Originally Posted by palmfish
I think more money = better only up to a point. And that "point" is very low WRT headphone amps. I say this because headphones are, relatively speaking, ridiculously easy loads to drive and headphone amplifiers are ridiculously simple devices needing very few parts.
Audiophiles tend to think of headphone amps as mystical magical devices that take the hand of your headphones and lead them in a complex and sophisticated rythmic dance. Bull#%&@. Its an electrical device that takes an incoming signal and makes it bigger. Sure you can talk about feedback circuits and output impedance - and they will affect how the headphones respond to the amp, but thats all "circuit 101, stuff for an amplifier builder. The person designing the amp simply has to decide what the parameters will be and make it happen.
Its the consumer who has to read between the lines, separate fact from fiction, and decide which amp to buy. That consumer can choose to spend whatever amount they want, just like they choose based on looks, build quality, power ratings, intended impedance load (headphones), etc.
I have no problem with someone spending $2000 on a headphone amp. I just hope they are doing it with their eyes open to the reality of what they are getting for their money.
PS: I still have not had a chance to see or listen to the HDVD800, but for the record, I do think it is a well engineered, high quality piece. Now the WA7... Thats a different story...
Not necessarily true. If you want high quality headphone amplification, then the demands to get it are virtually the same as the demands for high quality phono preamplification. That means utterly low noise floor and distortion numbers and even more important is the power bandwidth linearity to ensure a flat response at any given level which is paramount if you want an amplifier that is really transparent and versatile with all kinds of loads. There are a lot more types and kinds of headphones than there are types of speakers.
A few components will drive something, that's true. But a few components won't make for a happy listening once you plug in your Sennheiser or AKG headphones into the amplifier.
As much as I would like you to be right on the diminishing returns effect, the truth is, it depends. It depends on your ears and experience, your willingness and it depends on your headphones. The same thing applies to speakers as well. You can spend 3000 Euro on a pair of speakers and 4000 Euro on a amplifier. Then someone comes along and suggests you try a high-sensitivity pair of speakers like the Tannoy or Klipsch. They cost a little bit more but don't require a lot of power and so in the end you save a few grand by buying a smaller amplifier. It just depends.
I will tell you this much, our reference tube amplifier consists of more than a few parts - several dozen capacitors of various types and breeds, plenty resistors in the filter stages, two big power transformers and only three tubes. It works with zero load and it works with 2 kOhm load without clipping. Everything has it's purpose and everything has it's client.
One time I had a few pairs of old AKG K240 DF and Monitor headphones and I will tell headphones were almost on the level of Sennheiser HD650 when they were properly driven. On the other hand, something like the Denon AH-D7000 never really saw any improvement with a headphone amplifier. They do not require one since they were designed to work well out of a receiver or anything the end user might have on hand.
I think the Sennheiser amplifier might become something of a rarity in the future. I don't know how many they sold but despite my preferences for something else, it is a fine amplifier nonetheless.