Simpl Acoustics A1 Audio Amplifier | iLounge

Reviews

41

I read and post at head-fi, and I even posted my experience to the thread you linked... but I have to say that just because people at head-fi have reported no difference between the headphone port and the line out, I don't necessarily give that view any more weight one way or the other.

There are people at head-fi who swear up and down that the kind of cable they use on their headphones makes a huge difference to the quality of the sound; and others that claim they hear "veils" over using certain cans that alter the "perspective" of the sound while having nothing to do with frequency response curve of the headphones. The same headphones can be described as "bright" and "dark" (sometimes by the same person!). Like any internet forum, there are informed posters and uninformed ones.

The best way to tell if a headphone amp will make a difference to you is to buy one from a company that offers an unconditional money back guarantee. If it doesn't improve the sound, or if it doesn't work properly, send it back.

Like I said, I have a set of Sennheiser headphones, and I didn't find that there was heck of a lot of difference to amped or unamped through the headphone jack; but with high bitrate files, I could hear a clear difference between the unamped headphone jack and the amped line out port. Try it yourself.

See ya
Steve

Posted by Stephen Worth in North Hollywood, CA on January 14, 2005 at 6:40 PM (PDT)

42

Please! Someone! Do a head-to-head so we can settle the matter!

iPod Headphone->Simpl A1->HD600 or something
vs.
iPod Line Out->Airhead or something->same cans.

Anything else is speculation. I've not been convinced by either side, and I still have interest in this amp. But until I get an informed (actual side-by-side experience) opinion, I can't decide. Maybe it sounds good, but something else in it's price range sounds better. Maybe not. Please help us, lindrone!

Posted by PFRfan on January 17, 2005 at 11:41 AM (PDT)

43

omg why would anyone wanna use headphones other than then the iBuds??? o_0










JUST KIDDING!

Posted by steel102 on January 17, 2005 at 12:33 PM (PDT)

44

Sorry that I haven't weighed in on this comment thread until now, but it's been a busy week, and though I don't plan to keep responding here, a few comments are in order.

The Simpl A1 packaging reads as follows:

"Features:

-Audiophile-grade amplifier provides deeper bass, clearer highs, and more accurate mids for all headphones.

-Enough power to efficiently drive the most demanding headphones.

-Lower iPod volume setting = increased iPod playtime.

-podGrip technology is compatible with all full-sized iPods (not for use with iPod mini)

-Simpl A1 can be used to amplify any audio device with a stereo mini jack connection."

These are the only major selling points of this device: the promise of better sound "for all headphones", more power, better iPod runtime, full-sized iPod compatibility, and universal audio output device compatibility. For $150.

As noted in the review, we take issue with major claim one, think that claims two, three, and five are meaningless for most iPod users, and agree with claim four. In other words, yes, it fits onto an iPod, and yes, you can plug in any full-sized iPod and any set of headphones, get more audio power, and maybe even reduce the iPod's battery drain by a little bit.

But don't expect a perfectly clean audio signal, and by the way, unless you're using the sort of headphones that 99.95% of the population wouldn't use with an iPod, none of the other advertised features will matter a lick.

A very small and very vocal group of audiophiles is willing to buy and argue to death over any product that promises better sound - no matter what the performance reality actually is. Since iPodlounge is an open discussion community, we don't try to stop audiophiles from expressing their views, even when they disagree with ours. And we also don't try to stop company representatives from airing their perspectives (even if they pose as disinterested audiophiles), if they want to try and justify their products. Many are willing to post under their real names and identify their affiliations, rather than hiding behind a pen name. Ultimately, even with all of the exaggerated back-and-forth in these threads, we think our readers are smart enough to decide what and who they want to believe.

But we do think that almost any person who drops $150 on this product will find it wanting if they believe the performance claims on the package - unless, as we said in the review, they have an inefficent set of headphones and really need the extra power. If one of you guys can tell us why the average user - or anybody except those few people with low-efficiency headphones - needs to spend $150 on this product given other available options, please do so.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on January 17, 2005 at 9:51 PM (PDT)

45

Thank you for your comments. I think the issue here is that you're reviewing a product that is built for a niche, and to my knowledge only marketed to a niche, but treating it otherwise.

And I think that you're right about their claim #1 - that it will make ANY headphones sound better. That's a pretty bold claim, that most of us would qualify. So in reference to that particular marketing line, you're right.

I believe that your claim of 99.5% is pretty high. If you're speaking about all people who actually own an iPod of some sort, maybe. Doubtful, but maybe.

That said - 99.5% of people owning an iPod would have no use for an extrended life auxiliary battery, buy you have no problem giving them high marks. Or how about printable sticker kits? The point is, that most iPod accessories are targeted at a small group of people, the Simpl A1. I think that a proper conclusion is that they are not for everyone. For that matter, 99.5% of people have never HEARD of a dedicated headphone amplifier. 99.5% of people don't know that you CAN spend more for headphones than the $50 whatevers from Circuit City.

My primary problem with the review is the condensating tone you take towards people who might have use for this product. "Hulking" and "huge" sound like snobbery from someone who spent $900+ for his UE earplugs. Naturally, UE-10s appeal to a group far smaller than 0.5%, but it doesn't make them a bad product. In fact, you gave them a glowing review.

This review (mismatching the proper headphones) is like hooking up your UE-10s to a portable AM radio. I know they're marketing say "all headphones", but Apple says "do not eat iPod Shuffle". It's marketing. We've got to be smart enough to understand the right target and at least test the product with the right equipment.

If you came to the conclusion that it's no good for ANY headphones, that would be one thing. But you say it's good for headphones which you don't own and didn't test with. How does that work?

