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Integrated Amplifiers and Preamplifier with Good, Great or Excellent Headphones Output -...

post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 

I've been searching for integrated speaker amplifiers/integrated amps that doubles as a great headphone amp, and now I am the proud owner of two such pieces. There are other threads that have tried the same thing, but not all threads are easily found on this site - and I've tried to formulate the title of this thread in a way that is easily found.

 

THIS is the best list on head-fi so far. However,  the user who started it hasn't been active for 2 years. I plan to integrate his list in this post in some way. Also see here , here, here and here

 

 

I'll contribute with the ones I've heard for a start. They are excellent headphone amplifiers.

 

 

TUBE AMPLIFIERS

 

  • Leben CS-300 and CS-300XS - REF See massive coverage on head-fi
  • Cary SLI-80 Signature - REF Cary Audio writes: "The headphone out of the SLI-80 due go through the whole tube circuit and are tapped off of the transformer outputs.  After the transformers the signal passes through the headphone switch and then a couple of resistors, then to the headphone jack."
  • VTL IT-85 REF
  • Manley Stingray - Ref
  • Luxman Tube SQ-38 REF

 

 

SOLID STATE AMPLIFIERS

  •  
  • Creek 5350SE (and maybe also all Creek integrated amps?) - Creek Audio writes: "The headphone output on all our integrated amplifiers are supplied direct from the main amplifier stage via a large resistor."
  • Lead Audio LA-200 REF
  • Portal Panache  - REF
  • Lead Audio LA-200 REF
  • Brinkmann Integrated Amplifier - REF
  • Yamaha A-S2000 - REF
  • NAD - REF
  • Marantz 2385 Vintage REF
  •  

 

 

PREAMPLIFIERS

 

 

  • Woo WA2
  • Decaware CSP2
  • Ray Samuels B52
  • Cary Audio SLP03 REF

 

 

I intend to edit and update this post and include all good recommendations. 

 

 

List editing in prosess...

  • Leben CS600."As far as I know, THE best integrated amp I've heard yet that doubles as a headphone amp. You have to flick the switch on the front panel to have the amp work as a dedicated headphone amp, so that the sound is transmitted directly from the output transformers, no op-amp involved. Excellent tube-rolling possibilities, as it accepts EL-34, 6L6, KT-77, KT-88, 350B families of tubes. Less romantic than Cary, but clearer, pacier sound... but still has the liquid sound. Tape-out, Bass control, Mono switch"REF .
  • Leben CS300 and CS300X. "The smaller sibling of the CS600. Made its reputation before CS600 as an excellent headphone amp. EL84-based. Puts out 15 wpc as opposed to 28-32 wpc of the CS600, so you definitely need sensitive speakers if you go with the CS300"REF 
  • Cary 300SEI . "Some prefer this amp to the Leben. Very hard to resist 300B tubes if you're a tube junkie, especially in single-ended config. If you're a chamber music listener, or solo  vocals, you're in bliss. 15 wpc"REF  REF2
  • Cary SLI-80 (Mellow Triode, #22). Tube integrated amp, 40 wpc in triode, 80 wpc in pentode. 6550-based.
  • Cary Xciter. Would love to hear this integrated amp, as it seems that Cary is really going for the youth market. Smart move. Uses 6L6 and KT-88. 5 wpc, so you should definitely pay special attention to speaker synergy. Interesting design as Cary opted for single-ended triode rather than push-pull topology.
  • Opera Consonance Cyber-10 (TopPop, #2). Push-pull tube integrated amp, 2A3 tubes. 3 wpc.
  • Moth Audio Si2A3 (Uncle Erik, #3). "3 wpc, tube rectified, 6SL7 pushing a pair of 2A3 into Electra-Print output transformers." Single-ended, Class A1, zero negative feedback.
  • Portal Audio Panache (jonathanb715, #4). SS Integrated amp, 100 wpc into 8 ohms, 200 wpc into 4 ohms. Class AB. Dual mono design amp section. Headphone output path same as main output path.
  • Marantz PM series integrated amplifiers (jonathanb715, #4).
  • Glow Amp1 (Sherwood, #5). Single-ended pentode integrated amp, EL84-based. 5 wpc. Built-in DAC w/ USB input.
  • Beta 22 (Sherwood, #5). "Can and should be" configured to drive loudspeakers.
  • Sound Quest SQ-84 (SACD Lover, #9). Push-pull integrated amp, 6V6 tubes. 10 wpc; verson 2 puts out 15 wpc. Cap-coupled headphone amp, as builder believes cap-coupling sounds better than transformer-coupling with SQ-84.
  • TEAC A-H500 (IceClass, #10). SS integrated amp. 50 wpc @ 8.5 ohms, 80 wpc @ 4.5 ohms.
  • VTL IT-85 (Minimus, #11). Tube integrated amp. 60 wpc @ 8 ohms. EL-34 based. "Amplifier driven headphone output."
  • Luxman SQ-N100 (Minimus, #11). Tube integrated amp. 12 wpc. EL-84 based. Built-in MM phono stage.
  • AudioValve RKV Mark II (Old Pa, #13). Dual-mono, OTL design headphone amp. PCL 805/PCL 85 tube-based. "Screw terminals on the back for 3 watts RMS output."
  • Audiolab 8000A (Milkweg, #15). SS integrated amp, 60 wpc. MM/MC phono input.
  • Bottlehead S.E.X. kitDared MP7 (tako tsubo, #29). Tube integrated amp. 8 wpc. 6P3P. *tako tsubo recommends MP5, but it seems that MP5 is discontinued and MP7 is the latest reiteration.

