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Headamp Pico Power Impressions Thread

Discussion in 'Portable Headphone Amps' started by en_r, Mar 13, 2013.
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  1. En_R
    Let's get the ball rolling:


    More to come.The photos are crap. This drink is tasty.


    Broke open a NOS pair of HP1000s. Drinking helped. Review coming?


    Update: Initial Impressions

    Well hopefully most people who are in this batch have received their Picos by now… time for some initial impressions.

    Since my Pico Power (which I will now call the PP) is red, and my TH900 is red, and since I'm also secretly a communist I will be using this combo for now. What about the HP1000's? Pshhh, that's so last week/World War II.

    First off is the noise floor… or hiss.. background noise. Whatever you want to call it. With the volume knob at 50% the Pico Power has significant humming with the TH900's at high gain, an almost inaudible "bzz" at medium gain (the gain setting which is optimal for these cans), and dead silent at low gain. I'll test later with IEM's and the low gain setting but needless to say the Pico is excellent in this regard. (If you are wondering, with the TH900 50% at medium gain is borderline painful/ music for grandpa, while 50% at high gain will most likely result in temporary deafness/tinnitus).

    Also a point to note: I don't know if it's because of the PP's laid back presentation, or neutral sound signature but I had an overwhelming urge to turn up the volume knob even though I knew better. So say "no" to hearing loss.

    I'll list some tracks as a reference when appropriate.

    Bass: The PP tames the slightly bloomy bass of the TH900 while retaining the bass slam. Very punchy sounding amp. Bass extension suffers slightly, and it has a noticeably shorter bass decay than the Portaphile. Still- clean, powerful, and controlled bass from the TH900's, without a lot of the "bloom" is quite nice.
    ("Softly as a Morning Sunrise" from Hiromi's Sonicbloom)

    Speed/Transients: Amp has excellent driver control. The TH900's are a relatively fast pair of cans, and with the PP it shows. ("Aerodynamic" from Daft Punk)

    Detail Extraction: I don't know if it's my lack of intimacy with the TH900's (I've used them for maybe 6 hours?) but to me this amp (while quite good) is not the last word in detail extraction. It's minor nuances here and there, for example 1.08 seconds into Pixies "Where is My Mind" you hear a tiny click (I assume it's two drumsticks being hit together). With the PP it's just a dull "click", but switching to the RX MK3b the sound was more clear, sort of a snappy "clack". Other small things.. like the pressing of a piano pedal being made more audible, the slight shuffle of a persons behind (this was great, the MK3b sort of gave me a sonic image of where her butt was going..). Just nitpicking.

    Mids: Liquid smooth. For me this is how I want my mids: you add nothing and take nothing away. ("Samson" by Regina Spektor)

    Treble: Fiona Apple still hurts my ears with every S uttered, but this is the TH900's fault, not the amps. The amp actually helped out a bit here, and mellowed them out a bit. Like putting a band-aid over the gaping festering wound that used to be my ear drum.

    I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

    Soundstage: Soundstage is relatively smaller (compared to the Portaphile/MX3-b), and not as airy. Soundstage is well defined. Imaging is very precise…. I will reserve judgement on the space and depth of the imaging for later. Will also have to listen more to get a better feel on layering and instrument separation too (going to lean towards "good" for now).

    Overall a very solid amp. Still need to do that thing where people turn the volume up real high to check for distortion... I might pass. Near the end I decided to switch it up and connect a pair of LCD-3's to the PP for 10 minutes and the sound I got from the pairing oddly reminded me of the 007 MK1 + KGSSHV in some ways.. but then again it was 2 AM and I was half-dead.
  2. dallan Contributor
    Looks great, sounds very good, especially for the size.  I have only had a short listen but so far very happy.  Give a full and detailed sound and blows away other portable amps IMO.  Wonderful, more to come.
  3. feverfive
    Nice!!  The newest FOTM for us to salivate over!!  (I mean this in a tongue-in-cheek manner, so please don't hate)  I do find it interesting that "portable" amps seem to be getting bigger these days...usually b/c DACs are now being stuffed into the box as well.  Guess amp makers are just doing what the market expects.  I have no doubts the consensus will be that Headamp has another winner here with this offering.
  4. En_R

    Who knows.
  5. justin w. Contributor
    they started getting bigger when people started carrying larger cell phones.  when everyone was carrying an iPod Nano people wanted an appropriately tiny amp.  The Pico Power is really not all that big.  Some of the newer DAC/Amps being talked about are about 4x the size in volume, and 1/8th the battery life.  for a 2x9V amp i think this is the smallest one
  6. MilesDavis2
    First pico for me...I am now a believer.
  7. rudi0504
    My pico power on the Way to me 
    thank you Justin
  8. charlie0904
    justin's stuff is nothing short of quality.
  9. MilesDavis2
    as far as I can remember, I kinda like it better than my previous SR71A. How would you compare it with your Lisa III.
  10. dallan Contributor
    Lisa lll is better in the SQ department, but it is also twice as big and only has RCA's out.  Can't comment on the current incarnation of Lisa though.  Lisa lll is more of a transportable and is difficult to carry.  I had a setup that worked for it with a harness from the rca to LOD but the I eventually had rca problems and now a crackly volume pod.  
    The build quality on the Pico Power is way better than Lisa lll, and that is very important for a portable.  It is built like a tank where as I the Lisa seems more fragile.  The Lisa is more of a home amp that is easy to take on vacation but you can't comfortably walk around with.
    Edit-of course the Pico Power is upside down the way my day has continued to be.........Got to get my head on straight when I wake up tomorrow.[​IMG]
  11. dallan Contributor
    Has anyone noticed low listening levels have a channel imbalance?  I notice with my Edition 8 that the right side comes on in my quiet listening unless i turn it up a bit over my level at those times, to get it to work i have to use the iem gain setting.  Guess it is not a big deal but it surprised me when i realized.  Maybe the Ed 8 is more sensitive than i though too.  Not as bad with the ES10 which i had assumed was an easier to drive headphone.  Sure it isn't even noticeable with harder to drive headphones or in the outside setting that a portable is normally used for.
  12. En_R

    What gain setting?
  13. dallan Contributor
    Both medium and High.  If I put it to low,which I assume is for iems, it is low enough that I listen louder than that level even in tha quiet.  Really it isn't that big of a deal but I was surprised, hope it is not just the one I got though because I am a bit sensitive to imbalances generally.  Like I said outside it is a nonissue but in the house it is apparent at lower level listening.  I guess I will wait and see if others notice it as they start arriving.
    Edit- i checked how loud for the imbalance on iem's and it is just a fraction louder to eliminate the imbalance than where the Fostex HP-P1 is useable.  The sound quality was so much better, even at equal volume that i can not see using the Fostex output even for iems.  The Pico Power sound quality is just in a different league.
  14. En_R

    I have it as well, but only on very low volumes. This is also an issue with the ALO RX MK3-b (although much more pronounced on that one). I believe it is due to the volume pot... but I'm sure Justin will clarify.

    Both of these amps are meant to be used with hard to drive full sized cans so usually this is a non issue, but I have found the Pico to have almost zero background noise or hiss on IEM's, even on high gain.The MK3 pales in comparison.
  15. justin w. Contributor
    It is the volume pot, all of the small ones used in portables will have imbalance at low levels.  I hand test all of them and only use the best ones.  It's always a good idea to use the lowest gain possible.  If your volume control isn't maxed out, then your gain setting is not too low.  The digital volume controls don't have that problem, but they all add noise that would be significant on the higher gain settings.
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