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BY REQUEST: Best sounding HP jacks on integrateds/receivers.

post #1 of 84
Thread Starter 
Now, we need a thread discussing which integrated sound good, and what characteristics they have!

I think we should start a non-dedicated amp appreciation thread, where people can post what non-dedicateds they've used.

Well, two requests anyway. In any case a thread (which should be made a sticky) where people can post about positive experiences with integrateds/receivers is overdue. That can be vintage, recent or the very latest HT amps--it's all useful info. There must be thousands of integrateds out there whose owners have not even tried the HP jacks thanks to the received wisdom that if you have a good headphone, you must have a dedicated amp. Since that "wisdom" has recently been called into question in this forum, maybe it's time for posters who've perhaps been a little reluctant to post in the past for fear of ridicule to start sharing. I'm happy to start the ball rolling as I've bought dozens (scores?) of amps/receivers on Ebay for the express purpose of trying out the HP jacks (plus making the odd dollar along the way ).

A few people have already posted about NAD amps, and in my experience they rarely disappoint with headphones. We now know, from the manufacturer, that NAD amps (except for the high end) feed the HP jack through resistors from the main amp, so HP performance should be on a par with speaker performance and that's been my general experience. A nice clean, neutral, open sound from the older amps, but a little darker from the newer ones (C320 on), though with a very true timbre. However, it seems NAD have recently lowered the output impedance of the amps, so if anyone has a new NAD it'd be interesting to hear about HP performance.

Another reliable brand is Marantz. As some people will already have tired of hearing, I use a Marantz PM6010 OSE and find it slightly superior to the Cute Beyond amp, especially in having a fuller bass (with no loss of definition). However, I've ordered the Supplier power supply and will soon be making another comparison. Even now the difference is only minor.

I could name other brands and models but for now would rather just sit back and see if there's any interest in this thread. And please, those who aren't interested, or don't agree with the premise...please don't post, "There's no way a speaker amp could match even the cheapest dedicated." This is for those with an open mind who wish to share experiences or read about others' experiences. Give us a go.
post #2 of 84
I like the HP out on the Cambridge Audio integrateds (in my case, 640Av2). Sounds clean, and tight, and controlled the bass on Audio Technica A500's and AD700's very well. I'd consider the sound fairly neutral, but I don't have enough to reference it against, I think. I rate it more highly than a Firestone Little Country I have (though partially I think I'm a SS man over a tube man). Better controlled and more neutral to my ears.

With K701's, detail and cleanness was still nice, but it lacked the power to deliver satisfying dynamics or bass. I listened to a lot of Dire Straits and Deep Purple (Coverdale) on it, but most of my metal was unsatisfactory. That's been rectified with the addition of a Talisman T-35HP, which allows the 701's to do their stuff for music on a grander scale.
post #3 of 84
The Denon PMA-2000IVR 80 watt integrated has a headphone jack that's warm, rich, lush, and detailed. It is, for whatever reason, a killer with the Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 80, which leads me to suspect that it's good with all low impedance headphones (perhaps with the Denon D2000 / D5000 ? perhaps that's why!?). In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it elevates the DT770 into a top tier headphone.

The headphone jack on my current Rotel 1082 preamplifier is very good.

The headphone jack on the Creek Classic integrated ($1600) is not quite as good, but still above average.

I can attest to the fact that NAD jacks seem, as a class, above average.

Of the above, the Denon headphone jack is as good as any dedicated headphone amp that I've heard except for the Zana Deux, but it ain't far behind, which should give those who believe, by rote, the myth that dedicated amps are always necessary, severe pause.
post #4 of 84
I submit the Harman Kardon A-402:



I believe the A-402 was introduced in 1972. I bought mine new, a couple of years later. I was working in hifi at the time and I knew exactly what I was getting: A great beneficiary of trickle down from the 70s Harman Kardon Citation series, some of the best solid state amps Japan ever produced. The A-402 is a true dual mono design with a couple of very hefty transformers under the hood. The pre-amp is a killer, with bi-pass and semi-parametric eq on board.

How does it sound with phones? Well, with my HD580s, it sounds pretty much the way it sounds with speakers -- quiet (as long as you turn the ungrounded plug in the right direction), powerful, punchy bass, dynamic, and very rich, warm, and tube-like.

I had mrarroyo's Glow Amp One here for a week recently, and I was surprised at how much it sounded like the HK. The HK has a bigger bass, with a bit more punch in the attack. The Glow is a tiny bit richer in the mids. That's it. A lot more alike than different.

Does the HK drive my 300 ohm Senns "properly?" Uh....yeah. Great transient attack. Excellent bass control (crisp punch, sweet bloom without boom). Good treble extension. And heavyweight punch. Does it change the FR of my Senns? Of course. It is a big, warm, punchy amp, as described above. Lean and neutral is not its character. But it has the same relative effect on speakers as well.

No "veil." I've heard the veil. The HK blows right through it. Is it as good as a high end HP amp? I can't say, because I haven't heard many of them. But I have heard the Glow, an older Headroom Home, a Naim (very briefly), the headphone section of a McIntosh preamp and numerous studio headphone monitoring systems.

The old HK sounds different from the above. I would say if you like the warm, smooth sound of tubes, it sounds better than most of the above (exceptions being the McIntosh and the Glow).

If you see one of these at a garage sale, don't leave without it.

