ASR Loaner Program #7
Predator vs. Pico
Mileage on Predator, Pico as of receive from ASR
~20hours on Pico
~40hours on Predator
(I believe in burn in, but I won’t get to keep it long enough)
Those who are looking for something black and white conclusive: “one amp is better than the other” it’s unrealistic and you won’t find it here. As I mentioned in my initial impression, these 2 amps sound different. Both are colored IMO.
The 701 is too new for me; therefore, I didn’t use it other than to check for obvious synergies or incompatibility (I actually sold it during the loan period). My analysis of the Pico is a little different due to my experience with the Headamp desktop line; it was extremely difficult for me to review without expecting it to be a battery powered GLite. This is the first time I ever heard an RSA product so I had an easier time describing it. It’s all very subtle of course.
I don’t have any affiliation with the companies, I was loaned the equipment by a very generous and trusting Head-Fier (ASR). I own(ed) both Headamp and RSA products at one point or another. I am more familiar with Headamp than RSA. I don’t own any kind of the amp/DAC being reviewed nor do I intend to purchase these products after this review…I still strongly prefer my balanced desktop setup. I was not blown away by either amp/DAC, and most shouldn’t expect to be. Differences are subtle, and during the last week of review I was straining to find more things to write about. I am honestly sick of listening for differences…I just want to enjoy the music at this point.
Both are very good amps, you can’t go wrong with either depending on what sound you want. For ~500 these will give a $1-2000 setup a really good run for the money. I think the Pico sounds really good with the HD600 and the Predator should synergize with both 600/650. I think the key is to feed it with a very high quality source/lossless music and keep the volume up. Don’t forget to keep the amps charged.
I am used to listening to my gear balanced. This is some of the best single ended stuff I have heard in a while. Most of the review was written before i even heard my Apache.
Very nice brushed texture and silk screening. Interesting glowing power switch. Maybe it was intentional to illuminate the volume switch in the dark. However ergonomic suffers since it’s close to volume knob that is a little bit too small for even my dexterous fingers. Size is slightly longer than the Pico, but otherwise pretty close.
I can say much about the key components because they’re obviously obscured on purpose. Single cell LIPO (I estimate ~950mAH). There are two single circuit OpAmps; one for each channel.
Substantially silent noise floor as tested via IEM. I used K701 and HD650 on HIGH gain (3 selectable gains). More than enough gain for the 701 or 650. Volume control works well from 0-100. Both amps definitely have enough gain to make noise in these upper mid efficiency/impedance headphones.
Cold* definitely not warm **some people disagree. I think my Apache is warm, the pico is very warm, But not this thing.
Lots of details/analytical
Airy, open window to the music, but still a window
Dynamic, but lean sounding compared to Pico
Less body compared to Pico
Has Snap to it
Based on reviews that I have read, the amp section sounds like it might be similar to the Hornet.
The Predator changed a lot in the time that I had it. That huge capacitor under the hood must have something to do with it. Due to this phenomenon, I removed a lot of descriptive material that I wanted to put down here so that I wouldn’t be contradicting myself.
The low levels of congestion in the Predator remind me of my Apache. However, it is not warm like the Apache.
Air and space that separates the elements of music with this amp. Allows good focus and imaging.
I think the highs got a little strident
Might be fatiguing for some people/headphones
Lacks body to music
I won’t even talk about size because it’s small enough and I wouldn’t want anything smaller. Very nice piano black finish that gets fingerprints easily. A small knob that can be turned easily. On/off switch built into volume pot. Perfect ergonomics IMO for something this small. The Pico has a useful charge status LED.
2cell 500mAH LIPO with modular power supply/charger board. I suspect that separate cells are used for +/-3.7v and the battery is ‘balance charged/matched’. I believe the Pico has a battery protection circuit to prevent over-discharge. Slow charge is good to prolong the life of lithium batteries.
Wolfson WM8740 24Bit 192khz DAC
AD8397 OpAmp (Dual circuit)
Substantially silent noise floor as tested via IEM. I use K701 and HD650 on the high gain (2 selectable gains). Plenty of gain for the 701 or 650. Volume pot doesn’t seem to do anything before 9 o’clock (non linearity). Having the power switch in the Pot might have something to do with this. Both amps definitely have enough gain to make noise in these upper mid efficiency/impedance headphones.
Full bodied, lush sound
Easy on the ears
Deeper bass extension compared to predator.
The Pico is not as neutral as headamp’s desktop line.
Overall, I think Pico gives more weight across the frequency range than Predator.
I feel a slight congestion and stuffiness in the music with this amp compared to the Predator, especially at low volume levels.
The Pico’s battery life is shorter than the Predator.
I detect veil and some warmness to the Pico. The Gilmore Lite had this too, but Much less. It disappears 98% with the GS1 and pretty much completely with the GSX. The warmness is unlike the desktop lines for Headamp; those are very neutral in comparison.
Sometimes I feel this amp is overly warm. To the point where it’s congested and stuffy.
Pico sounds very good with the volume at a higher level. Anyway, the Pico has the sound signature of a very high end amp.
I like the way the Pico is constructed in stacked design. It looks easier to service the battery. If it could roll opamps that would be cool.