Arcam rHead Class A headphone amplifier delivers incredible sound quality and specification at an unbelievable price.
With the surge of interest in high-end headphones, comes the need for dedicated headphone amplifiers in order to extract the best performance from those thoroughbred designs. Established and respected Hi-Fi specialists, Arcam wade in with the absurdly affordable rHead headphone amplifier.
If you’re a lover of headphone listening with an eye for a bargain, pay close attention…
Arcam rHead – Class A quality at a bargain price-point
A dedicated, Class A headphone amplifier from a respected Hi-Fi specialist for under £400 sounds like a deal in anyone’s book. However, our jaws dropped when Arcam announced the RRP for the rHead had now dropped to under £200!
The good news doesn’t stop there, however, as at the time of writing, we’re able to offer the Arcam rHead for an absurd deal of just £175! That in itself should be as good a reason as any to check out the rHead; worry not however as the features and quality of the rHead transcend its absurd value for money.
Where some headphone amplifiers at this price point may use a plastic or composite enclosure, the Arcam rHead features a cast aluminium casing; a quality touch which enhances the premium feel and finish of the rHead.
Audiophile optimised design
The Arcam rHead utilises a Class A amplifier topology, which no doubt will be to the delight of all Audiophiles. Class A amplifiers avoid a potentially nasty artefact known as “crossover distortion”, which can cause unpleasant aberrations in more conventional Class AB designs.
Clever design defines the Arcam rHead, and this is perpetuated in the implementation of the volume control; most volume controls utilise a conventional carbon track potentiometer, which is good for cost but can introduce noise and tracking errors between channels.
The Arcam rHead utilises an ultra-linear, analogue resistive ladder design, as used in Arcam’s flagship A49 amplifier. This design avoids the potential downsides of a conventional carbon track potentiometer design. Additionally, the Arcam rHead features prudent design choices such as multiple, ultra-low noise power supplies.
A sensible selection of input and output connections are featured on the Arcam rHead, providing for a number of different connection scenarios and preferences. The two most common headphone connection standards, 3.5mm and 6.35mm stereo jack sockets are provided on the front panel. At this price point, the omission of balanced or pentaconn outputs is entirely understandable.
The Arcam rHead is more than capable of driving the most demanding of headphones; Arcam rates the rHead capable of driving loads between 16 and 600 Ohms which should comfortably cover the gamut of contemporary Audiophile headphones; useful in an era where planar headphones (which are often a tricky load to drive) are becoming increasingly popular.
Analogue connections to the Arcam rHead come in both unbalanced, and balanced “flavours”, which can be selected from a rear panel mounted switch; potentially allowing the user to switch between two different sources.
The unbalanced analogue inputs appear as the ubiquitous RCA style connector, with balanced connections on professional, locking, Neutrik branded XLR connectors. Balanced line connections allow for very low noise over long distances, and could be a boon in citing the rHead a distance from the audio source, as is often the case when listening with headphones.
To sum up, then, the Arcam rHead is an efficiently featured, well-made headphone amplifier, with a price point which belies the quality of build and forethought that has gone into its design. At this price-point, it must surely represent a “no-brainer” purchase.