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Best amps portable and desktop for HD650 under $350usd New Used or Refurbished

Poll Results: Which type of setups do you prefer

 
  • 71% (20)
    Desktop
  • 28% (8)
    Portable
28 Total Votes  
post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 

Lets me guess... I'm not the first person to ask this question... Well move past that and help a HFB (Head-Fi Brother biggrin.gif) out. It's finally happened. If your a member of this site at some point in time in you're going to want to try out or own one of these three pairs. HD650, M50's and LCD 2's and it looks like my time is now. My HD650's will be here tomorrow March 26th (pictures to come later) and I have a decent to above average set up right now that will power them until I get something better. The Fiio e17 Alpen & E9k are what I use right now to power my D5000's, a900x, and He-400's that are up for sale right now on the classifieds (cheap plug). I have total faith that the combo will have no problem powering the 650's seeing that they were able to easily power my He-400's and even the LCD 2's to great levels that I was luckily able to demo thanks to Justin at HEADAMP.COM (worthy plug).

 

Now the pictures that I'm about to show you may offend you but well, deal, its what I have to work with at this time and is still a great stack for the money so no snobby comments please deadhorse.gif

 

 

 

 

 

Here's another one that people gave me crap over...

 

 

 

Yes, at one time I used to use an e11 (my first amp) with my $700 Denon's. Big deal, it was just the extra umph that I needed so they served me well just as my e17 serves me well at this very moment while I write this post. So am I a fan of Fiio?? Absolutely!! Do I think they are the end all be all?? Absolutely not. Which is why I'm here now.

 

What I'm look for is a good set up to improve on what Fiio has taught me. An upgrade so to speak. My knowledge of desktop amps is growing daily which is a good and bad thing. As soon as I see something that I want or think will serve me well something else pops ups that looks even better or has better reviews and so on and so forth. So I'm enlisting the help of my Head-Fiers that have more experience on this subject matter and can help me find the best amp & DAC set up that can run both dynamics and Orthos for under $350. I know it isn't going to be easy but I know it can be done somehow. Here are some of the things I've looked into so far so give me your thoughts and opinions and please include your own experiences with the 650's if you have owned or tried them yourselves. 

 

In no particular order.

 

  1. HP-A3 Ok, that actually is top of my list at the moment biggrin.gif

  2. Headstage Arrow 12HE 4G

  3. Matrix M-Stage DAC version 

  4. Schiit Valhalla 

  5. Schiit Asgard 2 

  6. Schiit Magni/Modi

  7. JDS Lads O2/Odac

  8. JDS Labs C5

  9. HIFIMAN EF5... Side note I briefly own the ef2a and loved its sound but the DAC wasn't very good so I sent it back. 

10. Aune T1

 

Ok, so I'm sure I'm leaving something out but that should be enough to get the conversation started don't you think?? 

 

Now this is important to me and probably important that you know this as well but my journey into this maddening hobby is just getting started so some of the pairs of headphones I plan on buying in the near future include but are not limited to pairs like the LCD 2's He-500's TH600's and maybe T5p's (big maybe. I did like the T70's sound comfort and uniqueness tho the bass was amazing but seriously lacking in the amount it produced so I'm not sure I want to take a flier on a pair that cost twice as much...). I kind of know the rule of thumb that some of your big shots like to use that your amp should cost close to the same as your headphones you plan on using them with but that isn't something that I believe to be true so I'm more focused on sound and value than I am making "Audiophiles" happy. 

 

 

Ok folks, do your worse and lets see how bad my wife and wallet will suffer from me asking this question. If you have any questions to ask me please feel free. I unfortunately have no idea how to stay away from this site so questions will be answered promptly.

 

 

 

Thanks for the read and help that follows. 

 

 

Edit: THEY HAVE ARRIVED!!! 

 

First thought: AHHHHHHHH I'm so excited!!!! 

Second thought: Holy crap these things are a lot lighter than I had expected them to be. 

Third Thought: DO NOT DROP THESE!! I guess I now know why they are so light. Not the most solid pair are they...

 

 

Warning: Spoiler! Quick Pics as Promised (Click to show)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks,

 

 

evil_smiley.gif


Edited by DemonFox - 3/26/13 at 1:56pm
post #2 of 37
Honest answer: the E9 will be just fine with the Sennheisers (but don't let anyone else hear that! tongue.gif). It's also going to be among the beefiest amplifiers you'll get your hands on, until you spend closer to $1k (and can look at something like WA-6SE, Little Dot VI+, etc which will deliver their power across a wider range of loads). I'm not saying it's the best, just in terms of power output it's going to be pretty much near the front of the pack until you spend substantially more - not that power output is everything.

