ALO Audio The Island Portable USB DAC and Amp: Don’t Let the Size Fool Your Ears!
When In Manila, portable audio enthusiasts have always demanded extremely portable sizes, yet with full size sound and capabilities. This has always been a task for Audio companies, having to push the limit of DACs and Amps into the smallest sizes they can. Some choosing to maximize sound quality over size just like Triad-Audio with their L3 amplifier, being really large for a portable amp, yet having sound quality that can be argued to be the best for a portable amplifier. Some choosing to go really small over the sacrifice of sound quality. With ALO Audio, I have been a fan of most of their portable DACs and Amps, I have always loved my portable set-up being powered by the ALO Audio RxMk3-b. Now, they have charted new waters coming up with a portable DAC and Amp that is only $299. Let’s see what it packs.
Packaging: As consistent as always, the ALO Audio The Island comes in the same minimalist vintage looking ALO Audio box which is just really sexy. The Island comes with a USB cable, rubber feet that you can stick to The Island, and a driver installer disc.
ALO Audio The Island
Build/Design: The ALO Audio The Island is built consistently similar to all other ALO Audio products. Hands down screaming quality as always. Moving to the design, The Island is created in a brick shape having a large volume knob on top. The large volume know is pretty smart, having no need to look at The Island to turn the volume precisely. The volume know is also really sturdy and precise, gives much addition to the design characteristics. The ALO Audio The Island, if you noticed, has a 4-pin balanced output for your balanced set-up. For those who are already on a balanced set-up with other ALO Audio products such as the RxMk3-B or The International, no need to re-terminate or use adapters for your headphones or in-ears in balanced cables. The gold colored version makes it seem like a gold bar. I got a blue one though, but the character keeps up with the gold. What I really love about the design is the size! it is 2 fingers thick and 2 fingers high. Extremely small for a DAC and Amp! You can put it in your pocket and just plug it in your laptop anywhere. The footprint is just awesomely small for a DAC and Amp in one!
Sound Quality: The ALO Audio The Island can be summarized to sound spacious and has a tight low-end. Upon pairing it with the RHA MA750 in-ear earphone, I immediately noticed the increase in sound stage. I’m totally a sucker for good sound stage! The Island has a big sound stage which is paired with a meaty low-end and a smooth overall sound. Bass is tight and ample, I did notice a slight lack of details due to the mixture of the bassy low-end and the big sound stage, but nothing too lacking. The Island also has good power since it can power most of the headphones I threw at it satisfyingly. A good thing to note also is how The Island doesn’t give out a noisy floor sound to sensitive headphones and in-ears. This pretty much shows how versatile this little brick of a DAC/Amp is.
I really admire ALO Audio for The Island since it is a very handy and affordable portable DAC and amp that really packs more sound than its size and price tag at $299. I honestly thought that ALO Audio has already been able to tap most of audiophile’s needs in different varieties of DACs and amps, but with their new releases, it shows how they can pretty much be innovative in creating more and better products to suite additional needs and wants.