comments

Wow. I believe you've completely missed the point of this unit. How well it does at achieving it's goal, I'm not sure. I do know that Simpl acknowledges that the amp is not designed for low impedence headphones such as the extremely good Etys & UEs you refer to. There is an audible hiss present whenever it's on.

However; if you test the Ety 4s (not 4p) or some Senn HD600/650, or some other harder-to-drive high-quality headphone, then we would be able to see the value of this product.

It's not meant to make bad headphones sound good, and it can't do anything to the high-efficiency phones you already have. Most people consider the UE-10 to be an alternative for a traditional headphone amp + headphone rig, as well they should considering the price.

Perhaps headphone geeks are not frequent readers hear, but there are a lot of them hooking up Meier Porta Cordas, Headroom Airheads, Headsave Go-Vibes, Ray Samuels SR-71's and many other small portable headphone amps to their iPods to drive their wonderful sounding, but high-impedence headphones. They could not care less if their headphones are "hulking" - they want them to sound great on a level that 95% of people will never pay attention to. A headphone amplifier (if done well - and the jury's out on this one) will expose details otherwire unnoticed, but only when paired with the right kind of headphones.

Posted by PFRfan on January 11, 2005 at 6:04 AM (PDT) Comment 1

PFRfan, I wholeheartedly agree. This review completely misses the point of the product.

I have a pair of Sensaphonic Pro 2x-s phones. I would never use a product like this with them simply because this amp isn't made for them.
However. If Simpl was to design a unit made specifically for low impedance phones like mine (and from what I understand they're considering it) I'd be much more interested. Altho truth be told, the Sensaphonics sound so amazing straight out of the ipod ... how much better could they get?? ;^)

Posted by eben on January 11, 2005 at 8:48 AM (PDT) Comment 2

eben, I wish I had your ears... That way I could use your 2x-s!

If my wife ever let me order a pair, I expect that it would be the end of my headphone obsession. Honestly, they cost more than my car (although most of what I own costs more than my car!).

Dreaming of Sensa's...

Posted by PFRfan on January 11, 2005 at 9:57 AM (PDT) Comment 3

The reviewer addressed each of those points, and appropriately so, in his review. To suggest otherwise is to demonstrate that you either didn't read what was written, or don't understand it. You can suggest more obscure headphone options until you're blue in the face, but if any headphones would demonstrate the improvement in audio quality listed on this product's advertising, the ones tested would do it.

Posted by misterpodster on January 11, 2005 at 1:33 PM (PDT) Comment 4

With the abundance of superb headphones on the market which produce very high output levels with very clean and undistorted sound using the iPod's internal amplifiers, I agree with the reviewer's assessment.

The need for additional amplication to drive those headphones which have very low sensitivity and demand high current / low impedance amplifers may interest an owner of esoteric audiophile-grade headphones, but they would be the first to admit that mp3 and other compressed audio is hardly worthy of audiophile headsets costing more than the iPod, especially when the are big and bulky as well.

I personally own several electrostatic and audiophile headphones from Stax and other high-end makers, and would never consider carrying around these $400 or $500, one and a half pound headsets with my iPod and an outboard amplifer. The ear bud designs from Etymotic and others make a great deal more sense for high-end listening and portability with the iPod.

In the earlier days when high end portable CD players allowed for superb sound quality, and ear bud speakers had not advanced to the level they have now achieved, I gladly carried an outboard amplifier and big Koss ESP-9 electrostatic phones. It just makes no sense now whatsoever to endure the weight, battery waste, cost, and bulk of this approach with the iPod and the superb earbuds now being sold.

Posted by misterpodster on January 11, 2005 at 1:33 PM (PDT) Comment 5

It seams good, it worth. I'm sure that boost an amplifier without distorting. Because, the preamp of ipod is low when plugged to an house amplifier. It's a good thing, i give 5 stars!

