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The State of Portable versus Desktop amps?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

I'm still looking for an amp at around 150-200 dollars, but I was wondering if anyone had opinions on how much of a difference there would be between a portable versus a desktop amp in terms of SQ? There's been a lot of discussion of cheap portable amps but not so much lately on desktop amps at the cheaper end. I would assume that the desktop amps would sound better than portable at any equivalent price point.

Should I consider buying a desktop amp at this price range if most of my listening will be stationary next to a computer?

If so, which desktop amps would be recommended at this price point?

post #2 of 15
portables use opamps, while desktop amps use discrete transistors or tubes. no portable can put up much of a fight against a high end desktop rig.
post #3 of 15
I personally have not heard any desktop amplifiers under $200. However, considering the amplifiers I have heard on the budget side of things, I would gladly take a M^3 or G-Lite/Dynalo for examples over the SR-71, Hornet, SuperMini, or SuperMacro. (Those being the amplifiers and portable amplifiers in this price range I am personally familar with.) (But then, the Hornet synergizes strangely and happily with various headphones.) For the amplifiers I have heard in this range, the M^3 and G-Lite seem to have a sense of authority and dynamics that portable amplifiers just can't match. Of course there are many other amplifiers I've either not heard or only heard for a very short time that may change my opinion in this regard.
post #4 of 15
How about the lunchbox tube amp for $160? Anyone heard this?
post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 
I've heard of the Lunchbox amp and the Little Dot tube amps being cheap desktop amps... I was wondering how these compared to portable amps and if they were significantly better in SQ.
post #6 of 15
I have also noticed that the portable amps seem to get most of the attention and that there doesn't appear to be much available for cheap desktop amps. I wonder why that is.
post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 
What about used desktop amps? Are there any within this price range that would be worth considering?

I guess I'm still wondering if any one would be willing to compare effective price-equivalent desktop amps and portable amps and give us their opinions for those of us who are just starting out in amp-land.
post #8 of 15
As others have said, in terms of sound quality (including better detail, bigger soundstage), desktop amps offer better sound than portables amps of similar prices. You are paying for the portability. If you don't require a portable amp and sound quality is the utmost concern, then go for a desktop amp.

If you require portability, then get a portable amp as many can pull double duty. I started this whole Head-Fi business with portable amps as I wanted to build a rig around a portable DAP. Getting a portable amp with a built-in battery charger will make life a lot more convenient.

$200-$400 portable amps -- SR-71, Hornet, Portaphile maxed, Micro Amp. I've owned all four and still have the Hornet. All four are very popular on Head-Fi and people have argued ad nauseum on which is the best. If you want a portable amp from a commercial maker, then any of these four are among the best.

The Gilmore Lite with the standard power supply costs $300 new and can be had for about $200-250 used (add another $100-150 for dedicated power supply). Ignoring synergy issues and speaking in broad terms, the GLite will give you a better sound than any of the four portable I listed. I have to disclose that I have always used the DPS with my GLite.

For $200, I say go for a used DIY amp (e.g., PPA) or a vintage commercial amp. You see used PPA's show up on the FS forum for $200-250 fairly often. For that kind of price, if you don't like it, then you shouldn't have much trouble selling it and recouping most or all of your money.
post #9 of 15
Hornet synergizes amazingly with some headphones..
With others, the $250 headfive beats it
post #10 of 15
another great amp for its price is the Original Master!
post #11 of 15
Hey, a Pimeta will take most if not all of those little amps to task. They can be had for $150 new (if you can get someone to build you one) or $100 used.
post #12 of 15
Originally Posted by jdimitri View Post
Hornet synergizes amazingly with some headphones..
With others, the $250 headfive beats it

What cans does the headfive synergize well with? I'm assuming Beyers?
post #13 of 15
what i was thinking of getting was a dual system.

something like a XP-7, which can double as a portable and a home amp when used with the DPS and portable when used with the battery.

the microstack does the same thing except you get a DAC too!
post #14 of 15
All the portable amps sound terrible compared to even low-end desktop amps like the Gilmore Lite. Try comparing an expensive portable like the Pimeta against a cheap $300 desktop and there is no comparison. Across the whole spectrum the desktop will be better.
post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 
How much should I expect to find a used Gilmore Lite?
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