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Which headphone amp?

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Topic: Which headphone amp?
Posted By: noni
Subject: Which headphone amp?
Date Posted: April 05 2018 at 22:59
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



Replies:
Posted By: Larkstongue41
Date Posted: April 05 2018 at 23:11
Hey I have been using the HE400I for the last few months. I am pairing it with the SMSL M3 which does a very neat job. FiiO E10k and Schiit Fulla 2 were other options.




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"Larks' tongues. Wrens' livers. Chaffinch brains. Jaguars' earlobes. Wolf nipple chips. Get 'em while they're hot. They're lovely. Dromedary pretzels, only half a denar."


Posted By: Larkstongue41
Date Posted: April 05 2018 at 23:18
You chose a great time to get the Hifimans. I just checked and saw they dropped about half the price from when I bought them last summer. Ouch!

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"Larks' tongues. Wrens' livers. Chaffinch brains. Jaguars' earlobes. Wolf nipple chips. Get 'em while they're hot. They're lovely. Dromedary pretzels, only half a denar."


Posted By: noni
Date Posted: April 06 2018 at 00:33
I need clues on the amplifier.   Smile My headphones arrives on Wednesday!!!


Posted By: Frenetic Zetetic
Date Posted: April 06 2018 at 02:04
I've used BEHRINGER amps for a long time for a lot of applications, but you can't go wrong with the E12 dude.

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"I am so prog, I listen to concept albums on shuffle." -KMac2021


Posted By: Manuel
Date Posted: April 06 2018 at 05:49
Originally posted by Frenetic Zetetic Frenetic Zetetic wrote:

I've used BEHRINGER amps for a long time for a lot of applications, but you can't go wrong with the E12 dude.
Yes, the E12 is an excellent option.


Posted By: noni
Date Posted: April 06 2018 at 09:55
Thanks guys!! Big smile


Posted By: noni
Date Posted: April 06 2018 at 14:07
Originally posted by Larkstongue41 Larkstongue41 wrote:

You chose a great time to get the Hifimans. I just checked and saw they dropped about half the price from when I bought them last summer. Ouch!

I was concidering buying them last year but failed....  I'm currently using a cheapo Sennheiser HD 206 at moment.  Hifiman went down as much as $250 Canadian $...  Got these for $314 with tax and shipment.  I also have the Bose Q25 Quiet headphones..


Posted By: Catcher10
Date Posted: April 06 2018 at 16:06
Get this one...It's only US$4,500.00 (includes a DAC) Big smile



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Posted By: Quinino
Date Posted: April 06 2018 at 16:25
Originally posted by Catcher10 Catcher10 wrote:

... (includes a DAC) 


It does, indeed (I received one for Christmas) but it comes in parts - I had to mount it by myself, and soldering can be a pain - so I wouldn't recommend it for beginners


Posted By: noni
Date Posted: April 06 2018 at 16:51
Originally posted by Quinino Quinino wrote:

Originally posted by Catcher10 Catcher10 wrote:

... (includes a DAC) 


It does, indeed (I received one for Christmas) but it comes in parts - I had to mount it by myself, and soldering can be a pain - so I wouldn't recommend it for beginners

^

LOL LOL LOL


Posted By: noni
Date Posted: April 06 2018 at 16:53
Originally posted by Catcher10 Catcher10 wrote:

Get this one...It's only US$4,500.00 (includes a DAC) Big smile

 Can you stick this your pocket then?   Smile


Posted By: noni
Date Posted: April 06 2018 at 16:55
Ordered the E12   Smile


Posted By: Catcher10
Date Posted: April 06 2018 at 17:58
Originally posted by noni noni wrote:

Originally posted by Catcher10 Catcher10 wrote:

Get this one...It's only US$4,500.00 (includes a DAC) Big smile

 Can you stick this your pocket then?   Smile

Yes, buy big pants......


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Posted By: dr wu23
Date Posted: April 10 2018 at 09:18
Ok...I'm not that up on stereo stuff...but why does a headphone need an amp? I have owned many over the years including my current Shure H440.,,,granted a basic inexpensive one.
?


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One does nothing yet nothing is left undone.
Haquin


Posted By: Larkstongue41
Date Posted: April 10 2018 at 09:31
^ Most high-end headphones (generally open ones) simply need more power than what your average power source (laptop, cellphone, etc.) can provide. So not only do you lack volume without an amp but the balance of the sound is also disrupted (you'll only hear the mids and highs for instance and have nearly non-existent bass).

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"Larks' tongues. Wrens' livers. Chaffinch brains. Jaguars' earlobes. Wolf nipple chips. Get 'em while they're hot. They're lovely. Dromedary pretzels, only half a denar."


Posted By: Quinino
Date Posted: April 10 2018 at 13:54
^ Exactly - one has to check its specifications on what respects Sensitivity

Headphone Model

Voltage Sensitivity

(dB SPL at 1 Vrms)

Impedance

(Ohms)

Power Sensitivity

(dB SPL @ 1 mW) 

Sennheiser HD 650 112 300 107
Sennheiser HD 600 112 300 107
Audeze LCD-X 112.5 22 96
Grado SR325 113 32 98
PSB M4U 1 117 32 102
Sony MDR-V6 118 63 106
Sony MDR-V600 119.5 45 106

 

The first four headphones are only marginally loud enough to work with my portable device. The last three are a better match for the limited output voltage provided by portable devices.

Please note that two of the first four headphones are low-impedance designs but they have the same voltage sensitivity as the high-impedance Sennheiser headphones. The Audeze LCD-X and Grado SR325 are inefficient designs that require both high voltage and high current, making them somewhat unsuitable for portable applications.



Posted By: Jzrk
Date Posted: April 28 2018 at 19:10
Has anyone heard of Electric Avenues pocket amps
Small company and I had been thinking about getting one and this guy seems to have a good product not made by a big company


Posted By: PureViewer
Date Posted: November 09 2018 at 03:01
Originally posted by noni noni wrote:

Ordered the E12   Smile

Do you have a proper DAC?
If not, you can add a FiiO E10K to your setup. Very nice little device.
If you want something portable with a built-in battery to connect to your phone, you can try iFi Nano iDSD Black Label.


