Head Audio Canalot DAC Headphone Amp/Preamp - Space Oddity (Part 2)

7/26/2013 2:09:26 PM

It manages to sound controlled and cohesive without forcing slower, more relaxed material

As a headphone amplifier, the Canalot keeps most of the same traits that it does via the RCA output. Using a pair of Grado SR60is and Harmon Kardon BTs, the Canalot shows itself to have plenty of headroom with both models and presents the same detailed and natural presentation over headphones as it does as a line-level component. The noise floor seems usefully low and this allows the Heed’s impressive detail retrieval to come to the fore. Used exclusively as a headphone amp, the Canalot is somewhat expensive but the quality of the performance goes some way to justifying the outlay.

Canalot is somewhat expensive but the quality of the performance goes some way to justifying the outlay

Canalot is somewhat expensive but the quality of the performance goes some way to justifying the outlay


The Canalot is a curious device – not quite one thing or the other and whether it is an ideal product for you will rather depend on the rest of the system that you want to integrate it into. The performance over digital is impressive with a sense of life and naturalness that is enjoyable and easy to listen to for long periods of time. There seems to be plenty of headroom to drive most headphones to more than acceptable levels and it is commendably transparent when used via the analogue input.

The problem is that there are single or combinations of products from rival manufacturers at similar price points that can mimic the functions of the Canalot and often possess rather greater flexibility in terms of input and output options.

Many of these other products are rather more lavishly assembled as well. The Heed can be ordered as a straight, single input headphone amp for less money, but there are still rival products available for less that also offer this feature.

Whether the Canalot justifies this price point will come down to whether you like the distinctive and capable music performance and don’t have more sources than the Canalot can handle. In a suitably stripped back system though – especially one with a computer as a source, this is a product that has a considerable appeal and one that at the very least warrants a demonstration

In sight

1.    Input from matching PSU

2.    Line/variable output

3.    Mains input

4.    Analogue input

5.    Digital inputs

In sight

How it compares!

The Heed isn’t an easy product to draw direct comparisons to as the feature set is unusual. If you don’t need the analogue input, Audiolab’s fantastic M-DAC offers more digital inputs and a well-implemented volume for half the price. Alternatively, the Musical Fidelity M1 HPA is a very well implemented single input headphone preamp that could be connected to the matching M1 DAC for less than the Canalot (although this would use up the single analogue input of the HPA). Alternatively, if you are looking for a preamp with digital and analogue inputs rather than a headphone output the Musical Fidelity CLiC is only $225 more (and has 24/192kHz UPnP streaming thrown into the package).

the Musical Fidelity M1 HPA

The Musical Fidelity M1 HPA

Our verdict

·         Sound quality: 4.5/5

·         Value for money: 4/5

·         Build quality: 3.5/5

·         Features: 4/5

·         Like: Lively and involving sound from all outputs, excellent USB interface

·         Dislike: Slightly underwhelming build; limited inputs; not cheap

·         We say: Does what it is designed to do well, but faces competition from less specialized rivals

·         Overall: 4/5

Heed Canalot specs

·         Origin: UK/Hungary

·         Type: FM/DLNA/ Headphone amp/ preamp/DAC

·         Weight: 1.4kg

·         Dimensions: (W x H x D) 72 x 95 x 25mm

·         Features: Two ¼in headphone outputs; RCA Output; Optional DAC board with 24/192 kHz USB input; Single analogue line input; AIFF, WAV, OGG, FLAC and ALAC support


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