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Pre-amp and Headphone amplifier separates?

post #1 of 48
Thread Starter 

Hi there,


This may be a funny question but coming from speaker setups where we often advocate the use of separates - as in splitting up USB, DAC, Pre-amp and going monoblocks - I've noticed many headphone amps are sold as an integrated (with pre-amp built in), even top of the line products. I've only seen woo audio having a monoblock design. Is there any reason why this is so?

 

The only thing I can think of is that it isn't required since the amplification is relatively low (in comparison to speakers) and therefore interference is potentially less, so the gains might be more marginal..


Has anyone had experience in pairing their higher end stereo (speaker system) gear to headphone amp, and heard if there is any difference vs integrated? e.g. existing DAC + pre-amp, then adding on a pure headphone amp to headphones?

post #2 of 48

I'm not sure I follow your question. Headphone amps integrated with what? Power supply? Or with DAC/pre-amp functions?

There's separates for all of the above, I think.

 

Graham Slee's Solo has its power brick outside of the amp.

Many headphone amps don't include a DAC function.

post #3 of 48
Thread Starter 

To clarify - when I say 'integrated', I mean combining pre-amp and headphone amp (as per the topic name).

 

Is it commonly accepted that separate pre-amp + monoblocks sound better in the headphone arena? Or is there a general feel that it makes little difference?

 

In speaker systems, we can get awfully complicated.. even a single pre-amp can be separated out into 3 pieces (like wavac).. there are even mono pre-amp like from Viola. I just find it interesting that there are few instances of this in head-fi.


Edited by Quest88 - 8/9/12 at 9:56pm
post #4 of 48

I use two high-end preamps with my dynamic and stat rigs and they significantly help clean up the sound.  They don't work well with all amps, though, so YMMV.

 

There are a lot of headamps that also can fill a preamp function in a speaker rig, so it seems like a lot of manufacturers put preamps and headamps in the same class of gear.

 

Like many people here, I run my HE-6 directly off the speaker taps of my First Watt.  The HE-6 will eventually be replaced with a nice pair of speakers :)


Edited by Elysian - 8/9/12 at 10:29pm
post #5 of 48

Oh I see. No, I don't know of any companies that make headphone amps and sell matching pre-amps as separates--in fact, I recall reading that headphone amps may themselves act as pre-amps: http://www.headphone.com/learning-center/why-do-i-need-a-headphone-amp.php

 

Headphone drivers are small; wouldn't amping them be more about control than power? Even the drivers in full-sized headphones are dwarfed next to a 5" midrange cone.

post #6 of 48
That's not too popular a discussion around here. Personally, I can't stand my setup without a proper preamp, headphone or speaker, but many around here seem to run straight from whatever source to their headamp. Quite a few headamp designs do have an input buffer, so I guess they do have a preamp of sorts and are "integrated" but in no way marketed as such.

You can always run a speaker amp, low power directly, or high through an adapter box, and use a separate pre (or use an integrated from the start) if you want to be sure to customize things.

I'm in the middle of looking between single ended, buffers, passive, and even balanced pres at the moment to solve one of the issues with flat (dry and dull) sound in my rig. I say keep your speaker knowledge going and use it to expand the options yet again.
post #7 of 48

The advantage of mono blocks is close placement to a speaker for a shorter cable run. Makes no sense in a headphone setup. Probably makes no sense at all, as wall socket brings everything back to one common ground anyway.

post #8 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnwmclean View Post

The advantage of mono blocks is close placement to a speaker for a shorter cable run. Makes no sense in a headphone setup. Probably makes no sense at all, as wall socket brings everything back to one common ground anyway.
Crosstalk is a major advantage of monoblocks as well, which is not negated by a power ground share. While a balanced setup helps with noise and crosstalk inherently, you can also run monoblocks there provided you use dual plugs and improve crosstalk if it is an issue of any kind, and in that case, it makes just as much sense as in a speaker rig as your drivers are completely isolated electrically from each other as speakers are.
post #9 of 48
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elysian View Post

I use two high-end preamps with my dynamic and stat rigs and they significantly help clean up the sound.  They don't work well with all amps, though, so YMMV.

 

 

Could you share which headphone amp do you use for your stat rigs?

