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Balanced SS Amps to put in your shopping list

Poll Results: Which Balanced SS Amp would you pick?

This is a multiple choice poll
  • 7% (6)
    Ray Samuels Dark Star Headphone Amp
  • 1% (1)
    Ray Samuels Apache Headphone Amp + Pre-Amp
  • 8% (7)
    Rudistor RPX-303 Quadmono Balanced Headphone
  • 6% (5)
    Audio-GD Master-5 Balanced Solid-State Headphone Amplifier
  • 6% (5)
    Audio-GD Master-6 Balanced Solid-State Headphone Amplifier
  • 3% (3)
    Audio-GD Phoenix Balanced Solid-State Headphone Amplifier
  • 8% (7)
    HeadRoom Balanced Ultra Desktop Amp (BUDA)
  • 9% (8)
    Dynamight / Dynamid Balance SS Solid Sate (DIY)
  • 31% (26)
    Balanced Beta 22 (DIY)
  • 19% (16)
    Go tube!!
83 Total Votes  
post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 

I recently got a good deal for a balanced HD800 the game change substantially, I'm now looking for an SS amp to properly drive my new baby. If possible I hope to get an amp under 3k that can drive all big cans.

 

I've seen many post on this, so I put these SS amps into a list with specific criteria. My criteria to include them are:

  1. Solid state - not looking for tubes etc. I like to listen to music in the dark, and considering safety issues with kids running around light bulbs. I know people say ZD / RS B52 / Eddie Current / Woo / Luxman SQN-100 is highly recommenced, but I don't think my budget will enter that range anyway.
  2. RCA input - I'm going to upgrade slowly, so the amp has to have some flexibility on taking input
  3. No DAC/DSP/buffer - just pure headphone amp, only exception which is speaker pre-amp, best if power supply is on separate box.
  4. Balanced input and output. Not interested in single ended, otherwise I would just go for Burson HA-160

 

Not must, but highly wanted:

  1. Discrete - no op-amp chips
  2. Pre-Amp when I want to extend its use to speakers.

 

I would like to thank Skylab's for his effort in having so many review and discussions. Rob's name just pops up everywhere!! Currawang and Uncle Erik gave some good suggestions as well. I was merely flipping through the forum and do some clerical work putting them together. I have put Corda off the list, as I'm not sure if they support balanced in and out.

 

Here goes the list, I hope this helps people who is is new on this area, like me. Please don't hesitate to correct me and help help me to include more amps.

 

Commercial Units

1. Ray Samuels Dark Star Headphone Amp
Price (retail): US $ 3000
http://www.head-fi.org/t/565779/review-ray-samuels-audio-dark-star-solid-state-headphone-amplifier#post_7656493
http://www.raysamuelsaudio.com/products/dark-star
Comment from Skylab Rob
Similarly, I thought the Dark Star was very good with the Senn HD-800, but I think the Trafomatic Head-One and Woo WA22 sounded better with the HD-800, and they are both half the price of the Dark Star. So while I think the HD-800 sounded quite good with the Dark Star, I would not encourage someone to rush out and buy a Dark Star if the Senn was their main and or only headphone. You can have slightly better performance for less money.
Con: Bad synergy, No pre-amp, PRICE!!

 

2. Ray Samuels Apache Headphone Amp + Pre-Amp
Price (retail): US $ 3000
http://www.head-fi.org/t/239564/review-ray-samuels-audio-apache-balanced-headphone-amp-preamp
No synergy information with HD800
Pros: pre-amp. This seems to be better value from Dark Star strictly from the additional pre-amp function. Maybe Dark Star has a lot to offer on the headphone amp session...
Cons: Price


3. Rudistor RPX-303 Quadmono Balanced Headphone (Italy)
http://www.rudistor.com/soundsystems/amps.htm
Worldwide Price US $ 2.500.00
No synergy information with HD800
Cons: PRICE!!

 

4. Rusistor RP30 QuadMono Balanced with innovative power (Italy)
http://www.rudistor.com/soundsystems/amps.htm
Price (retail) Worldwide Price US $ 4200.00
No synergy information with HD800
Con: PRICE!!


