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HeadRoom Ultra Desktop Amp

Discontinued
MSRP $1,599.00
This product is no longer available for purchase.

Delivering the total control of our standard Desktop Amp/DAC but with significantly improved sound via 'Class A' reference electronics and upsampling D-to-A Converter, the HeadRoom Ultra Desktop Amp makes headphone dreams come true for audiophile and sound professional alike. Two analog inputs and 'volume controlled' line-output on Cardas RCA connectors, plus computer USB, optical or coax S/PDiF digital inputs allow all your sources to be connected simultaneously and switch between them as needed. Features 1/4" and 1/8" headphone jacks and our world-famous HeadRoom crossfeed for natural headphone imaging. 3-position gain precisely drives audiophile headphones of any impedance.



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Product Features:

  • True reference headphone audio with Class-A biasing and Jung Diamond Buffer output
  • Perfect headphone imaging with HeadRoom's famous crossfeed circuitry
  • Internal up-sampling HeadRoom 'Max' DAC installation standard
  • Switches between two analog line inputs and three digital USB and S/PDIF inputs
  • Includes 'volume controlled' pre-amp out for desktop powered speakers
  • 3-position gain switch optimizes for headphones of any efficiency or impedance

What's In The Box:

  • International Astrodyne power suppy (worldwide voltage)

Applications:

For demanding audiophilic listeners seeking to go all-out for their high-end headphone listening experience, we offer our fully-loaded version of the HeadRoom Desktop Amp with the top-level electronics module and DAC installations. The HeadRoom Ultra Desktop Amp comes stock with the top-performing internal parts and audio componentry we offer at HeadRoom so rest assured no expense is spared delivering the very best reference headphone sound quality into your noggin. The HeadRoom Ultra Desktop Amp will provide an integrated solution for all 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 iPod, laptop/PC computer, portable CD/DVD player, HeadRoom Power Amps, pre-amp, turntable phono stage, big home theatre, component stereo system, gamer box, or custom audio front-end, this nook-sized 'made in Montana, USA' HeadRoom rig driving your favorite reference headphones will transform personal and near-field headspace into pure sonic nirvana. 

Features

The front panel of the Ultra Desktop Amp sports both full-size 1/4" and mini-plug 1/8" [3.5mm] stereo headphone jacks for use with most 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/efficiency rating. Discrete crossfeed and filter switches allow the user to adjust the audio presentation to your particular tastes, and, of course, an on/off power switch is also handily located on the front. The Ultra Desktop Amp has a rear panel connection for the included international-voltage Astrodyne AC power supply. The rear of the amp also has 2 independent sets of stereo RCA analog inputs with an input selector switch to choose your analog source, allowing you to have two analog-output audio components connected to your Ultra Desktop Amp at all times. The DAC allows for direct input from USB, optical, or digital co-axial audio connections so listeners can effectively have up to five audio sources hooked up to the Ultra Desktop Amp simultaneously. The Ultra Desktop Amp can also be used as a pre-amp and features a volume-controlled ['variable-output'] stereo RCA outs on the rear panel suitable for hooking up to powered bookshelf /computer speakers or for linking the HeadRoom Ultra Desktop Amp to a larger amplifier, stereo receiver or home theatre system. The RCA output can be defeated by a front panel switch when listening solely to headphones.

Electronics Module

The 'electronics module' is the internal circuit board chiefly responsible for the amp's sound quality. The HeadRoom Ultra Desktop Amp's top-of-the-line electronics module is physically quite a bit larger in size than our other modules in order to accommodate the superb one-to-a-package Burr-Brown OPA627 op-amps. These parts are some of the most expensive audio op-amp chipsets money can buy, but they are totally worth it. Liquid-quick, transparent, intricately detailed highs and a deeply textural, rich bass response bracket an organically ultra-smooth & silky midrange. We are head-deep into serious Class-A operation here, audiophiles!

