HeadRoom Desktop Amp / DAC
Bristling with inputs, outputs and switches to manage your desktop audio world, the HeadRoom Desktop Headphone Amplifier delivers amazing fidelity and complete control. Not just a head-amp, the Desktop Amp/DAC is a true analog~digital switching center featuring dual RCA inputs and volume-controlled line output via Cardas RCA connectors. For digital sources, USB [computer], optical or coax S/PDIF digital inputs feed directly into our exclusive digital-to-analog converter (DAC) stage. Includes 1/4" + 1/8" headphone jacks along with renown HeadRoom crossfeed for awesome headphone imaging plus 3-position gain to precisely match any headphone impedance.
- Delivers true high-end headphone audio with Class-A biasing and Jung 'Diamond Buffer' output stage
- Improves headphone imaging with HeadRoom's famous crossfeed circuit.
- 3-position Gain switch optimized for headphones of different efficiencies
- Easily switches between two analog line inputs and/or three digital inputs
- Includes volume controlled pre-amp output for desktop speakers
What's In The Box:
- Standard Power Supply
- Owners Manual
The center of your desktop-based listening universe arrives in a curvilinear black-anodized aluminum chassis surrounded by protective molded urethane bezels. The HeadRoom Desktop Amp/DAC presents an integrated solution for all your demanding audiophile headphone listening situations in both digital and analog domains regardless whether it's a headphone-only or a monitor-oriented application. So no matter if you connect to an iPad/ iPhone/ iPod, Windows, Linux or MAC computer, CD/DVD player, pre-amp, turntable phono stage, home theatre/ component stereo system, gamer box, or custom audio front-end, this nook-sized 'Made in Montana' HeadRoom rig driving your favorite reference headphones will transform your personal and near-field headspace into pure sonic nirvana.
The Swiss Army Knife of Headphone Audio
Along with analog dual stereo RCA inputs, the 'DAC' (Digital-to-Analog Converter) stage within the HeadRoom Desktop Amp/DAC allows the ability to connect any digital-based audio source directly to the amp via optical or co-axial S/PDIF digital inputs OR straight from any computer’s USB port. Go ahead and hook up everything at the same time -- up to five different sources -- and then select between them at the flick of a switch or two. That's amongst the many flexible "Audio Swiss-Army Knife" design features of our amazing HeadRoom Desktop Headphone Amp/DAC unit; The Desktop Amp/DAC can also easily act as an advanced switching center [i.e., 'pre-amp'] for all your various audio sources at home or on your workstation.
The front panel of the Desktop Amp/DAC sports both full-size 1/4" and mini-plug 1/8” [3.5mm] stereo headphone jacks for use with most standard headphone terminations. The amp will easily drive two headphones simultaneously. A 3-position gain switch on the front panel lets you select the operating range for headphones with any impedance or efficiency. Separate crossfeed and filter switches allow the user to adjust the audio presentation to your particular tastes and an On/Off power switch is also handily located on the front. The Desktop Amp/DAC has a rear panel connection for the +/-15VDC linear regulated standard AC power supply (included). The rear panel also has a 2 pair of RCA analog inputs with an input selector switch that allows you two analog sources connected to your Desktop Amp at all times. The Desktop Amp/DAC can also be used as a simple pre-amplifier and features a volume-controlled output on the rear panel suitable for use with powered bookshelf /computer speakers or for linking the HeadRoom Desktop Amp/DAC to a larger amplifier, pre-amp or home theatre system. The rear output can be defeated by a front panel switch when listening solely to headphones.
The 'electronics module' is the internal circuit board chiefly responsible for the amp's sound quality. The module found in the Desktop Amp uses Burr-Brown 2134 op-amps while adding a series of constant-current sources to force everything into true "Class-A" biasing. This 'Home' analog module is tightly coherent, seamlessly smooth, and very accurate-sounding with precise musical detail resolution, an ultra-wide dynamic range extension, and an expressive, nuanced musical presentation throughout the entire frequency range.
