A dedicated headphone amplifier is something that you don’t realise you need until you try a good one, and the Phil Jones Bass BigHead HA-1 is a perfect example of this. The hand-sized unit is well-built, battery-powered, sturdy, and simple to use. The box contains everything you need to hook it up to any size setup with an array of cables and different connectors. The HA-1 can be used in a few different ways, and it does all with ease, improving any signal path it’s inserted into. Such a simple unit would be hard to get wrong, but Phil Jones Bass hasn't stopped there.
Opening the box reveals a sturdy, compact little unit, packaged in a protective felt bag. The headphone amplifier is powered by an internal lithium-ion rechargeable battery that lasts for eight hours and takes three hours to charge via the included USB cable. Power status is communicated via blue, green and red LEDs on the front face. The HA-1 doubles as a bass preamp and headphone amplifier with plenty of gain, and it features volume and bass/ treble controls that are set at 60Hz and 5kHz respectively. Setting up the amplifier in whichever way you want is easy and it's ready to go within minutes of opening the box. This feels like a solid, well-made, set-and-forget kind of unit, and its clean, sleek looks make it a welcome addition to any set-up.
The HA-1 is primarily a bass guitar preamp with headphone out. It’s compact, and would be great for practising before a gig, on the road, or at home where quiet practise is necessary. It also features an aux in for practise with another source. While using the unit for this purpose, I experienced some buzz when moving the HA-1 around, but unfortunately it doesn’t feature a ground lift switch.
As the unit is a preamp, it can be used to record to your DAW of choice by using the balanced headphone out to your audio interface or mixer and again, all the cables you need are included. The preamp itself is clean and transparent, and the gain can offer some colour when really pushed, which can give some grit and life to a cleaner bass sound. This unit could easily be used to re-amp or mix any signal. The EQs are set at good frequencies, and any boost or cut can improve a signal.
Finally, I used the HA-1 as a dedicated headphone amplifier from my audio interface, and even with all settings at 12 o’clock the headphone sound was greatly improved. A variety of mixes from different genres of music sounded more clear and spacious, and the EQ controls could be used to make tweaks for a more pleasurable listening experience. The EQs maxed out either way can help reveal potential problems in a mix when monitoring through headphones. In the same context, the HA-1 could be inserted into a headphone signal chain when recording a musician who can’t get enough gain out of whatever headphone or monitoring set-up you’re already using. In addition to this, the HA-1 is battery powered so no extra power cables or adapters would be required.
The BigHead HA-1 Headphone Amplifier would be a welcome addition to any setup—amateur, pro or bedroom musician. The HA-1 has a few functions and it does them all really well. Primarily it’s a bass preamp with headphone out, and an aux in for quiet practise, but this can easily become a clean, transparent preamp to record to a DAW or mixer. Finally, it can be used as a dedicated headphone amp that can greatly improve signal from an existing headphone out or to provide extra gain when a loud signal is being recorded and monitoring is tough. The HA-1 is a one-stop-shop, and it’s open for business.
Hits and Misses
Well built, solid
Rechargeable & battery powered
No ground lift