Pico Slim: First Impression

I almost gave up on the Pico Slim due to the seemingly never ending delays. Then, one day, the Pico Slim appeared. The box is surprisingly large, and the Pico Slim is surprisingly small. It’s a beautiful looking amp, as you can see from the pictures.



Size comparison with the RSA Protector and the Ipod Nano.


I wasn’t expecting much with the Pico Slim’s sound quality, to be frank. To me, amplifiers have always been about power, and Justin specifically mentioned that the Pico Slim is designed only to driver some small portables and mostly IEMs. With all the hype surrounding balanced amplifiers, what can you expect from a simple and low power amplifier like the Pico Slim? After all, I already have the RSA Protector, and together with the Whiplash TWAg cable and the JH16, bass is as awesome as it gets in portable.

When I finally plugged in the JH5Pro to the Pico Slim, my first impression was a solid nod for Justin. Truly, this guy knows what it meant to build an amplifier. Even, without the bells and whistles of balanced drive, the Pico Slim sounded good right out of the box. True, the difference is not going to be as big as if you were driving the JH16 balanced from the Protector, and the fact that I’m using Whiplash’s TWAg terminated in Rhodium plated Oyaide plug all added to the final sonic quality. The Pico doesn’t create a wide soundstage that you get from the Protector in balanced, but every aspect of the JH16 gets a nice boost with the Pico.

Unlike the older Pico amplifier, the new Pico slim is very neutral and free of any color. The sound really opens up with the Pico driving the JH16. I can hear the treble opening up, the transition from the midrange to bass becoming smoother. The soundstage gets bigger and clearer, there is a better sense of individuality in the instruments, bass getting more definition and better textured. The Protector and the Pico does different things to the JH16’s bass. With the Protector in balanced, the JH16’s bass becomes more seismic in magnitude while simultaneously improving the bass control. With the Pico Slim, the bass gets a new level of definition and texture, and the realism of each bass beat is scary real. Truly, the Pico Slim enhances the refinement level of the JH16, making it sound much more like a full size cans while still retaining its solid and full bass performance.

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  • wsoelivan

    Would you like to do a more complex review comparing it with TTVJ Slim? I'll give it to Hadi and let you guys keep it for a week or two if you want.

    • Thanks. 🙂

      We are planning to do that, but perhaps later in August/September along with ALO's Rx, Headstage Arrow, etc.

      Both are very good amps, the TTVJ of course have gobs more power than the Pico Slim, so if you plan to use them with big size cans, then you better stick with the TTVJ. If you only plan to use IEMs, then the Pico slim would better just because of the size.

      Anyway, I'll certainly be reviewing them in the future. 🙂

  • jendol

    pico slim is superb with my jh13 as well as my westone3-8drivers, the subtle improvement actually make me appreciate my custom IEMs much more

    • b3dz

      We need LOD cable in order to plug an ipod right?

      By chance, Did you get it from whiplash audio?

  • John

    Decent review, though I would point out the following:

    1) these ridiculous LODs are both a ripoff and unnecessary. Get something mechanically reliable, set and forget.

    2) the praise heaped upon the Protector by so many self-anointed experts is genuinely confusing to me. The Pico Slim, TTVJ Slim, and, heck, even unamped, sound better and more natural than the Protector, which sounds to me like a little box of distortion. To each their own I guess.

    • Love your insightful comments, John.

      1. Which LODs are you talking about?

      2. To each their own, but I haven't heard of a portable amp that can expand the soundstage of the JH customs like the Protector does.

  • Oscar

    Mike with JH16s would you spend the extra money for the predator vs the sleeker looking P slim?

    • Hi Oscar, I’ve no experience with the Predator. But the Pico Slim + Ipod Nano makes a pretty slick portable set up for the JH16s. I also think the synergy is great between the Pico Slim and the JH Customs.

      • Oscar

        im sorry Mike, I meant the Protector that you have pictured in the article?

        • Ah, with the Protector, still I'd take the Slim due to its size, especially paired with the Ipod Nano which I love to take for an outdoor set up.

  • I listened to the Pico Slim again today, and while I didn’t have the Protector to compare with (I was comparing to the Headsix and Ibasso PB1), the amount of control the Pico has over the driver (I was using UE700 and ATH M-50) is probably unmatched among all the top portable amps. It makes me feel as if the headphones suddenly had gained a faster transient speed.

    Truly my favorite portable amp after the PB1.

    • b3dz

      Hey Mike,Which Lod cable should i get to feed Pico Slim?

