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Dual-purpose headphone amp?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
My apologies if this question has been asked, but looking through the archives I didn't see it discussed.

I am looking for a single, dual-purpose headphone amp or separate headphone amps for home and portable headphone listening. I have gotten to the point in life when I need to walk more to keep my back from dissolving, so I am looking for something that will work with a portable cd player (Panasonic SL CT470). I will use it less frequently for airline travel and perhaps in the car (btw, what do people think about safety considerations of driving with headphones?) I currently have Grado SR125 headphones but find them a bit uncomfortable and am thinking about upgrading (more about this below).

For home listening I have a Musical Fidelity A220 integ. Amp sans headphone
plug. My choices right now come from Headroom. Either going with the Total
Airhead for portable listening and the Little for home auditioning or buying
the Supreme and using it for both -- perhaps later adding the Base station
as a separate power source. Any suggestions about these components or other that I haven't mentioned?

I am also thinking about up-grading my headphones to either Sennheiser 600
or the Etymonics. Recommendations on either of these or others to consider?

Thanks so much for any help you can give me
post #2 of 17
I can only speak for the Total Airhead because that's the smallest portable headphone amp I've listened to -- and it's darn good. I don't own it, but have listened to Jude's. It's about the size of a small radar detector (even has the same shape) and its very light weight -- great for toting around.

Here's what I liked about it:

It can drive - I have a set of SR-80s and it drove them very well.. my opinion is that it did not drive them has hard as my 8xAA battery headphone amp, but it did sound noticeably better than the headphone-out on my Sony portable.

Cross-feed option - I'm not yet completely sold on cross-feed like some people are, however, it is good to know that you can turn this option on and off with a simple switch.

Power - Only 2 AAs -- that is great for portability and weight. What I realy like about it though is that it has an AC adapter option on it, unlike my DIY amp. I am mostly stationary when I listen to music, so this is a big plus -- but I do NOT know if there's any hum/interference from the adapter being plugged in... does anyone know if there is any interference from a wall power source?
post #3 of 17
Safety first, holderlin do not drive with headphones on!!! i don't even use phones when biking on a bike paths. It's dangerous IMO
Now, about the amp, there are not that many alternatives for battery powered amps. From what I have tried Grado RA1 may be your choice. You can use it with a portable and it is good enough to serve as a home amp. Most people use it with high end Grados but some (Beagle if I remember correctly) use it with Senns and report very good results.
post #4 of 17
Quote:
Originally posted by blr
Safety first, holderlin do not drive with headphones on!!! i don't even use phones when biking on a bike paths. It's dangerous IMO
If you use open cans like grados it is probably not any more dangerous than listening to loud music on your car stereo (though in most places in the US it is illegal). Back on topic, the TA is a good suggestion as is the RA-1, though slightly larger it is still battery operated (2 9V) and thus "portable". The RA-1 may be the better option depending on how much use it will have at home versus on the road. Good luck.
post #5 of 17
Dude, isn't it, like, obvious?

Get a Cosmic and a Base Station One.

A Total Airhead won't have enough juice to make ER4S's happy...
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 

Dual-purpose headphone amp?

Thanks for the suggestions so far.

I had not thought of the Grado RA-1 before as a portable. I guess I really never looked at its dimensions and figured the mahogoney wasn't suitable. But given that I'm not going to bounce it around and would get a case I like the suggestions.

The cosmic is too expensive for me. Although I suppose if I forget about upgrading my RS-125 to Sennheiser 600 then perhaps I could spring for it.

This leads me to a follow up question. Would the Headroom Cosmic with RS-125 headphones be a better sounding package than the Grado RA-1 or Supreme with Sennheiser 600. (I'm probably stepping into murkey and contentious waters by asking whether the amp or headphones make the biggest difference.)

BTW I saw that Audio Advisor is offering reconditioned 600s for $249. I thought i'd spring for those rather than the closest competition of $299 at Headroom.

Also, if I do go with the Grado RA-1, is there any place where I might get it for less than $350?

Thanks again,
Bob
post #7 of 17
holderlin, RA-1 is no brainer if used w/ Grados. But since you plan for Sennheiser, better save $ and go w/ something else as HD600 is difficult for RA-1 to drive.

HD600 can be purchased from Dr. Jan Meier at meier-audio@t-online.de for under $250 shipped. Hundreds of Headwizers got cans from him.
post #8 of 17
Re: SR-125 vs HD-600

Not even a contest, really, in my opinion. I've had both for many months and there is not any moment during that time where I have preferred the SR-125's for any music. I only keep them because they are portable, and I wouldn't consider taking my HD600's or HD545's with me on a business trip or anything.

