So is the Geshelli Archel 2 Pro the new budget headphone amp hero?… This is getting pretty old. I mean seriously, how is a person supposed to make a decision on a headphone amp when there are so many great choices. (Spoiler Alert:) Geshelli Labs has made your purchasing decision even harder with the introduction of the new Archel 2 Pro amp. Could the Archel 2 Pro amp be the new budget headphone amp hero.
Full disclosure: Geshelli Labs let me borrow the Archel 2 Pro for this review. I am paying to send it back in a few days. All said if you aren’t familiar with TLR, we review products honestly and openly. This review isn’t sent for pre-review and Geshelli Labs will see it at the same time as our readers.
The term no brainer comes to mind if you’re in the market for a headphone amp.
I’ve already spoiled the plot, the quick version of the review is that you should buy the Archel 2 Pro. If you have hard to push planar magnetic headphones you should buy the Archel 2.5 Pro though I need to mention that I’ve not had a chance to review the 2.5 Pro yet.
If you want to know why you should be spending your hard-earned Paso, Dollars, Yen, you get the picture, keep reading below.
So It Begins
I always start my reviews with the packaging. Geshelli Labs like most other amps that I have reviewed don’t come with much more than the amp and a power supply. Honestly, they don’t need to but, HEY! it’s my job to let you know that. The box is solid enough to keep the amp secure in transport so I really can’t ask for too much more.
Once you’ve removed the Archel 2 Pro and power supply from the box you’ll probably be wondering what’s up with this power supply… You’re not the only one. The power supply that comes with the Archel 2 Pro is by far the smallest and lightest power supply that I’ve ever seen on an amp of any size. What’s even more amazing is the fact that the power supply works, it really works! I for one love it. It’s easy to plug into a power strip or wall outlet, it doesn’t take up any extra spots and it sips power compared to most other headphone amps.
If Looks Could Kill
Let’s move onto the Archel 2 Pro itself. Geshelli Labs has a picture of an Archel 2 pro with a blue case with the smoke front and rear panel on their website. I’ll admit that it’s not the most flattering image and I want to make it completely clear the Archel 2 pro looks better in person and I find the flat black case with the smoked front and rear panels to be very sexy.
It’s the color scheme that I’ll be going with on my personal Geshelli amp. I have seen the silver chassis with the smoked panels and that color scheme is very attractive as well. What I’m trying to say is the Archel 2 Pro looks a lot better in person so don’t let the looks on the internet fool you. Check out Geshelli Labs to check out all the available colors, they are the only company that I know that allows such cosmetic customization.
Getting To Know The Geshelli Archel 2 Pro
The Archel 2 Pro only has 2 buttons. The button on the far left is the power button and the led off/color select. Holding down the first button will turn the Archel 2 on or off. When the Archel 2 Pro powers on you’ll see a short LED chase sequence ( Oh the little things) once the amp is ready to go the LED will illuminate blue and red to make purple. Pushing the first button again the LED will be blue, press again for red, and pressing a third time will turn them off.
The second button from the left is the source select/ gain button. pressing this button will swap between the RCA inputs or the 3.5mm input. Yes! you read that right this amp has 2 inputs so if you need 2 inputs this may be the amplifier for you. Pressing and holding this button will swap between unity mode (low gain) and 4x high gain. Simple to use right…
Same, Same, But Different
The next element on the front is the METAL 1/4 headphone output. Notice that I made the text bold. The Geshelli is the only amp that I’ve seen in this price range with a metal output. The Monoprice Liquid Spark, the Schiit Audio, the JDS Labs Atom all have plastic headphone jacks. #value
Moving on. Next to the metal 1/4 jack is the gain indicator LED. The first LED illuminates on low gain. Both LED illuminate when the Archel 2 is set to high gain. They are bright red and it is very easy to determine the selected gain level.
The last item on the front is the volume knob. The potentiometer feels firm and smooth. If you are familiar with the legendary volume knob that is on the Liquid Spark the Archel 2 Pro feels almost as good. I think the only reason the volume knob doesn’t feel exactly like the Liquid Spark is only due to knobs size difference. The smaller knob of the Archel 2 Pro seems harder to turn while the larger knob on the Liquid Spark feels just about perfect.
Baby Got Back
Onto the rear, the Archel 2 Pro doesn’t have much junk in the trunk if you get my drift. The rear of the amp is very, very minimalistic and clean and I like it. On the far left is the first input which is 3.5mm. This is fantastic if you use a phone, a portable music player or just want to use a basic 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable to attach the Archel 2 Pro to a PC. Next is the second input which is the RCA inputs. This is going to be the input that I think most people will use from a stand-alone DAC. I used the Schiit Audio Modi 3 which I reviewed here. The last thing that you see on the rear is the power input, I’ll mention it again it is comical in a good way how small the power supply is.
