Vintage Headroom Amp

My buddy Questa sent me an old vintage HeadRoom amplifier. It doesn’t even have HeadRoom’s new logo on it. On the front faceplate, it says “Headphone Amplifier & Audio Image Processor”. There is an on/off switch, a process/bypass switch (which sounds like a crossfeed filter), and a filter/off switch (which boosts the treble quantity). On the PCB, it does say “Headroom, Inc. Bozeman, MT 59715 (406) 587-9466.

It also uses a module-based design, and so you can’t really mod the amp section, and no op-amp changes either. My friend did change the input capacitors and the power capacitors. The PCB looks very sparse, unlike on the tiny amplifiers that we find these days. The amp has tons of gain and drives the HD800 at 9 O’clock. It’s virtually impossible to use this with an IEM, as the volume imbalance on the potentiometer is pretty bad on low volumes. The amplifier runs on four AA batteries, and the battery life lasts for a nice four hours.

Despite all the shortcomings, the amplifier does have a pretty sweet sound to it. Its sound signature is like a baby Zana Deux, with a romantic midrange and a smooth treble. I’m actually loving the sound of the amp, though bass performance is pretty sub-standard in comparison to the modern amplifiers. There is something about the sound that draws you into it. It’s like listening to a vintage turntable set up. Not the
best technicalities, but it draws you with its voice. I think this is one of Tyll’s creations, during the early Headroom days. Good stuff, Tyll. *thumbs up* Would love to try out your newer creations.

Thanks to Questa for the loaner!

Vintage Headroom Amp
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17 Comments

  • Reply January 19, 2011

    .Sup

    heh where did you get this Mike? 😀

    Can it be driven from the PSU or is it only for recharging?

    • Reply January 19, 2011

      Mike

      Yes it can run straight from the PSU. Unfortunately the PSU doesn't charge. 🙁

      I don't know where my friend got it from. I just borrowed it from him and turns out it's quite sweet sounding. 😀 I think they've discontinued it a long time ago.

  • Reply January 20, 2011

    DaveWave

    Dude, that is so interesting. I wonder how old it is?

    My entree into the world of junior-audiophile listening happened when I bought the HeadRoom Little and Senn HD580 about 12 years back. That was the first time I ever heard a horn player exhale between notes, or a violinist accidentally knock the bow against the body of his instrument, or, most memorable, the conductor cough during an otherwise flawless live performance. In short, I was amazed and still consider the rig my “reference system”.

    I’m wondering how similar the components of the Little are to the portable amp you’ve tested. I do see some similarities already, such as the volume knob (looks identical), the switches (one for crossfeed, another for filter), and your comments regarding the gain (yes, forget about IEMs on the HeadRoom Little, I can barely tolerate my Grado SR60 the gain is so high).

    Anyway, thanks for sending me on this stroll down memory lane. I’ve recently acquired the HeadStage Arrow because the bulk of my listening these days is portable, with Westone 3 and HD25 for phones, but again the Little / HD580 rig continues to put a smile on my face.

    Dave

    • Reply January 20, 2011

      Mike

      Oh, that is awesome Dave! Thanks for sharing the story. Please share with us the photograph of your Little when you have time. 😀

  • Reply January 21, 2011

    donunus

    this amp is the headroom supreme. It came along about the same time as my first dynamic headphone amp, the headroom little more power

    • Reply January 21, 2011

      Mike

      Thanks, donunus. You've been around this hobby for longer than I have.From what I've gathered, it was one line lower than the Supreme. But this one came with the filter switch, which makes it pretty much the same as the Supreme. I guess this one is called the Premium, looking at the writing below the headphone jack.If you google “Headroom Supreme” it should take you to a stereophile review of the amp, with a picture of what the Supreme supposedly looked like.Now I'm interested in your headroom little more power.:)

    • Reply January 21, 2011

      Mike

      This is a picture of the Headroom Supreme, from Stereophile:
      <img src="http://www.stereophile.com/images/archivesart/hdsupreme.jpg"&gt;

      BTW, you mentioned a dynamic headphone amp. Did you already own an electrostatic then?

  • Reply January 22, 2011

    donunus

    I owned a Koss ESP 950 and yah I guess it was the premium… I still remember reading that review a long time ago. It made me go out and buy some hd580s and a headroom amp LOL. I got the little though because I never liked battery powered amps unless the batteries last ultra long like the fiio e7

    • Reply January 22, 2011

      Mike

      I remembered reviewing the Koss ESP-950 system, and man I really miss that set up even with the stock E90 box.

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  • Reply January 22, 2011

    Questa

    From what I read, premium + filter switch = supreme, they come with the the same amp modul.

  • Reply January 28, 2011

    DaveWave

    Hi Mike

    No need to speculate further. I cam across a full product history on the HeadRoom website:

    http://www.headphone.com/learning-center/articles/history-headroom-amps.php

    It confirms that might HeadRoom Little is a close cousin of your Supreme!

    Happy reading,

    Dave

    • Reply January 28, 2011

      Anonymous

      Oh, that is sweet.

      I just skimmed through the page and I’m amazed to see all the stuff
      Headroom has been producing throughout the years.

  • Reply February 22, 2011

    Mike Olson

    Wow cool! That sucker is a dinosaur!

    • Reply February 22, 2011

      Anonymous

      Yea, and the dinosaur still makes really nice music! 😉

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