Simpl Acoustics A1 Audio Amplifier | iLounge

Reviews

21

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 in Gaithersburg, MD on January 13, 2005 at 9:36 AM (PDT)

22

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)

23

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

Posted by kinddog in Washington DC on January 13, 2005 at 12:51 PM (PDT)

24

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 in Ottawa on January 13, 2005 at 2:44 PM (PDT)

25

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)

26

The ONLY logical reason to use a portable headphone amplifier is to be able to drive certain high-quality headphones properly. Otherwise the extra bulk and cost is not worth it.

Why? Because you want the best possible listening experience -period.

Then you have to ask...Why would someone build an amp, which by definition will be used audiophiles, and not try to design the best sounding product?

If only someone could build a product that combines the sound quality of a Ray Samuels Audio
SR-71 with the industrial design of the Simpl A1 and connects directly to the iPod line out. Any Apple product managers out there -are you listening???

Posted by audiophile911 on January 13, 2005 at 4:09 PM (PDT)

27

audiophile, I'm not saying that hisses are acceptible, I'm merely explaining why one may take the viewpoint that hisses are acceptible due to the music they're listening to.

What I'm referring to is not listening. The "hiss" remains a constant volume regardless of the volume of the music, it is a separate signal noise that is introduced outside of the volume control. Hence music will drown it out because hiss does not increase in volume with the music.

FYI, this type of "hiss" can be apparent even with PPA and other various high-end amps with certain headphones. In fact, Ultimate Ears UE5c has a "buzzing" problem with the SR-71.

Posted by lindrone on January 13, 2005 at 5:07 PM (PDT)

28

correction (too bad you can't edit, eh?).. "What I'm referring to is not listening fatigue."... I missed a word in there.

Posted by lindrone on January 13, 2005 at 5:08 PM (PDT)

29

To bring up what the guy from Simpl posted here a week or two ago concerning the line out vs. headphone out question.

He said that they tested their amp through the line out using an outboard volume control, and were unable to discern any difference. Perhaps that's true. My trouble is with the unreliability of the testing procedure. If their test had come back and said that the line out was better, they would have to scrap their whole design and start over. Hmmm - I'm guessing their tests were done in-house, too.

That doesn't mean this amp is bad. In fact, it may show to be as good as an Airhead or something else. The proper test in my mind, is to use high-impedence cans and test this through the headphone out vs an Airhead, Go-Vibe, or something through the line-out. Then each amp is in it's intended niche, and you can compare the end result. Lindrone???

Posted by PFRfan on January 13, 2005 at 9:58 PM (PDT)

30

i personally think this is a very poor review for many of the aforementioned reasons other have stated. I would like to add that even with more efficient headphones (Grado HP-1 @ 32 ohms) and even with efficient canalphones (ER4S) the iPod internal amplifier just does not perform and you don't even need all AIFF and ALAC to tell the difference.

I use my iPod portably with a Mint (tangentsoft.net/audio/mint/) and ER4S and there is a significant difference to the sound i get with the amplifier. This is definitely the case at with the bass, but it applies to the detail in general.

This review clearly paired the amp with the wrong headphones and the reviewer clearly has a bias of a skeptic.

I really find it an outright lie to say that 95% of people couldn't tell the difference... Fact is that with the exception of people with moderate to major hearing loss there is a difference that is noticeable. The question is not whether it is noticeable, but whether it is worth the $$ and inconveniece of extra equipment.

There is not one person that i have let listen to my iPod through my HP-1s with my Pimeta who does not completely agree that is sounds insanely better then straight from the iPod to the HP-1s (32 ohm efficient headphones)

And I think I've let at least 4 dozen "laymen" get this golden opportunity to listen through a nice set of headphones and a decent amplifier.

This reviewer clearly doesn't doesn't understand how to review an audiophile product and should acknowledge that they don't have the expertise to make a fair review.

Regardless, I would love to see a review in which this product is compared to other such amplifer options such as stadard CMoy, Mint, SuperMini, SR-71 etc. using a greater variety of headphones and clearly explaining what music was used to make the review.



Posted by intlplby on January 13, 2005 at 10:47 PM (PDT)

31

I am astounded by listeners who are happy with 128 kbps MP3s, and I am almost offended by those who say that the iPod buds are good enough or those who like the boomy bass of EX71s. But one has to take into account the purposes for which the iPod was intended. Sitting still in a quiet room with good headphones, one can tell the difference between 320 kbps AAC and AIFF, and the amp that one uses differences makes a huge difference. But is this difference relevant or even possible in other situations, such as walking outside in the street, with the wind and the traffic? No way. So maybe you feel that the added sound quality from an amp is important, or you want to use your favorite headphones, and are willing to carry a bunch of equipment around. Nothing wrong with this. But then why settle for an amp that uses the headphone jack instead of the line-out? Simpl can argue all they want that it makes no difference. I do not believe them.

Posted by Questioner in New York on January 14, 2005 at 2:18 AM (PDT)

32

This whole article and response section has clarified one thing for me: Audiophiles must be frickin' morons.

