Adding to our massive range of dedicated headphone amplifiers we have recently had a good play with Arcam's latest offering: Arcam rHead Headphone Amplifier
For quite some time now Arcam have been building quite elaborate headphone stages into their integrated amplifiers, but this is their first all-out effort to develop a dedicated headphone amplifier.
Out of the box, the rHead has a reassuringly hefty feel, with a solid weight and well machined, minimalist casework. The design is quite simple and understated and doesn't call undue attention to itself. I really like it.
The one quirk I might question is the slightly recessed headphone socket, which could make use with some larger 6.3mm headphone jack fittings a little cumbersome.
The rHead has a set of RCA and XLR inputs with a positive switch between the two.
The volume control is very smooth and free of noise. It is actually quite pleasant to use.
We have the luxury of being able to compare the rHead with a variety of top end headphone amps with a range of headphones to get a feel for how this unit sounds.
My first test is the Hi-FiMan Edition X, which is currently one of my favourite headphones. It's reasonably difficult to drive well, with a very large planar magnetic driver. When driven properly, these headphones have absolutely excellent detail and sound-staging, whilst having some of the most extended, driving and textured bass on any headphone I have experienced.
The Arcam seems to do a very solid job, controlling that extended low-end and keeping that top end sparkle without letting go of quite a subtle mid-range balance.
On the other end of the spectrum, my next target was the Audiofly AF180, which are an extremely resolving balanced armature in-ear monitor. The Arcam seemed dead silent with no discernible background noise or hiss. The rHead was fully capable of bringing these headphones to life.
Overall, I would say this headphone amplifier is certainly excellent for it's price.
Pop in to our Wellington store to have a listen for yourself.