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New to headphones, have grado sr225i, looking for headphone tube amp recommendations

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 

Cliff notes version is at the bottom of the page smily_headphones1.gif

About a month, maybe a month and a half, I was considering buying a set of good headphones, I went to best buy and listened to the bw p3 and p5 and the sennheiser momentums and liked both but doing more research on them here, I decided against them and found some reviews on grado headphones, ther reviews for the grado sr225i had me very interested

I went to listen to the grado sr225i headphones at my local grado dealer on a Saturday and was amazed that headphones could sound that good, I went back sunday to the same grado dealer and bought a new set of sr225i and I love them smily_headphones1.gif

After a few weeks after listening to the 225 thru our surround sound headphone out jack, I decided I wanted a dedicated headphone amp, so I checked the headphone amp section here and found that the Schiit amps where in my price range, i was debating if i wanted a tube or solid state amp, so I listened to a hybrid tube amp a music hall ph25.2 at the same grado dealer I bought the grados from but at $400 it was out of budget

I read the reviews on the Schiit magni and the Asgard 2 and after asking Jason at Schiit which he recommended for the grado 225 ( he recommended the Asgard 2 ) I bought the Asgard 2 from Schiit, after listening to it for a few weeks since I received the Asgard 2 from Schiit, I thought it was missing something, the bass was not as punchy unless the volume was at 11 o clock which is uncomfortably loud, I have the Asgard 2 set to low gain, high gain was even louder and unpleasant. It also sounds too clinical compared to the music hall I listened to again, I'm not knocking the Asgard 2, after listening to the music hall again I decided I like the sound of tubes better, even though the music hall is a hybrid

Well I decided to go listen to the Music hall again today and It confirmed what I thought I was missing with the Asgard 2 solid state amp, the bass was better at lower volume, I was listening with the volume at 9 o clock and it was comfortable and not too loud bet the bass was still there, they have a open box mh ph25.2 that is now in budget smily_headphones1.gif

So now I'm thinking about selling the Asgard 2 and going with either the music hall or another hybrid tube amp or full non hybrid tube amp

The must haves for a tube amp are good bass at not 11 o clock aka painfully loud and good treble too and mids of course, I have ruled out the little dot amps from my reading the reviews on here, Jason from Schiit said the Asgard 2 was a better match for the grados than the Valhalla that he said would sound very tubey, so that's out, I am Leary of buying another headphone amp without hearing it first which is going to be interesting since my local music shop only has the music hall amps and can order bellari tube amps too but has none in stock, and I am past the 15 day return period from Schiit frown.gif the Asgard 2 did not sound cold at first until I listened to the hybrid tube amp, it did feel like the bass was missing unless it was loud smily_headphones1.gif again I'm not talking trash or Schiit on the Asgard 2 it is just not as pleasing to my ears as the mh that I listened too

cliff notes version

Bought grado sr225i headphones, love them, bought Schiit Asgard 2, it sounds cold to me unless the volume is at 11 o'clock and it kinds like the bass is missing before 11 o clock, listened to music hall ph25.2 hybrid tube amp at local music shop, like that it is has more bass and is more comfortable to listen to and I like the tube sound better than solid state, I have ruled out the little dot and Schiit Valhalla and the lyr is out of budget And I have ruled out any more solid state amps

I have not decided on the music hall completely, but I am leaning toward it, since I like the sound of it with my music and my grados, I am still open to suggestions on a hybrid tube amp or tube amp in the $300-350 price range

My source is a vintage Tascam cd player and CDs

I am I'm Kansas city mo, since I can't update my profile

So any recommendations for a hybrid tube amp or tube amp for around $300 to $350 max ?

