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Which headphone amp?

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Davesax1965 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 09 2018 at 05:33
Hm. Might look into doing valve hifi amps as well. 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote progbethyname Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 09 2018 at 13:34
Originally posted by noni noni wrote:

Looking into Headphone amps..  Seems FiiO sounds good,  but which one ? E 11 or E 12?

Just bought the HiFiMan 400i headphones!!!  

Any clues!!....Smile

What did you end up deciding or getting for the 400i amp wise? 

Have you considered portable tube amplifiers. They carry a very rich and warm tonality to them. Seriously, listening to the likes of black sabbath through a tube amp is an experience that is second to none .
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Guldbamsen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 10 2018 at 03:01
If you are looking for an amplifier then here are some stuff to look for:

1) What are you powering? How hard are your cans to drive ie ohms and sensitivity?
2) Do you want high fidelity (pure reproduction of the music) or what tube amps do which is to add euphonic distortion to the sound?
3) Are you using it on the go or in the home?

I kinda took the red pill a couple of months ago with regards to amps and dacs. I helped out a friend with some blindtests he'd set up for himself and seeing as I'd jumped on the headphone bandwagon here recently, it only seemed natural to invite an extra set of ears.
Now sitting in the midst of the Violectric V200, Schiit Jotunheim, Emotiva a-100, Myryad z40 and Burson soloist is quite the experience and just by looking at the individual units I was prepared to hear all kinds of differences and I also had a fave so to speak...even before I heard it. Though once these critters were hid from view and the volumes had been matched, we simply couldn't distinguish between them...at any point whatsoever! A very very sobering experience actually.
Then again all an amp really has to do is to..well amplify a signal with as little distortion as possible...and we've been making these things for a 100 years now, so it really isn't that hard to believe that we reached the summit a while ago.

Buy whatever amp that suits your needs the best ie connections, functions, power etc...just don't expect improved sound quality...unless you have a hard to drive headphone that you've been run ing straight out of your iPhone. An amp will definitely impeove sound quality then...but only because it makes the headphone work properly - not because of some magic proponent not yet discovered by science.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote progbethyname Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 10 2018 at 21:56
Originally posted by Guldbamsen Guldbamsen wrote:

If you are looking for an amplifier then here are some stuff to look for:

1) What are you powering? How hard are your cans to drive ie ohms and sensitivity?
2) Do you want high fidelity (pure reproduction of the music) or what tube amps do which is to add euphonic distortion to the sound?
3) Are you using it on the go or in the home?

I kinda took the red pill a couple of months ago with regards to amps and dacs. I helped out a friend with some blindtests he'd set up for himself and seeing as I'd jumped on the headphone bandwagon here recently, it only seemed natural to invite an extra set of ears.
Now sitting in the midst of the Violectric V200, Schiit Jotunheim, Emotiva a-100, Myryad z40 and Burson soloist is quite the experience and just by looking at the individual units I was prepared to hear all kinds of differences and I also had a fave so to speak...even before I heard it. Though once these critters were hid from view and the volumes had been matched, we simply couldn't distinguish between them...at any point whatsoever! A very very sobering experience actually.
Then again all an amp really has to do is to..well amplify a signal with as little distortion as possible...and we've been making these things for a 100 years now, so it really isn't that hard to believe that we reached the summit a while ago.

Buy whatever amp that suits your needs the best ie connections, functions, power etc...just don't expect improved sound quality...unless you have a hard to drive headphone that you've been run ing straight out of your iPhone. An amp will definitely impeove sound quality then...but only because it makes the headphone work properly - not because of some magic proponent not yet discovered by science.

Yeah but Dave all those amps carry the same circuitry and topology design with class A. They all even use FET transistor emission. All almost cost the same between 300$ and 700$. The Burson being the most expensive. However using the same headphone that isn't very analytical or high end on these amps will likely sound the same. Also DACS can make a difference and system synergies matter depending on the headphone and power supply treatment. I am only saying this because your post here kinda sounds like a generalization. You are testing a bunch of mid-fi equipment all with in the same tier.  Also, most of your amplification contestants listed are not high end specialized amplifiers. They are good but they are not elite by any means. And Doing listening tests double or even triple blinded is very touchy and subjective stuff because most of us very much listen in a different way and actually hear different things. Running tests switching back and forth quickly can be counter productive. It is a lot for the brain to articulate and process going back and forth several times. 
You I respect and love, Dave. Not trying to step on you but amps are quite complicated in construction and the quality of certain circuit designs and parts really matters. Take for instance a bakoon HPA-21 or a Pass Labs HPA-1 you get into another world of Class A output than your other amps listed here. The Burson is good. Short signal pathway too, I even have one myself but my god I know there is better in class A amp designs. :)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Guldbamsen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 11 2018 at 00:31
We better just agree to disagree here Nick
Everything I've tested and read and all the actual people who work with these things professionally that I've talked to (including one of my friends who makes a living out of it) all say the same thing: solid stats amps, regardless of their price, all sound the same unless there is something genuinely funky going on. Amps are very uncomplicated things.
The same thing goes for dacs but that's mostly because we just can't pick up the upgrades with our human ears. We would have to convert our hearing abilities to those of a bat or a whale in order to enjoy them...and still it would make no sense at all, because there are no studio mics that can pick up sounds that exist in these frequencies let alone real instruments that produce said sounds.

