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Graham Slee Voyager Headphone Amplifier
If you're serious about your home music, you'll be accustomed to the notion that for the very best in sound quality, you have to invest in separates - a DVD player for video, a CD player for music, and a separate amp or multi-channel home theatre receiver to power a set of passive speakers.
High-end setups take this approach even further, separating the CD transport and digital to analogue processing, and the amplification stage into pre-amp and power amp modules, with the latter often split in two - one power amp per mono channel.
It's not, however, an approach that most of us are used to seeing applied to portable music. When most of us go out, we chuck our MP3 player and a pair of headphones in a pocket. If the headphones are good, it's quite remarkable how good a setup this compact can sound. But the humble MP3 player has the potential to be much more. With the addition of a decent pair of headphones and a portable headphone amplifier such as the new Graham Slee Voyager, almost any basic MP3 player goes from lo-fi music accessory to audiophile delight.
If this all sounds a little crazy, or too much like hard work, bear with me. Admittedly it's not the most convenient setup for on the move use - the amp itself isn't bulky per se, it's about the same size as a medium-sized smartphone at 125 x 67 x 28mm, and quite light at 180g. But coupled with an iPod Classic, for instance, or similar hard disk player it turns a just-about pocketable solution into, well, one that's not.
And it's not just the bulk. An extra cable (included in the box) is required to link the amp to the headphone output on your MP3 player, which I'm sure you don't need me to tell you is a pain when you're on the move. Even a single, straggly headphone cable is liable to snag on clothing as you stand up and walk around. Two require thought to stow in a practical way.
It's clear that this isn't a product that's intended for workout use. And neither is it one to draw admiring glances. The plain black box is more Maplin than design boutique, though it is highly practical. The box is both well-built and flexible: notably, you have a variety of ways in which you can power the device. It can be powered either by a supplied 9V alkaline or rechargeable battery, which is good for around 50 hours of continuous use, but it also comes with a plug top adaptor for connection to the mains at home or in a hotel room, and a mini-USB input, which allows you to draw power from a laptop or desktop PC.