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Best headphone amplifier for Sennheiser HD600?

post #1 of 42
Thread Starter 
I just spend five hours yesterday in my local hifi store listening to all kinds of highend headphones and I found the Sennheiser HD600 to be the absolut best. However just having my PC with an X-fi soundcard in it I figured it perhaps isn't quite enough to really unleash these babies. I'm looking for some real good headphone amplifier suited for a highend headphone like the HD600. Cost preferrably some 200-400$ or something like that.

I'm planning on using them primarily for my PC which is equippted with a Creative X-fi Xtreme Gamer soundcard. But I don't think I will be looking into specific stereo soundcards because I'd have to switch back and fourth for music and gaming because I need Creatives gaming-specific features like EAX for gaming. I have also heard that it's essential to use "ASIO" when listening to music from the PC and that the soundcard wouldn't matter THAT much when using it because the music would be "bitperfect" and thereby going through the PC unprocessed hopefully. Anyway I think I'll just do with my X-fi unless someone will try and convince me otherwise
Likewise I probably won't look into the more expensive cables at this point because I guess I probably won't hear the difference with the gear I'll be using it on.

Let me hear if you have any recommendations! =)
post #2 of 42
I've heard that the Ray Samuels line of amps are specifically tuned with the hd6xx series in mind, I doubt you'd have any complaints with any of the RSA amps. Right now the Predator is all the rage, it has DAC + Amp in one package eliminating the need for the x-fi.

I prefer the HeadAmp Gilmore Lite, it's an affordable amp that is fairly transparent, it doesn't color as much as some of the other amps and is an old standby favorite. The Headamp Pico is the newest in the series (also all the rage) just like the Predator it is a DAC + Amp, suposedly it's the bees knees
post #3 of 42
If you're looking for something more in the $200 range, I just got the Leckerton UHA-3 yesterday, and from what I've listened to so far, the DAC is far and above my Sound Blaster, and the amp is pretty sweet too. Just a thought - I'm using it with some HD555s, which are the lesser cousin of your 600s.
post #4 of 42
I am thoroughly pleased with a MisterX-built CK2III (short for Cavalli Kan Kumisa III) driving my HD600's, using either an 0404 USB or Marantz SA8001 as the source.

I previously used a nice Millett or a maxed desktop PIMETA with the HD600's, and the CK2III is definitely the most refined of all.

The only problem is that they don't show up all that much as used units...my guess is that if someone builds one, even if it's not their main amp, it sounds so good for the money that they are unlikely to sell it (component cost is only about $180 or so, I'm told.) But when one does become available, it's usually priced in the $250 neighborhood.
post #5 of 42
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.Sneis View Post
I've heard that the Ray Samuels line of amps are specifically tuned with the hd6xx series in mind, I doubt you'd have any complaints with any of the RSA amps. Right now the Predator is all the rage, it has DAC + Amp in one package eliminating the need for the x-fi.

I prefer the HeadAmp Gilmore Lite, it's an affordable amp that is fairly transparent, it doesn't color as much as some of the other amps and is an old standby favorite. The Headamp Pico is the newest in the series (also all the rage) just like the Predator it is a DAC + Amp, suposedly it's the bees knees
Yeah thanks I want to make it clear that I like the true and neutral, clear, crisp en engaging sound of the HD600 and I found the HD650 rather boring in comparison - I just want something balanced and neutral and not too colored. So an amp that someone could say fits the HD600-style would be perfect

And yeah I guess I need a combined DAC + Amp in order to cope with my X-fi. But all the sound would still go through the X-fi, would this be a limiting factor regardless of the amp I end up using?

I've also been looking at the Zero 24/192 DAC which I found when surfing this forum, I'd be nice to know how these go when you prefer HD600'ish sound, not HD650'ish sound

HeadRoom's amps have also cought my attention since I read a review on stereophile of their desktop headphone amp series, which unfortunately is a bit beyond my budget I think :/
I wonder if anyone in here have their micro or desktop series..
(Link to HeadRoom's products and link to the review)

I can't seem to find any information on those "Predators" you refer to, can you give me a more specific model number or something?
post #6 of 42
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sejarzo View Post
I am thoroughly pleased with a MisterX-built CK2III (short for Cavalli Kan Kumisa III) driving my HD600's, using either an 0404 USB or Marantz SA8001 as the source.

I previously used a nice Millett or a maxed desktop PIMETA with the HD600's, and the CK2III is definitely the most refined of all.

The only problem is that they don't show up all that much as used units...my guess is that if someone builds one, even if it's not their main amp, it sounds so good for the money that they are unlikely to sell it (component cost is only about $180 or so, I'm told.) But when one does become available, it's usually priced in the $250 neighborhood.
Is this is custom build amp? I can't find any info on it at all
post #7 of 42
Look into the Little Dot Mk series of amps, they're probably the best value amp on the market right now.

