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Enter Todd Green's TTVJ Slim
. Reviews are only as interesting as comparisons can stretch 'em for larger more meaningful context. Having long since returned the Vinyl Junkie's two-box Apex Peak/Volcano headphone/preamp after its review, I'd delayed reporting on the included portable Slim. Today's combo review catches up. Stuck inside the usual aluminum extrusion with screwed-on front and back that's become ubiquitous dress code for its kind, the Slim gets a 32-stop attenuator for 2dB steps of claimed ±0.2dB tolerance. There's also a 0/10/20dB gain switch for best matching of source to cans. The DC-coupled mini amp can output 3.3V RMS at 100mA into 150Ω. This nets 2.14V into 32Ω to presumably drive bigger headphones quite well. The regulated power supply claims full output power over the life of the Lithium-Ion battery. That is said to give roughly 15 hours of listening per charge (obviously that's contingent on your volume levels). Recharge via the mini USB port from PC or USB wall charger is about 2 hours.

The USB socket isn't just for power though. A very basic 16-bit DAC (Burr Brown's PCM 2704) handles 44.1/48kHz input data for a convenience uplink with laptops. Frequency response is a wide DC to above 100kHz, noise better than <10μV RMS. DC offset is kept to below 5mV to avoid nasties. Input impedance is 10kΩ and max allowable input signal is 2V RMS. That's what exits most full-size CD players. Dimensions are 104 x 70 x 12mm. The latter explains the Slim moniker. The photo shows it.

Where the Slim parts company with fellow skinnies is the light show. The power LED between 3.5mm output and volume wheel changes color with gain setting. This spans the gamut from cyan to pinkish purple. Hippies called Dawn or Hope would find it the perfect accessory for rainbow tie dye if such was still around. With the Slim as a 'generic' counterpoint to the more abnormal tubed portable from Portland just to see what more green might buy, I also had ALO Audio's 'normal' RxMkII on hand. That wouldn't be stacked unfairly against the color chameleon from Three Forks/Montana. It'd compare competitors very well matched on price and concept.

Enter the 256GB iMod: "We've got the new Super Talent 256GB SSD module and are very pleased to confirm that it physically is the same size as the 128GB which Vinnie Rossi previously used in the original 30GB iPod case for his Red Wine Audio iMod." Hola! A 256GB iPod with solid-state drive and direct connection of the Wolfson DAC's output through six paralleled film caps* embedded in an external cable to fully bypass Apple's inferior opamp output stage was great news. And not just for portable hifi extremists who want better sound, more memory and battery capacity. Home hifi hounds need to know however that the digital-direct docks from April Music, Cambridge Audio, Onkyo, Pure, Wadia et al won't work because the earlier-gen iPod necessary for the iMod cannot communicate with the Apple chip (only 6-gen up) that's required for digital signal extraction. The iMod is for pure analog-output use.

* "The iMod dock cables for the 5g/5.5g iPod Video units contain the required DC voltage blocking capacitors in the dock plug of our cable. Since the beginning we relied on Black Gate Nx-Hi-Q non-polarized electrolytic capacitors for this application. They were our favorite for their small size and excellent sound quality but have been out of production. It has thus become increasingly difficult to obtain them in the quantities we need. As a result Vinnie Rossi and I spent a few months researching an alternative. We viewed this as an opportunity to find an alternate capacitor that would enhance the iMod listening experience. We found a solution that takes the sound quality of our iMod dock cables to the next level – a paralleled film capacitor approach that meets our size requirements and has exceeded our sonic expectations. We refer to these capacitors as the ALO iMod V2 caps. In addition I am making the iMod V2 cable with the new Audio Line Out LUX-FEP 18awg Teflon OCC wire. Our new product is now more durable yet has increased flexibility and a better dielectric constant. Additionally we are able to use the more compact gold Neutrik 3.5mm plug by lathing the exit hole to accommodate the wires."

Actual SSD capacity for audio data turned out to be 223.94GB equating to 4.639 AIFF files. That was a beautiful and gigantomaneous thing.

Syncing the lot took a few hours of course. My purchase from Ken Ball included two special iMod cables. One is a pre-curved shortie terminated in a 3.5mm plug [left]. That's for portable use i.e. the Continental. The other is a 1-meter leash terminated in stereo RCA plugs. That's for direct insertion into a preamp, integrated or headphone amp. The DC-offset killing miniature capacitors are built directly into the terminations and thus invisible. The cables don't look any different but are mandatory in use. An iMod silkscreen on their heat shrinks reminds you. Them's the apples. This prevents confusion with normal cables.