CanJam at RMAF Outstanding Product: HeadAmp Blue Hawaii SE

HeadAmp Blue Hawaii SE ($4995, $5995 w/Apls RK50 pot)
There's plenty of contention in Headphonedom as to whether the source or headphones are more important, but there's not to much controversy regarding the headphone amp being least important in the mix. On the other hand, a truly great headphone like the Stax SR-009 simply wouldn't be able to do its thing without a great amp driving it. The Blue Hawaii SE is one such amp.

I wouldn't be able to write these words on a simple listen at a trade show, but I've had the pleasure of having a pair of Stax SR-009 and a Blue Hawaii SE in my home for the last couple of months in order to measure and listen to a variety of Stax cans. It's been a great pleasure ... no an extraordinarily ear opening experience, to have spent a good deal of time listening and testing a variety of Stax cans on the Blue Hawaii. This amp has gotten a lot of exercise in the past couple of months and it hasn't missed a beat. No surprise there.

HeadAmp products are some of the most beautifully designed and executed pieces of audiophile gear I've come across. The build quality of all of Justin's amps is simply superb. Don't expect to plunk down your dough and get one next week, however. Justin's backlog is legend ... and well warranted. Good things --- the best things --- come to those who are willing to wait.

It's been maybe ten years since I've said one of the most common phrases in Headphonedom, "I heard things on a track that I'm very familiar with that I've never heard before." When listening to the Stax SR-009 and Blue Hawaii with a Wadia 861SE earlier this month I found myself saying it on virtually every track I played. If you're financially capable, a long time headphone listener, and want that experience again, I can offer no higher recommendation than the Stax SR-009 and HeadAmp Blue Hawaii SE for unparalleled headphone audio reproduction.

Thanks for all your hard work, Justin. It shows.

warp08's picture

But if you spend $10-12K on an amp and ear speaker combo, you will want to spend at least that much for a quality source gear. I've been waiting for my BHSE since March and I probably have months to go, but it will be worth it. You can do a lot better than the stock Mullard reissue tubes, though. Nevertheless, the amp is truly remarkable and worth every penny.

dalethorn's picture

I sure wonder about this waiting thing. I nearly always have a positive outlook on Hi-fi matters, but here's the thing: If I ordered this amp and had to wait a year, does that mean I have to acknowledge that I will be listening to inferior sound for the next 12 months, even though I can afford better? If I can convince myself that the thousands of songs I'm going to listen to in the next 12 months are going to be completely satisfactory in quality, then what point is there to buying the wait-a-year amp? The thing could fail anyway, and there goes that year down the drain.

I don't say this as a purely speculative and negative viewpoint, but from real experience. Buying an expensive car and having it sit in the shop for 11 of 12 months. Or having my Leica camera in the shop for the same duration. Or having my gold Rolex fall apart three times in eight years - because the internal gold parts break down quickly with everyday wear.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Are you really interested in one? Or is this hypothetical complaining?

Ever been in line for something?

Good things come to those who wait.

JRT's picture

I don't currently own one of these amplifiers, though I am very tempted.

This is just an observation regarding the $1k upgrade to an Alps RK50 pot (which does enjoy a good reputation). Instead of the RK50, I'd rather see this amplifier make use of an attenuator using LEDs and LDRs (light emitting diodes and light dependendent resistors) which when properly matched and employed in a well crafted circuit, can offer better audio performance than the expensive RK50 pot at lower cost (grossed up to retail in the amplifier, maybe 1/2 the price of the RK50 upgrade). For more info websearch for "Lightspeed Attenuator" to find the long discussion thread at DIY audio where LDR proponent George Stantschleff disclosed design details and supporting design reasoning for his Lightspeed Attenuator, his commercial passive attenuator that makes use of LEDs and LDRs.