This is Part 3 of a four-part report.
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HeadRoom did not announce any brand new models at CanJam-RMAF, but instead displayed a broad array of its current desktop audio products, ranging from comparatively affordably priced models on up to considerably mores costly top-tier models.
I asked HeadRoom’s Product Development Manager Jamey Warren which of his firm’s extensive product offerings he felt Playback readers most needed to know about, and he singled out three of HeadRoom’s most value-oriented offering: the Micro Amp ($349), the Desktop Amp ($799), and the Ultra Desktop Amp ($1599).
The Micro Amp is a small class A headphone amp with two switch selectable line-level inputs, a gain switch, a variable-level (preamp) output, and a switch for selecting or bypassing HeadRoom's signature "Crossfeed" circuit, which is said to improve headphone imaging.
The Desktop Amp is a particularly versatile and cost-effective product that provides a class A headphone amplifier with two analog line-level inputs, one analog line out and a built-in DAC, which provides 24/96 capable optical and coaxial inputs, and 16/44 capable USB inputs. The Desktop Amp provides a rear output enable switch, a brightness control switch, a "Crossfeed" circuit on/off switch, and a three-position gain switch.
The Ultra Desktop Amp is essentially a hot-rodded version of the Desktop Amp.
Warren acknowledged that the three models he cited sometimes stand in shadow of HeadRoom’s more ambitious (but much more expensive) top-tier products. Even so, he rightly points out that the Micro Amp, Desktop Amp, and Ultra Desktop Amp offer terrific bang for the buck and therefore stand as the “unsung heroes” of his lineup—they’re the models that do the most sonic good for the broadest audience possible, and for the least amount of money.
JH Audio did not announce brand new products at CanJam-RMAF, but instead focused on demonstrating its popular flagship JH16 Pro in-ear monitor (). However, I spoke with JH Audio founder Jerry Harvey and he indicated that it should not be too long before his firm will be able to deliver its eagerly anticipated DSP-controlled, portable tri-amplification system for use with appropriately modified JH16 Pros (the amp can also be configured for use with the 3-way JH13 Pro model). An early prototype version of the DSP/tri-amp system had been shown earlier this year at CanJam-Chicago.
Those who presently own passive JH16 Pro earphones, and who want to take the step up into tri-amplification, will be able to pay a special bundled price that covers both the cost of the new DSP/tri-amp module and of reworking their present in-ear monitors to prepare them for use with the new amp.
According to Harvey, the DSP/tri-amp system allows him to achieve near-perfect phase and frequency response across the entire audio spectrum, while also giving options for making very precise adjustments in low bass response. The DSP/Tri-amp version of the JH16 Pro was prominently displayed in the marketing flyers JH Audio was distributing at CanJam, and should enter the market soon.
Moon Audio is an authorized retailer for a very large array of high-quality headphones, headphone amplifiers, and related accessories, but it is also a manufacturer in its own right.
Specifically the firm offers a range of ultra high performance headphone signal cables, along with custom headphone modifications to allow specialized singled-ended and balanced signal cables to be fitted, complete with custom terminations to suit the user’s intended application. In the photo above, for example, the Beyerdynamic T50p's custom signal cable has been fitted with a 3.5 mm mini-jack plug (because the headphone is often used in portable applications), but in this instance it has been equipped with a Moon Audio-supplied 3.5mm to 1/4-inch jack adapter so that the headphone can be plugged into a Burson Audio amp.
Ray Samuels Audio
Ray Samuel’ Audio offered a very impressive display that included most (though not all) of the firm’s astonishingly diverse oeuvre of headphone amplifiers. Those familiar with Mr. Samuels’ designs cannot help but be impressed by the man’s sheer creativity, inventiveness, and commitment to top-tier sound.
Picture this: On one long display table, RSA showed allowed CanJam attendees to sample any or all of the following (yowza!):
· The Blackbird SR-71A portable headphone amplifier ($395)
· The Hornet portable headphone amplifier ($370)
· The Tomahawk portable headphone amplifier ($295)
· The Shadow portable headphone amplifier ($395)
· The P-51 Mustang portable headphone amplifier ($370)
· The Protector balanced portable headphone amplifier ($475)
· The Predator portable USB DAC/headphone amplifier ($475)
· The F-117 Nighthawk phono stage ($795)
· The Raptor tube-powered desktop headphone amplifier ($1175)
· The Apache desktop pre-amp/headphone amplifier ($2995)
· The B-52 tube-powered desktop pre-amp/headphone amplifier ($5350), and
· The A-10 Thunderbolt II fully balanced pre-amp/electrostatic headphone amplifier ($6500).
Astonishingly, not even that long list represents all of Samuels' designs. Why so many models at similar price points? I spoke with Samuels about this and learned that each model was designed with very specific application requirements in mind. Thus, if you describe your exact requirements to Samuels, he can almost always come up with a product recommendation that's a near-perfect fit for your needs.
Just in case you're wondering, and this will be obvious to may readers, Samuels' product names reflect the fact that he is an aviation enthusiast with an affinity for contemporary and vintage "warbirds."
At CanJam, Samuels was happily blowing the minds of event attendees and fellow exhibitors alike with his incredibly good sounding pre-production prototype of the upcoming SR-71B fully balanced portable headphone amp (the amp provides both single-ended and balanced inputs and outputs, and has more than enough “oomph” do drive even the most power-hungry ‘phones).