Also please pardon if some of my wording does not make sense, I got about 5 hours of sleep last night, I was up late listening to music and researching tube amps, and got up at 8 am for work smily_headphones1.gif
Edited by autoguy - 7/31/13 at 10:06pm
post #2 of 35
Little dot i+ is my vote... I know its cheap but damn... It sounds so good! I'd roll some tubes too... Maybe even an opamp.
post #3 of 35
The problem you will have is that tube amps add distortion to the original audio signal--that's what we like about them as opposed to solid state amps which strive towards accuracy in sound reproduction. So it's about how different tube amps change the signature to color the sound. Typically they will all add warmth, but the specific tubes used in the amp will also have some effect on the sound as well. You could certainly get a tube amp and change out the tubes to find the sound you want. However, I think you are better off going with what you can listen to and know you like--the Music Hall--then risking getting another tube amp with a different tube setup and finding out it doesn't duplicate that experience.
post #4 of 35

Bravo V2 - $60

LD MKIII - $200-250

Bottlehead Crack - $280-$400

post #5 of 35
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replys everyone smily_headphones1.gif

The little dots are out, because they are too cheap, and I am Leary of not being able to hear one without buying one, I have read the reviews and they say they are good, but I also read the reviews on the Asgard 2 and most people love it,

The bravo amps are way too cheap and look bad to me

The bottlehead crack I had considered, but from there website it says the crack is made for higher impedence headphones than the grados

Cel4145, thank you for explaining, I am really thinking about getting the music hall, and selling my Asgard 2, like you said at least I have heard the music hall, and I can hear it more before I buy it, I know the music shop doesn't care if I sit there for an hour listening to an amp, I did that before I bought the grados smily_headphones1.gif

I am waiting on a reply from music hall about what happens when the tubes go out since they are hard wired onto the board

Sadly a woo audio amp is out of my price range they do look great though smily_headphones1.gif

I had thought about a antique sound labs mk3 but only found one thread here related to it and found a few reviews on google

I am not against buying a used tube amp either
Edited by autoguy - 8/1/13 at 9:57am
post #6 of 35
I have the Little Dot I+, which is a recommended choice for Grados. The hybrid solid state/tube amp in the Little Dot I+ is great for low impedance headphones. It does work very well for the price.

While I enjoy the sound, I typically end up using my solid state Objective 2 amplifier instead. That's why I think you really do have to hear the tube amp before you buy because it could be you wouldn't prefer what you get over the Asgard 2.
post #7 of 35
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the reply smily_headphones1.gif

I agree that I really want to not buy another amp without hearing it, like we both said, the main advantage of the music hall is that I have heard it and like the sound better than the Asgard 2 smily_headphones1.gif

I did get ahold of music hall and they said when the tubes go bad they have to be sent to a repair center, my local music hall dealer is the repair center in iChat so that is a big advantage smily_headphones1.gif

My local music store/ place I bought the grados from has a music hall dac that is hybrid tube too but it uses a standard tube instead if hard wired, I might have to listen to it next week , the dac is more expensive though frown.gif and I don't need a dac now but it would work, I mainly listen to CDs but our DVD player has digital outputs and I could use it as a cd player hooked up to the dac and I have an iPod too and iPhone 5 that both have music on them, that I could hook up to the dac

Decisions decisions smily_headphones1.gif
post #8 of 35
Originally Posted by mvrk10256 View Post

Bravo V2 - $60

LD MKIII - $200-250

Bottlehead Crack - $280-$400

As best I can tell, none of these are really optimum for Grados.  Grados are 32ohm - generally considered low impedance.


The Bravo V2 is a hybrid, and if the output capacitors are large enough, then it may be OK.  However, I've tested literally thousands of tubes in my experience and to tell the truth, a stereo amp based on a single, dual-triode tube is a snipe hunt.  The reason is that I've rarely - if ever - seen the triodes in a single tube test out as a match.  What this means is that you'll always experience some imbalance in the channels.  You can adjust them through manual or self-setting bias so that that the steady-state output is equal, but music is not steady-state.  The stronger triode will always react more strongly to peaks and transients.  It's why the more-expensive, higher-quality tube amplifiers use two tubes - even if they're dual-triodes - to make up the signal amplification stage. If you parallel the triodes of each tube in a two-tube design, then the triodes' output values are averaged, allowing a much greater chance to find matches between two tubes.


Further (again - as best I can tell), the LD MKIII uses an OTL output.  That means caps on the output in the signal path.  The problem is that very large capacitors at the tubes' high voltage are very scarce and very expensive.  Amps such as this (granted, I don't know the specifics of the amp) often default to a semi-large electrolytic capacitor on the output.  They are not nearly as good as film caps and the connection of a load (a headphone) forms an RC circuit on the output of the amp.  What that means is that the capacitor needs to be BIG, or the bass is filtered out.  Big capacitors at high voltage are impossible to find in film caps (best quality) and very scarce to find in electrolytics (bad quality).


