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What's the best solid state headphone amp today? - Page 3

post #31 of 91
I put my vote on a quad board β22
post #32 of 91
For dynamic cans, definitely Ray's Apache. I really wish he would make a version for stats to challenge the KGSS.
post #33 of 91
I use the Grace m902B with my HD 800 - it's superb.

At a lower price, the Lehmann Black Cube and DACS Clarity HeadMaster are also excellent.

The Grace and DACS both also have integral DACs.

I know at a recent UK meet that people did like the sound of the HD 800 through the DACS HeadMaster - so much so that DACS are considering building a version in a more consumer-friendly housing (the original is 1U 19" rack mounting for broadcast and recording studios).
post #34 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Acix View Post
The Phonitor smoke the Grace m902.
I respect your opinion, but actually the answer isn't so clear cut, and I can't even say if the Phonitor is superior to the Grace.

I've started doing the comparison tonight.. I've had the Grace and the 4ch Beta22 for a while, so I'm very familiar with those. But tonight I put all three amplifiers to a comparison, and this is what I found:

The Phonitor and the Grace does the solid state sound very differently. Both are very fine solid state, both very musical and far from a dry or harsh sounding solid state.

The Phonitor is very smooth, going to the direction of tube amplifiers. While it's smooth, it's not exactly a tube amp, so the sound is not mellow nor liquid, as when you are hearing a tube amplifier. It's midrange is also not as full bodied as tube amplifiers. It's just that being a solid state, the Phonitor is smooth sounding. Similar to the smooth EC/SS in this regard, only the Phonitor is a lot more transparent and resolving than the EC/SS.

The Grace, on the other hand, has a nice sparkle in the sound. The sinergy is great if you want to hear more detail in the music. I wouldn't say that the Grace is more detailed than the Phonitor, but rather, a difference in sound signature. What I love about the Grace is that this "sparkle", this detailed sound doesn't come with the slightest hint of shrillness and sharpness. The Grace is very musical.

The next big difference between the Grace and the Phonitor is how they lay the soundstage for the music. The Grace is significantly bigger in width, and the overall sphere of the soundstage. While that sounds like an advantage to the Grace, I actually felt that the smaller soundstage of the Phonitor gives an advantage of better focus. This may be a headphone sinergy, as I'm using the HD800 with APS cable, and the huge soundstage of the HD800, combined with the huge soundstage of the Grace may seem to make it hard to focus on the music.

Let me explain more. On the Grace, I felt that the music is playing all around me. On the Phonitor, I felt that I'm looking at the music from a slightly elevated position, further back than my seating position at the grace. Though the orchestra doesn't lay as wide in the Phonitor, I was able to get a clearer focus on the instruments that is playing at any given time. Both are great with instrument separation. The Phonitor may be a little better with the depth of the soundstage, but I am a 100% sure at the moment. The different soundstage characteristics of the Grace and the Phonitor makes it hard to judge which one can be considered superior, as it will depend a great deal on the headphone being used.

What I do consider an advantage of the Grace, aside from its compact size, built-in DAC, and RCA input and loop out(the Phonitor only takes XLR input, despite its single ended output), is that the Grace does a better rendition of the piano. Piano sounds a bit muffled in the Phonitor, and sounds like some of the treble extension is being cut, where the Grace presents a more real and lifelike piano sound.

While I haven't compared the crossfade function on both amps thoroughly, the Phonitor should be better in that aspect. However, I was surprised to find that the crossfeed function on the Grace, in the brief listening that I had, seems to not fall that far behind the Phonitor. Of course the Phonitor lets you adjust the amount of crossfeed and speaker angle, while the Grace has none of that control, but I'm surprised that the Grace was able to present crossfeed without losing too much transparency from the original signal.

When I moved to the 4 channel B22, it's clearly more superior than both the Phonitor and the Grace. Every instruments just sounded more real and life-like in the B22. The soundstage presentation on the B22 is similar to the Grace, though the sphere is bigger than the Grace. Also, being a fully balanced amplifier, the B22 gives a better bottom end for the HD800 than the single ended amplifiers. Overall the B22 is more full bodied than either the Grace or the Phonitor. This is very evident especially in the midrange. The midrange of the HD800 on the 4ch B22 will not sound thin or analytical at all.

