V-MODA, makers of excellent headphones and earbuds, like the Crossfade and Vibrato series, has introduced a new product designed to amp up the sound coming from your iPhone: the VAMP (as in the V-Moda Apmplifier, not “vamp” like a glittery Twilight vampire). The VAMP is a high precision amplifier and external Digital-to-Analog converter (DAC) designed to bypass your iPhone’s internal DAC, providing a custom conversion for your digital audio files and increased amplification, capable of driving power-hungry on-ear headphones or deliver some additional oomph to a pair on in-ear buds.
The VAMP throws a sturdy, brushed aluminum iPhone 4/4S case into the mix with its DAC and amplifier duties. The whole affair is wrapped up in a coolly modern, brushed metal case featuring a decidedly old-school knob for controlling volume and and hi-lo gain, allowing for precision control over what you hear when listening to digital audio files. Powering the whole affair is a lithium ion battery capable of powering the VMODA for eight hours, or serving as a backup battery to your iPhone, virtually doubling its charge.
The VAMP provides access to all the iPhone’s ports, buttons, and switches, allowing you to easily charge and control the regular phone functions. The iPhone’s own headphone jack is exposed (and its accompanying noise-canceling microphone), so even if your VAMP loses power, you can still listen to music, take calls, etc. The camera is also exposed, though the thickness of the VAMP may cause some flare/glare issues when the iPhone’s flash is used.
For the discerning audiophile, the VAMP provides a 150mW x 2 amplifier, which is listed as being five times more powerful than the iPhone’s built-in amp. The VAMP features two audio processing modes, with settings for either a PURE mode (delivering true-to-the-recording playback) or VQ (short for V-MODA eQualizer), which provides an increase in the three-dimensionality of the soundstage, tightened bass, and a boost for treble. By bypassing the iPhone’s built-in DAC, the VAMP aims to deliver a superior sound using custom processing and conversion. Output options include standard headphone jack or an optical audio jack, allowing you to connect your iPhone to a Hi-Fi device via Toslink or S/PDIF cable.
The VAMP is available immediately from V-MODA’s website. Although steep at $650, the cost may be worth it to audiophiles who want the convenience of a digital music and mobile devices without the accompanying loss of sound quality. In addition, $50 from the sale of each VAMP goes to the InTheLoop Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to promoting “safe listening” (though a quick Google search turned up nothing for such a foundation).