More and more engineers and musicians are doing their thing on headphones these days, and while once upon a time that might have seemed like mixing sacrilege, we’ll see more of it in the future thanks to sound for virtual reality. So if you’re going to spend time listening on phones, why not make them sound as good as possible. That’s what Rupert Neve Design’s RNHP headphone amp aims to do.
The RNHP reference-quality headphone amplifier is based on the headphone output circuit in the company’s 5060 Centerpiece Desktop Mixer, and features 24 volt rails for lots of power and headroom so it can drive even the most inefficient set of phones. It’s a simple device with only a 1/4″ stereo headphone jack on the front panel along with a volume control and three source selector switches, but don’t let that simplicity fool you. Quality doesn’t have to be complicated or feature-ridden.
The switches allow you to pick between a +4dBu balanced line feed from a combo XLR/1/4″ jack, unbalanced stereo RCA inputs, and a 3.5mm (1/8”) mini-jack input. All inputs are specially calibrated to the optimum impedance levels for their typical sources, and everything is housed in a rugged VESA-mountable steel chassis.
The fact of the matter is that most headphone amps on just about any piece of gear are almost an afterthought and not much care or thought goes into the design. It’s pretty much a feature that’s added that was way down the list of sonic priority rather than something at the forefront of the design. That’s why a dedicated headphone amp can really make your phones come alive, especially during those times when you’re not able to listen on standard monitors.
At $499, the RNHP is somewhat expensive, but considering how important and overlooked headphone audio is, it’s an investment that could pay off big down the road. And not only that, it’s designed by Rupert Neve!