The Headroom Show – portable audio expo report

headroom 2015 reportThe first Headroom Show, organised by Unilet Sound and Vision and Custom Cable, took place at the Metropolis recording studios in London. GadgetyNews was there to get ears on with some top-end portable, and not so portable, audio.

I always enjoy my visits to Metropolis as it has seen the likes of Queen, Michael Jackson, The Verve, U2 and many others record landmark albums. Unfortunately, at this time, I have yet to visit in order to lay my bass lines down in one of their awesome live rooms.

The Headroom Show used both floors of the Power House building to offer…

the largest range of headphones and headphone amplifiers on display in the UK, alongside portable audio players, computer-connected DACs (digital-to-analogue converters) and portable streaming solutions”

I reckon that this was very much achieved and kudos to the organisers and all who had input in making this event happen.

It was good to see that some manufacturers kept their UK unveiling of their products for this show. Everyone loves an exclusive.


First of the new launches for me to check out was the Chord Hugo TT desktop DAC/headphone amp, which was initially shown at CES in Las Vegas. It features improved connectivity and performance, a remote control, alphanumeric LED display and an asynchronous USB-B digital input. Price is £2995 in the UK.

Hugo TTFor more about the Chord Hugo TT go here.

Musical Fidelity

Musical Fidelity also chose Headroom to give their new Round Table turntable and Merlin integrated amp and speaker sets a first outing. Also on the MF stand was their new MX DAC and fully balanced headphone amp, the MX HPA.

MF MX HPAFor more about Musical Fidelity’s Merlin amp and Round Table click here.

Astell & Kern

Back to portable audio, which is the main point of this show, it was easy to get drawn to Astell and Kern’s stand. Their AK100 II (£639.99 at the show, usually £799.99) and AK120 II (£1,199.99 at the show but normally £1,499.99) players not only sound excellent but look the business.

AK120IIAstell & Kern also had their Angie and Layla earphones on show. Both of these in-ear monitors are named after famous rock songs about women and have been created in conjunction with Jerry Harvey Audio, who also produced a special version of the Roxanne headphones for Astell & Kern in 2014.

To read more about the audio players and the new in ear monitors head over here.

PMC Speakers

The award for least portable at the show must go to the amazing PMC Speakers. For those of you that are unaware, PMC supply the monitors that are used in all of the rooms at Metropolis with the MB (Medium Box) system used in the viewing theatre. However, they brought their towering BB5 (Big Box but I was told that it’s usually called the Big B******!), as used by the BBC and Prince, to Headroom.

PMC BB5As you can see, it comfortably dwarfs my 6-foot 2 height. On the table they had brought the much more mobile twotwo 5 active two way nearfield monitor (£3,300) loaded with a 5-inch speaker which, although tuned as a monitor, had that sparkle which, should you decide to, would sound great as a compact living room speaker. They also have 6 and 8-inch versions at £4,194 and £6,570 respectively.

PMC twotwoAll of the twotwo speakers use PMC’s ATL (Advanced Transmission Line) tech that places the bass driver at the end of a long, heavily damped cavity which only allows the lowest frequencies to pass down the line and emerge form the large frontal vent in the same polarity as the driver’s direct radiation. The vent actually acts as a second driver.

Of course, this being primarily a headphone show, it was no surprise to see plenty of other in-ear, on-ear and over-ear designs from the likes of Atomic Floyd, B&O, B&W, HIFI MAN, KEF, Parrot and Sennheiser. I’m just glad I left my wallet at home!

I’m already looking forward to the next one!