I’ve been listening to the PB1 for a while and I think the coloration is very unique and very likeable. Just a tad warm, not as dark as the Protector that I’ve been using recently, and there is just a tad of lushness to the sound that I don’t hear on the Protector or the Pico Slim. I still haven’t found a good synergy with it though. I liked the Protector with IEMs that tend to be bright such as the DBA-02 or the UE700, and I liked the Pico Slim with my JH customs. The PB1 is very nice, but I’m still in search of “the” sound.
The PB1 comes with two gain settings, low gain is marked with +6dB, and high gain is +15dB. I do find the over-recessed gain switch very hard to access by just using finger nails, and so I had to find a needle or some sort whenever I want to change the gain settings. Low gain is perfect for IEMs, and the high gain for medium to full size headphones. I’ve tried the PB1 with the AKG K501, the HD650, and the HD800 and I’m listening at moderate volume at around 11 O’clock on the volume knob at high gain, and at around 2-3 O’clock with the super hard to drive Hifiman HE5LE Orthodynamic. This was on single ended connection, and the PB1 will be even more powerful on balanced. The potentiometer on the PB1 is very smooth, but makes some noise on the headphone when I’m changing the volume. It’s not a big annoyance, and it may just be a quality control problem, but it would be good if Ibasso can put better QC for the potentiometers.
Of course we’re all quite fond to find out on how the Toucan will perform for balanced drive. But I haven’t gotten the 6-pin Hirose connector for now. Some people who’s seen the Toucan said that the Hirose connector looks more sturdy and tougher than the 4-pin plastic connector of the Protector. I personally like the look of the Protector better, as it doesn’t stick out as much as the Hirose, and the plastic connector should be sturdy enough for portable uses. But no big debate over there. Both should work just as well. I’m also very excited to see how the Toucan will perform with the Boomslang portable balanced DAC.