Help! I spent all my money on expensive headphones and now need something cheap to use them with!
You’re in luck! Pi 2 Design has unveiled the (not entirely snappily) named ‘Hybrid Tube Amp for the Raspberry Pi’, which aims to bring that ‘Sweet Tube Sound’ to everyone’s favourite cheapo tiny computer.
It looks… strange.
It really does. We can’t decide whether this add-on is ludicrous or genius — it’s probably halfway between the two. The entire thing resembles the kind of steampunk contraption Terry Gilliam would dream up as the replacement for an iPod in a sequel to Brazil.
How does it work?
It’s HAT (hardware-on-top) compliant, which means the amp sits on top of your Pi, and connects to the 40-pin GPIO connector. Then there’s a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, with adjustable output resistance and three gain settings. So even that pair of cans you had to sell the second car to afford should play nicely with it.
The developers note the low gain setting should be compatible with most amps, too, although don’t ramp it up higher by mistake or you’ll blow up your sound system - and your ears. Possibly.
But will it make my music sound totally amazing?
Define ‘amazing’. The creators say it'll eliminate crosstalk, and are using some pretty decent kit (24-bit DAC, 12AU7 tube). The contraption reportedly sounds a lot better than tube amps costing significantly more. But if you’re after perfect crispness, this isn’t the amp you’re looking for - what with it being a tube amp doubling down on warmth.
Really, this one’s for plugging insanely expensive headphones into a madcap tube amp attached to a tiny computer that costs less than a couple of Blu-Rays, while laughing maniacally about how crazy modern technology is. (Deep breath.)
OK, I’m sold. Where can I get one?
The unit’s funding now on Kickstarter, starting at $149. The project has already hit funding and the first stretch goal (some audio cables). Next up are better caps, a power switch, and a volume control option. Either way, pop down a pledge and a tiny piece of audio craziness should be on your doorstep at some point this summer.