Posted By: Davesax1965
Date Posted: November 09 2018 at 04:37
I'm vaguely considering building some valve based headphone amps for sale. Time's taken up building the modular, though ! 

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Posted By: Davesax1965
Date Posted: November 09 2018 at 05:33
Hm. Might look into doing valve hifi amps as well. 

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Posted By: progbethyname
Date 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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If I get a break it is Prog Time.


Posted By: Guldbamsen
Date 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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“The Guide says there is an art to flying or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”

- Douglas Adams


Posted By: progbethyname
Date 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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If I get a break it is Prog Time.


Posted By: Guldbamsen
Date 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.

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“The Guide says there is an art to flying or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”

- Douglas Adams


Posted By: Davesax1965
Date 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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Posted By: Guldbamsen
Date 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.


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“The Guide says there is an art to flying or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”

- Douglas Adams


Posted By: progbethyname
Date 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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If I get a break it is Prog Time.


Posted By: Guldbamsen
Date 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

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“The Guide says there is an art to flying or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”

- Douglas Adams


Posted By: progbethyname
Date 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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If I get a break it is Prog Time.


Posted By: Guldbamsen
Date 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.

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“The Guide says there is an art to flying or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”

- Douglas Adams


Posted By: Davesax1965
Date 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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Posted By: Davesax1965
Date 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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Posted By: progbethyname
Date 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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If I get a break it is Prog Time.


Posted By: progbethyname
Date 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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If I get a break it is Prog Time.


Posted By: bionic dog
Date 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.





Posted By: Catcher10
Date Posted: May 19 2020 at 20:44
Get one of these.............

Manley Absolute Headphone Amplifier — Manley Laboratories, Inc.


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Posted By: progbethyname
Date 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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If I get a break it is Prog Time.


Posted By: Sean Trane
Date 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





Posted By: Davesax1965
Date 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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Posted By: Mascodagama
Date Posted: May 24 2020 at 04:49
Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

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. 
This is the best - I would say only necessary - advice for buying any audio gear IMO. And take some recordings with you that you know extremely well.

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Soldato of the Pan Head Mafia. We'll make you an offer you can't listen to.
http://bandcamp.com/jpillbox" rel="nofollow - Bandcamp Profile


Posted By: Catcher10
Date Posted: May 24 2020 at 09:44
Originally posted by Mascodagama Mascodagama wrote:

Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

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. 
This is the best - I would say only necessary - advice for buying any audio gear IMO. And take some recordings with you that you know extremely well.
Well that can be difficult for most unless you live in a large city like NYC or Los Angeles, as Hi-Fi brick and mortar stores don't exist anymore everywhere. You can't just walk in and audition gear like we used to back in the golden age of audio gear super stores.
Today most online audio retailers like Music Direct and Hi-Fi Heaven offer 30-60 day full return policy, so that is a good way to go also. I have used that offering in the past....but today your best process to follow is reading online reviews and actual user reviews and comments to get an idea if you might like something before hearing it.


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Posted By: Davesax1965
Date Posted: May 28 2020 at 09:27
Unfortunately true. 

However. There is absolutely zero way you will get perfect sound reproduction over the internet. 

Even if you could, guess what ? You're hearing it through either sh*tbox speakers or a set of headphones which will colour the sound, anyway. 

So the only option to hear what it sounds like is to hear it live, otherwise you're taking pot luck.  Sorry, a very complicated subject made easy. Brutally so. 

As for frequency response charts. I can mess around with EQs on playback and hear a definite difference, as I've been mixing music for 20+ years. I have to honestly tell you that most people can't. Most people hear psychological differences. They have an expectation of what it sounds like. The more expensive the kit, the more their experience tends to meet their expectations. 

The other point I should perhaps make, sorry, audiophiles - you'll never ever ever get perfect sound reproduction. Whether you mike up a saxophone or a guitar, Bulgarian nose flute or a dustbin lid, there will always be a process which colours the sound, anyway. As there's physical gear in the equation with it's own characteristics. 

Why do you want "perfect sound reproduction" anyway ? It's more important to get a sound you like. Perhaps something has slightly more midrange. Perhaps the bass is a bit wider. Perhaps there seems to be more prescence or 1001 other little factors.

Audio gear is subject to enormous, massive hype to sell highly expensive rubbish to people. 99% of it is an absolute utter con, full of pseudoscience and psychobabble. Forget what the neighbours have. Forget what the man on the telly told you. Forget what it says in What Hi Fi Bore. Go in the shop. Listen to the gear in a real world situation. If you like it and can justify the price, buy it. 

It really is that simple. 


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Posted By: Guldbamsen
Date Posted: May 28 2020 at 09:46
I think every newcomer to the world of headphone amps (and dacs for that matter) should take a look at this video before getting too ahead of themselves. They will need a pair of headphones as the video contains binaural recordings
Oluv’s Gadgets: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=jin02fUeYFU&t=3s

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“The Guide says there is an art to flying or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”

- Douglas Adams


Posted By: Catcher10
Date Posted: May 28 2020 at 10:47
Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

Unfortunately true. 

However. There is absolutely zero way you will get perfect sound reproduction over the internet. 

Even if you could, guess what ? You're hearing it through either sh*tbox speakers or a set of headphones which will colour the sound, anyway. 

So the only option to hear what it sounds like is to hear it live, otherwise you're taking pot luck.  Sorry, a very complicated subject made easy. Brutally so. 

As for frequency response charts. I can mess around with EQs on playback and hear a definite difference, as I've been mixing music for 20+ years. I have to honestly tell you that most people can't. Most people hear psychological differences. They have an expectation of what it sounds like. The more expensive the kit, the more their experience tends to meet their expectations. 

