We really need the vintage receivers (and its speakers cousin) thread stickied. This question comes up so often on Head-Fi, and the short answer is inevitably 'try it and see'. Two things spring to mind:
- for longer than I can recall, Head-Fiers trotted out the old line about headphone sockets on integrated amps/receivers/HT receivers being a cheap afterthought. While that has been my experience at the entry level with Yamaha and CA, its not universally true - sadly, we have a long history of some folk repeating something they read as 'gospel'. Even the dreaded HT receiver isnt universally 'bad'. but its frustating when you find 15 reviews of an amp/receiver without a single mention of the sound quality from the headphone socket. That applies whether the sticker price is 399 or 13999 .. pathetic.
- for all the talk of burn-in on dedicated headphone amps, I have never once seen anyone recommend that you give the headphone stage on an integrated a week or so before making any decisions. Somehow the same mentality that insists that caps need burn-in totally ignores the possibility that this might be the case in an integrated amp or receiver. I guess it comes back the belief that the headphone stage in these units is so poorly implemented that burn-in would make zero difference. My experience was that my ears perceived little difference on the Yamaha receiiver after 6 months, but the CA 340SE sounded better, at least to my ears, than it did on day one, Whatever you put that down to, I would never have found out either way if I had abandoned the integrated after a 3 minute listen.
The naysayers need to go and check out the vintage receivers thread. Ask Skylab how many dedicated headphone amps he has left after years of collecting expensive and impressive headphone-only devices. You might be in for a shock.