I have tried a number of headphone amplifiers around the $1000-$1500 price range, but they generally have not felt like they are worth the price (the Burson Soloist was a huge disappointment, another was a $1000 Teac HA-501 that felt like a $99 beginner amp and the Cary HH-1, which was about on par with the onboard amp from the Marantz, maybe a touch more treble). All of them sounded very flat, very 2D, very unimpressive. The KR-9400 simply has outdone everything I have tried. I remember sampling headphones through a McIntosh preamp (same place I bought my HD800) and it had a huge, massive 3D soundstage even on my SR-80, so my experience with that is what I have been using for reference.
I was thinking about auditioning the Lyr because of Schiit's policy. I may still in the future because it is one of the more affordable amps with tubes.
My impression with amps so far is that most around the $1000-$1500 range aren't really worth bothering with. The Kenwood ran me about $300 with shipping.
Well I did have one of the older Burson amps and was not impressed. But in the $1000-$1500 range there are some wonderful amps - the Woo WA6-SE for example - with an investment in some decent NOS tubes it really shines!
I am a vintage audio fan (love the look of those silver beasts from the 1970s) even had a Pioneer SX1250 for awhile - fun to look at but the problem is old aging electrolytic caps, crappy wiring, ic jacks, power cord, etc... The other issue is their output transistors are biased class A/B, where as true class A offer a much more musical, less harsh sound (due to switching distortion). As a headamp the top of the line Pioneer really wasn't very good.
I do own a Kenwood KT-917 tuner that I had completely recapped by Radio X, Vampire RCAs installed, IEC power connector, SOTA opamps installed, silver wiring, etc. It sounded ok stock, now it's really good.
Tone controls are not the way to better audio - they induce all kinds of issues, like phase shift, noise, channel in balances, etc.. That's why you rarely see them on good audio integrateds and pre-amps these days.
I would give the Lyr a try - just ditch those stock GEs for a decent pair of NOS tubes.
Edited by rb2013 - 7/5/13 at 11:50am