No: ZH1 - Zen Head portable headphone amp
No.: Zen Head
a Brand: Headroom
a Model: Supreme
in hobby: 20
/ Introduction: As someone who engages in a lot
of business travel, portable audio is very important
to me. I've owned a lot of portable gear. When I read
about Red Wine Audio's iMod I got a used iPod Photo
on eBay and had the mod applied. That led to the search
for a new headphone amp to replace my elderly Headroom
The Headroom Supreme is a great unit, but it's pretty
bulky. And I was tired of sticking phones into my ear
canals. The Etymotics and Shures sound great when they're
adjusted right, but I found having phones in my head
fatiguing. So I wanted to base my new portable setup
on the Denon AH-D2000 sealed back headphones which sounded
so great at home while being comfortable enough to wear
for hours. Now those are bulky! I needed to make whatever
room I could in my backpack, if those were coming along
for the ride.
took a long time to make a decision. I looked at all
the CMOY DIYs on eBay, I considered a newer Headroom
or one of the Ray Samuels units. I had convinced myself
I would pick something with rechargeable batteries and
a built-in USB DAC when I came upon Decware's eBay listing
for the Zen Head. I was immediately intrigued that a
designer clearly focused on classic tube sound (which
I heartily believe in) felt that he had achieved something
close in a headphone amp.
how could I be considering it? No built-in battery charging,
no built-in DAC, and the price seemed high without those
features. But I loved Steve's statement in the listing
that he "made no apologies" for the price.
I just kept coming back to the listing and found myself
nodding in agreement with the "simpler is better"
philosophy that ran through it. And I could see Steve's
enthusiasm and passion to deliver a really great-sounding
headphone amp, whatever it took.
the end I went for it and I couldn't be happier. The
sound driving the Denons, with the iMod as the source,
is smooth and nonfatiguing without being artificially
syrupy. The most important thing is that the sound is,
to my ears, harmonically complete. Every other portable
system sounds thin by comparison. For me, the word that
best expresses the competitors' sound is "threadbare."
With this setup and losslessly compressed files, I actually
feel like I can hear almost everything that I hear when
I listen at home.
is a great designer and is clearly passionate about
this hobby. What impresses me the most is that he refuses
to compromise. He set himself the challenge of getting
truly great sound from a battery-powered portable unit,
and he wasn't about to give up. Music loving audiophile
will be well served by the fruits of his efforts.