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Thread: Headphone Amp

  1. #1

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    Default Headphone Amp

    I just snagged a pair of Sennheiser HD 280s (maybe mid-line headphones) and am thinking about an amp.

    I don't really want to spend any money on it right now. I'd say my max budget is $100.

    What are some good choices in that price range, should I even bother?
    Main HT
    Magnepan 1.6QR fronts, POlk R15 surrounds, Pioneer SC-25, Parasound Halo A23, Oppo BDP-105, Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, Sony PS3, Apple TV

    Bedroom System
    Polk Blackstone TL3, Polk PSWi225 Wireless Sub, HK 3490 Integrated, Oppo BDP-103, Sharp Aquos 32" TV, Apple TV

    Office Rig
    27" iMac w/Amarra, AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, Focal XS Book, Schiit Valhalla, Cypher Labs Theorem 720, Philips Fidelio X1, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-500, B&W P7, LG 47LM7600, Sony PS3, Apple TV

  2. #2

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    If you can find a used Little Dot 2 tube amp, its a great deal for around that price. There are some QC issues with that model, so, I would ask the seller if the amp has >100 hours on it. The amp tends to have its issues show up right around 100 hours of use. Anyways, I had one, and I thought it was a great match for my Sennheisers.

    Other than that, just browse the amp for sale section at head-fi.org.

  3. #3

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    http://cgi.ebay.com/CARVER-CT-17-PRE...QQcmdZViewItem

    These have the best headphone output I've heard (until you get into the megadollar preamps). Dynamic, clean, powerful... Just a thought. I've kicked myself for selling mine (because of the headphone output) many times.
    madmax
    Vinyl, the final frontier...

    Avantgarde horns, 300b tubes, thats the kinda crap I want... :D

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    I wonder how the headphone section in my parasound pre would work? I hadn't thought about it, but I've got a P/HP 850 sitting around somewhere I could use. It's a nice little preamp, wonder how it would do powering the new cans.
    Main HT
    Magnepan 1.6QR fronts, POlk R15 surrounds, Pioneer SC-25, Parasound Halo A23, Oppo BDP-105, Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, Sony PS3, Apple TV

    Bedroom System
    Polk Blackstone TL3, Polk PSWi225 Wireless Sub, HK 3490 Integrated, Oppo BDP-103, Sharp Aquos 32" TV, Apple TV

    Office Rig
    27" iMac w/Amarra, AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, Focal XS Book, Schiit Valhalla, Cypher Labs Theorem 720, Philips Fidelio X1, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-500, B&W P7, LG 47LM7600, Sony PS3, Apple TV

  5. #5

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    Can't hurt to try it. Search the head fi forums as well for that specific model. Odds are if it has a headphone out, someone at that forum has tried it and reviewed it.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Polkmaniac View Post
    I wonder how the headphone section in my parasound pre would work? I hadn't thought about it, but I've got a P/HP 850 sitting around somewhere I could use. It's a nice little preamp, wonder how it would do powering the new cans.
    At that price level you'd probably be better off using your preamp headphone jack, unless it's just horribly designed (not likely on a Parasound, I would think). Also, when you do have more funds, I'd try some other headphones before thinking about an amp upgarde. The Senn HD580 & HD600 are excellent for the money. Also perhaps look for a used AKG K601 & K701 for another alternative. If you can stretch to $260 used, the HD650 is the best all-around headphone under $1000, IMO.

    Often those receivers and preamps have headphone jacks with a 120-ohm output impedance. That works pretty good for the 300 ohm HD580/600/650; not so great with all those low-impedance cans (of which I believe the HD280 is one). So you might get a cheap headphone amp that beats your Parasound for low-Z 'phones, but in the end you could've just gotten an HD580/600/650 and had much better overall sound quality ;)

    Then when you add a quality amp to the HD650, the fun really starts...
    You could possibly find an old Kevin Gilmore dynamic amp (ala Headamp V1, V2) for $160-250 used. Those are great amps. Anything less is not worthwhile IMO.

