Product Review (April 2003) Headroom
Little (Premium Module) Headphone Amplifier

Audiophiles spend a substantial amount of time and money optimizing their audio system. Whether it's their electronics, speakers, cables or even alterations to their listening environment, their quest for the best possible sonic experience is usually costly. A less expensive, yet very satisfying listening experience is a good set of headphones along with a high quality headphone amplifier connected to a high-end playback source. One company that has been dedicated to providing the audiophile community with a variety of headphone products is Headroom located in Bozeman, Montana. They've been around for quite some time and have refined their product line. Products range from the affordable HeadRoom AirHead ($119) to the more esoteric headphone amplifiers costing thousands of dollars. We were given the opportunity to review their Little (Premium Module) headphone amplifier system priced at $479, which is a step up from their least expensive headphone amplifier product.

Few products focus much on the headphone electronics and some choose not to include any at all. HeadRoom's Little is a low-cost entry-level home headphone amplifier that takes the place of an existing headphone jack or provides one for products that lack one. Headroom also offers upgrade options to the power supply and the electronics to achieve a higher level of performance.

Construction
The Little is just that, little. The unit is not much larger than the power supply used along with it. The front panel has a big volume knob in the middle surrounded by the 1/4" headphone jack and Process/Filter switches. Two indicator lights give the user status of the power supply rails. The power supply module that plugs into the wall (AC source) provides ±15 volts at 240 milliamps to the Little. There is no power switch to be found, so get used to the power lights always being on.
The rear panel has two gold plated RCA jacks and a non-detachable power cord into the unit. Large filter capacitors are used on the main board for holding adequate power reserves. Linear voltage regulators and are mounted on the smaller printed circuit board to provide clean secondary power to the headphone amplifier circuitry. The Little (Premium Module) uses the popular OPA627 and OP275 operational amplifiers in the signal path as opposed to the OPA604 used in the standard Little. The design is clean and compact which undoubtedly contributes to the sound quality of the unit.

Performance
Our evaluation of the unit included a pair of audiophile grade Sennheiser HD-600 headphones that completely revealed the sonic qualities the Little (Premium Module) had to offer. We also tried out our affordable Grado SR-60 headphones and soon found we missed the attributes of the HD-600s. DiMarzio interconnects were provided to connect the Little to our SACD player. We even had a fancy Kimber Kable connecting the Little to our portable CD player's 1/8" mini-plug. Even though the Little is an entry level audiophile product, the signal path is neutral and the detail is amazing. A flip of the Process switch helped reduce the "Blob in the head" effect, but we preferred keeping the processing off in most cases. The Filter switch is used to boost the high frequencies to compensate for the effects of the processing. There were several times when the processing actually improved what we were listening to, but it was largely dependent on the source material and certainly a subjective preference. While the processing does a great job expanding the sound, it was nice to have a bypass switch.

We started out listening to some of our favorite SACDs and DVD-Audio discs. It was amazing to hear all the detail we missed with our conventional loudspeakers. Very subtle sounds are revealed with the Little and Sennheiser HD-600 headphones. One example of this was with a poorly recorded soundtrack CD I bought a while back. The recording engineer must have gone to sleep because there was some subtle digital clipping with the A/D converters during high recording levels which became very apparent with this headphone system. It was difficult to hear it otherwise, but the Little and HD-600 headphone setup made it quite apparent. Conversely, quality recordings came alive with this setup, revealing detail missed with the vast majority of consumer headphone electronics I've heard. We also connected the Little to our PC sound card lineouts and soon found out just how bad the audio DACs were in these low cost PC products. We could distinctly hear the synthesized highs in the cheap sound card. I would recommend using this setup to evaluate any front-end electronics you plan to buy. You'll be impressed with the detail you might have otherwise missed during the evaluation of a component.

It's refreshing to see a product that truly offers a substantial improvement in audio quality for the dollar. If you're not looking to spend a whole lot of hard-earned cash on your audio setup and want the best your money can buy in a headphone system, listen to the Little with the premium module. You'll be amazed at what you've been missing.
- Kevin Nakano


Review System

DVD/CD/SACD Player - Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
Cables from SACD player: DiMarzio - RCA-to-RCA cables
Cables from portable CD player: Kimber Kable Ultra Plate Contact Surface RCA-to-miniplug


Review - At a glance
Headroom - Little (Premium Module) Headphone Amplifier

Features:

  • Standard 1/4" headphone jack.
  • Gold plated RCA jacks.
  • Process and Filter switches.
  • Smooth-action volume control
  • Power indicators.

    Little Manual: PDF File

    Company Information
    HeadRoom Corporation

    521 East Peach Street
    Bozeman, MT 59715
    Toll Free: 800-828-8184
    Phone: 406-587-9466
    Fax: 406-587-9484
    Website: www.headphone.com

    Source: Manufacturer Supplied
    MSRP: $479
    Size: 3" x 2.5" x 4" (WxHxD)
    Weight: 9.3 oz
    Warranty: 2 years with 30-day Satisfaction Guarantee

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