5. Audio-GD Master-5 Balanced Solid-State Headphone Amplifier (China)
Price (retail): US $ 1450
http://www.audio-gd.com/PriceList.htm
No synergy information with HD800
http://www.head-fi.org/t/570722/audio-gd-master-5-balanced-head-amp-preamp


6. Audio-GD Master-6 Balanced Solid-State Headphone Amplifier (China)
Price (retail): US $ 1450
http://www.audio-gd.com/PriceList.htm
No synergy information with HD800


7. Audio-GD Phoenix Balanced Solid-State Headphone Amplifier (China)
Price (retail): US $ 1200
Skylab Rob
The Phoenix is, without a doubt, one of the smoothest sounding solid state amplifiers I have ever heard. It has an effortless, delicate, nuanced delivery that will melt the heart of even the most die-hard tube-loving headphile. The overall presentation is just slightly dark. I can see why HD800 owners like the Phoenix ¡V the very slightly laid-back treble would no doubt mate well with the HD800¡¦s treble presence.
Con: Very hot, may not be suitable for classical for being laid back. Also kinda out of consideration with Master 5/6 introduced.
pro: pre-amp as well.

 

8. HeadAmp GS-X Headphone Amp/Pre-Amp
Price (retail): US $ 2495

http://www.headamp.com/home_amps/gsx/index.htm$

9. HeadRoom Balanced Ultra Desktop Amp (BUDA)
Price (retail): 1699
http://www.headphone.com/headphone-amps/amplifiers/headroom-balanced-ultra-desktop-amp-buda.php

Cons: I think this is running op-amp chip...

 

10. Red Wine Audio Corvina headphone amp

Price (retail): US $ 1500

http://redwineaudio.com/components/corvina

Note: Balance connector are upon request

Cons: Hmm... no XLR input? Not like most people will be using anywayz...

Cons2: Hmm is this really a desktop? Its running on battery...

 

11. Blossom BLO-0299 Balanced SS Headphone Amp. (Japan)

Price (retail): US $ 1449

http://www.head-fi.org/t/471916/blossom-blo-0299-balanced-headphone-amp-new-moon-audio

Somehow its not listed in Drew's website, probably have not add to the list yet.

 

12. Blossom BLO-0169 Balanced SS Headphone Amp. (Japan)

Price (retail): US $ 699

http://www.moon-audio.com/headphone-audio/blossom.html

No review found on this.

 

13. CEC HD53N Balanced SS Headphone Amp. (Japan - I think they are made in China though, another outsource story)

Price (retail): US $ 1000

http://www.audiocubes2.com/brand/CEC/product/CEC_HD53N_LEF_Single_Ended_Class_A_Power_Amplifier.html

http://www.headfonia.com/first-impression-cec-hd53n/

http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=pl&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.highfidelity.pl%2F%40main-274%26lang-en

 

14. Intercity MBA-1 Platinum Edition (Japan)

http://translate.google.com.my/translate?hl=en&sl=ja&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.intercity.co.jp%2Fproductinfo%2Fmba-1%2Fmba-1platinum.html

http://www.intercity.co.jp/productinfo/price2009.html

Available at sales@intercity.jp.co
 

14. Einar Sound VC-01i Balanced SS Headphone Amp

Price (retail): US $ 699 (I find some forum mention 599)

http://apuresound.com/products.html

http://www.head-fi.org/t/450930/review-einar-sound-vc-01i-balanced-ss-headphone-amp

http://www.head-fi.org/t/467095/post-holiday-review-einar-sound-vc-01i-balanced-headphone-amp

Pro: Cheapest. The budget balanced amp recommended by the reviews above.

 

15. Little Dot MK VII+ Balanced Headphone Amplifier

Price (retail): US $ 379

http://www.littledot.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=822&sid=67cbd70825eb1208e33026b504379b44

 

16. Violectric V181 balanced headphone amp

Price (retail): Euro 567.58

http://www.violectric.de/Pages/en/products/hpav181.php

http://www.head-fi.org/t/548608/review-violectric-v181-balanced-headphone-amp

http://www.head-fi.org/t/551173/review-violectric-hpa-v200-amp

Cons: No pre-out.

Note: Project86 give a higher rating to the SE version V200, than the balance version V181. Also seems like V181 is 2X V100. There are working on a 2X V200 version.