The M50, Denon, etc don't really require much in the way of amplification - they're all massively sensitive and low impedance (and stable at that!), so as long as the amp is clean, they'll play nice. The HD 650 are reactive (and no amount of money down a hole will change that), high impedance, but relatively sensitive - what this means is that if an amplifier can drive 300-400R without a problem, they'll work, BUT that Zout of the amplifier will always result in changes to the FR (higher Zout will mean more of a mid-bass hump; it's basically a preference discussion - personally I preferred my 580s with a receiver and 400-500R, but that doesn't mean they were unlistenable with a relatively low Zout amp like the E9 (yes I know its 10R, but it isn't that big of a deal given context)).

The LCD-2 are basically where I'd investigate - if I remember correctly, Audeze specs them at 91 dB/mW (and Tyll's data roughly supports this), which is on the lower end of the sensitivity spectrum (but means that 1-2 mW should still be enough for normal listening levels - most amps can provide that, believe it or not). So basically here's the only area where you need to worry, at least a little bit, about "more power" - but the E9 is a stout little box, and will happily put out around 1W (1000 mW) into something like the LCD-2.

So the question then becomes - what exactly do you want to change or improve upon? The "it needs to be better" or "I want an upgrade" path is a great way to spend a whole lot of money, and probably end up no better than you started, but having a specific goal in mind is going to make selecting a new component much easier. Given your budget, and requirements, something I'd alternately suggest is looking at a proper receiver.
post #3 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post

Honest answer: the E9 will be just fine with the Sennheisers (but don't let anyone else hear that! tongue.gif). It's also going to be among the beefiest amplifiers you'll get your hands on, until you spend closer to $1k (and can look at something like WA-6SE, Little Dot VI+, etc which will deliver their power across a wider range of loads). I'm not saying it's the best, just in terms of power output it's going to be pretty much near the front of the pack until you spend substantially more - not that power output is everything.

The M50, Denon, etc don't really require much in the way of amplification - they're all massively sensitive and low impedance (and stable at that!), so as long as the amp is clean, they'll play nice. The HD 650 are reactive (and no amount of money down a hole will change that), high impedance, but relatively sensitive - what this means is that if an amplifier can drive 300-400R without a problem, they'll work, BUT that Zout of the amplifier will always result in changes to the FR (higher Zout will mean more of a mid-bass hump; it's basically a preference discussion - personally I preferred my 580s with a receiver and 400-500R, but that doesn't mean they were unlistenable with a relatively low Zout amp like the E9 (yes I know its 10R, but it isn't that big of a deal given context)).

The LCD-2 are basically where I'd investigate - if I remember correctly, Audeze specs them at 91 dB/mW (and Tyll's data roughly supports this), which is on the lower end of the sensitivity spectrum (but means that 1-2 mW should still be enough for normal listening levels - most amps can provide that, believe it or not). So basically here's the only area where you need to worry, at least a little bit, about "more power" - but the E9 is a stout little box, and will happily put out around 1W (1000 mW) into something like the LCD-2.

So the question then becomes - what exactly do you want to change or improve upon? The "it needs to be better" or "I want an upgrade" path is a great way to spend a whole lot of money, and probably end up no better than you started, but having a specific goal in mind is going to make selecting a new component much easier. Given your budget, and requirements, something I'd alternately suggest is looking at a proper receiver.

 

Right now I do have a VSX-32 Pioneer Elite receiver but I don't usually use that for music. All of my music comes out of either my work pc or my Macbook Pro. The PC I use the usb and my Macbook has a optical out. But by improved I'm looking for a wider smoother sound signature or maybe just something different than what I have now. The e9k is a little beast isn't it! Power for days and it does deliver better sound separation than the e17 but I like the portable aspect of the e17 but wish it sounded as good as the e9k which is why I started looking into other options. You are 100% correct, I'm not interested in spending tons of money on stuff I may not like or doesn't sound much better than what I already have but I know there has to be something out there that can give me the portability and features of the e17 (or close) but with better vocals, depth, and bass impact.

 

Hopefully that answers some of what you were curious about.

 

Very helpful comments, Thank you and please keep the smarts coming

 

 

Thanks,

 

 

evil_smiley.gif


Edited by DemonFox - 3/25/13 at 2:30pm
post #4 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by DemonFox View Post

Right now I do have a VSX-32 Pioneer Elite receiver but I don't usually use that for music.

