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Headphone Amps vs Pre-Amps

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
I recently bought a pair of HD-600s for late night listening. My next step was to buy a dedicated Headphone Amp. I looked at the XCans v2 and the OBH-11SE and both were OK. Both had their good and bad points with no clear winner.

I happen to have a Rotel RC-995 pre-amp in my system. This pre-amp has a phones jack. I tried the HD-600s with this phones jack and guess what? The sound was as good if not better than the dedicated headphone amps.

Now, I assume that this is because the Rotel does not run a separate circuit/amp for the headphones output. I assume the headphones output is exactly the same as what is going to the power amp. If that is the case, then there is no justification for me purchasing a dedicated headphone amp. The Rotel would beat it every time. Is this a reasonable assumption?

Furthermore, to all owners with high quality pre-amps that have a headphone jack, are they better off sticking with their pre-amp for headphone listening? After all, isn't a headphone amp really just a pre-amp at the end of the day? If one already has a pre-amp with a headphone jack, what justification is there for a headphone amp?

I welcome your thoughts and views on this.
post #2 of 5
I know (even without listening to a dedicated headphone amp) that the headphone out on my NAD C740 ain't all that hot (it's kinda mushy). but i'm not really sure if the headphone output takes it's signal from the preamp stage or the power stage.

on a side note, the sugden headmaster seems like the ideal pre-amp for the headphone inclined, as it offers 3 inputs and what some say is a spectacular headphone out. i might just get me one of these. i have to see how the summer $$ holds out.
post #3 of 5
A headphone amp is like a preamp except it must provide enough current to drive headphones and most preamps don't. Preamps are designed to drive an amp that has an input impedance of more than 10K ohms so they don't need a lot of current; headphones are much lower impedance than that. Your Rotel either used circuits with higher current than was needed or has a seperate buffer for the headphones, which is really a headphone amp.

It's quite possible that Rotel spent a little effort and money to put in a decent headphone amp. It's a shame not to, as much of the cost of a headphone amp is in the power supply and case which the preamp already has. Most preamps don't even have a headphone jack. If they do, it's certainly worth checking out because maybe like Rotel they put in something decent.
post #4 of 5
I agree with the fact that many preamps do not spend any effort on making a quality headphone output. However some do like Costas Rotel. I have an Adcom GFP-565 that seems to have a very good headphone out, at least as compared to the Creek OBH-11, based on some preliminary comparisons. I am currently searching for a headmaster and that will probably be a more telling comparison as to the quality of the headphone output on the Adcom.
post #5 of 5
Has anyone tried the headphone jack on the Nagra PL-P pre-amp?
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