 

DIY

1. Dynamight / Dynamid Balance SS Solid Sate (DIY)
Price (retail): US $ (1000 - ??)
http://www.djgardner.com/headphone/gilmore/
Uncle Erik: Problem is, I think the chips for it are out of production. I haven't gotten around to it (yet), but I have boards and chips put away for a future project. I will get to it, sooner or later. Anyhow, you might want to look around to see if there's a used Dynamight or someone with the parts to build one. You might want to ask Kevin Gilmore (the designer) if he knows where you could find one.


2. Balanced Beta 22 (DIY)
Price (retail): US $ 2250 - ?
http://www.amb.org/audio/beta22/

http://www.ybmaudio.com/products.html

http://solderworksaudio.com/

Dunno who: MisterX builds the b22, and he is known to have excellent craftsmanship. Rockhopper audio (Thrice) also build these.

Cons: Ouch, pretty expensive there :P For ybmaudio to build a balanced Beta 22 with Sigma 22 the inital starting price is 2250 USD.

 

 

Visionary??

1. RP1000 Concept amp from Rudistor

I don't think its within my budget but I'll put it anywayz.

 

2. RP2000 Concept amp from Rudistor

Price: US $ 15000 (contribute by Rosgr63)

http://www.rudistor.com/RP2000.htm

http://www.head-fi.org/t/573415/new-top-rudistor/45

This is actually available for audition, and as far as I know one of the machine is actually with Jaben Hong Kong.

 

3. Singlepower Transparency?

No info found, but I'm quite sure its fits the criteria and more expensive than RP1000...

 

Why not
Headroom Max Balanced? Has DAC, no Pre-amp
Corda Opera? Has DAC, no Pre-amp. Not sure is balanced output
Ray Samuels Audio Stealth? Tube
Square Wave XL discrete SS balanced amp? No balanced output

Red Wine Audio Audez’e Edition Headphone System? Has DAC

 

I don't think this amp is balanced at all... Just offers active balanced ground over SE I think. I'm putting here just in case anyone corrects me.

Corda Concerto

Price (retail): US $ 750

http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/meier3/meier.html

http://www.meier-audio.homepage.t-online.de/amplifiers.htm

Note: For the fact that its compared against Burson HD-160D, I would not consider this. Whats the point of going balance if you are going to get same level of sound as SE...

Note2: Weird enough though I don't see Concerto available on Meier's website.

 

** Just a clarification the order is mostly arrange by the date of discovery from me, no favoritism or what so ever...

 


Edited by OneSec - 11/16/11 at 6:54am
post #2 of 49
The HD800's walk a fine line with even the best solid state, depending on your taste, how loud you listen, your source will all influence your choice.
I gave up with solid state and the HD800, tried for two years, they need some tube loving IMO.
post #3 of 49
Thread Starter 

Thanks John. I'm sure you are right - in most cases people had recommend tube over SS endlessly on HD800. But I'm still trying my luck with SS if possible :D

 

  1. Taste: classical 80%
  2. Loudness: my normail listening loudness is from 8 o'clock until 2 o'clock... 
  3. Source: on compressed loseless, I'm not investing a lot on DAC at the moment as I feel the technology is changing, and ROI will be minimal due to frequent updates.
  4. I prefer analytical sound, lots of detail and soundstage from an orchastra, than thick warm sound. I actually prefer some degree of additional treble, than to bass (the thick and heavy bass makes me feel uncomfortable sometimes.)
  5. Budget: 3K

 

THis is only my preference, will not impact the list I'm building :)

 

 


Edited by OneSec - 10/25/11 at 1:19am
post #4 of 49
Thread Starter 

Added red wine and couple others, and information on Carda Concerto (I don't think this is balance)

 

Please share if you think any balance SS amp I missed out - preferably desktop. The fact Red Wine is running on battery but looks like a desktop got me confused :P

post #5 of 49
Thread Starter 

Added Einor sound and some information on B22.

 

S**t the group build B22 is a killer...


