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Product Review

HeadRoom Desktop Amp / DAC
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HeadRoom Desktop Amp / DAC Product Reviews

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.

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Completing the circle

Posted by alienlogic from Nashville, TN on 2013-03-18
Posted on HeadRoom Desktop Amp / DAC

Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Liquid smooth depth and clarity, very technical presentation
Cons: Wish the USB input could handle 24/96

This is an amp/dac combo I've had my eye on for years and was thrilled to finally be able to pick it up. The circle is now complete- Grado RS-2 cans (the ones with the buttons) that I've been enjoying for years, a built-up and growing collection of 24bit audio tracks, and my MacBook feeding the Desktop AMP via optical link.

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.



1 out of 1 people found this review helpful. Did you?

This amp Rules

Posted by Pierrot from Mexico City on 2012-04-21
Posted on HeadRoom Desktop Amp / DAC

Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Multi task (Crossfeed, amp, preamp, filters, DAC)
Cons: no one for me

Hi, I purchase this amp 6 month ago and Im here to review the product.

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!!!






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

Great Amp

Posted by Alex699 from Sydney, AUSTRALIA on 2012-02-15
Posted on HeadRoom Desktop Amp / DAC

Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Sheer versatility
Cons: Warm sound with certain headphones

Well what can I say about this amp? It's pretty much exactly what I thought it would be. The sheer number of different sources I can use just amazes me.

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.



7 out of 13 people found this review helpful. Did you?

My best headphone dac/amp yet!

Posted by hifichip76 from Bayside, NY on 2011-09-09
Posted on HeadRoom Desktop Amp / DAC

Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: lots of power, good dac, short signal path from dac to amp, crossfeed and brightness switches, versa
Cons: not cheap

I've been using this dac/amp for a few months now with Grado RS-1's, Sennheiser hd-650's, AKG 701's and 702's and a few others. Source component s have been digital output of my Apple TV (lossless files), Sony 5400ES SACD/CD player and a few others.

The build quality and sound quality are superb- much better than the micro dac/amp combo I was using. It is also better than some more expensive units I've used from Musical Fidelity. And it hasn't broken so far.

It really is the Swiss Army Knife of Headroom products. It performs well as a Dac/preamp for your stereo amp or receiver, too.

It's not cheap by any means, but it's still a great bargain.

Crossfeed is a great option, as is the brightness control that subtly makes it match perfectly with any headphones.

I LOVE this thing.



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

Awesome. Worth every penny.

Posted by PontiacPilot from Alabama, USA on 2010-12-17
Posted on HeadRoom Desktop Amp / DAC

Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Crisp, clean, rich sound w Power Amp
Cons: More power, Captain

I am absolutely blown away by the Desktop Amp/ Desktop Power Amp combo: they've transformed my 12' x 16' home office into a favored listening area. Matched to a pair of Paradigm 250's, your components form the brain and heart of a truly sweet, small-footprint system. Ordinary computer audio on my other systems now sounds ridiculously tinny and thin. Your awesome DAC and B&O-based amp deliver excellent clarity and separation. Output through the Paradigms is amazingly crisp and true: your components get nearly as much from these speakers as my McIntosh amps do. Although the system does rattle the windows when it's cranked up to the max, more bass would be welcome at times. But hey, that's to be expected: the system’s only pumping fifty (very clean) watts and these are small speakers. Overall, I’m so pleased that I’m about to order another Headroom system for my son.




7 out of 8 people found this review helpful. Did you?

HD650s

Posted by rykerd from Kansas on 2010-12-11
Posted on HeadRoom Desktop Amp / DAC

Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Beautiful piece of equipment
Cons: None that I have noticed.

This really is an amazing thing to have on your desk. Everything becomes so articulate and responsive that I almost am tempted to return it to spend another eight hundred on the Ultra Desktop. My setup is just iMac/itunes/apple lossless/optical/HRdesktop/HD650s. I just can't believe the improvements over "all" of the audio coming out of my computer. I can't wait to hook it up to an analog source. The crossfeed is definitely really cool. For the most part the sound feels so much fuller and alive with the crossfeed on. The brightness adjustments really help on a few songs where the 650s do seem rather "dark" and it doesn't add too much grain. Really interested into what the power supply upgrade would do for this. Amazing product.

Thanks Headroom.



15 out of 18 people found this review helpful. Did you?

my first high end amp/dac

Posted by Jason B from New York on 2010-11-29
Posted on HeadRoom Desktop Amp / DAC

Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: power, style, build quality, features, sound, crossfeed
Cons: expensive, but worth it

A little about myself: I'm not going to pretend to be an audiophile, but I do know a good deal about audio, and I do appreciate great sound. I just don't consider myself to be a true audiophile because I do prefer a fun sound over an analytical one. I do like clarity and detail, but it has to also sound fun and involving.

I've always been into home theater and car audio, but just recently dove into the world of headphones. I recently purchased this Amp/DAC and a pair of Sennheiser HD650 headphones to use with my laptop as a home computer rig. I couldn't be happier. It simply sounds amazing. I really had no idea that headphones could sound so good. I'm hearing little details in music that i never noticed before, things in songs that I've heard dozens and dozens of times.

