This humble looking box will open up your ears, and possibly your mind, as it adds an adrenalized dose of analog warmth to any music file you throw at it. Moreover, a handful of audiophile headphones require a much needed boost in power to fully exhibit their true full frequency potential and maintain a broad level of clarity when pushed loud. So, if you want to get your money’s worth on a pair of Sennheisers, Beyer Dynamics or Grados, you will need a serious headphone amp to get the job done right.
Class A circuitry can easily run you over the $1000 mark when hunting, so be careful if you’re on a budget. The good news is that China has stepped into the game by offering some of the best components at a fraction of what some European competitors are offering. For a few hundred dollars, you can get a step closer to that $1000+ sound. Companies like Yulong and Matrix are very impressive in my book, but the only problem is their lack of domestic distribution and support, so make sure you buy one from a reputable retailer.
Enter Matrix’s Mini-I ($320) headphone amp and DAC (digital audio converter), designed for audiophiles who want an excellent headphone amp for their pricey cans, and built for DJs, musicians, and producers who want the added option of having a reliable 24bit/192kHz DAC.
It features a pretty minimal design in the front with one headphone input and one volume knob that can also be depressed for input source selection. It also features a deep red digital display in a hefty metal housing. In the back, you have your choice of balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA inputs, and every digital output of choice, including USB, which can go straight to your computer. Whether you want to master, record, or JUST ENJOY your music, the Mini-I is the best device I’ve seen at this pricepoint. Incredible machine!
If you’re not familiar with what a DAC is, here’s a link to get you situated.