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HD800 + $1,000-$2,500 Amp = Sonic Bliss?

post #1 of 172
Thread Starter 

Hi,

 

I had an earlier post last week where I was asking about tube amps for an HD800.  But I have been thinking a bit more broadly about it and considering also solid state or hybrid amplifiers as well. The thought for a tube amp was because so many experienced HD800 users preferred them, and it would also be a contrasting sound signature to Grace Design m903.  

 

Another route would be to go to a higher resolution/quality SS amp that was better than the m903.  I have listed  a number of hybrid amps because some folks find them to be a good mixture of tube benefits together with solid state beneficial attributes.

 

This is the broad list of amps that I have identified.  There may be others, so please suggest them.

 

Tube Amps:

 

Donald North Audio Sonett 2 $1,300
Donald North Audio Stratus $2,500
Eddie Current Super 7 $1,830
Eddie Current Zana Deux SE $2,200
Ray Samuels Audio Stealth /Pre-amp Headphone Amp $2,495
Woo Audio WA6 SE $1,050-$1,320
Woo Audio WA22 $1,900-$2,480

 

Hybrid Amps:

 

Apex Hifi Peak and Volcano $2,145

Fosgate Signature Headphone Amplifier $1,499

Red Wine Audio Corvina $1,000

 

Solid State Amps:

 

AMB Audio Sigma/Beta 22 $2,550

Bryston BHA-1 $1,295

HeadAmp GS-X $2,495

HeadRoom Balanced Ultra Desktop Amp (BUDA) $1,699

 


Here is a list of popular high performance amps that I am aware of, but they are more than I want to spend.  Some look affordable until you begin to look at tube costs etc.

Apex Hifi Pinnacle $10,000
Cavalli Audio Liquid Fire $3,250
Cavalli Audio Liquid  Glass $ 3,250/$3,750
Eddie Current 2A3 $2,800 +
Eddie Current Balancing Act $3,750+

Luxman P1-u ~$3,000
Woo Audio WA5 SE $2,500 +
Woo Audio WA5 $3,150 +

 

So please do not suggest these.  While I realize I might find one used at a lower price, I am hesitant to go this route on this type of gear. Lastly, if I were to focus in on three areas where I would be happy to see a perceivable step up in HD800 performance it would be:

 

Bass Performance:  Not bloated, but solid, detailed bass with more "slam" than the m903 provides.  I am not sure whether this is driven by amp slew rate, power or voltage performance?

 

Sonic Detail:  One thing that I enjoyed with the m903 was the level of sonic detail that I could hear (I compared them to my K702s and some loaner LCD-2s). Do any amps excel in presenting micro details?  I realize that this can be a double edged sword with respect to poorly recorded albums.

 

Sound Stage/Imaging: It is already quite good on my m903, but an amp that both translates the recorded space supremely in terms of depth and width and instrument location within the image would be welcome.

 

Appreciated,

 

Bob


Edited by iim7V7IM7 - 9/29/12 at 6:41am
post #2 of 172

If you consider a SS amp, I can't recommend the Headamp GS-X enough with the HD800.  I used to have this pairing and it was a wonderful sounding combo.  Good news is that the GS-X will come with even more powerful module, so it should sound even better.

post #3 of 172

I'd really look into the Liquid Glass. It's more than you want to spend but initial impressions coming in are very positive. I've heard from a few that it's their favorite amp with the HD800 (from people who've heard/own LFs, WA22s, and BAs). The roll ability is just crazy, too.

 

The LF was my choice with the HD800 and I can't imagine it getting better...but it sounds like Liquid Glass is something special. If I had the money (and a pair of HD800s again) I'd probably be all over that preorder price.

 

EDIT: I have actually heard the BHA-1 and it was really good, but too sharp on too much music I tried it with. Couldn't deal with the icepicks.


Edited by MorbidToaster - 9/27/12 at 11:07am
post #4 of 172

I have the Sennheiser 800 headphones powered by the original Zana Deux amp. It is a wonderful combination. Buy any of the Eddie Current amps used. Take the money you save to get a better headphone cable- like the Double Helix Clone in copper and still be in your budget to buy more music!

post #5 of 172
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by purk View Post

If you consider a SS amp, I can't recommend the Headamp GS-X enough with the HD800.  I used to have this pairing and it was a wonderful sounding combo.  Good news is that the GS-X will come with even more powerful module, so it should sound even better.

Purk,

Thanks for the suggestion. I suppose I have power hungry HiFiman H-5E and H-6s to thank for Justin's amp change.

