On the Bench: Heed Audio Canalot

Headphones, anyone?

To hear certain pundits talk, headphonia is going to be the salvation to the declining audiophile market. In fact, it’s the new gateway drug. Personally, I’m not convinced. I think there’ll always be crossover — I mean, Part-Time Audiophile is hardly Head-Fi — but in general, the two camps are pretty much separate. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that you’re either a headphone kind of person or you’re not.

Which brings me to me: I am a headphone lover wannabe.

It’s not that I don’t love my headphones. I do. I’ve had a pair of Stax for the better part of a decade — and for most of that, I also had (and still have) another pair of “conventional” AKG headphones hanging around “just because”. When circumstances require it, I reach for a set of cans. When circumstances don’t, well, maybe I will and maybe I won’t. I suppose I have a bit of a luxury in that I have a setup where I can play my stereo pretty much whenever I want — and while the dungeon is not that far away from where my kids sleep that I can rock out with impunity to all hours of the night, I can exercise restraint (alien though that may be) and listen at reasonable volumes … to all hours of the night. I do recognize, however, how odd this is.

Anyway, back to me. Ahem. As I was saying, I’m a wannabe. My main problem has ever been finding a good pair of cans. That is, something at least as good as my stereo speakers. Yes, my Stax are quite good. They’re ugly as sin, but they sound good … aside from the bass, which is apparently still on holiday. My AKG cans aren’t much better, but it’s only recently occurred to me to blame the amp and not the cans. Which brings me to my latest curiosity — the Heed Audio Canalot.

Bob Clarke of Profundo, the US importer for Heed, and Dan Muzquiz of Blackbird Audio, a retailer for the brand out in San Diego, sent me the Canalot recently. I’m pretty psyched about this little guy — and little it is, too. There are two boxes, one is an outboard PSU and the other is the actual amp. It’s like a two-chassis integrated, which is pretty nifty considering that they’re only a couple inches wide and only slightly less than that tall. Teeny! The Canalot I was sent has a the optional on-board DAC module, which is very con-veeeen-i-ent, but also sports an analog input, too.

Bob suggests that this compact, elegant, and full-featured bombshell will be just the ticket to wake up my AKGs. Maybe so, but I will say that I’m having hard time bothering to move away from the Audez’e LCD-2 headphones I now have here, paired with a sweet after-market cord from ALO. Using my AR-T Legato USB-S/PDIF converter, I’m able to run digital into the Heed’s DAC. I also have an all-in-one USB DAC from Halide Design to run into the analog-in. First impressions are very good — and I’m sitting here, marveling at the quality of the sound I’m getting from the big Audez’e as I type this. Which is weird. Me, listening to headphones? Well, it is rather late, but then, Mumford and Sons, turned low, isn’t really the same. Got. To. Crank. It … Which means — cans! Oh yeah. I’m watching my foot tapping out some spasmodically representative approximation of rhythm, something it is only distantly acquainted with, apparently. Alien Foot Syndrome, I believe this is called. Yeah, that’s a real thing.

Okay, time for some deadmau5, bitches. Seeya.