The other point I should perhaps make, sorry, audiophiles - you'll never ever ever get perfect sound reproduction. Whether you mike up a saxophone or a guitar, Bulgarian nose flute or a dustbin lid, there will always be a process which colours the sound, anyway. As there's physical gear in the equation with it's own characteristics. 

Why do you want "perfect sound reproduction" anyway ? It's more important to get a sound you like. Perhaps something has slightly more midrange. Perhaps the bass is a bit wider. Perhaps there seems to be more prescence or 1001 other little factors.

Audio gear is subject to enormous, massive hype to sell highly expensive rubbish to people. 99% of it is an absolute utter con, full of pseudoscience and psychobabble. Forget what the neighbours have. Forget what the man on the telly told you. Forget what it says in What Hi Fi Bore. Go in the shop. Listen to the gear in a real world situation. If you like it and can justify the price, buy it. 

It really is that simple. 
All true, but that is sales and marketing of anything. I've been into audio gear my whole life almost, my father was into gear also. 
I've had many systems and in general what you are looking for varies based on your tastes, for sure. That's why designers/engineers shoot for different outcomes to appeal to the masses. All gear does not sound the same, and we all know that is dependent on the source you are listening to. "Perfect sound reproduction", I don't buy it! I would describe my desires more looking for "accurate" reproduction, by that if the source is krapp (mixing, mastering, sh*t micing) I should hear it and the reverse is true. I don't want any coloration of the source.....but end of day its my ears that need to be happy! Smile

That's why in home trials are the way to go if possible, I'm lucky here in the Seattle/Tacoma area there are several audio stores to go an listen to gear.


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Posted By: Davesax1965
Date Posted: May 29 2020 at 03:19
Badly mixed and recorded tracks, wooo, different can of worms. ;-)

Well, at the end of the day, in 90% of cases, you're probably listening to something done on a home recording setup now, and not tape and a matched pair of Neumann microphones. So no matter what analogue gear you use to listen to it, you're listening to an analogue playback of a digital recording. ;-)

I've got a very good friend over here who makes vintage synth electronics using the original methods found in the 60's and early 70's. He'll take a bare PCB and hand etch it, occasionally I get asked, "Where can I get some Mullard tropical fish capacitors from ? Have you got any new old stock oil in film caps ? "

That's a "tropical fish" capacitor below. You can see where the name comes from, you read the value of the capacitor from top to bottom based on the colour code. They are absolutely, completely obsolete and cost 10 times (if not more) as more efficient ceramic disk capacitors, which are also obsolete as well. Using these means you can't really use modern CAD packages to design a PCB, you have to hand draw it, bubble etch it (back to the 70's we go) and then drill it by hand. Also, the caps are highly inefficient for anything with relatively low voltage - they leak. 

It's the same with most old electronic parts. Old "carbon composition" resistors - the brown things you'd find in old electronic gear - were rumoured to sound better. They don't. Link here.  http://carlscustomamps.com/do-carbon-composition-and-carbon-film-resistors-sound-better" rel="nofollow - http://carlscustomamps.com/do-carbon-composition-and-carbon-film-resistors-sound-better

Some of them are even 20% off in tolerance. Try 1% for standard resistors. With vintage electronics, you have crackly old potentiometers, leaky capacitors and waaaaay out resistors to contend with. That's before you even get to valve gear.

People will rob you blind as hi fi buffs / bores simply must have something with carbon comp resistors in, oil in film caps etc etc etc. On a lot of vintage electric guitars, guitar nerds simply MUST have a vintage 22 microfarad carbon film resistor and will pay hundreds of dollars for them. They claim it makes their Gibson sound "darker" or "brighter". Guess what ? The capacitor has utterly no bearing on the sound. You can replace them with anything modern, 10 cents if that. No difference. 

Hi fi buffs and guitar buffs have a very basic understanding of electronics. There are a few simple mantras. "Old electrolytic capacitors baaaad, replace". Guess what you replace them with ? New electrolytic capacitors. Nothing else will actually contain those levels of charge. (Actually, electolytics don't "leak". They still hold the same amount of charge, the discharge rate just slowly degrades with use. It most usually hardly matters.) 

Another con is "transistor matched pairs". Back in the old days, if you needed to match a pair of transistors, I won't go into the technical details of why, switching times were so variable due to poor manufacturing tolerances that you had to freeze a transistor for 24 hours, remove it and you got one chance to short two leads, read a value and match it. Mess up, back in the fridge. So your five cent transistor then retailed for $7 due to the amount of work. Modern transistors for audio really don't need matching. The tolerances are so high that two transistors chosen out of a batch will work just fine. It all goes back to ancient rumours, received knowledge (by the in-fact unknowledgeable) and manufacturers exploiting that lack of understanding. 

Believe it or not, changing component types has very little difference on performance. I've replaced horrible old tantalum capacitors with electrolytic ones, no difference. I've replaced one type of PNP or NPN transistor with another, again, no difference at all. It's more a case of the design of the circuit than the actual components. At these speeds, the component composition makes little or no difference. 

With any modern amplifier, the sound is a combination of several things, revolving around the characteristics of what are called "op amps" (operational amplifier chips) and the design of the filter. 

Getting the signal amplification is easy. Basically, take an op amp chip and two resistors. The chip has two connected pins and the ratio of the input resistor to the output resistor determines the amount of gain, and hence volume increase. You don't have to design the amplification stage itself, it's done for you via the microelectronics in the chip. You can use various chips, TL071/72/74's etc, or LM351's / 741's - these cost pennies. There is very, very little difference between them, usually that's down to the response speed of the chip, and - at audio processing rates, the speed has very little impact. You have to "buffer" the chip by adding small capacitors to the input stages, these marginally retain the signal in order to reproduce it without much loss, but.... it's absolutely minor. 

There are only so many ways of designing an amplifier stage using chips, so really, most amps are the same that way. (Note this is solid state and not valve, but it's a similar process). 

The same goes for the filter stage. From the amplification stage, the signal goes off to a filter. There are a number of designs out there but really, filters will sound different due to (a) the topology (design) of the filter and (b) the values of some of the components in the filter stages.