About the Digital to Analog Converter (DAC)
A DAC allows your HeadRoom unit to accept any digital audio signal and convert it to warm analog sound using premium chip set electronics. The DAC then sends that converted analog audio signal to the headphone amp stage of the Desktop Amp for final clean amplification into your headphones. The DAC in the HeadRoom Desktop Amp is based on the excellent Cirrus CS4398 chip which is their top-of-the-line flagship DAC. There is frankly not too much we can do here at HeadRoom to make it sound even better but, as always, we give it a darn good shot. This installation offers superb overall audio performance from any digital-output audio source, an organic analog-like timbral smoothness, and cogent musical detail resolution while pushing the DAC stage into critical "Class-A" performance biasing. Accepts all valid S/PDIF formats up to 24/96kHz; USB to 16/44.1 kHz.
Desktop Amp / DAC Power Supply
The HeadRoom Desktop Amp/DAC comes standard with a 120-Volt linear-regulated 'brick' AC power supply 'brick' for North American customers. International Desktop Amp/DAC purchasers receive the Astrodyne 'Universal-Voltage' power supply for a small upcharge.
For fully maximized timbral/tonal clarity, quickened dynamic range extension, and precise musical detail resolution, we highly recommend employing our HeadRoom Desktop Power Supply suitable for worldwide voltages [pictured above underneath the Desktop Amp/DAC] which delivers audibly improved sound quality and musical dynamics with an extremely quiet background noise floor.
Accessories & Cables
The HeadRoom Desktop Amp/DAC does NOT include any interconnect cabling. A USB cable will allow you to hook up your Desktop Amp's internal DAC to any computer. If using the optical input, you will need an Optical Digital Cable. If using coaxial-digital inputs, consider this coaxial cable. To hook up your Desktop Amp to a portable audio player [iPod/MP3/iPhone/Blackberry, etc.] with an 1/8” (3.5mm) output, you will need a 'Mini to-RCA' interconnect cable like these from StraightWire or Kimber Kable. If you are using an audio source with stereo left/right RCA connections, you'll need an RCA interconnect cable. Or just take a full look at all of our sundry audio cables stocked at HeadRoom.
If you need help choosing your own HeadRoom amp, please contact us for personalized help by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling our highly knowledgeable, friendly, 'no-commission' HeadRoom sales staff toll-free at 800.828.8184.
You can also learn much more about our HeadRoom electronics modules, D-A converters, amplifier topology designs and volume controls under our exhaustive "HeadRoom Learning Center" links.
The HeadRoom Desktop Amp/DAC measures 6 ¼” x 6 ¼” x 3 1/3” [inches] tall and weighs in at around 1.9 lbs of lovely audiophilic delight (w/o power supply). All our HeadRoom 'Desktop Line' products are hand-built by highly skilled, perfection-obsessed technicians. The free 2-year manufacturer's product warranty covers any & all eventualities and is serviced exclusively through the manufacturer (HeadRoom, that's us!) located in beautiful Bozeman Montana USA since1992.
- Dimensions: 6 ¼” x 6 ¼” x 3 1/3”
- Weight: 2 lbs (.9 kg)
- Frequency Response: 10–50k, ±0.3
- Amplifier Group: The Desktop Line
- THD at 1V output: <.002%
- Input Impedance at 1kHz (ohms): 70k
- Home Use: yes
- DAC: yes
- Warranty: 2 Years
- Output Impedance: 0.5 ohm
- Output Voltage: 10Vrms
- Product Manuals
- Desktop Amp Manual
Posted by alienlogic from Nashville, TN on 2013-03-18
Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Liquid smooth depth and clarity, very technical presentation
Cons: Wish the USB input could handle 24/96
I'm a novice audiophile, but I can tell you this much- the Desktop *transforms* the Grado RS-2. It reins in their typically warm presentation and brings out a restrained, technical, and highly detailed quality that the RS-2 never showed when fed via my Total Airhead. They sounded good via the trusty Airhead, no doubt, but this is a serious step above. It brings the RS-2 almost into Sennheiser territory in terms of an analytical listening experience. Balanced, fluid, neutral.