The PIMETA are DIY amps of 10+ year old designs, I would really go with the Little Dot amps if it comes down to that, from a design perspective the LD's circuitry is just much more inspired, not to mention the high-end components (film caps, ALPS pot, etc) you find in LD amps. Also customer service from LD is also second to none, you won't get that peace of mind with DIY amps.
post #8 of 42
Hi Gako,
I am also a big HD600 fan, prefering it over my grado and Staxx headphones for quite a variety of music.

As standard headphones amp I own the Grado RA1 and the Musical Fidelity Xcan (first version, with default tubes).

I have to say that the Musical Fidelity Xcan is my favorite amp for my HD600.
post #9 of 42
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by yarinkel View Post
Hi Gako,
I am also a big HD600 fan, prefering it over my grado and Staxx headphones for quite a variety of music.

As standard headphones amp I own the Grado RA1 and the Musical Fidelity Xcan (first version, with default tubes).

I have to say that the Musical Fidelity Xcan is my favorite amp for my HD600.
Sounds perfect because that's actually one of the few brands for head-amps that the danish distributors so I wouldn't even have to import in this case. I can only see the version 3 though, the same as this: Musical Fidelity Xcanv3
Being sceptical to newer product revisions as I've become after hearing the HD600 versus the HD650, I hope don't hope the v3 is a downgrade from v1, but I supposed it's good.

But regarding the DAC's.. I'm perhaps a bit concerned using my Creative X-Fi though I will be using ASIO. I wonder of the X-Fi will be a bottleneck or if the difference with or without the MF Xcan v3 would be apparent..?

I'm also considering a HeadAmp Pico though I'm concerned if it can empower a full headset such as the HD600.
post #10 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gaco View Post
Sounds perfect because that's actually one of the few brands for head-amps that the danish distributors so I wouldn't even have to import in this case. I can only see the version 3 though, the same as this: Musical Fidelity Xcanv3
Being sceptical to newer product revisions as I've become after hearing the HD600 versus the HD650, I hope don't hope the v3 is a downgrade from v1, but I supposed it's good.
The HD600 should have pretty good synergy with the X-Cans..

Have you considered any other amps? I particularly like the Corda Prehead for the HD600.
post #11 of 42
To the OP: If you are concerned that your X-fi will be a bottleneck in your system (which it probably will be if your get a good amp) then it would probably be wise to go with a Amp/DAC combo.

Quote:
And yeah I guess I need a combined DAC + Amp in order to cope with my X-fi. But all the sound would still go through the X-fi, would this be a limiting factor regardless of the amp I end up using?
Most of these Amp/DAC combo's allow you to connect your computer to the DAC via USB which effectively bypasses your X-fi. Therefore you will need not worry about it being a limiting factor. Hope that helps your understanding
post #12 of 42
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by doubletaps View Post
The HD600 should have pretty good synergy with the X-Cans..

Have you considered any other amps? I particularly like the Corda Prehead for the HD600.
You mean this one? Meier Audio: Corda Prehead Mk2
Unfortunately at ~1500$ it's well above my budget

Sounds good with the X-Cans though.. I might just find the one store in my country that sells them and ask them for advice, luckily they're not that far away.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jingo Lingo View Post
To the OP: If you are concerned that your X-fi will be a bottleneck in your system (which it probably will be if your get a good amp) then it would probably be wise to go with a Amp/DAC combo.

Most of these Amp/DAC combo's allow you to connect your computer to the DAC via USB which effectively bypasses your X-fi. Therefore you will need not worry about it being a limiting factor. Hope that helps your understanding
I am concerned about the Creatve X-Fi being a bottleneck but at the same time I don't want to miss out on all the game specific features for gaming (such as EAX) and I think it would be ultimately too inconvenient to have to switch back and fourth between two soundscards when switching from gaming to music and vice versa. I don't know if there's any way to issue this? I hope you can see what I mean

Besides from the HeadAmp Pico and Music Fidelity Xcanv3, I'm also considering the Headroom Desktop Line Headphone Amplifier. Though it seems a bit over my budget so I should perhaps be looking on their micro series instead (HeadRoom Products).
post #13 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by doubletaps View Post
The HD600 should have pretty good synergy with the X-Cans..
That's right, but the standard X-Cans have more potential with a far better transformer.
post #14 of 42
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Hank View Post
That's right, but the standard X-Cans have more potential with a far better transformer.
Meaning that version 3 is somehow inferior or what?

Oh well doesn't matter too much anyway as I am kinda turned off by it's high price anyway. And the Pico look at bit too small for enpowering a full open headphone set as the H600. So I'm still looking around. I've considered the HeadAmp A-2 but only because of price because I'm not specifically looking for a portable amp, just a nice looking desktop amp that goes well with the sound of the HD600. I am still undecided on whether I'm going for build-in DAC's or not since I will be using my X-fi most of the but, but sure it would be nice with some flexability.
post #15 of 42
For your price range, the best Sennheiser amp I've heard is the Gilmore Lite/Dynalo. Plenty of power for them, clean, neutral, and detailed. I prefer mine out of the Dynalo to all the other amps, save one. The best Sennheiser amp I've heard is the Zana Deux. More than what you want to spend, but it is transformative and makes Senns sound nearly electrostatic.
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