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good amp for he-500 under $500?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Hey guys,

 

After 4-5 years of using k701s I've decided to upgrade to something different. I'm planning on buying some he-500 soon, but first I need a better amp. I've been using the stock one on the xonar essence stx and I figured I would probably need something beefier to do the he-500 justice. I've looked at pretty much every thread discussing this subject and the most recommended products seem to be the Schiit Lyr and hifiman EF5, with audio-gd c2 mentioned a few times as well. For any of you who have tried both lyr and ef5, which one did you prefer? I'd like to spend under $500 if you guys have any other suggestions. I mostly listen to electronic music if that's of any help, and since I'm used to the rather cold and bright sound of k701s I'd like to try a hybrid/tube amp for the supposed added warmth. Thanks for your time.

post #2 of 13

Hi Steez

 

There are two comments I would like to make.

 

(1) Look at online auctions. You will be able to buy something very much better second-hand.

 

(2) You write that you would "like to try a hybrid/tube amp for the supposed added warmth". I think this is a mistake. Never buy amplifiers that "add warmth" in significant quatities, these are not Hi Fi.

 

The K701/2s are beautiful neutral headphones. If the musicians perform warmly then you will hear in in the K701/2s. If the musicians perform coldly, then you will also hear it with the K701/2s.

 

If you have an amplifier that adds warmth then while this might be attractive initially, you will soon tire of it.

 

I do listen to classical music, but what I write holds true for any music form. Musicians work very hard on the tonality of their instruments, brilliant musicians using computer generated sound will attend to all aspects of the sound. So then if you amplify the signal through an amplifier which "adds warmth" you simply wipe out all that hard work. You will not hear the subtleties in tonality they have built into the music.

 

I write about computer generated sound, but also you can consider the violin. The brilliant violinist will manage to tonality of output, it is essential to their expression. If you use an amplifier with "adds warmth" once again you will be wiping out great quantities of the work the musician has put into that performance.

 

I have listened to Hi Fi since the 70s. I put together my first Hi Fi system in the late 70s in fact. All the main amplifiers designs can be good or bad depending on their implementation, however I have found that my favourite amplifiers always seem to be Class A Solid State amplifiers. I have heard excellent valve amplifiers (what in the US are called "Tube amplifiers), but the vast majority of valve amplifiers I have heard unfortunately are simply dosing on great quantities of even order harmonic distortion (that is the distortion that makes the warm sound).

post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the advice Patrick. The thing is I have no experience with amplifiers whatsoever, so it's all theoretical assumptions on my part. I'll keep an eye out for good solid state amps as well. In the end I'll have to go with what people recommend for the he-500 since I plan on sticking with those for a while.

post #4 of 13

Well first I wish you all the best in your quest :)

 

There will be more advice soon in this thread and no doubt some will contradict mine, but please read all and consider all possibilities.

 

I think it is much more difficult to buy good Hi Fi today than it was in the late 70s when I started.

 

This is because today there are many components that are simply not Hi Fi at all, but simply sell because of their looks. Also today there are many many myths. The reviewers in magazines and in blogs today do not have any sense of duty to provide objective reviews, instead they produce an endless series of impressions. They take no account of the extremely powerful phenomenon of auto-suggestion which has so much influence in the human hearing. In order for the reviews to be meaningful they must be conducted blind, this was a common practice in British hi fi reviews of the late 70s but it is never done now. If it were many people would save a lot of money because the very expensive but rubbish equipment sold by some companies would be exposed for what it is.

post #5 of 13

BTW...

 

If I were buying a brand new headphone amplifier today I would get one from Meier-Audio.

 

The Corda Classic would be a good choice but it is over your $500 limit.

 

The Corda Jazz is inside your budget.

 

I have a Meier-Audio DAC and I am extremely impressed by it.

 

These Meier-Audio amplifiers come with an extremely good crossfeed. I believe this to be essential for headphone listening, but it has to be implemented well. You can read all about it at the Meier-Audio website.

post #6 of 13

Hi Steez.

 

I have K701s and HE-500s and also Meier Audio Corda Jazz.

 

That little amp has more than enough power to drive them, I've never had to max it out (rarely go past 12 o'clock).

 

A nice feature of the amp is the adjustable gain switch. Very handy if you have several different headphones. Jazz also has the crossfeed but I hardly ever use it.

post #7 of 13

Meier Audio don't specify the output capacity of the amp.

 

They just say: 15V/300mA but I'm sure it cannot do both at the same time. From the internal pics, I suspect it has fairly low power output (less so than the M-Stage for instance) and might not be the best fit for the hungry HE-500.

It will play loud, definitelly, but the amp won't have enough headroom to make the HE-500 sing properly.

I'd opt for a powerfull headphone amp (Lyr, most Audio-GD gears) or a small speaker amp like the Emotiva mini-X A-100.

 

As for comparisons with the K-701, soundstage's size aside, there is no competition IMO. The K-701s has glary upper mids which become fatiguing on most recordings. This glare is less prominent with the K-702 and most recent variant (from what I read).

