While the general consensus is that the audio industry is simply lying back and allowing the iPod to consume what few pounds and dollars are out there, at least one company has adopted a more enlightened attitude. HeadRoom, the mail-order-only headphone accessory manufacturer, never lets an opportunity slip by, so their latest portable headphone amplifier might go some way in training iPod owners to appreciate better sound quality.
Although I'm not an iPod user (I simply refuse to touch anything made by Apple), I understand on good authority that the supplied headphones, as with most freebies, are hardly the greatest in the world. Moreover, I gather that they're not the best-built either, so at least one sector of the hi-fi industry is benefiting from the iPod: headphone manufacturers. However, quality after-market headphones require something better than the weedy output from a personal hi-fi, and that's where HeadRoom enters the picture.
As with earlier HeadRoom amplifiers, the Total BitHead is a compact, battery-operated device able to drive two pairs of cans, taking the line or headphone output and amplifying it to drive quality headphones such as Sennheisers or Grados. It features a volume control, a green LED to indicate power on and a red LED to indicate clipping. The BitHead's added extra over other models is the ability to run off USB ports, thus making it a superb add-on for personal computers, notebooks and laptops, and yes, MP3 players so-equipped; there's a conventional stereo 3.5mm socket as well for those without USB. Additionally, the total BitHead features HeadRoom's switchable audio image processor for enhanced performance, which creates a smoother left-right sensation and is worth trying.