This thread documents a comparison of several mid-and-lower-priced headamps I’ve been conducting for several months. The process included both long-term, casual listening to various headamp-phono preamp combos and three shootout sessions, each session featuring a single phono preamp paired against every headamp. This post sets up the process and equipment I used. The next makes a digression into basic headamp ( and a little bit of SUT) knowledge. The third and beyond have my findings on the headamps and some conclusionary thoughts. The setup The headamps I compared were: Muffsy MC Head Amp (DIY kit) Lounge Audio Copla Hagerman Audio Labs Piccolo2 Audio Design MCP-1 Musical Fidelity AC-1 Music Reference RM-4 The first three are current production amps (the Muffsy is a kit), the last three are out of production but are still well considered and available (occasionally) on the used market. Why this comparison and these specific headamps? I’ve been asking myself that a lot recently. I acquired several headamps (and SUTs) for no good reason other than “I should listen to this stuff.” Following a discussion in the Phono preamp thread I set out to do a comparison, setting a random price max of $500 USD on the headamps to keep things simple and less expensive for me. I acquired a couple more, started listening and here’s a post about my findings. Note this comparison is strictly headamp versus headamp, not versus SUT. That will be another thread. If you’re wondering why I bothered, see my Big Degression post below. I’m also making a digression to brain-dump things I’ve learned about headamps, phono-preamps, cartridge loading and gain that I’ve learned along the way which think would be beneficial to know. General info about my system and some disclaimers I purchased all equipment used in these comparisons (no discounts, no freebies for a promise of a review, etc.) with the exception of the Audio Design MCP-1, graciously lent to me by @k4rstar . My thanks to him for the loan and his patience as I took too much time to get this done. The system behind the comparison includes: VPI Classic 4 turntable VPI 12” 3D Tonearm Custom low-capacitance phono and RCA cables Shindo Sinhonia F2A monoblock amplifiers Devore Fidelity Orangutan O/96 speakers I used an Ortofon Cadenza Bronze moving coil cartridge for all listening. Some measurements from the manufacturer: Output voltage at 1000 Hz, 5cm/sec. - 0.4 mV Internal impedance, DC resistance - 5 Ohm Recommended load impedance - 50-200 Ohm I used 4 different phono preamps at various times during the process: Shindo Massetto Ray Samuels F-117 Nighthawk A modded TC-750 Darlington Labs MM6 The Darlington Labs MM6 didn’t get its own shootout because one of the listener/participants to a preamp comparison I was hosting demanded to take it home for use in his own system. You know who you are. Hopefully the Darlington will reappear in time for comparisons with the MM7. In the next post Im on to some basic headamp Q&A. Posts beyond contain findings.