Posted by angelito on January 11, 2005 at 5:54 PM (PDT) Comment 6

I'm not sure about this product, but the review and some of the replies suggest that nothing can improve upon the ipod's sound, which is just not correct. I am a new owner of a 4g 40 gig, and while I am generally impressed, the device lacks power, and I would not really trust it to fully power a super high-end headphone. On many older recordings (stuff that was never re-mastered before being put on CD), and when compared to the prior device I used, the less then perfect signal-to-noise ratio becomes obvious, and that alone would be a reason to use an amp. That is not to say that the sound isn't accurate, but again, not perfect, and this site suffers by the degree to which many are convinced of the perfection of ipod sound - many good headphones, for example, have been totally overlooked, as has the point of the reviewed amp.

Posted by deltrane718 on January 11, 2005 at 8:30 PM (PDT) Comment 7

After waiting with baited breath for someone to review this amplifier all I can say is that I am very disappointed –with both the product and especially the quality of this review!


Regarding the review:
First, as stated above…this amp is meant for people who want to drive inefficient headphones such as; Sennheiser HD 600/650, Grado RS2/1 etc. Having used an original Headroom AirHead portable amplifier for several years, I (and thousands of other headphone users) can attest to the benefits (more like requirement) for good headphone amp. Again, an amp will NOT make bad headphones sound good or necessarily make efficient ‘easy to drive’ headphone sound better.

Furthermore, the reviewer tests the A1 using Etymotic ER-4P headphones. Hello? This headphone is a low-impedance version and is specifically designed NOT to be used with a headphone amp! In fact, any serious headphone listener will always use an amp with the ER-4S version.

Second, there has been an ongoing debate on the headphone web-forums regarding the sound quality of the iPods direct output vs. the headphone output. I have yet to see any measurement that proves one is better than the other. However, when I do my own listening test I find the direct out to sound ‘better’ (as always this is subjective).

Third, here is no mention of the methodology of this review. What music did he use? In order to set a base line one needs to know and be able to relate to how the original music was recorded. Then we need to know how was it ripped? –AAC, MP3, AIFF?? This is the single most important factor when reviewing ‘the sound’ of anything! Read any review of ‘audiophile’ products such as in; [url=http://www.stereophile.com]http://www.stereophile.com[/url] or [url=http://www.soundstage.com]http://www.soundstage.com[/url] and you will see my point.

I wonder if the reviewer did any research about this market. All he would have to have done is go to: http://www.head-fi.org or [url=http://www.headphone.com]http://www.headphone.com[/url]

Regarding the A1:
While the physical design of the amp is excellent, I believe that Simpl has made a huge marketing blunder by not using the direct output. There are at least half a dozen other portable amplifiers on the market and all of them are meant to be used with the direct output of a portable player. All I can say is that Simpl Acoustics had better offer a 30-day money back guarantee if they want to convince me that their approach is better.


…just my 0.2 cents

Posted by audiophile911 on January 12, 2005 at 5:15 AM (PDT) Comment 8

audiophile911,

A good review - http://ipodstudio.com/reviews/showproduct.php?product=71&sort=7&cat=18&page=1

Posted by PFRfan on January 12, 2005 at 8:37 AM (PDT) Comment 9

This is an extremely poor review. Despite inadequate testing with proper headphones, it's quite apparent from his derisive tone that Jeremy has little use for people who seek the best sound possible from their systems.

And this guy's Editor-in-Chief of iPodlounge? My opinion of this website has just dropped dramatically.

Posted by Clev on January 12, 2005 at 9:38 AM (PDT) Comment 10

I should have said:

A more usefull review can be found here - A good review - http://ipodstudio.com/reviews/showproduct.php?product=71&sort=7&cat=18&page=1

I think Jeremy is happy to praise iPod accessories that enhance or expand the perfection that it iPod. But to infer that something can actually improve it? Oh, that's heresy! The only way iPod could be improved would be if Apple did it. [/sarcasm]

Posted by PFRfan on January 12, 2005 at 10:19 AM (PDT) Comment 11

I think the review is correct, well written, and balanced. It makes it abundantly clear that this is a niche product and does not enhance the listening experience for the vast majority of iPod owners.

For the small and elite set of people who are prepared to carry outboard amplifiers and heavy headphones (and I was one of these types for years) I must ask you:

How in hell does cascading this amplifier to the output of the iPod amplifier improve sound quality? It doesn't take a degree in Electrrical Engineering (which I happen to have) to know that the quality of the Simpl amplifier output can be NO BETTER than the quality of the signal driving it (in this case the iPod headphone output). Unless massive power is what you need to drive a low impedance loads with high current, this amplifier makes absolutely no sense.


