Published on July 11th, 2013 | by Greg0
Electric Avenues: The Inexpensive, Surprisingly Good Pocket Amp 2
We always enjoy being the bearer of good news. So often, when it comes to audio equipment, we end up discussing a decidedly big downside: the price tag. Because the simple fact remains that there are some very good reasons that such gear ends up being expensive. Part of it is the niche market, which means that economies of scale are tough, and that much of the gear is hand-made or custom-tuned or built to order. The components are also pricey, with analog circuitry, vacuum tubes and separate power supplies all adding up.
But with a few compromises, you can achieve 80% of the results for about 20% of the cost. Serious audiophiles probably should look at another option, for but the rest, a minimal expenditure is enough to impress friends and family and show them what they’re missing. The Electric Avenues PA2V2 is a solid, fairly small, and definitely affordable portable headphone amp that can do wonder with digital music sources. If your smartphone, tablet, or laptop sounds a little flat or doesn’t offer enough oomph to power your headphones, then it’s definitely time you considered getting a headphone amplifier. Though this model doesn’t really serve as a DAC, or digital-audio-converter, it does provide a lot of boost for your music, allowing for headroom where you might have previously found them to sound strained or lacking.
Basically, if you’ve spent over $200 on headphones, then you could probably appreciate and should consider upgrading your music files and sources. Low bit-rate files sound pretty bad through good sound equipment, and almost as awful is the fact that most devices don’t really do a solid job of providing a straight, balanced, separate path for your digital sound to travel. Instead, that music file is treated as just more data, which leads to noise as well as jitter. With a battery-powered amp, you can go on the road or use it anywhere, versus a stationary amplifier that are usually fairly heavy. Of course, the plastic case is less attractive than brushed metal. A cord is included so that you can charge your batteries while in use, but with 100 hours of play time on a set of AAs, we didn’t find it too necessary.
The largest difference in audio fidelity could be heard with over-ear models like high-end beyerdynamics, but also the Grado SR225is, but it was definitely noticeable even with earbuds and in-ear headphones. Apparently, most mobile devices output with about 20 mW of power, but the Electric Avenues PA2 (version 2) pushed up to 200 mW. We weren’t shocked at bass improvement, but liked the mids and highs especially at higher volumes, as well as the broader soundstage. Most songs sounded richer and a bit more full, kind of like going from 92 kbps MP3 files to 128 kbps. For $60, it’s no wonder that there are more than 6000 owners across more than 60 countries. We love the “no questions asked” repair offer too. Available online, directly from Electric Avenues.