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Product Review

HeadRoom Balanced Ultra Desktop Amp (BUDA)
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$1,699.00
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HeadRoom Balanced Ultra Desktop Amp (BUDA) Product Reviews

A transcendently immersive listening experience awaits with our HeadRoom Balanced Ultra Desktop headphone amp [aka 'THE BUDA'] and your favorite headphones re-wired for balanced XLR connection. HeadRoom lab engineers painstakingly match pairs of normal and inverted drives for the BUDA's left / right channels with state-of-the-art componentry and hot-rodded 'Class-A' biasing delivering the ultimate reference acoustic performance for headphone audiophiles or audio professionals. Engineered & manufactured in Montana USA.

The HeadRoom BUDA headphone amp provides both balanced XLR input and stereo RCA inputs featuring our exclusive phase conversion to balanced-drive. A pair of Neutrik 'combination' XLR jacks await one balanced headphone OR you can use two standard headphones simultaneously via the full stereo 1/4" plugs housed within each XLR jack! Includes our world-famous HeadRoom Crossfeed switch for improved headphone imaging, a 3-position gain to match headphone efficiency and superb Astrodyne worldwide power supply.
May 2011 Winner of SoundStage Reviewer's Choice Award!

Brutus Award
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unbelievably good sound!!!

Posted by thebman from canada on 2010-04-08
Posted on HeadRoom Balanced Ultra Desktop Amp (BUDA)

Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: compact,line outputs, two sets of inputs
Cons: none at all

When i connected my sennheiser hd-650's with the cardas balanced cable to this headphone amplifier i was amazed at how GOOD it sounded! if you are in the market for an amp and it's in your price range, you owe it to yourself to get this one.As good as this combination is I recently started using a pair of sennheiser hd-800's with cardas balanced cable terminated with cardas gold xlr's,this combination is unbelievable! I really think this is as good as it gets. The 800's really shine with this amp!



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The best incarnation yet.

Posted by Born2bwire from Hong Kong on 2010-01-15
Posted on HeadRoom Balanced Ultra Desktop Amp (BUDA)

Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Excellent product through and through.
Cons: Costs going balanced over single ended not for everybody.

If you are looking for the no compromise solution, this is it.

Soundwise, the amplifier is excellent. It has excellent bass, detailed sound, and fast transients. Moving up from lower end amplifiers I would say that the main difference will be an improvement in the bass and overall low end. Seeing as this is the balanced version of the Ultra Desktop, I will highlight some of the differences between the single ended and balanced outputs. I used the Sennheiser HD650 headphones and have both a Cardas single ended cable and a Cardas balanced cable so any differences in the cables (should you believe in such things) are not a factor here. In addition, the source was the Headroom Ultra Desktop DAC operating off of USB from my computer. When comparing balanced and single ended, I found there to be a subtle but noticeable difference. While there is a slight increase in the soundstage, the biggest difference is that the music is slightly smoother and less fatiguing. I could not perceive any difference in terms of frequency response that resulted in this, but overall the sound character improved; smoother and more refined.

One of the best advantages of the Headroom desktop line are the number of features afforded to each amp. The BUDA sports the Headroom crossfeed, balanced and single ended inputs, and single ended pre-amp outs. While not everybody may take advantage of all or any of these features, they all have their uses and are good selling points in comparison to other balanced amplifiers. The combo jacks, the dual use of the XLR and 1/4" TRS jack are still preferable to me over some of the four pin XLR that I have seen. This keeps the frontend compact but still offers an additional single ended output. In the end, it really does not matter between three pin or four pin XLR since in a desktop solution the size of the connector is not a real issue nor will you be connecting or diconnecting the jacks very often.

The crossfeed is useful for recordings that use the channels to the extremes, like an old Rolling Stones album that only considered three possibe settings, left, right and that mono thing we usually do. In these cases one can easily feel the effects of the crossfeed and it is no stretch by any means to see how it can help reduce listening fatigue and improve the enjoyment for those that find headphone audio ackward. It does come at a slight cost in the sound quality, the use of the crossfeed adds warmer color to the sound. Older Headroom amps offered a brightness filter to help combat these effects. This has since been removed but I do not miss it myself. Personally, I prefer not to color the sound, and not suffering from any ill effects when listening to headphones over extended periods, do not use the crossfeed.

The ability to use not only the expected balanced XLR inputs but single ended RCA inputs is very welcome. The amp will convert the single ended signal into a balanced signal. When using cheap RCA connectors in comparison to the XLR connection using the DiMarzio interconnects, I found an almost imperceptible loss in bass and body when using the single ended over the balanced. Rest assured then, the single ended inputs still provide excellent sound and are a welcome addition to those who have yet invested in a balanced source.

The overall build quality is excellent. The enclosure, though made of alumin(i)um does not readily look or feel like metal. It has a thick, hard textured coating. While the paint keeps it from being obvious that you have a nice metal enclosure, it also does not lend one to think that it is just cheap plastic. Overall, the matte paint and textured feel are excellent and give the amp a nice understated appearance. The amp has a small footprint and is easily at home on your desk, audio rack, or tucked away on a shelf off to the side. Finally, the rubber grommets are also a nice touch, they give a firm footing for the amp on both a flat surface and on top of another Headroom desktop enclosure, like the Ultra DAC or Desktop Power Supply. Overall, a lot of thought has gone into the enclosure and its utility and aesthetics make it show.

Taking the amp by itself, it is only a $100 more than the Ultra Desktop Amp (yes, only a measly $100 more, one C-note, one ton, a cold hun...). The loss of the DAC in my opinion is not worth the additional $100 and balanced operation. However, assuming that you do not care for the DAC, or you purchase the Ultra Stack (in which case the price difference is negated), then I feel that it is a no brainer to go for the BUDA over the UDA. The BUDA operates in the same capacity as the UDA but you will have the option to go for the balanced operation. This then would come at the cost of recabling your headphones. So in the end, is balanced worth it?

In terms of pricing, it would be hard to recommend going balanced over single ended unless you are looking to get the absolute best sound regardless of cost. I felt that the differences were noticeable and that balanced offered an improvement. However, the improvement was subtle and it would be hard to justify that the cost of the new cables/retermination and the added cost of the BUDA over the UDA is worthwhile for everybody. But for those that want to get the best sound possible, I will recommend going balanced whole-heartedly and I do not regret the move myself.

Headroom's products have gone through many changes over the years. There have been changes in the enclosures and products from the old Blockhead to the Home and now the Desktop lines. The features have improved with the addition of both single and balanced inputs and pre-amp outs. And the electronics have improved by progressing up to the current class A biased OPA627 modules. I have to say, that this is the best one yet in terms of overall features, size, and quality.



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