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Arcam rHead - fully Class A, fully discrete, ultra linear headphone amplifier

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by junki, Apr 23, 2018.
  1. junki
    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.









    What are my impressions? Well, as I told a friend:
    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.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2018
  2. Mshenay Contributor
    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
    junki likes this.
  3. L0rdGwyn
    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 :)).
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2018
    displayname, Valens7 and junki like this.
  4. starence
    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.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2018
  5. junki
    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.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2018
    displayname, rids57 and cskippy like this.
  6. elicohen
    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?
  7. alphanumerix1
    Looks like a nice unit, Although i don't take anything on master switch as credible.

    Subscribed for more.
  8. project86 Contributor
    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.
  9. junki
    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.
    Last edited: May 29, 2018
    displayname likes this.
  10. mrip541
    Easy buy for me IF it had RCA out.
  11. elicohen
    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).
  12. buonassi
    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.
    displayname likes this.
  13. mrip541
    So if I use the RCA input the XLR becomes an output, and the other way around?
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2018
  14. buonassi
    No they are both inputs. Ahh crap I just realized you said rca OUT! Please accept my apologies.
  15. Summum Malum
    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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