:-)

Bob
post #6 of 172
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MorbidToaster View Post

I'd really look into the Liquid Glass. It's more than you want to spend but initial impressions coming in are very positive. I've heard from a few that it's their favorite amp with the HD800 (from people who've heard/own LFs, WA22s, and BAs). The roll ability is just crazy, too.

The LF was my choice with the HD800 and I can't imagine it getting better...but it sounds like Liquid Glass is something special. If I had the money (and a pair of HD800s again) I'd probably be all over that preorder price.

EDIT: I have actually heard the BHA-1 and it was really good, but too sharp on too much music I tried it with. Couldn't deal with the icepicks.

Morbidtoaster,

The Cavalli no doubt is a great amp, and i appreciate you taking the time to suggest it. But as I said, it is just too much money at this juncture ($3,250 for first 10 and then $3,750). That is why I stated it in my posting. A new amp, the tube rolling and perhaps a cable on top of what I listed will be as much as I should spend.

I was hoping among 7 tube amps, 3 hybrid amps and 4 solid state amps a winner existed.

:-)

Bob
post #7 of 172
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Pritchard View Post

I have the Sennheiser 800 headphones powered by the original Zana Deux amp. It is a wonderful combination. Buy any of the Eddie Current amps used. Take the money you save to get a better headphone cable- like the Double Helix Clone in copper and still be in your budget to buy more music!

David,

Thanks for chiming in.

It is funny, the ZD has been around for a while. It is very unusual for a OTL in that it has very low output impedance. People seem to love it and say it is transparent , dynamic and holographic OR they hate it and that it is thin sounding and too bright. Many seem to favor transformer coupled designs over OTLs. This leaves prospective buyers like me somewhat confused.

Everyone, however seems to think that Craig is. Tube genius. People seem to be more focused on his newer products ( S7, 2A3 and BA).

:-)

Bob
post #8 of 172

People favor transformer-coupled designs over OTLs because they generally work well with a wider variety of headphones (low and high impedance). The more headphones an amp sounds good with, the more people will like the amp and its topology.

post #9 of 172

Once you settle down with a headphone though you often want to pair it with the best amp you can get. Often high impedance cans like the T1 and HD800 respond really well to OTL amps. I'll agree that transformer coupled amps are the way to go for variety though.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moostrkraaft View Post

People favor transformer-coupled designs over OTLs because they generally work well with a wider variety of headphones (low and high impedance). The more headphones an amp sounds good with, the more people will like the amp and its topology.

post #10 of 172
Thread Starter 
I wasn't really stating a preference either way regarding he OTL approach. I had read about the high impedence match. Some folks feel that they don't have the transient response of a SET. Some folks seem to have problems with how some use negative feedback. That being said, i take away OTLs can sound very different based on their individual circuit design and tube complement.

I was really commenting on how an amp like the ZD which has been out for a long time can be so beloved and disliked. It speaks to the heterogeneity of headFi. People also seem to focus on what is new. Someone looking for an amp like me very confused, because seemingly knowledgeable people feel both ways.
post #11 of 172

I use my HD 800 with a Headroom Balanced Max DAC Alps Headphone Amp.  It is pretty amazing. 

post #12 of 172
Thread Starter 

I had forgotten the HeadRoom amps...I will add them to my list.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scottsmrnyc View Post

I use my HD 800 with a Headroom Balanced Max DAC Alps Headphone Amp.  It is pretty amazing. 

post #13 of 172

The Luxman P-1u is ever so slightly coloured, but it matches well with the HD-800s. I think new it is closer to $3000 though. Not sure how readily you'd find it cheaper, especially as if you bought one through one of the exporters from Japan (where it can be had much cheaper) it requires a proper transformer to work, as it is 100V only. Purchased new from TTVJ it is 115V, of course.

post #14 of 172
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post

The Luxman P-1u is ever so slightly coloured, but it matches well with the HD-800s. I think new it is closer to $3000 though. Not sure how readily you'd find it cheaper, especially as if you bought one through one of the exporters from Japan (where it can be had much cheaper) it requires a proper transformer to work, as it is 100V only. Purchased new from TTVJ it is 115V, of course.

Currawong,

 

Thanks for pointing out that detail.  I had not noticed it on the the ones that I saw for sale.  I will put it in the too expensive pile-O-amps.


:-)

Bob

post #15 of 172

Headroom Max is the best solid state I've heard with the HD800's.  That said, I'm a tubes man and would go for EC or DNA's Stratus over the Headroom.

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