Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphone Amps (full-size) › Looking for a balanced tube headamp/preamp
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Looking for a balanced tube headamp/preamp

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 

Looking for some amps to research, hoping for some advice on models to look at.

 

I currently have a Little Dot MKVI.  This amp is functionally very much what I'm looking for, but I'm curious about what I could be hearing if I step it up in cost/quality.  I do like the the LD, but compared to, say, an RSA B-52, it's obviously not in the same league.  I tried the B-52 prototype at the NYC head-fi meet in 2007, and have simply never heard anything like it.  If I had $5350 to spend on an amp, you wouldn't be reading this thread, I would buy the RSA Beast-52 in a heartbeat.

 

But alas, I just can't see spending that much right now.  So what I'm looking for are amps somewhere in between the LD and the RSA.

 

Fully balanced, fully tubed, which functions as both a balanced headphone amp, as well as a pre-amplifier for my loudspeaker system.  Multiple analog inputs with switching capability like the B-52 would be great, but not an absolute necessity because my DAC can do the switching.

 

A bit about the rest of my components, if that helps identify choices.

 

Although I haven't received it yet, my source will be a Bolder digital-modded Squeezebox Touch, playing primarily redbook ALAC and FLAC, but also 2496 FLAC.  The Squeezebox feeds a Benchmark DAC1 Pre.  The Benchmark is currently the balanced source for my LD MKVI, which is what I'm researching other options for.  From the MKVI, I am feeding a Krell KAV-2250 amp (balanced), which then powers my Sonicap/Mills modded Polk SDA-1C's.  

 

For headphones, I am using Senn 800's with a Double Helix Molecule (copper) 4-pin XLR balanced cable.  I'd love the balanced headphone amp in question to have a 4-pin XLR so I don't need to modify the cable, but if necessary, of course, 2x3-pin is certainly an option.

 

I've got some fantastic tubes for the LD - Brimar CV1985 and Valvo 6SL7GT drivers, and a matched quad of Svetlana Winged "C" 6AS7 power tubes.  That's over $500 in NOS tubes, so it would be a big plus for an amp to be able to use these.

 

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

post #2 of 34

Eddie Current Balancing Act


Edited by bozebuttons - 4/9/11 at 2:52pm
post #3 of 34

 

Quote:
Eddie Current Balancing Act

 

x2

post #4 of 34
Thread Starter 

Whew!  Just read the ECBA thread - all 53 pages of it!  I'm very intrigued by it, but also aware that at $3950, plus $200 for the pss upgrade, and possibly a pot upgrade, not to mention what appear to be some very expensive tubes, this amp can quickly climb to a price point very close to the B52.

 

There were a few comments along the lines of "has anyone compared this to the B52" in that thread, but that question was never answered.  I would be very interested in hearing from someone who has compared both.

 

Also interested in hearing if there are any less expensive alternatives that would still be a significant sonic upgrade to the LDMKVI?  Retail price (without shipping from China) of the LD is $685, where the ECBA and the RSA B-52 are $4000-$5000.  There's a lot of wallet ground in between, so wondering what options are out there for me.

 

I see a lot of people attracted to Woo Audio.  I've investigated that line, and none of the models are quite what I'm looking for, particularly a balanced tube combo headamp/preamp.

 

I'd love to get a listen to the ECBA at some point!

 

Any other ideas?

post #5 of 34

Note that the LD MK VI is indeed not in the same league as the B52 - it is, in fact, in a HIGHER league.  Try not to equate price with quality ;) 

post #6 of 34
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by El_Doug View Post

Note that the LD MK VI is indeed not in the same league as the B52 - it is, in fact, in a HIGHER league.  Try not to equate price with quality wink.gif 


Read my initial post. I've heard them both. I'm not basing my opinion that the B-52 is a better amp than the MKVI because it costs more. I'm basing it on the fact that I've listened to both with the same headphones (hd650 w/ cardas balanced cable) and the B52 blows the LD away.

Without a doubt, the LD is a great amp for the price. But are you seriously trying to tell me that money notwithstanding, the LDMKVI is a better sounding amp than a B-52?
post #7 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by nspindel View Post



Quote:
Originally Posted by El_Doug View Post

Note that the LD MK VI is indeed not in the same league as the B52 - it is, in fact, in a HIGHER league.  Try not to equate price with quality wink.gif




Read my initial post. I've heard them both. I'm not basing my opinion that the B-52 is a better amp than the MKVI because it costs more. I'm basing it on the fact that I've listened to both with the same headphones (hd650 w/ cardas balanced cable) and the B52 blows the LD away.

Without a doubt, the LD is a great amp for the price. But are you seriously trying to tell me that money notwithstanding, the LDMKVI is a better sounding amp than a B-52?

