V-Moda Vamp Review: Glorious Overkill For iPhone Audio

"Do you really like music, man? Then why are you listening on your iPhone? You're not even listening to music -- you're listening to static." If that sounds like you, the V-Moda Vamp is the iPhone accessory you've been waiting for.

What Is It? A $US650 iPhone case with a built-in digital-to-analogue converter and a 150mW x2 headphone amp.

Who's it For?

The guy who absolutely, positively needs to have an exceptionally accurate and full-bodied listening experience, even on an iPhone.

Design

The Vamp has a brushed metal back, a satisfying volume knob, and enough bulk to double the thickness and weight of your iPhone.

Using It

It pulls sound in through a 30-pin connector, pumps it out the case's dedicated headphone jack, and charges the iPhone in the process.

The Best Part

The Vamp truly makes music sound way better -- low-end is beefier, and overall tones are richer and more detailed.

Tragic Flaw

Any change to the iPhone's dock connector -- rumoured for the iPhone 5 -- makes the Vamp a $US650 paperweight.

This Is Weird...

The Vamp needs to recharge, but it won't play music while plugged in.

Test Notes

Tested over about a month using studio-quality headphones and high-resolution music files in a variety of genres. Getting your iPhone in an out of the case is tough, and it feels like you'd eventually damage the 30-pin connector. This thing is way too bulky and awkward to use every day. The Vamp's battery is supposed to be good for 6-8 hours of playback, but we only ever got 2-3 hours max. The switch on the top allows turns the case on an off and selects between two equalisation modes, Pure Audio and VQ Audio.

Should You Buy It?

Nope. The Vamp is simultaneously awesome and silly. We love the concept and the audio quality is excellent. Most digital music files today are higher resolution than MP3s of yore -- the iTunes standard is 256kbps AAC now -- so a device like Vamp can make a big difference over the right pair of headphones.

But at $US650, the Japanese gadget is outrageously expensive. Its bulk also makes the phone nearly too big for a pocket. And a new, potentially incompatible iPhone could be released in the next six months.

V-Moda Vamp

• Price: $US650 • Amp: 2 x 150mW • Weight: 136g

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