I keep forgetting to specify "stereo receiver or integrated amplifier - vintage or modern" and exclude AVRs from the discussion. redface.gif This isn't to say that AVRs are bad (some of them are actually really good), but a "proper" stereo receiver/IA with the headphone jack tapped to the main power amp (with resistors inbetween for protection, and maybe a relay or two) is really what I'm meaning there. Something like the Yamaha RX-797 or what a lot of members will refer to as "vintage receivers" (as a genre). $350 is a healthy enough budget to buy such a device - it certainly wouldn't be for mobile use, but there's a lot of gems out there if you take the time to look.
Quote:
All of my music comes out of either my work pc or my Macbook Pro. The PC I use the usb and my Macbook has a optical out. But by improved I looking for a wider smoother sound signature or maybe just something different than what I have now.

Amplifier will not make "wide" or "smooth" happen, that's in the headphones. You can spend a lot of money on a very well put together amplifier and hear very slight improvements in that respect, but if you want to change the soundstage, that's all headphone. With the Sennheiser, if you want "different" get something with a high Zout, for the others (stable + sensitive), what you get is more or less what you get, assuming the amplifier you're starting with is competent (no insane rolloff or boost, quiet, good channel balance, etc).

I'm not trying to push the "all amps sound the same" thing - the bigger differences between amplifiers will relate to noise, channel balance/tracking, headroom (this is less of an issue with headphones and headphone amplifiers), output impedance, sensitivity/gain, and so on. They can absolutely contribute to different sounds, but it's generally going to be in the frequency domain (or noise floor), as opposed to radiative (e.g. soundstage) or time (e.g. transient response) domains.
Quote:
The e9k is a little beast isn't it! Power for days and it does deliver better sound separation than the e17 but I like the portable aspect of the e17 but wish it sounded as good as the e9k which is why I started looking into other options. You are 100% correct, I'm not interested in spending tons of money on stuff I may not like or doesn't sound much better than what I already have but I know there has to be something out there than can give me the portability and features of the e17 (or close) but with better vocals, depth, and bass impact.

Doesn't ALO make a "hybrid" desktop/portable amplifier of sorts? I remember reading something about that a few weeks ago - it has a fairly robust output section, and they sell a battery pack for it (to allow you to truck it around). No idea if that's suitable for your mobile application, but it comes to mind.
Edited by obobskivich - 3/25/13 at 2:38pm
post #5 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by DemonFox View Post

Lets me guess... I'm not the first person to ask this question...

 

Now the pictures that I'm about to show you may offend you but well, deal, its what I have to work with at this time and is still a great stack for the money so no snobby comments please deadhorse.gif

 

 

 

 

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>SNIP<<<<<<<<<<<<< (Great pics)

 

 

In no particular order.

 

  1. HP-A3 Ok, that actually is top of my list at the moment biggrin.gif

  2. Headstage Arrow 12HE 4G

  3. Matrix M-Stage DAC version 

  4. Schiit Valhalla 

  5. Schiit Asgard 2 

  6. Schiit Magni/Modi

  7. JDS Lads O2/Odac

  8. JDS Labs C5

  9. HIFIMAN EF5... Side note I briefly own the ef2a and loved its sound but the DAC wasn't very good so I sent it back. 

10. Aune T1

 

Thanks for the read and help that follows. 

 

 

Thanks,

 

 

evil_smiley.gif

 

 

As of right now, 03-25-13 you are the 1,325th person that has asked what amp under $400 goes great with the HD650s since January 2013...jk...lol....beerchug.gif

 

The pics are great DemonFox.  Folks sometimes think because the phones cost 1K that the amp has to cost 1K minimum...And on the flip side, listening to $200 phones on a 1K amp is ludicrous....On head-fi there are no right or wrong answers and whatever floats your boat, get on and hold tight for the ride.  It's all good....

 

I've listened to the HD650s on tubes, hybrids, solid state, portables etc.....

 

For your budget I'd look into the A-GD gear.  I own the NFB-15.1 (NFB-15.32 is the replacement...same unit but with the USB32 chip instead of the TE8802) and the NFB-11.32.  Both spank the HD650s and both sound delicious...I use them with the D5000s as well.  There are threads on the units in the computer sub-forum.

 

Pic taken a few months back of my HD580s and NFB-15.1.

 

 

 

 

post #6 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeatFan12 View Post

 

 

As of right now, 03-25-13 you are the 1,325th person that has asked what amp under $400 goes great with the HD650s since January 2013...jk...lol....beerchug.gif

 

The pics are great DemonFox.  Folks sometimes think because the phones cost 1K that the amp has to cost 1K minimum...And on the flip side, listening to $200 phones on a 1K amp is ludicrous....On head-fi there are no right or wrong answers and whatever floats your boat, get on and hold tight for the ride.  It's all good....