What you're essentially paying for is a mere handful of inexpensive components which cost less than two dollars, if that. I've changed capacitors in microphones and made them sound utterly different for virtually nothing. 

Electronics, as I mentioned, is a black box subject ... and in very, very many cases, an utter rip off. Forget specs. Forget frequency response charts. Forget cosmetics. Don't think you have a technical understanding because you've read a review in What Hi Fi ? - go off. Listen to it. Do you like it ? Buy it.  




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Posted By: Davesax1965
Date Posted: May 29 2020 at 03:26
As a PS, saying this stuff is very much akin to standing up in a church and saying "There ain't no Baby Jesus". 

The reaction of the audience has no bearing on the truth of the statement.

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Posted By: progbethyname
Date Posted: May 29 2020 at 03:30
Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

Unfortunately true. 

However. There is absolutely zero way you will get perfect sound reproduction over the internet. 

Even if you could, guess what ? You're hearing it through either sh*tbox speakers or a set of headphones which will colour the sound, anyway. 

So the only option to hear what it sounds like is to hear it live, otherwise you're taking pot luck.  Sorry, a very complicated subject made easy. Brutally so. 

As for frequency response charts. I can mess around with EQs on playback and hear a definite difference, as I've been mixing music for 20+ years. I have to honestly tell you that most people can't. Most people hear psychological differences. They have an expectation of what it sounds like. The more expensive the kit, the more their experience tends to meet their expectations. 

The other point I should perhaps make, sorry, audiophiles - you'll never ever ever get perfect sound reproduction. Whether you mike up a saxophone or a guitar, Bulgarian nose flute or a dustbin lid, there will always be a process which colours the sound, anyway. As there's physical gear in the equation with it's own characteristics. 

Why do you want "perfect sound reproduction" anyway ? It's more important to get a sound you like. Perhaps something has slightly more midrange. Perhaps the bass is a bit wider. Perhaps there seems to be more prescence or 1001 other little factors.

Audio gear is subject to enormous, massive hype to sell highly expensive rubbish to people. 99% of it is an absolute utter con, full of pseudoscience and psychobabble. Forget what the neighbours have. Forget what the man on the telly told you. Forget what it says in What Hi Fi Bore. Go in the shop. Listen to the gear in a real world situation. If you like it and can justify the price, buy it. 

It really is that simple. 


I can definitely agree on this and being fairly hardcore about bettering my music playback situation for these past Ten years now, I feel it is all a matter of taste, research, exploration and experimentation.
One other thing to note is I do believe there are tiers when it comes to audio quality, however when you supplant your self with higher end gear one really has to know that there is no better...only different.
Meaning if I buy a Chord Dave DAC or a DCS Bartok I have to know that one is only gonna be better based around my taste.

Anyhow. With AMPs. Same thing. You can throw specs at me all day and I won’t care cause hearing is believing.

Great post here, Davesax.
It allowed me to reflect on my audiophile journey.

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If I get a break it is Prog Time.


Posted By: Davesax1965
Date Posted: May 29 2020 at 04:00
Thanks, Progbethyname.

Seriously.

There is an enormous amount of mumbo jumbo out there regarding hi fi electronics. 

Go to the shop. Listen. Remember that all hi fi electronic prices are a rip off. 

"Is it worth you parting with your money ?" 

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Posted By: Davesax1965
Date Posted: May 29 2020 at 06:09
Carbon composition resistors.... avoid. All these do is add distortion and hum. You won't find them in any decent hifi gear any more, unless you subscribe to "distortion adds character", which it doesn't. 

They can also catch fire when subjected to voltage surges. So that's nice. 




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Posted By: Davesax1965
Date Posted: May 29 2020 at 06:24
Oil in film capacitors. 

Note the "450 v". That means it's designed to work at.... four hundred and fifty volts. Now this was OK in the days of old valve gear, when you had hundreds (if not thousands) of volts at the back of television tubes and coming out of power supplies.

Now you don't. You have 12 volts, typically. Now, the maximum rating for the capacitor below far exceeds anything modern consumer electronics will most likely throw at it.... but.... at 12v, this is the bottom end of it's performance envelope. So your capacitor below maaaaaaay not work properly. 

When you choose a capacitor, you choose it based on the amount of charge you want it to hold. For smaller charges, you've got a range of materials to choose from. As you get to higher charges, you're limited in choice, and effectively, you end up with only being able to choose an electrolytic capacitor. These are polarised - positive and negative end, you'll only really see this on tantalum capacitors as well. Now that's the charge, but they're also measured by operating voltage.

The rule of thumb is.... "How much voltage do I have going it ?" You take this figure and add a 10% (min) safety margin. So. 12v coming in off a wall supply, you need 14v+ (roughly) rated caps. Actually, you can get 16v and 25v rated. I tend to go for 25v, as when these blow, the top goes BANG off them and you get a shower of exploded plastic film coming out. Pretty, but sub optimal. 

Good way to test if something you're buying is in a poor state. Open the lid, look at the caps. Most electrolytics aren't "radial" like the ones below, they stand up like beer barrels (with the plus and negative leads on the bottom). If something is amiss in your hi fi gear, for example, it's been subject to over voltage at some point, the top of the electrolytic caps will be bulged. There's a cross stamped into them as a safe rupture point.

If the caps are bulged, bargain the price down to nothing, get a soldering iron, desolder the caps, put them in the right way around (or BANG) - long lead to positive or square pad, re-solder, money saved. Trouble is, you'll still have something with a suspected over voltage condition. ;-)

Caps are difficult to measure performance on, so beware, when having old gear reserviced, of the tech who tells you "it needs recapping". It probably doesn't. Ask him if he's got a capacitor test rig, can you see the results or is he charging you money based on the premise that they're old caps and *might* be out of condition. If so, a fair price is about a dollar a cap, it's ten minutes work and he'll be using modern ones, of course. If he replaces old caps with "new old stock" vintage caps (which cost a fortune) then he's ripping you off. ;-)

There, saved you a few bucks, fact fans. ;-)




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Posted By: Davesax1965
Date Posted: May 29 2020 at 06:34
Last Boring Electronics Post, but again, this might save you $$.

