I finally invested in a real headphone amp/DAC for both home and portable use. Previously, I'd been using my receiver for my surround sound as an amp and DAC (with optical TOSLINK cable from my Desktop into my receiver), and while it boosted clarity and cut the shrill out of my 990's somewhat however I was never really satisfied.
In the mail came TWO things today:
- HeadRoom Total BitHead
- Alessandro MS1i's (portable headphones because the Beyer DT990's just aren't very portable... at all)
I did a few things to test the BitHead. First I listened to some music with my DT990's and FLAC files (mostly classic rock, because that's what I listen to the majority of the time). Then I plugged in the BitHead via USB to test out the Amp + DAC feature to test it out. After I tested the Amp + DAC on my DT990's, I switched to the not-yet-burned-in MS1i's. Then, I tested my portable set up, which included the source as an iPod Touch 2G/3G (200-320kbps files) --> LOD --> Total BitHead --> MS1i's.
DT990's NO amp/dac:
This is the sound I'm most used to. The highs are shrill, even after 100+ hours on the cans, or more. They have good sound, but lack clarity when there are many instruments being played. The soundstage is nice, but not incredible. Not much needs to be said here because this is not a review of the 990's. FLAC files are being used, and will be used for all the USB tests as well.
DT990's Amp + DAC (USB method):
Wow. Clarity is boosted enormous amounts! That was the first and best thing I noticed about using the BitHead. Also, the soundstage feels like it opens up a little bit, and everything just sounds a little cleaner and fuller. I'm very satisfied with this, its better than I had imagined. I'm hearing things that I didn't hear before in songs, or things that I only heard very quietly and muffled. Overall, drastic improvement! The warmth is also just about the same, if not maybe a tad warmer sound.
Alessandro MS1i's Amp + DAC (USB method):
I regret that I never listened to the MS1i's unamped/DAC'd prior to testing them out with the BitHead. I was just too excited to try out both new cans, AND a new amp/dac. I like that the in-your-face Grado personality is still there with these headphones using this amp. I was really hoping to retain that Grado spark, and it is still there. However, I'm extremely impressed with the clarity of these MS1i's. Whether or not that is due to the BitHead, I'm not sure, but for the price of the MS1i's, its hard to get this kind of clarity in other headphones that retail for $109 - let alone EARPAD headphones. The soundstage lacks a bit but no one buys Grado/Alessandro's for soundstage. Also, I'm contrasting these to my DT990's which are going to make the MS1i's sound like closed cans in a closet. Warmth is the same here.
Alessandro MS1i's Amped in my portable set up:
I'm glad to say that the audio quality is still there on my portable set up. With quality MP3 songs, 85-90% of the clarity is still there, which is more than sufficient for a portable airplane/campus set up, especially with the MS1i's. Soundstage is just about the same, maybe a hair smaller, but pretty much static (not static like sound.. but the literal meaning). Warmth is also about the same here. I really like the "personality" that the MS1i's have with the BitHead. Its a GREAT set up for on the go rock music. I'm really going to enjoy this. EDIT: Its only fair to admit that I did have "Bass Boost EQ" turn on while listening through my portable set up on my iPod Touch. It gives it a warmer, fuller sound. However, if you like more airy, treble sounding music, then you should probably just keep the EQ to flat.
Anyways, those are my personal reflections on the HeadRoom Total BitHead and I guess the MS1i's. In the end its a terrific amp/dac for the money, and one that will stay in my collection for a long time.
I will also add to this review later with my AD700's as well, but they are back at ATUS for some repairs right now ... I'm not a huge fan of those cans anyways. They're like sucky DT990's with a lack in bass... but lets not open up THAT can of worms in this thread.
Edited by wdahm519 - 12/20/10 at 5:54pm