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HeadAmp Pico Portable Amp (w/ optional upsampling 24/96 USB DAC) Pre-Order Thread

post #1 of 3724
Thread Starter 
Update May 3, 2010 -- Do you own a Pico DAC/Amp, Amp, or USB DAC? A new leather case for it is now available. www.headamp.com/order/pico_case_order.htm

This thread is to announce that ordering for the HeadAmp Pico Portable Amp (with optional USB DAC) is now open! Credit goes to Edwood for the Pico rendering.

Description of the Pico

Portable headphone amps have gotten smaller, but what about the electronics inside? In making the Pico, I set out to make a very small amp that has the voltage and current capability needed to drive headphones of all impedances and sensitivities, and a very low noise floor important for sensitive in-ear-monitors. In designing the Pico I went through every op-amp that made sense for headphones and I'm convinced the Pico is the best it can be. I don't know of any amp this size that has the drive capability of the Pico. I also wanted to offer many features important for a great user experience and to keep the Pico on the cutting-edge.

The Pico is powered by a 2-cell lithium-polymer battery for twice the voltage, and has an internal linear smart charger. An included DC adapter supplies the power to the charger and can also power the amp. A regulator in between the DC adapter and the charger keeps the power very clean.

A 2-position gain switch is on the front panel, as is the power switch which is built into the volume control. The headphone out and line input are 3.5mm mini jacks on the front panel. The mini jacks are the highest quality I've found. Also on the front are 2 tiny LEDs, one for power and one for charging.

But the biggest attraction of the Pico may be the optional USB DAC which is unlike any portable DAC available. Still fitting in the same tiny chassis, the optional USB DAC converts USB straight to I2S and is then upsampled to 24/96 with an ASRC often said to create a jitter-free design. The DAC then runs off of the Pico's low-jitter clock instead of the USB. D/A conversion is done by Wolfson's flagship 24-bit DAC chip, the WM8740, and then passed to an analog output stage that uses a unique MOSFET op-amp.

This is the kind of design only found in $1000+ home DACs, except they rarely give much attention to their USB inputs, and there is also no wall power required for the Pico to add noise or hum. With its tiny size, the lengths of the signal paths are kept as short as possible.

The Pico measures a tiny 2x2.74x0.86" (51x70x22mm)

Amp/DAC Board

Charger/Power Board

Available Pico Colors. Premium Colors are +$20
Red, Blue, Light Blue, Green, Orange and Gold are only available with the optional USB DAC.

How To Order

If you'd like to place an order, just post your order details here and I will contact you soon. The Pico pricing is $349 (Amp only) or $499 with the upsampling USB DAC, plus shipping ($15 USA, $35 worldwide for USPS Global Express). No payment is needed until your Pico is ready to ship.

Please mention:
- If you are ordering a Pico Amp or Pico USB DAC/Amp.
- Color: Black or Silver are standard colors. "Premium" colors are gold, gray, bronze, light blue, blue, green, orange, and red. Those colors are available in limited quantities only and are +$20.
- Mini-B USB cables are available for $5 each, and I have lengths of 1, 3, or 6 feet. You can purchase as many USB cables as you want, but in some cases this will result in a higher shipping cost.
- Included with any Pico is a DC adapter, custom leather bag, optional stick-on feet, and user manual.

The Pico is warrantied for 3 years, including the battery. The return policy is 30 days after receipt.

If you have any questions about the Pico please post here and I'll be happy to answer them.