Tantalum capacitors. You might get some old hi fi gear and - when you have it serviced, notice these horrible yellow things in it. These are tantalum capacitors, which are effectively obsolete. They're polarised capacitors - the long leg is positive, the short leg negative. Top figure is the amount of charge they hold, bottom figure is the voltage rating. 

Tants are usually quite fast reacting capacitors. HOWEVER they (a) degrade over time and (b) are highly susceptible to over voltage or reversed polarity. Even half a volt over the operating limits and they quite literally explode. 

I've built lots of stuff with tants in, based on original designs from the 70's. They're typically used in timing stages, due to the fast response. Guess what ? If you build the same circuit but replace the tants with an equally specced electrolytic capacitor, there is usually absolutely zero performance hit. 

I'd say ask a tech to get rid of them and replace them with electrolytics. This can be a good test of how honest and knowledgeable your tech bloke is. He'll typically say "We need to replace all those old electrolytics" without testing them, and overlook the fact that the tantalum caps, if there are any, will be in equally the same parlous condition. If, in fact, any of it is in a parlous condition, that is. He'll then probably say "$200". 

Walk away. 









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Posted By: Mascodagama
Date Posted: May 29 2020 at 07:12
Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:


There is an enormous amount of mumbo jumbo out there regarding hi fi electronics. 
Some of it is quite amazing. I still fondly remember the flapdoodle you would see advertised in hi-fi mags from my days as a keen reader of Stereophile and others (many years ago). Stuff like special little widgets to lift your very expensive speaker cables off the ground, and special stone weights that would sit on top of your components and mysteriously make them sound better. Which would cost hundreds of dollars.

BTW I forget who wrote this, but my favourite nugget of wisdom from Stereophile (which actually had some very good writers) went like this:

"What's the best-value upgrade to get more musical enjoyment from your system? A good glass of red wine."

I took that one to heart a bit...


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Soldato of the Pan Head Mafia. We'll make you an offer you can't listen to.
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Posted By: Catcher10
Date Posted: May 29 2020 at 09:56
Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

Thanks, Progbethyname.

Seriously.

There is an enormous amount of mumbo jumbo out there regarding hi fi electronics. 

Go to the shop. Listen. Remember that all hi fi electronic prices are a rip off. 

"Is it worth you parting with your money ?" 
All prices are a rip off? I agree that a lot of prices are over inflated for many reasons, but tough to prove due to a rip off.
It's like cars, in the 70's a new car cost around $3K, today $25K....is that a rip off? I had a Yamaha amplifier in the 80s cost me $475, today probably $2K...is that a rip off? I still have my 105wpc Onkyo integrated amp from '93, fantastic amp sounded amazing, still plays very well today. My Parasound integrated amp bought 3yrs ago absolutely kills the Onkyo.......why? IMO the electronics are much better today than in the past, R&D is better, design is just much better.
If that stuff does not appeal to you, buying vintage gear is still an option.....but those prices are thru the roof LOL.


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Posted By: Davesax1965
Date Posted: May 31 2020 at 04:19
When you consider there's $40-50 worth of components in any valve amp (max) and the rest of the pricing is determined by what the market will pay....... yep.

As I said, "there ain't no Baby Jesus". 

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Posted By: Catcher10
Date Posted: May 31 2020 at 11:13
Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

When you consider there's $40-50 worth of components in any valve amp (max) and the rest of the pricing is determined by what the market will pay....... yep.

As I said, "there ain't no Baby Jesus". 
My only issue is your "any" comment as in "any valve amp"........So I'll take the high and low road.

I highly doubt the components in this AR 160S Stereo Amp cost $50.....Confused
Audio Research Reference 160S power amplifier | Stereophile.com
SoundStageAustralia.com - Audio Research Reference 160S Stereo ...

But I do agree maybe in this one.......
Best DIY Tube Amp Design Under $200 (With images) | Diy amplifier ...


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Posted By: Davesax1965
Date Posted: June 01 2020 at 10:20
Well, isn't that like saying "A Mercedes costs more than a Volkswagen ?"

That might be the case, but the actual markup is the thing you have to bear in mind. OK, so more than $50. 

How much does the manufacturer inflate the prices ?

Honestly, if you've read the posts above and think I might be wrong.... ;-)

There is still no Baby Jesus. Sadly. 

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Posted By: Davesax1965
Date Posted: June 01 2020 at 10:26
Four matched pair KT 150's vs a 12AX. ;-)

OK, so take the valves out.... there's three grand gone. That leaves 19 grand. Fancy enclosure. 

If anyone's telling me that there's 19 grand worth of electronics in there, I'd say probably. If the Pope personally chewed them out of solid platinum. 

The Chinese 12AX is probably less of a markup / rip off, to be honest. The Audio Research one is slobberingly good looking, but just because it's very nice looking and comes with lovely charts and specs doesn't mean that you are not being taken for a ride. 

You're just being taken for a more expensive ride. 

But some folks want to believe otherwise. Of course, if you can afford it, get one. 

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Posted By: Catcher10
Date Posted: June 01 2020 at 13:41
I would not get one, as I don't like valve amps, I'm an SS gear guy. There isn't 19k of stuff in there, we all know that. But overhead can be 40-50% and for a company like AR or McIntosh or Manley or PS Audio and the like have inhouse everything like marketing, R&D, production, employees, insurance and benefits....so there is a big chunk also of any price.

Buy what you like and what sounds good to your ears.....and wallet!


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Posted By: Davesax1965
Date Posted: June 02 2020 at 10:16
Well, this is true, and a 300 watt power amp is a bit much for headphone use. ;-)

Had a look at the schematics. It's beautifully built but absolutely massively over engineered. It's an amp for people who like looking in the case and saying wow, what a lot of electrolytic capacitors and I wonder what them bits are ? 