As regards the test methodology, I can imagine that there will be some headphones whose efficiency is so very low that this amplifier will make them sound better, if for no other reason than they will sound louder. It is an unjust criticism of the review, since virtually nobody uses these types of products.

And as a said in my prior post.....if you are a true audiophile (and I have about 70grand of audio equipment in my house to qualify me as such.....) then why in heavens name would you be using very high end amps and headphones with an iPod????? I love the iPod but I gotta tell ya...........this is NOT an audiophile source under any circumstances. Now if you want to talk DAT Walkman, then I might agree with you. Or if you have a CD player with high resolution A to D converters then maybe we can talk audiophile issues. But give me a friggin' break......


I think the reviewer did a superb job.

Posted by misterpodster on January 12, 2005 at 11:24 AM (PDT) Comment 12

There are legit reasons to use a headphone amp the have nothing to do with volume. Given that the line-out of the ipod is cleaner than the headphone out, it is possible to attach a headphone amp to the line out and get a noticable increase in quality. Unfortunatly, this paticular amp lacks a volume control, and cannot take advantage of line-out of the ipod. Some real examples of portable headphone amps are the SR-71, the Xin SuperMacro and the Mint. I've noticed an increase in quality using the stock ipod buds from the headphone out through a mint. But a quality source (ipod) with a quality amp (PPA) and a quality set of headphones (Shure e5c) will produce the best output. Also the most expensive.

This is a trendy product trying to catch the ipod wave.

As a side note, ER-4S was made for Amp use, not the ER-4P, as noted by aud911.

Posted by __redruM on January 12, 2005 at 12:12 PM (PDT) Comment 13

I am the person who wrote the review that PFRfan has referred to above. To clarify, I'm not here to push my own review, but rather to share my knowledge and viewpoint on this subject.

Several "issues" with the testing methodology behind this review should be addressed. Some members have touched on a few points around the edges already. I'll elaborate on what I think the issues are.

First of all, is the choices of using UE-10 Pro as your testing headphone. UE-10 Pro has a few "features" which also makes it "flawed" for any sort of review such as this one. Compared to other full size headphones, canalphones, even other custom IEM's, UE-10 Pro's sound signature is relatively and remarkably consistent across different sources and amps. Which also makes it almost irrelevant in testing the capability of an amp to shape sound signature differently.

Headphone amplifiers isn't just about making the sound louder, rather improving the detail of the sound, consequently affecting quality and imaging altogether. UE-10 Pro is designed to extend trebles and bass; the aim is so that even if you're using it with a crappy source, you'll still hear adequate bass & treble for discerning detail. That feature in itself also makes UE-10 Pro less faithful to the source and amp that is driving it. UE-10 Pro also has a humped midrange to allow discerning of vocal easier; thus also creating an effect of frontal soundstage that's brought more forward than it should be. This feature eliminates some amp or source's capability to project a spherical and accurate soundstage.

... continued due to character count limits

Posted by lindrone on January 12, 2005 at 1:03 PM (PDT) Comment 14

UE-10 Pro's features are what makes it attractive for some on-stage musician performances. It can be consistent enough out of any source (crappy, wireless belt-packs in particular), but this consistency becomes an issue whenever you really need to test the source equipment's performance on its own.

In comparison, full size headphones such as Sennheiser HD600, or other custom IEM such as Sensaphonic ProPhonic Soft 2X is much more faithful to the source, and shows you a sound that's much closer to how it *should* sound instead of what UE-10 Pro *wants* it to sound.

Hence, especially using UE-10 Pro with this amplifier provides very little meaningly analysis as to this amplifier's performance in comparison to other headphone amplifiers on the market. If UE-10 Pro was paired up with a much more expensive, high quality amplifier, it would be a more meaningful test, as those amplifier should make more difference that even UE-10 Pro can't necessary "cover up". However in this price range, there isn't any amplifier that'll show any appreciable difference with the UE-10 Pro at all.