Digital to Analog Converter (DAC)

A DAC allows your HeadRoom unit to accept a digital audio signal and convert it to warm analog sound using our premium HeaRoom D-A electronics. The DAC sends that converted analog audio signal to the headphone amp stage of the Ultra Desktop Amp for final clean amplification into your headphones. A significant step for "Ultra" hot-rodded DAC [Digital-to-Analog-Conversion] performance is to insert an asynchronous sample rate converter and do a bit of fancy up-sampling and complex de-jittering so that's precisely what we've done in the DAC within the Ultra Desktop Amp. A lovely AD1896 chip lives between the digital receiver and the D-A stage. It collects incoming digital data, stores it, up-samples it, interpolates it, picks a nice juicy word, and then clocks it out right on time. The thing probably does more complex math in a thousand of a millisecond than can be done with a calculator in a year!  USB input handles 16 bit/ 44.1kHz. SPDIF optical and co-ax connections support 24 bit/192kHz input. All are effectively up-sampled to 192kHz output.

Power Supply Upgrades

The HeadRoom Ultra Desktop amp comes stock with the excellent 'international-voltage' Astrodyne power supply which delivers clean, quiet, and robust current on demand for the unit. As a convenient plus, the Astrodyne will auto-correct & properly regulate the incoming voltage for the Ultra Desktop from any AC outlet anywhere on the planet, so no more worrying about the current/voltage supplies for your amp when traveling. However, keep in mind that the Max electronics module/Max DAC performance will significantly improve when employing the separately-sold Desktop Power Supply which fully realizes the stunning audio clarity and precise musical detail resolution potential of these upscale 'Max' components. Remember, deep 'Class-A'-biased electronics are power-hungry and demand instantaneous, precise, and perfectly regulated AC current delivery to sound their very best -- which is exactly what we've achieved with our in-house designed & manufactured HeadRoom DPS!

Accessories

The HeadRoom Ultra Desktop Amp does not include any interconnect cabling. A USB cable will allow you to hook up your Ultra Desktop Amp to a computer. If using the amp's optical input with audio sources offering digital-optical output, you will need an Optical Digital Cable, and if you are using a coaxial connection from your digital-coaxial source [e.g., satellite/cable box or home theatre receiver unit] then take a look at this superb Acoustic Research coaxial cable. To hook up your Ultra Desktop Amp to portable audio players with an 1/8" (3.5mm) output like an Apple iPod, you'll need an 'RCA-to-mini' interconnect cable. We highly recommend the excellent StraightWire mini to RCA cable.

Dimensions

The HeadRoom Ultra Desktop amp measures 6 1/4" x 6 1/4" x 3 1/3" [inches] tall and weighs in at around 1.9 lbs of lovely audiophilic delight. All HeadRoom Ultra Desktop products are hand-built in Bozeman Montana, USA by our best audio-obssesed technicians.

Specifications:

  • DAC: yes
  • Weight: 1.8lbs (.8 kg)
  • Dimensions: 6 ¼” x 6 ¼” x 3 1/3”
  • Frequency Response: 10–50k, ±0.3
  • Input Impedance at 1kHz (ohms): 70k
  • THD at 1V output: < 0.002%
  • Amplifier Group: The Desktop Line
  • Balanced: no
  • Home Use: yes
  • Warranty: 2 Years
  • Output Voltage: 10Vrms
  • Output Impedance: 0.5 ohm

Additional Resources:

Reviews At A Glance
6 Reviews
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Average Rating 
(Showing 3 of 6 reviews)



A tremendous amp / dac
Posted by NA Blur from Bozeman, MT on 2011-02-03

Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Build quality, weight, added sound value
Cons: Price, lack of inputs / outputs

This is the best amp / dac combo for the price that adds so much fun and detail to your music collection. Be it mp3, FLAC, or straight audio CD the Ultra Desktop Amp / Dac will perform without hesitation. Engineered by people who enjoy listening to music as much as they do creating better ways to listen to it.

You will find yourself missing your audio station. Your ears will feel lonely without the continuous stream of tasty ones and zeros.

BASS:
Great bass extension as well as impact. From stand-up bass to electric, bass drum to bass vocals or electronic bass beats this amp delivers. Feed your HD-280 pros or ATH-M50's with this work horse and you will surely be surprised. The amp can seem a bit boomy with some cans such as the AH-D2000.