The caps are really, really cheap and you don't need that many. The whole thing is *theoretically* engineered to confuse the uninitiated.

The mark up is just astonishing. I'd say it's in the thousands of percent. Think I'll pass on one, too. ;-)

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Posted By: Mascodagama
Date Posted: June 30 2020 at 01:03
Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

I'm vaguely considering building some valve based headphone amps for sale. Time's taken up building the modular, though ! 
Don't forget to sell them for £2,000 each so people know they are high end.

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Soldato of the Pan Head Mafia. We'll make you an offer you can't listen to.
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Posted By: Solan
Date Posted: December 14 2020 at 12:19
Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

What you're essentially paying for is a mere handful of inexpensive components which cost less than two dollars, if that. I've changed capacitors in microphones and made them sound utterly different for virtually nothing. 

Two dollars? Are we talking about those amps with 3-4 figures to their price now?

Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

Electronics, as I mentioned, is a black box subject ... and in very, very many cases, an utter rip off. Forget specs. Forget frequency response charts. Forget cosmetics. Don't think you have a technical understanding because you've read a review in What Hi Fi ? - go off. Listen to it. Do you like it ? Buy it.  

I feel let down. Perhaps I should spend five dollars on components down in some electro shack and do my own building? Except I'd have to learn how to do that ...


Posted By: Davesax1965
Date Posted: December 20 2020 at 02:13
Hi Solan, I notice you're new to the forum.

I sort of "build the odd bit of electronics". 




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Posted By: Davesax1965
Date Posted: December 20 2020 at 02:20
I built most of this, still cost a fortune, but not an excessive fortune.

Incidentally, electronic prices are a complete rip off. 

Regarding headphone amps. Listen to a load *in real life*, choose the one you like. Price is not much of an indicator of quality. A lot of the manufacturers speak pure gobbledegook and produce all kinds of interesting response charts. These are to part the foolish from their money. Unless you have an exceptionally well trained musical ear, you can't hear differences in electronic components. (Actually, I vaguely can, long story.) What you hear is not what the original recording sounds like, a lot of which are crap and badly recorded, but what the amp does to it in terms of frequency response. 

So in summary

Money doesn't necessarily buy quality
You'll get ripped off, so it's "are you happy to be ripped off and at what price point ?
All the talk in the world is meaningless, you have to listen to something and decide if you like it in the real world
You will absolutely never get "an authentic sound" and you probably wouldn't like it if you did.





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Posted By: Davesax1965
Date Posted: December 20 2020 at 02:55
Incidentally, the little blue box to the right of my shiny head (with the big light on it) is a valve preamp. Didn't build it. ;-) It's a Studio Art V3, uses a 12AU7 valve at low voltage levels. Theoretically not very good, then again, I'm not distorting it or expecting high gain so it does the job. 

With thousands of pounds of electronics there, that, going into a very old Lexicon audio interface is what I use for professional audio recording. The modular - all 13 oscillators - goes into a vintage 1990's Alesis Quadraverb effects unit. 

That's the level of technology I use and I've been around recording audio since the very early days. If you're trying to replicate a sound, then the absolute best reproduction you'll get out of it is dependent on the original quality of the recorded sound itself. (Admittedly, I fiddle around with EQ and post production effects a lot.) 

A lot of prog rock from the seventies was recorded on tin boxes and sounds crap. You won't get any more out of it by spending thousands on a headphone amp and expensive headphones. You may THINK you do and you may THINK you can hear a difference, it's just confirmation bias. "I've spent this much so it must sound good." Wrong. 

A non power amp is a very simple thing to produce nowadays, essentially using a jack, two resistors, one chip and a couple of capacitors - and an output jack. The rest of the amp can be made slightly more complicated to boost certain frequency ranges but essentially, it's very simple electronics. That one TL072 chip, which costs less than $1, contains more electronics of better quality than anything non solid state produced in the 1970's. You might think that old stuff, full of dodgy carbon resistors, leaky electrolytic capacitors and components with values all over the place, had "character" - what it had was "distortion" but if you're desperate, you could pay through the nose for old oil in film or tropical fish caps, knackered NOS capacitors and the like and produce something "vintage" - and charge a fortune for it, as a lot of amp makers do. It'd sound rubbish. 

But this is what happens. Rubbish sounding kit using "authentic" components is snapped up by people who then decide "it sounds great because I've spent a fortune on it." Example. The capacitors in Gibson guitars on the tone control go for hundreds of dollars for an original. 10, 22 or 47 microfarads, I can't remember which, now. Put any old 22uf cap in and it'll sound much the same, but purveyors of old caps will tell you it sounds "darker" or "vintage" whilst removing $200 from your wallet. 

Actually, the cap doesn't come into play unless you switch the tone off, but..... ;-) 

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Posted By: Davesax1965
Date Posted: December 20 2020 at 02:59
PS Spent $2000 ? Happy ? Good. It's your money. 

Male equivalent of your girlfriend spending money on a Prada handbag or a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes. 

I'd spend it on something else, but - personal choice. 

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Posted By: Guldbamsen
Date Posted: December 20 2020 at 05:10
Headphone amps have become so ridiculous by this point. When we some 25 years ago were making amps with distortion numbers well below the threshold of human hearing...we funnily enough couldn’t discern a difference between that and another amp with similar performance....even when one was blue and the other black!
Nowadays we’ve bettered those numbers 10 fold or in some cases well above that...yet there are no brownie points for making the inaudible even more inaudible.
The fact of the matter remains, almost all amps sound the same if they’re matched with the right gear aka don’t hook up a 20 ohm dynamic driver headphone to an amp with an output impedance of say 10 ohm if you are looking for transparency. You’ll most likely experience an impedance hump in the bass plus some added distortions.
I also have a few tech interested friends who vehemently herald pricey components and special wires as being paramount for obtaining the best sound quality possible...yet when I hid their amps behind a big box and levelmatched the buggers they couldn’t discern any sort of difference between the insanely pricey Frankenstein they’d been working on and a cheap Magni 2.