 

I've listened to the HD650s on tubes, hybrids, solid state, portables etc.....

 

For your budget I'd look into the A-GD gear.  I own the NFB-15.1 (NFB-15.32 is the replacement...same unit but with the USB32 chip instead of the TE8802) and the NFB-11.32.  Both spank the HD650s and both sound delicious...I use them with the D5000s as well.  There are threads on the units in the computer sub-forum.

 

Pic taken a few months back of my HD580s and NFB-15.1.

 

 

 

 

 

1325th?!?! That's all, kinda figured it would have been more :)

 

Thanks for your input and where on earth can I get Agd gear from?? I think I found it online and I do like the look of them but not sure where to go to purchase or what the cost is. I know enough to know that the HD650's sounds is on the dark side so how does that work with tube amps?? I kinda of wish I still have the EF2a because I feel like with the amount of power they push out but and warmth of the sound they produce would have been a interesting mix... 

 

 

Thanks,

 

 

evil_smiley.gif

post #7 of 37

I bought an Apex Butte and an HP-a3 for my LCD 3 for using on the road, and they are both very good.  The HP-a3 has async USB and uses USB power, which makes it extremely portable.  My primary rig is the Apex Peak plus Volcano, and the smaller guys are no match, of course.  But the smaller amps are very easy on the ears, as well.  Surprisingly rich audio to my ears.

post #8 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by DemonFox View Post

 

1325th?!?! That's all, kinda figured it would have been more :)

 

Thanks for your input and where on earth can I get Agd gear from?? I think I found it online and I do like the look of them but not sure where to go to purchase or what the cost is. I know enough to know that the HD650's sounds is on the dark side so how does that work with tube amps?? I kinda of wish I still have the EF2a because I feel like with the amount of power they push out but and warmth of the sound they produce would have been a interesting mix... 

 

 

Thanks,

 

 

evil_smiley.gif

 

 

The HD650s sound delicious from OTL tube amps.  They let their dark side shine bright in a good way.  But for some SS love, here ya go:

 

http://www.audio-gd.com/Pro/Headphoneamp/NFB11.32/NFB11.32EN.htm

 

http://www.audio-gd.com/Pro/Headphoneamp/NFB15.32/NFB15.32EN.htm

 

http://www.audio-gd.com/Products-EN.htm

 

Cheers!!!

 

beerchug.gif

post #9 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by DemonFox View Post

1325th?!?! That's all, kinda figured it would have been more smily_headphones1.gif

Thanks for your input and where on earth can I get Agd gear from?? I think I found it online and I do like the look of them but not sure where to go to purchase or what the cost is. I know enough to know that the HD650's sounds is on the dark side so how does that work with tube amps?? I kinda of wish I still have the EF2a because I feel like with the amount of power they push out but and warmth of the sound they produce would have been a interesting mix... 


Thanks,


evil_smiley.gif

HD 650 with anything with a high Zout (and this is based on SS amps that are more or less flat 20-20) will have a boost to the low-end (higher Z = higher boost); if the amp's FR *also* boosts the low-end (as some (but not all) tube gear can do), I'd imagine you'd be in one for heck of a ride! Certainly into the "colored sound" realm, and it'd really come down to how you feel about the end result as to whether or not you'd like it (is this a "no duh" statement? apologies if it is...redface.gif).

I'm not sure how a hybrid would work here - they can (At least in theory) have a relatively low Zout, but can also have "non-flat" FR (due to the tubes), so you'd get some color, but maybe not as dramatic as a tubey OTL.
post #10 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jpittsc View Post

I bought an Apex Butte and an HP-a3 for my LCD 3 for using on the road, and they are both very good.  The HP-a3 has async USB and uses USB power, which makes it extremely portable.  My primary rig is the Apex Peak plus Volcano, and the smaller guys are no match, of course.  But the smaller amps are very easy on the ears, as well.  Surprisingly rich audio to my ears.

 

And that's one of the main reasons why I want to try out the HP-A3. The ability to use just with a usb just like other portable DAC's is a very nice prospect and shot it to the top of my list. Plus it can run 600ohm rated cans so the kind of flex ability is unheard of at least to me at the moment. It also has a great rep and people seem to love it which is why its still very hard to find it used or cheap lol. 

post #11 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeatFan12 View Post

 

 

The HD650s sound delicious from OTL tube amps.  They let their dark side shine bright in a good way.  But for some SS love, here ya go:

 

http://www.audio-gd.com/Pro/Headphoneamp/NFB11.32/NFB11.32EN.htm

 

http://www.audio-gd.com/Pro/Headphoneamp/NFB15.32/NFB15.32EN.htm

 

http://www.audio-gd.com/Products-EN.htm

 

Cheers!!!

