Top Picks: HeadRoom Amps & DACs
Since 1992, the simple truth is that HeadRoom has been very careful to try to offer great values in all our made-in-Montana headphone amps and DACs, and you'll find that HeadRoom gear delivers very audible price-to-performance upgrades as you move into our more expensive products. We like to hear our money spent to improve audible musical characteristics -- so we design it that way. Here's some of HeadRoom's top selling products.
Go straight to recommended HeadRoom products.
The Total BitHead excels at converting your laptop or notebook into a great mobile headphone listening system, but it can be used with any computer that has a USB port. The BitHead does a great job of getting the audio out of your computer and leaving behind the noise and poor sound from the cheap audio circuitry inside the computer. It connects via (and can be powered by) any direct computer USB connection and features superb internal power filtering circuits. The BitHead can also be battery powered, which completely disconnects all potential noise sources from the computer. Many also employ the BitHead's dual headphone jacks as a "source" to plug in their computer's own speaker system -- and with very good audio results! Finally, the BitHead can also be employed as a stand-alone battery powered headphone amp with an iPod, iPad or any other portable device.
HeadRoom Micro Amp And Micro DAC
The HeadRoom Micro Amp and Micro DAC may represent the best audiophile-quality electronics in the smallest package available. The Micro DAC has both optical and coax S/PDIF digital inputs, and computer USB inputs. The Micro Amp has two analog inputs and both a headphone output and a pre-amp output on the rear for sending signal to your desktop self-powered speaker system. The two Micros securely stack one on top of the other to make an extremely compact headphone system for desktop and/or night stand/end table use. Check out our discounted HeadRoom 'Micro Stack' package with all interconnects included!
HeadRoom Desktop Amp/DAC
Our most affordable 'all-in-one' amp + DAC combination unit, the Desktop Amp + DAC can accept up to five different audio sources -- two analog, three digital -- via Cardas RCA stereo connection or via USB, coaxial, or optical SPDiF digital inputs. You can select between them at the flick of a switch, allowing for true pre-amp operation within your big home system. The HeadRoom Desktop Amp's internal DAC employs a TI PCM4398 chipset for superb D-to-A processing delivering amazingly liquid, warm-toned digital sound direct from your iPad or PC / MAC computer. The Desktop Amp/DAC can effortlessly and correctly drive any headphones from 16 Ohms to 600 Ohms.
HeadRoom Ultra Desktop Amp/DAC
The Ultra Desktop Amp is a full blown big-rig housed in a small 6" X 6" inch footprint; a perfect partner for your computer workstation or home theatre rig needing a headphone complement. It has an extremely high-quality internal up-sampling / de-jittering DAC with Class-A biasing employing Burr-Brown 627OPAs in all active stages. The constant-current source topology lets the Ultra act as a superior reference source, and it includes both optical and coax S/PDIF digital inputs plus a computer USB input. Two analog RCA inputs and a rear panel pre-amp output on sweet Cardas RCA jacks on the back panel, and high-end Neutrik 1/4" + 1/8" 'mini' headphone jacks on the front provide a versitile array of audio connections.
HeadRoom Balanced Ultra Deskop Amp and Ultra DAC
Introduced in late 2009 and updated in 2011, the Balanced Ultra Desktop Headphone Amp ("The BUDA") and Ultra Desktop DAC ("The UDAC") are HeadRoom's current crowning achievements. HeadRoom made the first commercially available balanced headphone amp some years ago, and balanced drive as a concept for driving headphones stuck with audiophiles because it simply works so well! The BUDA is an extremely high quality balanced headphone amp, with two precisely matched channels for left and right balanced output to your headphones. In order to use this amplifier in balanced mode, you will need to have specially re-wired headphones for balanced operation; but, the amp also drives normal headphones in single ended mode from the 1/4" headphone jack within the Neutrik "Combo Jacks" on the front panel. With balanced headphone listening, a truly exquisite experience awaits.
At the heart of the UltraDAC is the stunning ESS Sabre 9018 DAC chip, a spectacular digital to analog converter including numerous patented and proprietary upsampling technologies. The UltraDAC accepts optical and coax S/PDIF digital inputs, and computer USB inputs, and has outputs for four audio channels in a balanced, differential drive mode: Left Normal, Left Inverted, Right Normal, and Right Inverted on two male XLR connectors on the rear. It also has single-ended stereo outputs on Cardas RCA connectors.
Make Sure You Have a Quality Audio Source!
Last but not least, we believe the order of importance to achieving the best sound quality when putting together a headphone system is: source, then headphones, then amplifier. The source is most important because you can't reproduce something that isn't there to start with; you should always start to improve a sound system with the source first. The headphones are next in importance for two reasons: poor headphones will limit everything before them, and headphones tend to be the least expensive of the components, so you get the best improvement per dollar with a headphone upgrade. The headphone amp is last in importance because the source and headphones can be pretty severe limitations if not done well and, it's not too difficult to build a competent amp so they tend to perform fairly well. On the other hand, most people just plug headphones into the jack on a portable player or receiver, and the headphone amps behind most headphone jacks are pretty miserable. So, for many people, it's the headphone amp behind the headphone jack that's the limiting factor, and purchasing a headphone amp is the biggest improvement to be made once one has purchased a good set of headphones.
As mentioned above, the source is generally (keep reading!) the most important aspect of an audio system. We build a variety of digital to analog converters (DACs) to further improve your audio source. HeadRoom amps with internal DACs, and our stand-alone DACs, both contain high quality DAC chips in our designs; and, these contemporary high-end digital recievers and DACs are extremely good at reducing or virtually eliminating jitter from the digital bit-stream. Now, here's the exception to our rule about sources being so critical: when constructing a front-end for your stereo system, it is much less important where the digital signal is coming from when a very high-quality DAC is used. We've even found, in fact, that sometimes very expensive CD transports sound only slightly better than the digital output of inexpensive CD players or USB audio outputs from computers when using a good DAC. So, keep that in mind when putting together your rig!