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How much better do HD 800's sound when amplified properly?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

First off, I want to say that I've been lurking around the forums for a while but this is my first official post.. so hello to you all! 

 

I'm still very new to high-end audio but already I've learnt so much since discovering this website in the last year. I was persuaded to buy a pair of HD 800's after reading so many positive reviews about them. It's been a good 3 months since they've arrived and I have to say I love the sound. The thing is.. I know they can sound better, but I just don't know how much better. I could barely afford the headphones at the time of purchase and so decided to hold off on getting an amp for them. What I've been using to drive them is my Apogee Duet. I have no problem with getting them loud and it's certainly an improvement from my last cans (hd 555's), but the time is fast approaching to treat these 800's properly and give them a good amplifier. But before I decide to get one I'm wondering: Is the improvement in sound quality going to be substantial? Will I notice some good results from an inexpensive amp as well as from the expensive stuff?

 

As a disclaimer I'd like to point out that my use for the HD 800's is two-fold. 1: To produce electronic music. 2: To enjoy music in the comfort of my home. 

 

Looking forward to spending all my hard-earned cash.. :p

post #2 of 17

1. You won't be able hear anything well if you don't amp them well. It's a power requirement, not a add on.

 

2. They are not good for producing. You don't buy a toy for producing.

 

3. Expect to pay equal or more then what you want for a headphones to have a set up to play them. I would say about $3500 to run the HD800 to their full power

 

 

Go get a Sony MDR-7509HD

 

It's the big brother to the MDR-V6 which is in every producing studio on the planet, the 7509HD is so much better, doesn't need a amp and isn't a "Celebrity" headphone at the moment. These are the top pick with any producers while working.

post #3 of 17

I find the HD 800 quite close on my Audio GD C-2.1 as to my Trafomatic Head One. You don´t have to ruin yourself. Then again I could enjoy music with the Hd 800 straight out of the Ipod. It scales but it doesn´t transform. If it´s worth it depend on how deep into audiophilia you are :)

 

 

post #4 of 17

 

I would highly suggest getting a better amp for the HD800's.

 

I used an apogee duet with the Hd800's at first. it sounds a little better than straight out of an ipod or mackbook headphone out. I think that the duet sounded pretty good with lower impedance phones, like my grados. The hd800's need voltage to drive them. There is a an impedance spike that goes into past 600 ohms around 100hz. 

 

I found the nuforce hdp's dac to be a bit better than the apogee duets, and the headphone out of the nuforce did a much better job with the Hd800's. They sound very clear with good extension, but a little thin.

 

When I go:  mackbook pro > nuforce hdp (I keep the volume setting about 11:00) rca out > bottlehead crack > the Hd800's now have a fullness and impact that they did not have before! The bass fills out and I find them to be very natural and open.

 

I have not had a chance to hear them through a better set up than this, but I have rolled a lot of tubes. the sound is satisfying enough that I have not had "upgradeitus" with this set up.

 

I also like the HD800's out of my Onkyo receiver when I watch movies, it does a pretty good job, but it is not as resolving as my main set up when listening to music.

post #5 of 17

 


Quote:
Originally Posted by Entranced View Post

 Will I notice some good results from an inexpensive amp as well as from the expensive stuff?

 

Yes. The HD800s scale well and in my opinion need good upstream components that play well with it. Whether those improvements are incremental or substantial is up to you. When I first got my HD800s, I was not pleased and was thinking about selling them. My wife actually liked them though and forced me to keep them. After a couple of DACs, amps, and tubes, the HD800s are now my favorite.

 

 

Quote:

Looking forward to spending all my hard-earned cash.. :p

      

This place can do that to you. Going to meets will likely accelerate this process. How much do you want to spend again? smile.gif


 

 


Edited by purrin - 8/13/11 at 9:30am
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the input everyone. Huge help! 
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by purrin View Post

 


 

      

This place can do that to you. Going to meets will likely accelerate this process. How much do you want to spend again? smile.gif


 

 


I'm hoping to start off I'd be able to get a half decent amp for a few hundred. Say 200-300 range. Not sure if that's possible.. but that would be ideal.

 

post #7 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Entranced View Post

Thanks for the input everyone. Huge help! 
 


I'm hoping to start off I'd be able to get a half decent amp for a few hundred. Say 200-300 range. Not sure if that's possible.. but that would be ideal.

 



I repeat:

 

Sony MDR-7509HD

 

Doesn't need a amp.

post #8 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Entranced View Post

Thanks for the input everyone. Huge help! 
 


