Arcam rHead - fully Class A, fully discrete, ultra linear headphone amplifier
Apr 23, 2018 at 6:17 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 58

junki

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I'm surprised there isn't a thread for this guy, so I'm starting one.

Product page: http://www.arcam.co.uk/products,rSeries,Accessories,rHead.htm

John Grandberg (@project86) put the rHead on InnerFidelity's Wall of Fame. The Master Switch listed it as one of the best headphone amps of 2018 while stating, "we’re going to go on record and say that this might be one of the best solid state amps we’ve heard."

Well, these guys have heard more than their fair share of audio equipment, and I just happened to be on the market for a new signal chain for my Sundara. After the disappointing pairing between the Massdrop CTH and the Sundara, I have been on the lookout for a great class A solid state amp, and despite this amp not being well marketed on my freedom and fast food side of the pond, I felt it was a no brainer to pull the trigger on the Arcam rHead.

It arrived today all the way from the Queen herself.

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What are my impressions? Well, as I told a friend:
The rHead is seriously good. I can't quite put my finger on it. There's this naturalness, smoothness, creaminess, and remarkable listenability with its sound. It sounds really good, but I can't yet figure out why. Two things immediately jump out: the borderline glare that I'm so accustomed to hearing with the Sundara on some recordings is completely gone. Just utterly vanished. The other thing is that the bass isn't as pronounced, but I can't say that it's diminished either. I think it's just more taut and less boomy?

I'm very pleased so far. This is exactly the sort of amp I was looking for with my Sundara. Class A, discrete, perfect analog potentiometer, all designed by Cambridge-trained engineer and Arcam cofounder John Dawson. I might write up something more detailed after I've wrangled further with what this is I'm hearing.

Or, more likely, I'll just keep on listening.

As of this post, the rHead is available on Analogue Seduction for roughly $250 shipped to the US when it once MSRP'd for a buck shy of $600. In my opinion, for this level of engineering and sound quality, it's an absolute steal. My Sundara has never sounded so good.
 
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Apr 23, 2018 at 7:31 PM Post #2 of 58

Mshenay

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Looks sleek, price is excellent! Nice impressions too. I think a US Tour of this little guy is in order, so let me get started on trying to get that rolling. I and others I'm sure would love to hear this
 
Apr 23, 2018 at 8:49 PM Post #3 of 58

L0rdGwyn

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It's a great amp, I bought one for my girlfriend's home office not too long ago, got it brand new shipped from the UK from Analogue Seduction for $200 USD, took about a week from ordering to get to the Midwest USA. The rHead doesn't have a ton of power, but enough to drive most headphones sufficiently. It is a very detailed, clean, pleasing listen, goes great with her hand-me-down HD650's! (yup, my girlfriend has a better desk setup than many headphone nerds :)).
 
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Apr 24, 2018 at 2:11 AM Post #4 of 58

starence

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There is a thread for this, in the Sponsor forum.

Nice little amp, it has an effortless quality to it. Neutral, resolving, and well controlled. Pairs well with a wide variety of headphones. True, it's not the most powerful amp, but unless you own some very inefficient planars, it shouldn't be an issue.
 
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Apr 27, 2018 at 6:37 PM Post #5 of 58

junki

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I want to chime in one more thing about this superb headphone amplifier since now I've gotten more than a week's worth of heavy daily use from it.

The volume knob on this thing is perfect omg I love it so much.

I never imagined the piece of mind that perfect channel matching and perfect 1dB steps over 80 steps is, all the while in analog! It even clicks into mute at the lowest level, which changes the LED from green to orange, and places the amplifier in thermal standby.

Compared to the rHead, the MCTH I have at work, which I'd like to underscore cost me the same amount of money, has probably the world's most horrendous volume knob. It's so scratchy when adjusting during an active signal, and it suffers from huge and widely reported channel imbalance before 7-8 o'clock. The MCTH also has a fixed gain of 8x (+18dB), which means, if I want to maximize my dynamic range and output into the amplifier a digital signal at 0 dBFS (100% windows volume), I'm at literally the 7-8 o'clock with the 300 ohm HD6XX. This often meant surprise drop-outs on the right channel, and when things did manage to sound more or less correct, I'm still plagued by neurosis that the amp is not treating my left and right cups equally. So, I'm forced to lower Windows volume to 70%, incur the penalty to dynamic range, and thereby keep the MCTH's volume knob around the safer 9 o'clock position, because frankly the MCTH does not let me trust it. It's as if the MCTH was designed for people who don't care about this hobby!