MIDS:
The mids are always well represented by Headroom gear. The mids feel forward and immediate. From orchestral to jazz you can be assured that the Ultra Desktop has you covered.

HIGHS:
Swift moving and articulate highs stream from this device. Accurately represented highs flow smoothly through the amp and into your favorite cans.

SOUNDSTAGE:
Well it is built by Headroom so what do you expect? You will develop a wide, fully pleasant, cacophony-free zone in your head. This is one of the great reasons to purchase the Ultra Desktop. It has the most complete and articulate sound stage of any amp I have tried.

If you are unsure what Amp / Dac combo in this price range to go with consider the following.

The Ultra Desktop is made in the USA
Burr-Brown OPA627 op-amps
AD1896 192kHz Stereo Asynchronous Sample Rate Converter
Alps RK50 stepped attenuator
The Ultra Desktop is known for being fun, articulate, and presenting an extremely deep sound stage
You can feed the signal into monitors or headphones
The unit fits nicely on top of a computer case
The user interface is presented in an easy-to-manupulate manor
There are no tubes to replace
The desktop weighs a mere 1.8 lbs

http://www.stereophile.com/headphones/406head


HD-650 cans
Uncompressed audio straight from CD
USB output from my CD player straight into the mini USB on the Amp / Dac
Standard Astrodyne PSU

Test tracks:
Cake ( Motorcade of Generosity )
Great vocals and right to left motion within the sound field

Cake ( Pressure Chief ) Especially "Wheels"
Awesome bass lines, awesome highs, great vocals

Red Hot Chili Peppers ( What hits? ) especially "Higher Ground"
Full sound field and some bass

Yoshida Brothers ( Prism )
Great bass including impact, good mids to highs

Billy Joel ( Greatest Hits Vol 3 )
Great variety of sounds from when he snaps his fingers to when you can feel his breath on the mic

A Gothic Tribute to The Doors ( Darken My Fire )
Awesome bass, awesome highs, good vocals

I tested the Ultra Desktop against my Bithead. I made sure the cabling was the same, the CD was the same, the cans were the same, and the volume levels were roughly the same. The differences were amazing.


14 out of 15 people found this review helpful. Did you?


I finally Got One!
Posted by aamefford from The land of Fruits and Nuts... on 2010-09-11

Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Detail, sound quality, form factor, DAC
Cons: Expensive (though a good value), switch layout - low gain in the middle

Wow! Outstanding detail, nice bass control over my Dennon D7000's. Much better control than my DacMagic Dynalo combination.

The Headroom unit is much more detailed and accurate, and much more controlled. I suspect the ESS Sabre 9008 chip in the Headroom unit is superior to the Wolfson chip in the DacMagic.

This is my first experience with crossfeed, and one of the reasons I wanted to try Headroom. I like it! Much less fatiguing, much more realistic. The downside is added warmth in an already warm setup. There is a "Brightness" filter switch that adds a bit of boost in the treble (setting 1) or upper mids and treble (setting 2). I've been experimenting, and setting 2 seems to be the best offset for the warmth added via the crossfeed, but both are just a bit heavy handed.

A stunningly good and versatile setup in a perfect form factor with over the top form, fit and finish, sold by some of the nicest (still, even post "shake-up") guys and gals in headphonedom.


9 out of 12 people found this review helpful. Did you?


So much to rave about
Posted by Rob from Chicago, IL on 2010-06-08

Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Lots of inputs, manufactured well
Cons: A tad pricey

There is so many good things about this piece of splendid workmanship ...but I'll just concentrate on one. My whole computer experience has now changed. While listening to computer audio from youtube, pandora, where ever. The audio has increased ten fold. I didn't buy this unit for this reason, but I'm quite shocked of how it handles it so well. It's no longer a pain to watch a youtube video. I can't believe the clarity. There is even texture on the bassline in music videos uploaded by commoners (not the record label.) I guess this would have to be attributed to the upsampling, i dunno. Whatever it is, it works...and it works well.


14 out of 26 people found this review unhelpful. Did you?


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HeadRoom Amps: Part 1 - Through Hole Soldering


HeadRoom Amps: Part 2 - DAC, Modules, and Enclosure


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