Review: 2008 Headroom Micro Amp vs X-Can v3
Jun 24, 2008 at 11:10 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 2

wilyodysseus

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Well, I just got the X-Can v3, and am comparing it to the the Headroom Micro Amp. These are both very good amps to my ears, but I can't afford to keep both.

I used the Headroom Micro DAC and Apple Lossless files for all comparisons. (Whatever else I decide, the Micro DAC is a definite keeper. Unless I decide to upgrade to the Ultra Micro DAC.
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) None of these components are fully burned-in, if you believe in that sort of thing. The K701's have about 60-80 hours. The Micro has maybe 20 hours, and the X-Can is fresh out of the package.

For anyone who hasn't seen these amps in person, the Micro is tiny compared to the X-Can. Seriously. The X-Can is probably more than eight times the volume of the Micro and four times the footprint. If desk space is a concern for you, look to the Micro. Both amps are nicely constructed, but the X-Can feels more substantial. Particularly, I have serious concerns about the long-term durability of the Micro's 3.5mm headphone jack, which seemed to "wiggle" right out of the box.

Both amps are very detailed. I can hear the same tiny breath sounds and sheet music page turns through both amps. Until I heard the X-Can, I hadn't realized that I found these sorts of details slightly annoying through the Micro.

The X-Can does sound a little dimensionally blurred compared to the Micro. The Micro has very strong focus. During some of the track on The White Stripes' Get Behind Me Satan album, I can close my eyes and point to where each instrument would be located around me, almost like a binaural recording. With the X-Can, less so.

While I only dB matched by ear, it sounds like the Micro, even on only medium gain, has more authority than the X-Can. That's not to say that either amp lacks volume. Both can drive my K701's to uncomfortable/dangerous levels. More important that maximum volume to me is minimum listenable volume. At casual or even very low listening volumes, the Micro seems to hold onto more of it's high volume magic. Some of the body falls away from the X-Can when it's quiet.

In general, the X-Can has a more musical sound than the Micro. I find that I'm less susceptible to listening fatigue with the X-Can. I suspect this may have something to do with the K701 pairing--that the X-Can sounds a little smoother with these very revealing headphones. Maybe it's the tubes.

I'm conflicted. One of these amps needs to be returned. I'm going to listen to both for a few days. At this point I'm leaning very slightly toward the X-Can. It gets my head bobbing and toes tapping more of the time. That is the point, right? My inclination to the X-Can comes as a surprise to me. After spending a few days with the Micro, I was very happy. If the X-Can hadn't dropped into my lap, I wouldn't have felt the need to search it out.

Also, I get the impression that the Headroom support is top-notch. They've certainly been very friendly and knowledgeable on the phone, and their website is very useful. With Musical Fidelity? I'm not so confident.

I'm also wondering what the Micro Amp would sound like with a tube buffer in front of it. . . .
 
Jun 26, 2008 at 1:12 PM Post #2 of 2

mrarroyo

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HeadRoom products are top notch and the customer service is 2nd to none. The staff does go out of their way to make customers happy plus their gear is IMO overbuilt.
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The X-Can V3 is a lovely sounding amp and if you are willing to put a bit of money into it it will become a much better amp than what you are listening to. If you decide to keep it PM me and I will provide some places to go to modify the V3 to a much higher plane.
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So in summary keep the one your ears like better.
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