Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphone Amps (full-size) › Looking for amp to pair with HD650, maybe sub-$500 (maybe not)
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Looking for amp to pair with HD650, maybe sub-$500 (maybe not)

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

Hello all,


I'm looking to, over the next year or so, acquire a new amp to go with my HD650's.  I'm thinking tube...though I'm not married to the idea if it's not the best option/value.  Nor am I tied to it having to be a "brand name" amp etc (but I'm not looking for DIY either!)


My music genres are all across the board: classical, jazz, some rock/pop, some electronica/chill/dance, world/latin, some reggae, pretty much everything but rap/hip-hop. 


My "best" setup is FLAC (and some lossy ogg/mp3/m4a) played over Foobar2k, and a Yamaha SACD player to an EMU0404 (Wolfson) DAC to a Headroom Micro Amp (desktop config.)   I find I'm not using that setup often these days in favor of getting away from the desk.


My current "most used" setup is (as of this week now that I got everything up and running), an iPod Touch streaming the same FLAC + lossy library over DLNA from a Synology NAS via Fiio LOD cable to an E11 portable amp.  Despite some occasional stuttering, in the player (and questionable randomness when on shuffle of the whole library) the setup is working pretty darn well. 


What I've found is, to my amazement, the iPod setup sounds better than the desktop-tethered setup (inferior Cirrus DAC aside.)  What I've discovered is that the E11 is a pretty amazing little amp for the price/size, and I absolutely abhor the sound signature of Headroom products.  They used to have a slogan, something like "Right Between Your Ears"....I think that pretty much describes the sound signature exactly....it's like IEMs.  The Wolfson DAC of the 0404 may be superior to the Cirrus of the Touch, and the Headroom Micro (original models) may be technically sonically superior, on paper, to the E11....but the E11 manages to sound more musical with more spatialization than I ever got from the Headroom resulting in a more pleasing sound with more instrument separation.  I paid $350 for the Headroom.   $65 for the E11.  And as far as I'm concerned the E11 sounds much better....price is clearly not everything.  (That's not a knock against Headroom's quality or performance....just a statement that their sound signature either doesn't agree with my ears, or doesn't agree with my HD650's.)


Which brings me back to my new amp.  I'm looking for something that's a big jump from the E11 as a plugged in amp.    I probably wont' be buying for months, maybe even a year.  Tubes appeal to me, but it's not an absolute...whatever's best for the money.  I'm looking at the sub-$500 range, absolutely not over $1000 range, and I suspect between $500-1000 consists of a lot of dead space considering some of the great items at the $500 range, and how narrow the improvements seem to be over $1000.


I'm aware of the Schiit Valhala which is a solid option, as well as the Lyre (but the extreme over-current of that has me cautious), I'm aware of but unfamiliar with the HIFiMan EF5 and Bellari HA540.  The HiFiMan EF2A is an appealing curiosity based on price, and somehow the Qinpu A-6000 MKII itrigues me....though I can't figure out what I'd do with those exposed speaker terminals or how usable it is for phones.  I'm sure there's many, many other options I've overlooked as well.


Idealy it should pair well with 650's.  Classical must be a strong suit for it, but not at the cost of every other genre, etc.  I'm sure it's not an uncommon setup, really. 



I look forward to hearing all your suggestions!


Edit: Forgot to mention Maverick A1/D1 in the mix...

Edited by IEMCrazy - 1/10/12 at 8:26am
post #2 of 3

first things to come to mind would be perhaps a woo WA6 or WA3 depending on how tubey you want it to sound.  but both will have nice dynamics and detail.


or maybe a bottlehead crack?





post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

Some interesting suggestions.  I was previously unaware of the Bottlehead.  I'd heard it mentioned but paid no attention.  Looking at it, it's very intriguing. 


Woo I almost always write off as fast as Headroom....I've always perceived them to be an overpriced outfit.  And they are.  But you did draw attention to the fact that the W3 is right in line with the price range I'm looking at so I shouldn't have written it off so easily.  If I went with a Woo, it would be the W3.


What strikes me is that the Bottlehead, with the Speedball upgrade, and even paying for them to assemble it brings it right in line with W3 and Lyr pricing....so there's quite the choice to make there if I decide to stop up to that price point.  Their testimonials are a little over-flowery of course...but it's no less of the wall than Schiits marketing!


From what I've read in other threads, the W6 is similar sounding (and it seems less preferred with HD650's by the few that tried both) than the Schiit Lyr....which is also significantly cheaper.  My fear with the Lyr though is that excessive power output both has can damaging potential in the event of a knob accident, and that extreme power would make slight volume control very difficult since I'd be confined only to the low band of the dial (When in shuffle I practically keep my hand on the dial.  I refuse to submit to ReplayGain, and most DLNA clients don't support it anyway. :) )  I once relaxed with my hand away from the dial and a lovely Bach oboe sonata was followed by metal track that succumbed to the loudness wars....I won't trust my eardrums to an inattentive volume dial again ;) )

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 amp to pair with HD650, maybe sub-$500 (maybe not)