Introducing the Mini-1
Amptastic Mini-1 Review
I knew the amptastic was small but it still took me aback as i prised it out of the packing and held it in my hand. Sitting atop my normal amplifier it looked tiny! The amplifier is built using the well regarded Tripath TA2020-020 chipset.
First impressions - big noises but the amp had to cranked up over the 12 o'clock mark to be appreciated, i settled on one o'clock!
Surprisingly this amp can still deliver even given the size of my floorstanding speakers, however i think these will be better paired to bookshelf speakers but they still perform admirably.
The source was swapped between a Pi-DAC(IQAudIO) and a HifiBerry Digi attached to a Musical Fidelity V-Dac, powering some 20 year old Vision(B&W) floorspeakers. Compared to my rotel RA-04 which handles my speakers with ease the volume knob has to be cranked right up in my livingroom.
I think this is an amp which demands the listener to be close to the speakers. The sound comes across as quite airy, yet detailed but somehow lacking punch and authority in some tracks compared to my Rotel amp. As the bass is toned down on this amp, bassier tracks can be listened to with ease but still get a kick, without walls and furniture vibrating.
Some people have said it sounds valve like, well i can't comment on that but it does have a bit of a vinyl sound about it. I compared it to my Accoustic Energy Aego speakers paired with my squeezebox touch with the two players synced. The Acoustic Energy speakers had far more bass but lacking a bit in midrange. I think the perfect speakers for my setup would lie somewhere between the sound of the former and the latter.
Tracks like Michael Jacksons Thriller seemed to be handled with aplomb suiting the charateristics of the Amptastic down to a 'T' (excuse the pun!). The bass from the opening scene of the creaking door opening and closing at the end of the song sounds great through my Floorstanding speakers. Regina Spektors 'Begin to Hope Album' sounded very impressive and near perfect with amazingly clear high reaching vocals and nice slow rhythmic bass.
When I first setup the amp i used cheap rca leads which sound good with my setup and a cheap optical lead to my Musical Fidelity Dac from the HifiBerry Digi. I do believe that when i replaced the cheap rca leads with a £30 pair of chord cables this did actually bring a more defined and detailed sound which dare i say add a bit more weight through the ranges dulling the previous airy feel that i initially experienced.
Another factor is play time and i've had it now for 3 days with no burn in time as such but its starting to open up a little and has surprised me listening to Rudimentals 'Powerless' kicking off with a hefty bit of bass which wasn't evident when i first listened to the track 3 days previously!
Getting the best out of the Mini-1
In summary this amp needs good quality speaker cables and banana plugs/spades, coupled with quality leads for your choice of Dac if you are using an external one and a good pair of RCA leads, not bog standard ones!
Also with a bit more listening i think it will turn into a cracking little amp especially when paired with a music streamer such as the Pi-Dac or Hifiberry Digi. In short i think you will be amazed at the sound produced with some nice bookshelf speakers.
Coming out of it's shell
I'm now into day 6 of ownership of what has been a rollercoaster ride of expectation, i have at times been underwhelmed and then overwhelmed! Then after a period of burn-in time suddenly like a new pair of shoes, the amp fits like a pair of hush puppies!
I decided to listen to an album so turned on the amp, selected my playlist and was presented by a warm resonating clarity emanating my room. Whether it was the accoustics being better in the late evening with less noise, i don't know, but i was astounded by the sudden change in the dynamics. Like opening a bottle of full bodied red wine and giving it time to breathe before pouring that glass, now after patiently waiting i was really enjoying the amp, i just wanted more!
Prior to this i was at times thinking that the amp was very good but it didn't seem to carry the sound that well in my room, requiring listening closer to the source and also being a little lightweight through the spectrum. This all changed and the warm clarity of the amp has suddenly sprung wings and is emanating further back into my livingroom, effortlessly i might add and with the volume turned down to 10 o'clock, this was more than adequate. As it was late into the evening i had to turn the software volume control of orangesqueeze app down further, proving that this amp is all about quality and not quantity!
I listened to other reviews published and started to burn the amp in over a couple of days. Simply by turning the volume down and repeating a playlist, had significant results and it really opened up!
Only the best components and genuine tripath chipsets have been sourced for this amplifier from Europe. A lot of time, effort and passion has gone into the careful selection of these parts to provide the consumer with the clear objective being to bring an affordable audiophile experience to the masses. Not to mention the careful placement of the amps internal electronics to ensure that the tripath chip and other components are achieving their maximum return on investment for their discerning owner! This is why the amptastic mini-1 has been years in the making and not months.
Similarly over 35 years ago Volkswagen introduced the Mk1 Golf GTI, bringing sportscar performance to the masses, affordable, practical and lots of fun! The MK2 GTI 16v went on to become possibly the best hot hatch period. I wonder in a similar vain is this mini amp going to become a classic?
In its current incarnation the mini-1 offers one input, which may not be to everyones liking, but there are ways around this. If you connect the amp to an external dac first and the dac has 2 or more inputs then you're sorted!
|Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise||< 0.03 % @ 10W 4 Ohms|
|Efficiency||88% @ 12W 8 Ohms|
|Power Rating||< 20W RMS @ 4 Ohms|
|DC offset||< +/-2mV|
|Idle Power Consumption||300 mA|
|Audio Input||Gold plated stereo RCA|
|Digital Amplifier Chipset||Genuine Tripath TA2020-020|
|Dimensions||(W)103 x (H)35 x (D)168 mm|
|Weight||515g (~1kg w/ packaging & PSU|