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Help with Amp Recommendation

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hey Guys,

 

Don't know if I should be posting the Computer Thread, but I am looking for a good, decently powerful, somewhat compact and budget minded amp (~$150CAD) to be hooked up to my computer through my sound card.  New or used, I'm fine with either.  I'm new to the whole non-portable headfi scene so I don't know about available amps in this market niche.  Though I do have a question, are DACs really necessary?  So far I've read on the Zero Amp/DAC, Qinpu, and older Meier Corda Amps such as the HeadFive (which seem to be very good).  So far my only headphone is the HF2 but I am looking for other higher impedance headphones such as the HD600 and some Beyer, so I may need an amp to be able to drive these.

 

So far, I have interest in the HeadFive (4 years older), but how does it compare with the newer Chinese built amps?  Or do you guys have any other suggestions?  Oh, and I don't really want to look at older home theatre amps or receivers. 

 

Thanks

post #2 of 10
For $150, your options are pretty limited. Most of the new commercial amps have cut a lot of corners to get to a low price point. If you add up the cost of parts in a good amp, you go over $150 pretty fast.

A used HeadFive is a good choice - I had one for awhile and was generally pleased with it. You might be able to find some of the XCan and Creek models inexpensively, as well. Buying used is a good idea.

If you're willing to build an amp, something like the CK2III can be done for $150 if you're careful.

And while you said you're not interested in receievers, they're often the best choice. The sum total of parts inside one is usually more than what they cost now. You can take advantage of the depreciation and save a lot of money. Also, they usually come with a tuner and the ability to connect a turntable.
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Erik View Post

For $150, your options are pretty limited. Most of the new commercial amps have cut a lot of corners to get to a low price point. If you add up the cost of parts in a good amp, you go over $150 pretty fast.

A used HeadFive is a good choice - I had one for awhile and was generally pleased with it. You might be able to find some of the XCan and Creek models inexpensively, as well. Buying used is a good idea.

If you're willing to build an amp, something like the CK2III can be done for $150 if you're careful.

And while you said you're not interested in receievers, they're often the best choice. The sum total of parts inside one is usually more than what they cost now. You can take advantage of the depreciation and save a lot of money. Also, they usually come with a tuner and the ability to connect a turntable.


Yeah I figured $150 wouldn't get me that far, but my money is a bit tied up at this point (have a HF2 Vixen V3 coming in) and another toy, that's when I thought I should get a proper amp.  I don't have the proper tools to build an amp, so generally anything DIY is out of the question unless it involves me just screwing things in haha.  I'll take a look if I can find some XCan, but I remember reading Creek amps weren't that great, though I think the review was on the OBH-21 or 22 that can be found around $150. 

 

Size is an issue when it comes to older receivers and amps,  I know they're great but I don't have the room, but I try to keep the receiver option available.  But, I will look into a receiver and turntable for my Dad and his mountain collection of LPs haha.

 

I found this http://www.canuckaudiomart.com/details/180620-jamo_mpa101_amplifier__bridgeable_low_pass_filter_built_in__shipped/ and it sounds pretty good, but no idea about this particular amp.  I really like the idea of buying used items, saves me a lot of money.

 

Edit: the Jamo is not a headphone amp.


Edited by mythless - 7/19/10 at 7:48pm
post #4 of 10

The creek Amps are not that bad , for the price if you can get 1 2nd hand its a good starter

post #5 of 10

There is a millet starving student hybrid for sale in the FS forums. It's $150. I would get that if I only had easy to drive headphones. Never heard the amp myself, but it's well-regarded around here. For higher impedance headphones I would get a vintage reciever for that budget. I used a 10 year old reciever to drive my 300 and 600 ohm cans and it's way better than the commercial amps you can buy for $150.

post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 

Quick question regarding older Meier Amps, are they able to drive 200-300ohm headphones?  Just saw a Meier Swing on ebay.

post #7 of 10

Impedance keeps coming up, and we really need a Wiki on it, but high impedance does not mean difficult to drive.  It doesn't really mean anything until you know the output impedance of the amp.  The closer the impedance match, the better the power transfers from the amp to the headphones.

