Total BitHead Frequently Asked Questions
1. Q. Does the BitHead require software? A. The BitHead does not require any software other than music management, iTunes or a CD playing program. However, you may need to select the BitHead as your 'primary' audio device in your computer. Usually your computer will automatically detect the BitHead, but sometimes (particularly with some Apple computers) you may need to manually select the BitHead as your primary audio device.
Instructions for Microsoft: Go to ‘My Computer’ and select ‘Control Panel’. In control panel, select ‘Sounds and Audio Devices’, and then select the ‘Audio’ tab. At the top, select ‘USB Audio Codec’ as your 'Default Device', and hit OK.
Instructions for Apple: Click on the Apple icon and go to ‘System Preferences’. Go to ‘Sound’, select the middle ‘Output’ tab, and then select ‘USB Audio Codec’ as your primary audio device.
You may then need to re-start your music management program or your computer in order for your computer to officially recognize the BitHead.
2. Q. How loud should the volume be on my computer or portable source? A. If you are using the BitHead with a computer via USB, you will want to turn the volume on your computer all the way up to near maximum (9 out of 10). Bear in mind there is usually more than one way to adjust the volume, such as one on the physical computer itself and perhaps one within your media player too. If using the BitHead with a portable audio source, ideally you should use a line-out whenever possible. Adapter manufacturers SendStation and CablePRO make adapters for iPod / iPhone that allow you to send a true 'line-out' signal to the amp. Otherwise, you'll want to turn the volume NEARLY all the way up or one step down from all the way up, depending on the player's clipping threshold (if any). Use your best audio judgement to determine the best settings combinations for your gear. The BitHead's internal Low / High gain switch optimizes the amp for headphone efficiency rated up to 250 ~ 300 Ohms maximum.
3. Q. When connected to my computer, how is the BitHead powered? A. By putting the BitHead's power switch in the ‘Off’ position, the BitHead can still obtain power from your computer solely via USB without necessitating any batteries inside the unit. For laptop users wanting the lightest possible travel weight for the BitHead, this is a great option.
But for those wanting the best (read: cleanest & best-sounding) power supplied to their BitHead for USB-based listening, insert the batteries and flip the power switch ‘On’. The BitHead will then employ the added battery power for the amplifier output section while the DAC section still runs direct from the USB feed.
4. Q. What DAC chip does the BitHead use? A. Burr-Brown PCM2900E lovingly tweaked, twiddled and hot-rodded by our own HeadRoom audio engineers.
5. Q. What are the provided HeadRoom audio cables? A. Two interconnect cables are provided. One cord is a 1ft 'mini-to-mini' analog cable that runs from your audio source to the 3.5mm audio input of the BitHead. The other cord is a 1ft USB digital cable to connect the USB input on back panel of the BitHead to any computer.
6. Q. Does BitHead support 24/96 'hi-rez' audio? A. No. While some computer applications may be able to read and play files with "high resolution" sampling rates, the BitHead only accepts 16/44.1kMHz or 16/48kMHz digital USB signals. Keep in mind 'hi-rez' 24/96 USB files must be kept "100% intact" throughout your computer's internal hard-drive electronics chain in order to sound audibly better than 16/44 or 16/48 USB music files. At press time, very few computers (mainly 2011-or-later Apple MACs) can achieve true USB hi-rez audio via their internal soundcard systems.
7. Q. Can I use the line-in and USB inputs at same time? A. Yes, and no. The BitHead may be powered from the USB connector, while obtaining music from the line input (such as when connected to an iPod.) But the audio signal cannot come from two places at once, so connecting an input to the line-in bypasses the audio from the DA converter of the USB section.
8.Q. Will I damage my amp or headphones if I plug them in with volume turned up? A. YES, POSSIBLY! The BitHead is a robust miniature power amp, and is quite capable of blowing its miniature self up if forced to drive the destructive short circuit of not-fully-inserted headphones. Please be careful to have the unit off, or the volume COMPLETELY down, and ensure that the headphone plug is fully inserted into the amp jack when connecting headphones to amp.
9.Q. Does it matter what kind of soundcard I have? A. Nope. Successfully connecting the BitHead completely bypasses your computer’s other internal sound devices and EQ settings. Technically, the BitHead should work with virtually any computer or Operating System worldwide.
