This is a review, detailed measurements and listening tests of SMSL VMV P2 balanced stereo headphone amplifier. It was sent to me by the company and costs US $999.
The design follows the new look of the VMV D2R DAC. I am not a big fan of the new look but maybe you are. Nice to see the three common output jacks with the balanced output being differential (i.e. increases power). The volume control is analog with a definitive minimum and maximum. I was very surprised to see the gain controls positioned in the back:
If you use multiple headphones with very different sensitivities, this will be an annoyance, having to reach back here to change settings. Fortunately for the set of headphones I use, the medium gain was sufficient.
On positive front, the connectors seem very high quality. And oh, the whole unit weighs a ton and feels like it is made out of solid lead. This is nice when it comes to plugging and unplugging headphones and not having to hold on to the unit to do so.
FYI company claims that there are 99 opamps used in the P2! They must be paralleling a lot of them to get maximum output power.
SMSL VMV P2 Headphone Amp Measurements
I performed all of my testing using balanced XLR input. Was hoping I could do the same with XLR output but performance there is lower than unbalanced:
Fortunately both are audibly transparent so no practical issue. Ranking is up there as far as amplifiers tested with difference being a less than 1 dB:
The noise floor of 1/4 unbalanced headphone output is superb:
Best to use the unbalanced for sensitive IEMs to get near top of the class noise performance:
Frequency is dead flat and seemingly so forever:
Using same unbalanced output we have plenty of power with excellent performance in low and medium gain (and nearly so in high gain):
Power naturally goes up good bit due to differential signaling of the balanced headphone out:
That is insanely high amount of power into 32 ohm!
Note that there is no clipping in low and medium gains which means if you hear distortion, it is your headphone that is complaining, not the amplifier.
The P2 has plenty of current to almost keep its output constant, resulting in such high amount of power into lower impedances:
Most amplifiers start to drop their output voltage at or below 50 Ohm but not here.
Channel matching is quite good for analog volume control:
Company says they have taken extra care to keep accuracy here so hopefully your sample will be as good as mine.
SMSL VMV P2 Headphone Amplifier Listening Tests
I put the amp in high gain mode, fed it from my RME ADI-2 Pro DAC, and set the volume quite low. I nearly fell off my chair when I hit play! The sound was so loud that I had to rip the headphone off my head. The gain is quite high in high gain mode so even low volume settings is liable to create high loudness despite me testing with my insensitive Dan Clark Stealth headphone (XLR out was used for all the listening tests). I set the gain to medium and that was plenty loud to drive the Stealth into distortion. I swapped it for the Dan Clark E3 which handled more power but it too cried uncle (at around 2:00 pm on volume control). The sound was absolutely superb with amazing detail and authoritative bass.
Switching to Sennheiser HD650 produces the sublime experience I look for when you can feed this headphone with plenty of power. Bass response comes alive and fidelity becomes so good you want to sit there and just praise the combo.
Considering that you still have the high gain to use, there is not a headphone you can't power beyond their max power handling with VMV P2.
Let me again warn you to not use the high-gain without setting the volume to minimum before playing anything. Your hearing may be at risk otherwise!
The objective performance of VMV P2 is near perfect. I wish it was optimized for balanced than otherwise but still, full transparency is there together with incredible drive capability. Listening tests confirm this and then some showing essentially infinite amount of power to drive any headphone you throw at it.
The aesthetics and usability is not completely to my liking but is not a showstopper.
I am going to put the SMSL VMV P2 on my recommended list.