Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphone Amps (full-size) › Headphone amp ranking
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Headphone amp ranking

post #1 of 42
Thread Starter 
Hi all,

I'm seriously considering a big jump. I need to pick up an excellent headphone amp. But there is just so many choices out there... Could you please shine me a light. Any help will be appreciated.

My budget is around 2000$. I listen to classic music mainly, but radiohead and Björk are all my favourites. And base is not that important to me. I prefer it to be balanced, but excellent SE at the same price range maybe also a good choice. I love tubes, but I never really tried any high-end SS.

I've picked up a list, can someone just rank them ? It's ok that you remove the amps that you don't know.

Audio-gd phoenix 1200$
AMB Beta 22 (I need a professional builder)
WooAudio WA22 1900$
Headamp GS-X 2295$
Isabellina HPA 2500$
Luxman P-200 1500$
Cary SEI-300B (I think I can found used under 2000$)
Cary SLI-80 (If I'm lucky enough, I hope I can find used under 2000$)
EC Zana Deux 2200$

Audio-gd phoenix has got a good review here. Maybe it's my best choice for the price/quality ratio ?

Anyway, thanks everyone in advance.
post #2 of 42
I would include 2 or 3 more in the top amp list (no particular order and all solid state):

1. Headroom Balanced Ultra Desktop (BUDA) - I have this, and it's really great -- it's basically the older HR Balanced Max Amp/DAC repackaged into a more compact unit (but without the internal DAC); you would also need to purchase separately the HR Desktop Power Suppy (don't use the small one included with the amp)
2. Ray Samuels Apache - lots of info on Head-Fi about this but have never heard one; it is a balanced amp
3. RudiStor (they make several balanced amps but don't know model #s) -- I also don't know how they stack up against the others in your list; a few people have raised questions pertaining to build quality but I don't have any data to back this up

Comment -- despite what you may read, I would find it very hard to rank any of the very fine amps listed, since so much depends on personal taste, other components used (including headphones, DACs, cables, etc). If you can be more specific as to what other equipment you may be planning to use with the amp, it might be easier to whittle the list down to a more reasonable number. Other less tangible issues that might be important include build quality, wait times, builder rep and customer service-related issues, etc. You can't ignore these factors since it will do you no good to order an amp and then have to wait a year or more to get it delivered, or what if it breaks and there's either no one available to fix it or it takes 6 months to repair?
post #3 of 42
What other gear do you have? All of those amps are good, but if you provide a list of your phones and sources it will make all of the recommendations better. Also, which amps specifically have you liked in the past?
post #4 of 42
Any of above amps are good. The differences are mostly subtle and won't be far off from each other. Other than tube vs. SS differences, I think you will be happy with any selection.
post #5 of 42
xiaobao0707 you have listed amps with great reputation, and any should make you happy. However I would strongly recommend you consider an EU builder unless this will be a second/third amp. I say this because if you ever have to send the unit back the shipping costs will be high plus you will have to wait a long time for the unit to travel to and from.
post #6 of 42
I own the Zana Duex, I have heard the Luxman 200, Phoenix, Cary Xciter, Beta 22 and the Headamp which i don't remember.

I was unimpressed by that particular Luxman although the higher end one is great. The Phoenix is good, very good if you go balanced, I like the Beta 22 maybe the best balanced is how i heard it i believe. The Cary i heard briefly and was very warm to me but I wasn't sure about the detail....couldn't a/b it and different components.

Of course I like my Zana Duex the best for SE but the Beta 22 was so impressive that I have a friend who is an engineer ready to build me one as a project/hobby and I will compensate him whenever I am ready to get that started. Also be aware that there is a new high end Luxman on the near horizon from what I have heard.
post #7 of 42
That is a pretty impressive list. They all have there strong points and to different people each and every one of them would be considered better than the next. You would have to decide whether you think unbalanced is more important than single ended. Whether you want more analog or more digital sound. Whether you want a built in dac or not. There is a lot of variables with the equipment you listed. Also you need to list what headphones you are planning to use since all these amps usually have headphones that pair with them better than others. What is your source/transport going to be.? Is the 2000 only for the amp or do you have to spread the love to your dac, cdp, computer, etc? No one can tell you what your ears are going to find enjoyable. Hopefully you can go to a meet and at least find out the differences and sound characteristics of balanced vs unbalanced, nos vs os, tubes vs ss. That might help in narrowing your choices more accurately than anything that people say in this post. Good luck .
post #8 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrarroyo View Post
xiaobao0707 you have listed amps with great reputation, and any should make you happy. However I would strongly recommend you consider an EU builder unless this will be a second/third amp. I say this because if you ever have to send the unit back the shipping costs will be high plus you will have to wait a long time for the unit to travel to and from.
Very good advice from Miguel. I'm still in rocking with my Singlepower
MPX3 (I know..'burn him, burn him') but the B22 is on my list. I've come
SO close to getting one underway on several occasions but (as Miguel
said) if there are any problems with the amp and your builder is in the US,
you have to start forking out alot of cash.

