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Dedicated headphone amp vs. Stereo receiver.

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

I love listening to my DENON AH-D2000's, but realize they need a more powerful source than my I-pod. I also listen to speakers powered by an old Sony stereo receiver. I have been looking at headphone amps but was think that I could just put money into upgrading my receiver and use that to power my headphones.


So my question is; Is a stereo receiver (particularly the HK 3490) a good source for headphones? and what difference does a dedicated headphone amp have over the receiver that would make it worth investing in?


just a side note, I am on a budget, around $300.

Edited by Teds617 - 12/14/10 at 8:17pm
post #2 of 14

Given a Lottery win, I would do two things with my life:


a. create the best privately owned tropical garden in the universe

b. buy amps (integrated, pre/power, headphone) and document my impressions of the capability of the headphone out on each


I am led to believe that the headphone stage on many Luxman and Marantz amps, be they vintage or current models, is reportedly very good, but the NAD amps I auditioned 12 months back simply didnt compare to the Stello HP100. Until I win that Lottery, the answer is a definite maybe.

post #3 of 14

Most receivers other than the vintage ones are pretty weak in the headphone output, because they don't want little Timmy and Susie to blow out their iBuds, unfortunately. I'll be using the HK 3390 to power me HE-6's this weekend though, from the speaker posts that is.



post #4 of 14

I could ask you to provide technical proof of that statement, but I'm not that unkind. Enough to say that this subject has been well covered in numerous other threads, which of course doesn't prevent the same myths (integrated amps and receivers have poor headphone outputs) from arising. The truth is, most HP outputs on good brand (Marantz, Rotel, Denon, Nad) non AV equipment sound perfectly fine, and a few sound outstanding. AV equipment I'm not well versed on. Probably have to be taken on a case-by-case basis.  



Originally Posted by BournePerfect View Post

Most receivers other than the vintage ones are pretty weak in the headphone output, because they don't want little Timmy and Susie to blow out their iBuds,  

post #5 of 14

I could ask you to do your research, but I'm not that unkind, mate. ;)



post #6 of 14

my dt990 250 ohm is bring driven by a HK avr 130...at -3 db , it is loud enough....and so clear...it works well with sennheiser hd205 also..listening to flac files really brings out the receivers clairty..

post #7 of 14

Nice Rocky2. I think that is one of HK's biggest strengths-clarity. Glad you're enjoying the combo.



post #8 of 14
My Marantz AV8003 A/V pre-amp has a GREAT headphones amp. My Denon PMA2000ivr integrated amp is second runner. However, both are not cheap to begin with.
post #9 of 14
Originally Posted by BournePerfect View Post

I could ask you to do your research, but I'm not that unkind, mate. ;)



The research has already been done in previous threads many times over. It includes contacting manufacturers re their methods of powering their HP jacks and impressions from numerous contributors about results obtained with different combinations of amps and receivers. I myself have auditioned dozens of integrated amps with various phones with encouraging results, such that I'm convinced there's no truth in your statement about weak HP outputs. I can only wonder if this is a conclusion of yours based on solid experience or just a repetition of an oft-repeated myth,   

post #10 of 14

there is still some modern stereo receivers that use same design as some old vintage models but are very expensive(outlaw amps and NAD are great) but be much cheaper and better route with vintage model (kenwood,sansui,rotel,H/K,fisher,hitachi,sony,luxman,ect.) from the 70's,80's and even early 90's. older amps just used a simple resistor(depending on the amp design) between the  power amp section and the headphone jack so the speaker amp don't fry the headphones. like my 1972 sansui 5000X uses a 680ohm@1w resistor for the headphone out. not like modern receivers where it uses seperate op-amp circuits for the speakers and headphone jack. still all depends, i don't have much experience with modern day receivers,especially HT. HT receivers tho are more about digital processing and inputs then just raw power like most stereo amps. that's why stereo amps will always be better for music especially vintage receivers.

post #11 of 14

I'm with pp312 on this - the topic should be included any sticky aimed at introducing newbies to the headphone world - it still wouldnt stop the same question being asked repeatedly, but it might allow us to simply point them to the 'FAQ'.

post #12 of 14

Like everything else, I think this is a question best answered with a lot of "depends".  (And I don't mean the undergarments.) 


I used to have an HK 3385 stereo receiver whose headphone output was AWFUL.  For a $200 stereo receiver, I wouldn't have expected much.  On the other hand, one of the best SS headamps I've ever heard was in the Emotiva USP-1 preamp which is only $400.  The KICAS amp I bought not too long ago is a fantastic bargain at $229 (if they're still that much...or even if they're back to normal price).  At more like $190, you could do worse than a Cute Beyond, too.  So there ARE great bargains to be had in that price category.  


But the headphone stage in my Peachtree Decco2 beats the snot out of all of them.  k701smile.gif

Edited by irishsammy - 12/16/10 at 7:25pm
post #13 of 14

you don't have to spend that much on stereo receivers to get fantastic sound. all my amps were either free(my 1976 craig h500) or under 70 bucks and all sound wonderful with speakers and  headphones(all of'em,yes). there just very heavy and not exactly easy to move around. i spent more on my headphones and speakers than my amps. just need to know how to shop around and where to look.

post #14 of 14
*4yr old thread bump*

After three dedicated HP amps,I tried a stereo receiver on a whim,a basic Yamaha R-S201. Its sq has everything that I felt the three amps lacked or had too much of. Mind you that all three amps are considered budget amp and I bought the receiver just above the price point of those amps and it came out on top.

At this point,I wouldn't look for another dedicated HP amp because I like the combo I have (Grado 325i,Schiit Modi and the receiver).
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