The DACS Headmaster is actually three devices in one: a Digital-to-Analogue (D-A) converter, a monitor controller, and a headphone amplifier, although it could be seen simply as a monitor controller with the addition of headphone outputs and digital inputs.
However you look at it, the Headmaster is a useful device. Of its four stereo inputs, two are digital — with the choice of AES/EBU and S/PDIF on XLR and phono ports respectively — while the other two cater for balanced and unbalanced analogue line-level sources. Any one of these inputs can be selected as the source that feeds the main stereo output of the device and the headphones outputs, enabling you to quickly A/B the signals from two stereo sources at the touch of a button.
There are two headphone outputs (one on the front panel and one on the back), which are powered by DACS’ respected Clarity driver circuit. A single volume control on the front panel controls both headphones feeds independently of the main output, which also has a dedicated volume control. As an optional extra, both volume knobs can be upgraded from the standard conductive plastic type to “very close tolerance” potentiometers, which should ensure that the stereo tracking between the left and right channels is more accurate.
On the digital side of things, conversion to analogue is handled by circuitry designed by mastering console experts Crookwood (check out our review of their C2 monitor controller in SOS August 2007). This, say DACS, uses technology to make the D-A stage “impervious to jitter on the incoming signal”, adding “it simply does not get any better than this”, which is quite a claim.
The DACS Headmaster has a list price of £900 including VAT in the UK.