I'm hoping to start off I'd be able to get a half decent amp for a few hundred. Say 200-300 range. Not sure if that's possible.. but that would be ideal.

 

 

That a tough price range. You can ask some of the guys in this thread: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/561607/hd800-what-amp#post_7677956

 

 

post #9 of 17

I dunno. I liked the Sennheiser HD800s even straight through my Cowon J3 mp3 player, but I never really liked the Sony V900HD (equivalent to 7509HD) when I had it. They are in completely different leagues and I'm not usually one to obsess about detail retrieval.

 

He already has the HD800 and likes it so why sell it to get something much worse?

post #10 of 17

You actually CAN get a few amps to do it in that range. These are a few amps I trust to get the job done. It's a collective of stuff I've owned and what Alghazanth owns.

 

Nuforce HDP

Matrix M-Stage (Very powerful, not even considering price, just outright)

Headamp Gilmore Lite

 

The M-Stage comes very highly recommended by me as a standalone amp. The NuForce HDP's DAC and amp put together put out a very clean and beautiful sound and my buddy uses it for his T1, HD800, HE500, and LCD2, so no worries there. The Gilmore Lite is a good all around amp and I definitely have no complaints about it. Very attractive design as well.

 

As for a difference, for some headphones I barely notice it, for my HD580's which are very moderate in their power current requirements, it's night and day with proper amplification/sourcing.

 

 

 

 

post #11 of 17

^ Those amps would definitely have the power. But I shudder at what their neutrality would do to the HD800s which are on the bright side. It's just a personal thing with the tubes and HD800.

post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by purrin View Post

^ Those amps would definitely have the power. But I shudder at what their neutrality would do to the HD800s which are on the bright side. It's just a personal thing with the tubes and HD800.



Not that I know, since I'm not a fan about posting general thoughts on stuff I don't own,

 

But I used to build Marshall guitar amp clones when I was a kid and I know that the high current transformers and stuff aren't things to cut corners on and I feel that for a lot of "budget" tube amps, I just have this hunch that they might be cutting corners.

 

The Matrix is actually neutral and can even be opamp rollable to warmer opamps like the OPA627 if you ask Matrix to do it.

post #13 of 17

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris_Himself View Post

The Matrix is actually neutral and can even be opamp rollable to warmer opamps like the OPA627 if you ask Matrix to do it.


LOL, I used to own one of those M-Stage's and was the person who first suggested doing the Class A op-amp mod on it. The OPA627 with small bias current or LM4562 pushed hard should warm things up more than the stock OPA2132 (which sounds a little etched and grainy in that amp.) The M-Stage's transparency, bass control, and treble extension is great for its price; but the one and only reason I wouldn't recommend the M-Stage is that it lacks dynamics and SLAM, which the HD800s need to avoid sounding anemic. But if the OP is already happy with the HD800's bass, the M-Stage is certainly a good value.

 


Edited by purrin - 8/13/11 at 1:34pm
post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by purrin View Post

 


LOL, I used to own one of those M-Stage's and was the person who first suggested doing the Class A op-amp mod on it. The OPA627 with small bias current or LM4562 pushed hard should warm things up more than the stock OPA2132 (which sounds a little etched and grainy in that amp.) The M-Stage's transparency, bass control, and treble extension is great for its price; but the one and only reason I wouldn't recommend the M-Stage is that it lacks dynamics and SLAM, which the HD800s need to avoid sounding anemic. But if the OP is already happy with the HD800's bass, the M-Stage is certainly a good value.

 


I'm definitely in agreement with that, as for SLAM and dynamics, I am a fan of tube warmth. I just get that weird feeling that adding coloration to a $1500 headphone isn't quite the thing to do, but it stops being about neutral and analytical about 900 dollars ago haha.

 

There IS one tube amp I had a good listening session with paired with a GS-1k that I actually felt was worth the money and then some. It was the Darkvoice line of amps. He had them before they changed ownership or something, but it still should remain the same design.

http://www.audiophilechina.com/products1.asp?S_id2=2&s_id=25

 

I felt that the 336 more than represented it's price category well and it was compared against a Mapletree EAR, which is something like my grail tube amp currently and the granddaddy of amps for Grado headphones.

post #15 of 17

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chris_Himself View Post

 

... I just get that weird feeling that adding coloration to a $1500 headphone isn't quite the thing to do, but it stops being about neutral and analytical about 900 dollars ago haha.

 


ROFL. Good one!

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