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Published on February 21st, 2015 | by Greg


PlusSound’s Cloud Nine Portable Amp, Simple And Efficient

There are so many great headphones out there these days- you can practically throw a dart and hit another quality pair. They are plenty, from those being 3D printed, hand-tuned in Brooklyn, assembled in Germany, or even the biggest mass-made brands, each with impressive build quality and solid cabling, reasonable ergonomics and acoustics, at wallet-friendly prices. And audio sources have gotten smaller, easier to use, lighter, and more durable too- your phone does a pretty darn good job of carrying music and handling files. But smartphones and tablets are only so-so at connecting the two, since driving sensitive headphones can be a demanding task.

That’s what a portable amp is for- to bridge that gap, and help you enjoy your music on the go, without sacrificing audio quality or being forced to rely on inferior headphones. We’ve seen many over the years, but the new PlusSound Cloud Nine Amp is one of the more distinctive, offering a couple of packages, and utilizing a regular old pair of 9V batteries instead of requiring recharging (expect to get around 40+ hours of use). It’s one of the only pieces of audio gear that we’ve seen with detailed customization, allowing you to choose between finishes of not only the body itself but also the screws, knob, and panels. All the more impressive since it’s the company’s first foray into portable amplifiers!

Now, we often like to see a DAC built into our portable amps, since carrying two additional devices can quickly become cumbersome. The PlusSound Cloud Nine does trade a bit of convenience for top-notch components, bragging about rail-to-rail output, ultra low noise and distortion numbers, and even a “cryogenic treatment”. But it’s fairly sized to pair with a portable DAC of your choice, or to use with a dedicated audiophile music player that can handle the lossless or high-resolution files you’ll probably want to use. If you’ve got a set of high-impedance in-ear monitors or power-hungry studio cans that you want to take with you for mixing, listening, or demoing while on the road, then you should find a capable amp that is a good fit for your gear.

We tested quite a few different pairings, across music genres, and liked the Cloud Nine best for songs with layers, the more the better. Overall, we’d use words like “crunchy” or “chewy”, with only a little softening of the most extreme tracks, and tons of headroom and space around vocals. Instrumentals feel fast and precise, vocals and bass have a bit of an old-school vibe, with crisp and crystal clean harmonics and percussion. Tons of detail ensure you hear everything, and it’s fairly neutral, flat-response. Hip-hop won’t wow, but your orchestral recordings will. There are amps with more gain out there (Cypher Labs, we’re looking at you), and ones with more volume, but very few this size with this much range. You won’t be disappointed in the PlusSound Cloud Nine. Available now, starting at $350, or $425 for a complete package.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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