Danls92 Reviews: CMoy Head2Head 1) How is this Review Set Up? This review is going to go a bit differently than past ones. What I have here are two CMoy portable headphone amplifiers (see below if you don’t know what that is), and rather than doing an individual review for both I’m going to compare the two and see which one turns out the be the victor. As such, I won’t be giving individual ratings to either, just “Winner” or “Loser” for each category. The categories are: Design Sound Quality Features Miscellaneous 2) What is a “CMoy” Amp From Wikipedia: Bascially, it makes your iPod/ Computer/ Generic Audio Source sound better. They are fairly simple to build on your own (I’m in the process of making one myself), but they are readily available if you don’t have the time, skill, or desire to make your own. If you want to learn more about the CMoy and making one, you can check here http://tangentsoft.net/audio/cmoy-tutorial/ 4) The Two Amps I’m Reviewing The amp that I’ll refer to throughout this review as the Altoids amp is a CMoy BB (Bass-Boost) amp made by John Seaber, and available at his website (www.jseaber.com) for $64.99. This amp is a variation on the standard CMoy design, which I’ll discuss below. The amp that I’ll refer to throughout this review as the Penguin amp is a standard CMoy made by a guy named Alex and available for sale by him on eBay for $34.99 http://shop.ebay.com/merchant/juice2214_W0QQ_nkwZQQ_armrsZ1QQ_fromZQQ_mdoZ 3) The Review Round 1: Design For both economical and pure coolness purposes, both amps are inside old mint tins. This means that while they aren’t anywhere as slim as the iPod Touch, they are pocket-able with a modicum of effort and can be moved around easily. Do you want either in your jean’s front pocket? Probably not. However, on your next road trip (I wouldn’t bring one of these through airport security, a small metal box with soldered together components on the inside…) it could be a godsend. Both are made very well, with the holes drilled precisely and all outward parts flush against the tin. They both have power LEDs, and both an input and output jack. Neither of these amps identify which is which on the outside, which would have been nice, though the Altoids amp does have labels on the circuitboard inside. Additionally, they both have volume control potentiometers. A bit of a problem I encountered with the Penguin amp is that the potentiometer hangs over the bottom just the tinniest bit, so it won’t sit perfectly flat on a table. It isn’t immediately obvious, and doesn’t cause any amount of problems, but it is slightly annoying. Additionally, the Altoids amp has a DC jack. There is no clear winner here. While the Altoids amp has a better potentiometer and the inside construction seems more durable, the Penguin amp has separate volume control and power (the Altoids amp powers off when you turn the volume all the way to the left) so that you can find an ideal volume and not have to adjust it every time. Winner: Tie Round 2: Sound Quality This round isn’t really fair to the Penguin amp, in that it is a classic CMoy whereas the Altoids tin uses higher grade components and is marketed as a more high-end amp. This isn’t to say that they don’t both sound terrific, it’s just a differed round to the Altoids. The nice thing about these amps is that the onboard volume lets you tune out signal noise from a source such as a noisy onboard sound card, or the background buzz of low impedance headphones (chungster knows what I’m talking about). Additionally, the Bass Boost feature of the Altoids tin really shines here. While in most music, it has a tendency to just make everything louder, on tracks with really stunning (but recessed) bass lines it really does a great job of bringing them out. If you have the money to spring for the higher-model, you won’t be disappointed, but if the extra $30 is unappealing the Penguin amp will still do terrifically. You’ll have to burn both of them in for a while to get the best possible sound quality, but once you do you’ll definitely notice a difference. Winner: Altoids Round 3: Features Once again, I feel a bit bad comparing these two amps as the Altoids amp is clearly marketed as a higher end amp. It has a bunch of small, but convenient, features that really are terrific. Things like how it won’t power on unless there is something in the output jack (to conserve battery), the Bass Boost toggle, and the DC adapter all make this a solid amp. The Penguin is marketed as a classic, basic CMoy and for what it is, it is perfect. However, compared too many of the other CMoys on the market it just doesn’t do much. Winner: Altoids Round 4: Miscellaneous In this economy, money is tight, so unfortunately the high-end isn’t the best option. While all of the Altoids’ features are spectacular, the question is raised as to whether they are really worth another $30. Personally, I could see $10 or $15, but a full $30 is a bit too much. Not to mention that the Altoids tin goes through batteries at a much greater rate, especially when the Bass Boost toggle is on (and there is no DC adapter supplied, however recommendations of separate ones you can buy are included). Winner: Penguin Conclusion: Overall, I’m going to have to award the Altoids amp the winner here. However, you need to take this with a grain of salt considering they are clearly marketed at two different audiences. If you want a relatively cheap way to make your iPod or other audio source sound worlds better, either one is a great choice. However, if you have the extra $30, and don’t mind overpaying a bit the Altoids amp won’t disappoint. Note: Both of these amps were sent as review units, free of charge.