A couple years ago I heard Headlne with NAPSC and thought it was promising. And now as my old HiCap was getting some interest from buyers, I thought I should still try it with a Headline before letting go.
Only after bringing home a demo Headline RCA version and hooking it up with HiCap, I realized that SuperCap might also be worth a try…
I've had Stax SR-404 electrostatic headphones and a Stax SRM-006t tubed headphone amplifier since they came out in 2001. While this Stax set provides a much better boogie factor than the earlier Stax models of the nineties, I've continued to use also dynamic headphones as they do provide better…dynamics. Over the years I've owned and sold Grado RS-1, RS-2 and others before settling with Sennheiser HD 650, which I consider a good all-rounder - neutral sound and plays music too.
I've never been quite satisfied with any of the headphone amps that I've owned. So that's why I've had many. The Creek headphone amp worked pretty ok with Grados but I kept looking for better, then had the Grado amp for a brief wile, then side-stepped to Musical Fidelity. But I got tired of the MF and let it go. After that I've mostly just been plugging my HD 650's straight into a Benchmark DAC1 which has a pretty good headphone amp built in.
Last winter when visiting Tokyo, I got an opportunity to try the SR-007A "Omega" top-of-the line Stax headphones. Was impressed and bought them on the spot. Back at home, I set them up with a direct Hi-Line connection from the HiCap of my then brand new SuperLine to that old SRM-006t - and the Staxes let me hear a lot of what SuperLine can do! I didn't manage to get the Staxes to work well with the NAC 252 tape out though, so the Staxes have been resting aside for a while - and with NAC 252, I'm actually getting more enjoyable music replay from my speakers than from headphones.
So those are my points of reference.
HEADLINE/HICAP VS BENCHMARK DAC1 HEADPHONE OUT
Now the Benchmark DAC1 is not the top choice for flat earth musical enjoyment, but I was surprised how good music I was getting out of it with the Headline.
I started off with Mac Pro running Pure Music software, Wireworld Supernova 6 optical cable to Benchmark DAC1 with Ensemble Powerflux power cable, Headline RCA-version, SLIC to HiCap with PowerLine. I then compared Sennheiser HD 650 from the Banchmark headphone out versus Headline.
With a selection of well recorded pop female vocals and a Jazz record, I quickly realized Headline was providing a better overall tonal balance. The Benchmark headphone out has a bit thinner sound, with slight high-frequency emphasis which can actually get a bit irritating with higher volume levels. The HD 650 / Headline / HiCap was just well balanced.
I did get a familiar foot-tapping effect with the Benchmark headphone out, but it seemed to be partly due to that high-frequency emphasis which accentuated cymbals and such. Headline/HiCap was also rhythmically engaging, but in a bit more subtle way, inviting to listen for a longer time. Both had acceptable although not fantastic tunefulness in the bass region. In other frequency regions Headline just went ahead delivering easier to follow tunes, and was more engaging in that sense. With Headline I wanted to keep the headphones on and just continued listening to the music. This was the best HD 650 amplification that I'd heard.
I'm not used to experiencing space and sound staging with headphones, but Headline was doing that too, or at least better than anything else I've had at home.
After listening to this setup I decided that Headline with HiCap is good enough as it is, and whatever more Supercap might offer, I'll keep the HiCap and buy a Headline DIN version to use with my NAC 252.
Headline warm-up improvement was significant during the first 15 minutes, after 1 hour it still improved, and more slowly thereafter. After 20 hours I disconnected HiCap, to try SuperCap.
Let me know if you'd like me to add here also the SuperCap and Stax comparisons. I have notes but must clear them up before putting here...