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My quest for the perfect classical music headphone: a brief visit of the DT-880, T1, HD-800,... - Page 5

post #61 of 68

HiFiman make a unit specifically for connecting things like the HE6 to a speaker amp The HE Adapter http://hifiman.com/Products/?pid=104

If you go down the speaker amp route you need to factor in that the sound flavour of the amplifier will have quite an impact on the balance of sound from your headphones.

This is much the same as using the speaker amp bias energisers with electrostatics Stax/Jecklin

You might like to consider a tube based amplifier where you can roll the tubes and change to overall flavour of the sound. You should only need something low power say 15 watts or so so may work out cheaper than a dedicated headphone amp. Some headphone amps have speaker outputs these days so might suit both purposes. I would suspect a SS speaker amp might be too bright for the HE6 but i'm not that familiar with it. There is the NVA personal amp which drives headphones and speakers. http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/NVA-AP10P-Personal-Integrated-amplifier-/270505082352?pt=UK_AudioTVElectronics_HomeAudioHiFi_Amplifiers&hash=item3efb5bfdf0

There are lots of good 70's/80's japanese integrated amps you should be able to pick-up for under Euro 50 to give a speaker amp a try (i.e. Pioneer, Sansui, Trio, Rotel, Technics, JVC etc)

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Xenophon View Post
 

Look, I'm not into picking a useless fight over this topic, especially not while sitting jet lagged behind my desk at 5 am on a weekend.  But I'm totally not convinced that the contention that you need a speaker amp to get the best out of the 6 is true.  I've auditioned it on a couple of those  so far and none of them convinced me.  Let's just say that the entire headamp pushing scenario on threads like the HE-6 thread lacks nuance, to put it mildly.  I'm sure you'll agree that they also present risks and disadvantages, especially if you also own other headphones.  And just like the HE-6 certainly won't work on many headphone amps I'm convinced it'll also have problems with many speaker amps, for various reasons.  This is a point that's often not mentioned.

 

But ok, I don't actually own a speaker amp and want to get to the bottom of this and that requires more than just a quick audition.  You run it on the FirstWatt F1J, correct?  That's not an easy brand to source in the EU (won't even mention India) and for an experiment the sticker price is a bit rich.  But I'm willing to put my cash on the table to test  my assumptions so if you have a recommendation for a speaker amp that DOES in your opinion get the best out of the 6 then I'll purchase one next time I'm in Europe, snap some pics if anyone requires proof and do the comparison.  I'll drive it via my V800 DAC and compare with the V200 amp and the 337 dual mono tube amp I own and let the chips fall.  Preferably something easily available in Europe, price upto 2K USD (lower is evidently better) and no-frills, no flickering lights, no sales BS and no gadgets.  Looks are not a criterion.  I'll use it wirth the 6 but if it also drives the 500 and my Senns that's a bonus.

 

If I like it better than what I have it'll stay, else I'll sell it on, done more stupid things in my life than wasting a couple 100.  

 

BTW:  nice review you wrote.

post #62 of 68
Cheapest and best sound I've heard from my HE6 is a vintage Marantz 2285. This should set you back less than $500 (used obviously). The Odyssey Stratos Plus is what I currently use and is again very good. The FirstWatt stuff may be even better. What I did learn, however, was that the HE6 wasn't worth keeping until I jumped to more powerful amps. I do hope you find that HE6 synergy with a powerful amp; who knows, it might even take you in for a bit of shock wink.gif
post #63 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xenophon View Post
 

Look, I'm not into picking a useless fight over this topic, especially not while sitting jet lagged behind my desk at 5 am on a weekend.  But I'm totally not convinced that the contention that you need a speaker amp to get the best out of the 6 is true.  I've auditioned it on a couple of those  so far and none of them convinced me.  Let's just say that the entire headamp pushing scenario on threads like the HE-6 thread lacks nuance, to put it mildly.  I'm sure you'll agree that they also present risks and disadvantages, especially if you also own other headphones.  And just like the HE-6 certainly won't work on many headphone amps I'm convinced it'll also have problems with many speaker amps, for various reasons.  This is a point that's often not mentioned.