I use the crossfeed with the brightness switch set to "filter 1" and the result is great. the crossfeed mixes the two channels as it should, but also adds a bit of extra warmth and bass to the mix. Yes, the HD650 is already a warm and kinda bassy headphone, but I admit I like the extra warmth and bass anyway. The brightness filter does even it back out a bit though and adds a bit of top end to the HD650 which is known to be a tad dark sounding. I am definitely thankful for the crossfeed and the brightness switch. Crossfeed actually was one of the main reasons I chose to go with a HeadRoom amp. I've tried some software crossfeed plugins and I really liked the effect, but this hardware crossfeed is even better. In my opinion the brightness switch is definitely needed with the HD650 because it is a bit dark sounding otherwise, and this is coming from a person who is sensitive to treble.

The amp seems to have gobs of power. This is my first real headphone amplifier though so i don't have anything to really compare it to. I've only had experience with cheap portable headphone amps paired with way inferior headphones. The HD650 is known to be a pretty demanding headphone and this amp seems to power them with ease. I do use the high gain, but I never have to turn the volume past the 12 o'clock position. Usually the volume knob is anywhere from the 9 to 11 o'clock position. I don't usually listen at extreme levels, but this amp is definitely capable of driving these to damaging volume. I have never heard even a bit of distortion or clipping, there seems to be quite a bit of power here and plenty of headroom.

The laptop I use this with is an HP G60 which I actually have set up to dual boot Ubuntu along with the standard Windows 7 that came loaded. I exclusively use Ubuntu now though, and I am happy to report that this Amp/DAC does work perfectly with Ubuntu right out of the box. I am using the latest 10.10 (Maverick) build just to be more specific. I use flac audio files, and I also stream music from Rdio.com, Shoutcast.com and Lastfm.com as well. I listen to melodic metal, progressive rock, classic rock, downtempo, trip hop, dubstep and ambient music and this combo sounds great with all of it.

Big thanks to HeadRoom and to Head-fi.org for getting me this involved in this hobby!



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

Wow--Incredible!

Posted by jchandler3 from Ashland, OH on 2010-04-20
Posted on HeadRoom Desktop Amp / DAC

Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Does everything flawlessly.
Cons: Expensive, but it was my choice to spend that much.

The DAC is superb and the amp is clean and powerful. I had previously been using the iBasso D3 Python to power my Denon D2000s, but the Desktop makes the D2000s COME ALIVE. It'll be difficult to explain the sonic differences... The hard-hitting lows SLAM instead of fart, the smoothness of a fretless bass is refined, the mids have been brought to life, the highs were smacked around and put in their place.

The Desktop makes nearly all of my headphones sound significantly better. I suppose I'll upgrade the PS at some point, but not any time soon. I'm very pleased with what I have now. BUY BUY BUY!

Check out my much more involved review over at Head-Fi.org:
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f5/headroom-desktop-amp-dac-review-480839/#post6524717



5 out of 5 people found this review helpful. Did you?

Highly Satisfied

Posted by tracht from Peoria, IL on 2010-02-15
Posted on HeadRoom Desktop Amp / DAC

Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Compact, Swiss Army Knife of Options
Cons: Small type on switch labels

Bought to drive a set of Sennheiser HD800 headphones. Have tested with Grado 80i headphones, Grado RS1 headphones and Shure SE500 earbuds. When playing MP3 files from a Droid smartphone the Grados and Shure sound slightly better using the amp (the Droid will not drive the Sennheiser's loud enough for a good comparision.)

When using analog output from an inexpensive CD player there is a dramatic improvement in sound quality over the MP3 files with more precise bass, midtones and treble for all the headphones and earphones. With the CD player's digital output, the sound quality goes up another notch with less bass boom and more clarity in the treble. The amp/DAC can drive the Sennheisers much louder than I want to play them. Unlike other reviewers, prefer the sound of the headphones without the crossfeed turned on.

Overall, highly satisfied with the amp/DAC.



3 out of 3 people found this review helpful. Did you?

Versatile, Great Sound. Repeat Buyer.

Posted by Yoshi from Oakland, CA on 2010-01-31
Posted on HeadRoom Desktop Amp / DAC

Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Lots of input, output
Cons: Switches for inputs on rear

I got this because I have a small footprint TV stand for my Playstation3 and wanted to get great sound to speakers and headphones without taking up a a lot of space. My old solution was to have HDMI going to the TV and then use RCA to mini out from the TV to the Headroom Portable Micro Amp that I've had for many years. But I was aways disappointed that I was going through so many steps and small wires to finally get to my ears and was sure I was losing audio quality along the way. So. after much deliberation I decided to spring for this product.
The price drop of $200 really pushed me over the edge and I'm glad I did. I now have Toslink coming out of my PS3 and can listen to Super Audio CDs without turning the TV on, as well as listen to MP3s on my computer with the AMPs USB input without having to send them through wireless to an Airport Express and a mini connector.

Connected to my Grados, the listening experience is great, and it also sounds great through the speakers. While it's an expensive solution, I know that I will get a lot of enjoyment out of it.




6 out of 7 people found this review helpful. Did you?


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