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Friday, January 22, 2010

[Impression] Ultra-Protable Amp: iBasso T3D and Linearoasa W1

For this impression, I am mainly using s:flo2 line-out listening to high bitrate mp3 or wma on Head-Direct RE0, Ortofon e-Q7, and Sherwood SE777.

iBasso T3D
Max Output: 120mW Stereo
SNR -98dB
Gain selectable: 0dB / +3dB / +8dB / + 10dB
Total Harmonic Distortion: <0.0015% @ 1kHz/0dB
Input: 3.5mm jack
Output: 3.5mm jack
Output impedance: 8-300 Ohm
Frequency Response: 20Hz-100Khz +/- 0.5 dB
Supply: Li-Polymer Rechargeable battery
Battery Estimated Life: 38hrs
Size: 64.5*37*10 mm
Weight: 28g

T3D comes with a small box, about 2/3 the size of T4's box.

Accessories include USB power adapter, USB cable, mini-to-mini cable, small leather pouch and a simple manual.

T3D (left) and T4 side by side.

The difference in volume pot. T3D uses a rocker since it has digital controlled volume.

The new back metal housing feels much better than the old housing. The marking is lasered on so they won't get scratched off like the old silk painted marking.

I don't really want to show the internal but the 'dirty' PCB is a bit downer for me. It doesn't affect the functionality though.

T3D vs. T4
I had listened to both the T3 and T3D before I made the decision to pick one of them, and I couldn't really tell them apart based on the gears I used (Nationite s:flo2 /T51 and Ortofon e-Q7) at that time. I concluded that whatever differences the two of them do have is not likely going to be obvious enough to bother me. The main factor of getting T3D instead of T3 is simple because of the digital volume control, which shouldn't suffer any imbalance issue - especially consider I am a fairly dedicated IEM user and I do find T4's imbalance just a tad higher than I like.

In comparison, T4 has a warmer and mellower sound signature. Bass impact is good and the mid is fuller, but treble rolls off a bit at the top and makes it less detail and lack transparency. T3D doesn't sound much like T4. It has a very crisp, well extended treble, slightly leaner yet still well bodied mid and a little better bass impact. It is cleaner, more transparent overall but there is still a sense of warmness. T3D also has a faster speed, which I feel just a tad too fast and doesn't give the best emphasis on the bass body, making bass feels a tiny bit sterile when compared to T4. Soundstage wise, T4 is more forward but has a better lateral expansion. T3D has better depth but not as wide.

One of the major improvement on T3D is its RF interference rejection. While T4 can pick up very loud noise when close to a cellphone (within 6 inches), T3D is almost fully silenced till it is with in 1 or 2 inches - not to mention that the noise is very low.

Overall I find T3D as a worthy upgrade from T4 if size is a concern or when you are considering b/w the two. If you are looking for a major SQ improvement from T4, I think you might want to look beyond T3D.

Linearossa W1
Output Level: 1.5Vpp
Distortion at max-out: 0.3%
Input: 3.5mm jack
Output: 3.5mm jack
Output impedance: 16-600 Ohm
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20Khz +/- 0.5 dB
Background Noise: not present
Supply: 1 x AAA battery ( Normal or Rechargeable)
Battery Estimated Life: 12hrs
Size: 65*47*19 mm
Weight: 45g

W1 comes with a nice soft pouch.

The housing is in fact fully plastic, though I really love the look and feel of it.

Power switch, volume pot and headphone-out. No LED of any sort in order to cut down distortion and noise.


Battery compartment. There is no distinct up or down side really.

Gonna love AAA battery.

T3D and W1.

More comparison shot.

W1 is unique in many ways. In first listen, I thought it shares a rather cold, very much uncolored sound signature like the Go-Vibes Derringer. With further listen I changed my mind and thought it has some T4 characteristic in its sound. Now that I think more of it, W1 really isn't quite like any other ultra-portable that I have.

W1 has better treble extension than T4, but not quite reaching the level of T3D's aggressiveness in presenting detail. Mid is not quite as forward as T3D or T4 but it is not recessed. Bass isn't quite as impactful nor as abundance as T3D or T4, but rather more neutral and slow. There seems to be some distinct smoothness in W1 presentation that takes away any emphasis in the music and makes it more mellow. In fact, the same mellowness can be detected throughout the whole frequency range and yet it doesn't feel particularly slow to me as I would to T4. One thing that W1 is very good at is its lateral soundstage. It sounds like there is a Dolby surround sound decoder trying to fill every inches from left to right within the lateral soundstage and actually doing a fairly good job at it.

This 'fullness' in soundstage and the smoothness in presentation do make W1 sounds less 'correct' and not quite transparent, but much more musical. It is a special flavor that makes me want to reach back to W1 more than T3D even though I got them both at the same time. I also notice W1 has extremely good synergy with more mid and bass centric IEM, such as Ortofon e-Q7, UM2 and my newly acquired Sherwood SE777. The combination of W1 and SE777 actually transcends both onto an entirely new level of sound that is very different from each of them individually, but I will leave that part of the discussion later to my SE777 review.

As far as RF interference rejection is concern, I think W1 is quite good consider it is in a plastic housing. It does pick up RF noise almost as far as T4, but less in quantity and doesn't 'pop' like T4, making it a lot more tolerable. Obviously I still won't recommend placing W1 next to a cellphone.

Technically speaking T3D is perhaps better sounding than W1, but it is expected as there is an US$45 price difference b/w them (T3D is $135 and W1 is $90) - not that I feel the SQ difference is $45 apart. When I first listened to W1 pairing with SE777, it actually did make me feel slightly regret about buying T3D just a few hours before from another store. While T3D is well worth the money for both its SQ and build quality, I do feel W1 is a really great sub$100 deal.

I will be getting a sample of the new FiiO E7 with in next 2 weeks so hopefully I can give them another comparison then. Stay tuned.

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Important: All postings are my own personal opinion only and should not be treated as absolute truth. I do get things wrong just like everyone else. Always do your own research!

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