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Best Preamp With Great Headphone Out Quality To Go With Push Pull Amp?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Greetings all, once again,


A couple weeks ago I happened to be out of town for work, and had the chance to listen to the Cary Rocket 88 tube power amp. This is one of the much vaunted push pull designs and I have to say that the sound was glorius. I heard it paired with a Cary SLP-308 preamp and was just blown away. I was already a Cary fan, owning my current SLI-80 Signature integrated amp and using that for all my headphone listening, but the Rocket/308 combination is of another order of magnitude in terms of sound quality.
Since then, I've been pondering things a bit in regard to this. Rocket 88s show up fairly regularly on Audiogon for $1300-1400.00 so thats reasonably affordable, no problem there. The SLP-308 is fairly new, but only lists for $1995.00, a used or discounted one would certainly be affordable, BUT, it has no headphone out, which is a terrible shame, as its just superb. I've not personally heard a better preamp, and that includes some rather famous ones at up to three and four times the price.
What would you recommend as a great overall preamplifier (tubed, I would think best) that could be bought, used for say $1300.00 or less to pair with the Rocket 88 ?
If I were to go ahead with this, I would be using the amp/preamp combo in conjunction with CDP555ES "Hot Rod" cd source, and powering my Sony CD3000's, AKG K1000's, and speakers that will be varying. It would be replacing my SLI-80.
As always, thanks for any suggestions, recommendations, accumulated knowledge or collective wisdom. Thanks.



JC
post #2 of 18
Hi JC,
How soon are you looking to make a decision? Sounds like Ray Samuels upcoming tubed Emmeline 2 the Stealth, might just fill the bill (price-wise, too)? (Wow, I'm really pimping Ray's stuff today, aren't I? Oh well.) I have to believe that it will be marvelous as a headamp and pre-amp, based on reaction to his other gear, at least worth an audition. Anyway, I look forward to hearing one hopefully relatively soon-ish (don't know street-date).

Mark
post #3 of 18
My integrated has a "pre-out" output jack, so if I were in your situation I could use it with a new power amplifier.

Does your Cary lack this? If so, too bad because I understand that its headphone jack is fabulous (I haven't heard it )

So your enthusiasm for the Rocket 88/308 combo must be based on loudspeakers and not a headphone audition?

Have fun deciding!
post #4 of 18
Hmmm...It's not the same budget but if you can save and wait a little ( i saved 4 years for it !) and spend $5250 (list price) on the Manley 300B preamp, then you will be settle for life IMHO and you will forget about Cary, believe me!
post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by markl
Hi JC,
How soon are you looking to make a decision? Sounds like Ray Samuels upcoming tubed Emmeline 2 the Stealth, might just fill the bill (price-wise, too)? (Wow, I'm really pimping Ray's stuff today, aren't I? Oh well.) I have to believe that it will be marvelous as a headamp and pre-amp, based on reaction to his other gear, at least worth an audition. Anyway, I look forward to hearing one hopefully relatively soon-ish (don't know street-date).
Mark

Mark,


No rush on this, its not as though I am in the least unhappy with my Cary SLI-80, just something I was pondering.
Thanks for reminding me about this, I had a brain glitch and forgot all about Ray's soon to be appearing amp. It indeed might be just the ticket. I heard the protoype at the recent Detroit Head-Fi meet and was impressed. I expct the final production version will be even better, as Ray was still tweaking it. This could be an interesting choice. I know that Ray is particularly proud of it as a preamp and we all know what a brilliant audio designer he is.


JC
post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by daycart1
My integrated has a "pre-out" output jack, so if I were in your situation I could use it with a new power amplifier.

Does your Cary lack this? If so, too bad because I understand that its headphone jack is fabulous (I haven't heard it )

So your enthusiasm for the Rocket 88/308 combo must be based on loudspeakers and not a headphone audition?
Have fun deciding!
It was indeed a speaker audition but thankfully on speakers that were of the same model of ones I own. My real concern is in finding a preamp with a great headphone output that is sonically comparable to the Cary SLP-308, which may, sadly, be impossible. If I cant make that piece of the scenario work, there really isnt any point in going this route.
As for my SLI-80 having a pre-out output jack, sadly, it dosent, or I would have indeed considered going that route. And the headphone out of the SLI-80 is, as you described, "fabulous". I personally feel that it is second only to Jude's famous ASL Twinhead Mk II "CES Ringer Amp" and the Blockhead amongst everything I've heard. I wouldnt even consider parting with it unless there is a way to equal the sound I heard with the Rocket 88 and the 308 while using headphones.