    Other cheap amps that are worthwhile are a used PPA, Pimeta (PPA is by far the better of the two), or perhaps even a Millet tube hybrid. These are typically DIYFSE-built amps, good designs, and the parts/workmanship quality vastly exceed what you'd find in a commercial built amp - yes, even (especially) the Chinese ones - for the money. But in general - expect to spend at least $150-200 for something worthwhile.
    Last edited by mulveling; 07-30-2007 at 06:29 PM.
    Tannoy Dimension TD10, SOTA Star Sapphire, Heathkit W4A's, McIntosh MC2100, Eddie-Current Zana Deux, Singlepower SDS, Sennheiser HD650, Audio-Technica L3000, Sony Qualia 010

  7. #7

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    What Mulveling said is totally true. The options I gave were aimed at your question and budget. However, if you are not determined to get a amp at one bill, what Mulveling described really is the proper way to go. Usually options in audio are based on opinion, but Mulv's advice is more or less fact. Its the way to go. Its what I will be doing within the next year.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Polkmaniac View Post
    I just snagged a pair of Sennheiser HD 280s (maybe mid-line headphones) and am thinking about an amp.

    I don't really want to spend any money on it right now. I'd say my max budget is $100.

    What are some good choices in that price range, should I even bother?
    I've got a Little Dot that's yours if you want it. Not much of an amp.
    But you could get an idea what tubes and a pair of Senns sound like.
    Let me test it tonight. I haven't used it in a while. You're over in Plano, right?

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    I'm using HD580's with Yamaha HTR-5560, the reason simply is that these are my computer cans so digital input was the way to go and I had that receiver sitting unused, and I mostly just use them to play games although sometimes I'm playing FLAC's when I do work from home. Not a bad combination but in honesty I haven't had much to compare with (iPod doesn't count, that poor thing didn't have nearly enough juice to even run them properly).

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sami View Post
    I'm using HD580's with Yamaha HTR-5560, the reason simply is that these are my computer cans so digital input was the way to go and I had that receiver sitting unused, and I mostly just use them to play games although sometimes I'm playing FLAC's when I do work from home. Not a bad combination but in honesty I haven't had much to compare with (iPod doesn't count, that poor thing didn't have nearly enough juice to even run them properly).
    Like a lot of other things in audio, proper amplification works wonders.
    Some lower impendance cans work very well with a reciever headphone jack.
    The better Senn's really open up with a good amp. I haven't tried the
    hd280's. My hd590's didn't sound good at all off a headphone jack.
    The hd650's are definately dedicated amp territory. The hd580's
    are very close to the 600's and 650's in terms of load.

    If you are on a budget, a CMOY or other DIY amp would be a good choice. You can also buy them on Head-Fi or EBAY if you can't solder.
    Last edited by sucks2beme; 07-30-2007 at 10:46 PM.

  11. #11

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    Default I wasn't too impressed with my one headphone amp experience

    I ordered a phono preamp module via phone from an audio supply place and they sent me a Vincent tube hybrid headphone amp by mistake. I couldn't convince them they had sent me the wrong item and while we went back and forth over the course of three weeks I finally gave it a listen. My best set of headphone are an old set of AKG studio monitors. Quite honestly, no way would I have shelled out the $599 for this amp after hearing it. My headphones aren't the latest and greatest, but the headphone output on my Parasound Halo P3 has a MUCH better sound. I could never fully relax with headphones on anyway always thinking someone was knocking at the door or the phone was ringing or something. Oh yeah, I finally got my phono preamp and they got the headphone amp back.
    The Beloved System:
    Parasound Halo P3 Preamp
    Parasound Halo T3 AM/FM Tuner
    Grant Audio Tube Buffer
    ADC Sound Shaper II IC Graphic Equalizer
    Polk XRT12 XM Satellite Radio Receiver
    2 Carver TFM 35x Power Amps
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    Vincent Phono Preamp (not enough gain in the Parasound Phono In)
    Cambridge Audio 640C V2 CD Player
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    2 Polk PSW 1000 Subwoofers

  12. #12

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    I took Mulvelings advice and picked up a pair of Senn 600's,they happened to have the Cardas cables,and a Melos Sha-1,,rolled some 7308's and damn,,just damn,,,I can listen to these babies for hours,and the Melos ain't a bad pre either,if you choose to go that way,,good luck :)
    JC approves....he told me so. (F-1 nut)

  13. #13

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    Thanks for all the input.

    Yeah I know the 280s aren't a great high end pair of headphones, just had a few half used Amazon gift certificates laying around and decided to grab these. I figured for $70 what the hell - they can't be that bad.