 

The HE-500 does everything better and even though the sound stage is smaller (not by a big margin when properly amped) it is much more coherent: it's not a bare circle around your head on which the instruments are (randomly) placed (K-701). The layering and instrument separation are much better.

As far as voicing goes, the HE-500 is rather warm when the K-701 is rather cold. The HE-500 has bass (not the tightess though), a lush and fleshed out midrange (which can be too much for some genre/taste) and extended yet smooth treble.

 

The HE-500 is just really easy on the ear and to listen to for extended sessions. As a trade off: it lacks some bite and is not the fastest headphones around ^^


Edited by Clemmaster - 1/18/13 at 6:28am
post #8 of 13

Clemmaster,

 

I agree on your assessment of the Corda Jazz, it might not be enough for HE-500. I am quite satisfied with Jazz but I've been having doubts whether I should upgrade my amp or not. I still kinda like K701 more than he-500, but that may be because Jazz possibly lacks the necessary kick to make HE-500 "sing".

 

steez,

 

HE-500 feels really warm after listening to K701 for so long, an amp that has warm sound might make HE-500 sound too warm. I'd prefer neutral sound when choosing an amp for this Hifiman.

post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by GreenLeader View Post

HE-500 feels really warm after listening to K701 for so long, an amp that has warm sound might make HE-500 sound too warm. I'd prefer neutral sound when choosing an amp for this Hifiman.

 

You might want to check out the Lake People G109. I use its predecessor G100 and I'm very happy with the combo :-)

 

http://www.thomann.de/gb/lake_people_g109_p_highend_phoneamp.htm
http://www.thomann.de/gb/lake_people_g109s_highend_phoneamp.htm

post #10 of 13

I hope that the OP finds a suitable amplifier.

 

I will comment that the specifications for the Corda Jazz suggest that it is a powerful headphone amplifier.

 

 

Output impedance < 0,1 ohm
 
Maximum output 15V / 300 mA.
 
That is substantial.
 
I read that the HE-500 headphones warm up the sound. I have no experience of these headphones but I do think that a neutral amplifier would be an important consideration. I'm sure the other amplifiers suggested for use are very good possibilities and should be checked out.
 
Personally I do not like having music "warmed up". You will always tire of that in the longer term. Let the musicians decide if the music is to be warm or not.
 
My own experience of the AKG K702s and AKG K701s is extremely good. These really are rather superb headphones capable of amazing levels of transparency.

Edited by p a t r i c k - 1/20/13 at 7:14am
post #11 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by p a t r i c k View Post

I hope that the OP finds a suitable amplifier.

 

I will comment that the specifications for the Corda Jazz suggest that it is a powerful headphone amplifier.

 

 

Output impedance < 0,1 ohm
 
Maximum output 15V / 300 mA.
 
That is substantial.
 
I read that the HE-500 headphones warm up the sound. I have no experience of these headphones but I do think that a neutral amplifier would be an important consideration. I'm sure the other amplifiers suggested for use are very good possibilities and should be checked out.
 
Personally I do not like having music "warmed up". You will always tire of that in the longer term. Let the musicians decide if the music is to be warm or not.
 
My own experience of the AKG K702s and AKG K701s is extremely good. These really are rather superb headphones capable of amazing levels of transparency.

 

I'm pretty sure it cannot do both at the same time ;)

 

It's definitelly not a 4.5Wpc (15*0.3). They just measured the best of voltage and current delivery separatelly ;). From the internal pics, I would say it's <300mWpc.

 

I received a Audio-GD NFB-27 last week. It's a balanced DAC/Amp with 7Wpc. I previously used a Audio-GD SA-31 amp (single ended, 10Wpc). When I connect the NFB-27 line out to the SA-31 I can directly compare the balanced amp of the former with the single ended amp of the latter. From quick listening, I couldn't tell them appart (except the voicing which is a bit warmer on the SA-31).

 

The soundstage is big, the bass hits hard, the air between instrument is similar.

 

Bottom line: for $600.00, the SA-31 is an excellent headphone amplifier than can drive anything with real gusto!

post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Clemmaster View Post

 

I'm pretty sure it cannot do both at the same time ;)

 

It's definitelly not a 4.5Wpc (15*0.3). They just measured the best of voltage and current delivery separatelly ;). From the internal pics, I would say it's <300mWpc.

 

I received a Audio-GD NFB-27 last week. It's a balanced DAC/Amp with 7Wpc. I previously used a Audio-GD SA-31 amp (single ended, 10Wpc). When I connect the NFB-27 line out to the SA-31 I can directly compare the balanced amp of the former with the single ended amp of the latter. From quick listening, I couldn't tell them appart (except the voicing which is a bit warmer on the SA-31).

 

The soundstage is big, the bass hits hard, the air between instrument is similar.

 

Bottom line: for $600.00, the SA-31 is an excellent headphone amplifier than can drive anything with real gusto!

 

Well okay, I think that the OP might be best to look at other alternatives from the Corda Jazz for the HE-500 headphones :)

post #13 of 13

The Emotiva a-100 mini X is a perfect amp for any ortho.

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