Good-bye Rubber Bands, Hello V-Moda Vamp Verza and Metallo Case Page 2

VModa_VampVerza_Photo_wComputer

Experiencing Convergence
I remember when I first looked at these products and felt a bit ho-hum about them. Odd controls on the amp, somewhat high output impedance, somewhat clumsy Metallo case, things like that gave me pause. But then I started using it, and everything changed. For the first time I could actually put a portable rig in my pocket with relative ease. This is huge! It meant I could have both high-quality listening and still use my phone as a phone with very little compromise of convenience. Not only that, but if I did want to revert back to the phone alone it takes only about 10 seconds to slide the Verza amp off and put the simple backplate on the Metallo case.

Another huge factor was the complete lack of RF interference between the phone antennas and the headphone amp. Numerous time in the past I've been frustrated when trying to use a phone with a portable amplifier, and almost universally the only solution is to impose radio silence and put the phone in airplane mode. I like to stream MOG.com music on my phone, which means I need my wi-fi to be operating, which means going into airplane mode turns off my music. Unacceptable. With the V-Moda Verza and its six-layer circuit board I had no RF interference problems at all. Again, the phone/Vamp combo just worked.

I was worried that the aluminum of the Metallo case would shield and reduce the effectiveness of my phone's antennas. I loaded up a signal strength app and found the Metallo case had very little effect on the radio signal strength received. I was curious about this finding and called Val Kolton of V-Moda to see if he had any comments on this topic. They had taken a good hard look and they too found the Metallo case had little effect, and in some cases actually improved received signal strength at the phone.

Convergence wasn't entirely complete, however. If someone called me while listening to music, the phone would quite playing and revert to phone-like behavior, but I would have to either switch the headset plug over to the phone or just take my cans off and answer the phone as normal. No knocks to V-Moda on this issue though...nobody has figured that one out yet.

The real beauty of this product for me was effortlessness and ease with which, after just a short time in use, it became a staple in my daily music listening habits. Convergence, when done well enough, feels simple and obvious. When I look at the V-Moda Verza and Metallo cases I wonder, "Why hasn't this been done before? And why aren't more people doing it now?"

Sound Quality
I found the sound quality of this amp quite neutral and appealing, with just the slightest tendency to be a little bright and sparkly when I compared it with the very well behaved HeadAmp Pico—an all time favorite of mine. I tried both DACs using my Galaxy S3 and my old iPhone and both were similar enough that I couldn't reliably tell the difference. It handily drove all my high-end cans to solid listening levels, including my planar magnetic headphones. This is a solid DAC/amp.

I do have one quite troublesome complaint though, the output impedance of the amp is 10 Ohms. I think high-end portable amps should be designed to be compatible with custom IEMs like my Jerry Harvey JH13 and Westone ES5. These cans have an impedance of about 10 Ohms in the bass, and impedance swings to around 50 Ohms in the mid-treble. This means at low frequencies half the amp's voltage is lost to the output impedance, but at high frequencies 4/5 of the amp's drive voltage is making it to the drivers. The result of a high output impedance with multi-balanced armature headphones is often a significant EQ change. I did experience this problem when I used the Verza with my custom IEMs; the sound got thinner and less meaty as a result of the high output impedance.

So, while the Verza is quite a competent amp, being able to easily drive most headphones with ~80 Ohms or more impedance with good resolution and balance, it may be problematic with lower impedance headphones that have significant impedance swings.

Summary
The V-Moda Vamp Verza and Metallo case for Samsung Galaxy S3 or iPhone 5 is a well built, competent, and stylish kit. But this product is far more than the sum of its parts. Its ability to mechanically and digitally interface with the Galaxy S3 or iPhone 5 truly delivers on the promise of convergence. Its small enough to put in your pocket; the outboard DAC makes files and streams from your phone sound great; and the six-layer circuit board in the Verza does an excellent job of keeping RF noise from the phone's antennas inaudible. The Verza is fairly expensive, but you're getting a product that some very unique capabilities.

The only downsides to this product are the limited number of phones supported with the Metallo case, and the high 10 Ohm output impedance that can cause EQ changes in headphones with low and variable impedance characteristics. I do not recommend this product for use with custom IEMs.

If, however, you have a Galaxy S3 or iPhone 5 and want to drive a good pair of headphones with 80 Ohms or more impedance (lower impedances may perform well as long as the impedance remains fairly constant) this is a terrific product that will find its way into your life—and pocket—with ease. I've focused much of this review on the two phones mentioned above and the Verza as a "convergence solution" but it is a worthy amp in its own right and may be used with all manner of iOS and USB OTG compliant portable devices...but you'll have to go back to rubber bands and Velcro to solve the mechanical problems.