Like I said, I took the red pill.

Edited by Guldbamsen - November 11 2018 at 00:33
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 11 2018 at 04:22
Progbethyname is quite right about Class A amp design. 

A lot of amp design out there is, frankly, not very good at all. One great con is seen in Chinese headphone amps. They've got a couple of valves and a few volts goes through them to light the heaters up. But, actually, when you pull the case to bits, it's all transistors in there: the valves are mostly not in circuit except the heaters. Behold shiny valves. Huge con. 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Guldbamsen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 11 2018 at 05:05
Class a design just means you have all the power the unit has to offer on hand right from the get-go which in turn gives you heat(!). Implementing bad ingeneering skills or merely ineffective designs are of course less than stellar when you look at the life expectancy of the unit...but there are still no sound differences to the human ear unless the aforementioned choices affect distortion numbers or indeed mess with the frequency response, yet even the cheap amps you can get nowadays have distortion numbers far below the threshold of our hearing.

All of this about solid state amps sounding the same was proven some 30-40 years ago by Bob Carver. The design of amps hasn't changed if only cosmetically....and our ears and listening apparatuses are still also very much the same.


Edited by Guldbamsen - November 11 2018 at 05:24
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote progbethyname Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 11 2018 at 09:23
Originally posted by Guldbamsen Guldbamsen wrote:

Class a design just means you have all the power the unit has to offer on hand right from the get-go which in turn gives you heat(!). Implementing bad ingeneering skills or merely ineffective designs are of course less than stellar when you look at the life expectancy of the unit...but there are still no sound differences to the human ear unless the aforementioned choices affect distortion numbers or indeed mess with the frequency response, yet even the cheap amps you can get nowadays have distortion numbers far below the threshold of our hearing.

All of this about solid state amps sounding the same was proven some 30-40 years ago by Bob Carver. The design of amps hasn't changed if only cosmetically....and our ears and listening apparatuses are still also very much the same.

Some of this is true and to reduce the hotbed of distortion really class A/B design would be ideal to limit it to its lowest possible output. 

Dave . I really do not want to think you are done and that you are chewing on red bills as if you were popping them like Prozac .
Power amplification differences and performances are very real . If an amp cost 500 dollars as opposed to 5,000 dollars there is a big reason for that and not just performance alone . Dave, this hobby of ours is quite wonderful and the diversity is very real. Don't sell the amp section with in a sound chain short. 
Just let your ears do the believing. If you can try out some higher end amps you will see what I mean .
Amps are tricky busines . even down to the quality of resisters, capacitors and transformers (toriodal or not) matters! Just trust me. 
The rabbit hole goes far deeper my friend. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Guldbamsen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 11 2018 at 10:08
Oh I know about the rabbithole alright
I was going down that thing like a regular mole on steroids...until I started listening to the merchandise without actually seeing it.
I have actually tried extremely pricey set-ups with cables and interconnects and a Wells Audio amplifier that costs the same as a small boat. Can't for the life of me remember the model, but it was big and powerful like a pack of wild Huns.
Yet again, while testing with his he5 and hd800 (yup I am a little jealous), we could not spot any difference between that and his bedroom amp as he calls it, the Schiit magni 2.

I am however not hellbent on changing anyone's mind in these matters. This has merely been an exercise for myself, because I wanted to know how deep the rabbithole went and if I indeed could hear the upgrades happening.
I have a couple of friends who echo your sentiments on gear and we do just fine together after our initial headbumps...but now we keep it to headphones
I basically just wanted peace of mind and ultimately to get rid of the upgradeitis guy on my shoulder, which I effectively did. I am fairly confident now in what I own and am pretty much set for life. I can power just about everything with my Violectric...also if I ever get the he6, and my dac has time and again proven to sound exactly the same as any other I've tried, which also includes devices that cost 10-15 times more.

Then again if my friends take great pleasure in their rigs, regardless of what they paid for them, then it's absolutely worth it....unless mama-san gets too unwieldy of course.