How anyone can argue about such minute, barely-perceptible things is beyond me. Anyone who can run around claiming that they have superhuman hearing and can pick up sounds outside of the scientifically-confirmed range of human hearing is a fool, and deserves to blow hundreds of thousands of dollars for their delusional hearing.

The iPod's sound is fine for 99.9% of the world. The review is pretty clear that this particular product is ultimately pointless unless you're one of those .1% who feel that wasting your cash and time on getting *perfect* sound is the meaning of life. I agree. $700 personal headphones, and gadgets like this may make the audiophiles feel special and give them something to argue about (as if they CAN'T find something to argue about), but for the general public it's useless.

Music is to be enjoyed- Not analyzed to death. Please, just listen and be happy. If you hear a little hard drive static, don't pull out your hair. If the bass isn't as strong as you want, or the brass isn't as bright, don't have a fit. It's music, baby. Just shut up and listen to it.

Hey, we all have our geek-thing we do, and I respect that audiophiles enjoy their hobby... But do not have the illusion that you're the ones who are listening to music "the right way" or that you can hear sounds at 28,000 Hz.

Yes. Nice set of headphones and a decent amplifier make the iPod sound better--- And UTTERLY DEFEATS THE PURPOSE OF IT BEING A PORTABLE PLAYER. You seriously lug around a bunch of crap to make your iPod live up to your standards?

It must suck to have such discriminating tastes and to be completely unable to enjoy music without $1000 worth of equipment between yourself and the source.

You must panic at concerts when people are talking or cheering, or when the venue has bad acoustics.

Yes. I'm sure people can hear a difference. That's not the issue, though. This is a mass-market portable player. If we want perfect sound we'll listen at home on our sound system- Not in our pocket while walking, at the gym, at school or at work. If you add a bunch of junk, you might as well just strap a battery pack to your home stereo and carry it in a backpack.

I swear, some people are so nitpicky they just suck the joy out of everything.

Posted by Wilder_K_Wight on January 14, 2005 at 3:01 AM (PDT)

33

Dear, Wilder_K_Wight...

No need to insult anyone...

1. Nobody has claimed to have superhuman hearing. People who enjoy music and strive to get as close as possible to live performance may in fact be 'fools' but YOU are certainly not better then anyone! Keep your arguements logical and NOT personal.

2. Regarding "scientifically-confirmed range of human hearing". Yes measurements have their value, but 20 years ago CD was claimed to have "perfect sound forever". Today we know this is not the case -SACD, DVD-Audio 24bit/192Khz upsampling etc. have shown that science is always evolving.

3. If you don't care about sound qulaity then why are you even reading this review? In fact why are even using an iPod -why not a flash player with 96Khz mp3s (that's an even more portable solution)?

4. Come on this is a REVIEW...so if we are nitpicking then so be it!

Posted by audiophile911 on January 14, 2005 at 4:21 AM (PDT)

34

In addition, Wild,

You say that music is to be enjoyed, not analyzed to death. The enjoyment for many is in the analysis. Truthfully, those listening with critical ears find much more enjoyment than the mass market buyers. They are able to identify parts to the music that are lost or muddled when coming through bad earphones.

audiophile911 is right - why bother with 128k MP3's? Because it's "fine for 99.9% of the world"? Well, 90% of the world has no portable music, so an AM radio would be "fine" for them.

It doesn't take supersonic hearing to notice the differences. With my Shure E3Cs and a decent sound card, I can consistently tell the difference between a 160k MP3 and the original WAV. That's with pop/rock (which tends to make lots of equipment sound the same), and a true ABX blind test. I'm certainly no better than average hearing-wise. But I do appreciate the little things that artists put into their records, and when I discover them, I find great enjoyment.

Finally - until someone does some apples-apples comparison with this amp and others in it's price range, I say the jury's out on the line-out issue. I know it's better in theory. But I want direct comparison. I'm not going to write off the amp because of a prejudice against the design. The end result is more important than the means, so I'm open to it.

Posted by PFRfan on January 14, 2005 at 9:32 AM (PDT)

35

In addition, Wild,

You say that music is to be enjoyed, not analyzed to death. The enjoyment for many is in the analysis. Truthfully, those listening with critical ears find much more enjoyment than the mass market buyers. They are able to identify parts to the music that are lost or muddled when coming through bad earphones.

audiophile911 is right - why bother with 128k MP3's? Because it's "fine for 99.9% of the world"? Well, 90% of the world has no portable music, so an AM radio would be "fine" for them.

It doesn't take supersonic hearing to notice the differences. With my Shure E3Cs and a decent sound card, I can consistently tell the difference between a 160k MP3 and the original WAV. That's with pop/rock (which tends to make lots of equipment sound the same), and a true ABX blind test. I'm certainly no better than average hearing-wise. But I do appreciate the little things that artists put into their records, and when I discover them, I find great enjoyment.

Finally - until someone does some apples-apples comparison with this amp and others in it's price range, I say the jury's out on the line-out issue. I know it's better in theory. But I want direct comparison. I'm not going to write off the amp because of a prejudice against the design. The end result is more important than the means, so I'm open to it.

