Hearing the name Rupert Neve makes studio rats excited. Trust me…I’m one of them. So when I ran into the Neve table at Can Jam this year, I was super surprised to see them. Why were they at the audiophile conference? I sat down with them and they showed me their new headphone amp, designed for both studio folk and audiophiles alike. Well, this week I got a chance to spend some more quality time with the amp. Is it worth its price tag at $500? Let’s take a closer look with this Rupert Neve Designs RNHP Precision Headphone Amplifier Review.
Rupert Neve Designs RNHP Precision Headphone Amplifier Review
In the Box
-Neve RNHP headphone amp
Look and Feel
The Rupert Neve Designs RNHP Precision headphone amplifier has a simple, unflashy look. Its size feels unobtrusive, yet is clearly meant to live on a desk or other surface. Actually, it reminds me of the look of other, non-rack-mountable studio gear (although the RNHP is VESA-mountable). There is a sense of utilitarianism to its design. As a result, its layout is easy to follow.
The front faceplate features the 6.35 mm headphone output, the input selector buttons (which illuminate green when engaged), and the red volume knob. The knob is metallic. It’s highly damped design has a sense of weight to it, making it feel satisfying and providing a feeling of quality. It is a continuously variable design.
The back faceplate, similarly, looks simple and practical. It has three inputs: balanced XLR, unbalanced RCA, and unbalanced 3.5 mm.
The Rupert Neve Designs RNHP Precision headphone amp has a sense of solidity and durability to its heavy feel. Its chassis is made of solid-steel. It’s equipped with shock absorbing rubber feat. It’s pieced together with screws, adding to the pragmatic look.
Power and Drive
Over the course of the time I spent with the Ruper Neve Designs RNHP Precision headphone amp, I listened to a wide variety of headphones with different power needs. The amplifier felt above its pay grade in relation to the power it was able to supply.
For example, I was super impressed that the amp could give great volume and maintain separation and clarity when I was listening with the Beyerdynamic T1 (with an impedance of 600 ohms and a sensitivity of 102 dB/mW).
I tried the amp with the Hifiman HE6se. These headphones have an impedance of 50 ohms and a sensitivity of 83.5 dB/mW. And while the amp may have not given sufficient volume for some listeners, when i cranked up the amp, the music came through with plenty of level and energy.
For example, when I was listening to the song I’m Callin’ by Tennis, especially when I cranked the amp, I could hear solidity in the kick drum. It sounded tight and punchy, although more power might have yielded further tightness. When the headphones aren’t properly driven, this kick drum sounds less clear, and a bit more vague. But I didn’t think the kick sounded vague with these headphones. However, if your primary headphones are power hungry to the extent of the HE6se, you might find a more powerful amp feels better.
Cleanliness and Precision
And while power isn’t necessarily connected to cleanliness or precision, I do think it contributes to the perception of low frequency thickness and clarity in particular. The Rupert Neve Designs RNHP Precision amp has precision in the name. And as a result, achieves this across the frequency spectrum. The amp drives lots of power, while maintaining notable headroom. As a result, it supports thickness and fullness while revealing quiet, subtle details in the high-mids.
For example, when I was listening to the song Thanks for Nothing by Middle Brother through the Sennheiser HD6XX (with an impedance of 300 ohms), the Rupert Neve Designs RNHP Precision did a great job of revealing the texture and of the acoustic guitar and vocal. I was most impressed with its headroom in relation to how it revealed the compression of the vocal hitting the tape.
Additionally, this substantial power contributes to a clearer sense of low end that I heard from other amps at this price point. I was listening to the song Matter of Time by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings with the Mr. Speakers Aeon Flow Closed headphones. Even though these headphones have a low impedance of 13 ohms, they also have a low sensitivity at 92 db/mW. As a result, they’re tough to drive. However, when I was listening with the RNHP amp, the bass guitar, which sounds loose when the headphones aren’t properly driven, felt full and had a sense of clarity.
Soundstage and Dynamic Range
The most noticeable sound signature effect of an amp’s low noise floor is the perception of soundstage and dynamic range. The Rupert Neve Designs RNHP Precision headphone amplifier contributes to these characteristics, creating a greater sense of emotional impact and life than they’d otherwise have.
For example, when I was listening to the song So Tender by Keith Jarrett with the Sennheiser HD800S, the attack of the keys and the nuance of the drumsticks hitting the cymbals felt lively and dramatic. Especially when the keys start to pick up energy and play more subdivided notes, the amp let the headphones keep up with them without losing clarity.
This dynamic range helped the song exert appropriate energy when needed, and rest with tranquility when needed. And as you probably know, the HD800S already has a great soundstage. So I was curious if the RNHP Precision would maintain that potential. Listening to the song Miles Runs the Voodoo Down by Miles Davis, the sense of dimensionality feels wide and has a sense of depth. The horn is super in focus, and the far-off organ, guitar, and even drums sit appropriately behind it. The cleanliness of the amp reveals the dirt and noise of the recording, unveiling a retro vibe that wouldn’t be there otherwise.
Overall, the Rupert Neve Designs RNHP Precision Headphone Amplifier is a great option for those looking for a clean, thick, stationary amp that has lots of good power! It won’t be great for super power hungry headphones, but it will be great for most cans. At this price point, there really isn’t anything with this small of a footprint that gives this much clean power.
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