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Rupert Neve Designs RNHP Headphone Amplifier

Your headphones are only as good as what drives them...

By Phil O'Keefe


Rupert Neve needs no introduction to anyone even remotely familiar with high-end studio electronics; his contributions to the industry in the form of numerous highly-prized products from several companies (including a couple that bear his name) have been significant. Ask any engineer about some of their favorite equipment and it won't be long until you hear his name and the name of products he's designed being mentioned. In a nutshell, this man knows his stuff like few others, so when I heard about the new headphone amp from Rupert Neve Designs, I jumped at the chance to check it out.







What You Need To Know

  • The Rupert Neve Designs RNHP headphone amplifier is a dedicated 24V reference-quality headphone amp based on the headphone output circuit of the 5060 Centerpiece Desktop Mixer. It is housed in an all-metal "clamshell" case that measures 6.5” W x 4.6” D and 1.9” H.

  • A single 1/4" headphone jack is located on the far left hand side of the front panel. This is a near-zero impedance output (.08 Ohm at 1kHz, 16-150 Ohm load, 0dBu input) that is designed for use with a wide range of headphones and supports cans with an impedance rating ranging anywhere from 16 to 600 Ohms.

  • There are three inputs on the RNHP, labeled A, B and C. Three front panel Input Select pushbuttons are provided to select the input source you want to use, and only one input source can be used at a time. A LED within the pushbutton glows green to indicate which input is currently selected.

  • A single large volume knob is the only other front panel control. The red metal knob is connected to a highly-damped and continuously variable stereo potentiometer that is smooth and precise.

  • The RNHP has tons of headroom. Be aware that there is a lot of volume on tap here - enough to do serious damage to your hearing if you're not careful, so always start with the volume knob turned down and slowly turn up from there until a comfortable listening level is reached.

  • On the underside, the RNHP has four shock absorbing rubber feet. There are also four VESA-mount screw holes, making it easy to attach to wall mounts, articulating arms, mic stands, pole mounts and other VESA 100 compatible mounting hardware, which gives the RNHP a good deal of mounting flexibility, regardless of how and where you plan on using it.

  • Around back are all the "goesintas". The RNHP is powered by a 24V DC 6W 0.25A wall adapter, which is included with the unit. The barrel plug is wired center-positive. The adapter is a universal design with a selection of different wall outlet plug types for use in various countries around the world. The power on/off switch is located on the rear panel next to the jack for the power adapter plug. Alternately, a properly configured 24V battery can be used to supply power to the RNHP.



  • The jacks for the three different sets of inputs are also mounted on the rear panel, each of which is designed and optimized for different types of sources.

  • Input A has a pair of +4dBu line level combo XLR / 1/4" TRS Neutrik  jacks that are designed for connecting to things like professional mixing consoles, D/A converters, high-end cameras or anything else with professional +4dBu  line outputs.

  • Input B is on a left / right pair of unbalanced RCA connectors. This is the input you'll want to use for hooking up your unbalanced -10dBV line level sources, such as your CD player, stereo tuner, and prosumer level audio equipment.

  • Input C is a single 3.5mm (1/8") unbalanced stereo TRS jack for connecting the headphone or line out from your smartphone, laptop or tablet, or the audio out from your DSLR camera, Pono / iPod / MP3 player, or line level or headphone out that uses a stereo 3.5mm output jack.

  • Okay, but how about the audio quality? In a word, it's spectacular. With a wide as the Texas sky and mesa-flat frequency response of 10Hz - 120kHz (+/- .2dB!), very low noise (-101.9dBV with +4dBu balanced sources), very high headroom and low distortion, the audio quality is probably better than anything you've had driving your headphones. Ever. It sounds absolutely detailed, deep and luscious. It's incredibly inspiring!



Limitations

  • There's only one headphone output jack.

  • Given this level of sonic quality the price is quite reasonable, although it could add up fast if multiple units are purchased for use as the musician's tracking headphone monitoring system in a recording studio. The good news is that you'll have some very happy and inspired musicians if you do go that route! Don't underestimate the importance of great monitoring systems and mixes when it comes to getting performers to deliver their best work.

 


Conclusions

Working with headphones in the studio has become more important than at any point since they first became popular for use when overdubbing in the '60s. Today you're as likely to use headphones to check your mixes for sonic glitches and gremlins and even for mixing as you are to use then while tracking, so accuracy and great sound quality are essential. However, many of the headphone amps you'll find built into gear really aren't up to the task. That's where the RNHP comes in.


I auditioned the RNHP with a  range of sources (line outs from my board, headphone out from a Windows tablet, iPhone output, CD player, monitor controller's line out) using a wide variety of headphones from companies like AKG, Grado, KRK, Sennheiser Sony and Yamaha. Frankly, I was shocked by the sonic detail and improved sound quality I heard from all of them compared to when I used them with my other headphone amps, but it was really noticeable on higher-end headphones. Run your Grados with a RNHP and you'll be in heaven!


Some of you may be thinking "my gear already has a headphone jack", and it's true that things like your phone, laptop, mixer and audio interface probably do, but not like this they don't! If you have to mix using headphones (and these days, who doesn't at least some of the time?) then this is how to do it. But the RNHP isn't just a studio control room tool - you're going to want to use it for personal listening enjoyment too.


The sound of the Rupert Neve Designs RNHP is clean, fast and effortless, with gobs of headroom and more undistorted volume than you'll be able to safely utilize. Regardless of what you use to drive it, this headphone amplifier will make any set of headphones sound better, and will really help you get the most out of exceptional cans. Due to the flexibility of the VESA mount and the inspiring sound quality I could see some studios installing these for their musician's cue system too, although that could get to be expensive depending on the number of musicians you need to work with simultaneously. But if nothing else, you're going to want to get one for yourself - just be prepared to fight off the musicians if they ever sneak a listen to it!

 


Resources

Rupert Neve Designs RNHP Headphone Amplifier ($549.00 MSRP, $499.00 "street")

Rupert Neve Designs product web page   

Join the Discussion at Harmony Central's In The Studio Trenches

 

You can purchase the Rupert Neve Designs RNHP from:

Sweetwater    




Specifications:

Maximum Input Levels:

“A” XLR I/P: +22.8 dBu @1kHz


“B” RCA I/P: +14.7dBu @1kHz

“C” 3.5mm I/P: +3.3dBu @1kHz

Output Power:

As measured with typical headphones, Z=44 Ω: 3.617 VAC RMS @1kHz = 300mW RMS


16 Ω typical Load: 1.933 VAC RMS @1kHz = 230mW RMS


150 Ω typical Load: 5.108 VAC RMS @1kHz = 175mW RMS

Output Impedance:

.08 Ω @ 1KHz, 16-150 Ω load, 0dBu input

Frequency Response:

+/- .2dB from 10Hz to 120KHz

Noise:

Measured with typical headphones, Z=44 Ω, BW 22Hz – 22kHz


“A” XLR Input: -101.9dBV

“B” RCA Input: -100.9dBV


“C” 3.5mm Input: -88.8dBV

Dimensions:

6.5” wide x 4.6” deep and 1.9” tall

Power Supply Requirements:

24VDC @ 0.25Amp (6 watt) minimum. Use with supplied power adapter, as this has been carefully selected for best output power and noise performance. May be used with a properly configured 24V battery as well.











__________________________________________________

 


Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  

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