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Headstage Arrow 12HE

Posted

 

The GOOD:

-- Size: very small and pairs well with a J3, iTouch, Sony X-Series, iPod Classic or similar device.

-- Battery life: as said before, simply amazing!

-- Construction: very solid and well built.  Great switches, with a firm feel and nice "click" to them

-- Form Factor: Second to NONE!  All of the inputs, outputs and switches are perfectly placed.

-- Weight: surprisingly very light.  This kind of caught me off guard.

-- Sound: The good stuff...

   1.  Bass: Great (setting "2" can be a little bloated on bass-heavy tracks)

   2.  Mids: Realistic and clear

   3.  Highs:  Also realistic without a hint of shrill or sibilance

   4.  Gain: I primarily use setting "1" for just about everything and setting "2" for my HD600s.  I have no need for setting "3" (which is probably designed for 600 Ohm headphones).  This thing has plenty of oomph.

   5.  Impedance: Aside from when I'm wearing my Grados I keep this setting on "0".  It tends to veil the highs too much for my taste.  I only occasionally put it on setting "1" when wearing my SR225i's.

   6.  Crossfeed: The best implementation of Crossfeed that I have heard so far.  Setting "1" is perfect for long listening sessions when you want to minimize fatigue.  Setting "2" is great for hard-panned music.  Both settings do a great job without significantly altering the sound quality.

 

The BAD:

-- The volume pot: there is a slight imbalance in the first 10% of the range, but this is common on almost all non-digital volume controls.  Heck, even my NuForce Icon HDP suffers from this.

-- Impedance: this setting is effectively useless because it veils all frequencies above 4,000Hz so much that it isn't worth using (sans Grados).

-- Hiss: With about 10 different headphones in my collection only 3 of them experienced hiss (and subtle at that, so I am being very nitpicky here).  The three that showed a subtle amount of hiss were the UE SuperFi 4, Denon AH-C710 and Sennheiser MXL-570; three headphones that really shouldn't be amped anyway so it's a moot point.  The others have enough resistance to negate any hiss.  

 

Overall, this amp is a 9 out of 10.  Right now, I can't think of a better portable amp on the market.

Posted

First Impression: I had absolutely no idea what to expect with the Headstage Arrow 3G, being that this is my very frist amp, period! Since I've never tested, nor have come to own any amp prior to this once, I feel it's in my favor since my view is entirely unbiased. First off, this thing is TINY! It's extremely slim, equivalent to a stack of 5 credit cards! That's about as portable as anyone could ask for. Accessories included with a mini USB to USB charging cable, and a screw driver in case I ever decide to void my warranty. tongue.gif

 

There are quite a number of possible configurations, so rather than covering each one individually, I'll combine whichever settings I feel deliver the "best" results, and see what happens (read on).

 

So what happens when all the individual settings are switched on and applied together? Plain and simple; magic! I can't believe I overlooked this tiny device. I was once told that while our eyes may be small, they are capable of seeing great distances. Similarily, with me, I heavily underestimated the Headstage, and what distances it's capable of taking my listening experience. I don't have anything else to compare it to, being my first ever amp, but it's absolutely euphoric! It wasn't until I came across many tracks where I wished the W4 had a slight bass boost, similar to the lowest setting on the IE8's which I've come to love; it's really all I could ask for with the W4. I was afraid that with even the low setting applied on the Headstage, the W4 wouldn't sound as pleasant, and may sound muddy or even bloated. However, my Headstage was now simply taking up space on my side table for nearly an entire day, and so I decided to experiment. I went back to each track where I had felt the W4 needed that mid-bass boost/sub-bass emphasis, and switched on the low bass setting. Meanwhile, I fooled around with the rest of the settings, until I was content with the sound. The bass hadn't kicked in yet, so while the progressive track was building up to it, I began to notice the sound spectrum widen ever so slightly with low crossfeed applied, and the richer high frequencies with the gain set to low, as well as the overall full spectrum tightness with impedence on low, where all frequencies were suddenly so much more tame. It was significantly noticeable, and the W4 sounded like an entirely different monitor altogether; and that's where the track reached its climax, when the bass hit. basshead.gifSeriously? basshead.gifIE8's who? I'm practically reaching the point where I'd have no trouble declaring the Headstage worth it's weight in gold! The Headstage packs a lot of features, and whatever it's meant to do, it does very very well!

Posted

Pros: Form factor, battery life, flat SQ, auto on/off, hardware EQ, dual headphone out

Cons: Didn't notice much effect from the crossfeed, imbalance on volume pot at very low level, not suitable for very sensitive IEMs

700  700

 

 

First up - I am unabashed fan of this tiny amplifier.  I think that it's features are quite simply amazing given the form factor.

 

Sadly - I'm actually moving on from it - as I find that I'm using it less with my harder to drive cans now (for most of my portable use - I now simply use my IEMs).  However I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this little amp to anyone.

