Published on February 21st, 2015 | by Greg0
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.