The Lisa Labs 3 by Triad Audio — Headfonics

okay i lied a bit technically its the lisa labs 3 with the lisa lab power supply sitting under the black utility amp fairly transportable but kinda big portable lisa labs 3. of course i’ll make up for that lie by telling you this is maybe one of the best portable amps i’ve ever tried but then i’ll stop you quietly saying the l3 with the llp will set you back $1125.00 combined or $800.00 for the l3 alone. that’s some serious money, but then that’s some serious, if slightly understated, audio amperage, which, frankly, I have no idea why this isn’t more popular. i can only guess at the price but then the lcd-2 is priced even higher and that hasn’t stopped it from flying off shelves all over the world. amps can be hot amps can be the flavor of the month but when the dust settles they have to get the job done and get it done right and the l3 (with the llp) is for me one of those portable/transportable solutions for hearing aids that could claim to be one of the best.

big kudos to me but when it comes to portable solutions you tend to get a bit weary with the latest ‘this and that’ to power your headphones so meet the guys at triad, hear why they built it and what it is. i can do and listen to it myself i felt like i was reborn, like those days after i bought my first serious headphone, the sr80i degree.

Reading: Lisa headphone amp

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Of course, the price demands that we don’t pick a bit to be fair, as the l3 isn’t the most ergonomic or portable amp on the market today and by no means the cheapest. the monolithic black casing is really old school and the slightly recessed 3.5mm with oversized input and output labeling could do with a little more space and is very close to the big volume and bass pots reminiscent the rx3 form factor from alo audio. the back is a bit more revealing of the triad’s audio intent and positioning with rca outputs allowing for a desktop mini setup for a dac of your choice, a gain switch and the power link for the power brick of the smooth lab. the power brick is quite simple and looks like a slightly elongated l3 with a dc on, some flashing leds. the l3 sits pretty well on top of the power supply and heat dissipation is pretty minimal on both.

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you can run the l3 through the llp as a generated head amp or just leave it on for charging. both have a sturdy sticker on top in case you forget who made it. it won’t win on looks but both the l3 and llp are very solid and extremely well built and from another point of view make a very neat and tidy desktop setup if paired with an equally portable dac setup. the gain setting gives you a bit of flexibility for iem, but I’m not 100% convinced, this is the best setting for iem. the bass boost for this amp is more of a “feature” than essential and to be honest it works great at low settings but bleeds a bit at higher levels. I had the feeling that anything past 12 noon on the bass boost dial detracted from what was already a very well balanced tonality.

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As a standalone configuration, the l3 is comparable to some pretty good desktop configurations. the l3 never trades you for clarity, impact, or punch. I already brought this to a few meetings and the consensus is expensive but very musical, impactful and addictive. i agree that it makes most barren cans come to life and even the hardest to drive very articulate and engaging. the k501 isn’t known for its uncomplicated blending, but in the hands of the l3, the bottom end was extended by so many more notches, the mids were just as clean, and the tonality was perfect. the l3 has a beautifully balanced quality that, while not the last word on details, is certainly at the forefront of musicality and emotion for me personally.

of course at $800 you can find a class a desktop that can be had and bundled with a high end dac which might put you in question why buy a laptop with a power pack attached to your rear just in case. that’s actually a question I keep coming back to. the l3 is too big and the battery too weak to be an undisputed king of the portable amp market. but the sound quality is unmatched by me in almost any portable solution on the market today if you’re looking for pure impact that commands attention. I still lean a bit towards the smooth analog bass tones of the uha-120 combined with cans like the k550, but the l3 beats it for slam, soundstage and speed in more demanding headphones like the lcd-2.

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as far as what input and output configuration to use, i found that the l3 combined with the llp using the rca inputs is superior to the single 3.5mm line input on the front of the l3; better dynamics, larger soundstage and greater extension. this of course makes it a mini desktop but the only comparable portable solution i can think of that comes close is the l3 tethered ibasso dx100 and to be honest as beautiful as the combination may sound i’d be lucky to have half a day off. of that configuration.

Final Thoughts

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the l3 has the wow factor, combined with the llp power pack even more. unfortunately, it also comes with a bit of a wow factor in price, giving it a bit of a niche in the general audiophile market. For those looking for a high end miniature headphone amp setup though the L3 is unmatched. combine it with a similar dac such as the kingrex ud384 and the clarity reaches an incredible level. The L3 is built to last, it’s old school, it won’t fall apart and it will appeal to fans of which there are many frowning in search of audiophile “hits” like these. the consumer market will be less enamored to be honest and some with $800 may prefer a full burson or a woo but if you have the time test them against the l3 and llp and see if that little black box can convince you to part ways. your hard-earned money.

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