Fortunately if this is too detached sounding (and on some material it is), a combination of the crossfeed and brightness settings can restore some of the liveliness. These settings also have the effect of expanding the range of material that the RS-2s can deliver. A Vivaldi recording by Budapest Strings sounded just as precise and articulate as one would hope (and more beautiful than I'd ever heard this particular recording rendered before), and yet this same rig delivered the likes of Autechre, Nine Inch Nails, Talking Heads, and Steely Dan (all of these with 24bit sources) with equal impressiveness. Some tuning with crossfeed and brightness was required with Nine Inch Nails in particular (the remastered high-res version "The Downward Spiral") but the benefit was that I could now easily pick individual elements out of their very dense mixes. Most pleasing of all was the 2009 remaster of the Beatles' "Abbey Road". Amazing presence on that one, hearing Sir Paul fingering the bass as if he was sitting there.
Headroom advertises that to get the best experience with a quality set of cans, go with a quality amp. This is absolutely correct. And at least up to the price of this little beast, you really do get what you pay for.
I'm one of the lucky ones who got one of these just before they were discontinued. Why they would be discontinued, I don't understand, unless something better is on the way? If you have the itch and can afford it, go straight to the Ultra Desktop. If the regular Desktop is that good, the Ultra must be amazing.
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Posted by Pierrot from Mexico City on 2012-04-21
Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Multi task (Crossfeed, amp, preamp, filters, DAC)
Cons: no one for me
I use my Laptop conected to this wonderful thing + Sennheiser HD650. The DAC cirrus Logic do a very good job. Some songs you can hear one or two instrument on one side (left or right) for those song the crossfeed is amazing and for normal song it give more soundstage. I love this thing because is many things in one. Some songs have a black veil and the filters remove that. I like the filter 2 in some songs because feel more natural.
If you are from Mexico, belive me no problems. Im from Mexico City and I'm so happy with this amazing thing.
Headroom crew and Tyll Hertsens very good job!!!
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Posted by Alex699 from Sydney, AUSTRALIA on 2012-02-15
Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Sheer versatility
Cons: Warm sound with certain headphones
That said I like the amp a whole lot but even with me flicking the filter switch through the different genres of music I listen to it's not that sound I was after. I generally pair this amp to my K 702's with the Cardas upgrade cable which I have noticed has allowed me the use of a lot more different amps than the standard one has.
I find the amp to give a rather warm feel which I found very strange when I tried the old now HeadRoom Max amp with a pair of balanced HD800's and I thought I was in musical heaven as well as buying a total AirHead before this purchase. The point that I'm trying to make is, is that it's a very good amp for its price just not what I was after. Also as a side mention I'm using the Astrodyne power supply which is rather good.
To all that read this review all I can say is that I hope this has helped even just the tiniest as before I bought this amp there were no reviews on how it sounded and what the unit was paired with and what headphones where used.
Thanks for reading.
EDIT: Thoughts after a recent head-fi meet.
I had a chance to try out other's gear i.e. headphones, amps, dacs, and cables. I had my usual set-up PC (Winamp) - optical out - HeadRoom Desktop Amp - Headphones. I again went through the same demo'ing but only changing the cans just to see if all my problems were to do with the amp, and boy was I wrong! It powered the HD800's, T1's, and a range of Grado's and Ultrasone's with ease and grace.
The difference was nothing that I had expected. I detest the HD800's were my favourite can above all, on note: this amp almost beat the lehmannaudio black cube linear which is from a much higher price bracket.
Although it must be noted this amp/dac is exactly as advertised "A Swiss Army Knife" it does almost everything and anything, however asked to excel at one thing in particular it can't because it simply isn't designed for that, it is an all in one product. Period.
One final issue that really bugs me with the amp/dac is that the USB part of the DAC chipset can't handle anything above 24bit/48k and won't oversample unlike the optical/coaxial part of the chipset. Speaking of which - on the Cirrus website it says that it can handle 24/192 audio, up-sampled.
As noted above with the K 702's it does have a rather thin sound and I've learned not to expect a whole lot more even when using $20k gear they won't sound a great deal better.
Based on all above thoughts I'll be using my HeadAmp for sometime to come, even I do get my HD800's. Trust me I won't be in much of a rush to be buying a better amp or DAC.
If you read all that above and it made some sense, I hope it helped you on your way to purchase albeit a little wiser than I was. Thanks for reading.
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