 

Preamble - a bit about me

At the time of writing, I'm a 46 year old music lover.  I don't say audiophile - just love my music.  Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current entry/mid-fi set-up.  I vary my listening from portable (i-devices + amp) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > optical > NFB-12 (or NFB+LD MK IV) > HP).  My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Sennheiser HD600s, AKG K701, Beyer DT880 and Shure SRH840.  I also own the Asian Shure SE535 Special Edition IEMs.  My previously owned gear is in my profile.. I have auditioned quite a few entry and mid-tier cans, but have yet to hear any flagships (at current time of writing this review).  I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical and opera to grunge and hard-rock.   I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, and alternative rock.  I am particularly fond of female vocals.  I tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced - with a slight emphasis on the mid-range.  I prefer a little warmth in the overall signature.  I am neither a bass or treble head.  Previous portable amps = GoVibe PortaTube, Fiio E11, Fiio E7.

 

Packaging & Accessories
I purchased the Arrow direct from Robert at Headphonia.  Packaging was minimal - just the amp a mini USB charger, and a 3.5 - 3.5mm interconnect..
 

Features
From the Headphonia website:

 

• Ultra Thin Case Design
• 30-40 Hours Battery Play Time 
• Three Selectable Gain Settings
• Bass Boost
• Treble Boost Switch
• Modified Öhmann Crossfeed
• Automatic ON/OFF Switch
• High-Capacity 1200mAh/4.2V Lithium-Ion Battery
• Two Input Jacks & Two Headphone Jacks
• ALPS Analog Volume Potentiometer
• Low-Battery Indication (Slow and Fast LED Blinking)
• 4-Layer Circuit Board with two Ground Planes for Low Noise
• Aluminium Case with Laser Engraving
• Size: 8.5mm x 56mm x 98mm (0.33'' x 2.20'' x 3.86'')
• Weight: 75g
 
Tech Specs
There are no real technical specs published - but in correspondence with Robert, he has informed me (by email) that the headphone out impedance is ~ 3-5 ohms.
 
Build / Form Factor
The Arrow is very slim, and almost exactly suited to pair with an iDevice like the Touch.  It is a very solid build - and appears really well mode.  On my unit, everything fits exactly - no sign of any imperfections.  The Alps pot is very smooth and tracks well.  The switched (whilst small) are easy to use, and appear firm.  The inputs and outputs (even after well over a year) are still firm.
 
arrow03.jpg
 
Sound Quality
I'll keep this pretty brief.  To my ears (and they are not perfect) the Arrow 4G sounds very flat - a wire with gain scenario.  What you put into it is what you get out of it - just with very clean and powerful amplification.  The hardware EQ is subtle but (IMO) very good.  The bass boost is in 3 parts (off +1 +2) and definitely gives the bass (and only the bass) a small lift at each setting.  It's not exaggerated.  Similar with the treble switch.  These have been very handy when I can't be bothered with a preset software EQ - and just wanted a quick boost in either the upper or lower end.  I've tried the crossfeed - and to my ears it doesn't really do much.  Perhaps it's too subtle for these old ears.  Anyway - I've left it off.
 

arrow02.jpg  arrow01.jpg

Amplification
It's a pity the specs aren't listed - because the amplification on this tiny device is impressive.  It has 3 gain settings - and there is a noticeable boost in volume with each.  Even at the lowest gain setting it was able to drive my 600 ohm Beyers to pretty loud levels.  More impressive was that there was no sign of bass flabbiness (ie being under-driven).  It also drove the K701 well - but without a doubt my favourite headphone with the Arrow was the HD600.  Call it synergy perhaps - but I really enjoyed the combo.
 
Did it drive the Beyers as good as my NFB-12 or Little Dot MKIV ..... no.  But it did a pretty good job - and one that I was perfectly satisfied with if I was travelling.
 
Any Cons?
Yep - nothing is really perfect.  My only real gripe was the sensitivity of the pot - but I can't really complain - because this is normal with most Alps pots.  For really sensitive IEMs (eg my SE535 'specials'), I had to go so low on the pot that I often had issues with channel imbalance.  One way to solve this (on iDevices) was to use a third party EQ app that allowed a lowering of the preamp.  Using this, I could then bring the volume back enough to be able to turn up the Arrow and avoid the imbalance.
 
Best Feature?
For me - besides the excellent amplification & massive battery life - the best feature is the automatic on/off switch.  When music plays - it is on.  When it's not, after about a minute - it switches itself off.  No more flat batteries because I forgot to turn something off.  It's a feature that I wish was on all portables.
 
Final Thoughts
I'm really sorry to be letting this little "dynamo" go - but it needs an owner who is using it more than I have been.  If my circumstances change again, I wouldn't hesitate to purchase it again.  Despite the cost - for the form factor and features it just 'kills' the previous amps I've owned.
 