With the rHead, I'm just shy of 12 o'clock for my hardest to drive headphones and normally listen somewhere between 10 o'clock and 12 o'clock. This is perfect. This is all the power a headphone amplifier ought to have. And I'm so confident that both channels are getting that perfectly undistorted class A signal equally.

I'm extremely disappointed in Massdrop and Alex Cavalli. Yes, it sounds amazeballs with the HD6XX, but I'm literally peeved everyday from using it. The rHead is easily 2x the build quality and like 4x the sound quality and a safer pairing for most headphones, at the same price.

John Dawson, man, you know what you are doing.
 
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May 24, 2018 at 2:16 PM Post #6 of 58

elicohen

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Is it safe to keep my unit on all the time?
I turn the dial till click and light is orange, meaning it is muted, when done listening.

But it remains very hot to the touch.
Do I need to switch it off completely using the back switch?
 
May 28, 2018 at 11:16 PM Post #7 of 58

alphanumerix1

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Looks like a nice unit, Although i don't take anything on master switch as credible.

Subscribed for more.
 
May 29, 2018 at 10:51 AM Post #8 of 58

project86

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Is it safe to keep my unit on all the time?
I turn the dial till click and light is orange, meaning it is muted, when done listening.

But it remains very hot to the touch.
Do I need to switch it off completely using the back switch?

I sometimes leave it on for a week at a time, no issues so far. The heat is evidence of Class A operation combined with a smallish enclosure. I wouldn't worry about leaving it on indefinitely if you wanted to - that way it's always warmed up and ready to sound its best whenever you go to listen.
 
May 29, 2018 at 11:03 AM Post #9 of 58

junki

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Is it safe to keep my unit on all the time?
I sometimes leave it on for a week at a time, no issues so far. The heat is evidence of Class A operation combined with a smallish enclosure. I wouldn't worry about leaving it on indefinitely if you wanted to - that way it's always warmed up and ready to sound its best whenever you go to listen.
I actually reached out to Arcam with this specific question, and the response was:
There is no recommendation on switching off each noght so it is entirely up to you. Turning it off each night will help avoid wear in certain ways but will increase wear on the power switch and many electrical components have a shelf life even when not in use so you may not gain a lot. The only thing we really recommend on this subject is to switch off if the unit will be out of use for an extended period (say > 1 week) like if you go on holiday.
FWIW, I keep mine on 24/7 and just mute it when I'm not using it. It's been like that for months, and I've had no issues. I've also had no issues with excessive heat either.
 
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Jun 2, 2018 at 3:13 PM Post #11 of 58

elicohen

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I actually reached out to Arcam with this specific question, and the response was:FWIW, I keep mine on 24/7 and just mute it when I'm not using it. It's been like that for months, and I've had no issues. I've also had no issues with excessive heat either.
Thank you!!!

One point of consideration for me: I sometimes found that when turning the volume knob back (orange to green), there was no sound.
Only power off - on on the back brought sound back (all this while the source was playing on shuffle).
 
Jun 3, 2018 at 8:56 PM Post #12 of 58

buonassi

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Easy buy for me IF it had RCA out.
It does. Has rca or Xlr , your choice but can’t use both at same time.

Amazing amp with hd600 and Elear. Lightning fast bass. So tight and punchy it sticks and moves. I have never tried this with any planars but so far for dynamics it’s great. It wiped the floor with the Asgard 2.
 
Jun 3, 2018 at 9:29 PM Post #13 of 58

mrip541

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It does. Has rca or Xlr , your choice but can’t use both at same time.

Amazing amp with hd600 and Elear. Lightning fast bass. So tight and punchy it sticks and moves. I have never tried this with any planars but so far for dynamics it’s great. It wiped the floor with the Asgard 2.

So if I use the RCA input the XLR becomes an output, and the other way around?
 
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Jun 5, 2018 at 3:14 AM Post #15 of 58

Summum Malum

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I'm seriously thinking about getting this thing. All I have right now is an iPod nano 7G, driving a KRK KNS 8400. I have a few questions.

Is this thing neutral and transparent? I'm looking for fidelity in my sound. Secondly, when driving sensitive gear I may not be able to turn the volume knob much, so I'm concerned about channel imbalances at low output levels. Should I perhaps look elsewhere?
 

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