The system for the audition was as follow:

Source: CEC TL51XR CD Player
Interconnect: Transparent Balanced Musiclink Plus (XLR)
Amps: 4 ch B22 (w/ DACT attenuator), SPL Phonitor, Grace m902. All fed using the XLR input.
Headphone: HD800. Apuresound cable terminated to XLR. Canare L2T2S XLR to TRS adaptor.

I only listened to one CD for this test:
American Piano Classics recorded in 1993 by Telarc Digital DDD. Featuring Leroy Anderson, George Gershwin, Louis M. Gottschalk, Hershy Kay, Euday Bowman, Scott Joplin, and Morton Gould.

I'll take some more time in the coming week to listen to the three amplifiers on different headphones and different recordings. A friend is coming over with an Edition 8, so that should be a fun micromeet. We will have the HD800, the HE5, the W1000X, and the Edition 8 with the three amplifiers above. Only the HD800 and the HE5 is balanced though.

post #35 of 91
B22
post #36 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by ting.mike View Post
The problem I find with the Beta22, as amazing as it is, is that it doesn't seem to like single ended headphone very much. The issue with TRS plug makes it necessary to install higher R34 and R35 to avoid blowing up the mosfet. This has happened twice on my 4 channel B22.

But if you want to go with a balanced drive, then the 4 channel B22 is superb. I just don't like it that much for single ended anymore.

I should find time to do a B22, SPL Phonitor, and Grace m902 comparison one of these days. It would be fun.
Since it is DIY, there is a very easy fix for that issue -- just put in a 3 pin XLR or 4 pin XLR and build a 3" trs-xlr converter. That or just install higher r34 and r35. An issue with so many easy solutions doesn't seem to be much of an issue if you're looking for the best SS.
post #37 of 91
Headroom Max, anyone?
post #38 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by ting.mike View Post
The next big difference between the Grace and the Phonitor is how they lay the soundstage for the music. The Grace is significantly bigger in width, and the overall sphere of the soundstage. While that sounds like an advantage to the Grace, I actually felt that the smaller soundstage of the Phonitor gives an advantage of better focus. This may be a headphone sinergy, as I'm using the HD800 with APS cable, and the huge soundstage of the HD800, combined with the huge soundstage of the Grace may seem to make it hard to focus on the music.

Let me explain more. On the Grace, I felt that the music is playing all around me. On the Phonitor, I felt that I'm looking at the music from a slightly elevated position, further back than my seating position at the grace. Though the orchestra doesn't lay as wide in the Phonitor, I was able to get a clearer focus on the instruments that is playing at any given time. Both are great with instrument separation. The Phonitor may be a little better with the depth of the soundstage, but I am a 100% sure at the moment. The different soundstage characteristics of the Grace and the Phonitor makes it hard to judge which one can be considered superior, as it will depend a great deal on the headphone being used.
Thanks for the thoughtful comparo. I haven't heard the B22 so my comments are directed at the m902 and Phonitor.

My soundstage experience has been the direct opposite of yours. In comparison to the Phonitor, the m902 seems 2-dimensional, lacking the vast 3rd dimension depth of the Phonitor. But this difference is evident only when I compare the two. With the Phonitor, I get a spatial balance that I don't get in the m902. Perhaps the most telling measure is fatigue. With the Phonitor, this is all but eliminated.
post #39 of 91
A serious source will be important, whatever the choice, so honestly I'd look at as a search for a combined source + amp, unless the OP already has something suitably high-end. There's also the consideration of whether to go balanced or not.
post #40 of 91
Message from a friend:

"i realized that people here, and in china, have completely different taste and need than western people want. here they like japanese gears, they like gears which emphasize on extreme detail and analitical sounding, esoteric cd players, sony/denon top-end cdp, qualia 010, german made amps. anything that can not output as much detail as japs gears they considered garbage....well i am just a poor guy that almost being assimilated by them.lol............well lets back to the topic, just to share with you, i still think that rudistor rp010b is an excellent amp, especially its toning skill, there's a guy here who came back from the US as well, aka "fkclo" in head-fi, he owns almost all highest end amps, blue circle custom amp, wa5 max, rp010b, lisa, b22 4 boards with 128 steps attenuator, phonitor, earmax, dna sonett, balancing act(not arrived), valvecode(not arrived), with some crazy cdp like emmlabs, nagra cdp, chord blu stack..he picked wa5 overall the best in tube amp because it is Most toxic, and rp010b the best solid state with extremely organic and natural sound and transparancy.....i think i will take his advice because he has the authorities to say so and he is not one that emphasizes on extreme detail sounding(probably that's why he doesnt buy an esoteric cdp)....and he was quite disappinted at blue circle and b22 for the price he paid, "not really special"......so balancing act and b52, lets see how well they can do.."
post #41 of 91
2nd message:

"balancing act is not here yet i guess, as for b52, since i have not auditioned it yet i can not comment on its tone, and toning skill my fd just told me that it has solid state sounding and tasteless at the moment, so he uses his r10 and L3k with his b52 more often now..i dont think i can hear it very soon though, my fd will do more tube rolling..will keep you update"
post #42 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by feifan View Post

My soundstage experience has been the direct opposite of yours.
Are you sure about that?..

You said that the Phonitor has more depth than the Grace. I said that too.

I actually said that despite the larger soundstage of the Grace, I felt that the Phonitor lets me focus better on the instruments. So in a way, I kind of prefer the imaging of the Phonitor. But I also said that it's a matter of headphone sinergy. For some people who feels that they want a bigger soundstage, the Grace will be a better choice. For some people who feels that the soundstage is big enough, and they want more depth and better focus, they can go with the Phonitor.

And remember that the two amps sounds completely different from each other. I wouldn't say that one is superior than the other.
post #43 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Seamaster View Post
Message from a friend:

"i realized that people here, and in china, have completely different taste and need than western people want. here they like japanese gears, they like gears which emphasize on extreme detail and analitical sounding, esoteric cd players, sony/denon top-end cdp, qualia 010, german made amps. anything that can not output as much detail as japs gears they considered garbage....well i am just a poor guy that almost being assimilated by them.lol............well lets back to the topic, just to share with you, i still think that rudistor rp010b is an excellent amp, especially its toning skill, there's a guy here who came back from the US as well, aka "fkclo" in head-fi, he owns almost all highest end amps, blue circle custom amp, wa5 max, rp010b, lisa, b22 4 boards with 128 steps attenuator, phonitor, earmax, dna sonett, balancing act(not arrived), valvecode(not arrived), with some crazy cdp like emmlabs, nagra cdp, chord blu stack..he picked wa5 overall the best in tube amp because it is Most toxic, and rp010b the best solid state with extremely organic and natural sound and transparancy.....i think i will take his advice because he has the authorities to say so and he is not one that emphasizes on extreme detail sounding(probably that's why he doesnt buy an esoteric cdp)....and he was quite disappinted at blue circle and b22 for the price he paid, "not really special"......so balancing act and b52, lets see how well they can do.."
Thanks for sharing that Seamaster. It just goes to show that the OP's question of the "Best" amplifier can't really be answered.

post #44 of 91
i know i havent heard any of these top end amps, but im surprised no ones brought up the GS-X?
post #45 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by feifan View Post
Thanks for the thoughtful comparo. I haven't heard the B22 so my comments are directed at the m902 and Phonitor.

My soundstage experience has been the direct opposite of yours. In comparison to the Phonitor, the m902 seems 2-dimensional, lacking the vast 3rd dimension depth of the Phonitor. But this difference is evident only when I compare the two. With the Phonitor, I get a spatial balance that I don't get in the m902. Perhaps the most telling measure is fatigue. With the Phonitor, this is all but eliminated.
X2, also the Grace was terrible with my K340 (lean, cold and bright) whereas the Phonitor is very musical, and transparent and not fatiguing at all. The Phonitor drives all my headphones well whereas the Grace was only good with the HD650.
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