Posted by PFRfan on January 14, 2005 at 9:32 AM (PDT)

36

First off... although I love great sound, I'm not an audiophile. I don't think vinyl is inherently superior to CDs... I buy my cables at Radio Shack... and I have no need for a headphone amp on my home stereo.

But when I plugged my Sennheiser HD-590s into my iPod, I immediately noticed that I had to turn the volume up almost all the way to the top to reach normal listening level. I suspected that the amp in the iPod wasn't strong enough to push my headphones.

I had a Pocket Dock with Line Out in my portable kit, and I found a seller of a tiny CMoy amp (http://www.shellbrooklab.com/mini.htm) that would let me return it with no questions asked if I couldn't hear the difference, so I figured I would give it a try.

When I got the Super Mini Moy, I did a balanced level listening test switching between the amped output of the headphone jack and the unamped output of the headphone jack of the iPod. A tiny bit more punchiness, but no real significant difference. Certainly not enough to justify $100 for an amp. This surprised me, because I initially thought that the problem was that the iPod headphone amp wasn't powerful enough, and this test showed me that it was.

Then I patched from the line out of the Pocket Dock to the Super Mini Moy and compared that to the stock headphone output and did a balanced volume level comparison... Aha! Here is where it made a difference. The sound was more transparent, punchier and cleaner.

I kept the Super Mini Moy and whenever I use my good headphones with my iPod, I use it.

MY ADVICE: Any headphone amp that doesn't use the line out is worthless in my opinion.

See ya
Steve

Posted by Stephen Worth in North Hollywood, CA on January 14, 2005 at 4:41 PM (PDT)

37

One aside...

There is a value to hiss in some cases. I restore old recordings using my Mac, and I often run across recordings with limited high frequency information. If I use the psychoacoustic trick of adding a small bed of hiss in the 9khz range, it fools the ears into thinking they're hearing high frequencies that don't exist in the original recording. This also prevents listening fatigue caused by muffled sound.

To me the outer space gleeps and glorps of digital artifacting is MUCH more annoying than natural sorts of noise like sustained hiss.

See ya
Steve

Posted by Stephen Worth in North Hollywood, CA on January 14, 2005 at 5:01 PM (PDT)

38

"if you are a true audiophile...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."

Sorry, but you're wrong on this one. If you use uncompressed or lossless compression on the iPod, and listen via the line-out, the iPod is indeed an audiophile source. Even Stereophile -- who tend to be the ultimate in audiophile snobbery -- agree there.


"The ONLY logical reason to use a portable headphone amplifier is to be able to drive certain high-quality headphones properly. Otherwise the extra bulk and cost is not worth it."

Again, wrong (and the whole "extra bulk and cost is not worth it" thing is clearly a matter of personal preference). True, a portable headphone amp will help an iPod drive hard-to-drive headphones. But it can also improve easy-to-drive, small headphones -- even things like the Ety ER-4P -- significantly. The improvements are easy to hear when I use a HeadRoom Total AirHead and ER-4P, the latter of which is designed to be run directly from a portable's headphone jack.


"Anyone who can run around claiming that they have superhuman hearing and can pick up sounds outside of the scientifically-confirmed range of human hearing is a fool, and deserves to blow hundreds of thousands of dollars for their delusional hearing."

Um, the difference is not "barely-perceptible." My girlfriend doesn't even care about audio quality, but when I have her listen to the iPod's headphone jack vs. a good portable amp she can easily hear the difference. Just because you can't doesn't mean the rest of us are "frickin' morons." Geesh.



As for the review itself, although I think it's methodologically poor, its conclusion is right on: This amp is fundamentally flawed in that it uses the headphone jack instead of the higher-quality line-level output of the dock connector.

Posted by audiogeek on January 14, 2005 at 5:30 PM (PDT)

39

There's been a recent thread on Head-Fi arguing whether or not iPod's line-out is truly a line-level output. There's been several people who tested the line-out & the headphone output after careful volume matching of both, and decided that there's very little, to no difference between the quality of the audio coming from either. There are some who noticed differences between them; even more interesting, there are some who noticed difference between line-out and headphone output only when using low impedance headphones.

The question is that whether or not the iPod's line-out is coming directly from the DAC before or after the amplification circuity, if it does not, then all it is doing is bypassing the volume control circuitry. There are even some theories to why that only low-impedance headphone seems to show the difference; which might point towards the theory that the line-out just by-passes the volume control.

Either way, I don't know what the "truth" is behind iPod's line-out. However, to assume that line-out of the iPod is automatically higher quality would be inaccurate, simply due to the fact that many Head-Fier has tested and thought otherwise.

Also, you have to consider that this amp was matched specifically to the iPod's headphone output. Meanwhile a normal headphone amp, which could be used towards any source combination, will definitely need a good line-out, this amp is specifically tuned for the iPod. So you can also assume that maybe they've taken iPod's amplified output into consideration when tuning their ampllifier.

Posted by lindrone on January 14, 2005 at 5:42 PM (PDT)

40

The forementioned Head-Fi thread is here:

http://www6.head-fi.org/forums/showthread.php?t=99015

Posted by lindrone on January 14, 2005 at 5:44 PM (PDT)

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