What’s in a name? Not much when you consider the BigHead headphone amp from Phil Jones Bass, a company known for big sounds from small drivers and enclosures. The not big 2.5" x 5.3" x 1" BigHead could very well fit in your back pocket if you’re so inclined, but its size makes it ideal for the accessory compartment in an instrument case or gig bag.
Though it will work for a variety of active or passive instruments, the BigHead’s 2-band EQ system is optimized for bass, and the unit carries 200 milliwatts of power output to drive a set of headphones. On opposite sides of the stacked EQ dials are a volume/gain stack and three LED indicators for power and the rechargeable lithium-ion battery status. When I plugged a Fender P into the rear-panel jack and set all the dials to noon, the BigHead produced a clean, big, and warm tone with zero noise or coloration. The responsive dials quickly got me to a nicely aggressive and biting sound by moving the treble to about 4 o’clock and pushing the gain. Awesome—though 250 bucks for a headphone amp is not exactly chump change.
But the BigHead is not just a headphone amp: It’s also a wee digital interface that feeds data and charges up via the micro-USB port located in the back next to the auxiliary jack. I tested the BigHead’s interface functionality (48 kHz 16-bit conversion) using GarageBand and had a hassle-free tracking experience with no latency issues. When you consider that the BigHead can also be used as a headphone booster for audio players or as an analog pre for an amp or mixer, the $250 tag is much easier to swallow.Test Gear: 2001 Fender Precision, Urbanears Plattan Plus headphones, GarageBand 10.0.3