Photos of Picos By Owners

Black, photo by TwoFiveOne

Bronze, photo by Iron_Dreamer

Silver w/ blue panels, photo by qusp

================================================== ====================
Pico Impressions

I've shown the Pico prototype at a few meets so far, here are some impressions that have been posted:

"As for his up coming mini dac/headamp? The size of it blew my mind. And the sound? Man... talk about the PERFECT work rig esp with those with little desk space. He quoted me a rough price estimate of 300 for just the amp (So tiny!!! Makes the Tomahawk look GINORMOUS) and 500 for the amp/dac. The dac only accepts usb input but also has a line in for amp only use."
- Icarium, NorCal Regional Meet, 8/25

"Pico with built in DAC
MacBook USB / L3000s, HD650s, & K701s:
Before I heard Justin's new portable amp with built in DAC I pretty much wrote off portable amps. Point blank, the Pico knocked my socks off and won me over. Much like the sound coming from foo_me's K-1000, the Pico is the new gold standard all portable amp should be judged by and additionally has taken portable headphone amps to a level I've never imagined possible. The Pico is the most state of the art portable I've seen and an absolute engineering marvel. As previously mentioned I am not a fan of computer based sources, but the Pico with it's built in DAC off the MacBook USB engaged me and drew me into the music unlike any portable before. Amazingly, I never felt like it made much of any compromises because of it's diminutive size. Every headphone I threw at it just worked with the flip of a small gain switch. It clearly articulated details without that usual loss that most, if not all, of the other portable amps can't achieve. The Pico is something that really wowed not even primarily because of it's size and features, but most importantly its superb sound and factor in the tiny integrated package--it's unbelievable."
- 909, NorCal Regional Meet, 8/25

"The new Headamp "Pico" DAC/amp was the item of most interest to me, since learning that Justin had managed to cram an upsampling DAC with a flagship D/A chip and USB to I2S all into a pocket-sized amp. Given what he has done in the past, I expected it to sound good, yet I was still surprised when a couple of tiny boards pumped headphones full of great sound in a manner consistent with (if not better than) my much larger Apogee Mini-DAC. The bass control was much better than I expected from a portable amp, and the DAC was quite impressive with a detailed, yet smooth and unfatiguing sound. I can't wait to hear some more from this little wonder. Thanks to AMB we were able to do some comparative RMAA testing of the Pico and Mini-DAC, and found the Pico performed significantly better in nearly every measurement."
-Iron_Dreamer, NorCal Regional Meet, 8/25

"This is definitely a winner. I listened to this out of Justin’s Mac Laptop and the sound was really nice. Very articulate and definitely comparable to some of the bigger set ups out there. The preciseness and imaging were phenomenal for something so small. I definitely will be looking to see how this progresses. This was something that seemed to attract a lot of attention and I’m glad I know why."
-PFKMan23, NorCal Regional Meet, 8/25

"The Pico was amazing, I was completely mystified as to how such a small DAC and amp sounded that good. I ran E9's and HD600's on it and was very very impressed like nearly everyone here. That thing was smaller than a freaking tomahawk, hats off to headamp!"
-ichiboy, NorCal Regional Meet, 8/25

"HeadAmp Pico: It's true what people have said about this already. A nice-sounding tiny DAC/amp, nothing sonically missing. Due to unfamiliar music I wasn't able to listen for anything but I can say it got nothing wrong. Impossibly small. For comparison it seemed about the size of Xin's SuperMini - that is no small feat! Should be a great tiny USB DAC/amp when it's released, and I like the fact it uses the WM8740 and upsamples to 24/92."
-Asr, NorCal Regional Meet, 8/25

"Justin has a killer product in his new Pico dac/amp combo. I had another chance to listen and if you need a good dac/portable amp combo this should be at the top of your list."
-jp11801, NorCal Regional Meet, 8/25

"HeadAmp pico amp: I echo everything good that's been said about this little wonder. Absolutely a first-class achievement."
-episiarch, NorCal Regional Meet, 8/25

