The VAMP is an iPhone case for audiophiles. It has a DAC (digital-to-analog converter) and amplifier. It has a separate audio-out port to bypass the iPhone’s volume board altogether, and has its own volume knob. (Yes, a real knob.) And it has a battery built in, so it can charge your phone as well.
The new V-Moda VAMP ($650) is a portable, battery powered, iPhone 4/4S-specific DAC/headphone amplifier combo, incorporated into a form-fit iPhone case that roughly resembles a Mophie Juice Pack or other extended battery packs of that ilk. In terms of functionality, it’s like a pocketable version of NuForce’s Icon IDo, providing an optical S/PDIF digital output for desktop interfacing alongside its core digital decoding and headphone amplifying functions. It also incorporates a 2200 mAh battery pack, which’ll keep your phone charged as you listen, for an additional 8 hours or so of listening time (or a lot more talking/texting/socializing).
The VAMP is a beautifully finished little device — the brushed aluminum case that protects the unit’s guts is confidence inspiring, though such a thing might seem a little crazy to the average gadget lover.
Consider the alternatives, however, and it becomes clear that Kolton does know the market, and his audience. Headphone aficionados (who populate online forums like Head-Fi) are willing to go more than an extra mile for high-quality portable sound, carrying around stacks of outboard devices — DAC, amp, battery pack — strapped to their players or phones with industrial-strength rubber bands. Why? Such a setup lets them use a far wider range of headphones on the move, including difficult-to-drive high impedance and low efficiency cans.
But this is a much, much slicker solution. The VAMP provides high-end portable iPhone audio without making you look like you’re carrying around an IED — a pretty big deal, which makes, potentially, for much more widespread appeal.