its thin, nicely finished with rounded edges, and it has a cool TTVJ logo printed on the top side. It also has a volume control that doubles as an On/Off switch. You press the rotary controller to turn the amp on and off, and you rotate it to adjust volume. The LED next to the volume control indicates the rough volume level, and it changes color as you turn the volume up: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and finally magenta. When you charge the amplifier while its off, the LED blinks white, but when you charge it as you’re using the amp, the LED will blink according to the current volume control LED color. All these nifty features don’t really upgrade the sound in any way, but I definitely appreciate having them around for a more user-friendly interface.
Having to replace batteries after a week of usage is a big inconvenience, not to mention the environment effects, and so the TTVJ Slim comes with a rechargeable battery that lasts 15 hours through a single charge. TTVJ ships the amp with only a USB cable and no dedicated charger, a statement that they really don’t think a dedicated charger is necessary. The same USB port that is used for charging can be used for DAC connection, if you order your TTVJ with the DAC function (an extra $100).
Features wise, the TTVJ Slim amp seems to have it all. It has a microprocessor controlled analog stepped attenuator, with 32 steps of 2dB increments and an impressive ±0.2dB channel matching tolerance. Power output is 3.3V RMS with 100mA maximum current. Todd claimed that the amp can drive any headphones from 16 to 600 Ohms with fabulous fidelity (as quoted from the manual). The regulated power supply gives maximum power output even when battery gets low. And finally, a user selectable three positions gain switch for choosing the appropriate gain level (0 dB, 10dB, and 20dB).
I’ve been listening to the RSA Shadow a lot, and moving from the RSA Shadow to the TTVJ Slim, the first thing I noticed is that the sound is much bigger on the TTVJ. Clearly, the tiny sized Shadow cannot compete to the much bigger TTVJ amp. I don’t mean to bash the RSA Shadow here, as clearly it’s a great amp by itself. However, given the size handicap, it will be tough for the Shadow to match the TTVJ.
Normally, you can tell a great amp from the very first moment you put on the headphone. This is the case with the TTVJ Slim amp. Without going over the details of the sound, I can tell that this is a great amp that a lot of people will love. Fresh out of the box, the TTVJ Slim has a great soundstage, transparency, refinement, and a good amount of power. Those properties by themselves put the TTVJ Slim at the top of the portable amplifier chain, but the best thing about the amp is the way it presents midrange. The midrange is intimate, but where that often results in an over dominating midrange and a claustrophobic sense of space, the TTVJ presents an intimate midrange yet still maintaining balance with the other spectrums. A good amp has a way that doesn’t add too much coloration to the music, and yet still manages to bring a lot of groove to the music. The TTVJ is one of them.
Listening to Alternative Rock, Jazz, and RnB, the TTVJ was able to bring the music alive through both cans, giving enough power for even the power hungry HD650. Todd really has built a killer amp into one slim package, and definitely is one of the better new generation amps. I will talk more about the sound of the TTVJ when I do a comparison with the ALO Rx as well as other top tier amps.
Stay in tune!