I've never tried a headroom amp myself but they look well made and by a solid american company. Why aren't they discussed more on head-fi? Are they too costly for the quality? Or are they just yesterday's news and need some updates?
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Why no love for headroom amps?
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Seems like Headroom was all the rave around 2008 and earlier. Too many shiny new amps and dacs these days. I do really enjoy my ultra desktop amp/dac that I bought used in the fs section. It sounds great with any headphone I plug in. But I could never have afforded it new.
Headroom amps are still highly thought of my some members around here. It's just that the market has exploded lately, so people tend to get caught up on the FOTMs. But, those who know, still like Headroom amps.
I think headroom amps were popular around 5 years ago. From my brief listenings, they are good amps. I kind of wish I bought their Millet Hybrid amp when it was available because I like their design and it looked really sharp. Handsome looking amps I would say. I was going to buy at least one of their amps but I fell in love with the tube amps and other companies out there had some killer tube designs and even DIY looked more lustful with some top notch designs out there.
Edited by Spareribs - 1/18/12 at 5:00am
I have an older HeadRoom balanced desktop amp -- don't remember if it is "ultra," but it does have a built-in DAC and the stepped attenuator. I use it to drive my Sennheiser HD-800s. I am very, very pleased with this setup and feel no compulsion to upgrade. To me, it was worth the investment.
Too ugly for my taste. E7/E9 combo are gorgeous looking and good SQ. E10 is nice looking and purely fun to listen to. Audio Engine D1 has the hi class look and hi-end SQ.
I'd rather see a pretty woman singing than an ugly one. Call me shallow, if you will but I am not the only one out there thinking that way.
I may be biased - I currently have a Max Balanced which was upwards of 3K back in the day - but the older Headroom amps (can't comment on DACs) are very, very good. With the whole regime change a couple years ago it seems like they stopped pushing the envelope - they are no longer the industry leader they once were. I believe the changeover of amp designers has something to do with it too, although I've never been able to get a straight answer on who was doing the design/engineering then and now. This is all from the performance side of things.
Aesthetics are huge on head-fi. There is a reason RSA's amps are so popular. Headroom amp/DACs are utilitarian and spartan - some would call the look industrial. Point is, a lot of users are looking for a certain look and Headroom is just too nondescript.
The third thing that affects them is this - Headroom gets a lot of people into the hobby. Those people then decide to jump headlong into headphonedom. They look back at Headroom and think of it as being for Noobs and Rubes . In this type of hobby, perception is 9/10ths of the law. Unfortunately Headroom is not currently viewed in the same light as many other companies.
I've never heard anything but good things about HeadRoom products from hobbyists I've emailed with etc. Never had the pleasure to try one myself though, as they are very rare in the EU. As with any social community, Head-Fi is prone to "flavors of the month" and so on. If you use the search function you can still find many good posts about HeadRoom products. The fact a product is not a currently much spoken one here means very little.
I've come really close to buying a HeadRoom amp many times as I really want to try their crossfeed. I think I would really enjoy it for a lot of the jazz I listen to it. HOWEVER, as some have already mentioned, I feel they are just way behind the curve on design aesthetics. I think the Total Bithead, just on reputation alone of their products and them as a company in general would blow away the similarly priced competition, if only it didn't look like a dated, plastic toy. Compare the design of it with the new Fiio products, or iBasso offerings and it just doesn't turn any heads.
I think this is the case pretty much all the way up their product line. I'm sure they are wonderful products, but they should look the part too. Think Burson Audio, or some of the Ray Samuels products (products that sound AND look top class). The Headroom amps have become like the boring old beige PC boxes of years past.
I've purchased some accessories from them and the service and response to emails has always been fantastic. They seem to be resting on the laurels in the amp design though.
Edited by FuzzyD - 1/27/12 at 1:32pm
Headroom gear is the real deal - don't kid yourself. It's well designed, and there's no ********. It's measured and offers alot of features in a clean sharp package. It's also american made, and supported. Should a problem arise they take care of their customers quickly. That said, I do think it's a little overpriced, but you do get alot in return.
Headroom is always one of the first places I look when considering a new amp, and I have come very very close to buying a variety of their products, yet somehow never have. They just never seem to hit the exact feature/aesthetic/price balance for me, even though they are one of the few companies I'd trust to build a really competent product.
As noted, at the low end, the Airhead/Bithead line is aesthetically way behind the times. I've been tempted a number of times by the Micro amp/dac for office use, but they are stuck in this weird no-mans land. For office use, they don't need to be that small (and hence use 1/8" input jacks, for instance) especially since the freaking power supplies are bigger than the components.
I was very close to buying a portable micro amp/dac as this is a nice all-in-one unit without an enormous power supply, with good connectivity options, that I could use at the office, and still bring with me for desk/hotel use on my frequent business trips. I like the size, I like that it has some weight so it shouldn't slide around the desk from the weight of connected cables, but I honestly didn't need the batteries, and for some reason, Headroom designs their battery powered amps to be battery only - so for the most frequent use - on my desk, I'd be constantly charging/discharging, rather than being able to leave it plugged in. Also, the portable micro (which is rarely available used) costs as much or more than their Desktop amp on the used market, which uses considerably better parts.
Anyhow, it all boils down for me that HR really just needs to tweak their offerings a little bit, and I think they'd have some killer products. I'd love to see that happen.
Some of the things that I like about the Headroom amps are the "Swiss Army knife" like options. You get the preamp outputs, the high and low gain switches which is important if you are using different types of headphones and the ability to connect or disconnect to a detachable power supply unit which can come in handy at times if you are transporting the amp, say to an office for example and you don't want to clutter the desk with the power supply, so you leave it at home with your other Headroom amp.
The utilitarian approach of the amps are likable I must admit.
- Why no love for headroom amps?
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