Before anyone out there goes on to get him or herself a headphone amp, please do yourself a favour and read up on the important bits. Output impedance of the amp is personally where I’d start. Power is a long way down the list simply because most headphone amps on the market today will drive just about any headphone to perfection...unless you are getting an HE-6 or a Susvara.
Then again..a headphone amp is only really needed if you are missing volume.

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“The Guide says there is an art to flying or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”

- Douglas Adams


Posted By: Solan
Date Posted: December 20 2020 at 06:51
I'v never listened to a tube amp, but I've seen videos. They remind me of lava lamps. So I am wondering if I should buy myself a lava lamp for when I want a "warm" sound.

No, I am not kidding!

I made the awesome discovery some years ago that LPs sounded better than CDs by playing some picture printed vinyl. Tangerine Dream's Poland concert with a picture of the band on the vinyl itself. When I played the LP, it sounded much more "filled out" than the same music on CD. But funnily enough, only when I saw the LP spinning and knew the sound came from it! Without the visuals, I could not tell!

Nevertheless, the effect persisted afterwards. Put on the LP and watch it, and the sound was still fuller.

I suspect the same goes for lava lamps. That warm glow. Surely the sound must be warm too! So ... lava lamp, here I come!


Posted By: Davesax1965
Date Posted: December 20 2020 at 09:39
Any post which starts "I've not listened to a tube amp" can safely be ignored in a discussion about amps. ;-)

If crappy picture disk vinyl sounds the same as a CD to you and you somehow work a lava lamp into this, have you considered that your hat may be too tight ? ;-)

Or, Svein, is this just somewhat of a wind up ? ;-)))))))))

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Posted By: Solan
Date Posted: December 20 2020 at 10:44
I'm in here simply to learn from you guys, not to impart my own wisdom. So I am sorry to still say I have not listened to tube amps. Perhaps a bit of coincidence, in that none of my audiophile friends happen to have one. Solid staters the whole way.

As for the picture disk, I meant it as an illustration of how our senses influence one another and how we can actually convince ourselves that something is different from what it is, simply due to input from a different sense. And THAT is from a field where I feel more safe in imparting some wisdom. Perceptory psychology. But you have mentioned this yourself, in how people fail to tell any difference when they can no longer see the amps.

But don't take my word for it. Check out this article, for instance, and you may start to understand why seeing a spinning vinyl may affect the way we perceive sound (well, this is about taste, but same same):  http://www.baristainstitute.com/blog/gediminas-sereika/december-2018/how-do-different-senses-affect-way-we-taste" rel="nofollow - https://www.baristainstitute.com/blog/gediminas-sereika/december-2018/how-do-different-senses-affect-way-we-taste


Posted By: Solan
Date Posted: December 20 2020 at 10:47
Another one, just to make Davesax take me seriously even though I have never listened to a tube amp:  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/making-sense-world-sveral-senses-at-time/" rel="nofollow - https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/making-sense-world-sveral-senses-at-time/


Posted By: Solan
Date Posted: December 20 2020 at 10:58
A few more for Davesax, until he figures out that he really loves me!

http://accuratehearing.ca/the-connection-between-your-vision-and-hearing/" rel="nofollow - http://accuratehearing.ca/the-connection-between-your-vision-and-hearing/

http://www.livescience.com/58047-mcgurk-effect-weird-way-eyes-trick-brain.html" rel="nofollow - https://www.livescience.com/58047-mcgurk-effect-weird-way-eyes-trick-brain.html

Try for yourself!



Posted By: Solan
Date Posted: December 20 2020 at 11:02
Now, back to that lava lamp. Put one on, and look at it while you listen to a Solid State amp. Doesn't it sound warmer?


Posted By: Catcher10
Date Posted: December 21 2020 at 15:01
From an audio gear view, I've been an SS fan over Tube based amps and preamps. Some of the hybrid SS/Tube integrated amps are pretty nice, but the Tube section is usually in the preamp section.....You can get the best of both worlds. Although the sound character of an all tube based amp is not something I care for, those were fine back in the day before SS electronics just got better.

My main issue is you really need to tube roll and that becomes tedious, expensive and endless tweaking to find the sound you might like. Unless you spend money its rare you find an amp/preamp with tubes you really like as stock.
Today the stability of SS power sections just gives you almost bottomless noise floor, it's not even a concern anymore.......Watts are cheap so buying a power amp in the 200wpc range is more than affordable, giving you a lot of headroom. An all tube amp at 200wpc is spendy, you can't touch a McIntosh power amp for less than $5K. Like I said the hybrids are less expensive........

For analog instrument amps, tubes are the way to go it seems, I don't recall seeing a guitar stack that was not tubes on stage..

Alex Lifeson amps...:

[al-amps[3].jpg]



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Posted By: Solan
Date Posted: December 22 2020 at 05:20
Originally posted by Catcher10 Catcher10 wrote:

For analog instrument amps, tubes are the way to go it seems, I don't recall seeing a guitar stack that was not tubes on stage..

There's an essential difference between the input and output, I wager. If the input stage is sh*tty, then no amount of makeup will make the cow look like a lady! A sh*tty recording still sounds sh*tty on a $100k audiophile system. 

Or as a friend of mine said it, «So you paid $100k to get better sound out of a recording of an artist who boasts of never having had a singing lesson, accompanied by a $100 guitar, recorded on the nearest microphone they could find?»

Anyway, I guess tube amping a guitar to create a specific sound in the sound creation stage makes more sense than using tubes to colour a recorded sound that's already been mixed as well as could be.


Posted By: Davesax1965
Date Posted: December 22 2020 at 09:47
Solan, you're somewhat agreeing with what I was saying. ;-)

You can never get out of a recording what wasn't there in the first place. I use valve amps to record analogue synths as I like the sound. 

