Review: V-Moda Vamp Verza

V-Moda | DAC/AMP | 598.00

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During the June of 2012, V-Moda had released a headphone DAC/AMP specifically designed for the iPhone at that time, the 4S.  The DAC/AMP was a good concept at the time as portables were becoming popular in the audio world due to the likes of Apple, Samsung, Google, etc.  However, the timing couldn’t have been more crippled because a few months later, the iPhone 5 was announced and released.  Since this 650 dollar AMP was only 4S compatible, it wouldn’t work with the new iPhone; essentially making it obsolete.  So how did V-Moda Remedy this problem?  

Fast forward a couple years, we have the Vamp Verza.  Learning from this mistake, V-Moda decided it was time to make a DAC/AMP that was more flexible.  This one would function on Android phones and Apple phones alike.  Additionally, it would work on PCs as well (Mac and Windows).  For any audio enthusiast, this product does offer great audio quality overall surpassing most internal workings inside of smartphones.  The price tag is a whole other story.

Specifications

Power: 150 mW (USB Mode), 130 mW (iOS Mode)
Battery: 2200 mAH Lithium Ion
Output: 3.5 mm + Digital Out
Signal to Noise Ratio: > 90 dB
Distortion: < 0.05%
Headphone Resistance Compatibility: > 16 ohms

In the Box

V-Moda Vamp Verza
Lightning to USB Interconnect Cable (3.75”)
30-Pin to USB Interconnect Cable (3”)
Micro-USB to Micro-USB Interconnect Cable (4”)
Micro-USB to USB Cable (for PC use and Charging, 28.5”)
Rubber Bands (V-Moda, to Strap Digital Source to VAMP)

InTheBox

Design

One thing that V-Moda has always been able to do very will is stick to a design that works.  The hard-cut edges and metallic design allow the device to look tough, but also sleek at the same time.  Brushed aluminum houses the circuitry within that is all screwed into place by four dominantly placed screws.  The V-Moda logo stands boldly on one side of the Verza while the Vamp Verza name is imprinted on the other side.  A single nob stands on the other side with 2 switches and a 3.5 mm jack on either side of the nob.  The Verza is available in 3 colors: matte black (fully matted black), shadow (brushed black with red accents), and white (brushed white with orange accents).

Design

Additionally, Matello cases, designed by V-Moda are also available for the iPhone 5/5s as well as the Samsung Galaxy SIII.  These are custom designed cases for the phones that attach to the Vamp Verza to avoid the need to use the included bands.  The cases are constructed entirely out of aluminum and have a gorgeous finish to them.  These cases are not included with the Verza and must be purchased extra at 101 dollars a pop.  This is how V-Moda future-proofs the Verza for all generations that come after it.  It’s a great idea, but not perfect.

Design2

Design: ★★★★

Audio

This amplifier isn’t perfect, but it does have some great features to it.  First and foremost would be the fact that it does have a slightly high output impedance.  This can cause sensitive headphones to change sound.  At times, the differences will be minute, however, there are some instances where the differences will be quite large.  Low impedance headphones may change in sound due to this.  It’s also important to note that some headphones will actually get better with more resistance (higher impedance added).

Overall though, the amplifier still remains linear throughout and provides a warmer sound overall compared to the colder sound of the newer Apple devices (1st generations had a warmer sound).  This is due to a slight sub-bass boost which gives the bass a little more body and power.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing either.

Then we have the two features of the Verza.  It has a dedicated bass boost to it which can come in handy if you need that extra bass; something like an Etymotic could benefit from this.  The bass boost works well and boosts the areas it should and avoids the mid-bass boost it shouldn’t give.

Battery

Additionally, there is also a 3D mode.  This causes the bass and treble to be boosted while accentuating the midrange.  The sub-bass and upper treble is boosted to create the presence of space and room.  Sound reflections are generated and do create a beautiful 3D rendering of the song and boosts the sound stage nicely.  Essentially, this 3D effect gives the illusion of a “live” recording inside of some room.

Audio: ★★★★½

Build

As with any V-Moda product, the build quality for the Vamp Verza is top notch.  The Vamp Verza’s housings are machined out of anodized aluminum that not only looks pretty, but it’s very protective as well.  This aluminum is thicker than the aluminum that would be used on an iPhone and protects the 600 dollar DAC/AMP very well.  V-Moda products have always had a reputation that they are “military grade”, the Verza is no different.

Volume

Build: ★★★★

Reuse

As with any amplifier, one of the main drawbacks would be the fact that you have to use the rubber bands/straps (included with most amps) to attach them to the back of your device.  V-Moda does circumvent this, however, with the ability to purchase a specifically designed case that attaches to the back of the Verza if you own an SIII or iPhone 5/5s.  The case costs a little over 100 dollars and is made of aluminum as well.  The problem with an aluminum case is that it causes a drop of signal.  This is definitely something that kept me from using the Verza.

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On the other hand, the Verza definitely can improve and enhance sound as a whole when it comes from the audio-front.  This should put a smile on any audiophile’s face as it bypasses both the internal DAC as well as the AMP.  There aren’t too many devices that can do this nowadays for mobiles.  The Verza is also compatible with PCs too which increases its flexibility.  This is the reason why you buy the expensive DAC/AMP that costs more than the device itself.  It’s also future-proof for this reason working with just about any device that will come out in the future.

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Additionally, we can’t forget about the bulk that this product will give can be problematic.  It’s thicker, and bigger than the iPhone 5s inside of a case.  So it more than doubles the size of the phone.  From a mobile standpoint, this is problematic.  However, from the non-mobile standpoint, this might just make more sense.  Believe it or not, there are people who carry this type of stuff around with them (bigger stuff too).

It’s also note pointing out that although any pair of headphones will work with the Vamp Verza, the standard 3-button remote and mic won’t function through the Vamp Verza unfortunately.  I’m not sure if it would be possible to implement knowing that this product bypasses the DAC.

Reuse: ★★★★

Value

Now, of course there is the price of the device…  600 dollars, you read right, 600, no typos (that’s the third time I’ve typed it in, I didn’t add in an extra zero).  More or less, an arm and a leg would get you a new Vamp Verza.  OK, I’ll admit that from most consumer’s point of view this does seem extremely absurd.  Unless you are looking for audio nirvana, and if you are, I suggest you get a better set of cans first, you aren’t entirely the target audience.  If you’re a die hard audiophile, a portable amp is always an option and add-on that improves audio experience.  A DAC/AMP combo like this for mobiles is extremely rare.  So, it really matters where you stand.

Value: ★★★

Final Thoughts

For an audiophile, the V-Moda Vamp Verza may actually be something that they’d be interested in.  It’s, more or less, a future-proof DAC/AMP that will work with just about anything out there (as long as the Android and Apple era continues that is).  From a standard, run-of-the-mill consumer, the price is absurd.  However, the audio performance it gives is definitely high up there.  Whether its the source upgrade or the additional features, there is something in the Vamp Verza that sounds amazing.

I’d like to thank V-Moda for the product sample.

Overall Score

★★★★½

V-Moda Vamp Verza

 

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