 

beerchug.gif

 

Wooooooow those are beastly!! Is the difference between the 11.32 and the 15.32 worth the price difference? I'm still figuring out how to read amp nerd speak so my understanding of all the stats is still fairly low at the time. For example I can see that the 11.32 has a 32bit/192k Sabre ES9018 that the 15.32 does not have. Now what the hell does that mean?!?!? I assume that its some sort of chip that will affect the performance of the DAC but I have no clue. Just being honest here lol. 

 

Now the only OTL Tube amp that I know off the top of my head is a bottlehead crack. (I think) Are there other popular OTL amps out there?? 

post #12 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post


HD 650 with anything with a high Zout (and this is based on SS amps that are more or less flat 20-20) will have a boost to the low-end (higher Z = higher boost); if the amp's FR *also* boosts the low-end (as some (but not all) tube gear can do), I'd imagine you'd be in one for heck of a ride! Certainly into the "colored sound" realm, and it'd really come down to how you feel about the end result as to whether or not you'd like it (is this a "no duh" statement? apologies if it is...redface.gif).

I'm not sure how a hybrid would work here - they can (At least in theory) have a relatively low Zout, but can also have "non-flat" FR (due to the tubes), so you'd get some color, but maybe not as dramatic as a tubey OTL.

 

Ok, so the OTL's seem to have a more robust and colored sound even compared to normal tube amps. Interesting... Now if only I had some DIY skills I would build a Crack right now.

post #13 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by DemonFox View Post

Wooooooow those are beastly!! Is the difference between the 11.32 and the 15.32 worth the price difference? I'm still figuring out how to read amp nerd speak so my understanding of all the stats is still fairly low at the time. For example I can see that the 11.32 has a 32bit/192k Sabre ES9018 that the 15.32 does not have. Now what the hell does that mean?!?!? I assume that its some sort of chip that will affect the performance of the DAC but I have no clue. Just being honest here lol. 

Now the only OTL Tube amp that I know off the top of my head is a bottlehead crack. (I think) Are there other popular OTL amps out there?? 

The Sabre should BE the DAC. It's one of the more popular, and ritzy, D/A chips on the market; along with the usual TI and AKM options. redface.gif

EDIT: Just took a peek, yes the Sabre is the DAC in that box. The other one has a pair of mono D/As, the amp sections look identical from what AGD is spec'ing. I'd go with the 15.32 because:

- It's cheaper
- It looks to be the same amp on paper
- I've had good experiences with dual mono D/As in the past

But for all I know the Sabre based unit has some unseen advantage, which is why it costs ~$60 more.


Quote:
Originally Posted by DemonFox View Post

Ok, so the OTL's seem to have a more robust and colored sound even compared to normal tube amps. Interesting... Now if only I had some DIY skills I would build a Crack right now.

I wouldn't say that for certain, what I meant was that some tube amps have inherently non-flat FRs (it's just by design), and if that meant boosted bass out of the box (e.g the amp's FR is naturally a few dB up at 100hz or so), plus a very high output impedance to drive the HD 650s, it'd be a fair bit of boost to the low-end.

As far as other OTL amps that seem popular, Woo Audio and Little Dot both get mentioned quite a lot. I also think Bottlehead will sell assembled (or mostly assembled) Crack amps, and Schiit makes an OTL (Valhalla? Vanguard? something like that).
Edited by obobskivich - 3/26/13 at 9:30am
post #14 of 37

I would avoid tube amps and A-GD like a plague and instead get a ODAC/O2. That way you know you are buying something that actually has better real performance than the E9.

post #15 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Satellite_6 View Post

I would avoid tube amps and A-GD like a plague and instead get a ODAC/O2. That way you know you are buying something that actually has better real performance than the E9.


Having owned the HD650's now going on the seventh time, (I keep selling them thinking there is something better; which there isn't), I will say the HD650's like being paired with a warmer amp. I don't know if I'd consider the O2 and ODAC. While they are fantastic products, in the OP's rig, something on the warm side might work better. Right now, I've got the HE400s and the HD650s hooked into a V90 and let me say, the sound is sweet. I love being able to swap HF's without having to remove plugs. :)

 

My two cents.

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