The next issue is that of the amplifier's impedance matching issues. The Simpl A1, as I've mentioned in my review, is *not* meant for low-impedance headphones, which both ER-4P and UE-10 Pro are, and UE-10 Pro is to an very extreme degree of low impedance. I've contacted Simpl and talked to them about this issue, and it is known to them. However with higher impedance headphones it is not an issue. This amp is for those people who has something like a HD600 or HD580 and wants to use it with their iPod. If anyone has tested those headphone with the iPod, they'd know that iPod doesn't even get close to "loud" even on 100% volume setting with those high-impedance, hard to drive headphones. There are plenty of Sennheiser owners out there who hasn't fully realized the potential of their headphone, and they will be able to at least get a taste of that with the Simpl A1. By that definition, the A1 is a very legitimate product for that market.

Posted by lindrone on January 12, 2005 at 1:04 PM (PDT) Comment 15

However, paired with any low impedance headphone is a problem right now. Even though there's still appreciable improvement with the CD3000, 2X-S, and several other low-impedance headphone that I've used it with. Other than the *hiss* that gets picked up though, there's actually very little that's "wrong" with the rest of the sound signature.

To put it into further perspective. Simpl A1 is not the only amp that produces this *hiss*. In fact, even the PPA mentioned by _redrum above can produce an audible hiss with any of the above mentioned headphone in the wrong configuration. Amplifying sound properly while eliminating hiss is an artform that's hard to achieve. Especially if you want to cover the entire range of high impedance as well as low impedance headphones. There are many old tube amplifiers that strictly works with only high impedance headphones.

Here I will once again bring up the UE-10 Pro as an issue... UE-10 Pro's impedance is extremely, extremely low, while its sensitivity is extremely high. In my view, this is actually a flawed design, as it makes pairing of the UE-10 Pro with many headphone amplifier nearly impossible. Alongside many headphone amplifiers I've tested, UE-10 Pro picks up audible buzzes and hisses. So that make the fact that UE-10 Pro picks up hisses with the Simpl A1 even less relevant.

The saving grace is that I'm very sure that this amp has problem with all low impedance headphones, not just the UE-10 Pro. If you were testing another high quality headphone amplifiers, you might still find that issue with the UE-10 Pro regardless.

Posted by lindrone on January 12, 2005 at 1:05 PM (PDT) Comment 16

I think the review is good. It says, "But if you have a huge pair of headphones that you need to power, the A1 provides a convenient, iPod-matching way to do it."

The review needs to take all its readers into account. There may be readers who would be tempted to buy the amp for other reasons. The review simply states that it is useless for these other reasons.

Posted by Questioner on January 12, 2005 at 9:18 PM (PDT) Comment 17

Regarding the post by misterpodster on Jan 12, 05 12:24 pm...

1. Spending 70+ grand on audio equipment does NOT qualify you as an Audiophile. Enough said about this.

2. Stereophile has rated the iPod as its 'buget component of the year'. Not that this is the be-all-and-end-all but it does prove that the iPod is a legitimate "Hi End" product. If you're truely an Audiophile then you would understand what a 'Hi End' product is -hint (not necessarily expensive).

Also, the DAC in the iPod is actually quite good and when music is ripped in AIFF, and good headphones are used then the only week link is the op amp. Hence the need for an outboard amp. With an outboad amp, or connected to a hi end system the iPod puts many CD players to shame -let alone DAT/Mini Disc players.

Several influential reviewers now use iPod's with AIFF files to review gear -that's how good it can be. So if you're willing to carry a portable amp then why limit the musical experience???

Posted by audiophile911 on January 13, 2005 at 12:59 AM (PDT) Comment 18

I agree with the above post; iTunes gives you the option to rip CDs in uncompressed AIFF and Apple Lossless formats so the iPod is as good a source as any DAT or CD player. Having said that, AAC is good enough for anyone who is not anal about the technical details of portable music.

As for the A1 Audio Amplifier, the product is clearly intended to be used with big headphones that would humble the iPod's internal amp; this is how Simpl Accoustics introduced the product from day one. Someone from the company posted on this site that the headphone port was used for two reasons: first, audio quality is not compromised compared to a line-out signal and second, it would be easier to adjust the volume from the click-wheel, instead of fumbling with a second volume slider.

