Leckerton UHA-6S.MKII amp/DAC review

Local manufacturer of portable headphone electronics Leckerton Audio loaned me their UHA-6S.MKII portable amp/DAC for the March 2 headphone meet in Austin, and I've continued using and listening to the device. I already use a Ray Samuels portable as well as a Headroom, but both those are amps without DACs. The Leckerton unit is also a DAC. I conducted most of my listening using an Apple digital camera connector adapter attached to an iPad with .wav files. I also tried out the regular analog line-in using a dock connector adapter from Apple devices. The Leckerton amp/DAC is a mighty little thing that sounds terrific.

The first thing I noticed switching to a DAC/amp combo from a standard analog line in was a dead-silent background. I hadn't really considered that -- I assumed I'd be listening for some sort of specific tonal differentiation. I'm not sure I ever hear that amongst high-quality electronics, but I feel comfortable saying that with the digital-in signal, the noise floor went to absolute black. I heard my own heart and in-ear resonance instead of any trace of anything from the amp. Classical choral and instrument voices come up out of nowhere. Cool.

I most often listen to headphones in a living room chair or in bed, nowhere near my media room or an AC plug-in amp. Accordingly, I'm nearly always using a portable amp of some kind. I tried out the Leckerton with Audeze, Beyerdynamic, and Fostex flagship cans, and it pumped out more than enough volume for me, especially at the high-gain setting. I think the Leckerton estimates for battery life are conservative. Even with the DAC running, I've gotten more than 15 hours of listen time.

The action of the volume control is dead-silent, for those who care. I found it easier to use the textured volume controller on the Leckerton than the smooth one on the RSA. The Leckerton also has a more silky feel and turns rather easily. It never turned too easily, however -- that is, my normal movements didn't cause the volume to change.

I don't deal in Leckerton -- all the sales are mfr.-direct -- so I have nothing at stake in this game. I plan to switch all my portable listening to the little Leckerton unit. The only limiting feature I have found thus far is the source that's plugged into it -- my Apple laptop is a headache right now because of some sort of sample-rate issue when I interface with any high-bitrate DAC. I've got to suss that out. The sound from my iPod classic and iPad was pristine, however.