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$200-250 Headphone Amp

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I'm looking for a headphone amp around that price range. I will use them to power an M50, and in the future, either a Denon AHD2000 or Audio Technica ESW9. I listen to all types of music. If it helps, i like the sound of the M50's before burn-in occurs. I like the fullness of the bass of the M50's and was wondering if i could get more of it. Also, i would like an improved impact. However, i would also prefer if the headphones could bring out some of the mids that are recessed in the m50's. I also like to hear details that i don't usually hear. Also, i've been looking at the amps and was wondering how would i connect the Matrix m-stage, for example, to my desktop? There's no usb jack. Do i use an RCA connector to usb or something? Sorry for the naivety, i'm new to desktop amps

I'm currently debating between the:
Matrix M - Stage
Schiit Asgard
K.I.C.A.S. Caliente/ Regular
Hifiman EF5 (if i can get it used)
RSA P-51 Mustang (for portability)

Desktop/ portable doesn't matter for me, as i will use them equally

post #2 of 8

If your listening to music from your desktop then all of these amps will connect the analog output of your soundcard. These are all dedicated amplifiers and will not decode the digital output from a USB cable, you'll need a USB DAC for that purpose. If you don't already have a fancy soundcard you can go for a DAC/AMP combo like the Matrix Mini-i, Matrix Cube, Audist HUD-MX1, or Nuforce uDAC2.


I own a clone of the M-Stage and the EF-5, the are both more than power enough for the headphones you mentioned. The EF-5 has a very nice full midrange quality to it, you can also tweak your sound by changing the tube and/or the opamp. The M-Stage is a bit quicker and maybe slightly more detailed, its nice for fast rock, but doesn't have the tubey mids. I swap back and forth depending on what I'm in the mood to listen too.








Edited by francisdemarte - 12/8/10 at 7:29am
post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

Which amp has a "better" bass to it? I'm probably going to leave the Tube as the stock, so tube switching probably be won't possible. Same for the op-amp of the amp/tube amp

post #4 of 8

I picked the Schitt Valhalla for my HD 650s. Cant wait till its here.

post #5 of 8

I have the Kicas Caliente (on sale for 229) and have it paired with a Headroom Micro DAC and Sennheiser 580's. The bass is excellent and the amp has a nice warm and smooth sound that goes well with pretty much anything.

post #6 of 8

Leckerton Audio makes a line of portable DAC/amps in your price range. You can find reviews of a couple of Leckerton's products on this site; this is a detailed review of the UHA-6S that convinced me to buy one.


Unfortunately I don't have any of the headphones you name so I can't comment on how compatible it is with your listening habits. But I've found it versatile and capable of driving difficult headphones like the AKG K702, and only begins to run out of steam with high-impedence inefficient cans (which Leckerton recommends against using anyway). I have a UHA-6S plugged into the USB port of my MacBookPro right now and is driving a modded pair of DBI Pro-705 headphones. It's clean, noiseless and gets out of the way of the music.

post #7 of 8

If you are looking at home and portable, check out the Fischer Audio Mystify (it is ~$300). 

post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 

I've narrowed it down to the Matrix M stage and the K.I.C.A.S.
does anybody have both and would like to help me decide ?

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