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Where do you keep hearing that?
I read it first on head-fi reviews. Then in another review, a French one. It may have been a mashup of head-fi and innerfidelity reviews. Though I hear the word smooth in many reviews, these reviews used the word smothed-over. Also atleast 3 reviews mentioned lower details. I wasn't sure if that was a comparison to amps at much higher price point or at $250. A lot of these reviews came when these amps were going for $599
rHead is not overly smooth. It's competitive at $599, and is a steal at half that price.
I would say that rHead is smooth in a very positive way, as a unit in higher price range should be. Smooth, in the sense that it is relaxed, balanced and effortless. When I auditioned rHead for the first time in the beginning of 2017 I compared it to the amps in the same price range ($599) and higher and it performed very competitively. To my ears it was sonically more satisfying than the other amps I compared it to (Schiit, Lake, Woo etc.). When the price dropped to $299 I simply bought it. There is no other amp for $299 offering this kind of sonic and technical excellence. As far as I can see almost all reviews on the web prize this amps ability to resolve details and to sound naturally layered etc. That is my experience exactly.
Could you please give us some sources to the reviews you are referring to?
One was from the second review on head-fi review page. The first review mentions it, but second one makes it sound problematic.
The french review, I found during some random google search. I used a translator to understand it. It had phrases similar to the review at InnerFidelity. That is why I said it might be a mash up. One of the Amazon user reviews was negative, but it might be just that his unit was faulty. He mentioned a volume pot issue that sounds like a manufacturing defect.
InnerFidelity review was exceedingly positive when it was at $599. I was planning on buying an Element, when I ran into these reviews. I am almost positive that I will end up buying it. Only problem is that my favourite DAC just died and I will need to get a separate DAC. Any suggestions?
Welp, after reading all the input here and finding that excellent deal from Audio Seductions I've put in my order for the rHead. I'm very new to the headphone game, but I'm picking up a lightly used Magni 3 today, and I'll obviously compare it to the rHead when that comes in. Excited to see the differences and glad I'll be getting to try both at prices I'm comfortable with.
Looking forward to your opinions
I'll be sure to share my novice thoughts once I have it in and have some time with it. Like I said, I'll only have my receiver headphone jack and the Magni to compare to. And I'm running pretty entry level cans too. But it'll still be fun to experiment with.
It will be interesting to read your thoughts. What headphones are you using?
I am interested in this amplifier and I want to take advantage of my integrated amplifier to connect it directly to the Record Output Link.
My integrated amplifier has a mute button, should I activate this button to listen through from Arcam rHead and turn off the audio output through the speakers with the mute button?
Hifiman HE-4XX. The rHead will outclass the 4XX I think, but if it stands out on these I figure it will do justice to other cans if I upgrade down the road.
You have it correct. That's exactly what I do. Source>Integrated (on mute)>Head amp via tape/record out.
We are waiting with huge excitement for your thoughts
I had quite a runaround with USPS getting this from the post office to my house just 1.2 miles away. But it arrived this morning and I have not removed my headphones since getting it set up.
Impressions are based off of rHead vs Schiit Magni 3 using HE-4XX. Schiit is fully broken in, rHead is not.
Is the Arcam better than the Schiit? ... yes. But that's the not real story here. The real story is at this point it is MUCH closer than I would have expected. Possibly a limitation with the headphones, but there are not massive differences so far in my experience. I'll explain the main sonic differences I'm noticing, but I really cannot emphasize enough that this is close. I think it would take a keen ear and some time if you were blind testing.
So what's better about the Arcam? Build quality is the first thing you notice coming out of the box. It's larger and weighs 3 times as much. Soncially... first and most noticeably is the soundstage. It's not massively wider, but it is more open. Feels much more like the sound is happening around your head rather than in your head. That's not a perfect description, but the best way I can articulate it. But again, it's not a striking difference, just the strongest difference between the two. The balance, especially during busy passages is also more natural sounding. Finally, I have times where I think the Magni has a bit too much bite on the top end. Just a touch too bright for my taste. With the rHead, not an issue so far.
I think the most telling thing is when I was really listening for difference, with the Magni I found myself noticing things. This area stood out positively, this area might need some improvement, etc etc. When I would switch over to the rHead with the same objective, I just found myself getting caught listening. It was a little easier to get lost in in the music because the amp just melts away. This happens with the Magni as well, but not as often. Between the slight top end edge and the closer presentation of the Magni, I find it just a touch fatiguing over long sessions. For some short critical listening, either will get the job done well. But if I had to pick one for a 6 hour marathon, I'd have a stronger input about going with the rHead.
I was also expecting the power differences to be more noticeable given that the Magni should have nearly double the power at 32 ohms (which is what the 4XX is rated for). Both power my 4XX well. The Magni sits at about 1 o'clock, while the rHead probably sits a little closer to 2 o'clock. Pretty close though.
Maybe these difference become more apparent as you scale up headphones. Would I recommend the rHead over the Magni? At $600, probably not. Not in this set up anyway. At the $230 I paid, yeah if it isn't hurting to spend that and you're curious. Just don't go in expecting to have you mind blown. It is better, but not miles better.
Not having to reach to the back to turn on the rHead is nice. The rHead doesn't get hot, that's nice too. The Magni has preouts. Makes no difference to me, but for some people that's a big deal. I would easily recommend the Magni after this experience. I would recommend the rHead as well, but not at full price. Get it for under $300 (or less). I'll keep both for awhile longer, but I'll likely end up selling the Magni.
Which DAC are you using?
agreed. at least no amp I've heard at that price point.