Finally let me say that the iPodLounge review was poor. It should have focused on the A1's performance with big headphones because that is what the device is meant to be used with, not Etymotic ER-4P's.

And what is wrong with a bit of hiss in music? Most music listeners have learned to ignore that noise.

Posted by Sol on January 13, 2005 at 6:38 AM (PDT) Comment 19

My ears tell me that the right port to use for the best quality music is line out via dock connector. Decent 'phones via the headphone port are fine for music on the move, the dock's better for home hifi use. iTunes output via an imic USB audio device from my PC gives even better quality (why?).

The failure of this product is that it uses the wrong connector on the ipod and doesn't have a volume control! An opportunity to give me better sound on the move has been missed...not that there's anything much wrong with the quality I get with my Shure e3c's anyway.

The review was fine - it told me what I wanted to know.

Posted by drevo_uk on January 13, 2005 at 7:56 AM (PDT) Comment 20

ipodlounge reviews have always been top notch, but they usually don't have the audiophile in mind. My opinion of the Audiophile pros/cons (without listening to it of course) are:
pros: Rechargable, connects to ipod, allows bypass with power off.
cons: Zero control features, not even volume. Cannot connect to line-out. OpAmp and Buffer not specified.

Also note that the "Airhead" also got a grade of C, so it's likely that ipodlounge doesn't appreciate headphone amps. I'd like them to review a amp with a better following at head-fi like the SR-71.

Posted by __redruM on January 13, 2005 at 9:36 AM (PDT) Comment 21

To what Sol said, "hisses" usually isn't an issue when listening to pop or rock, when there's constant sound going on. The hisses gets drowned out. However, if you were playing classical or jazz, where "silent" passages is an integral part of the music, it gets very, very annoying.

As far as line-out versus headphone output for the amp usage. Whatever the argument, Simpl designed this amp to be used out of the headphone out, and the result isn't bad at all. They wanted to integrate all of the control still with the iPod instead of having separate controls for everything (except for the power button on the A1). To that end, they might have sacrificed some of that "purity" in making it more usable.

Since testing out of line-out wasn't possible anyway with the lack of a volume control, out of its default configuration the sound is a definite improvement over the headphone output of the iPod alone. So whatever the methodology, it works, and that's all that really matters.

Posted by lindrone on January 13, 2005 at 10:35 AM (PDT) Comment 22

Get the Headroom Total Airhead. Much better Amp for us audiophiles who scoffed at this horrid review.

Posted by kinddog on January 13, 2005 at 12:51 PM (PDT) Comment 23

I love the sound of my iPod, ER-4Ss, and Total Airhead in combination---it blows the iPod alone away. But, man, I hate fumbling with the extra wires, the hard to reach volume knob, and the general inconvenience of carrying around two separate devices. The A1 is a step in the right direction, but I'm of the school that line out is better than headphone jack, so the A1 is a non starter for me.

What I would like to see is an outboard amp that allows the iPod's standard remote to be plugged into it. That way, the remote’s volume controls could be used and I would still get my line out feed. A clever splitter at the end of the remote could send the volume control to the amp and the signals for on/off/pause/forward, etc. to the iPod.

Give me an A1-like amp with line out use and a fully functioning remote---now that’s what I’d spend my audiophile dollars on.

Posted by Clev on January 13, 2005 at 2:44 PM (PDT) Comment 24

Quote: "hisses" usually isn't an issue when listening to pop or rock, when there's constant sound going on. The hisses gets drowned out.

...interesting opinion...I am always amazed that people are willing to put up with low quality sound.

While you may perceive that the hisses are being drowned out becasue you think you get used to it. However, what will actually happen is you will begin to suffer from 'listeners fatigue', which is an unwritten scale of how much extra work the brain does in matching the sound to the source. The further the sound is from its source, the harder the brain works in matching the two events. The harder the brain works, the shorter the attention span and the more likely you will stop listening.

continued...

Posted by audiophile911 on January 13, 2005 at 3:52 PM (PDT) Comment 25
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