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Headstage Arrow HE: Reviews, Impressions, Perceptions & Sensations

post #1 of 3099
Thread Starter 
Please post here, your thoughts, opinions, documented reviews, tips and issues on the new Headstage, Arrow HE headphone amp.

I'll kick things off with a glamor shot and my initial "knee-jerk" thoughts I barfed on text during my first couple of hours with the svelte black gear from Germany.

-Ogre
post #2 of 3099
Thread Starter 

Glamor Shots

Here are A few photos I took for fun and reference.

Shameless plug: my first DIY, interconnect cable project was a success. Not only does it complement the aesthetics of my new "rig" but it works and the device configuration is ninja quiet.
LL
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LL
post #3 of 3099
Well done Ogre! That's a very sexy combo, nice work on the IC. Looking forward to reading your subjective impressions.

With regards to upsetting the common vernacular (e.g. LOD & rig) I'm with you all the way. I'm not comfortable with "rig"; I think it's a bit of a toss.

Congrats on your first HF thread. I'm sure it will be epic in proportions.
post #4 of 3099
Thread Starter 

Initial Knee-Jerk Thoughts (not technical)

My initial thoughts after spending approximately eight albums with the Arrow HE

Volume

I've lost my old volume reference now that I've had the Arrow for a few hours which makes it difficult for me to compare the sonic quality at the amped level vs. the just-Zune sonic quality at a comparable volume level. My ears tell me that I'm listening at a lower volume level but enjoying a more balanced and livelier signature.

[Note after 8+ hours] I'm definitely listening at a lower volume (than with just the DAP) and enjoying much better balance and overall sonic quality. How can I tell? No ear fatigue with the SE530s. Just smooth power across the board. The amp's power delivery is like a car or truck with a gob of smooth torque.

Mids, Highs, & Lows

Porcupine Tree,*In Absentia*sounds fantastic. With the SE530s, the bass is vibrating my head (in a good way - not in a cars-that-go-boom way) the mids are punching me in the face and the highs are like Tinker Bell masturbating. After "tinkering" with the IMP, GAIN and CROSS settings, highs on the Shures finally have some definition, separation and are pushed back away from piercing the center of my head. Mids are powerful and dominate - when they should if that makes sense. Quiet passages with an upfront snare drum and acoustic guitars or piano (I think I was listening to Between the Buried And Me, Fossil Genera) give me goose bumps.

On the my Sennheiser HD500As, I had to tweak with the IMP setting (the HD500A are 150 Ohms) bump it down to II (70 Ohms) and nudge the GAIN to III to encourage the highs, but I got it just right. Mids! Wow, rich and warm and punchy. The solo on The Sound of Muzak (above-mentioned album) had such a commanding presence. It did not sound like that straight through the Zune. The guitar was growling like a heated up and pissed off Marshall amplifier. Am I listening to tubes, or this just what I've been missing all this time. :-/ The bass has finally come alive on the HD500As - at times, too much. It's much more upfront and has clarity.

DANG! (It made my say, "DANG!")

Trust Fall: This thing is quiet! Way quieter than I thought it would be. My Shures are hissless. I'm slowly (after a few hours) learning to dial back the DAP volume, trust the gain settings and the Arrow's power and let it do the driving, leaving the navigating to the DAP. The Arrow's a good driver.

If anyone detects distortion, let me know so I can try and reproduce. (I understand results, with all the different source and gear variables, will vary.)

Duh Moment

This is one of those "duh" comments I referenced in a previous disclaimer which speaks to my newbness, but - the Arrow brings out the best in quality masterings... and the flaws and sonic attributes which otherwise may have gone unnoticed or at least not as noticeable in lesser quality masterings played on just a DAP.

Detail

Subtle reverb, clucks, chirps and the scrapes of initial note strikes are more pronounced and have more character.

Good and bad: I can now hear when the mastering engineer (on a "good" mastering effort where the entire album doesn't sound like it was mastered in a compression chamber on Mars) pulls back slightly on the entire mix, e.g., when the band goes from a clean passage into a full-on punishing cement truck romp (ala Opeth).

Soundstage

I am hyaving soundstage?! The cross-feed effect is fun to play with. With the Shures, inevitably, it'll be something I can't live without. With the Senns, it'll likely be a matter of taste, depending on the album, type of music and quality of the mastering. A layman's description coming from a layman is: incrementing the CROSS effect scoots your chair back, away from the vocals monitor. And this is purely my weird perception/sensation, but from one extreme setting, O, to the other extreme, II, I felt lifted slightly above the stage. This is not the '04 Zinfandel talking. This is something I experienced many times when monkeying which the CROSS switch, and each time, it tweaked my ear a bit.

Blatant Technical Benefits (BTBs)

I have a hard drive-based DAP, and if I match the headphones, impedance setting, gain and volume, I no longer here the whirring of the DAP's hard drive spinning-up for the next song. If I get it "wrong" and/or I have the DAP volume louder than it needs to be, I can hear the HDD, but only a little bit.

Build & Design

Case flaw? What flaw. :-/ It's well engineered. From form factor to fit and finish to the laser engravings, it's tight, clean and tidy. Switches are dainty but sturdy. The volume control has appropriate resistance. The jacks are snug and snappy and I don't detect any flex in the top or bottom caps when I wiggle my interconnect connector. Attention to detail is extremely high to me, but I don't have anything to compare the Arrow against except my own high expectations. The fact that Robert included separate line inputs on the top and bottom is a testament to the elegant design and speaks to the efficiency of the design and assembly. Charge & Play at the same time, and an FRU (Field Replaceable Unit) battery? Sweet icing on the cake.

