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On me ‘ed son. AuroraSound HEADA Headphone Amplifier Review
It’s been a while since I spent any real time listening to headphones, however, the recent Chord Hugo review combined with me acquiring some nice new Bowers and Wilkins P7’s has me back in the mood. Of course it’s a different experience to loud speakers, and one most people think of as a second choice. Cans are often what we resort to when the wife and kids are in bed, or if living in a small apartment with neighbours seemingly able to hear a pin drop. In places like Japan where space is at an absolute premium, small apartments are rife and the headphone market is incredibly buoyant. Perhaps in an increasingly populous world, this will be our future. the HEADA certainly makes that prospect less daunting.
It has to be said, the success of those Dr Dreadful Beats things has had a positive impact on the general public’s desire for a better sound from portable devices. And that has resulted in a healthy response from the HiFi industry at large, and not just the big boys, a whole raft of quality manufacturers has sprung up; Phonon, HiFiMAN and about thwelvty-billion other newbies occupied a whole floor at Munich last year, such was the clamor for a slice of Dre’s success.
To my mind, the success of the headphone market has the potential to re-rejuvenate interest in Hifi across the board. For those with sense enough to ride that marketing band-wagon, opportunities abound. Anyway, I digress, the point is Headphones are a big deal these days and with the improved quality available they offer a very family and neighbour friendly way of enjoying your music.
Aurorasound are as aware of this as anyone and to that end have developed this, the HEADA Balanced drive headphone amplifier. It’s a hugely practical and well specced device for HeadFi fans. I will come onto the specs later, for now, I’m enjoying listening.
My Leema Elements DAC has a ‘phones out, which is my normal method of driving my P7’s, and it does a fine job. The sound is nicely detailed, clean and dynamic. To be honest, I’d not really considered an alternative. For the amount of Headphone listening I do the Leema was more than adequate. In fact I quite like it still. However, the Heada sound is demonstrably “better”. At a recent bake off a few of us messed about with various Cans and sources. The Heada was a clear winner, with everyone agreeing the differences were quite pronounced. With my P7’s over some extended listening, I am finding the sound to be “fuller” without losing any detail. There is better timbre and definition, it’s higher fidelity and simply more pleasing, to my ears at least. I feel more in touch with the music and engaged in the way we all enjoy from hifi. That rare connection one gets when lost in the music. The big question for me is the £2k price tag. Does it warrant that kind of outlay? The answer will depend entirely on how often you listen to headphones. If you use them frequently and find they are used as much if not more than your main system then you’d not want to live without this once you’d heard it. An infrequent user such as myself would struggle to justify the outlay, however, I know I will miss this. I have enjoyed playing with various cans (I have a couple of pairs of Sennheisers and Grados here too) and really enjoyed that late night immersive experience only a headphone system can really deliver. A decent glass of wine, wife in bed, favourite tunes on, the comfiest chair, head back and we are off. It’s a lovely thing. And I probably won’t bother doing that as often once the HEADA has HEADED home to Puresound’s house. Which is a shame.
Perhaps at a lower price point more would decide they couldn’t live without it, but then, perhaps at a lower price point, the small manufacturer couldn’t afford to make it quite this good. Therin will lie the rub.
Guy of PureSound (the importer) did say a line stage was planned using the same basic circuit layout and to that end, he lent me an adaptor, to try the HEADA in my set up as a 2 input Pre. I have to say, if they add a heaphone socket to the front, a few more inputs and a remote for the volume, it would sell incredibly well. The sound quality was like a slightly more dynamic version of my Modwright. It loses some of the vocal space, but gains in dynamism and has a genuine finesse. I’m not going to do a full review of it as a Pre, but suffice to say, I look forward very much to hearing one when released.
In the mean time, I am very happy reaping the benefits of my time with this dedicated headphone amp. Notes are more fully formed, there is a really clear sense of extra space and listening to Steely Dan’s Aja, the bass notes on Black Cow have a wonderful chewy quality, while still being taught, Becker and Fagin’s vocals are Waterford clear, and there’s that lovely “high end” sparkle, which is conspicuous by it’s absence with the Leema. Listening to Jeff Buckley’s grace was as smooth, dynamic and emotional experience, I’d rarely felt as close to his emotions, that was what really got me, the way this brought me closer to the musicians. I hadn’t expected that, previous headphone experiences had been less in touch, certainly immersive as the outside world is shut out, but that connection was never quite there. However it does it, the HEada brings that above all else to the table.
The build quality is equally impressive. The quality of the circuit board, and case show real attention to detail. This is high end Japanese HiFi in the very best tradition.
If you listen to Headphones a lot then the price won’t be an issue, if you don’t listen often, this would be considered a treat, either way I heartily recommend this amp. Superb sound quality and tank like build, while being handsome enough to give real pride of ownership. A pride that will last some time, as will the enjoyment. I’m in no rush to send this back.
2 inputs, RCA or Balanced (Switchable).
3 outputs, Standard single ended Jack, 4 pin XLR and a balanced 3 pin XLR pair.
Contact: Guy at Puresound: http://www.puresound.info/
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