The battle of the best sub $2,000 amp is fierce I must say, as there is so much competition in this category. There has been many new arrivals in this category since the Mini was released, so some may be wondering if it is still a valid option today. In this review I will evaluate this amplifier’s strengths and weaknesses, and if it is the best option at its given price bracket. This is a fun amplifier, and while it definitely has its highlights, there are some things that I would improve upon. Let’s now fully examine the GSX mini:
Build and Features:
My personal unit is a beautiful Champagne Gold color which is stunning, but there are other color options to choose from depending on your preference. The GSX Mini has a solid build, and everything on this unit is well put together. The cool thing about this amp is that when you turn it on, a glowing red light is present through the grill holes of the amp. I feel that this is a nice touch, and it is nice to look at when you are listening to the Mini in the dark. On the front of this unit, we can see the Champagne Gold plate and knob. The power, gain, pre-amp, and input switches are also present, and the 6.35mm SE unbalanced and XLR balanced outputs are seen. On the back of the Mini are XLR and RCA inputs, and XLR and RCA pre-amp outputs, along with the power input. Now let’s move on to the fun part, which is the beloved sound section.
Bass on the GSX Mini is a highlight, especially with easier to drive headphones. The bass is well separated from the mix from a track, and it’s positioned well. I like how energetic it can be, depending on the DAC you select to pair with it. I love the Mini’s resolution and texture in this area, and I can easily distinguish which bass note are being played. The low end is incredibly fast and effortless. This was especially enjoyable with the Final Audio D8000 Pro series and any egg shaped Hifiman. As long as you are not using a crazy demanding planar magnetic headphone like the Hifiman Susvara or Mod House Tungsten, you will have zero issues with bass control. Low end on the Mini may not have the rumble of a tube amp in this price category, or the hard-hitting capabilities of a Ferrum Orr, but it’s still very balanced and acceptable.
Midrange on the Mini is also very solid minus one area which I will examine. I love the instrument separation in this frequency range, as I can distinctly tell where they were placed in the song arrangement and mix. There is a great sense of depth in the stage, and I have no complaints about the imaging and soundstage size, as the stage is grand and wide. I love the way brass and stringed instruments sound on this amp, it is an addictive experience for sure. Texture and timbre are not an issue in this area, and resolution is good as well. The one thing I would improve about the midrange performance is vocals. Not because of how it sounds tonally, but at time’s vocals can be a little too intimate. If the vocals were presented with a bit more depth, I think the midrange would have been close to ideal. The tonality is good, with the Ferrum Orr slightly beating it out in this area. Overall, the midrange performance is very solid, and no major complaints on my end.
Treble performance is again very solid, but can be a bit divisive. I love the amount of detail and resolution this amp throws in this region, and the imaging is also great. Soundstage again is wide, and you can easily hear little nuances and imperfections in the mix deep into the stage. The depth of the stage is also great, and little elements can be heard a good distance in front of you. Higher frequencies don’t sound artificial and elements are well textured as well, timbre is also solid. The real issue of the high end is that I feel that there is some glare in this region tonally. I feel that it is happening somewhere in the lower to mid treble, but to me only becomes an issue when paired with a sterile source.
Some find this elevation or glare offensive, some don’t mind it. This depends on your preference, and the source gear and headphones you have. I feel that some may prefer the Ferrum Orr tonality, or a tube amps warmth, but some may like the exciting nature of the Mini’s treble presentation.
The technical performance of this amp in totality is generally very solid. The Mini as already discussed has a wonderful soundstage presentation, and it almost sounds holographic at times. I have no complaints about the imaging and instrument separation of this amp, depth is great as well, with vocal depth being it’s main weakness. Resolution and detail are good as well, with the Orr slightly edging it out in this area. Timbre and texture is also nice on this amp, with some tube amps in its price range winning, and the Orr by a little. Power is decent, it’s going to struggle to drive very few demanding headphones out there properly, but it’s fine. This is where the Ferrum Orr takes a clear leap in technical performance, but Mini is honestly fine with 90 percent of headphones out there. Now let’s move on to the synergy section.
I love GSX Mini with Gustard a26 and Ares 2. It was fine with Gustard x18 and x26 pro, but a little glare was there. I did not like this amp with any Topping DAC I tried it with, and I didn’t like it with any super warm tilted DAC, like some of the offerings from Schiit. Others I know personally said Mini sounds sublime with Gustard r26, which I can also see being good from a tonality standpoint. Overall, as long as you don’t pair this amp with any gooey warm or bright sterile DAC, you will have a good experience for sure. Synergy is important with this amp, but once you get it right it’s great.
Simply put I really enjoy the GSX mini. It may not be perfect, and it has a quirky character with how it produces sound. While it sounds a little unique in ways, it still manages to deliver on key technical areas. This amp with easy to drive headphones is such a treat, and most importantly it manages to be fun. This is not an amplifier that is trying to be reference, but it has a unique character that I quite like. If you have any egg shaped Hifiman like Ananda, Arya, anything in the he1000 line, or even any D8000 series headphone, especially the LE, all I have to say is get ready for a wild ride. This headphone amp may not be the best at its price, rather I think the Orr is slightly better. I do think this amp is still a great consideration though, if your preferences align with it, and you value its strengths that were mentioned previously in this review. Thank you everyone.