"The first was Justin's new Pico Amp/DAC. I was listening via HD650s to a mix of Eric Clapton and some Floyd and I have to say if I wasn't staring at the little marvel I would have sworn I was listening to a full sized rig. This setup had power in spades and fed by Justin's Mac laptop sounded fantastic. Great detail everywhere and plenty of, well, everything. I'm not the world's most picky or particular listener and more than anything what I strive to find in a rig is something that when I turn it on it goes away and lets me enjoy whatever I'm listening to. Justin's amp had me tapping my toe in no time flat and kept me there the entire time I listened. I think the ultimate compliment that I can pay any piece of commercial gear as a DIY'er is to say that I'd buy it, and in this case that's certainly true. Seeing the craftsmanship, attention to every detail, and overall passion that Justin put into this thing it's pretty clear that anything I would attempt would pretty much pale in comparison. I expect this will be a big hit for him."
-n_maher, Boston Regional Meet, 8/26

"It was nice to meet Justin from Headamp. His new pico dac/amp sounds fantastic and it drives the full-size Senns with authority. This is a true home amp replacement. I could see plenty of people being satisfied with just this amp alone doing triple duty in a home, pc, and portable rig. Justin showed me a finished AE-2 and said that the pico would be finished in the same style. It is very eye-catching."
-tim_the_gamer, Boston Regional Meet, 8/26

"I already planned my next purchase thanks to the meet, but good thing it isnt really released yet, the headamp pico I think it was call. I can't wait to go to another event like this!"
-enjoiflobees, Boston Regional Meet, 8/26

"new & exciting was the prototype usb dac/amp combo with li-ion batteries from headamp. this was especially cool because it was so small & had excellent battery life & it sounded great. it was a micro mini & was connected mac laptop source. the workmanship was outstanding & it even pushed a k-1000 louder than i would listen! it is hard to believe anything so small could sound so darn good. i would definately put an order in for one if i used a laptop as a music source. it does not have a name yet but what's in a name? headamp really has something special going with this new dac/amp creation. great job justin. you may have outdone yourself."
-stevieo, MD/VA/DC Meet, 7/14

HeadAmp Audio Electronics - home of the Pico and Gilmore amps.  Now with Audeze, Fostex, HiFiMAN, Sennheiser, and STAX.
Find us at www.HeadAmp.com

post #2 of 3724
I'll have an order of pico to go (Canada), hold the DAC.
post #3 of 3724
Already emailed you about it, but putting it down here as well.

Request the amp/dac combo.

post #4 of 3724
I have also e-mailed you, but I want the the Pico with the DAC-option, aswell. thanks.
post #5 of 3724
I would like to reserve a Pico with DAC.
post #6 of 3724
I posted and e-mailed you a while ago, but I'd like the Pico with the DAC option (obviously!). My final Head-Fi component, and quite appropriate too :-).
post #7 of 3724
#0001 with dac option of course! My laptop will be thrilleddd.
post #8 of 3724
pre-ordered one (DAC version) via email awhile ago, too...looking forward to it, justin!

edit for options: black, 1 ft. cable, no engraving
post #9 of 3724
Please put me down for one Pico with DAC.
post #10 of 3724
Hey Justin!

I pre-ordered one via email but letting you know here as well.

Please send me a Pico with dac please. I seriously can't wait for this dac/amp combo!

post #11 of 3724
Justin, am confirming 9/2 pre-order for Pico w/DAC. Thanks much! ~Jim

Color: Black
USB Cable: 1 ft.
No engraving
post #12 of 3724
I'm on the pre-order list too. I want one with the dac.

Gunmetal w/ 1ft cable.
post #13 of 3724
Update: Just 1 with DAC please.

1 with DAC
- black
- 1' USB cable
- no engraving

Green LEDs if possible.
post #14 of 3724
Hi Justin, put one down for me as well, with the DAC option.
post #15 of 3724
Hi,Justin... One quick question. I expect the Pico to get rather a lot of use and I recall you saying at the NorCal meet that you are having the Li-Ion battery custom made for the Pico... If and when the Li-Ion decides to give up the ghost, will we be able to have the battery replaced???

Thanks... I loved the Pico prototype at NorCal.
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