HeadRoom Supreme Headphone Amplifiers

HeadRoom Supreme Headphone Amplifiers 


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[Dec 15, 2003]
Audio Enthusiast


Solid build quality. No-nonsense dedication to Hi-Fi sound reproduction. Very flexible (could be used in 110v and 220v countries when coupled with the appropriate adapters).


Ain’t cheap. Unless you are quite serious about listening with headphones, the Airhead or Headroom Little might be more appropriate. Plain vanilla design.

This review is for an older version of the Headroom Supreme. I bought this unit in the mid-1990s and I believe Headroom has since revised the Supreme once or twice. Nevertheless, other than some cosmetic changes and the lack of a DIN remote input, I suspect little had changed in the Supreme’s processor module. Thus, this review should still be of use to prospective purchaser of this portable headphone amplifier. In terms of construction, the Supreme is rock solid. I’ve had this amplifier for nearly 10 years now and, aside from a few small scratches on the top and bottom of the unit, my Supreme still looks quite new. Most impressively, the volume control knob and switches on the faceplate display almost no signs of wear. Although the “new” feel is gone, the controls still work flawlessly and show no indication of possible future breakdowns. Sonically, the Supreme blows any non-standalone headphone amplifiers (i.e., those built into your portable CD player, computer, or stereo amplifiers) out of the waters. Musical instruments, plugged or unplugged, are reproduced in all their glories. Bass is tight and controlled; the treble is detailed and crisp. Instruments “breathe” better and do not sound cramped up the way they often do when reproduced on cheap built-in amplifiers. Furthermore, Headphone’s crossfeed processor – which could be switched on or off independently of the power – makes headphone listening more enjoyable. The processor’s effect is quite subtle and a listener might be tempted to dismiss it. However, I believe that Headroom intended for the effects to be restrained. Unlike mass-market surround processors that stretch out the soundstage at the expense of sound quality, the Headroom processor is intended to preserve the original recording quality while reducing fatigue associated with long listening sessions and reduce the “ping pong” effect that frequently plague headphones. Although designed for portable use, the Supreme will reveal its highest potential when rigged up to a standalone home CD player (even if it’s a $200 entry level player). A high quality headphone is also essential. I recommend the Sennheisers 580 or 600, or if you prefer something less bulky, the Etymotics. Drawbacks with the Supreme are its plain design and relatively high price tag. Many consumers might even consider the Supreme, with its rectangular metal box shaped, to be rather “old-school” looking. But, I suspect many audio enthusiasts would find this rather appealing because it attests to the amplifier’s Hi-Fi pedigree. Some audio purist might find that the crossfeed muddles up the mid-range a little bit. However, as mentioned above, the crossfeed could be switched off if desired. As for its price - which had remained remarkable stable through the dot-com boom and subsequent economic slow down - well, this is Hi-Fi.

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