By and large the ones I see all come with volume control, with no way to bypass.. unless I go the way sml1226 indicated - to use a adapter box from my existing power amps.

 

 

I myself own a mid level pre-amp for my stereo setup (Chord CPA5000) that I feel would be good to try inserting in the chain, just to hear what is different.

post #10 of 48
Yeah, the crosstalk argument. You can’t get around the common earth ground share, I don’t see how you can negate this. Signal leakage can be put down to poor design, routing or a deflective component. A major advantage is a stretch.

Edited by johnwmclean - 8/9/12 at 11:18pm
post #11 of 48
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnwmclean View Post

 

Yeah, the crosstalk argument. You can’t get around the common earth ground share, I don’t see how you can negate this. Signal leakage can be put down to poor design, routing or a deflective component. A major advantage is a stretch to say the least.

You can’t get around the common earth ground share, I don’t see how you can negate this. Signal leakage can be put down to poor design, routing or a deflective component.

I'm really not technical but when you mention 'common earth ground share' - you are assuming we are running each component to the same wall socket?

 

Many of us have multiple dedicated lines for use (I have 3 for my hifi) - to separate out digital and analog for the most part. But if this was a concern, we'd just make more lines if wanting to hook up the two monoblocks on separate lines. To what I understand though.. ground still travels between the XLR cables. This is something beyond me. :)

 

Whatever is the reason, I've always felt monoblocks to sound better than stereo amps if I ever compared. This is even versus the exact same amps, made dual-mono in a single chassis, though you can say we are nitpicking at this point.

 

I haven't tried a dual mono pre-amp yet so can't comment on this.


Edited by Quest88 - 8/9/12 at 11:22pm
post #12 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quest88 View Post

I'm really not technical but when you mention 'common earth ground share' - you are assuming we are running each component to the same wall socket?

 

Many of us have multiple dedicated lines for use (I have 3 for my hifi) - to separate out digital and analog for the most part. But if this was a concern, we'd just make more lines if wanting to hook up the two monoblocks on separate lines. To what I understand though.. ground still travels between the XLR cables. This is something beyond me. :)

 

Whatever is the reason, I've always felt monoblocks to sound better than stereo amps if I ever compared. This is even versus the exact same amps, made dual-mono in a single chassis, though you can say we are nitpicking at this point.

 

I haven't tried a dual mono pre-amp yet so can't comment on this.

 

Even with different wall sockets your house wiring would be set-up with one common earth ground at the wall i.e. each wall socket earth ground pin is connected together. Even set-ups with a completed dedicated lines would be joined out on the the street to the one earth ground.

post #13 of 48
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnwmclean View Post

 

Even with different wall sockets your house wiring would be set-up with one common earth ground at the wall i.e. each wall socket earth ground pin is connected together. Even set-ups with a completed dedicated lines would be joined out on the the street to the one earth ground.

So your point is - it doesn't matter to have monoblocks or dedicated lines because eventually we are all connected to the same earth ground?

It's true we can't solve certain issues 100%, but doesn't it help improve the isolation?

 

To really remove earth ground, how about those of us with multiple battery powered regenerators?

I did try the above as well. When disconnected from charging from the wall, the background was never quieter, although I went away from this approach for other reasons.


Edited by Quest88 - 8/10/12 at 12:05am
post #14 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quest88 View Post

So your point is - it doesn't matter to have monoblocks or dedicated lines because eventually we are all connected to the same earth ground?

It's true we can't solve certain issues 100%, but doesn't it help improve the isolation?

 

To really remove earth ground, how about those of us with multiple battery powered regenerators?

I did try the above as well. When disconnected from charging from the wall, the background was never quieter, although I went away from this approach for other reasons.

 

I believe crosstalk would not be an issue with well designed circuitry with good routing. I’ve seen turntable set-ups with dedicated mono blocksconfused_face_2.gif


Edited by johnwmclean - 8/10/12 at 12:31am
post #15 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quest88 View Post

Could you share which headphone amp do you use for your stat rigs?

 

Look at my signature and profile for all my gear info.

 

I don't use a dynamic headphone amp with my stats.  I go from an Audio Space Reference 2 to a Blue Hawaii Special Edition.

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