John Seaber started JDS Labs in 2007 with the cMoyBB headphone amp, which is based on an open-source design. Seaber revamped the cMoy's power supply and volume control, added a DC power jack, and a special bass boost switch. The tiny amp sold well and got the company off the ground. The cMoyBB is still being made, in an Altoids tin box, and currently sells for $60. Seaber is 26 and has an electrical engineering degree from Missouri S&T University.
Some "portable" headphone amplifiers aren't all that small, but the Firestone Audio Fireye Mini is downright tiny.
It's just 1.5 inches by 1 inch by 0.5 inch, and the soft-rubber-shelled amp weighs almost nothing, so you can hang it off your iPod, iPad, iPhone or any device with a 3.5mm headphone output. Plugging in a headphone turns the Mini on and lights a bright blue LED, unplugging turns the amp off. Charge the Mini via the USB connection and it'll play for up to 24 hours. It's available in green, gray, purple, red, and white.
I recently wrote about Musical Fidelity's M1 HPA headphone amp. It sounded spectacular, on par with what I'd expect to hear from a $799 high-end amp. It's expensive, but a significant portion of its retail price is the result of its gorgeous chassis and excellent build quality. Right, just like with all luxury goods--cars, watches, and hi-fis--some portion of the price is just for show, but doesn't enhance the performance capabilities of the product. When people buy luxury goods, they better look the part.
I love the sound of the Musical Fidelity amp and recommend it … Read more