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I just got mine from Monoprice directly and thought I would give my initial opinions. First things first. Plugged it in...Sparks out of the connection from the ac/dc adapter to the amp. Good sign. :)
Tried this twice more and it seem to happen every time. Hooray!
The unit has a decent amount of heft to it but not enough to prevent it from sliding when trying to remove headphones. Still in your hands it feels good. The appearance is actually pretty darn nice and much much better than anything in this price range. The case is nice the front and back panel are nice brushed aluminum. It looks good. The text is share and a nice off-white brown that makes the monoprice sharp but not stand out because honestly who wants monoprice on their amp or a statement that it is a "desktop headphone amplifier". Not that you have to worry about ever seeing this text as the led on the front is so blindingly bright you can't see anything from the front. This is despite being a bit diffuse.
The volume knob is horrible. It is off center and so part of it grinds into the front of the panel I don't see a screw and I tried to see if it was pressure set but it doesn't seem to be so when you adjust the volume know it makes you want to cringe. There is near zero resistance (other than when it is grinding) when adjusting the volume knob. I would have liked more so you don't end up adjusting too fast but again its in this price range.
Now for the important part (Forget it might burn down my house we care about audio quality darn it!)
There is zero line noise even when in high gain and volume maxed on AKG 701s, DT770 80ohm, DT990s (various models pro and premium), Beyer T1s, and some and many other cheaper sets I tried including using earbuds.
This is the great news. This is a solid DAC AND amp! I really wasn't expecting much and was going to use it as a basic DAC/amp when I need to travel. I think I might keep it on my desktop for my secondary PC. Mids and highs are very clear and goes well with the AKG 701s. I feel like the bass is a big too clear and a bit muddled. It seems pretty balanced other than than the lows which while muddled aren't overpowering (which may or may not be your preference). it will not blow you away but it is a solid solid performer at this price range.
Using it as a preamp/dac for a few other amps worked well. I used it on my Pete Millets, "Millet J" (Jonokuchi) amp worked well without any issues, also worked well with the darkvoice with fritz mod. Only tried with these two amps so far but using it as a dac for higher end gear works really great.
Quick note they include a decent short black usb cable which was unexpected in this price range. Audio cable is crap though but again vendors always give out crappy audio cables.
One note that I found frustrating is that it doesn't have an on off switch. It auto-turns off when you turn the volume all the way down. This is more frustrating as the grinding tends to happen at minimum and max volume so you have to grind it to turn it off. I am guessing they did this to make you turn the volume off to avoid issues some amps have. Also this could be an issue as the pot has a lot of travel from min to max volume so its not one quick turn to switch it off.
In conclusion it is much better than I expected in build quality, except for volume knob which is unacceptable. Also the bright blue light makes the build quality difficult to appreciate as you will have this turned to the side not facing you. As a DAC I recommend it completely it is very solid. It is also a decent amp if you not a big bass head or already have overpowering bass cans.
Now if we can only get a new Fostex HP-A4 drop I will be happy.
Hi Jim, I would highly recommend you RMA that unit and get another. The issues you describe are not inline with what you should expect from this unit. your concerns about the pot/knob as well as the DC plug are completely valid and you should get another unit.