The Pico is a portable USB DAC/Amp that was released by HeadAmp at the end of 2008. It has a very small footprint making it the tiniest portable combo DAC/Amp among its competitors at the time of its release. Additionally, the Pico features a 24-bit/96kHz upsampling DAC through its USB input which is achieved using the Wolfson’s 24-bit WM8740 high-end chip.
My first impression when holding the Pico in my hand is that this thing is so damned tiny. The Pico measures at 51 x 70 x 22mm and weights at 57g so it will probably fit snugly in your palm (and shirt or jeans pockets). Despite its size though, the Pico feels sturdy and well-built. There is nothing flimsy about its body with its polished aluminium exterior. My minor gripe that this finishing will probably attract a lot of fingerprints and smudges.
Functionality-wise, the Pico is pretty self-explanatory. There are a switch that flips between two gain options, input/output 3.5mm jacks, a volume pot which is also used to turn on the unit (with a noticeable ‘click’), a mini-USB port for its DAC function and a DC jack to charge its internal dual-cell li-ion battery using the supplied 12V wall wart. There are two LEDs: one lights up whenever the unit is turned on while the other when it is being charged which in turn switches off when it finished charging. All of these features are clearly and intuitively marked.
One noteworthy mention is that Pico’s DAC has no standalone line-out function to feed a separate amplifier which is rather odd because otherwise the Pico is cleverly designed. One might wonder that perhaps this omission is intentional as the Pico DAC-only was released some time later.
Before I start, let me clarify that this particular unit has been burned in for a couple of hundreds hours so changes due to burn-in process, if there are any in the first place, have been accounted for. I will review the Pico as a combination of its DAC and amplification functions by connecting it to my laptop.