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Objective 2: The open source headphone amp

o2 Objective 2: The open source headphone amp

NwAvGuy is a man who recently made quite a few enemies in some audio communities and got banned from some enthusiast/audiophile forums as well. He’s rather outspoken and doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to pointing out flaws in shoddily designed – and often overpriced – gear (which sometimes goes against commercial interests of said sites, unsurprisingly).

Since some of his adversaries asked if he can only criticize other people’s designs or if he indeed has the skills to create better performing devices, he now has a point to prove, it seems. The result is known as the O2 – short for “Objective 2″ – headphone amp.

NwAvGuy was very transparent on his blog regarding the design process of the O2, and he open sourced the schematics under a Creative Commons license. He will not be selling finished amps, but everyone is free to build their own – no matter if for personal use, or for commercial purposes.

Some design principles of the O2 are:

  • State of the art audio performance with most any headphone out there, from the most sensitive multi-armature IEMs to full-sized high-impedance headphones
  • Usage of inexpensive quality parts instead of overpriced “boutique” components
  • Easy to solder and assemble (no SMT components)
  • Precise volume control (no crackling or audible imbalance at low volume levels)
  • No dangerous clicks/pops at turning on/off
  • Usable as a portable or a desktop amp (batteries and AC power)
  • Switchable gain
  • Battery rundown protection

In the end, the price of the parts used in the O2 should come to about $30 (without enclosure, panels, or wallwart) – and according to NwAvGuy the audio performance should be indistinguishable from top quality studio gear like the $1600 Benchmark DAC1. I, for one, am very interested in building my own O2 to find out how it performs.

Detailed info on NwAvGuy’s blog: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 – and we also got an ABI forum thread about the O2 going on.

Digizoid ZO Portable Subwoofer Review

dzzomain Digizoid ZO Portable Subwoofer ReviewDigizoid – or, digiZoid, as they write it – is a relatively young company from Arizona that specializes in sound enhancing techniques. Their patent-pending technology called Smartvector promises to improve several aspects of an audio signal originating from any source – be it from a portable MP3 player, be it in a recording studio used during mixing/mastering, be it while watching a movie on a home cinema setup, be it in a live DJ setup.

Since Digizoid are very secretive about their technology, it is easier to say what Smartvector is not: it is not a run-off-the-mill bass booster, it is not an EQ, it is not some psychoacoustic algorithm, it is not digital. Smartvector operates in the analog domain; it recovers the signal’s dynamic range, expands the spatiality (soundstage), and extends the low-frequency cutoff of a speaker/driver, making it deliver lower note extension than generally possible. I don’t know how they do it, but it doesn’t affect the THD (total harmonic distortion) of the signal, so they certainly don’t go the cheap route of harmonics enhancers/exciters.

Digizoid’s first commercial product utilizing Smartvector technology is the ZO, a portable amp, or “personal subwoofer”, as they call it. The ZO uses only a portion of Smartvector, named Lofreq. Unlike a still-theoretical Fullspec variant, affecting the whole audible frequency range, the ZO only operates on frequencies up to about 1 kHz.

Being a fan of natural sound reproduction – contrary to ‘neutral’ – I have to say that the ZO is the best thing I’ve heard so far in portable sound enhancements. Until now Cowon’s BBE and Mach3Bass have been the cream of the crop to my ears, as far as putting some excitement in ‘polite’ phones is concerned. The ZO however is the new king of crisp, precise, yet bassy sound, if you ask me.

Don’t be put off by the “personal subwoofer” slogan. The ZO is not some cheap boombox replacement for trunk rattlers. It is a very refined sounding tool to make audio more enjoyable – without damaging any part of it. Read on if it’s the thing for you.

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FiiO LODs for Sansa Fuze and Sony Players Now Available

fiio FiiO LODs for Sansa Fuze and Sony Players Now AvailableLODs are cables that allow you to get proper line-out from a player, circumventing some of the internal circuitry in order to provide a raw signal to an external amplifier- be it a headphone amp, car audio system or home audio system. FiiO has several of these available, and unlike most companies they don’t just make them for iDevices but also for other brands. Specifically, they have LODs for the Sansa Fuze and Sony Walkman players that use Sony’s proprietary docking port. Both cables are now available at DealExtreme, priced at $8.40 for the Sony cable and $8.50 for the Fuze cable. They also have a short 3.5mm male-to-male interconnecting cable, which should be perfect for those who use headphone amps on other players and want a short interconnect between player and amp. That one is priced at $5.70, and all three have free (slow-as-hell) worldwide  shipping. FiiO makes decent products, and the prices are pretty decent also.