Edited by ardilla - 8/25/12 at 4:19am
post #2 of 49

NAD304 - quiet, smooth sound with reasonable bass weight right out of the box, but highs may be a little congested. I repaired the power cable with a 3-prong socket and the sound signature changed  - from a smooth and laidback amp to an amp that sounded "alive," fully open from bass to treble but on first listen the treble opened up more and will overpower the bass a little. Shows the power supply is just so-so; not bad for the price at the time. Straight out of a brighter source (like a 20-bit EAD DAC) the SR225 was harsher after the upgrade; with a NOS DAC like the DAC-AH, however, the old smooth midrange returns but of course the treble is a little bit more open. If you get a unit with a power cord/plug that's a little long in the tooth, and you'd appreciate some transparency in the sound, replace the lamp cord with thicker cable because the PSU is far from overbuilt. NAD C320 is a little brighter out of the box but not necessarily more "open"-sounding.

 

Marantz PM80 - switch it to Class A mode (which kills off teh A/B switchover) and be amazed. More audible with speakers that have 90db or higher sensitivity than with most headphones though, but at the time I had it I only had a K66 and an SR60 on loan. Note that speakers below 87db at the rated seating distance will have distorted bass at audible listening levels at the 10wpc Class A mode. If you can deal with the bulk, get this, the PM75 receiver, PM88 or PM90.

 

Dared MP5 - By far my favorite affordable integrated amp with a good headphone driver circuit despite my usual taste in overall system sound (ie, if I have to make compromises, this is it.)  Has thick, tube-flavored midrange, though not as quiet as the NAD304 on the stock tubes. Can drive the HD600 and SR225 well, the former despite the lack of the driver screen sounded like it has them on  due to the thick midrange from teh tubes. Good weight and definition from upper bass to lower midrange percussions and strings. If you want a dynamic low end and smooth midrange with rolled-off treble this is perfect for you. Note that it drives the K1000's better through the speaker output than the headphone out, I assume it will be the same for orthos. I suppose this and the T50RP will make a nice budget rig, since it also has a relatively smooth 16bit USB DAC built into it.

