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.

  • Nadeem Khatak

    There’s something wrong with your sample or your laptop’s USB ports powering it. Check out Z’s review on the original and Origen+, there’s no complaints and he says it sounds transparent. Can’t tell the difference between his high end stuff and that, so I think you’re encountering a problem. He also states that it powers 95% of his headphones easily so your shoddy laptop’s USB port is most likely the culprit.

    • Kyle

      I’ve since returned the Origen+ to Micca after they sent me an email asking to send it in to make sure it isn’t faulty and haven’t heard back from them but will follow up if they have determined it was faulty.

      I’ve checked out Z’s review of the Origen+ and it’s basically established that Z should only be viewed as entertainment as his ears are rather suspect.

      My laptop is a Dell XPS13 9343 so I don’t think that’s the problem. I also used it out of a powered USB hub just in case and experienced the same problems. The Origen+ is just a bad product. Even if its gain happened to be high enough to get a headphone to listenable volume, it’s a pretty weak amp.

      • Nadeem Khatak

        Odd, alright well if they follow up on whether its faulty or not would be great.

        It would have been nice if you had tried another computer, but you did try a powered usb hub with no avail. (which may be like the same thing)

        Zeo’s has said over and over in multiple reviews that its a clean amp that delivers ample power to almost everything BUT still I can’t just take his word for it since your having problems.

        I have done a little bit of research, and apparently the parts inside the Micca Origen+ are pretty cheap to produce with of flagship quality. People also look down at USB power as it can be limiting and could introduce noise.

        Hopefully you get more information on it and are able to clear it up, right now I have my eyes on the Dac-X6 that’s about $60-70 on AliExpress with flagship parts that looks very promising.

        • Kyle

          Yeah, I was afraid it was my laptop, but if it didn’t improve out of the hub, I had no reason to assume it was my stuff.

          I hate to appeal to authority, but there are many others who are disappointed by the Origen+ also. In fact, there may be more people (with gear that is better than the Origen but bought the Origen as an alternate DAC/amp) who have expressed dissatisfaction than satisfaction with the Origen+. The Head-Fi thread on the Origen isn’t particularly positive, Reddit’s headphones subreddit had a thread for the Origen in which Zeos was the only experienced person who had a positive opinion of it: https://www.reddit.com/r/headphones/comments/4bbldm/weekly_dacampdap_discussion_34_micca_origen/

          The X6 seems to have similar parts as the Monoprice Desktop Amplifier (TPA6120, OPA2134) but the X6 uses a CS4398, which is also used in the Fiio X3ii and a few other DAPs while the Monoprice uses a PCM1793. Of course, none of these parts really matter if the implementation is poor. The PCM1793 is used in products like the $65 SMSL SD-793 to the $1,500 Burson Conductor Virtuoso, and I’d be willing to bet they don’t sound remotely the same. For something like the X6, I’d be very surprised if it’s as good as even a basic Schiit Magni/Modi.

          • Nadeem Khatak

            Damn dude, I don’t even know what to say. Your right, all over the place.

            I just saw the X6 here http://www.head-fi.org/t/809203/fx-audio-dac-x6-2016-release-potential-sub-100-king
            and after looking at those charts, especially the Japanese one that showed 24bit 192khz via Coax or Optical, and the CS4398 a flagship along with other quality chips at a good price.. It’s something I want to try. I understand that implementation is EXTREMELY important, but when I see the PCB shots, know the technical specs of the components, and it has a killer price ($65), it makes the Origen look dumb and definitely worth a try. Honestly it would be my first dac/amp and it would be a great stepping stone (hopefully) until I can get a magni/modi 2 uber stack.

          • crabbos

            That’s my review of the X6. I’m not sure what you mean by “seems like a personal experience” but isn’t every review just that? As it happens I fired it up just yesterday to answer a question someone had and I still find it to be a good DAC when you factor in the low price.

            As for the OriGen+ I’m not experiencing the same as Kyle. For me it has ample power – a couple days ago I forgot to turn down the volume before flipping the output switch to headphone and it nearly made my ears bleed on low gain. Mind you it was just an IEM but I haven’t had any trouble powering headphones from it either. Admittedly I haven’t tried any extra high impedance gear with it but will be getting a 600 ohm headphone that I can test with it over the next few days. I’m quite happy with it so far except for the Windows driver which has given me a few BSODs but that could be Microsoft’s fault.

          • Ritwik

            Great review. I am always vary of such products which claim to offer too much for too less.

            lol… Never liked the Zeo guy’s reviews. In a 20 min video there is hardly 2 min worthy information. He is not an experienced guy but I would say rather impulsive. Doesn’t know stuff but likes to jump on conclusions pretty fast. Unfortunately, dearth of reliable reviews has made such guys famous. People prefer to watch videos nowadays compared to read. So, I urge you to step up to the task if you could give a little of your valuable time. Adios.

  • MrPokeboy8

    Well then… I WAS looking at the Micca Origen for being my first external DAC/AMP ever, but now I don’t know what to do again. I want something around the price of the Origen that is a DAC/AMP that can power pretty much anything available (though, my most power hungry headphone I have right now would be the SHP9500; not much. Future proofing would be nice). It needs to be able to be portable (I was planning on using the Micca with my battery bank OTG) and have OTG support for my Oneplus One. I’m sorry if I sound bossy or rude, but I really don’t know what would be great for me. Even a price bump to ~$150 is possibly doable for me.
    Help, please.
    ;-;

  • MrPokeboy8

    Just so I look like a beggar now, would be HE-400s be a sizable upgrade from the SHP9500, and would you trust an eBay seller that starts bids always on $9.99 that has never sold a headphone until now listed as New Other saying, “new in open box”?

  • Daniel Bencomo

    Do you guys here at VerumSonus ever EVER like anything? It’s like all reviews are just pure hate.

    I don’t have this product and I don’t want to buy it. It’s just the perception I got from this site.