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Headphone "Power" Amp?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

This is a bit of an odd request.


First some background, I've been reasonably happy with my Calyx DAC going direct via RCA to my LA7000s. I finally got around to getting them balanced - the balanced output on the Calyx sounds much nicer. But, much to my surprise and chagrin, it is much quieter, too quiet, I need an amp.


Thing is, at a hi-fi show recently, I found that even a damned good pre-amp (the Classé CP-800) was noticeably reducing sound quality in our setup, so we used digital volume control via the DAC and BitPerfect. I want to do this with my headphone setup, so I'm looking for the equivalent of a balanced power amp that won't vaporize my ear drums and/or the LA7000s.


Any suggestions?

post #2 of 8

So you want a headphone amp without a volume control. That's a pretty rare beast unless you custom build it. I've seen some vintage speaker amps that have a headphone jack on the front but since you already have balanced headphones you'll get the most options if you simply drive the headphone off a speaker amp. Of course you'll want a low power and VERY quiet amp for the LA7000 or better use something like the Hifiman speaker adapter. In the end though if you have to use that adapter I'd bet a nice headphone amp with a very good quality volume control will sound better anyway.


post #3 of 8

Get an amp with a good stepped attenuator.  It's basically the same thing.



post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by pyramid6 View Post

Get an amp with a good stepped attenuator.  It's basically the same thing.



Up until last weekend I would have agreed... but I think the Classé counts as an amp with a good stepped attenuator, no?

post #5 of 8

I don't know.  Stepped attenuators are just resistors, and a power amp is just going to have a resistor somewhere.  I would think they would do the same thing.


The CP-800 looks digital to me.







post #6 of 8

Remove volume pot. on the headamp, control volume via your DAC. that's quick way.

post #7 of 8

I'm not much of a headphone guy, but when it comes to speaker set ups, a good analog preamp actually improves the sound more often than not and it is digital volume control that is often avoided.  DAC direct to power amp can result in a thin, dry, hard, and/or flat sound vs adding a preamp to the chain, which can bring depth and body.  I found this to be the case when trying my Bel Canto DAC 2.5 direct to power amp vs going through a Placette Passive Linestage, which is just a resistor ladder.  YMMV.  If you have a headphone amp with analog attenuator you also avoid increased signal to noise ratio as volume decreases that results from using digital volume control.


I find it a bit strange that XLR is quieter than RCA on your Calyx.  The output voltage of RCA is 2.2V vs. 6.6V via XLR.  Of course I'm just assuming that higher voltage would produce higher volume.  I suppose it's output impedance that matters, which is higher with the XLR.

post #8 of 8

Nuforce MMP is the solution.

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