First, I’d like to thank the folks at Mingo-HMW for the review sample.
In part five of my Amplifier Round Up series, we have the MUSE PD1+, a feature rich portable amplifier and USB DAC and promises high quality amplification for line in or USB digital signals. So, does it live up to those promises and compare well to other similarly priced portable amplifiers? Read on to find out.
Design and Build Quality
The PD1+ has an all metal construction featuring brushed aluminum front and back plates and a black, metal exterior which has a nice soft-touch feel to it. It’s thicker but lighter than the C5 and doesn’t feel quite as solid in the hand. Input and output jacks are solid and the potentiometer is among the smoothest I’ve ever used, superseded only by the iFi iCAN desktop amplifier. The smoothness of the potentiometer and low gain enables some of the tiniest and most subtle volume changes I’ve heard in an amplifier.
Gain and Hiss
Oddly enough, the PD1+ has a rather low gain and isn’t adjustable. Sensitive IEMs were pushed to adequate volume at around 9 o’clock while heavier loads like my HD 600s, required turning the potentiometer to 12 o’clock or further. I can’t imagine this will be much of an issue for the vast majority of people but I don’t see this driving planar or orthodynamic headphones very well.
The PD1+ is silent with every headphone I’ve used at normal listening levels and the only hiss I did hear was still quite soft and only at potentially eardrum-destroyingly high volumes.
MUSE rates the PD1+ at 22 hours of continuous portable use and I believe it. In my testing, the PD1+ outlasted the C5 by a decent margin and while I wasn’t able to run a fully scientific battery of power drain tests, I’m confident the PD1+ will fall within striking distance of, if not meet, the rated battery life claims.
The best compliment I can give the PD1+ is that it’s almost completely colorless and very, very transparent. Against the C5, it’s a touch warmer and (surprisingly) brighter sounding with a slightly smaller soundstage, but the differences between the two are minimal at best and I can’t imagine many people would be able to reliably tell the two apart in a volume matched blind test.
So yes, the PD1+ is a very clean sounding portable amplifier that compares favorably to my reference amplifier and has a number of features that help it stand out among other portable amplifiers. The PD1+ doesn’t have any sound-altering tweaks like the C5’s bass boost it does include an arguably more useful feature, the ability to function as a 24-bit 96 KHz USB DAC, and it performs rather well in that capacity based on my subjective listening tests. I don’t feel it’s quite on the level of pure transparency and utter invisibility (namely its ability to completely disappear from the sound chain and not impart its own “color” to the sound) as the ODAC I’ve been using for the past few months but it certainly beats the ODAC for portability and versatility, as it can drive headphones on its own, something the ODAC cannot (or, rather shouldn’t) do.
Personally, I enjoyed using it with my laptop and will likely remain in my laptop bag for when I want to do some listening away from my desk.
The MUSE PD1+ is a high quality portable amplifier that sounds great in comparison to my reference amplifiers and its versatility as a USB DAC makes it a jack of all trades of sorts in line with the Fiio E17 and other similar portable amplifiers. Availability is limited and the PD1+ is hard to find from US based sellers but can be found from both Chinese and Australian sellers online. The suggested retail price is 1,699 HK (which equates to about $220 US) and for the price I think it’s a pretty good alternative to something like the JDS Labs C5 for users who need a USB DAC as well as an amplifier for use either at home or away but if all you need is a portable amplifier, I think the cheaper C5 is a better choice.
Nonetheless, I like the PD1+ and hope that it finds a wider distribution in Western countries because it’s a very solid device for the money.