Resources
V-Moda home page and product pages for Vamp Verza and Metallo case for Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5.
Head-Fi threads on the Vamp Verza here and here.
Extremely informative Head-Fi thread on Android products, compatibility, and fixes here. Many thanks to DanBa!

COMPANY INFO
V-MODA
support@v-moda.com
1.800.VMODA.LA
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Lawk's picture

I don't get this product.

I think Samsung has learned their lesson with the Galaxy S2 and the Yamaha DAC mishap, so just as the first Galaxy S phone from several years ago their new phones come with a Wolfson DAC (International version) OR something or other by Qualcomm in the US and other specific markets that is no slouch either.

GSMArena is one of the very vew sites (if not the only one) that actually digs a little deeper into the audio quality of mobile devices in their reviews and the Samsung S3 and S4 post very good numbers. In the past the iphone was king here, at least judging by the measurement numbers.

But my point is I think they sound excellent. (Some Nvidia Tegra 3 Phones sounded poor, Realtek DAC badly implemented, see HTC one and the improved HTC One+).

I believe a portable device should be coupled with a portable headphone which is efficient enough to get the best out of the combination.

Personally I wouldn't want to run huge 250ohm plus headphones on a portable rig. I would attach it to home audio equipment.

So I guess im just not that much of an audiophile to see this as a good investment. I mean AMP/DAC costs more than the phone itself.... That said I think it looks beautifully sophisticated, well engineered.

Bennyboy's picture

I don't get it either.  Well, actually, I do get it - its about the tinkering, isn't it?  Audiophilia is just grown men reverting back to being kids with lego. Endless permutations of building and rebuilding.

Look, I'm as guilty of this as the next man, but I think when portable music is concerned, the first word is really important - it has to fit in your pocket, and it has to be usable easily when on the move, with minimum fuss.

I used to use portable amps back in my iPod days - for extra volume more than anything. But now I have a S3 (19300), I dont bother.  Rooted it, whacked Boeffla kernal and Viper on there, et voila - with my KEF M200 iems in my ears I'm a happy, bouncy bunny.  Music sounds brilliant.

Is an external DAC/AMP lego brick added onto a music player really going to help you? Surely you could spend that money on some earphones that actually work better with your music player? 

 

elfary's picture

10 ohms of output impedance means almost a 5 db hole in the 5k region on a Shure SE535 which driven by an iPhone 4S will have a dip of just 1 db.

For driving balanced armature earphones iPhone 4/4S are more capable than the 99% of boutique devices and usb dacs (usb digital audio is prone to noise and jitter).

In terms of ergonomy, distortion, crosstalk, noise floor and user interface iPhone 4/4S are the holy grail of portable audio. And if you need more power just add an amp. But i suspect that on the go nobody will ever need more power.

Just plug a h13 fp into an iPhone 4S and i doubt seriously  that anything ever created by the human kind will leave in the dust the resulting audio. And 99% of contending rigs are objectively worse (i mean when no placebo is happening), bulkier, more expensive and in more than a few instances plainly ludicrous.

In this kind of products low z must be mandatory. Otherwise you're stuck to high impedance headphones that few people use on the go which is the scenario that this case is intended for.

Kiwil's picture

I don't really get the concept (rubberband or case) either. Not sure about the real audiophiles but for me when I am on the move I don't have my main attention on the music unless I want a visit to the hospital. So for soundtrack use are the extra bulk and cost for the SQ you don't pay attention to really neccessary? 

Mkubota1's picture

I think the point of this amp and about 90% of portable amps is to drive headphones you would normally wear at home and power off of a receiver or desktop amp.  I'm with most of the guys here in thinking that for IEMs you really can't do much better than what's already coming out of your iPhone, especially in a street/ commute setting.  I think the reason why these portables don't have a 0Ω out is because to have that you need to make sacrifices in power output which full-sized cans are more in need of.  So as a designer I think I might as well prioritize the headphones that will benefit the most from the amp.

 

As to why audiophiles need to carry around bricks to listen to music, I think it's sort of a Rube Goldberg thing which I am also guilty of.

 

⇧ not mine

ednaz's picture

First, you get double Internet bonus points for perhaps the most disgusting concept I've heard in years.  Stupid phrase has stuck with me, to hideous effect.

The weakest link in my travel entertainment is no question the player.

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