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Recomend me a 'good' entry level tube headphone amp.

post #1 of 227
Thread Starter 

I'm looking to add a tube headphone amp to my vinyl listening. Current setup is/will be:

 

Project Essential 2/Debut 3SE/Rega RP1 (imminent purchase to be based on previewing where possible)

NAD 3020i (I've tried various other lower end amps and I just prefer this one for the phono stage)

Allesandro MS-1/Head-fi RE-0/RE-400 (400's are on the way to replace the RE0s).

 

I pair the amp up with various bookshelf speakers which I still need to do some comparison testing with. All this stuff is pretty much set, but I'd like to add a tube headphone amp, preferably using the tape loop out on the NAD (I've read this is the preferable way of connecting them). I'm currently using a numark ttx (and occasionally a tt-1650) as the source, hence the imminent purchase of a better tt.

 

the one thing I've struggled to find anything for is recommendations for entry level tube amps. My soldering skills are poor, so DIY isn't so much an option, and everyone seems to rave about the Aune T1, but the tube only comes into play on the DAC. Could anyone recommend me something, preferably available in the UK but international shipping is more an inconvenience than a difficulty. Budget would be up to £200. I'd like to get some bigger/better cans sometime next year so something that can drive what I've listed.

 

Purchase wouldn't be imminent, I'd just like to have something to aim for, and having sorted my preferred amp, having the speakers and tt lined up, gotten new ICs and made up some reasonable speaker cables, this is the next thing on the roadmap.

 

If it's of any relevance, genres of music I'll be listening to are pretty varied, but classic through to prog rock via some metal with a sprinkling of jazz is the mainstay. It's for stuff I'd sit and listen to while relaxing, so not so much pop/hiphop/electronic which I'd listen to at work or while commuting.

post #2 of 227

I've never heard any, but I've always thought the German EarMax headphone amps series were sort of intriguing, with the EarMax or the EM Pro representing good value.  They may even be running summer specials on some models....

post #3 of 227

Two that come to mind are the Little Dot Mk III and Schiit Valhalla I think you will be pleased by either

post #4 of 227
Thread Starter 

in was tempted by the valhalla at $349, but less so from their UK dealer at £349.

 

the little dot looks tempting and I've heard good things, I'll have to see if I can preview one anywhere. The EarMax is a bit out of my range i think.

post #5 of 227

Yeah, I see now even the regular EarMax HP amp is $500 here on sale.  I was thinking that there might be better pricing for you there directly from a German or Dutch distributor.

 

You might also consider the Project Sunrise II, the Bellari - HA540 or the HiFiMan EF-2A.


Edited by jacal01 - 8/12/13 at 8:23am
post #6 of 227

The little dot Mk3  is probably the way to go.

post #7 of 227
Quote:
Originally Posted by jacal01 View Post

Yeah, I see now even the regular EarMax HP amp is $500 here on sale.  I was thinking that there might be better pricing for you there directly from a German or Dutch distributor.

 

You might also consider the Project Sunrise II, the Bellari - HA540 or the HiFiMan EF-2A.

Second the project sunrise ii

post #8 of 227
Thread Starter 

this is probably explained somewhere else, bu I'm assuming the little dot has 4 tubes, one for each channel in and out. how do the single tube amps stack up against that? Are they what's called a hybrid, where the input is tube amplified (presumably both channels vai the one tube) and the output stage is a normal solid state affair?

post #9 of 227

I don't have any experience with these entry level tube amps, but that'd be my guess as well.  I'm not sure that there's any inherent disadvantage in hybrid tube amps, per se, you'd most likely still pick up the warmth and mids bloom of the tube in voltage gain.

 

Honestly, at your imposed price point I'm not seeing where you have a whole lot of of room for critical evaluations.  I do see that part to the cost saving on the Project Sunrise is manual adjustments, such as setting tube bias.  So the inference is, for a given cost, what you lack in amp amenities, you gain in SQ.  One way of looking at it.  Another would be relative component quality.  So I wouldn't put a whole lot of faith in tube circuit topologies as a sole means of discrimination, unless you're just looking for the full on warm and lush tube sound, without worrying so much about music fidelity or response.  Bottom line is amp SQ performance.   

post #10 of 227

Entry level and good...I don't think you need go any further than a Little Dot 1+ amp, if you are feeling really guilty over how little it costs, get it with the tube and op-amp upgrades. It is a tube hybrid amp that will match well with most any phones but is really good with low impedance phones.

post #11 of 227
Thread Starter 

see the little dot mk2 is only 30 quid or so more than the 1+. I'm curious but also a little daunted by tube rolling, do people typically only do that with what I'm assuming are the smaller input tubes? 30 quid seems pretty reasonable extra to keep the option for the future, and I'm assuming that the mk2 with whatever stock tubes it has won't deliver lower SQ than the 1+ with it's. Once I'm looking at tube or op-amp upgrades it becomes a lot more varied and subjective.

