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Is Boulder’s 812 the best-looking headphone amplifier in the world?

  • New from Boulder Amplifiers: the 812 headphone amplifier that’s also a streaming DAC and a pre-amplifier. The back panel tells us plenty: an Ethernet socket for Roon Ready/UPnP/AirPlay2 streaming; 4 x USB ‘host’ sockets for streaming from a directly-connected storage device; USB, coaxial and twin TOSLINK sockets to access the DAC from an outboard device; two pairs of XLR inputs (and no single-ended) but one set of XLR outputs for downstream amplifier hook-ups.

    On the front panel, behind the dust cover, is where we find the 812’s headphone connectivty: XLR and Pentaconn sockets put two checkboxes in the balanced connections column whilst 1/4″ and 1/8″ sockets take care of single-ended jacks.

    Boulder summarises 812’s the headphone output power as capable of “200mw into 8 ohms and 80mw into 600 ohms…the amplifier section in the 812 will drive any headphones or multiple headphones at once.”

    What we can’t see from the press information is the Bluetooth input and Boulder’s own streaming app that 1) takes care of UPnP streams (including the aforementioned USB host sockets), 2) allows the 812 to be clicked over into a fixed-output DAC mode and 3) permits headphone sensitivity configuration.

    An RF remote for volume control and input switching will be made available as a separate purchase but what we don’t yet know is the 812’s retail pricing. One thing’s for sure, it won’t be cheap.

    That’s the news, what’s the story?

    To anyone with a functional pair of peepers, it’s this headphone amplifier’s looks. The 812’s chassis is machined in-house at Boulder’s Colorado facility and borrows its industrial design from the 866 integrated amplifier. The sides – presumably heatsinks – have been cut to resemble a casually-stacked bookshelf to take a break from the clean lines and spartan looks that plague so much of the hi-fi electronics world.

    Is this the best-looking high-end headphone amplifier in the world? Quite possibly.

    Further information: Boulder Amplifiers

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

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