Concerns

I'm careful with my gadgets, but I'm concerned about the seemingly vulnerable power toggle.

Forgetting it when I go on a trip.

Confusion

The only confusion for me is that the effects switch positions and label printing are oriented differently on some switches, e.g., BASS is O II I and CROSS is I O II. Although, this could be my own ignorance of how the analog switches are designed and implemented. Also, GAIN is II I III which threw me because the lowest value (which I understand should not be O because some gain is produced at this setting) is in the center position which is counter-intuitive to my left-to-right thinking brain.

Minor Gripes

Minor - When the Arrow has gone to sleep and you push play on the DAP, sometimes there's a slight delay as the amp detects a signal and wakes up. This occurs when the switch is in "auto" mode and is a small price to pay for the benefit of the auto off/on convenience.

When the Arrow goes to sleep, there's an audible snap-pop which, depending on the gain and volume, hasn't been piercing or uncomfortable, but it gets my attention.

Praise

A lot. Did I mention it's quiet? Excellent engineering and craftsmanship. It's versatile, powerful, and elegant, three words that often don't go together, especially, in a device with the Arrow's Kate Moss profile. It's a ton of fun messing around with all those effects. Bang for buck factor is high. I feel like I just got a Porsche at a legit auction for the price of a Subaru. (I have an automobile analogy for almost every situation.)

-Ogre
post #5 of 3099
Wow, nice job dude.
post #6 of 3099
^ Great first impression ogre !!! Thanks for taking the time to write that up for us . And nice looking interconnects!!! Enjoy your time with your Arrow tonite
post #7 of 3099
Thanks for the review, Mediaogre. Looks to be an excellent amp for the money.
post #8 of 3099
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trapper32 View Post
^ Great first impression ogre !!! Thanks for taking the time to write that up for us . And nice looking interconnects!!! Enjoy your time with your Arrow tonite
Thanks, man. My Pleasure. I will definitely enjoy it tonight. (Thanks for reminding me to pick up beer.)

Quote:
Wow, nice job dude.
Thanks, rehabitat. (And thanks for guiding us all down the forum thread Death Star trench.)
post #9 of 3099
I don't have a lot more to say other than IMO this is simply the best, most versatile portable amp I have heard. I have not heard the Pico Slim (which will likely be it's closest competitor at $100->$150 more) but I have compared it to the Pico and found the Arrow's SQ every bit as good or better, while having much more versatility. There are likely some (much) more expensive trans-portables with better SQ but I don't think that's a fair comparison as the Arrow is made within the constraints of an "ultra" portable amp. As I have responded more than my share in the previous thread, I'll leave it to others to post their impressions here.

Here's a link to some comparative impressions for anyone visiting either of these threads for the first time.
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f105/o...ml#post6367133
post #10 of 3099
Mediaogre-
Excellent job on the impressions. I'll be adding in mine once it arrives. It'll get compared to the ALO Rx (which I'm loving)....

Good listening.
post #11 of 3099
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mediaogre View Post
(And thanks for guiding us all down the forum thread Death Star trench.)
lol, use the force Oges
post #12 of 3099
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cn11 View Post
Mediaogre-
Excellent job on the impressions. I'll be adding in mine once it arrives. It'll get compared to the ALO Rx (which I'm loving)....

Good listening.
Thanks, cn11. I can't wait to hear your thoughts and a comparison.

Hey folks, this is somewhat off-topic, but it's relevant to my current situation and gear. What's burn-in and how do I know what I'm listening for? I understand the basic idea, but if someone could explain I'd appreciate it. FWIW - I've already satisfied my Strong Desire For Magic.
post #13 of 3099
Quote:
What's burn-in and how do I know what I'm listening for?
To the best of my knowledge "burn in" is mostly applicable to amps with large (cylindrical) capacitors that retain/release an electrical charge. In the case of the Arrow, because of it's design I haven't found that "burn in applies to any significant degree. There will be some people that disagree but I believe if there was a required optimum burn in period it would have been stated in the product description/manual. Anyone who knows more about this or hears/believes differently feel free to speak up.
post #14 of 3099
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hellenback View Post
To the best of my knowledge "burn in" is mostly applicable to amps with large (cylindrical) capacitors that retain/release an electrical charge. In the case of the Arrow, because of it's design I haven't found that "burn in applies to any significant degree. There will be some people that disagree but I believe if there was a required optimum burn in period it would have been stated in the product description/manual. Anyone who knows more about this or hears/believes differently feel free to speak up.
Eeyikes. Thanks, Hellenback.

I hope it's not too late to put that can of worms back on the shelf. I officially retract my previous question.
post #15 of 3099
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mediaogre View Post
Eeyikes. Thanks, Hellenback.

I hope it's not too late to put that can of worms back on the shelf. I officially retract my previous question.

Of course I am speaking about this amp in particular. I do believe there is a "burn in" or break in period with headphones as their diaphragm needs a number of hours of movement to reach it's optimal "flexibility".
Cables and other gear are obviously up for a debate and clearly off-topic.

What question was that???
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