I listen back to it on solid state. Without a lava lamp. ;-)

Thanks for the advice about perception of music, you might notice I mentioned "confirmation bias". I've been recording audio for a very long time and playing musical instruments for 45 years, this isn't news to me. ;-) All said nicely, no criticism, no harm meant or implied. It sometimes comes across wrong on the internet without visual clues. 

I understand you have a lot of expertise in the area of psychology, too, by the way. The basis of an interesting conversation ? A holistic way of appreciating music - based on surroundings ? Yes, it's interesting, but all very 1960's, don't you think ? ;-)

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Posted By: Davesax1965
Date Posted: December 22 2020 at 09:54
Regarding noise floor. 

I switch on a Korg MS synth I had (used to have the original, now I have the reissue, which is SMD and not TTL, I can hear the difference) and because of the inherent filter design, I can hear noise. Or. I pick up one of my guitars with P90 pickups in it, there's noise as well. Inherent noise.

If you listen to a 70's recording, there's inherent noise in it. Valve amps, old pickups, bad electronics. 

So how, can I ask, can you tell "original recording noise" from "modern hi fi amp noise" ?

And why oh why oh why does it matter if you can or not ? Given the cost of reducing it. 

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Posted By: Solan
Date Posted: December 22 2020 at 10:35
Yes, mostly agreeing with you, and I follow this thread because I like to hear what you and Guldbamsen have to say. 

Your advice to listen to the equipment is sound, since it's easy to read about ‰‰‰‰ of ‰ that nobody is able to discern. But where I might disagree with you, then, is about the need to listen to equipment. I don't have golden ears. Maybe silver, but not golden. All I want is an amp which is past the threshold where the ‰‰‰ and ‰‰ are indiscernible. And maybe one that looks good in the process. Yeah, there's a premium for that, but I buy my books hardcover too, so ...

And I don't think that threshold of indiscernible differences goes into the thousands of $$$. You probably hit it quite nicely with many sub-thousand dollar units. And at that point, my silver (or would that be bronze) ears don't need to listen. If some golden ear or measurer has been unable to discern a difference from a $10k unit, that suffices for me.

I hope you understand where I am coming from. How it sounds to me is of utmost importance. I just don't believe I can "hear the grass grow" as Youtuber oluv puts it. So since self-listening and testing is far between these days, I am happy to just take advice, and then buy based on that. 

It's a different thing for headphones, though. But amps? If I understand you and Guldbamsen right, anything neutral (flat frequency response) with sufficient power is essentially equivalent, right?


Posted By: Solan
Date Posted: December 22 2020 at 10:42
Holistics ... he he, yes, we can end up very late 60ies with that one, and if we truly work on it, we'll end up with profundities like that the "The best music is no music", with no music meant as some mystical something you can only understand when on LSD.

But maybe this could be used to make a sh*tload of money. Just make a good enough amp, and then put in some tubes (they don't even have to do any work! Just make them visible!), make the amp look and be heavy. Like, a 2lb bar of lead under the circuitry. Paint it all in vantablack, and sell it at 50x what it's worth, and you have a success! Handshake


Posted By: Catcher10
Date Posted: December 22 2020 at 12:50
Originally posted by Solan Solan wrote:

Originally posted by Catcher10 Catcher10 wrote:

For analog instrument amps, tubes are the way to go it seems, I don't recall seeing a guitar stack that was not tubes on stage..

There's an essential difference between the input and output, I wager. If the input stage is sh*tty, then no amount of makeup will make the cow look like a lady! A sh*tty recording still sounds sh*tty on a $100k audiophile system. 

Or as a friend of mine said it, «So you paid $100k to get better sound out of a recording of an artist who boasts of never having had a singing lesson, accompanied by a $100 guitar, recorded on the nearest microphone they could find?»

Anyway, I guess tube amping a guitar to create a specific sound in the sound creation stage makes more sense than using tubes to colour a recorded sound that's already been mixed as well as could be.
I prefer to say "bad mix and mastering" is what we as music fans and buyers of media (LPs, Cassettes, CDs, Digital Files) complain about. As was stated, what we hear is generally not what it sounds like in the studio....For sure a krappy singer, a band that does not play well will never "play" better on an audio system that costs $50K vs one that is $5K, that's not how it works.
But....it might sound better, so what your friend says has some truth both ways. I have tons of krappy albums that sound better on my current system than what they did on my system from 5yrs ago say, that happens all the time. But my system, nor anyone else's will make a bad singer sound like Pavarotti, that's really dumb to even think that.

Take what you consider a bad recording, meaning it simply sounds bad has little dynamics, no separation, little soundstage minimal bass or lacks some shimmer in the highs and play it on a high end expensive system then on a lower priced system and you should hear a difference in what one might describe or say..."it sounds better on the system with better electronics..." You can't know the difference till you audition such a scenario. 
When I audition audio gear I always take a crappy mastered pressed CD with me, something full of compression brick walled to hell, as well one that is mastered very well.
Pay attention to your ears, that's all.


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Posted By: Catcher10
Date Posted: December 22 2020 at 13:05
Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

Regarding noise floor. 

I switch on a Korg MS synth I had (used to have the original, now I have the reissue, which is SMD and not TTL, I can hear the difference) and because of the inherent filter design, I can hear noise. Or. I pick up one of my guitars with P90 pickups in it, there's noise as well. Inherent noise.

If you listen to a 70's recording, there's inherent noise in it. Valve amps, old pickups, bad electronics. 

So how, can I ask, can you tell "original recording noise" from "modern hi fi amp noise" ?

And why oh why oh why does it matter if you can or not ? Given the cost of reducing it. 

If noise is present in the original recording and in the mastering process a de-hisser was not used then yes, you should hear it. I don't like de-hissing because you are removing content regardless, I say leave it alone. Listen to an original pressing of ItCOtCK, its well known the tape heads were dirty, not aligned well and the recording was lacking upper freq so it has a veiled sound, but it is what it is.
IMO, if you do not hear this noise in your system then you have work to do in the synergy of your audio gear, it's not picking up what is actually there...


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