Originally Posted by preproman
I think you may have misunderstood my post. Or maybe I just need to use different words. My intent was not to be harsh at all. I was just making it clear that it was his opinion and not a fact that the ZD is the best amp with the TH900s
No harm no foul.
No offense taken, I should've said "I've heard" like you said. In my opinion, there was one solid-state amp that ties the ZDSE in terms of driving the TH900, the recently released Bakoon HPA-21. Different sound signature, but both sound heavenly.
However, I personally don't agree with what you said about the TH900 not being a hard headphone to drive. That may be true when it comes to power delivery, thanks to its high sensitivity. In that respect, it is easier to drive than most orthos which require more juice. But the thing is, the TH900 demands not the quantity of amplification, but its quality. I'm sure some of you will disagree with me, but I actually think that the TH900 is a more picky headphone to drive than orthos if you're trying to reach top-of-the-line sonic performance. The fact that orthos need power can actually be an advantage, as they scale pretty well just by plugging them to a high-power amp such as Schiit Lyr, Mjolnir, B22, Burson Soloist, etc. You can hear a lot of difference compared to listening to it straight from an iPod.
But when I tried the TH900 with some of these amps, I didn't hear a lot difference and was never truly impressed by most of them. Although it sounded really good even out of an iPod, having a low scalability was actually a disappointing factor for me because it was hard to fill that small gap that left to be desired. Not even Fostex's own HP-A8C did the trick. It was when I heard the Luxman p-1u that I was wowed for the first time. With the ZDSE it was on a whole new level, as enriched the TH900's inherently laid-back mids and threw a deep soundstage the stock closed-back TH900 simply could not. With the HPA-21, it doesn't have the rich mids or soundstage but the sound is much clearer and finer, pleasing to the ear.
FYI, these are some the desktop amps I've listened to with the TH900. The followings are my opinion ONLY in regard to their capability of driving the TH900. Take them with a grain of salt.
Audioquest Dragonfly: Undoubtedly the best value. Its amp section was preferable to Valhalla or Svetlana 2 IMO.
Audinst HUD-MX1: This is what I recommend you have less than $300 to spend on both DAC/amp.
Schiit Asgard: Not bad for its price, actually better sounding than Lyr.
Schiit Valhalla: Not good, the music sounds muddy.
Schiit Lyr: So-so at best, its high power output makes it dangerous to use with the TH900.
Svetlana 2: Better than the Valhalla as a tube amp, but not as good as the HA-02.
Matrix M-Stage: Best amp I've heard under $500.
Burson Soloist: Exceptional clarity, but sometimes sibilant and fatiguing (in a way very solid-state sounding).
Musical Fidelity M1HPA: Plainly okay. Can't point out specific flaws, but overall not impressive.
Yamamoto HA-02: Warm and musical, great mids and bass (typical tube sound). My 2nd favorite tube amp for the TH900.
Sugden HA-4: Clear yet lush sound, satisfying but still somewhat fatiguing.
SPL Phonitor: I personally didn't like it, but many of my fellow headphiles really enjoyed this combination.
Lehmann Linear SE: Overall pretty good, but a bit boring after extended listening.
Fostex HP-A8C: Being a DAC/amp, I haven't rated its performance purely as a headphone amp, but not particularly amazing considering it was designed to drive the TH900.
April Music Eximus DP-1: As a DAC/amp, I preferred it to the HP-A8C. For those of you on a budget who cannot afford a separate DAC and amp, this has my best recommendation.
Luxman P-1u: Transparent music, glorious sound. Slightly fatiguing.
Zana Deux SE: Mother of God. Sweet, rich mids, most expansive and deepest soundstage among all these amps, and the most euphonic, albeit a bit grainy at times. Music is never fatiguing, neither typical solid-state nor tube sound. Proper tube rolling does wonders.
Bakoon HPA-21: Probably the best among these in terms of sheer technicalities. Overall extremely good, I can't actually find a fault with this one. It lacks a touch of euphony compared to the ZDSE, but is very clear and finer sounding.
BTW I'm curious how other amps would sound with the TH900 compared to the above-mentioned ones. Particularly interested in Yamamoto HA-03, HeadAmp GS-X, ECBA, DNA Stratus, RWA Cassabria, any RudiStor amp, Liquid Fire/Glass/Gold, and so on.
If I had to choose one my choice would be either the ZDSE or HPA-21. I kinda regret buying the ZDSE before auditioning the HPA-21, not necessarily because the HPA-21 is better but because I could have contemplated more.
If it's any disclaimer, you may notice that some of my favorite gears are made in Korea (such as DP-1, HPA-21) and may assume that I'm biased because of my nationality. Let me assure you that it is not the case; Svetlana 2 is also Korean but I didn't really like it at all. Or am I simply being paranoid by writing this? :p
Edited by songmic - 4/30/13 at 7:36pm