HeadRoom BlockHead headphone amplifier Page 4
My head was almost shuddered off by really deep bass—like the bass on the electro-fusion masterpiece "Domination," from Peace Orchestra (Studio K7/G Stone G CD 004) by Peter Kruder, half of the Viennese DJ-remix-producing team of Kruder & Dorfmeister. The low bass was so low and well-defined that I almost felt rather than heard it. The BlockHead/BAT combo always sounded totally linear, taut, powerful, and swingin' on the bottom, with a soulful midrange and open, sweet, airy highs that could be adjusted with the Brightness controls.
Because everything seemed so intimate, I tossed my much-loved The Timekeepers: Count Basie Meets Oscar Peterson (JVCXR-0206-2) in the tray, zipped to "Rent Party," and kept turning the volume up. I've often commented on how these two piano veterans sound as if they're inside each other's heads, the harmonic interplay and timing are so perfect. Through the BlockHead, there was an absolutely intimate sound delivered via a warm but acutely dynamic, speedy, and hugely transparent delivery that rocked my world.
I could easily hear The Count mumblin' and tappin' his feet as he sketched the melody, while the more filigreed Peterson filled in the details. At 5:27, when Louis Bellson on drums and John Heard on bass come in, I sank back into my chair, fully satisfied that it had rarely sounded better. Different from listening through the main system, yes—the sound was smaller and more in my head—but linear, vivid, harmonically full, the timing right on the mark, the bass wonderfully explicated. This beautiful thing was recorded in February 1978. What I wouldn't have given to have been there. And yet I did find myself there, thanks to the BlockHead and the wonderful work by XRCD producers Alan Yoshida and Akira Taguchi.
Wondering about Big Band and Big Space, I spun "Malletoba Spank," from Duke Ellington's Jazz Party in Stereo (Columbia CK 40712). Man...with the Processor engaged, even though smaller than the big Cary-based rig, the sound was dynamic, with terrific timing, great bass, a fabulous, rich, textured midrange, and extended, sweet highs. The acoustic bass was smashing, powerful and deep, seeming to define the musical space in a way that few components can. Yet there it was, in my head, tight and rich in overtones.
How would the blob work for you?
My favorite headphone amp and 'phones of all time, the $12,900 Sennheiser Orpheus HE 90 electrostatics, had only a touch more air and shimmer than the BlockHead, but bags more than the Cary. But even though the Orpheus was faster, it didn't have the BlockHead's visceral, hair-raising bass and dynamics. The midrange of both units was about the same, with perhaps a slight nod going to the Orpheus. But that's not at all definite—I didn't have the much more expensive Orpheus on hand for direct comparison, and, more's the pity, it's long out of production. Well, you can't have everything.
But I'll tell you this: Especially with the BAT VK-D5SE CD player to balance out the slight warming quality of the Crossfield Audio Image Processor, the HeadRoom BlockHead was definitely close—real close—to the Orpheus, and reached, for me, total and absolute headphone reference quality.
You want the best headphone sound available today? The HeadRoom BlockHead with stepped attenuators is it. It was a smashing success partnered with the BAT VK-D5SE. I tell ya, this is a combo I could listen to all day. And probably will.