My advice: Wait a month until Jan Meier releases his portable amp (almost certain to be in your price range) and then buy it and the HD-600's from him. If pressed for money, downgrado your SR-125's to SR-60's or KSC-35's for portable use. You may be able to do the whole thing (good portable amp + HD600) for less than the price of a cosmic, and possibly for less than the supreme if you downgrado.
post #9 of 17

SR-125 vs HD-600

Quote:
Not even a contest, really, in my opinion. I've had both for many months and there is not any moment during that time where I have preferred the SR-125's for any music.
slindeman, I find the opposite to be true for me. I currently have the SR-100s (forerunner of 125s) and the Senn 600s. Except for classical music, I much prefer the immediacy and impact of the SR-100s. Since I've been listening mostly to acoustic music recently, the Senns have been hangin' on the wall a lot. That's not to say they are not excellent headphones.....they are.....I just prefer the Grado sound.
post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 
I don't understand why the RA-1 will not drive the Sennheisers. Are the amps in the RA-1 that much less than an Airhead, Total Airhead, or Supreme (all of which Headroom says can drive the low-impedence Sennheisers)?

Thanks,
Bob
post #11 of 17
Quote:
I don't understand why the RA-1 will not drive the Sennheisers.
I don't think that is necessarily true. Although I don't have the RA-1, there are some people on this site (Beagle?), who say the match is excellent. Again, auditioning is the wisest choice.
post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally posted by holderlin
I don't understand why the RA-1 will not drive the Sennheisers. Are the amps in the RA-1 that much less than an Airhead, Total Airhead, or Supreme (all of which Headroom says can drive the low-impedence Sennheisers)?

Thanks,
Bob
Once, a little while ago, when I forgot to bring my full portable rig with me (actually, I brought the amp, but I forgot to bring my double-RCA-to-mini interconnect), I used the dealer's RA-1 with my HD-600's to audition some CD players. Drove them just fine to my ears.

My concern would be battery life, but I'm not even sure that concern is reasonable or not, but maybe someone here can comment.

The sound was excellent. I was worried it'd not cut it for my CD player auditions with my HD-600's, but the sound was very nice. The bass, what I was most worried might be lacking, was good. Admittedly, I was surprised.
post #13 of 17
If you are using headphones for walking around you might want to consider open phones. I like taking my SR60, Panasonic portable and TA for walks because it does let me hear a little of what's going on around me. I wouldn't want to be isolated like the Senn. HD600 or the Etys would, not being able to hear people or cars or falling trees around me. For airplane travel the opposite is true. The HD600s are a bit big for walking around with as well.

I also have a Supreme but it gets a bit heavy with the 4 D cell pack. It sounds better than the TA but I always take the TA for walks. If you really think carrying a couple of extra pounds and some extra bulk is no big deal, I suggest you try it for a while first with a dummy load...if you don't mind it, then the Supreme would be a good choice. There are comprimises that must be made for portable amps, so I think your best solution is to have two amps once your budget permits, one portable and one home based. The TA and the Corda together cost less than some of your other options. I prefer the HD600 (or the HD580) to the Grados, and of course a home CD player to the portable, so now we're talking about two complete systems. The Jan Meier portable amp sounds like something to check out when it's released; I'm impressed with his Corda.

For use with a portable CD player, I would think the Cosmic over the Supreme is overkill...maybe even undesirable due to being too revealing.

By the way the TA works well with a AC adapter.
post #14 of 17
Quote:
KurtW said...

I wouldn't want to be isolated like the Senn. HD600 or the Etys would, not being able to hear people or cars or falling trees around me.
Somehow, I can't see too much isolation being a problem w/ the 600s. My 580s provide very little noise isolation, and for me not to be able to hear a car or falling tree would mean the volume would be WAY too loud! W/ the Etys, plenty of isolation, but not the 600s or 580s.
post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally posted by dhwilkin


Somehow, I can't see too much isolation being a problem w/ the 600s. My 580s provide very little noise isolation, and for me not to be able to hear a car or falling tree would mean the volume would be WAY too loud! W/ the Etys, plenty of isolation, but not the 600s or 580s.
dhwilkin's right -- the HD-600's are pretty open. I have conversations with them on all the time.
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