 

Think about it as connecting two water piper together.  If the pipes are the same size, you're not going to lose any pressure connecting them.  If the pipes are different sizes, the pressure could get higher or lower depending on which is bigger or smaller.  Impedance is like the diameter of the pipes.  That tells you how well they connect, but it does not tell you how much water is going through the pipe or how much water is needed at the other end.  How much water goes through the pipe is like the output power of the amp.  How much water is needed at the other end is like the sensitivity of the headphones.

 

So even if you have a perfect impedance match, if your amp only puts out 500mW, it's not going to be able to power something really inefficient like a pair of Magnepans.  But 500mW would make a reasonable amount of sound with something very efficient, like a pair of Lowthers.

post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Erik View Post

Impedance keeps coming up, and we really need a Wiki on it, but high impedance does not mean difficult to drive.  It doesn't really mean anything until you know the output impedance of the amp.  The closer the impedance match, the better the power transfers from the amp to the headphones.

 

Think about it as connecting two water piper together.  If the pipes are the same size, you're not going to lose any pressure connecting them.  If the pipes are different sizes, the pressure could get higher or lower depending on which is bigger or smaller.  Impedance is like the diameter of the pipes.  That tells you how well they connect, but it does not tell you how much water is going through the pipe or how much water is needed at the other end.  How much water goes through the pipe is like the output power of the amp.  How much water is needed at the other end is like the sensitivity of the headphones.

 

So even if you have a perfect impedance match, if your amp only puts out 500mW, it's not going to be able to power something really inefficient like a pair of Magnepans.  But 500mW would make a reasonable amount of sound with something very efficient, like a pair of Lowthers.

 

 

That is a really good analogy, thanks Uncle Erik :D.  Sad part, while I understand the analogy, figuring out how the technical details of the amp itself and and the headphones all come together might be a separate issue.  And I doubt using simple physics will help me try to understand but, I’ll attempt it even though I know there are much more variables to calculate for.

 

So trying to put this into perspective. If the HD600 has an impedance of 300 ohms with a sensitivity of 97db/ 1mW.  And, the Corda Swing max volts (11V) and amps (0.025A), the total power is 2.75 watts and the impedance is 44 ohms?  So, the corda can’t drive the HD600?  Gain switch is a whole new ball game for me.


Edit: Well, that information is completely wrong, I just looked at the manual, the input impedance is 11kOhms (headphone?), and the output impedance is <1ohm (what the Swing can produce?).


Edited by mythless - 7/20/10 at 12:52pm
post #9 of 10

Have you looked at any of the LittleDot products? You could easily get a MKII for that budget, and just add a DAC later. Here's the specs from their website, littledot.net:

 

  • SEPP (Singled-ended Push Pull) OTL in Class-A
  • Input: Gold-Plated Unbalanced Phono (RCA) Jacks
  • Output: 1/4" Gold-Plated Stereo Headphone out
  • Driver Tubes: 6JI
  • Power Tubes: 6N6
  • Frequency Response: 20HZ - 50KHz (-1dB)
  • THD+N: 0.1% (50mW into 300 ohms)
  • Suitable Headphone Impedance: 32 - 600 ohms
  • Input Impedance: 50K ohms
  • Pre-Amplifier Output Impedance: 600 ohms
  • Pre-Amplifier Gain: 3-10x (also controlled via gain switches)
  • Pre-Amplifier Voltage: 10V RMS
  • Pre-Amplification circuit includes both driver and power tubes
  • Power Output:
  • 300mW into 300 ohms
  • 200mW into 120 ohms
  • 100mW into 32 ohms
  • Power Consumption: 28W (228V x 0.124A)
  • Metric: 210mm (length) by 110mm (width) by 130mm (height)
  • English: 8.26 inches (length) by 4.33 inches (width) by 4.18 inches (height)
  • Weight: 2.5 kg or 5.5 lbs.
  • 1 Year Little Dot Warranty

Edited by onef - 7/20/10 at 1:16pm
post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 

Yes, I've looked at the little dots, but it's quite expensive shipped to Canada unless I find them used.  Budget is really tight.  Anyone have any thoughts on EF2, Qinpu Q2 maybe A3 and Zero Amps DAC over the Meier?

 

Though this one looks quite interesting

http://cgi.ebay.ca/ZERO-24-192KHz-DAC-HEAD-AMP-w-USB-SPDIF-converter-/230498083134?cmd=ViewItem&pt=LH_DefaultDomain_2&hash=item35aac1a13e

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