2015 Year Overview – Part 2

Portable Amplifier

Vorzuge PUREIIP logo

Since heard my first Vorzüge, there’s been only one portable amp for me: PURE. The Vorzüge PURE II+ isn’t as ground-breaking as PURE II, but its incremental improvements are tangible and prove that big-V know what they’re doing. Well done. 615$ and up.


Portable AMP/DAC

Chord MOJO - ISO top-1

Nothing transforms a smartphone from good to excellent like the Chord Mojo. It measures like the Dickens, is powerful, has a great line output, and is stable as hell. There is no better pocketable DAC out there for any price. 599$.

RMAA: Chord Mojo



m9XX (4 of 7)

Like I said, the latter part of 2015 really picked up. And despite Grace Design’s/MassDrop’s m9XX being powered by 5V USB, it is the best DAC I’ve tried in a long time. It is stable, powerful, easy to use, and friendly. For 499$ it is a steal. The problem is securing one.



ipod nano 1g butt

Expensive DAPs come and go. So do cheapos. And after watching the AK380’s balanced output handle load like a dead fish, I sort of gave up. Hi-end DAPs get bigger, and more expensive every year. Neither guarantees performance, nor sound quality.

One may be great single-ended but suck balanced (Astell&Kern AK380); another may be good single-ended, but rock balanced (Onkyo DP-X1). Another (Sony NW-ZX2) may suck across the board. A fourth option may be priced so poorly (Pioneer XDP-100R) that its only selling point is that you’ll always find it in stock. And not one of the above will play lossy files gaplessly. There is only one player out there that does that whilst satisfying the SQ demands of audiophiles and music lovers.

And it is the 4 year-old iPod nano 7G. Not only does it just work, it holds a charge for two days of listening, and sounds great. And at normal earphone listening volumes, no matter the price, any decent DAP or phone performs roughly the same. If you don’t want to bust your Phone’s battery balls, an iPod nano 7G is a great performing side kick that just works.

149$ for the win.

RMAA: iPod nano 7G
RMAA: Astell&Kern AK380
RMAA: Astell&Kern AK Jr
RMAA: Pioneer XDP-100R
RMAA: Onkyo DP-X1


Thanks everyone. Here’s to a safe, and comfy New Year. Many thanks for your support, you chiding, and for making us better. 

3.7/5 - (19 votes)

Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.


  • Reply December 30, 2015


    Did you just write “for only 3000$”? Oh boy…:-)

    However, thanks for the hard work and the manymanymany reviews Lieven and Nathan. Keep up the good work! Happy new year.

    • Reply December 30, 2015


      the joke was obvious I think 😉
      Thank you, and you too: Happy NY!

      • Reply December 30, 2015


        The “$10000 amplifiers”, being plural, is scary enough.

  • Reply December 31, 2015

    Barun C

    Nice summary. Your love for iPod Nano, knows no bounds, as always (Even with the hiss).

    During the early days of DAP, I used to prefer the sound of the Zen Vision M, compared to the iPod Classic, but convenience of space and longer battery life always brought me back to the iPod Classic. Recently I got the Questyle QP1R and now it has permanently replaced the iPod and even my smartphones for good.

    Hope you review more high end full sized headphones and desktop amps like IEMs in 2016.

    HaPPy nEW yEaR

    • Reply January 1, 2016

      ohm image

      The iPod nano 7g (not pictured here for some reason) hisses as much as the AK380, so barely at all. I need to get Lieven to change the photo. If the Questyle was as small as the iPod nano, it would be great.

      Happy new year to you as well.

  • Reply January 1, 2016


    Didn’t you review the Alclair beginning of this year? Would that make it the default winner?

    • Reply January 3, 2016

      ohm image

      Yes I did. Time to update. That said, as I did with the full-size headphones, I’m not going to wrangle a default into the mix. That’s not cool. Alclair RMS _is_ awesome, but still.

  • Reply January 30, 2016


    can you imagine had apple stayed in the audio game and come out with an audiophile grade ipod touch or something? the competitors would be really have to ramp up their game. even today so many of them are trying to mimic it’s host of user friendly features and interface.

    there are a number of people out there who have the chord mojo paired to an ipod, and feel
    it out performs many of the more popular daps…i can’t say as i haven’t heard any of them.

    • Reply January 30, 2016


      The new 128 gb iPod Touch that I bought definitely qualifies as audiophile grade. It’s much better than previous generations. It sounds better with a DAC attached, but not so much that I would call it lo-fi without the DAC. Experienced audiophiles would tell the difference right away, but less experienced users would not immediately know which is better. And if an experienced audiophile were stuck somewhere with this iPod only, they would get along with it just fine. All the frequencies are present, with low distortion, solid bass, treble sparkle and detail, proper soundstage, etc.

    • Reply February 7, 2016

      ohm image

      I’d go a bit farther than Dale and say that the iPod touch is as good, or better, than many audiophile DAPs. You may dislike certain things about it, but it performs (against industry standards) as well as many ‘audiophile’ DAPs.

      And, Apple devices are the only ones I’ve used that do gapless even on MP3s. It doesn’t get much more audiophile than that.

      • Reply February 7, 2016


        I’d still use an external amp for indoors listening – not much use outdoors though. The good news is that any enhancements you use in iPod music players will be applied to the digital data before it hits the DAC. The bad news is the same as the good news (heh), so use those enhancements very sparingly.

  • Reply February 26, 2016


    Hi! Wondering why the Sony zx2 “sucked across the board”? I have my own reservations but I want to get your side as well.

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