Early last month, V-Moda CFO Val Kolton stopped by The Verge offices with his company's latest gadget: an iPhone case that combines a high-grade headphone amplifier and digital-to-analog converter with an external battery pack. As he began describing Vamp — which has officially launched today to the tune of $650 — Kolton made it clear this isn't a mainstream-targeted product. Not by any stretch. Rather, the case has been designed for "audiophile" iPhone 4 / 4S owners.

"It's a connoisseur product," he said. And that's a crowd he's familiar with; Kolton and V-Moda keep an active presence on the forums at Head-Fi.org, a community that has evolved into one of the web's preeminent resources for all things headphones. Members there have been closely tracking the development of Vamp over the past several months. Yet as its release has drawn closer and new details have been revealed, some of that anticipation has shifted to disappointed — often in reaction to Vamp's stratospheric MSRP. Does a $650 device with such a niche audience have any chance at success? We can't predict the future, but we do have some impressions to share.