Review: Helm Audio DB12 AAAMP THX mobile amplifier
This thing kicks @ss
Helm Audio has burst onto the audio market and is rapidly making a name for itself for well-built, well-priced gear like the True Wireless 5.0 we reviewed last year. Now they’ve released something even more exciting, in the form of the $200 DB12 AAAMP, a THX-certified portable amplifier.
This little in-line amplifier boosts your audio by 12dB (hence the name), with a further 6dB boost on the low-end if you so choose. So, with THX certification, is it audio nirvana? Let’s jump into it and find out.
So, what’s it all about?
Before we start, just know that this little dongle is powerful with big POWER. The AAA in AAAMP stands for Achromatic Audio Amplifier, which THX created to increase volume levels without distortion.
How much is power? Enough to boost your listening by 12dB or over double the perceived level of loudness. Whew. I mean, this little dongle really impressed me, making it able to use my planar headphones with my iPad Pro, when without it the sound from them feels faint and far away. Oh, and that’s before you flick the switch further to boost the bass by another 6dB. Rock on!
The onboard battery lasts up to eight hours, but that will depend on which set of headphones you’re using with it. It was on the lower end of five or six hours with my Beyerdynamic DT1990 Pros and their 250 ohms of impedance, and around that on Audeze’s LCD-1 planars. You could maybe get over eight hours with lower power-hungry IEMs. If the battery runs out, the AAAMP just passes through whatever signal it is receiving from your source, until you get the chance to plug it back into a USB-C power source.
The AAAMP even adds in-line controls to your setup, so you can control your music without unlocking your device, and with headphones that didn’t come with controls. That’s pretty nifty and adds extra functionality to an already great device.
So, should I buy it?
Got audiophile-level headphones with a high impedance that you normally wouldn’t dream of using outside of a desk-based amplifier? Want to use those same headphones with your mobile devices, iPads, laptops, and other devices with similarly-underpowered headphone ports? How about with your Xbox and PlayStation controllers?
If the answer to any of those is yes, then you really should check out the Helm DB12 AAAMP. It’ll put the kick into whatever the source material is, so your sweet headphones get the power they need (and deserve). There’s an insane amount of power coming from that tiny package, and it’s perfect for console use where USB devices are often restricted.
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Just a heads up, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale. It’s one of the ways we keep the lights on here. Click here for more. A sample unit was provided for the purpose of this review.