 

I somehow missed the "I tried it in 2007" sentence - my apologies :) 

 

But yes, I am suggesting that I prefer the LD MK VI far and away above the B52.  The former is far more controlled, faster, and clearer, whereas the latter sounds congested and "tubey."  Have you heard both of the amps at the same time?  Sound memory is notoriously bad, and basing your judgment off of a single meet condition listening session 4 years ago may not be the wisest course of action for such a huge purchase. 

post #8 of 34
Thread Starter 
No I haven't listened at the same time, and am indeed basing my judgement on impressions from four years ago. However, that was one hell of an impression. I literally fell back in my chair with a "wow, it just doesn't get any better than this!" sensation. While I enjoy my LDVI, it has never left me anywhere close to that. Listening to the B-52 was probably one of the single biggest "Wow" moments I've had in my 25 years of the audio hobby.

Please don't think I'm knocking the LD. If you're looking for a balanced tubed headphone amp and a preamp in one, I don't see how you find a better product for below $1000, maybe more. It's a fine amp, I don't question that.

I love my Volkswagen. It's a ton of fun to drive. I have the EOS - hard top convertible, stick shift, great fun. But let's face it. A Mercedes S-Class smokes my VW. Not because it cost $60,000 more. It just smokes it. That's not a knock to my VW. They're just in different leagues.
post #9 of 34
Thread Starter 
Another positive thing that must be mentioned for Little Dot is that their customer service is off the charts. David is just awesome - every question is answered, every issue is solved, and the turnaround time is incredibly fast. Sometimes I wonder if that guy ever sleeps.
post #10 of 34
Watching with interest. May be in the market for one also but I would add left/right indendant volume controls. Fell In love with that feature on my SR-71b
post #11 of 34

Head-fi is a magical space and this is exactly the thread I am seriously looking for.

I am exactly in the same situation as nspindel. I have a Little Dot MK8 amp driving hd800, and I am very please with it. But the satisfaction leads to further desire of upgrade, and I am looking at......B52 and Balancing Act!

And here is the rub. I have no chance to audition the desired highend gear. How much improvement I will get for paying much much more? I even dread the nightmare that I will get no improvement at all when I finally got it. As El_Doug said, this is not totally impossible.

And nspindel says B52 is vastly superior to Little Dot MK6. 

Also Sword Yang made it very clear that Little Dot MK6 is more suited for driving low impedence phones, and MK8 is specially designed for HD800. So MK8 is already much better (and more expensive) than MK6 when driving HD800.

Ah, so much possibility and so much uncertainty!

To wrap it up: will B52 or BA much better than Little Dot MK8 when driving HD800?

post #12 of 34

Hi nspindel, What about a WA22? 4pin xlr input, I think it can be modified to have a pre-out, fits most of your criteria and is in between the LD and B52 price wise. I haven't heard it myself I just know from reading the WA Amp Owners Unite thread that its a popular combo with the HD800s.

post #13 of 34
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RTF View Post

Hi nspindel, What about a WA22? 4pin xlr input, I think it can be modified to have a pre-out, fits most of your criteria and is in between the LD and B52 price wise. I haven't heard it myself I just know from reading the WA Amp Owners Unite thread that its a popular combo with the HD800s.


 

Hmmm, I'd pretty much ruled out the WA on the basis that it wasn't a pre-amp.  Do you have any links showing how it's modded to a pre-amp?  Does Woo do that for you or is it aftermarket/DIY? 


 

 

post #14 of 34
Thread Starter 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by yanfeng View Post

Head-fi is a magical space and this is exactly the thread I am seriously looking for.

I am exactly in the same situation as nspindel. I have a Little Dot MK8 amp driving hd800, and I am very please with it. But the satisfaction leads to further desire of upgrade, and I am looking at......B52 and Balancing Act!

And here is the rub. I have no chance to audition the desired highend gear. How much improvement I will get for paying much much more? I even dread the nightmare that I will get no improvement at all when I finally got it. As El_Doug said, this is not totally impossible.

And nspindel says B52 is vastly superior to Little Dot MK6. 

Also Sword Yang made it very clear that Little Dot MK6 is more suited for driving low impedence phones, and MK8 is specially designed for HD800. So MK8 is already much better (and more expensive) than MK6 when driving HD800.

Ah, so much possibility and so much uncertainty!

To wrap it up: will B52 or BA much better than Little Dot MK8 when driving HD800?


 

Are the 650's and the 800's that different to drive?  Aren't they both 300 ohms?  I remember reading somewhere that the design of the MKVI was all about the Senn 650.

 

By the way, I'm subtly re-thinking my approach here.  One of the main drivers for this thread was the fact that I have new Senn 800's, and initial impressions were that they were sounding pretty thin.  But speaking to Double Helix about my cable, they recommend burning the copper version in for 300 hours.  So I want to do that before I make any critical amp decisions.  I've got the 800's playing single ended with the adapter on the Double Helix through the headamp in my Benchmark, there's no reason to put 300 hours on the MKVI/tubes just to break in a headphone cable.

 

Really looking forward to re-evaluating the MKVI after the cable opens up, I may be quite pleasantly surprised.

 

But still very interested in other amps that suit my purpose.  The nice thing about starting off with a great amp like the MKVI is that there's no reason for me to rush.
 


 

 

post #15 of 34

Woo does it.  Pretty sureI read it in the WA Amp Owners Unite thread, though to find out for sure you would be best off emailing Woo.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Headphone Amps (full-size)
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphone Amps (full-size) › Looking for a balanced tube headamp/preamp