Way back on what now is page 11 of Headfonia’s Nathan compendium is tiny amp with big balls. It’s the Portaphile Micro, Cesar Aguilera’s smallest, customisable amp. Micro is the size of a Vorzüge VORZamp, but thanks to a smaller feature set, it is easier to use. It’s also a lot more roughly hewn: plating is goopier, while striking the milled logo shows hard edges, as does the rounded corners of the front and rear plates.
I guess you could call it a Texan Vorzüge. Both test similarly where it counts and output minimal hiss noise. At top volume, Portaphile Micro is a bit more stable, but has a few grounding issues. And it gets only about 4 hours of battery life.
Trade offs. Trade offs.
But only Micro comes in a couple of different flavours, each tailored for a different ear. Despite driving a wide range of headphones less well, Micro’s Muses option is a grand-slam. Its softer-edged sound is easier to listen to with peaky earphones and its stereo image more obviously favours the mids and bass, warming everything up a bit. But if out-and-out performance is what you’re on about, ordering the OPA627 version ensures you nearly best-of-breed measurable sound quality and just as low levels of hiss. It’s just that parsing its sound from traditionally high-resolution devices is a lot harder. OPA627 hasn’t got a lot that specifically recommends it. Loud? Yes. High-res? Yes. Powerful at low volumes? Yes. Great stereo image? Hell yes. But more boring.
So, is Nathan still using Micro? Typically, I don’t carry amps around. Nor do I use them much at my desk. But but but… I’ve begun using more and more my old iPod Video (with 512GB of flash storage). As much as I love its interface, unloaded sound, and ease of use, it hisses too much for me not to mention trouble keeping signal strong to my favourite earphones.
Micro appears to have been made for it, strapping beneath it almost perfectly. For what it’s worth, it also fits damn well under an original AK100, which suffers similar problems. That short stack exudes old-school wisdom: only fixing what’s broke – and those are analogue signals. The iPod’s lovely DAC stays put.
So yes, I still use the Micro. I love the Micro. With either it or the Vorzüge, my iPod Video portable stack system is an absolute screamer.
Good work, Cesar.