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Niko Soundlab Portable V2 - how best to use??

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Niko Soundlab Portable V2 - how best to use??

Postby Kevin Nolan » Wed Mar 06, 2013 7:26 pm

Hi -

I bought a Niko Soundlab Portable V2 Headphone Preamp about a year ago on the recommendations of this forum.

While I use it a lot on my MBP - connecting the MBP headphone socket to the V2 and my onto my headphones, I'm not sure whether that's a legitimate setup. Overall, I'd be grateful for advice on using it - which I want to do for monitoring on the MBP without the use of other audio interfaces.

So I suppose my questions boil down to-

- Should I be using it in the scenario mentioned above. I have a hunch it's not a legitimate setup because surely the MBP already preamps the signal - so I'm preamping it twice

- If legitimate - what's the optimum setting for the volume settings from the MBP and the V2 - in particular is it better to turn the MBP volume up quite high and the Vs low, or vise-versa. I usually leave the MBP at about 2/3 volume so as not to allow its presumably inferior preamp to clip - and then adjust the volume of the V2 accordingly (usually that's fairly low) but again would be grateful for any pointers on best usage here.


Thanks!
Kevin.
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Re: Niko Soundlab Portable V2 - how best to use??

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Mar 07, 2013 11:23 pm

Hi Kevin,

You'll get acceptable but no optimum results by feeding one headphone amp output into another one's input.

What you need is a line-level signal to input into the Niko Soundlab, and to be honest these are normally easier to find than spare headphone outputs on most interfaces


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Re: Niko Soundlab Portable V2 - how best to use??

Postby Kevin Nolan » Fri Mar 08, 2013 1:18 am

Hi Martin -

Thanks for that. A pity is doesn't work the the MBP alone - so not really a 'portable solution'.

Perhaps this product would be better with more input options and including perhaps a digital / usb input - it's not as if it's particularly cheap in the first place and such options would make it truly a portable monitoring solution. After all, if you're using this preamp presumably you are using good headphones and perhaps in scenarios not requiring an interface. So to me, a bit of a contradictory product.


Are you aware of any such small, portable headphone preamps of similar quality that connect to USB or firewire?


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Re: Niko Soundlab Portable V2 - how best to use??

Postby James Perrett » Fri Mar 08, 2013 9:55 am

Kevin Nolan wrote:
Are you aware of any such small, portable headphone preamps of similar quality that connect to USB or firewire?

There's a version of the Benchmark DAC-1 that connects to USB and I think Grace Designs do something similar too. Not sure how portable they are though.

There may be some improvement to be gained by using your headphone amp on another headphone output as the sound of some outputs deteriorates as you ask them to deliver more current. If this is the case with your MBP, feeding it into the higher input impedance of the headphone amp might help although you still have to worry about the quality of the built-in DAC.

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Re: Niko Soundlab Portable V2 - how best to use??

Postby Kevin Nolan » Fri Mar 08, 2013 6:47 pm

Hi James -

Yes - I have a Benchmark DAC, but bought the V2 for monitoring in a totally portable scenario and in hind sight probably bought the wrong product - I thought this was for monitoring at that MBP alone.


That said - I agree with you - when I use it at the MBP it offers a true sense of support, strength and (I think) extra clarity to the signal especially at higher volumes (though I don't monitor at very high volumes). There's no denying the quality of the V2 - and - when you turn up its volume knob it is a totally different experience to turning up the volume on the MBP itself - you can sense the V2 lifting the entire signal in an extremely consistent way - extremely smooth indeed.

But part of my reason for posting here is to see how best to use the V2 in this less than ideal scenario - there is no doubt that at times I'm getting distortion, and overall I'd love to know what is the best way to use the V2 in this setup.

Currently I'm setting the MBP to about half to two-thirds volume to give a strong signal from the MBP but hopefully with headroom and not pushing its supposedly inferior preamp, and then let the V2 do its job in providing the best it can from that input an if needing more volume then turn up the V2. But I don't know the line strengths, noise characteristics or impedance values for either and ultimately I'm guessing.

It's important to me because I do quite a lot of sound design work at the MBP alone and in totally portable scenarios with no other audio interfaces, so would like to be sure of monitoring via headphones (HD650s) in an optimum way.


Thanks,
Kevin
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