If you go for the B22 - and it is said by many to be THE ultimate head
amp - then do yourself a favour, and find someone in the EU with
god-like super-fly ninja amp building skillz.

Good luck xiaobao0707. I wish I was in your position!
post #9 of 42
If you don't care about bass, then you might as well go Stax with either 717 or KGSS. Do you intend to use the HD650 and GS1000, or do you plan on upgrading phones as well?

Anyways, out of those, I'd only go GS-X, Zana or WA22. No idea how I'd rank em sonically, but I'd probably go for the Headamp for the combo of style and versatility. Also, it's fully differential, and tubes are a hassle.
post #10 of 42
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone for your kind reply. I'm now using my Senn HD-650 / Grado GS-1000 with a pair of Marantz CDP/amp which is not considered high-end. I also have an Earmax Pro. I love that tube sound. But I'm aware that it's not flawless the Earmax.

I'm considering upgrade my CDP to a 2000-2500$ used. (I expect the original price should be about 5000$) As for headphone, I'm looking for an HD-800 for a long time. They are just still not available in Paris...

So the 2000$ will go to an excellent amp. I really what to go balanced. I've thought about a B22. But can anyone suggest an excellent builder in the EU ? for a balanced B22, I can even accept 2000 euros instead of 2000 dollars.

Otherwise, I saw the Audio-gd phoenix has got an excellent review here. I kinda prefer chinese products because I think they offer the best quality for the price.

Once again, thanks for taking your time to answer my tough question
post #11 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by xiaobao0707 View Post
.............
So the 2000$ will go to an excellent amp. I really what to go balanced. I've thought about a B22. But can anyone suggest an excellent builder in the EU ? for a balanced B22, I can even accept 2000 euros instead of 2000 dollars...................
Maybe ask in the DIY forums?

Once again, good luck!
post #12 of 42
Balance all the way is what I pick for my case and The Phoenix + Ref one is the best buy if you want to go balance, cast with balance DAC, preamp and etc (remote, lots of inputs and outputs options).... more options later.

The balance B22 might have better SQ?, but cost more if you get someone to build ... you can almost get the Balance REF one to go with the phoenix using cast. I use the phoenix with the balance Denon d7000 which has enough bass, and plan to add a balance HD800 later.

Good luck
post #13 of 42
Have you had opportunities to audition the HD800s on good equipment? It isn't for everyone, and even the "best" theoretical setups can sound like garbage to you. You really can't judge based on recommendations. Not even the mighty Beta is everyone's favorite SS amp.
post #14 of 42
I've long been partial to the Zana Deux - it's a terrific choice for the HD-650, HD-800 and many GS-1000 owners love the combination, too.

I also loved the Beta22. When I get some free time, I intend to assemble a box of parts into one. But today is yet another Saturday at the office.

As for balanced operation... I've decided against it. To go truly balanced costs a great deal of money and I'd have to give up some wonderful sources. Further, much of what's out there isn't entirely balanced. Manufacturers know that a "balanced" label and XLR jacks mean that they can charge more for the product. However, you might find something rather single-ended inside the box.

If you really want to go fully - and truly - balanced, it will cost you a great deal of money and you will have to do a bi of homework to determine what is and is not actually balanced. Otherwise, you will pay too much for a single-ended setup with XLR jacks.

If you are considering a custom amp, be sure to consider the projects listed at HeadWize and at Pete Millett's site. There are wonderful amps that you can have built within your budget.

If you are looking for someone willing to build tube amps, go to your local store that sells electric guitars. They will also sell tubed guitar amps and will know at least technician that builds and repairs tube amps. There isn't a huge amount of difference between guitar amps and hi-fi amps. You can also look around for people who restore old radios; they will be able to build anything you want. You might also want to contact a local amateur radio club - they will have members who can build an amp for you.
post #15 of 42
The Phoenix and REF 1 are fully differential balanced designs (so no short cuts). Just an FYI.

Peete.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Headphone Amps (full-size)
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphone Amps (full-size) › Headphone amp ranking