Review: cMOY headphone amp by BioScienceGeek

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There’s something to be said about sitting down and spending a few hours listening and re-listening to a batch of your favorite music, picking out small nuances here and there that you’ve never heard before. Overall, it’s both rewarding and enjoyable, almost like an adventure built entirely out of music. What causes such feelings? That all depends on how you value the music you listen to. If you’re like me, you’re always on the lookout for new artists, new songs, and new hardware to make it all sound better.

Recently I replaced my aging Bose Triports. At the time when I got them (nearly 4 years ago now) they were pretty decent for the money ($199). Over time however, many other companies have released products that are just as good (if not better) and that cost in some cases, considerably less. While I looked all over the product lines of Grado, Seinnheisser, Ultrasone, Shure, Ultimate Ears, Audio Technica, and more, I eventually settled on a pair of Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro 80ohm headphones. In short: they’re awesome. While they’re fairly efficient at 80ohms and able to be used on even mobile devices, a good headphone amp will ultimately be a night and day difference. And so my sonic quest began…again….

I won’t say I spent as long on looking for a headphone amp as I did headphones. In all honesty, I spent roughly an hour and a half at most. But what I ended up purchasing was well worth it. For the record, I chose to buy a cMOY type of headphone amp for a few reasons. (1) It’s my first amp. As such, I couldn’t afford nor see myself spending $1,000+ on my first headphone amp (if ever). (2) cMOY amps are relatively easy to build and maintain. Even though I purchased my cMOY amp from a builder, in the future, upgrades are no more difficult than getting familiar with basic electronics, resistance, and a soldering iron. Finally, (3) cMOY amps are small. Many times you’ll see them disguised as a small box of mints or gum. A battery, a capacitor, some resistors, and other misc. electronic innards are all that is needed to go from merely average sound to…”wow”!

At this point it would probably be a good idea to issue a shout out to the amp builder himself, BioScienceGeek on eBay. One of the things that drew me to him over the many other amp builders on eBay and abroad was the right balance of price and user customizable features. It may not seem like much, but having the option of choosing the type of volume knob, LED color, op-amp chip, and type of tin are little extras that make the overall package that much better. For my little box of musical joy, I went with the cross-hatched volume knob, blue LED, Burrs-Brown 2227 op-amp (very high quality!) and a plain jane aluminum tin.

Dialog with BSG was quick and informational. He even went out of his way to promptly send me a new amp after my first one arrived with a redesigned (read: smashed) case compliments of USPS. Even though the amp more or less worked, BSG wasted no time in shipping out a replacement. If there’s one thing that beats an awesome product, it’s an awesome product backed with outstanding customer support!

The meat of the story…Sound

After all that yacking above, how does the amp actually sound? To my young ears — ears that have never experienced the fine qualities of Beyers and a decent amp — I have to say I am mighty impressed. The “synergy” as audiophiles like to call it (the sound characteristics created between a headphone and amp pairing) is right up my alley. Crips and detailed highs that don’t sound like a chorus of insanity. Sibilance is no where to be heard. Mids are flat yet “there” and bass is very tight with the almost eerie ability of being just right everywhere it needs to be. It is neither overpowering or weak. Overall I’d say it’s pretty neutral, with a slight dark (bass accentuated) accent.

The amp comes standard with a Burrs-Brown OPA2227 audio chip, which again, sounds amazing. Power is supplied by a higher than average Nichicon 1000uF capacitor, and runtime is handled by either a single 9v battery or DC wall adapter. While you can’t charge batteries within the amp when plugged into the wall, the amp is self aware of when headphones are plugged in — the amp will turn off/on when headphones are removed/inserted. Pretty cool! One other interesting bit is that the solder points and delicate internals are covered in a soft rubbery plastic which keeps out dust and provides durability. Perhaps the most interesting part is that you can change a small jumper inside the amp depending on the impedance of of your headphones. Larger, more resistant headphones need more power, hence the movable jumper.

I really can’t speak highly enough of the build quality, speed, customer support, and most importantly, sound, that this little box and 9v battery give me. I guarantee I won’t ever listen to music without this little amp if I can help it. It’s that addicting! And from spending a fair amount of time on head-fi, I hear that this “addiction” is very hard to escape. Essentially, my wallet’s fatter days are over. But then again, I’m a gadget junkie or changes electronics like socks and underwear. So my wallet is already well seasoned.

If you’re in that early stage of audio appreciation and have toyed with or currently own a mid-range to higher-end pair of headphones and haven’t yet started down the path of headphone amplifiers, I highly encourage you to give cMOY amps a try, specifically those by BioScienceGeek. For $50, you really can’t beat it. It’s easily the best gadget purchase I’ve made in many months, and one that will understandably last years into the future.

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[BioScienceGeek (eBay)]
[cMOY headphone amp (BioScienceGeek)}

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    Author: Mike

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    Gadget lover, smartphone collector, and beer connoisseur. I've been writing about gadgets for three years now and loving every minute of it. Outside of the digital landscape, I enjoy being active outdoors. I'm always up for a good conversation, so feel free to drop me a line!