The Bottlehead Crack is well known.  Again, it's an OTL amp that needs output capacitors at high voltage and will have very little current pulse capability with low-impedance phones (such as Grado SR225i's).

post #9 of 35
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the info, that is a wicked good explanation smily_headphones1.gif

I have a birthday coming up and will be getting some more funds to put towards a tube headphone amp smily_headphones1.gif

I am thinking about looking for a used woo Audio wa3, would it be the same problem as the above listed amps since it is otl ? there impedance specs say 30 to 600 ohms, could I change the tubes to a lower gain tube to get it to run the grados better ?

Or should I bite the bullet and look for a used woo wa6 since it has the low gain switch and is transformer instead of otl ? It would be a longer time for me to save up for the wa6 even used frown.gif
Edited by autoguy - 8/1/13 at 9:52pm
post #10 of 35

Few things:

1) Welcome to head-fi, sorry about your wallet.

2) Hello fellow Missourian. I'm about an hour away from St. Louis.. Much further from KC, or I would invite you over to listen to what I have.


3) It sounds to me like you are using the Music Hall as a bit of a tube EQ to make up for the fact that those Grados have a significant bass roll-off to them. I would recommend putting your money towards another set of headphones closer to your taste profile instead of buying an expensive amp to color the sound. Maaaybe Senn HD650 would float your boat, I'm not sure. It definitely has better bass extension!


4) If you want to keep the sr225i, why not use a little EQ to boost the low end a tad instead of dropping fat stacks on a new amp that your headphone does not need?


Just my .02. Best of luck achieving audio nirvana.. I started with Portapros, moved to grados (all types, all kinds of mods), magnums (super custom grados), fostex t50rps (orthos) and wound up settling with a Sennheiser and a nice little solid state amp and dac called the Objective 2 and Odac. I picked the senns up on a whim from craigslist, they weren't really even on my radar due to the infamous "veil" that doesn't exist :P


P.S. If you just like tubes and want them because you do, just go for it man. I'm just trying to be realistic/honest.

post #11 of 35
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the welcome smily_headphones1.gif my wallet has taken a few hits monetary and literally, but it is a saddleback leather wallet that's built like a tank smily_headphones1.gif

Thanks for the invite if I was closer, I am having a hell of a time finding any headphone amps,to listen to frown.gif

I like the way the hybrid tube amp had better/ not as clinical bass and overall the music sounded better to me it was not as clean and pure and clinical smily_headphones1.gif I might have an old sole in regards to liking tube amp sound smily_headphones1.gif
post #12 of 35

It bewilders me that anybody would chase an unclean or unpure sound..

But, at least tubes look cool cool.gif


Don't mind me, I'm just a hater. But, maybe you only like the tubes because the colored grado matches up with the colored tubes? Which is fine.. I mean, so long as you are enjoying the music all is well. This audio stuff is dirty science. Just get yourself a mirror and judge how good your gear sounds by the smile on your face. I wish I would have done that from the beginning. I did a lot of frowning while A/Bin'g headphones, I know tongue.gif


Best of luck finding what suits you!


P.S. This wouldn't be a thread about tube amps if I didn't note that some well designed tube amps have almost no coloration and they can sound very similar to a solid-state. Many people think tubes=coloration is a golden rule, but it certainly is not.

Edited by chrislangley4253 - 8/1/13 at 11:01pm
post #13 of 35
Thread Starter 
Makes sense, like ya said as long as the sound of what evey amp and headphones makes you smile than its all good smily_headphones1.gif personal preference I guess

Cheers smily_headphones1.gif

I mainly listen to rock music if that makes any difference on amp tube amp suggestions
Edited by autoguy - 8/1/13 at 11:11pm
post #14 of 35
Thread Starter 
Anyone else have any other recommendations before I pull the trigger on the music hall ph25.2 ?

Just checking before I order the music hall amp Thursday! I am 99 percent sold on one unless there are any better suggestions in my price range ?
post #15 of 35
Little Dot MkIII
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