Periodic Audio’s Nickel transportable headphone amplifier will break you of the behavior of listening to music on headphones plugged into your smartphone, pill, or laptop computer.
And that’s how most of us hearken to music nowadays, proper? Dedicated high-resolution digital audio players ship superior audio performances, however cell units are simply a lot extra handy—even once we’re utilizing the kind of high-end, high-impedance cans that extra general-purpose cell units discover so troublesome to drive.
Modern computer systems and cell units have significantly better digital-to-analog (DAC) converters than they used to, however the headphone amplifiers on these merchandise stay the weakest hyperlink within the audio copy chain. The Nickel is a high-end, battery-powered, transportable headphone amp that guarantees to wring peak efficiency from nearly any wired headphones, together with high-impedance fashions.
How it really works
The Nickel is completely tiny—it’s in regards to the dimension of a 9-volt battery—and it sits between your music supply and your headphones, performing a easy but vital process: Amplifying the supply’s audio sign with sufficient energy to manage a headphone’s drivers with precision. During my listening exams, the Nickel noticeably improved the efficiency of headphones. Users with high-quality and/or difficult-to-drive headphones will understand probably the most profit.
The Nickel is straightforward to make use of: Just plug the included 3.5mm cable into your sensible gadget (any smartphone that doesn’t have a headphone output would require an adapter), your headphone’s 3.5mm cable into the Nickel, and voila! The Nickel turns your sensible gadget right into a preamp and does all of the heavy lifting to enhance your headphones’ efficiency. The included 3.5mm-to-3.5mm analog cable has mic pass-through, so that you’ll ready to make use of an inline microphone with the Nickel.
I do want Periodic Audio had put a headphone icon subsequent to the Nickel’s output jack and labeled each the entrance and again of the unit. At one level throughout my testing, I wasn’t paying shut consideration whereas switching cables. and I by chance related the cables backwards—producing a loud, piercing sound by my headphones.
The Nickel is a much more elegant and unobtrusive answer than a number of the bigger amps on the market. But it’s unlucky that Periodic Audio doesn’t present a swish technique of mounting the Nickel to your sensible gadget—the amp will simply dangle by its cable.
No controls to fret about
There’s no energy change. Instead, the Nickel mechanically powers on when each your sensible gadget’s and headphones’ cables are plugged into the Nickel’s 3.5mm enter and output respectively. Unplug both cable and the Nickel mechanically powers down. A small LED between the enter and output lets you understand the unit’s operational standing and battery life. Slick and sensible.
Further including to the simplicity, there’s no quantity management on the Nickel. You don’t want one since your sensible gadget has its personal quantity management.
The Nickel is designed with 6dB of inner achieve, a function that got here in useful throughout my exams—particularly with the considerably difficult-to-drive Beyerdynamic Amiron Home, which have nominal impedance of 250 ohms.
Supremely small and lightweight
Periodic Audio claims that the Nickel—which weighs a mere two-thirds of an oz.—is the smallest and lightest high-powered analog headphone amplifier in the marketplace. The amp’s shell is fabricated from a strengthened polycarbonate materials that Periodic Audio says is very immune to cracking.
The Nickel presents an enter impedance of 10ok ohms to make sure the amplifier in your sensible gadget or pc is rarely harassed. Periodic Audio says that eliminates 99-percent of the poor sound you get from these sources. Nickel’s inputs are AC coupled to get rid of any points from DC offset (which may produce buzzing and different points). The amplifier’s circuit is DC coupled on the output, offering bandwidth from 8Hz to 80kHz, a signal-to-noise ratio of 105dB, whole harmonic distortion of lower than 0.005 p.c, and higher than 80dB of channel separation. Periodic Audio’s measurements are carried out at 1mW @ 32 Ohms (179mV). That’s thought of a typical listening stage, not most.
The Nickel is able to pumping out 250mW per channel of steady energy right into a 32-ohm load, and practically 500mW per channel into 16- or 8-ohm masses. A consultant from Periodic Audio instructed me they’ve even examined the Nickel on high-efficiency house loudspeakers.
It gained’t drain your cell gadget’s battery
The Nickel gained’t drain your sensible gadget’s treasured battery life. Designed to be a transportable companion, the Nickel comes with its personal rechargeable 280mAh Lithium Polymer battery that Periodic Audio says will present as much as 10 hours run time at loud listening ranges. The battery is a high-current design that utterly recharges in about 30 minutes through a micro-USB port. You even can use the Nickel whereas it’s charging.
The battery is totally remoted from the amplifier stage with a
discrete +/- 5V energy provide circuit. I used the Nickel whereas charging it and by no means heard any charging noise or interference. The Nickel’s signal-to-noise ratio stays the identical whether or not it’s charging or operating on battery.
Immune from mobile interference
Cell telephones can wreak havoc on close by digital units—you’ve most actually skilled the audible interference. The Nickel is proof against any such interference due to its Texas Instruments INA1620 amplifier.
The TI INA1620 is EMI/RFI hardened, rendering the Nickel just about proof against RF and GSM noise. That means you may place the Nickel proper subsequent to your mobile phone with zero influence.
A exceptional distinction
I examined the Nickel with Focal Clear and Beyerdynamic Amiron Home headphones on an iPhone XS, utilizing Tidal in addition to high-res and lossy music streamed from my Roon Nucleus music server. I used to be cautious to stage match throughout my A/B comparisons.
The Focal Clear presents an impedance of 55 ohms, with a sensitivity of 104dB. The Amiron Home’s impedance is 250 ohms, with a sensitivity of 102dB. While you can use both of those headphones with a smartphone, each will fall wanting delivering their peak efficiency.
Needless to say, it didn’t take lengthy to listen to the distinction the Nickel made on the music. The Nickel instantly refined and improved the efficiency by each headphones.
Playing Lauren Daigle’s “You Say” was extra thrilling with the Nickel within the combine. Bass had extra influence and management. The track’s general presentation was extra dynamic, too. In explicit, the refrain of voices within the track’s chorus got here alive as if infused with new life by the Nickel. Voices took on extra definition and refinement. Taking the Nickel out of the combination and taking part in “You Say” straight from the iPhone XS made the track sound comparatively boring. The Nickel didn’t merely change the technical efficiency; it affected a track’s emotional influence, too.
Song after track, I seen extra element, higher management, much less haziness, and—in the end—extra musical involvement. For instance, on Dido’s new album, Still on My Mind, the bass on “Take You Home” immediately tightened up in comparison with the iPhone taking part in sans Nickel.
I additionally famous that the Nickel had the power to deliver out a hotter, richer sound from the music. Dido’s “Hell After This” had much better tonal steadiness by the Nickel, to the purpose the place I discovered myself being extra emotionally drawn into the music and the artist’s efficiency. But it was the Nickel’s skill to breathe life and colour into the guitar on “Some Kind of Love” that was the of completion.
Vital audiophile accent
Periodic Audio’s Nickel headphone amplifier has the uncanny skill to make music come alive by the headphones you’re keen on most, even on a median sensible gadget or pc. High-quality headphones and difficult-to-drive cans will profit most. Judge for your self, however the Nickel in all probability isn’t well worth the expense for those who’re utilizing entry-level headphones or sticking with no matter got here together with your sensible gadget.
That being mentioned, I’d classify the Nickel as essential accent for the music lover or audiophile who desires to make use of high-quality headphones with out the effort and expense of additionally carrying a devoted high-res DAP. The Nickel’s tiny dimension, gentle weight, wonderful battery life, and easy operation makes it straightforward to make use of on the go. And the sonic advantages are merely intoxicating.