      Hve any idea? Cuz i heard HeadAmps didn't provide Lod in the package.

      • b3dz

        Just got my Westone ES-5 last week. Since It only had single low drive which doesn’t play as low as JH's 16, I need port Amp to boost up the bass.

        I'm consider abt getting between Protector,Stepdance ,TTVJ& Pico Slim.

        Which one will perfectly match the ES-5?


        • B3dz, the Headstage amp supposedly have a good bass boost. You may want to try that. I personally haven't tried the ES5, so I wouldn't know what amp to pair it with. If you like bass, I suggest just using the JH16 rather than looking for a bass-boost option for the ES5.

        • B3dz, the TTVJ slim adds mid body, but not quite bass. The Protector, if you run in balance, will help bass quantity and control so that can be a good alternative. The Pico Slim doesn't add bass quantity, but excellent bass control. Among the three, looks like the Protector is the one to try.

      • Hi B3dz,
        Try Whiplash, they make good cables. http://bit.ly/b093K4.

        • b3dz

          Yo mike, I’ve already tried JH’s 16. Although It provides cohesive Sound Stage &more low drivers ,I felt a little bloated especially for the bass. The ES5 has more clarity, naturalness and satisfaction over Jh’s 16.
          Hence, I found my Westone ES5 FAR more comfy due to Westone’s superior mold scanner to get the best fit.
          thks 4 ur Fast reply tho.

          • Try the Pico Slim with the JH16. It improves bass control tremendously.

  • Zuqi

    Hi Mike, have you compared the slim with original pico? which is supior based on SQ? thanks.

    • Mike

      Depends on what you're looking for. The original Pico is warmer and sweeter sounding, the slim is more straightforward but better technically.

      • Zuqi

        Does it mean regardless the sound signature, slim is a better amp?

        • Mike

          Technically, yes, HeadAmp really created one hell of an amp in the Pico Slim. 🙂

          I'm comparing the Pico Slim to RSA's SR-71a, which was one of the best amp without the digital volume control, and the Pico Slim has better technicalities than the SR-71a for driving a custom IEM like the JH16Pro.

          Thing is, for most people, sound signature is just as important, if not more important than pure technicalities, and the Pico Slim doesn't quite have the sweet coloration that you find on the SR-71a or the older Pico.. so it all depends on your preference, music, headphone, etc.

          • Zuqi

            "Amplifiers have always been about power". How does slim work with low impedance cans such as grados? does it have the power to drive them? Thanks.

            • Mike

              With some recordings that has very loud volumes, and if you're listening indoors, probably the Pico can drive Grados loud enough. But with some other recordings, and listening to them outdoors, I doubt there'll be enough headroom.

              • Zuqi

                Does it indicate pico original is a better choice for full size cans even low inpedance ones like grados?

                • Mike

                  To put it simply, yes I think the Pico original is a good pairing for Grados. It can also drive Grados to louder volumes.

                  • Zuqi


  • Carlo

    Hi, Mike.

    May I ask for your sound impression/s of this amp paired with UM3X and SM3?


    • Anonymous

      I’ve never used the Pico Slim extensively with the UM3X/SM3. I think it
      should be okay though.

  • Mathieu

    I should be interesseted by the pico slim. But I have an Ultrasone Edition 8 (32 ohms). And I was wondering if they can work together with a suffisant level output.. Is the pico slim able to do a good work with the Edition 8 ?

    • Anonymous

      Hi Mathieu,
      I wouldn’t recommend it. The voltage gain of the Pico Slim is very
      small, and although the Edition 8 is fairly easy to drive, I don’t think
      you will be happy with it.

  • Mathieu

    I thought that , as the Edition 8 is a 32ohms headphone and about 100 db, it will be ok.
    In tour mind, which portable amp should be great with the Edition 8 (small size if possible) ?

  • Soyamilk

    Hi Mike. It’s me again. sorry for the flood of questions.

    I’ll be getting the CLAS, but I’m not sure whats a good amp to pair it with.
    I read about “Balanced” on your post. What does a balanced feature on an amplifier mean?

    Also, will the algorhythm solo be paired great with the pico slim, and do you have any other recommendations?

    thanks a bunch

  • wildz

    hello mike,
    my pico slim has a bit of scratch after months of use, how to clean it with, because i’m affraid to clean it with some kind of cleaner liquid, thanks

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  • Edmund Tan

    How does the Pico Slim compare with the TTVJ Slim or the JDS C5?