Remember the times when portable amplifiers had problems with being “portable”? When most amps either had issues of lacking enough power to drive bigger headphones or when they get too hot to be portable in your hands or pocket? Sure, many amps have been able to re-route these issues for the past years and the portable audiophile community have gone with tons and tons of amplifiers to choose from. From portable amplifiers costing around Php 2,000 to ones now that are costing over Php 40,000 to Php 60,000! From price brackets, performance, size, there’s so many to choose from. Now, there’s been a common notion of “the more expensive it gets, the better it performs”. While this is around 80% true, there are some hidden gems that should be well sought after. One of these, I believe, is the Portaphile Micro. Hear me out below…
Packaging/Build: Arrived in a very simple white cardboard box, my expectations were very low as some children’s toys may even have a better box than this. Upon unboxing though, I am met with a small portable amplifier that seems to be built like a tank! The finish, shape, build is extraordinarily well! The Portaphile logo is metal embossed right in-front, and the knob is machine made with a great feel and finish. I actually think that the Portaphile Micro beats its rival/competitor the Vorzuge Pure II in durability and build quality. Yes, the Vorzuge Pure II has a very nice finish and design, but I easily think that the Portaphile Micro can endure 1 more nuclear bomb than the Vorzuge Pure II could handle. This brings me to the conclusion that everything you paid for this amplifier is all put on building it which is, of course, a good thing always.
Some Information: My Portaphile Micro came equipped with the 627BP and 627AU opamp configuration which is supposedly the best configuration for the Portaphile Micro over the Muse opamps according to Portaphile’s Cesar himself. You are able to choose either the Muse version or 627 version upon ordering. If you know about the original Portaphile amp, the big brother Portaphile 627X which was the king amp of Portaphile, you’ll notice that the Portaphile Micro is the direct smaller version of it. Much smaller footprint, less opamps too. But does it necessarily mean much less performance and power? I think not. The Portaphile Micro performed well against the big brother 627X when I pitted them together with the help of a friend who has the 627X. Performance and power were not far off and it’s safe to say that one is not totally better over the other. Another thing to note is that the Portaphile Micro needs a bit of a jump start when turning on. Either you click the knob a couple of times to turn on, or you click the knob once and give it a few seconds then off and on again. This is really how the Micro works as it needs some voltage in the circuit to turn on according to Cesar.
Sound Quality: I won’t say the Portaphile Micro has no flaws, it definitely gives out hiss on sensitive IEMs/CIEMs like my Vision-Ears VE6XC custom in-ears. I also encountered some hiss with my friend’s UM2. The hiss is inaudible though on most tracks, but it is annoying for me still. Though I only encounter it with sensitive IEMs and CIEMs. Another issue is the fact that the Portaphile Micro only has a 4 hour battery life. So sad… Now all the cons are out of the way, let me tell you why these issues are easily neglectible once you truly appreciate what the Portaphile Micro can do. First of all, this small amp that straps to the DX90 oh so perfectly has tons of power for its size. At low gain it is perfect with IEMs and CIEMs as long as they are not sensitive like the UM2 or VE6. Even my Sennheiser IE800 which needs more than the usual power for an IEM screams loudly past 12 o’clock on the Portaphile Micro. Switching to high gain is awesome! It can power the DT880 600Ohms pretty darn well and full. Even the HD800 was driven, though still hot on the treble, better than the Glacier with the Portaphile Micro showing that oh so glorious soundstage of the HD800 and being less hot compared with the Glacier.
The Portaphile Micro is very natural, height and depth are great. Treble has great extension that makes the overall sound very spacious and deep, it even trumps the SR71B in instrument separation. Mids are somehow more flowing than bodied. It has this smooth texture at the corners of the mids that lets it flow than letting the mids be commanding. Bass also has this somewhat musical approach in which it has some sort of lingering fade. Not fast bass at all, but not exaggerated and somehow makes some cans or IEMs portray a more natural approach in bass presentation than quick cut-offs. Low gain has always been enough even for Orthodynamic/Planar headphones and high-gain is incredibly powerful. It’s easy to have the Portaphile Micro to be your go-to amp as it matches well with IEMs and can power most full-size cans really well!
Overall: The Portaphile Micro is a stellar amp for the $400-500 range, being priced at $499 it really does perform fantastic and very versatile, specially for the size. If you’re looking for a great sounding amp with versatility in power and matching, the Portaphile Micro definitely will hit a lot of good marks. Order the Portaphile Micro at $499.00 at Portaphile’s website linked below.