 

another 50 quid above the mk2 i can get a mk3, and it's still within my ideal budget, I'm assuming it'd be similar to the mk2, but with a nicer housing and somewhat higher component quality.

 

I only have low impedance phones at the moment, but somewhere down the line (<12 months) I'd quite like to try some higher impedance phones (I'm contemplating dt880 600s for Christmas).

 

Also thanks for the feedback and suggestions so far, I'm heavily leaning towards a little dot at the moment, but which ones is clearly still under debate.

post #12 of 227
Quote:
Originally Posted by adrockthewalrus View Post

see the little dot mk2 is only 30 quid or so more than the 1+. I'm curious but also a little daunted by tube rolling, do people typically only do that with what I'm assuming are the smaller input tubes? 30 quid seems pretty reasonable extra to keep the option for the future, and I'm assuming that the mk2 with whatever stock tubes it has won't deliver lower SQ than the 1+ with it's. Once I'm looking at tube or op-amp upgrades it becomes a lot more varied and subjective.

 

another 50 quid above the mk2 i can get a mk3, and it's still within my ideal budget, I'm assuming it'd be similar to the mk2, but with a nicer housing and somewhat higher component quality.

 

I only have low impedance phones at the moment, but somewhere down the line (<12 months) I'd quite like to try some higher impedance phones (I'm contemplating dt880 600s for Christmas).

 

Also thanks for the feedback and suggestions so far, I'm heavily leaning towards a little dot at the moment, but which ones is clearly still under debate.

The amps with the single tubes are usually a Dual triode type. L&R in the one tube.

 

I have the LD MK IV  which I run with my DT880 Pro's 250Ω and Ultrasone HFI-780's 35Ω and it performs exceptionally well with both units.

I chose the MK IV over the MK III with the option of having more output power down the road, 500mW vs 350mW for when I pick up some 600Ω headphones, I like to have the volume control in the middle or less while listening.

 

Both of these amps will do a great job driving your headphones so it is all a matter of personal choice when it comes down to tube amps in the LD price range...

You can roll the smaller driver tubes very easily as they are really cheap and easy to implement.

 

Here is a chart of tubes that have been tested and the configuration...

http://www.head-fi.org/t/563884/little-dot-tube-amps-vacuum-tube-rolling-guide/1140#post_9392055

 

Remember that in the end this is a low cost Chinese tube amplifier... biggrin.gif

 

Have a read here as another Head-Fi'er was looking for a inexpensive tube amp as well...

http://www.head-fi.org/t/676142/looking-for-an-inexpensive-tube-amp

 

I hope I didn't scare you away from tubes, just be aware of actually what you are getting when "entry level" and "tube" are put in the same sentence.

I just love my LD MK IV, so cheers and Good Luck!

beerchug.gif

post #13 of 227
Quote:
Originally Posted by RAZRr1275 View Post

Second the project sunrise ii

Sunrise is a Hybrid tube is it not, go with something like an Indeed G3 or Bravo V2 or actually... I'm selling my  12ua7 Millet Starving Student Amp [Details here http://www.pmillett.com/starving.htm] for around $70 Shipped within the US. I'm including two sets of Tubes as well. clear top RCAS and Mullards. The amp has a low and High gain feature AND if you like it. THEN get something like a Little Dot 3 or Sunrise, as I paid $100 and for $70 it's an even better priced Starter Tube amp! As the Tube sound is a distinct one! Try a CHEAP one first to see if you even enjoy the warmth and presentation of tubes! 

post #14 of 227

I also highly recommend trying out a Little Dot amp. 

 

I don't have any speakers attached to my vinyl setup at the moment, so I'm using it in conjunction with a Little Dot Mk IV SE, and it works great with both my Sennheiser HD600s and JVC HA-SZ2000s. If a Little Dot Mk III is in your price range, it's definitely worth a go.

post #15 of 227
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jiffy Squid View Post

I also highly recommend trying out a Little Dot amp. 

 

I don't have any speakers attached to my vinyl setup at the moment, so I'm using it in conjunction with a Little Dot Mk IV SE, and it works great with both my Sennheiser HD600s and JVC HA-SZ2000s. If a Little Dot Mk III is in your price range, it's definitely worth a go.

Indeed, my Millet Amp just sold q.q although I'm upgrading to a Little Dot + my self [although the one I'm getting comes with lots of extra tubes] Still the build quality of the Little Dot is going to be a little better than on the cheaper Indeed and Bravo Tubes 

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