Askew Labs CMoy Headphone Amp Review: Askew Labs have referenced the common CMoy headphone amplifier design and sent it into the stratosphere by implementing [perfectly] matched higher tier components. From low to high impendence headphones, the portable Askew Labs design will elevate the capabilities of your headphones wherever you are.
Hailing from our beautiful home shores a humble British boutique is starting to make waves with a series of simple yet outrageously good headphone related products for truly unbeatable prices. This no nonsense company is Askew Labs.
Boldly headed by consultant and passionate electronics engineer Tom Askew, this homegrown establishment deserves serious notoriety and, as such, today we shall be casting our eagle eyes and ears over his latest £45.00 portable battery powered CMoy headphone amp design.
Features and Build Quality
The exterior shell of the Askew Labs CMoy design is a typical extruded black anodised aluminium shell to keep costs down, but it feels very rugged and is small enough to be portable as the dimensions stand at 4.25” x 2.5” x 1.25”. The design is very simple but has been executed perfectly and at each end there are removable panels which are precision machined with no rough edges or milling discrepancies. The entire amp is jet black in colour with the AskewLabs logo branded across the front plate above the controls. Here protrudes the volume and on/off control, as well as the 3.5mm jack input and headphone output sockets. The combined on/off and volume potentiometer is made by Japanese firm Alps which emits a satisfying mechanical click to indicate whether the amplifier is on. The volume rotation is smooth and does not have the ‘scratchy’ feel some audio products volume pots have. This front panel will, however, require a pentalobe bolt screwdriver to remove. Behind this panel is the PCB board which holds the electronic components of the headphone amp.To the rear, the back panel is secured by easy turn thumb screws. Behind this panel you will find the location of the 9v battery and power connector. The battery life on this product is superb, with the life extending beyond my testing time! The design complements a low power consumption ideology, with no needless extras such as LED’s which are a power drain on these types of devices. There is a rechargeable version of this product which comes in at £73.00 and there is a desktop only version with power supply included for £63.00. With the replaceable 9v battery unit the design allows for the use of rechargeable 9v batteries to be used, which saves the planet!
Inside the CMoy design includes, Panasonic AM Series electrolytic capacitors, metal film resistors and WIMA film capacitors. All of which are specific components chosen for audio applications, and certainly will make a impact on the fidelity of the AskewLabs design. Additionally expert thought has gone into the power supply configuration of the PCB board layout. This has been achieved by using a solid ground plane to separate the power and signal tracks from each other. The result is minimal interference and crosstalk between the two signals. The over all design is astonishingly well laid out, with the PCB board taking up the smallest footprint possible with no apparent compromises to the audio quality. The PCB board is held in place by resting on grooves cut into each side of the metal housing, and can be easily removed for maintenance. This method of securing the PCB board holds the electronics securely while the device is in transit.
To judge the performance capabilities of this CMoy amp design standard components were used alongside some serious audiophile technology. They include: iPhone 5s, iPhone 4s, iPod Classic (5th Generation), MacBook Air (2013) and Pro (2011) outputs, Google Nexus 7, Audient iD22, ARCAM irDAC, Benchmark Media DAC1, Lynx Hilo, Chord Electronics Hugo DAC/AMP, Apple Ear Pods, Grado SR80’s, Musical Fidelity EB-50’s, Grado SR325e’s, Beyerdynamic T90’s, and Noble Audio FR’s.
A common problem for people using their phone, iPod, or MP3 player is that these devices do not power the headphones you have chosen sufficiently. This can cause issues with frequency response at low levels, as well as having to drive the onboard amp chip of the device to the maximum, causing a high battery drain on the device. When we tested the AskewLabs Headphone Amp, we used varying impedance headphones, all of which performed exquisitely when coupled with headphone amp. Low end response was greatly improved when using the AskewLabs Headphone Amp. The bass frequencies were not boosted for a ‘happy EQ’ effect, but instead where shaped accurately which resulted in a more accurate and detail bottom end. This aptitude for not colouring or grossly boosting frequencies continues across the spectrum for the headphone amp. The mid range feels smooth and low mids especially feel transient and punchy, with snare hits having that full popping sound that can really drive a track along. The high end can sometimes sound forced and over loaded with some lower priced headphone amps, however this is not the case at all with the AskewLabs amplifier. The high-end in fact sounds bright and full, and is the most obvious improvement when A-B’ing between your device with and without the AskewLabs Headphone Amp. It has to be said that the Askew Labs CMoy sonic characteristics can be considered as pristine and critical which feels could be further described as being ‘reference quality’.
Whilst enjoying the quality of the output of the CMoy Portable Headphone Amplifier, I could not detect any audible noise introduced into the audio signal what so ever. Even at high gain listening the audio noise floor was not raised to disturb the quality of the audio. All these improvements are subtle, but when collated together gives an audio performance that out ways its astonishingly low price.
Well what more can we say, with the exceptionally low price tag of £45.00, the AskewLabs CMoy Headphone Amplifier gives you a staggering bang for your buck! This is the perfect companion for a trip with your iPod to give you that high fidelity experience on the go. They say simplicity is the key to success, and the AskewLabs Headphone Amp proves this with flying colours. Here at The Pro Audio Web Blog, we give the AskewLabs Headphone Amp a full 5 Stars!