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For demanding audiophilic listeners seeking to go all-out for their high-end headphone listening...

Jamey Warren

HeadRoom Ultra Desktop Amp/DAC

  • For demanding audiophilic listeners seeking to go all-out for their high-end headphone listening experience, we offer our fully-loaded version of the HeadRoom Desktop Amp with the top-level 'Max' module and 'Max' DAC installations. The HeadRoom Ultra Desktop Amp comes stock with the top-performing internal parts and audio componentry we offer at HeadRoom so rest assured no expense is spared delivering the very best reference headphone sound quality into your noggin. The HeadRoom Ultra Desktop Amp will provide an integrated solution for all demanding audiophile headphone listening situations in both digital and analog domains regardless whether it's a headphone-only or a monitor-oriented application. So no matter if you connect to an iPod, laptop/PC computer, portable CD/DVD player, HeadRoom Power Amps, pre-amp, turntable phono stage, big home theatre, component stereo system, gamer box, or custom audio front-end, this nook-sized 'made in Montana, USA' HeadRoom rig driving your favorite reference headphones will transform personal and near-field headspace into pure sonic nirvana.


    The front panel of the Ultra Desktop Amp sports both full-size 1/4" and mini-plug 1/8" [3.5mm] stereo headphone jacks for use with most headphone terminations. The amp will easily drive two headphones simultaneously. A 3-position gain switch on the front panel lets you select the operating range for headphones with any impedance/efficiency rating. Discrete crossfeed and filter switches allow the user to adjust the audio presentation to your particular tastes, and, of course, an on/off power switch is also handily located on the front. The Ultra Desktop Amp has a rear panel connection for the included international-voltage Astrodyne AC power supply. The rear of the amp also has 2 independent sets of RCA-plug analog inputs with an input selector switch to choose your analog source, allowing you to have two analog-output audio components connected to your Ultra Desktop Amp at all times. The DAC allows for direct input from USB, optical, or digital co-axial audio connections so listeners can effectively have up to five audio sources hooked up to the Ultra Desktop Amp simultaneously. The Ultra Desktop Amp can also be used as a simple pre-amplifier and features a volume-controlled [variable-output] stereo RCA-plug outputs on the rear panel suitable for hooking up to powered bookshelf /computer speakers or for linking the HeadRoom Ultra Desktop Amp to a larger amplifier and/or home theatre system. The rear RCA output can be defeated by a front panel switch when listening solely to headphones

    Electronics Module

    The 'electronics module' is the internal circuit board chiefly responsible for the amp's sound quality. The HeadRoom Ultra Desktop Amp's top-of-the-line 'Max' electronics module is physically quite a bit larger in size than our other modules in order to accommodate the superb one-to-a-package Burr-Brown OPA627 op-amps. These parts are some of the most expensive audio op-amp chipsets money can buy, but they are totally worth it. Liquid-quick, transparent, intricately detailed highs and a deeply textural, rich bass response bracket an organically ultra-smooth & silky midrange. We are head-deep into serious Class-A operation here, folks! In the 'Max' module, absolutely NO expense is spared right down to the gold coated, double-thick 2 oz. copper-traced, four-layer circuit board... Woo-Hoo!

    Digital to Analog Converter (DAC)

    A DAC allows your HeadRoom unit to accept any digital audio signal and convert it to warm analog sound using premium chip set electronics. The DAC then sends that converted analog audio signal to the headphone amp stage of the Ultra Desktop Amp for final clean amplification into your headphones. A significant step for "Ultra" hot-rodded DAC [Digital-to-Analog-Conversion] audio performance is to insert an asynchronous sample rate converter and do a bit of fancy up-sampling and complex de-jittering so that's precisely what we've done in the 'Max' DAC that comes standard in the Ultra Desktop Amp. A lovely AD1896 chip lives between the digital receiver and the DAC. It collects the incoming digital data, stores it, up-samples it, interpolates it, picks a nice juicy word, and then clocks it out right on time. The thing probably does more complex math in half a millisecond than can be done with a calculator in a year!

    Power Supply Upgrades

    The HeadRoom Ultra Desktop amp comes stock with the excellent "international-voltage" Astrodyne power supply which is capable of delivering clean, quiet, and robust current on demand for the unit. As a convenient plus, the Astrodyne PS will auto-correct & properly regulate the incoming voltage for the Ultra Desktop from any AC outlet anywhere on the planet so no more worrying about the current/voltage supplies for your amp. However, keep in mind that Max electronics module/Max DAC performance will significantly improve when employing the separately-sold Desktop Power Supply (DPS, $499.00usd) which fully realizes the stunning audio clarity and precise musical detail resolution potential of the upscale 'Max' module/DAC components. These deep 'Class A' biased electronic components are EXTREMELY power-hungry and demand instantaneous, precise, and perfectly regulated AC current delivery to sound their very best -- which is exactly what we've achieved with our in-house designed & manufactured HeadRoom DPS (Desktop Power Supply).


    The HeadRoom Ultra Desktop Amp does not include any interconnect cabling. A USB cable will allow you to hook up your Ultra Desktop Amp to a computer. If using the amp's optical input with audio sources offering digital-optical output, you will need an Optical Digital Cable, and if you are using a coaxial connection from your digital-coaxial source [e.g., satellite/cable box or home theatre receiver unit] then take a look at this superb Acoustic Research coaxial cable. To hook up your Ultra Desktop Amp to portable audio players with an 1/8" (3.5mm) output like an Apple iPod, you'll need an 'RCA-to-mini' interconnect cable. We highly recommend the excellent StraightWire mini to RCA cable.


    The HeadRoom Ultra Desktop amp measures 6 1/4" x 6 1/4" x 3 1/3" tall and weighs in at around 1.9 lbs of lovely audiophilic delight. All HeadRoom Ultra Desktop products are hand-built in Montana, USA.

Recent Reviews

  1. batukaras
    Ultra Destop from Headroom
    Written by batukaras
    Published Aug 24, 2012
    Pros - Great Sound
    Cons - None
    First highend headphones and AMP, so the review will not be technical. Using this amp with HD800's after ALO allowed me to test several high end headphones. ALO was excellent to deal with and the only site in Portland Oregon to have multiple high end headphones and amps. The music is great, as others have stated. Also purchased a headroom total bithead portable amp for work. Total bithead's sound isn't close to the Ultra, but costs are relative and was purchased for portability. At work using the total bithead and Byerdynamic T5P mod by Alo.
  2. aamefford
    Headroom Ultra Desktop Amp / Dac
    Written by aamefford
    Published Sep 15, 2010
    Pros - Form factor, sound quality, fit, finish
    Cons - Pricey, but a good value


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