Edited by OneSec - 10/25/11 at 6:59am
post #6 of 49



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by OneSec View Post

Thanks John. I'm sure you are right - in most cases people had recommend tube over SS endlessly on HD800. But I'm still trying my luck with SS if possible :D

 

  1. Taste: classical 80%
  2. Loudness: my normail listening loudness is from 8 o'clock until 2 o'clock... 
  3. Source: on compressed loseless, I'm not investing a lot on DAC at the moment as I feel the technology is changing, and ROI will be minimal due to frequent updates.
  4. I prefer analytical sound, lots of detail and soundstage from an orchastra, than thick warm sound. I actually prefer some degree of additional treble, than to bass (the thick and heavy bass makes me feel uncomfortable sometimes.)
  5. Budget: 3K

 

THis is only my preference, will not impact the list I'm building :)

 

 


OneSec,

 

Based on your music preferences, you really should consider the Apache.  It absolutely excels at the items you list in #4. 

 

My problem with the HD800, and the reason I find myself spending a lot more time with my LCD, is that I think that the HD800 is a touch too aggressive on the treble and several touches too light on bass volume.  For orchestral works, the HD800 is still my headphone of preference, but for most other types of music I prefer the tonal balance of the LCD.  I am looking into a tube amp to use with the HD800 so that I can tailor the sound to provide more emphasis to the bass. 
 

 

post #7 of 49
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ctemkin View Post

OneSec,

 

Based on your music preferences, you really should consider the Apache.  It absolutely excels at the items you list in #4. 

 

My problem with the HD800, and the reason I find myself spending a lot more time with my LCD, is that I think that the HD800 is a touch too aggressive on the treble and several touches too light on bass volume.  For orchestral works, the HD800 is still my headphone of preference, but for most other types of music I prefer the tonal balance of the LCD.  I am looking into a tube amp to use with the HD800 so that I can tailor the sound to provide more emphasis to the bass. 
 

 

 

Thanks ctemkin, I will put a serious consideration to it.


I think Rob probably can help to answer you on quest for a tube amp. He throws HD800 into listening for most of his review for amps. Perhaps I should ask him to rank the SS balanced AMP :P Here's a great summary of his work. And I think he updates the list very frequently. It was last updated this month.

http://www.head-fi.org/t/402585/review-summary-a-ranking-of-32-tube-and-tube-hybrid-headphone-amps

 

P.S. Adding Blossom Blo-0299 into the list as well. Looks like Rob get his hand on everyone of them LOL. Personally my dream amp would be a beta 22, but it will be difficult for me since I will need to get someone to DIY for me - its a big favor to ask especially it involves shipping overseas to South East Asia :( Audio-Gd is probably my easy way out.

 


Edited by OneSec - 10/26/11 at 3:03am
post #8 of 49
Thread Starter 

Added:

2. RP2000 Concept amp from Rudistor

http://www.rudistor.com/RP2000.htm

http://www.head-fi.org/t/573415/new-top-rudistor/45

This is actually available for audition, and as far as I know one of the machine is actually with Jaben Hong Kong.

 

post #9 of 49
Thread Starter 

I wrote and ask Burson if they have such offerings. They politely reply its not available now, but are planing something on this, on a not so near yet not too far future.

 

This is indeed good news.

post #10 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by OneSec View Post

Added:

2. RP2000 Concept amp from Rudistor

http://www.rudistor.com/RP2000.htm

http://www.head-fi.org/t/573415/new-top-rudistor/45

This is actually available for audition, and as far as I know one of the machine is actually with Jaben Hong Kong.

 



It will retail at around $15000.

post #11 of 49
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the information! I guess I will definitely go hear this thing out if I have a chance to go Hong Kong...

 

Will be interesting to see how they justify this price tag...

post #12 of 49

I am considering among these,too..

I have a zana deux but I really prefer a SS with no reason...

post #13 of 49
Thread Starter 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/526275/tube-vs-solid-state-amps

 

Perhaps this can help you to decide :)

post #14 of 49

OneSec, give me couple weeks and I will tell you is the WA22 or beta22 for HD800.  I have to tell you that I absolutely love my HD800 with WA22 with all the right tubes.  (GEC 6AS7G, TS BGRP, and EML 5U4G).  I have a balanced beta22 coming in a week or two, I'm planning to use it with LCD-2 but will try it out on HD800.

post #15 of 49
Thread Starter 

Great thanks. Let me know which works best for instrumental / chamber / orchestra. That works 80% of my collection.

 

If I listen to vocal big time, I would seriously consider tubes.

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