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HeadAmp Pico Slim Portable Amplifier  

post #1 of 1103
Thread Starter 
** This thread is now over. Please use it only as a reference for info on the Pico Slim amp. For pre-order requests, please visit this thread: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f38/he...quests-459464/ **

HeadAmp will be releasing a new portable amp, the Pico Slim. For now, please visit HeadAmp Audio Electronics for postings & updates on the Pico Slim design, or continue to check this thread. Any questions or discussion about the Pico Slim can be posted here.

We will begin accepting pre-orders for the Pico Slim soon. See here for the latest update: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/6188343-post899.html


Please see here for pictures of the latest prototype of the Pico Slim: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/6089974-post615.html






Here is a "Q&A" about the Pico Slim that I will update. I'll start with a few of my own questions and how they are answered by the Pico Slim.

Q: Who will want a Pico Slim?
A: The Pico Slim is for anyone interested in a portable headphone amp. But more importantly, it's also for people who have said they will not use a portable amp for reasons such as size (too thick), or that they offer little improvement over the headphone outputs of DAPs. The Pico Slim will be thinner than an iPod/iPhone, and offer multiple features never found in portable amps that will improve the listening experience especially with IEMs.

Q: What are the basic specifications of the Pico Slim?
A: The dimensions will be about 3.15 x 1.5 x 0.37" (80 x 38.1 x 9.4mm), a battery life of ~70 hours, and output of up to 4.2V @ 250mA per channel. The noise floor has been tested with the Westone ES3X custom IEM, with a sensitivity of 125dB/mW is tied for the most sensitive IEM available according to published specs. At any possible listening level, its not possible to hear any hiss or even tell the difference between the amp being 'on' or 'off'

Q: What are the new features offered in the Pico Slim?
A: The most important feature in the Pico Slim is the use of a new digital volume control. To be clear here, only the interface for changing the volume is digital, and it still uses a volume knob. The audio & actual volume control is and always will be analog. There is no question about it, the Pico Slim uses the best and probably most expensive digital volume control chip available. It offers more attenuation and better channel matching than a $500 Alps RK50 volume control, which is as round as a soda can and has only been used for the most exotic home audio & studio equipment.

Q: How much attenuation is there and what does this mean?
A: The spec. for amount of attenuation is how quiet the volume can be set. A typical volume control found in a portable amp only has about 70dB of maximum attenuation. This is why with sensitive IEMs, you can still hear the music even with the volume knob all the way down. Worse, as you turn the knob, you have to go several degrees until the left/right channels seem to be matched in volume. At this point you may only have 40 to 60dB attenuation, and the sound can already be too loud. The Pico Slim has up to 110dB of attenuation.

Q: How closely are the left/right channels matched?
A: The left/right channels are matched better than 0.1dB. The threshold for human hearing is said to be 1dB. Small potentiometer volume controls are only specified for +/-3dB matching, and can be much worse at the quiet range of their volume. It's far from 'high-end' to be listening to something with this much left/right imbalance, especially when the imbalances from your source, amp, and headphones can all add up to something you can easily hear. You never have to worry about this with the Pico Slim.

Combine the attenuation and channel matching of the Pico Slim, and try it with IEMs. It's very relaxing & reassuring to be able to slowly turn up the volume, listen at quiet levels if you want to, and the left/right channels are always perfectly balanced.

Q: How many steps does the volume control have?
A: A popular DACT stepped attenuator in home amps only has 23 volume steps. Most digital volume controls offer 16, 32, or 64 volume steps. A potentiometer technically has infinite steps, but there are the problems described above that limit its use. The Pico Slim has 255 volume steps, which will be completely seamless so it will sound and feel like there are no steps at all.

Q: Besides the size differences and new features, how is the Pico Slim different from the 'original' Pico amp?
A: The Pico Slim is an entirely new design under the 'Pico' family of portable amps & DACs. It will only be offered as an amp. The 'original' Pico will remain the most powerful amp of its size, the only one with a 2-cell (8.4V) battery.

Thanks,
Justin

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 1103
Nice, my birthday is in the summer
post #3 of 1103
I can't wait to try it at canjam
post #4 of 1103
If it sounds better than the T4 and has a lot better RF shielding I'll be all over this one for my iPhone 3G.
post #5 of 1103
I look forward to checking this out at CJ as well.
post #6 of 1103
Quote:
Originally Posted by tyrion View Post
I look forward to checking this out at CJ as well.
x3 Really looking forward to this, it's the first portable I've given any consideration of actually buying.
post #7 of 1103
Quote:
Originally Posted by n_maher View Post
x3 Really looking forward to this, it's the first portable I've given any consideration of actually buying.
Yup. I'd given up on portable amps, but this will be mine if I ever bite the bullet and get customs.
post #8 of 1103
Thread Starter 
The first post has been updated

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 #9 of 1103
Could you please comment on rf shielding as I will be using it glued to the back of an iPhone 3G and my present T4 gets killed by rf interference meaning that I have to set the iPhone in airplane mode when using the T4.
post #10 of 1103
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by nc8000 View Post
Could you please comment on rf shielding as I will be using it glued to the back of an iPhone T4 and my present T4 gets killed by rf interference meaning that I have to set the iPhone in airplane mode when using the T4.
There will be RF filtering. I have not had complaints about this noise with any of my amps

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 #11 of 1103
will this improve the sound of sansa fuze? they share the same dimensions ;]
post #12 of 1103
Really interesting indeed!
The reason I abandoned portable amplifiers were their "poor" size vs. sound improvement factor. Something as small as this with quite audible sound improvements may be exactly what I need to re-think my decision.
post #13 of 1103
Quote:
Originally Posted by justin w. View Post
There will be RF filtering. I have not had complaints about this noise with any of my amps
That's great, thanks. I'll definately be in line for one then as I expect the sq will be much better than the T4 although most likely also significantly more expensive.
post #14 of 1103
Wow.. 250ma / channel on something that small and 0.1db level matching?

Is this made from materials off a recent comet that fell to earth? Thats crazy!
post #15 of 1103
I have had an opportunity to try/own the AE-1, AE-2, Pico w/ and w/o a dac. None had any issues w/ RF interference, most likely due to design and a good sturdy metal enclosure.
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