 

 

 

post #3 of 49

As the originator of one of the cited threads I'm glad to see this subject being revived. I'm a long-time champion of integrated amps as HP amps, but too often people are talked into buying dedicated amps that sound no better than a Nad or Rotel or Marantz integrated and are far less versatile. To me the only real advantage most dedicateds have over good integrateds or receivers is lower power consumption, which may or may not be important to the buyer. (Then again pre-amps often have have good HP outs and use little power). Hope this subject gets better support here than it's had in the past.    

post #4 of 49

Please add the Yamaha A-S2000 to the list. I bought it after auditioning to drive the speakers, but it turned out to have an excellent headphone amp that easily drives the K 701. According to the manufacturer, the speaker output is not used for the headphone out. The headphone amp in this is a dedicated component designed to handle "low impedance" headphones.

post #5 of 49
The Leben CS-300 and CS-300XS certainly deserve to be on the list, IMHO.
post #6 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by pp312 View Post

As the originator of one of the cited threads I'm glad to see this subject being revived. I'm a long-time champion of integrated amps as HP amps, but too often people are talked into buying dedicated amps that sound no better than a Nad or Rotel or Marantz integrated and are far less versatile. To me the only real advantage most dedicateds have over good integrateds or receivers is lower power consumption, which may or may not be important to the buyer. (Then again pre-amps often have have good HP outs and use little power). Hope this subject gets better support here than it's had in the past.    


Don't forget size. Imagine a desktop system with a PC or laptop and many integrated amps with a (decent) headphone driver were designed with an equipment rack in mind. Also, some people totally have no space for a speaker system anyway (room mode issues or apartment/condos), so versatility - in terms of capability to drive speakers - were never considered.

 

post #7 of 49

I've found over the years that the higher-end Japanese integrated amps from the likes of Marantz, Luxman and Accuphase have excellent headphone outputs.... none more so than a Marantz PM-14 I used to have.  I've also had the Yamaha AS-2000 and its good, but not as good as that older Marantz.

 

I am very tempted to try the Luxman Tube integrated amp, SQ-38, I hear its headphone out is highly regarded but not sure it would have enough oomph for my speakers.

 

I am currently borrowing a Brinkmann Integrated amplifier from a friend. Very nice minimalist German design, kind of flat-earth PRAT qualities of toe-tapping'ness rather than imaging and tonal loveliness.  It has a very good headphone stage, great with higher impedance phones, still good with lower impedance ones like Denons but a bit of hiss and hum becomes evident.  Despite it having been a current product for many years, it has a pretty good onboard DAC too - but SPDIF coax inputs only.

 

integrated.jpg

 

 

post #8 of 49

@alanbeeb,

 

WOW that amp looks good...sounds like it sounds like NAIM. I gotta read up on this amp.

post #9 of 49

I recently picked up a Lead Audio LA-200:

 

http://www.ebay.com/itm/TOany-LA-200-Lead-Audio-USB-DAC-Integrated-Amplifier-/250822813670?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3a663467e6#ht_4745wt_721721

 

I'm loving the performance as an integrated amp, but the headphone out is quite good as well. It does reasonably well with lower impedance headphones but high impedance models sound excellent. 

 

 

Also the Maverick Audio A1 is a great little budget tube integrated. Headphone amp is not the most refined but has lots of power and gives a stereotypical euphonic "tube" sound. 

post #10 of 49

I have heard headphones from the Manley Stingray, and I was VERY impressed. It's a somewhat pricey piece, but sounds gorgeous through speakers as well....so it could pull double duty.

 

 

post #11 of 49
Thread Starter 

All suggestions so far included in the list in post #1

 

Please contribute some more :))


Edited by ardilla - 8/29/11 at 6:44am
post #12 of 49

I am not sure if this one will make it to the elite list blink.gif posted above, but the Onkyo TX-8255 sounds decent to me as an entry level item.

 

Edit : The speaker outs are not that good though...


Edited by SilentSound - 8/29/11 at 10:45am
post #13 of 49

Marantz 2385

post #14 of 49


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SilentSound View Post

I am not sure if this one will make it to the elite list blink.gif posted above, but the Onkyo TX-8255 sounds decent to me as an entry level item.

 

Edit : The speaker outs are not that good though...


Are you saying it has a separate headphone amp?
 

 

post #15 of 49
Thread Starter 

Rogue Audio Cronus ?

Listening_Post_Rogue_Cronos_Integrated_Tube_amp_N.jpg

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