Tim
post #5 of 84
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PWilson View Post
I like the HP out on the Cambridge Audio integrateds (in my case, 640Av2). Sounds clean, and tight, and controlled the bass on Audio Technica A500's and AD700's very well. I'd consider the sound fairly neutral, but I don't have enough to reference it against, I think. I rate it more highly than a Firestone Little Country I have (though partially I think I'm a SS man over a tube man). Better controlled and more neutral to my ears.

Just to undermine my own thread for a moment, you seem to be one of the few with a Firestone Little Country, of which several people have requested a review. Even though it's now been replaced by a MkII, I'm sure your impressions would make interesting reading.

TIM: That's one beautiful amp! But it doesn't look as old as early 70s. Were HK that far ahead of their time?
post #6 of 84
Quote:
TIM: That's one beautiful amp! But it doesn't look as old as early 70s. Were HK that far ahead of their time?
Well, HK certainly had their own look, but with 16 buttons, 5 knobs and 16 LEDs, it is very, very 70s!

By the way, I've also heard the HP jack out of my Dad's 70s Kenwood receiver. It has been awhile, and I'll try to get a chance to listen again, but as memory serves, it was very pleasant. Warm and smooth, perhaps lacking the punch of the HK. I can't remember the model number, but it is nothing special. 25 watts or so. An entry-level 70s Japanese receiver.

Tim
post #7 of 84
I'll give one to avoid: Hafler DH-110 preamp. A stock Cmoy kills the headphone out on this. Another '70s vintage integrated to avoid: Marantz 1200B (both as an amp and as a headphone out). The Hafler pre / DH-220 amp combo absolutely destroys the Marantz.
post #8 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by pp312 View Post
Just to undermine my own thread for a moment, you seem to be one of the few with a Firestone Little Country, of which several people have requested a review. Even though it's now been replaced by a MkII, I'm sure your impressions would make interesting reading.
Eep. I think I should keep my mouth shut about my Firestone stuff >_<. I honestly haven't done much critical A/B stuff with anything, and I've only shifted the Little Country to my stereo setup a couple of times due to the sheer inconvenience of how I've got everything set up. So really I'm just going off 'impressions and feels', and trying to qualitatively describe why I find one bit of gear preferable to another.

Also the LC arrived pre-rolled (I got it second hand), and I haven't played with it at all. Possibly it's not living up to its potential... but simply from descriptions I find myself intellectually drawn to SS. Combined with the fact that I found the SS combinations I have (Cambridge, now Talisman) so much more engaging than the LC from the get-go, it hasn't been seeing much active hifi duty and lives on my PC most of the time.

Time is a bit short for the forseeable future, so all my listening time is 'listening time' rather than 'comparison time', and I'm simply enjoying what the gear is bringing out of my music. If my free time does increase to a point where I can spare it, I'll do my best to put together something that doesn't embarrass me
post #9 of 84
1964 Fisher 500-c receiver. Unreal headphone out (they came with left and right reversed as shipped though)
post #10 of 84
My NAD 3155, from the early 80s, is very good with high impedance headphones. It's not good with low impedance headphones. It's horrible with the HD580, makes them sound like Grados It's wonderful with my Beyer DT831 with a 150 ohm adapter.

The problem with low impedance headphones is that the NAD uses 470 ohm resistors in series, no network, so it has a high output impedance.
post #11 of 84
I love my Luxman LV-103 Brid amplifier
It sounds the best with any sub 200ohm headphones out of my collection of Total Airhead, CMOYs, and Alchemy HPA-1
post #12 of 84
It's like a coming out party...

Tim
post #13 of 84
Revox A 78 integrated amplifier HP jack (one of two available) sounds robust, warm. That is, if you can get over the low-level hum.
post #14 of 84
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by scompton View Post
My NAD 3155, from the early 80s, is very good with high impedance headphones. It's not good with low impedance headphones. It's horrible with the HD580, makes them sound like Grados It's wonderful with my Beyer DT831 with a 150 ohm adapter.
Could you amplify on this a little, scompton? (pun intended). It's good with high impedance phones but terrible with the 580 (300 ohms)? And why should a high output impedance make 580s sound like Grados? And doesn't the 150 ohm adaptor just raise the impedance? I'm confused.
post #15 of 84
The Grado comment was a joke because I dislike Grados.

I don't know why the NAD 3155 sounds bad with my HD580, but it does. From the NAD 3155, the HD580 is has shrill and piercing highs. It's odd because with other headphones, the bass is very nice, even with headphones that are considered lacking in bass.

For low impedance headphones, I don't own many. I've not tried IEMs, but both the KSC75 and PX100 sound awful. It gives them an extremely tilted FR with overwhelming, bloated bass.

The DT831 are considered bass light headphones. A 150 ohm adapter is said to improve the bass. Out of a portable amp, which is all I owned when I bought them, they aren't bass light, the bass is missing altogether. The 150 ohm adapter didn't make much difference. I packed them away before I bought the NAD. Recently, someone expressed interest in buying them, so I decided to give them a listen. They are bass monsters out of the NAD. The 150 ohm adapter moderates the bass a little, making them close to neutral. DT831 are 250 ohm headphones.

Both the DT831 and the HD580 with the NAD are my first experience of synergy, or the lack thereof with the HD580.

To tell the truth, I listen to orthos out of the headphone jack more than I listen to dynamics. The orthos are really good with the NAD, but since most people don't listen to them, I didn't mention them.

My Pioneer SE-700 also sound OK with the NAD which is saying a lot, but even fewer people own these.
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