    What's with all these little amps in the altoids tins? Are those for real, or is that some kind of joke? Is that work messing with?
    Main HT
    Magnepan 1.6QR fronts, POlk R15 surrounds, Pioneer SC-25, Parasound Halo A23, Oppo BDP-105, Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, Sony PS3, Apple TV

    Bedroom System
    Polk Blackstone TL3, Polk PSWi225 Wireless Sub, HK 3490 Integrated, Oppo BDP-103, Sharp Aquos 32" TV, Apple TV

    Office Rig
    27" iMac w/Amarra, AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, Focal XS Book, Schiit Valhalla, Cypher Labs Theorem 720, Philips Fidelio X1, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-500, B&W P7, LG 47LM7600, Sony PS3, Apple TV

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Polkmaniac View Post
    Thanks for all the input.

    Yeah I know the 280s aren't a great high end pair of headphones, just had a few half used Amazon gift certificates laying around and decided to grab these. I figured for $70 what the hell - they can't be that bad.

    What's with all these little amps in the altoids tins? Are those for real, or is that some kind of joke? Is that work messing with?
    Real deal. They use them with their IPODS. Easy, cheap and portable.
    DIY at it's best. There are some commercial products that also work well,
    but most IPOD using students don't have much cash. Those are often
    the CMOYs. There are other designs that fit in those cans, too.
    And they don't sound bad, either.

    Of course, a free amp is best. You want that Little DOT? It's yours if you can carry it away.
    Last edited by sucks2beme; 07-31-2007 at 09:05 AM.

  15. #15

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    Default CMOY Amp

    Hi,
    I made a CMOY to use with my AKG 240 that are at least 20 years old. I never had a good amp to drive those cans till I made that amp. The bass is real, and it doesnt distort at higher levels like the built in amps. I made mine to fit in an altoid tin(ginger) and use it when I ride the bus to work. People at work think its a bomb. I think it sounds good but there are many better sounding and more expensive options. Looks like you have some good advice and options available. ;)

  16. #16

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    Sure, I'd like to give that amp a try, how much you want for it?
    Main HT
    Magnepan 1.6QR fronts, POlk R15 surrounds, Pioneer SC-25, Parasound Halo A23, Oppo BDP-105, Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, Sony PS3, Apple TV

    Bedroom System
    Polk Blackstone TL3, Polk PSWi225 Wireless Sub, HK 3490 Integrated, Oppo BDP-103, Sharp Aquos 32" TV, Apple TV

    Office Rig
    27" iMac w/Amarra, AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, Focal XS Book, Schiit Valhalla, Cypher Labs Theorem 720, Philips Fidelio X1, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-500, B&W P7, LG 47LM7600, Sony PS3, Apple TV

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Polkmaniac View Post
    Sure, I'd like to give that amp a try, how much you want for it?

    Generally, "yours if you can carry it away" infers the price is gratus,
    gimme, karma, free lunch, etc.:D

    It's not high end. It uses those odd Communist tubes that seem only to be available from the maker of the product. It works, but when the tubes go,
    it could be interesting getting replacements. Kinda of a high noise floor, but sounds pretty good with higher end Senns. I've got other amps, and this one is just in the way.
    PM on it's way!

  18. #18

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    Default Music Hall A25.2/CD25.2 combo

    Hi,
    Just wondering how you like that Music Hall integrated amp/CDP combo. I'm thinking about the same combo. I guess you must like it if you've got two, eh? :D I can get them both NIB w/warranty for $765 shipped.
    Thanks,
    Rob

  19. #19

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    That's a great deal for the pair. I still love mine, I can't imagine a better combo for the price.
    Main HT
    Magnepan 1.6QR fronts, POlk R15 surrounds, Pioneer SC-25, Parasound Halo A23, Oppo BDP-105, Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, Sony PS3, Apple TV

    Bedroom System
    Polk Blackstone TL3, Polk PSWi225 Wireless Sub, HK 3490 Integrated, Oppo BDP-103, Sharp Aquos 32" TV, Apple TV

    Office Rig
    27" iMac w/Amarra, AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, Focal XS Book, Schiit Valhalla, Cypher Labs Theorem 720, Philips Fidelio X1, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-500, B&W P7, LG 47LM7600, Sony PS3, Apple TV

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