Well, we’ve arrived at the juicy bits that you’ve come for, how it sounds. I stated in the first paragraph that the Geshelli labs is a buy. Before I get into it though I want to say that I’m completing a comparison of the Archel 2 Pro, the Liquid Spark, and the Magni 3 so stay tuned if you want a more direct comparison to some of the competition.
Transparent And Clean
If I had to describe the Archel 2 Pro sound in a few words it would be transparent and clean. The Archel 2 Pro doesn’t color the sound what you put in is what you get out. (Transparent) if you use a DAC that has a warmer tone you’ll get a warmer sound, a transparent DAC a transparent sound and a cooler DAC will give you a cooler sound.
I found the Archel 2 Pro and the Schiit Modi 3 to be a decent pairing. I listened to songs across multiple genres from Hip-Hop all the way to Folk and had a good overall experience. Songs came across as I expected no weird quirks. The sound stage was on par with other quality headphone amps that I’ve tested. So at the basic level, the Geshelli Labs Archel 2 Pro is on par with other Fantastic headphone amps.
Once we start to dig a little bit deeper is when the Archel 2 Pro begins to separate itself from some of the other amps around its price and some above it for that matter. Let’s start with some very basic specs, I don’t believe numbers tell the entire picture so I try to avoid most really technical bits. However, if you want to see the specs, here you go.
Geshelli Archel 2 Pro Specs
The Archel on paper is a really clean amp, cleaner than many other amps in some areas including the infamously good THX 789. An amp that cost about 3 times the price. When it comes to output power the Archel is rated at 600mw or .6 watts. It can handle headphones from 16ohms – 600ohms and if I’m again being honest that is all the numbers you really need to know.
Noise on the Geshelli Archel 2 Pro is nonexistent to the point that a balanced output isn’t needed in my opinion. Using sensitive IEM no noise could be heard at low gain max volume or high gain without anything being played. Color me impressed.
Okay, so the amp sounds clean with no noise and the sound is transparent, but how does it really sound? I know that’s what you’re probably thinking… Or maybe you’re thinking, Jules it only has 600mw of power you can’t be serious.
Well, let me address your concerns.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
First, the listening experience is pleasing. Again the sound is transparent, I don’t feel that anything is added or subtracted from the audio as the artist intended. The lower power level is enough to play all the headphones that I tested the Tin HiFi T2 Pro, Grado SR80e, Beats EP, Hifiman He4XX, Koss KPH30i as well as the AKG K72 and Klipsch S6. The only outlier in the group being the harder to drive HE4XX planar which are noticeably harder to drive. The Archel 2 Pro plays the planar fine at low gain but high gain is really where you want to be. I’m pretty sure the Archel 2 Pro will push the even harder to drive T50 mods but I think if you have planar that are really hard to drive I’d jump up to the new Archel 2.5 Pro that has a full watt of power.
Before I get off the topic of power I found the Archel 2 pro 600mw to be just about perfect. Let me explain why. This Archel 2 pro amp like the Schiit Audio Magni 3 to my ears has a transparent sound. This is great in theory. In practice amps like the Magni 3 that have over 3 watts of power or 4 times the power of the Archel 2 Pro are double-edged swords. The bass impact or thump on the Magni 3 is stronger which sounds great. However, that same power that gives the extra thump in the low end can quickly destroy the listening experience in the higher frequencies.
Less Is More #TrueStory
Songs that have strong treble or border on being sibilant can quickly spiral into a piercing attack on your eardrums with the Schiit Magni 3. Archel 2 Pro, by comparison, has less power so it has ever so very slightly less impact in the bass and sub-bass region. (This is only something that you would notice by doing side by side testing) Again it’s not a deal-breaker it’s only slightly less. The larger difference is when that sword swings the other way. Archel 2 pro pushes right up to the levels where some songs can be sibilant. Where the Magni 3 is nails on a chalkboard piercing. The Archel 2 Pro is more resolving and is comfortable. Archel 2 Pro allows you to hear the song as the artist intended without the urge to throw off your headphones in a treble rich recording.
Final Thoughts On Geshelli Archel 2 Pro
Let’s wrap this review up. I think most of you get the point but let me sum it up really quickly. Geshelli Labs amps are made in the U.S.A. Geshelli is the only amp manufacturer that I’ve seen that allows you to customize your amps body and faceplate. The Archel 2 Pro on paper should be better in some ways compared to the JDS Labs Atom and THX 789. This is completely nuts for the asking price. The term no brainer comes to mind if you’re in the market for a headphone amp. If you have hard to driver planar headphones get the Archel 2.5 Pro. Everyone else can save some money and get the Archel 2 Pro… You’ll thank me later!!
If you have any questions or comments drop them below in the comment section. Also be on the lookout for the upcoming headphone amp comparison.