Edit: My bad it was the he500 he had. I tend to forget that I probably am the only one who has an he500 stuffed inside the shell of an he6. I always forget that it actually is a grey(ish) headphone. Mine is purple and glistening

Edited by Guldbamsen - November 11 2018 at 13:54
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote progbethyname Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 11 2018 at 17:32
Originally posted by Guldbamsen Guldbamsen wrote:

Oh I know about the rabbithole alright
I was going down that thing like a regular mole on steroids...until I started listening to the merchandise without actually seeing it.
I have actually tried extremely pricey set-ups with cables and interconnects and a Wells Audio amplifier that costs the same as a small boat. Can't for the life of me remember the model, but it was big and powerful like a pack of wild Huns.
Yet again, while testing with his he5 and hd800 (yup I am a little jealous), we could not spot any difference between that and his bedroom amp as he calls it, the Schiit magni 2.

I am however not hellbent on changing anyone's mind in these matters. This has merely been an exercise for myself, because I wanted to know how deep the rabbithole went and if I indeed could hear the upgrades happening.
I have a couple of friends who echo your sentiments on gear and we do just fine together after our initial headbumps...but now we keep it to headphones
I basically just wanted peace of mind and ultimately to get rid of the upgradeitis guy on my shoulder, which I effectively did. I am fairly confident now in what I own and am pretty much set for life. I can power just about everything with my Violectric...also if I ever get the he6, and my dac has time and again proven to sound exactly the same as any other I've tried, which also includes devices that cost 10-15 times more.

Then again if my friends take great pleasure in their rigs, regardless of what they paid for them, then it's absolutely worth it....unless mama-san gets too unwieldy of course.

Edit: My bad it was the he500 he had. I tend to forget that I probably am the only one who has an he500 stuffed inside the shell of an he6. I always forget that it actually is a grey(ish) headphone. Mine is purple and glistening

Curious . did you listen at a louder volume? I find most amps (even my Burson a bit) loses some composure when pushed to about 90 db. Good solid state amps will keep their composure and resolve at louder volumes. 
I feel the headphones you used are great for amp testing . the sensitivity is huge at 103 db I believe for the 800's and the he 6's are so resistive so you need great amps to drive them properly. 
So my friend my only question is how loud were you listening? Embarrassed
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Guldbamsen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 12 2018 at 02:30
We listened at different volumes with him running around with this thingy that measured decibels, so as we didn't hear one amp louder than the other. I am so glad he knows how to do all these things, because I am the other way around relying mostly on chaos and protein to get me through the day.
Personally I tend to prefer lower volumes if I need to sniff out all the details. I felt the same during testing although we did crank them from time to time.
I found no real fluctuations in sound quality by pushing any of these amps - maybe if we had hooked them up to speakers instead? The Wells amp would most likely have driven them perfectly methinks. Nuclear power for the masses.

Btw it was the he500 and not the he6;) I am fairly certain I would have been able to hear the difference between an underpowered planar and one that is operating perfectly.

Edited by Guldbamsen - November 12 2018 at 02:32
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 13 2018 at 02:47
Hi Progbethyname - thanks ! Yes, the modular synth is actually approaching completion. Well, these things can be permanently added to but the "live rig" will be complete in Spring 2019. (Podcasts / live jams to follow).

You're right, as is Guldbamsen, the amp rabbit hole can go very deep indeed. Here's a consideration, though. the idea behind a good amp is to reproduce the sound quality of an instrument, or group of instruments, as faithfully as possible - "as if you were there on stage". Now, my modular has 14 oscillators pushing waveforms out into God knows how many voltage controlled amps as possible (ten, I think). The output is 0-10v and this goes through a number of attenuators and output modules into a mixing desk and from there to the PA. VCA design on synths is pretty basic, to be honest. The oscillators tend to be well designed but the voltage controlled amps are pretty low quality. This is just the nature of the beast, VCA's tend to be overlooked by designers. It's vital that a VCO stays in tune and tracks over several octaves (the setup for VCO octave scaling is a nightmare) but VCA's tend to be very simple designs. Yes, you'll use poly capacitors, ferrite beads and electrolytic caps on the inputs to reduce hum, but at the end of the day, you'll get as much line noise as a standard guitar pedal. 

Some synth filters are notorious for having a high noise base - the Korg MS20 / Steiner Parker filter is just one example. Ladder filters (either transistor (Moog) or diode) naturally distort due to their design. 

The same applies to bassists, guitarists, anyone playing an instrument. The quality of the pickups, strings, pedals, amps, PA etc all come into the equation. 

By the same token, you're playing in a live environment and this means that you'll have to factor in distortion from that environment, with sound waves bouncing off walls. Bring in a bassist or guitarist with a few pedals, there's line noise again. 

