Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio
Headphones: ALO-rewired Beyerdynamic T5p; Aëdle VK1; Ortofon eQ5; Focal Spirit One
Headphone amps: Bakoon AMP-12R, Eximus DP1, Stello HP100MkII, Questyle CMA800R (x2), Eversound Essence
Review component pricing: €310 direct

OEM. ODM. OCD. OMG. Shorthand is like secret handshakes. With it, Masonic bros, gangstas and hipsters recognize each other in plain view whilst everyone else is clueless. OEM is original equipment manufacturer. ODM is original design manufacturer. If you ask our kind. The latter could also be observation data model, Offene Deutsche Hubschraubermeisterschaft, ontology definition metamodel, open data model, operational data model or Orange Democratic Movement; if you live in Kenya. So yeah, OCD aka obsessive compulsive disorder. Here's what Florence Lee had to say about it. "We are one of the leading manufacturing and R&D companies based in HK. We have been in the audio industry for more than 15 years on an OEM and ODM basis. We are planning to launch our new series of headamps including DAC and portable models with vacuum tubes this summer and under our own brand Lars & Ivan. For product review, we could arrange to send you some working samples. Please take a look at our website and Facebook pages for a preview: &" With HK clearly shorthand for Hong Kong, not the small arms maker Heckler & Koch, what were two vikings or Russkies doing in the Far East? Exporting reindeer hides on the side?

Before sorting that out, I taught Florence our secret handshake. Working samples wouldn't do. We needed full-on production gear, they to be formally shipping before we'd do anything. "For product review, our model THA-8XP is already in mass production. Attached please find the specs and photos for your reference. We could arrange to send you a review sample right away." The handshake clicked. I shook. Deal. But what was it with that alphabet-soup model name? With their Nordic branding, I'd have expected Red Herring. Or something. Anything but THA-8XP. I happen to stumble over such stuff. And just how cool is it to call your mate with an excited "hey, you gotta come over, guess what I just got" and then spell out tee-aich-a-eight-ex-pee? SNC. So not cool!

Meanwhile rampant OMG aka inner geekiness had already glommed onto that top-quality Muses 02 opamp from Japan's NRJ. And those swell Raytheon JA6418 sub-miniature vacuum tubes promoted for hifi use first by Musical Fidelity; if I had my hifi history in order. Come to daddy. And so it was that I signed up for this tube-buffered compact portable headfi amp without yet knowing anything else about it including price. All of that could get sorted later. Getting ambushed by happy discoveries is one of the great fringe benefits of sitting in a hifi pub editor's seat. I asked Florence who my contact for more product, company and related intel might be—if other than her—then got busy checking their OEM/ODM site to formalize my first round of questions.