Posted by PFRfan on January 18, 2005 at 5:58 AM (PDT)

46

I meant "a small group of people, LIKE the Simpl A1 DOES". Man - I need an EDIT button!

Posted by PFRfan on January 18, 2005 at 6:00 AM (PDT)

47

As far as statements regarding to expectations of a "clean audio signal", as I've mentioned before, with the UE-10 Pro or UE5c, it's hard to find many high quality headphone amp with a "clean audio signal" whatsoever. This is due to the design of the headphone, not the amp. Even high quality amp such as Ray Samuel SR-71 has noise issues with either UE5c and UE-10 Pro. Same with high quality, well-built amps such as any number of PPA variations out there.

It should also be noted that Shure E3c and E5c is also notoriously hard to match up to different amps for the same reason: Their propencity for picking up noises that's non-existent on other headphone & amp combinations.

So to disregard this amp's value based on bad testing methodology with the worst combination of headphone matching possible, produces dubious results at best. It wouldn't just be this amp, but almost every other headphone amp in the budget market (perhaps even up to $400 range, since PPA would've given you the same result), that would've suffered the same criticism regarding "clean signal" if you insist on testing it with the UE-10 Pro.

As far as head-to-head comparison. I didn't go into length in my review, but I've had experience with many budget portable amps, and I think Simpl A1 matches up to their general quality pretty well. Although the low-impedance headphone mismatch prevents me from a full recommendation.

In general, I would compare the A1 with amps about $50 less than its price. There is a premium to be paid for the usability, and the built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The battery itself is worth the $50.

Posted by lindrone on January 18, 2005 at 9:20 AM (PDT)

48

Your one mistake, Jeremy is when you say that headphone amps only matter to people who use headphones that 99.5% of the public wouldn't use with an iPod.

That's assuming that everyone uses the iPod strictly as a portable player. But many people are incorporating docks into their home stereos, encoding at high bitrates to approach CD quality sound, and using high quality accessories that fit more within a home stereo rig than in a jogging fanny pack.

Many people have large home stereo headphones that would have mismatched impedence with the little amp built into the iPod. The iPod is capable of sound quality as good as the average home stereo CD player. It's only natural that people would want to use their high quality headphones with their iPod.

See ya
Steve

Posted by Stephen Worth in North Hollywood, CA on January 18, 2005 at 10:40 PM (PDT)

49

1) iPod's line out is a LOT better than its headphone port. You don't need any objective tests done on this. Get a Belkin iPod car adapter with line out, then use a cassette adapter and compare for yourself. the difference is night and day!

2) You don't need to be an audiophile to appreciate high fidelity music. If you've ever listened with Grado headphones v.s. Sony, you already know this.

3) Headphone amps need to be properly matched with the headphones in order for quality improvements to be noticed. When properly matched, the difference is obvious.

Given that a majority of iPod users have never heard of Grado or Etymotics, I agree with the reviewer in that this amp is practically useless. They would be better off spending the $150 on a better set of headphones, instead of buying this A1 amplifier which is probably mediocre at best, given that it uses the headphone output.

Posted by herry on January 19, 2005 at 9:02 PM (PDT)

50

Also, my response to Wilder_K_Wight comment about audiophiles being morons. I agree that it sucks to have dog ears and to notice smallest flaws and imperfections. But in most cases, you don't need dog ears to know when something sounds bad. In order to do this, however, you have to listen to something good for a comparison. Try wearing those $700 headphones first, then go back to your iPod earbuds and see if you can "enjoy" your music and not nitpick.

iPod is a portable device, but that doesn't mean that it's always used on the road. I use mine at home simply because it's more convenient and private, and if a good headphone amp makes my listening experience even better, then why not do it? But maybe you're the type of person that's complacent with mediocrity, and that's ok.

Posted by herry on January 19, 2005 at 9:22 PM (PDT)

51

Geez, it's almost like headfi.org in here. It's great to read other views on the SQ side of things on this site. I enjoy iPodlounge a lot, but more often than I care to see the viewpoints expressed here--by the site itself and many of its visitors--concerning sonic performance is sorely lacking. Kind of like my thankfully retired E3cs.

Posted by flatline response on February 10, 2005 at 12:01 PM (PDT)

52

Well I just ordered a new video ipod due to my older generation ipod getting run over by a car in Chicago ( but thats another story ) and a Simpl A1 amp ( which now sells for $99.00 ) and I may never use it with headphones. The reason ? I have a 2004 Nissan Armada whose factory bose stereo is great. The problem is that it has a mini jack plug-in for use with ipod/mps players to connect to the stereo and play using the aux. setting. When playing a cd in my truck I rarely turn the volume up into the upper reaches as it is super loud, too loud for real use. However if I hook my ipod up through the mini-jack plug I need to turn the volume up all the way on the ipod and then nearly all the way up on the stereo control in order to really rock it while sitting around outside the truck with the doors & rear hatch open whilst tailgating. I'm hoping this amp will correct the problem. Why not just buy a differnt car stereo or add an amp? Because the stereo is solid enough and I don't want to find some place in the truck to mount an amp etc. This problem is also true with my home system and all home systems I've ever hooked my ipod up to. I just want a nice portable amp to kick up the volume when I want my music nice and loud. If the simpl a1 can do this I'll let you know. If it sucks in this application I'll let you know. As for those who want to spend lots on really high end expensive audio equipment all I can say is rock on, whatever floats your boat, after all I only like to drink high end bourbon and scotch but I don't mind those who drink jim beam or dewars. Just don't give me some bullsh*t microbrew beer and claim it is so much better than some mass produced domestic beer, it's beer for godsake...

Posted by final furlong on January 19, 2006 at 9:34 AM (PDT)

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