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This is the 25th in a series of reviews dedicated to the concept of 32Ohm Audio as embodied by the store of that name in downtown Portland/Oregon and described here - Ed.

Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Primary source: iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF/ALAC), Onkyo ND-S1 digital-direct iPod dock
Secondary source: iMac (1TB, OSX 10.6.6) with PureMusic (1.74, hybrid memory play, pre-allocated RAM), Weiss DAC2, Burson Audio HA160D as DAC
Headphones: ALO Audio recabled Audez'e LCD-2, Sennheiser HD800, beyerdynamic T1 and AKG K-702; stock audio-technica W5000; HifiMan HE5LE with optional silver wiring and grill mod; HifiMan HE-6; Ortofon e-Q7
Headphone amps: Burson Audio HA-160D; Schiit Asgard, Valhalla & Lyr; ALO Audio Rx
Cables: Black Cat Cable Veloce S/PDIF cable [on loan], ALO Audio portable links, ALO Audio interconnects
Review Component Retail: RxMII silver or black $449; Solo silver or black $579; combo $998; 30-pin-to-USB + right-angle mini-to-mini cable set $195; optional long USB to iPad/iPod cable $149

Standard trim includes 3 amp straps, a universal charger and a black or silver case.

ALOha: The 32-ohm Audio store of Audio Line Out's Ken Ball in downtown Portland was the inspiration for this ongoing series of headfi/PC-audio related reviews. In preparation for the launch of the Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo, ALO recently reissued their previously reviewed Rx headphone amp in MkII iteration at RMAF 2010 exactly one year after the original.

Ken Ball in Chicago

To appreciate the tie-in, let's rewind to CanJam 2010 in Chicago and revisit what led to the creation of a new company between four of the individuals below.

Ken Ball: "A year ago I was taking the bus from the airport to the L.A. hotel for the 2009 CanJam where I had reserved a display table to show my builds. The bus was full of people being shuttled and the guy next to me asked if I was going to the headphone show.

"We started talking. He asked what I did. 'I make cables, mostly iPod cables.' I asked if he too was a vendor. 'Yes, I am showing a device that takes the digital signal off an iPod.' Wow! Probing on I insisted that 'well, isn't that - well, impossible?' I ended up bugging him over the entire weekend. Oddly enough nobody else really seemed to get it. Matt MacBeth sat at his table with only one thing on it - an odd-looking generic box that effectively took the digits off an iPod; a headphone amp; and a pair of headphones.

"I was spellbound by the possibilities and quite amazed by what he had accomplished. This was it, the next big jump for portable audio. Since then we have collaborated on a number of projects. From these associations we went on to create Cypher Labs LLC with David Maudlin and Vinnie Rossi of Red Wine Audio. The debut and public showing of the Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo is something we'd been waiting to roll out for some time now. The Apple certification process took longer than expected. That postponed the Solo's release date. Sadly final enclosures thus were not quite ready for CanJam 2010.

"Luckily we did have a fully working prototype. The production process and all necessary parts are lined up. I for one can't wait to get one of these. In my opinion it will reset the bar for portable hifi. That's because the Solo delivers uncompressed high-quality audio from an iPod, iPhone or iPad to portable or home audio DACs and amplifiers via both digital and analog outputs. There are currently no portable devices that do that. Key features include pending Made for iPod, iPhone and iPad certifications; a reference-level Wolfson DAC driven I²S; decryption of Apple's USB output (not a pass-through line-out) via asynchronous transfer and an ultra-low jitter clock; two parallel Li-Ion batteries with fully isolated AC switching; and a design to match in size and pair up its input with our Rx MkII headphone amp. The Solo is designed and assembled in the USA and available in black or silver. Prices start at $579."

As the photos of the Solo/RxMkII combo show, enclosure sizes and socket layout were carefully matched for the sleekest packaging. It was this which prompted the overhaul of the original Rx. Size and port orientation had to be altered. As a result of increased internal real estate, there now was higher power-supply rail capacitance for enhanced bass power. Noise floor performance was improved too but the basic platform remained untouched since "the sound wasn't broken. The main improvement is the battery enlargement, hi/lo gain switch, better i/o jacks and size pairing." Power still derives from dual li-ion batteries for 3.400mAH capacity. New is the external gain switch for 1.1 x or 5.1 x amplification factor. The new 3.5mm jacks are beefier, the translucent power switch lights up green for go and orange when the batteries are discharged and—in the off position—green again when recharge is complete. All the case markings, anodized finish and case grounding have been improved. Max output is still 7.45V peak to peak with an output impedance below 1Ω. The RxMkII attenuation table increments are naturally the same for low and high gain. High gain simply adds about 14dB to each value. As shown, the first 21 steps on the click wheel occur in 2dB increments, the last nine in 4dB.