Electric Avenues Pocket Amp_2 V2 review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Sep 6, 2012.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    I went to the mailbox yesterday and found the PA2V2 pocket amp by Electric Avenues in my box, and since I was on the way to a local park by foot, I decided to try the little amp with my iPhone and my new Sennheiser Amperior headphone. I was listening to a track called Tainted Love by Soft Cell, a 320k CBR conversion of a WAV file I ripped from the CD - good enough for walkabout listening and then some. When I switched from the iPhone to using the amp (via the LOD cable I carry with me), I was immediately greeted with a larger soundstage and better bass. I wasn't expecting that since I don't generally hear that much difference at home with new amps like the Objective2 or FiiO E17 I purchased previously. I am accustomed to a fairly major difference between the sound of the iPhone and the several desktop DAC/amps I have, but I was surprised at how much improvement I got just from the iPhone's LOD out to the PA2V2's analog input.

    The PA2V2 amp is enclosed in a high-impact ABS plastic box measuring 2.6 x 2.6 x 1.1 inches high, excluding the volume knob and on-off rocker switch. Unlike some battery-operated amps that aren't very portable in the hand-carry sense, the PA2V2 is very portable. I carried it connected to my iPhone in one hand on my walk to the park, and never felt like I was carrying anything more than a larger phone. I could have used one of the rubber rings I had at home that bond the iPhone to a portable amp such as the FiiO E17, but still my average-size hand had no problem carrying both together. The little black box is sealed on all sides with nicely rounded edges, except the front panel which has the volume knob, on-off switch, DC charging jack, analog input jack, and headphone jack. The analog in and headphone out jacks are the normal 3.5 mm type, but the DC charging jack accomodates a 2 mm plug, which is smaller than the standard stereo 2.5 mm "submini" plugs I'm familiar with.

    My PA2V2 amp came with the two required NiMH batteries installed and at least partially charged. The estimated play time for fully-charged batteries is 100 hours. Given the small size of the amp and its amazing sound and power output, 100 hours seems highly optimistic, yet thousands of these are in the field and that's the typical experience according to the manufacturer. The photo of the PA2V2 I see on the Electric Avenues website shows a typical wall-wart AC-DC adapter, but I received a USB-to-2mm cable instead, so I'm charging the amp with that cable connected to an Apple USB power adapter. I prefer the USB cable to the wall-wart adapter, and I don't remember now whether I chose that deliberately or whether the PA2V2 is supplied with the USB cable by default. Also included with the amp is a 14 inch cable with 3.5 mm plugs on both ends, for connecting typical music players etc. In my case I use the LOD since it bypasses the volume control and possibly other things that feed the iPhone's headphone out.

    The Sennheiser Amperior headphone I used for most tests is 18 ohms which is very low, and while I don't have a very high impedance headphone handy, I did try the very inefficient 65-ohm Shure 1840, which played very loudly and distortion-free with the most dynamic tracks I have. Those tracks were downloaded from sites like HDTracks and DownloadsNow as 96 khz WAV files, and converted to 320k CBR MP3's using Foobar2000. While the MP3's don't compare exactly to the original WAV files in certain respects, whether soundstage or "airy" quality etc., the dynamics are essentially the same, so my stress tests should be valid for all reasonable uses of the PA2V2 amp.

    When I finished my portable tests on my long walk to the park and back, I tried some other tracks that I use to test headphones, particularly the Jimmy Smith recording of Basin Street Blues, which has loud mass horn crescendos that can sound awful on less-than-stellar headphones. The Sennheiser Amperior plays those crescendos adequately on the iPhone, but compared to my desktop amps the iPhone sound is somewhat dull and smeared. With the PA2V2 amp the horns were clearly separated and had excellent tonality. I personally don't regard the term "hi-fi" in any way except High Fidelity, and there are a lot of devices marketed today as hi-fi that simply aren't. The PA2V2 is, big time, and that's an unusually good deal I think for what it costs.
     
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Last edited: Sep 6, 2012
  3. vermilions

    vermilions New Member

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    Hi I'm new to all this amp / dac business and I was wondering if I use my ipod and macbook air to listen to music, should I get the dragonfly or a dac like the Pa2v2/Fiio/Firestone? Thanks so much in advance for any of your advice. :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2012
  4. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Just out of curiosity, what differences do you hear now with your headphones/earphones between listening with the iPod, versus listening with the Macbook? And which headphones do you use?
     
  5. vermilions

    vermilions New Member

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    I think the macbook is better than my ipod, but that might be just due to the fact that listening at home (macbook) is more quiet so it appears better than being in a noisy environment listening to my ipod. If it's the same audio file on both my MB and iPod, which one should be better? Would it not be the same? I am using the koss portapro mainly at home and the Shure e4g when I'm out and about. Thanks so much! (I have a list of all my headphones in my signature available on my profile page...)
     
  6. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    A Dragonfly is ideal, and perfect for Macbook. With that combination you can hear the details in the very best recordings. The Koss and Shure headphones are good quality so you won't lose details there. For amping the iPod only, I get great results from the FiiO E17 or the PA2V2. The E17 (and other FiiO's) can act as a DAC from the Macbook, but not from the iPod. Since the Dragonfly is a much better DAC, I'd be inclined to put my first money into that and maybe pick up an iPod amp later on. There are one or two DACs made specifically for Apple iPods and iPhones that Robin has described here, but a word of caution - don't get separate DAC and amp for iPod like I did with the iStreamer (long story, big kludgy mess), and don't settle for a cheap all-in-one, since unfortunately the good iPod DAC-plus-amp combos are expensive. The computer fares much better in this regard, since the Dragonfly and others are much less expensive for the same quality.

    Edit: The DAC and headphone amp in a Macbook is likely a very different chipset than any of the iPods. They would both sound pretty good of course, and pretty good is similar enough, but not identical.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2012
  7. vermilions

    vermilions New Member

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    Can't thank you enough! That made it much more clearer to me about amps and DACs... but one last question, when you separated the iPod and macbook into two categories, are there no DACs that could be used for both? Could I not use a line in from the macbook to the DAC and then out to my headphones instead of the USB directly out to my headphones? Thanks again!
     
  8. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    There isn't a DAC that works with both, because the USB digital out of the computer is made for widespread use for everything in the world, including audio out. But the USB digital of the iPod/iPhone is not the same - it has a proprietary codec that Apple licenses to only a handful of manufacturers who can afford to pay for it to be included into their DACs.

    If you have the computer and iPod together, then the computer is the best bet for sound quality of course, unless the computer isn't handy for playback when walking or riding the tube etc. In those cases the iPod alone is better anyway, since attaching an amp is clumsy unless you use something like a FiiO and strap the amp to the iPod.

    Personally, I have found that anywhere it's convenient to use a Macbook computer, plugging a Dragonfly in to the USB port, and a headphone into the Dragonfly, is a cinch. Other DACs that use cables are not usually convenient at the coffee shop or airport and so on. But the big DACs and headphone amps for home use might give better sound than even the Dragonfly, if you use expensive headphones and high resolution music tracks.
     
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