This is another bit of kit that I’ve had for a good while (it was payment from Epiphany for some website work I did for them) and thought I really ought to write something about it. Epiphany are a small UK based company with a handful of products to their name but a growing reputation for great compact kit at reasonable prices if the comments on their website and forums are anything to go by.
The EHP-O2 is a compact little unit (8 x 11 x 3cm) but feels pretty substantial in your hand – it’s not an ultra lightweight item by any stretch of the imagination. It comes with a wall wart power supply to recharge the batteries that can be used as a power supply if you want to use it as a desktop amplifier. Epiphany say that it is perfectly safe to leave the EHP-O2 plugged in continuously and this is down to a clever in built power management system. If I was to have anything to say about the power supply it would be that the input is pretty inconveniently placed on the front of the headphone amplifier which is a bit of a pain. The circuit used in the EHP-O2 is the same as designed by the blogger NwAvGuy.
On the front of this little headphone amp are an input and an output, both being 3.5mm female jack sockets. The instructions that come with the amplifier state that if using a pair of headphones with a quarter inch jack, then a trailing adapter (and adapter on a wire) should be used to avoid putting unnecessary strain on the socket. Needless to say I don’t have one of these and I’ve used it with a normal quarter inch to 3.5mm adapter and so far I’ve had no issues with this arrangement at all but I do think an adapter should be included or at least available on the Epiphany site. The other gubbins on the front are a volume knob (which seems very smooth yet reassuringly firm – “oooh Matron”), an LED and a gain button. The gain button is there, as the name suggests, to offer additional gain (x2.5) should you feel you need it. Using Grado 325is headphones I never really needed to use it…but I did, more of which later. The only other thing to talk about on the front panel is the LED…it’s red…there you go I talked about it. Oh, there’s also the on off button which clicks nicely and surprisingly enough turns the amp on and off.
I gave the EHP-O2 to my youngest son for a week to play with before I started to listen to it properly as he tends to listen to music on the go much more than I do. He was using a cheap little pair of Sony MDR-V150 ‘phones and his iPod Touch as a source. Now clearly this isn’t a typical set up as the O2 is a penny shy of a hundred quid but he liked using it a great deal. “Loads better” was his comment but it was a bit of a struggle to get it back for my own use.
As mentioned, once I finally got a hold of the O2 I used a pair of Grado 325is headphones and (it was payback time) my youngest’s iPod. All tunes were ripped to flac and most listening was done whilst pootling around the sty or sat at my desk.
Now the O2 isn’t tiny. It’s purposeful and rugged and in the heat of summer it would be quite a lot to haul around in your shorts’ pocket, but then I don’t wear shorts so it was no bother to me at all and when sat at my desk its size made no difference whatsoever. I tried messing about with the gain button and found that I preferred the sound with the volume turned down and the gain button engaged – more bass weight and I am a bit of a bass head. With the button not engaged the sound is clear and precise with the “out of head soundstage” feeling huge and palpable. It goes loud and I found myself constantly having to check myself and turn the volume down as I creeped it up little by little. Bass has weight, is tuneful and it is easy to follow complicated basslines. The top end is crisp, clear and with my cans (which have a reputation for being bright –though I think this is not correct as outlined in my review) very nice indeed. Vocals were produced realistically and I really enjoyed listening to talk radio through the headphone set up whilst sat at my desk. I listened to a really wide range of music on the ‘little’ O2 and never found it wanting. From bass heavy dub to Neil Young via Hawkwind and taking in Radio 4 the Epiphany worked well with all comers.
The batteries are said to have a life of 8 hours before they need charging and I would say that this is about right and with the charger/PSU attached I could perceive no difference in the sound I was getting, though i’m sure some will want to experiment with alternative power sources.
In conclusion it’s a great bit of kit. It’s not too expensive, it’s robust and it sounds very nice indeed. My only complaint would be that it is possibly a little large for use in your pocket, but pop it in your lappy case with a pair of decent cans whilst away and you have a great little mobile hifi set up that should satisfy pretty much everyone. Oh, and include a quarter inch to 3.5mm adapter in the pack will you please!