Perhaps the end of the headphone amp rabbit hole is that you can only reproduce what sounds the musicians are making, and they're never going to make a sound which is acoustically perfect. Then - with recorded sound, the skill of the person recording, mixing and mastering comes into play.

I always think, when mixing or mastering recordings - "make it sound like the listener is on stage with you". So, a headphone amp is going to be one small component in this. It helps if the component works well, but the whole thing works at the efficiency of the least efficient component, of course. 

Just my $0.02c. Back to the soldering. ;-)

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 13 2018 at 02:51
And this is the beauty of music, not just headphone amps: music is a rabbit hole, how deep do you want to go ? ;-)

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote progbethyname Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 13 2018 at 11:36
Originally posted by Guldbamsen Guldbamsen wrote:

We listened at different volumes with him running around with this thingy that measured decibels, so as we didn't hear one amp louder than the other. I am so glad he knows how to do all these things, because I am the other way around relying mostly on chaos and protein to get me through the day.
Personally I tend to prefer lower volumes if I need to sniff out all the details. I felt the same during testing although we did crank them from time to time.
I found no real fluctuations in sound quality by pushing any of these amps - maybe if we had hooked them up to speakers instead? The Wells amp would most likely have driven them perfectly methinks. Nuclear power for the masses.

Btw it was the he500 and not the he6;) I am fairly certain I would have been able to hear the difference between an underpowered planar and one that is operating perfectly.

Alright man. Well I would say using the hd 800's kinda saves your amp testing for performance results, rather makes your test looking more credible than limp. Dave, I tell ya if all class A amps and all DACS all sound exactly the same to those ears of yours no matter what headphone or speakers you use, than you my friend are looking at a very easy way out from the upgrade bug.  
I am glad you are content and very happy with what you have and you should be. I wish I could say I was done and had an end game sound chain, but I know that I don't...I am getting close though. Wink
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote progbethyname Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 13 2018 at 13:12
Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

And this is the beauty of music, not just headphone amps: music is a rabbit hole, how deep do you want to go ? ;-)

You are absolutely right and thank you for your informaive, yet detailed posts .
Wink

The only problem is the more you know and experience audio and audio related equipment, you kind of wish for the whole ' ignorance is bliss' sometimes .
Having experienced very high end audio gear listening wise,  along with proper and awesome music recordings you really cannot go back or stray away from how truly wonderful your music can actually sound with the right equipment. 

I sometimes find myself far too critical to a lot of what I listen to these days because my audio equipment is just too damn revealing and critical of music sources .
I am working on some things to remedy that for myself .

I have far more gear to test and implement into my sound chain .

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote bionic dog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 19 2020 at 20:24
I am using a Rupert Neve RNHP headphone amp it sounds good. It seems solid and should last a long time.

Recording and playback gear definitely sounds different. It's a rabbit hole that's infinitely deep and expensive should one wish to take the plunge. That being said I've seen some blues guitarists shred with some pretty cheapo bargain guitars.



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Catcher10 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 19 2020 at 20:44
Get one of these.............

Manley Absolute Headphone Amplifier — Manley Laboratories, Inc.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote progbethyname Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 20 2020 at 03:25
Originally posted by Catcher10 Catcher10 wrote:

Get one of these.............

Manley Absolute Headphone Amplifier — Manley Laboratories, Inc.


Ahhhh. The Manley.

Pretty cool design. I think it is a triode tube amp? Can’t remember, but it carries that warm fussy electron rubbing sound.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sean Trane Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 20 2020 at 03:33
Originally posted by Catcher10 Catcher10 wrote:

Get one of these.............

Manley Absolute Headphone Amplifier — Manley Laboratories, Inc.


Good-looking weaponNuke (though the remote control design is not that great) made to pierce through your Censoredsteel-armoured eardrumsEvil SmilePig.
ClapStarClapClown

Definitely not convinced of the utility and usefulness of powering up your headphones Confused





Edited by Sean Trane - May 20 2020 at 04:00
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 24 2020 at 03:22
The trap there is "it looks good, therefore it sounds good". 

Then the manufacturer comes out with a sheet full of numbers. You can't hear numbers. 

I used to work with an absolute idiot who declared "All electric guitars sound the same". He *thought* he had an educated musical ear, he didn't. 

Simply listen to a few amps in real life, choose the one which sounds best to you. You're not really hearing perfect reproduction, you're hearing differences in distortion and EQ. On a very vague level. Some will suit your tastes, some won't. 

Don't go off what you hear on YouTube. What with recording and compression techniques, you won't even get close to what it actually sounds like. 

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