RSA Protector: It’s Here!

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On the back panel, notice that the input for the charger says “Specified Charger Only”. The Protector utilizes Lithium-Ion batteries, and you don’t want to plug in a regular NiMH charger into it.

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I was actually surprised at how small the Protector is. While it’s still larger than the P-51 Mustang or the RSA Shadow, I expected the Protector to be roughly the size of the SR-71a amplifier. Why? Because being a balanced amplifier, it needs to have 2x the circuitry of a regular single ended amplifier. Turns out that it’s actually fairly small. Perhaps just a little longer than a Hornet, but still much smaller than most portable amplifier out there, especially considering the power that the Protector holds.

Another real treat of the Protector is how light this amplifier is. Again, it’s not as light as Ray’s ultra lightweights, yet similarly sized amplifiers from iBasso, Meier, and even from RSA are significantly heavier than the Protector, so I was surprised to hold the Protector in my hand. It’s very light, and carrying one inside your pocket, the weight addition is almost negligible. The footprint is not very ideal for pairing with an Ipod Classic. I’ll probably be using my Ipod Nano more with the Protector, or, as soon as ALO’s Sony LOD arrives, I can pair the Protector with the Sony A818, as they share a closer footprint dimension.

The real purpose of this amp is not to drive desktop headphones. Rather, paired with the latest multi-drivers customs, we want to see how far we can take portable hi-fi to. For instance, while the UM Mage is easy to drive out of a DAP, yet it scales very well with powerful desktop amplifiers, and balanced drive should be an ideal upgrade path for this IEM. Since the balanced cable for the Unique Melody Mage hasn’t arrived, I can only test it with the full size HD800 and the HD650 — the two balanced headphones I have in my possession. Also, if you’re looking for a killer portable cans set-up, the HD25-1 is looking very good, as we have tested it driven balanced before, and the soundstage and imaging improves tremendously.

RSA Protector: It’s Here!
5 (100%) 1 vote[s]

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17 Comments

  • Reply September 26, 2010

    Mike

    This is the stupidest idea ever!

    Why would you need a BALANCED portable headphone amp?

    Balanced connections are only needed to reduce/eliminate RFI (radio frequency interference). That is why microphones use balanced connections. RFI can be a problem with cables a hundred or more feet long.

    A balanced connection offers absolutely no benefit for portable audio. The cord is likely only inches long and it is unlikely to be used in an area, such as inside a radio station, that has high RFI.

    If you want to look like an idiot, buy this device and walk around with it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balanced_audio

    • Reply September 27, 2010

      Mike

      Hi Mike, you're not all-knowing and there are things that you happen to not know.

  • Reply October 8, 2010

    Fabio

    Hello Mike,

    It’s interesting that you found this tiny little amp did a very good job in driving HD650. I heard that RSA will put out new portable balanced amp, SR-71B I guess. That’s why I asked you these following questions:

    I haven’t tried RSA product before, do you think this amp warm or neutral? Did you find it analytical? How about its speed, dynamic, and PRaT?

    Just out of my curiosity, what technicalities of sound quality differentiate this amp from Balanced Beta22? I know it’s unfair, but I’m wondering what your response would be. Night and day difference?

    I’m in the market looking for affordable balanced amp to drive my HD650, any other recommendations buddy?

    Thanks.

    • Reply October 8, 2010

      Mike

      Hi Fabio, yes it's surprisingly quite good in balanced.. but compared to the Beta22, the difference is night and day. It's like putting me in a basketball game against Jordan, James, or Kobe, if you know what I mean. Anyway, the RSA sound is mostly toward warm and slightly dark. Speed, dynamics, PRaT, are quite good. Not the best I've heard, but not too shabby either.

      Now as for alternatives, Ibasso PB1 is the first one that comes to mind. With the PB1, Ibasso has finally manage to bring the quality of their amps to the same level of the US brands. I've never compared the Protector to the Ibasso PB1 directly (perhaps I should do that), and I've never used the Ibasso PB1 in balanced yet (don't have the Hirose connector), but I think at half the price of the Protector, the PB1 is quite a worthy alternative. It's also not as dark as the Protector which I think should match the HD650 better.
      http://headfonia.com/ibasso-pb1-toucan-unboxi

      • Reply October 12, 2010

        Jeremy

        Hi Mike, I've been enjoying your website for a couple of weeks now. Great job! I have learned so much. You seem to have such a keen ear and you always seem to know what amp to pair with what headphone. My question is I'm about to purchase the JH16 pro and I think I want a portable balanced headphone amp to go with them. Do you have any thoughts on this? I know there is the Ibasso PB1 and the RSA protector. There may be others. Thanks, I look forward to hearing from you.

        Jeremy

        • Reply October 12, 2010

          Mike

          Hey Jeremy, thanks for the very kind words. The Protector and the JH16 is a good combination, and the only one that I've had the chance of using balanced with my customs. I really haven't tried the PB1 for balanced so I can't say much on that, although I like the PB1 than the Protector as it is less dark sounding. I think RSA is coming out with the new quad-mono portable amp, and I think ALO is also coming up with a balanced portable amp.

  • Reply October 12, 2010

    Jeremy

    Thanks for responding so quickly. If the protector is a bit dark, I can see that it might not be the best for the 16pro. Do you have a recommendation as to the best portable amp available for them. While i enjoy bass and want something that would be the best accompaniment. Thanks again, Jeremy

    • Reply October 12, 2010

      Mike

      Hi Jeremy, you can try the Ibasso PB1. Though I have no experience with their balanced drive, they're quite great in single ended. Personally for me, I think the Pico Slim is my favorite pairing for the JH16, as it is quite a bright amp compared to the PB1 and the Protector. The JH16 is naturally great at bass, you need not worry about the bass performance.

  • Reply October 30, 2010

    Andrew

    well, i have been using the pico slim for awhile. However, i do not like the vocals being laidback with respect to the rest of the music.

    • Reply October 30, 2010

      Mike

      Oh, is that what you find? I actually find the opposite with te pico. Well, still back to the original question, I really can't say much about the pairings with the UM3x, haven't listened to it for a long time. I just didn't enjoy the UM3X with RSA amps, too dark of a combination I feel.

  • Reply October 30, 2010

    Andrew

    So the pico slim brings forward the vocals for you? COuld mine be faulty?

    • Reply October 30, 2010

      Mike

      It does make vocals more forward, but it doesn't put a spotlight in just the vocal. I doubt its faulty, probably more of a result of different recordings and IEM combination.

  • Reply October 30, 2010

    Andrew

    Hi mike, ive recently tried my um3x paired with a mustang and liked the outcome. Would the protector be better than the mustang single ended? I would be using it single ended since my um3x cables are not detachable but would like the balanced connector for future upgrades.

    • Reply October 30, 2010

      Mike

      Unless you want to go balanced, I see little point in upgrading to the Protector. Within RSA's house sound, the result should be about the same. The Pico Slim would is a good alternative to try.

  • Reply October 30, 2010

    Andrew

    Hmm, i found it more difficult to follow lyrics using the slim. Vocals in certain segments of tracks also fail to catch my attention when they would when i was going ampless.

    • Reply October 30, 2010

      Mike

      I still doubt that your Pico is faulty, as faulty amps normally manifests as distortions in the sound or complete no sound. Yet your impressions are puzzling. The pico is probably the portable amp with the best control today. Everytime I listen to it I am amazed at how clear it makes my music sound. Even in comparison with other amps, using relatively easy to drive IEMs like the dual drivers.

      Oh well, I really can't explain what's happening on your set up.

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