Micca Origen+ Mini-Review (Updated 10/2/2016)

Very rarely do I buy a piece of gear that so utterly disappoints me so much that I feel like I have to restrain myself from talking about how I really feel about it because I don’t want it to seem like I actually have a bias against it. The Micca Origen+ is one such item.

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The Micca Origen+ is a compact DAC/amp that can be powered through a USB. It has an SPDIF-in, ¼ and 1/8 headphone jacks, and pre-out. It’s all metal, feels reasonably sturdy, and has a nice, smooth metal knob on top. It has a nice, simple packaging with all the accessories I’d probably need other than the optional PS.

That’s basically all the good I can say about this. I’m going to keep this one brief and relatively informal as far as my normal reviews go because I don’t want to beat a dead horse.

It’s the worst sounding amp I’ve ever used.

It’s the weakest amp I’ve ever used.

It gave my laptop at least three BSODs.

I have a decent of headphones here. Only one of them works with the Origen+. It’s not a synergy thing, it’s a fact that this thing has no gain. Seriously, here’s a list of headphones I have on hand that didn’t get loud enough for the Origen+ even at max and high gain:

AKG K240 Sextett

AKG K270 Playback and Studio

Beyerdynamic T1

All 6 T50RP mods I have

Sennheiser HD800

Yamaha HP3

Here’s a list of headphones I have here that get to normal listening volume with the Origen+ and the approximate knob position:

Audeze Sine (3 o’clock)

Aurisonics ASG2.5 (3 o’clock)

Modded Fostex TR70 (4 o’clock)

Oppo PM2 (2 o’clock)

But none of these should be a surprise. On my iPhone 6S+, I only have to put the volume up to roughly 50% to use the PM2 with it. The specs claim 5.6Vrms but I have a hard time believing it because my PM2 seems to have more symptoms of being underdriven from the Origen+ than it does out of my phone: muddy bass, clouded midrange, lack of air. For comparison, the iPhone 6S+ puts out roughly 1Vrms at max volume.

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(Yeah, the print is actually not straight on the Origen+. They’re very slightly slanted and the switches are just short of centered)

Sound

Not only does the Origen+ have less power than your average elementary school hall monitor, it also sounds pretty bad. The Origen+ has the magical ability to make my headphones sound both really, really unnaturally warm, but also make cymbals painfully shrill.

Bass

Along with the lack of power, which can make headphones’ bass sound muddled together, it seems to introduce its own additional warmth, contributing to the muddy sound.

Midrange

The warmth might help with midrange presentation if one really wants warm lower mids, but upper mids lack body—I don’t think I’ve ever had this problem with an amp, but it actually made upper mids lose so much body and depth that I found myself not paying attention to music because I kept subconsciously tuning it out.

Treble

Recessed with a spike in the mid to upper treble that makes cymbals particularly painful. I’ve never heard an amp make this much of a negative difference. I’m usually willing to admit if I use amp for long enough I stop caring about sound differences but the Origen+ always sounded so bad that if I wasn’t tuning music out, I was wincing.

Soundstage

I usually don’t bother with soundstage because I admit I’m not the most adept at pointing it out but for some reason, the Origen+ made my headphones sound really, really compressed. My PM2 isn’t spacious to begin with, but the Origen+ made them sound like IEMs.

Conclusion

I’m actually almost sorry I wrote this review. I don’t intend to make buyers of the Origen+ feel bad about themselves, and I certainly don’t want to make it seem like I dislike Micca; their entry level speakers aren’t half bad, but the Origen+ is, in my opinion, a piece of work. I wanted to like this so badly because I love the form factor and convenience of it but it’s just so bad. Seriously, don’t buy this. My laptop’s headphone out sounds better. My phone sounds better. I don’t like trashing budget gear because I get it—this hobby is expensive. I’ve been in this hobby for about ten years now and know how tempting it is to buy something cheap to stave off a much more expensive upgrade. But the best way to save money and be able to afford the gear you want is to save up and not waste money on stopgap products. If you really need an amping solution and your desktop has a noisy card, many people recommend the Monoprice Desktop Amplifier. I’m probably going to buy one in the near future so I can recommend it myself if it’s worth buying. But please, don’t buy this. It’s $110. There are much better ways to spend $110 in this hobby than on an amp that can’t even drive most headphones. Yes, it’s small and fits on most desks but what use is it if it can’t even do its job properly?

UPDATE:

Micca has been kind enough to send me another unit and I’ve been “burning it in” for the past two weeks to remove any potential doubt. Strangely, I’m getting more volume, but I’m not necessarily getting more power. It sounds basically exactly the same as I remember, but it’s louder. The HD800 is loud enough for normal listening levels, and the T50RP is loud enough at max volume (strangely, turning the knob from 4 o’clock to max doesn’t change loudness significantly), but it doesn’t really sound better or more controlled than my Dell XPS13’s headphone out at the same volume. It’s an interesting exercise in volume =/= power because the Origen will get loud enough for most headphones, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s powered well enough. Sadly, I still can’t really recommend the Origen+ but I admire Micca for standing by their product and hope that their future products are much better.