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Inexpensive (100-200$) amp for headphones+active monitors

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Help, I think I caught a bad case of upgraditis ...


I am currently using Headstage's USB DAC cable plus Headstage Lyrix Pro amp. Until recently, I was quite content with my equipment and thought it had an adequate quality. But all that changed when I got new DAP (IHIFI 812V2) and new headphones (ZMF modified Fostex t50rp), and realized that my old equipment connected to my computer sounds muddy in comparison to my new DAP.


I believe the main culprit is my amp, even though I guess there is always room for improvement for the DAC as well. The problem is, my budget is still not unlimited, but I guess I could afford shelling out 100$-200$ to upgrade my amp. I was thinking about trying a tube or hybrid amp. There are few models in that price range on ebay and amazon that get pretty good reviews, such as Bravo audio, Qinpu Q2 and his senior brother Qinpu A3, and then there is Aune T1 which includes a DAC as well. Not sure if it is likely to improve on my current DAC, but if it does, it could be a good option for me as well.


So my questions are:

1. Which amp should I get? Any of these? Something else?

2. Are tube amps at this price range any good? Or maybe I should stick to a solid state amp?

3. I am using the same setup to drive my M-Audio BX5a as well. How would a headphone tube amp affect the sound of these solid-state-amped active monitors, when used as a preamp?

post #2 of 8
Thread Starter 

Actually, I just realized something ...


The Lyrix pro amp can take a (possibly rechargeable) 9V battery, but I don't have a rechargeable 9V, and using a non-rechargeable battery means I would need a new one every day, so I'm powering it directly using an AC/DC power adapter. Could this be the reason it sounds muddy? Would getting a rechargeable battery help?

(I guess I'll have to buy it online. This is not something I can find at my local CVS ...)

post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 



Even if I find that powering this amp with a battery instead of adapter improves the sound quality, I am still interested in upgrading my equipment, if possible within my budget. Could a tube amp in this price give me a real improvement? Would it work nicely with both my headphones and active monitors?

post #4 of 8

I think that a Project Sunrise II would be a good choice to pair with your ZMF T50rp, it's 100% handmade in the USA with genuine components, it's robust, powerfull with a clear sound, it have RCA output to connect your desktop speakers and i'm sure it will pair well with modded T50rp :



The only drawback is price : 265$ shipped:



But i think it's a great amp, it can effortlessly reproduce the finest details of a >500$ dac, i was using my first Sunrise with my DAC-19 DSP !

post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 



I've read some of the reviews, and this Project Sunrise II amp sounds pretty impressive. And besides, I strongly believe in supporting small homegrown businesses, so that's another plus. It is a bit over my budget, but if it worth the extra money and performs significantly better than anything under 200$, I could wait a little more and save money for this.


But then, if I'll get this PS II amp, I assume my current DAC (this one: http://www.headstage.com/USB-DAC-Cable/USB-DAC-Cable-with-35mm-Mini-Plug-75cm-30::10134.html) would probably be the weakest link in my system ...

post #6 of 8

your DAC seems to be a "not so bad" unit :



• PCM2706/7 USB Digital Receiver
• Wolfson WM8740 High-End DAC
• 16bit/48kHz resolution (USB standard)
• Analog AD8656 Ultra-Low Noise Buffer
• Ultra Low Noise Voltage Regulator
• Separated Analog and Digital Power Paths
• Low Distortion Capacitors in the Low Pass Filter
• Ultra Small Circuit Board (32x10mm)


You can keep it for a while and upgrade later for a big desktop DAC

post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 

Good to know.


I always used it in the same setup with the same amp. I suspected I am losing clarity and detail because of the amp, but I don't have any other amp, so I had no way to verify it.

post #8 of 8
Originally Posted by sela View Post

Good to know.


I always used it in the same setup with the same amp. I suspected I am losing clarity and detail because of the amp, but I don't have any other amp, so I had no way to verify it.

can you connect iem directly on the line out of your DAC? Give it a try and you'll hear if your DAC sound muddy? (set the sound volume at 10% to start and be careful to keep the sound at listenable levels).

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