The gateway drug?
I wouldn't call myself an audiophile, nor could I use the correct language in describing the characteristics of this amp that set it apart from anything else I've tried in the price bracket - but I can say definitively that this thing is a f******g bargain and is likely the piece of equipment that I will look back on as the one that got me hooked.
A little personal history:
My first "real" audio purchase was here on Drop - the initial release of the AKG 7XX - a solid pair of open-back cans that made me realize why anyone would need to purchase a headphone amp. So I took the bait and picked up a piece of Schitt: an Asgard 2. The local seller threw in a decent USB-DAC, and off I went re-ripping my CD collection to lossless format - cursing my former self for thinking a 160kbps eMPty3 sounded fine. Fast forward a couple of years, and I find myself getting that itch again, justifying another purchase for an upgrade to my portable gear (a modded iPod classic and a FiiO Alpen E17). I picked up a FiiO Q1 MKII, a modest bump over the E17 - because I didn't think spending hundreds on a nice pair of balanced IEMs would really make that much of a difference... I couldn't resist the HiFiMan HE-4XX at the then price of $130, picked up a budget LinSoul 2.5mm terminated balanced cable, and finally used that "other" output jack on the Q1. I won't say I was blown away, but there was a huge difference in sound (not necessarily better, definitely not worse) between that pairing and my aging desktop setup of the 7XX and Asgard 2 - enough to kill the cat and start to see what else was out there.
I have always been a "go big or go home" enthusiast of many cultish hobbies, and I am a firm believer in the Hunter Thompson mantra, "If something is worth doing, it's worth doing right"... Enter the v2 Campfire Audio Andromeda iems and an iBasso dx200... By this point I'm thinking I've reached my personal portable endgame, and it was high time I started looking into the next desktop stack upgrade. Rather than jump in the deep end, I figured I'd be a LITTLE more frugal - and that takes us to today: the Cavalli Liquid Carbon X amp... I did my homework and basically gave myself an ultimatum: if I'm not blown away, I will go back to throwing money into my wardrobe and watch box. To make sure I didn't sell Alex short, I picked up another piece of Schitt: the new Modius DAC, some decent XLR cables, and the perfectly timed 2.5mm to XLR adapter here on Drop (fortunately, as a result of the Q1,) allowing me to give both the Andromedas and the HE-4XX cans the full balanced experience they crave.
For less than half the price of either of my CA iems or the DAP ($200 for the Modius, $200 for this bad larry, and $20 for the adapter), I replaced my desktop stack. I don't know if my ears aren't quite as refined as the folks who wax poetic about sound stage and the nuances of different frequency ranges across the sound spectrum that comes from truly high-end audio equipment, but for the money (I've heard of cables costing more - and bless any of you who can justify the cost difference between a $50 cable and a $500 cable) - I have been blown away with this setup driving either the CA iems, the balanced HE-4XX, or the AKG-7XX for any genre from Jazz, to Hip-Hop, Metal, Classic Rock, House, Pop, Funk, Classical and everything in-between (can't speak to country music, unless you count bluegrass and/or Johnny Cash). Given the literal fortune one can spend on audio equipment, if this kind of (mid-range?) budget is within your reach - consider this a resounding endorsement from a relative noob who thinks he knows what sounds "good"... and my poor wallet is going to have to come with me on more adventures to see what else is out there.
Thanks again, Drop, for putting together yet another amazing product offering at an irresistible price point, putting fanatic-level performance within reach of the masses. Ooooh, how about changing your name to "MassDrop"... ever consider that ;) ?