The portable headphone AMP landscape is diverse, and I've never even dared look into it, though I've used plenty of portable AMPs in the past. Time to adress this massive oversight, and what better way to do so than with an entry-level device? Let's take a look at Brainwavz's AP001.
Brainwavz is a small manufacturer with a great deal of recognition behind it. They're exceptionally proficient at injecting value in their products, and despite not having premium $300+ offers, they still manage to draw attention from the enthusiast crowd. Until recently, they mostly worked on different IEM variants, with some full-sized headphone options peppered throughout. With AP001, the company seems to enter a new space, where it faces different competing forces, and a somewhat different audience.
Why would it be different? Well, because budget offers are rare and usually frowned upon. Once you get a proper headphone AMP and strap to your set-up you're pretty much done. You might end-up changing more than a dozen headphones, but source and amplifications usually stay the same. The reason for this is mainly the price of course, since premium audio has a premium tag attached to it.
Brainwavz's AP001 has an ace in its sleeve though, and that is the fact that it's technically not a proper full-sized AMP, but more of an active splitter. You see, it's about the same size as Fiio's entry level E06, but with absolutely no controls, built-in bass-boost, and dual-output. So it's not made to go head to head against stuff like Mont Blank E12 or Cayin C5, but intends to carve out its own space in the under $50 space, where it has little to no competition.
There's one thing worth noting though. It seems there are some similar offerings to AP001, nigh on identical in fact, and that's mainly because the AMP seems to be an OEM. Of course, that's shouldn't necessarily be a problem since Brainwavz has done a great job with OEMs in the past. So, without further ado, let's take a look at the AP001.