JC
post #7 of 18
Could you contact Cary and see if they would add a headphone out to the preamp your looking at. They do all kinds of signature mods to their stuff already. If so it probably wouldnt be that much more.
post #8 of 18
Melos! Melos! Melos!
post #9 of 18
Quote:
Originally posted by TimSchirmer
Melos! Melos! Melos!
Phillyaudio! Phillyaudio! Phillyaudio!
Sadly, I am the only owner of the phillyaudio preamp/headphone amp in the whole world. I don't know if the manufacturer is planning to make any more.
post #10 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by sacd lover
Could you contact Cary and see if they would add a headphone out to the preamp your looking at. They do all kinds of signature mods to their stuff already. If so it probably wouldnt be that much more.

VERY good idea, Earl. Thanks, I will check into it.


JC
post #11 of 18

Rogue 99

Nightfall,

The Rogue Audio 99 (regular or Magnum version) is a well-reviewed tubed pre-amp with a headphone jack on the rear panel.

I recently did some listening to tube integrateds with headphone jacks to see if I could kill two birds (excellent headphone amping + power for speakers) with one component. I heard the VTL I-85, Cary SLI-80 and the Rogue 99 pre-amp. My experience, with Senn 600's w/ stock cable: The VTL was smooth, but lacking in bass; the Rogue sounded constricted; the Cary rocked, as did the Cary 303/200 that was used as a source.

I thought the Rogue sounded weird, but maybe the unit I heard was defective in some way. If you can find one in your area, you might want to give a listen, but having Cary modify the unit you really want seems like the way to go.
post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 

Re: Rogue 99

Thanks very much for the info Dave, I hadnt known anyone else who actually had the opportunity to listen to the Rogue. The Cary is truly outstanding for headphones (and damned good with speakers too).

JC


Quote:
Originally posted by dave-the-rave
Nightfall,

The Rogue Audio 99 (regular or Magnum version) is a well-reviewed tubed pre-amp with a headphone jack on the rear panel.

I recently did some listening to tube integrateds with headphone jacks to see if I could kill two birds (excellent headphone amping + power for speakers) with one component. I heard the VTL I-85, Cary SLI-80 and the Rogue 99 pre-amp. My experience, with Senn 600's w/ stock cable: The VTL was smooth, but lacking in bass; the Rogue sounded constricted; the Cary rocked, as did the Cary 303/200 that was used as a source.

I thought the Rogue sounded weird, but maybe the unit I heard was defective in some way. If you can find one in your area, you might want to give a listen, but having Cary modify the unit you really want seems like the way to go.
post #13 of 18
Nightfall. Have you heard the PS Audio PCA-2 preamp yet? It gets rave reviews, but to be frank, I have been less than impressed with mine. It is good for a headphone amp, but has yet to set itself apart as a preamp. It has great features, but the bottomline is the sound, although not bad, is not even close to my other preamp, the ASL Twin Head MK II. Good luck.
post #14 of 18
I have heard the latest version of Ray Samuels Emmeline 2 Stealth preamp with the production boards and parts and it sounds amazing. Hopefully Ray will have a final production sample ready for the Chicago meet next week. I am super impressed with this preamp but was less than moved by it in Detroit when I heard it with a hand-wired board and in a slightly different circuit design. I promise you will be impressed with it and the intro price will make it an unbeatable value. It is an even more amazing preamp and I'm gonna buy the first production unit when it's done.
post #15 of 18
The Sonic Frontiers Line 1, 2, and 3 has an above average headphone jack (uses Headroom tech). It's not as good as a Melos, but the line stage is quite a bit better.

You can read about it in an earlier thread:
http://www4.head-fi.org/forums/showt...onic+frontiers

You can find these for ~$1K used on Audiogon. I've had a Line 1 for around a year now, pretty happy with the sound. It is a fairly neutral tone for a tube amp. The build quality is nice and the round puck remote is the best I've used.



The internals are very symmetrical, it would be fun to upgrade the caps later on.

Kwarth has a Line 2 and he likes it also.
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