10.Q. Is the BitHead better than a ________(fill in the blank) sound card? A. Usually significantly better. Because the BitHead lives outside the noisy electrical environment of your computer's hard-drive and employs only very high-quality audio components, the BitHead is typically MUCH better-sounding versus 'stock' soundcards. It’s pretty solidly on par with the very best of upgraded soundcards in basic sound quality and audio reproduction, but of course has far fewer features than these often rather pricey after-market devices. And it’s not quite as accurate, but certainly much more portable, than soundcard installations or external breakout boxes of professional USB audio editing systems.
11.Q. Will BitHead drain the batteries even when turned off? A. No, it will not drain your batteries. When connected to a computer, the ‘Off’ position indicates the unit is only using USB power, thus you'll still see the green LED light. If storing the unit for any length of time, always remove batteries to prevent leakage.
12.Q. How long do the batteries last on my BitHead? A. Depending on the type of headphones used and volume listening levels, the BitHead can be powered for approximately 40+ hours on four (4) high-quality non-rechargeable Alkaline or Duracell AAA batteries. Headphones with lower impedances will last longer than headphones with high impedances. We have noted some users get nearly 60 hours of battery life with very efficient headphones (such as in-ears), while other listeners may only get 30 hrs with very high impedance +250 Ohm headphones (typically 'full-size' audiophile headphones).
We highly recommend using the best, most robust AAA disposable batteries money can buy for fully maximized sound quality performance! Regrettably, even the best rechargeable batteries will lose voltage swing and current delivery 'quickness' after several charge cycles -- which will negatively impact amplifier sound quality.
13.Q. Does the BitHead have a separate line out? A. No, it does not have a separate line out. You can use the headphone jack with confidence though; remember that, as a general rule, headphone amp outputs are just like good pre-amp outputs but typically just a bit noisier in terms of adding some minimal background noise floor issues with some low impedance/high sensitivity headphones. This cool CablePro adapter for iPod / iPhone or iPad is highly recommended as a line-out for those Apple devices into any HeadRoom headphone amp.
14.Q. Do I need to have administrative privileges on my computer in order to install the BitHead? A. Nope, you do not need to have any administrative privileges to use and enjoy the BitHead on any computer of your choice.
15.Q. Does the BitHead work on MAC computers? A. The HeadRoom BitHead will work on MacIntosh, Linux, Windows -- or any other type of OS. Typically on Apple MACs, the BitHead will need to be "selected" as the primary audio device in the computer's audio system settings/preferences. See question #2 (above) for details.
16.Q. Will my laptop have sufficient power to ‘drive’ the BitHead, and if so will it significantly drain my laptop’s battery? A. The BitHead represents only a minor load on your laptops’ own battery power, and you should not notice a significant drain in battery life while the BitHead is plugged into the USB output of any computer. The BitHead is 100% compatible with any computer you own.
17.Q. What is the voltage requirement of the BitHead? A. The maximum voltage the BitHead will accept is the standard 5 volts from the USB input and 6 volts from batteries. The BitHead can NOT accept AC power inputs from wall warts or other power supplies.
18.Q. Does my new equipment require ‘break-in’ time? A. Both headphones and headphone amplifiers require 'break-in' or 'burn-in' time before they are at their optimal performance. We recommend running your new headphone amp and/or headphones for about 75hrs to allow sufficient break-in time.
19. Q: Why do I hear hiss using the BitHead with multi-driver in-ears? A: There could be several reasons; Make sure the amp's four AAA batteries are at full strength. It's amazing how weak, 'off-brand', old or out-of-date AAA batteries will VERY SIGNIFICANTLY increase background noise floor issues!
If using a new generation HeadRoom Total BitHead, ensure the amp is set to the 'Low-Gain' position with most in-ears; employ 'High Gain' for most full-size headphones. Turn the iPod/ iPhone/MP3 player volume level [output] to around 9 [10 being maximum] and then use the amplifier itself as your 'master' volume control for your earphones. Audiophiles may wish to use a dedicated iPod line-out adapter that allows interconnectivity from the Apple player's bottom pin configuration instead of using the low-grade (and noisy!) headphone jack as connection to the amp. If using a PDA or player device with a large view screen (like iPod Video) the EMI/RFI interference coming from the screen could potentially add static & line-level noise to the TBH. Keeping the video screen and amp as separate as possible will help minimize this phenomenon.
Apple iPhone / DROID / Smartphones: set the iPhone or smartphone to 'airplane' or 'no phone' mode to minimize or eliminate hiss anomalies when doing critical audio listening.
Finally, keep in mind that high-end in-ear monitors and multiple-microdriver earphone designs are very sonically accurate -- as well as being highly sensitive -- and will thus be extremely revealing of ANY sonic flaws or overt compression artifacts present in the audio source or original recording.