Pico Slim: First Impression

The Pico Slim and the JH16Pro with Whiplash Audio’s TWAg cable.

 

I’m actually liking the JH16 driven single ended from the Pico Slim than I do balanced from the RSA Protector. Yes, it is impressive to hear what the Protector does, and the difference is far more audible, where the Pico only improves on the subtle things. For me, however, the subtle things does more to the music than the balanced drive of the Protector does. This is purely a personal preference though, and it’s something that you have to decide for yourself to know. The point that I want to make is that, don’t take the Pico Slim lightly simply because it cannot do a balanced amplification.

I don’t normally like to talk about cables, but given the Pico Slim’s more subtle improvements, I find a high quality LOD to be very important in this application. With the RSA Protector, my DIY LODs do a very fine job of transmitting the signal. But with the Pico Slim, my DIY LODs sound very lacking and congested, and I find myself constantly using Whiplash’s TWAg LOD. Another fine LOD that I would recommend is Jaben’s Crystal Piccollino LOD, although it’s much pricier than Whiplash’s TWAg.

One of the strong point of the Pico Slim is the 255 steps digital volume control. With so many steps, the attenuation feels very smooth and just like an analog pot. Like the rest of the amplifier, the beautifully crafted volume knob has dips to give a better grip when adjusting the volume. The Pico Slim doesn’t have a lot of gain though, and its maximum volume is roughly just as loud as the headphone out from the Ipod Nano, so you are not buying this amplifier for its loudness.

The Pico Slim has a very impressive dimension. It’s a great match with the Ipod Nano, and finally I can have an ultra-portable system that includes an amplifier in it. Stacked together, the Ipod Nano and the Pico Slim is roughly as big as the RSA Protector, and just slightly heavier. Also included with the Pico Slim is a very stylish leather case, which is designed to protect the Pico’s delicate glossy finish. My Pico Slim arrived with some small scratches on the enclosure, although I’m sure that metal polish will take care of those. I used to hesitate taking an Ipod with a portable amplifier to the Gym, but not so with the Pico Slim because it’s so small and light. I think this amplifier is here to stay.

The nicely finished leather case looks elegant.

 


System used for review:
IEM: JHAudio JH16Pro, Whiplash TWAg Cable terminated in 3.5mm Viablue, Whiplash TWAg Cable terminated in RSA Protector connector
Amplifier: RSA Protector, HeadAmp Pico Slim
Source: Ipod Nano 5th Gen, Whiplash TWAg LOD terminated in Rhodium plated Oyaide connector.ht

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40 Comments

  • Reply July 22, 2010

    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.

    • Reply July 22, 2010

      Mike

      Thanks. πŸ™‚

      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. πŸ™‚

  • Reply July 23, 2010

    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

    • Reply October 18, 2010

      b3dz

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

      By chance, Did you get it from whiplash audio?

  • Reply July 25, 2010

    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.

    • Reply July 25, 2010

      Mike

      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.

  • Reply October 15, 2010

    Oscar

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

    • Reply October 15, 2010

      Mike

      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.

      • Reply October 16, 2010

        Oscar

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

        • Reply October 16, 2010

          Mike

          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.

  • Reply October 16, 2010

    Mike

    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.

    • Reply October 18, 2010

      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.

      • Reply October 18, 2010

        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?

        Thanks.

        • Reply October 18, 2010

          Mike

          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.

        • Reply October 18, 2010

          Mike

          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.

      • Reply October 18, 2010

        Mike

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

        • Reply October 18, 2010

          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.

          • Reply October 18, 2010

            Mike

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

  • Reply January 15, 2011

    Zuqi

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

    • Reply January 15, 2011

      Mike

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

      • Reply January 15, 2011

        Zuqi

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

        • Reply January 15, 2011

          Mike

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

          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.

          • Reply January 16, 2011

            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.

            • Reply January 17, 2011

              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.

              • Reply January 18, 2011

                Zuqi

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

                • Reply January 18, 2011

                  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.

                  • Reply January 18, 2011

                    Zuqi

                    Thanks:)

  • Reply June 13, 2011

    Carlo

    Hi, Mike.

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

    Thanks!

    • Reply June 13, 2011

      Anonymous

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

  • Reply July 19, 2011

    Mathieu

    Hello,
    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 ?

    • Reply July 20, 2011

      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.

  • Reply July 20, 2011

    Mathieu

    Ok…
    Thanks..
    I thought that , as the Edition 8Β 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) ?

  • Reply August 31, 2011

    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

  • Reply June 15, 2012

    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

  • Reply June 23, 2013

    Edmund Tan

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

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