Woot Deal: M Audio AV 40

Woot® One Day One Deal™ Google Chrome 5122011 21907 PM.bmp 560x281 Woot Deal: M Audio AV 40

The ever popular website Woot is having their deal of the day today for a pair of refurbished M Audio Studiophole AV 40 Professional Reference Speakers. The pair will run you $95 (with shipping) and come with a 1 year warranty. They are currently running $135 on Amazon right now. As many of our forum members are looking for desktop speakers, these could definitely do it for ya. These generally perform extremely well, albeit lacking in the bass department unless you add a sub-woofer to the mix. Overall though, they are an excellent choice for anyone currently (the deal ends today folks) searching or adding to their speaker setup. The only real downside to the offer…. no international shipping for the cool kids hanging out across the surrounding ponds. So Americans enjoy! Hit the jump for the full specs. Continue reading…

Grace Eco Extreme Review

DSC04629 560x336 Grace Eco Extreme Review


Let’s face it, we can’t always drown out the world with our portable players and headphones. Sometimes we need to open up our sound to everyone around us. The beach season (or outdoors) is coming up, and what better time to share the audio love than now? Grace Digital Audio wants to help you out. They have come up with a rugged portable speaker system that’ll keep your valuables safe from the elements, and still put out some tunes for you and your friends. Let’s see how it stacks up. Continue reading…

New Android MP3 Player is Not What You Think…

androidplayer New Android MP3 Player is Not What You Think...There are plenty of Android-based MP3 players out there these days, from the Cowon D3 to the Samsung Galaxy Player. Since Android is free, it’s also being used on a lot of “lesser quality” items from the good’ol China, be it ereaders without e-ink displays or tablets that are so slow you might as well use them for something else. Something went a bit wrong when whoever is in charge of counterfitting electronics over there asked for an Android MP3 player though, as the thing that popped up on DealExtreme today is not an MP3 player than runs Android, but rather an MP3 player shaped like the Android mascot.

It has no internal memory but rather a MicroSD (not MicroSDHC) card slot for storing music, and no screen. It does however have an FM radio and line-in capabilities, both of which will come in handy with the built-in speaker. It comes with a combined charging/line in cable and a stand so you can get it a bit away from the tablet as the speaker is located in its…eh…butt…and pointing down. It also has some LEDs and you control it by twisting and tapping its head.

As fun as it is to make fun of what comes out of sites like DealExtreme (remember the world’s ugliest MP3 player? I still have nightmares about it)  this thing actually looks semi-useful. Not for grown-ups mind you, but rather for kids. Assuming it doesn’t fall apart and choke the kid or poison it with whatever they use for materials, the look of the thing, built in speaker and control method. In fact it looks and function scary much like the Sansa Shaker from back in 2007 which was designed for that exact purpose. It should also make a neat, cheap gift to any Android lover- as long as they can look past the fact that the color makes it look more like a Dalek and the fact the logo says something like Golge rather than Google.

The Best of ABi: Accessories

bestofacc The Best of ABi: Accessories

The downside of basically any type of publishing media be it a blog, newspaper, magazine, podcast or carrier pigeon is that old stories get buried in newer ones. While a review of a MP3 player from 3 years ago is of limited use today, the same can’t be said for other types of reviews- like accessories. We’ve reviewed quite a bit of accessories over the years and some of them are as useful today as they were several years ago. that’s why I decided to resurrect a few of these to give new and old readers another peak at some of the best accessories we’ve seen through here.

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Win One of Three Zune Kicker Docks at Zuneboards and ABI

At Zuneboards they are giving away two Kicker speaker docks for the Zune: the ZK350 and the ZK150. If you recall my two reviews on them, they are very impressive- so you don’t want to miss these. The rules are simple just make a image signature on Zuneboards with anything kicker in it. No graphic talent needed, one Kicker dock will be chosen for the best signature and one will be chosen at random just for participating. Check out Zuneboards for the details.

zune docks win them Win One of Three Zune Kicker Docks at Zuneboards and ABI

But wait there is more!

Not to leave ABI out of this, we will give away the ZK500 here on ABI in a similar fashion. Simply create Zune HD wallpaper with anything Kicker in it. Details in the Zune Forum.

Flightstrap PMP mount review

flightstrap 4 520x312 Flightstrap PMP mount review

Have you ever been on the plane, n the train, the bus or in the backseat of a car and been left to hold your media player so you can see what’s playing on the screen? I have, plenty of times in fact, and it can get your arms very tired very quickly depending on how you hold it. There’s a reason while portable DVD players for cars come with headrest mounts, and now you can get an accessory that will give you the same feature anywhere you have a seat in front of you. Enter the Flightstrap.

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Ringke Rearth Zune HD Case Review

zune hd ringke case Ringke Rearth Zune HD Case Review

I am not much of a case kind of guy and prefer to let my gadgets wear like a favorite pair of sneekers or baseball cap. But to each is his own. If I were going the route of a case I do appreciate a simple silicone case to wrap up a player in a light coat of silicone. Even though silicone cases are basically the same, there are some slight differences in material grade and fit. Testing out the Ringke Zune HD case by Rearth, I have found my favorite.

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