Ampio VS-1880 Bluetooth Hi-Res headphone mini amplifier review.
Have you been looking for a wireless device for streaming Tidal or Spotify from your smartphone? I might just have the perfect solution for you here. Meet the Ampio VS-1880 headphone mini amplifier and Bluetooth receiver. This little gadget has an aluminium chassis and full Hi-Res support with LDAC and aptX HD. It doesn’t just do streaming either; you can actually connect this to a laptop, desktop PC, or smartphone via OTG and use it as an external DAC.
At the time of writing the Ampio VS-1880 is listed at $189 and is available on Amazon here.
This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own, based on my experience with the product.
Strong and lightweight aluminium chassis
LDAC and aptX HD for Hi-Res streaming audio
Solid 10-hour battery life
Excellent clean and transparent sound quality
Ultra portable thanks to its small size and attached clip
No balanced output
Ampio is a subsidiary of Vencer Co., Ltd., who has been making Bluetooth and audio-related products as an OEM/ODM business since its founding in 2007.
After observing the rapid adoption of Bluetooth products in the market over the past few years, they started thinking of other ways of running the business to solidify its sustainability.
Thus, in November 2017, they launched Ampio as their own brand, utilizing the technical expertise in Bluetooth and audio they had accumulated over the years.
With a mantra of “Pure sound – Pure mind”, they wanted to make products like no other in the contemporary market. So they pursued the optimal codecs of modern Bluetooth V5.0 technology by applying a hybrid of aptX HD and LDAC in their products.
So far they have 3 headphone amplifier models, which were designed at the Vencer HQ in New Taipei City, Taiwan and manufactured in their partner factories in Dongguan, China.
Bluetooth Specification Bluetooth Codec Bluetooth Profile Operation Range Operation Frequency PCM Sample Rate SNR Input Interface Output Interface Frequency Response Rated Input Power Standby Time Continuous Music Play Time Charging Time Dimensions Weight
Bluetooth V5.0 / Class II SBC、AAC、aptX、aptX HD、LDAC HSP、HFP、A2DP、AVRCP 10 meters 2.402 GHz – 2.480 GHz ISM Band 96kHz/24Bit 88 dB Bluetooth & USB 3.5mm Audio Line-out 20Hz ~ 40kHz DC 5V 300 mA 3.7V Rechargeable Li-Polymer Battery 300 hours 10 hours 1.5~2 hours (L)65 x (W)22 x (H)22 mm 25 g
Packaging and Accessories
The Ampio VS-1880 comes in a small, sturdy box that has a cardboard sleeve with a clear image of the device on the front. Beneath the outer sleeve is a plain black box with the Ampio branding and slogan in gold print.
Inside, the VS-1880 is secured and presented on a black, slanted cardboard insert. Apart from that, there is little else in the box but for this kind of device, you don’t really need anything else. So you get the VS-1880 headphone mini amplifier, a Micro-USB/USB data transfer & charging cable and a user manual.
It would have been nice to see some kind of storage case or pouch in the box as well. It’s not a big deal because the VS-1880 is really small so it’s easy to find something to keep it in but considering the asking price, I think something could have been added to the package.
Build Quality and Design
With its aluminium body and buttons, the VS-1880 feels premium and durable. The great thing is it only weighs 25g so you’ll hardly even notice it’s there when it’s clipped onto your shirt, belt, pocket, hat or whatever. It’s available in two colours: blue and black.
The clip (which is removable by the way) is plastic but it feels strong and makes it super easy to clip the VS-1880 onto just about anything you could want.
On the bottom end is the Micro-USB charging port. At the other end is a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the top side, there are two LED indicators; one shows the power/charging status and the other displays the connection/pairing status. The second LED flashes different colours depending on the current connection. For example, it’s purple in pairing mode and it flashes green intermittently when connected via Bluetooth.
On one side there is an On/Off switch. This button is very secure and takes quite a bit of force to move either way. This is good, of course, because it means you won’t accidentally turn the device on or off while it’s in your pocket or bag.
The other side has 2 buttons. One is for adjusting the volume and skipping or rewinding tracks. The second button is for play/pause or answering/ending phone calls. Yes, the Ampio VS-1880 can also act as a headset so you’ll never miss a call when it’s connected to your smartphone.
More than just a Bluetooth receiver
Not content with just being a good Bluetooth receiver, the Ampio VS-1880 also works as an external USB DAC. Plug this into your laptop via the included (or any) USB cable and it turns into a soundcard that is sure to sound better than your computer’s built-in solution.
It also works perfectly with desktop PCs. I plugged it into my Windows 10 desktop and Windows automatically installed the driver and it was ready to go in less than 10 seconds. With Mac OS and Linux, you get native support so it’s a plug and play device and you don’t need to worry about installing any drivers.
Next, I plugged it into my Android smartphone with a Micro-USB to Micro-USB cable and it was immediately recognized and ready to play.
Connectivity, Range and Battery Life
Pairing is super easy and worked fine with all the devices I tested. These were: my Android smartphone (aptX), Sony NW-ZX300 DAP (LDAC) and Acoustic Research AR-M20 DAP (aptX). Each device took mere seconds to connect and the Ampio VS-1880 was easily visible to all of them.
The wireless range is rated at 10 meters (32.8 feet) which seems to be the norm for most current Bluetooth devices. I found these numbers to be accurate, however, I noticed the signal strength was weaker on the ZX300 and it would cut out sooner than it did on my smartphone. Whether this is caused by the LDAC codec or the signal strength of the ZX300 DAC I don’t know. Either way, for normal use i.e. with the source in my pants or shirt pocket, there were no dropouts or loss of connection at any time.
Battery life on the VS-1880 is 10 hours according to the specifications and that is about what I have been getting. That’s pretty good longevity and should get most people through the day but if you do run out of power a full charge takes 1.5~2 hours.
So how does the Ampio VS-1880 sound? I tried it with a wide variety of in-ear monitors and headphones including DUNU DK-3001, Sennheiser IE 800 S, Toneking 9 Tail, Meze 99 Classics, Acoustic Research AR-H1 and Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro.
The results were excellent. The VS-1880 delivers a great sound that is transparent with rich dynamics and excellent staging. Extension from top to bottom is fantastic and really satisfying. Playing Hi-Res files from the Sony NW-ZX300 with LDAC produced a stunning audio quality that really took me by surprise.
Even streaming from my phone with regular aptX sounds great and both formats delivered a sound that comes very close to that of a wired setup. You really don’t need to sacrifice the quality of your audio if you want to go wireless plus you still have the option of plugging in a USB cable and going wired any time you want.
VS-1880 1KHz THD < 1%
The VS-1880 was able to deliver enough power to everything I plugged into it. However, with the AR-H1 and DT990 Pro I had the volume maxed out, so there’s very little headroom for harder to drive headphones. If you want similar functionality to the VS-1880 but require more power then you should take a look at the Ampio VD-6880 (review here). The VD-6880 has a much higher power output but the tradeoff is it’s a much larger device and not nearly as portable as the VS-1880.
Ampio VS-1880 Conclusion
If there ever was a compelling reason for me to go wireless this is what it would look like. A lot of wireless headphones are not that great in sound quality but the VS-1880 can turn your existing headphones and earphones into Hi-Res wireless devices and that’s very powerful.
If you’re using headphones that have a built-in microphone then you can use the VS-1880 as a headset to make phone calls with. Keep in mind that the VS-1880 can act as a USB DAC for your computer or tablet as well and you start to get an idea of just how versatile this gadget can be.
So, if you’re ready to cut the cord the Ampio VS-1880 is a great way to go about it and I would highly recommend it.