864afc8b_arrow04.jpeg  arrow05.jpg

 

 

 

Posted

Pros: ultra thin, fit with iPod classic and ipod touch, switches of gain, bass etc

Cons: long waiting time

Best amp in this price and the size is very attractive.

Posted

Pros: good sound,you can colour the sound the way you like

Cons: availability,Price

Hi

first i should say that im not a good reviewer.So here we go!

 

first i just bought the arrow 4g 5 hours ago.And burn for 3 hours. i should say the sound is very good

you can make it flat or colour it the way you like.

 

the gear that i use:

shure se535,the arrow,and fiio 

 

Built quality

very sturdy and strong.Small but powerfull.

the casing is matt black

with 2  

 

the bass

punchy,tight, there are 3 level of bass.Personally i choose 1,but sometimes 3,

 

the treble

not to brigt.Sound separation is good.

 

the mids

listening to queen.freddies voice sounds rich un tempered

 

 

well that is all folks

i say this is a good stepping stone from e11.

Worth the money 

Posted

Pros: Won't believe how many features it packs into one amp!

Cons: There is more interference from phones compared to Fiio

There are plenty of other reviews on the details of this amp. Will just mention features that people may not be aware of and changes to the 4G for those who had more questions about this amp.

 

Side note, the amp is $299 with shipping and taxes included. I paid extra because they had no stock at the time.

 

 

Changes: 

 

-No more impedance button (useless function as the power draw automatically adjusts to the cans being used)

-Now has treble boost with two settings. 

-Bass boost has been reduced from +9dB and +9dB+9dB on pre-4G models to +3dB and +9dB

-Amp now has double battery life (30 hours for high impedance and 80 hours for low impedance)

 

Features:

 

-Super fast charge speeds.

-Has inputs on both sides of the amp, letting you choose which side to connect your device. Great for allowing you to choose what you want to block with an L9 LOD cable, allowing you to put it on top while in your pocket or in the back when running as a line in your home setup.

-Has two output on the same side. Will power two low impedance cans (i.e RS1i and vmoda m80) without any degradation to sound. Share your music and your amp!

-Replaceable battery that is only two screws away

-Automatically draws more or less power depending on headphones (can power an IEM or HD650 without ever increasing the gain setting).

-

And the features you probably here about a lot:

 

-Very long battery life (more so for 4G)

-Very small form factor and very light (is actually portable)

-EQ settings are much much better than software EQ settings and inferior amps. Like the Fiio

-No power button, power is determined by the presence of an input signal. Convenient and saves power.

-Extremely durable and well built, including the feel of all the buttons

-Attractive, minimalistic and well designed

 

This amp is packing in performance and features and the 4G doesn't have a single implementation that isn't done well as far as I know. The layout of the buttons is intelligent and I doubt anyone will ever regret this purchase if you are looking for a neutral amp with excellent EQ performance. Also performs on par with more expensive and larger amps that aren't nearly as portable or possess even half of these features. 

Great value, highly recommend. 

 

Posted

Pros: Neutral, transparent, perfect design

Cons: nothing yet

 

The Arrow has that plenty of power to drive all headphones, and now the bass roll off disappeared from my Colorfly CK4:)

 

They have completely right at the headfonia:

The sound almost neutral, the tonal balance leans to the dark side.
More focus on the lower end, and smoothes a bit the gleaming highs.
The rest is characterized by good presence and spacious sound stage.
For me this is not bad at all.

Not taking anything away from the music, just fix things and add some more options too.

The size, functions, design just perfect. Price is unbeatable.

 

But this is only after a first 1 hour...(My Arrow is a refurbished one)

 

Maybe the delivery time solved too...

Posted

portable and have more option, especially change the button like bass, gain and imp, opamp sounds quality under 12v, nice design for the two headphone output and two input

Posted

Pros: Sound Qualiy,Fully Customizable Sound, Portability.

Cons: Wating Time..

Headstage Arrow 12HE is an excellent product, offers an unmatched sound quality at a very low price. It is an amplifier that can shape your sound depending on our phones. In terms of portability is one of the best, only beaten by iBasso T-series. I use the Arrow with a TF10, and I tell you it is a great combination. Apart from the waiting time (from May 16 till now) I am totally satisfied with your purchase, 100% recommended!

Posted

Pros: Overall sound quality, features, power to drive most anything

Cons: None

This little beast of an amp is great. The sound is very neutral, yet full of power. The ability to adjust bass boost, gain, impedance, and crossfeed make it an excellent amp to use with any DAP, including iPod stuff (with their lack of user EQ). Mids are wonderful on this amp, being nicely full, center stage, and very present. 

 

I can't think of a better option currently for a portable which is so versatile to be able to be used with any DAP. 

 

I'm looking forward to seeing what Robert is up to next. 

Headstage Arrow 12HE
Description:

Powerful little headphone amp. User adjustable gain, bass, impedance and crossfeed.

Details:
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