 

But ok, I don't actually own a speaker amp and want to get to the bottom of this and that requires more than just a quick audition.  You run it on the FirstWatt F1J, correct?  That's not an easy brand to source in the EU (won't even mention India) and for an experiment the sticker price is a bit rich.  But I'm willing to put my cash on the table to test  my assumptions so if you have a recommendation for a speaker amp that DOES in your opinion get the best out of the 6 then I'll purchase one next time I'm in Europe, snap some pics if anyone requires proof and do the comparison.  I'll drive it via my V800 DAC and compare with the V200 amp and the 337 dual mono tube amp I own and let the chips fall.  Preferably something easily available in Europe, price upto 2K USD (lower is evidently better) and no-frills, no flickering lights, no sales BS and no gadgets.  Looks are not a criterion.  I'll use it wirth the 6 but if it also drives the 500 and my Senns that's a bonus.

 

If I like it better than what I have it'll stay, else I'll sell it on, done more stupid things in my life than wasting a couple 100.  

 

BTW:  nice review you wrote.

That's fair.  That's all I was saying anyway.  It's all about comparing not assuming.  Don't expect any speaker amp to work with the rest of your headphones though.  I really only use mine with the HE-6.  That's the down side.

 

I've bought and sold many headphone amps that just did not sound good paired with the HE-6.  The thing I've found with the V200 was it's a fairly warm amp, not the best at resolving and detail retrieval.  Also it does not control the bass on the HE-6 to my liking, not as tight and has less impact.  

 

Anyway we all hear different.  But it's good to have references.

post #64 of 68
Thread Starter 

You have a valid point concerning the Vio V200 being a bit warm (though imo not excessively so) and not extremely resolving as to detail retrieval (though it's by no means bad, have to say that since getting them I've auditioned some more amps, some of which cost more than double and found them lacking by comparison).  I knew this when I purchased them but the thing was, I needed to strike a compromise and wanted to purchase something that worked with all my cans, also with the Senns.  And with those the Vio pairing is really sublime, the amp brings down some of the HD-800's more exaggerated characteristics a bit.

 

The HE-6 was a spur of the moment thing then, when I walked in the shop I had no idea that I might end up purchasing them, much less that they'd become my preferred headphones by a fair margin after a couple of months of listening.  Anyway, for overall versatility, my taste in music etc I'm still extremely happy with the Vio but as I said somewhere, if you're starting from scratch and decide to get the HE-6 then it makes sense building your entire setup specifically around them.  The problem of course is that usually by the time one gets to the HE-6 and gains some insight, most people will already be surrounded by a tidy and expensive mountain of other cans and assorted gear.

 

We'll see what happens when I get a speaker amp, will dedicate some time to auditioning and finding a good combo once I'm back in Europe (in India it's hopeless, the average consumer doesn't make in a year what the HE-6 alone costs so understandably most have other things on their minds than getting into high-end audio).

post #65 of 68

You might like to consider this given the reviewers comments regarding the HE6 and the HD800 http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/spectacularly-transparent-auralic-taurus-mkii

 

Sennheiser HD800
I started with the Sennheiser HD800, as I tend to do when evaluating most amps. Right off the bat TAURUS impressed with an iron grip on the top end—which is critical for my enjoyment of this particular headphone. I don't do so well if the amp is at all tipped up or loose in the treble region...HD800 is bright enough as it is, and doesn't need further encouragement there. Some amps counteract this by dulling the upper mids and highs, glossing over some detail in the process. HD800 is spectacularly detailed anyway so the result can still be pleasing. Yet the ideal amp, in my opinion, is the one which can tease out the finest details without stifling them—this requires a firm grip to minimize grain as well as peaks. It also helps if the amp is suitably full range. HD800 is no bass cannon and you really don't need any limitations from the amp holding it back. I'm happy to report the TAURUS has some serious kick. The key here is texture and accuracy more than in-your-face slam, and when you get those right the perception of impact just happens naturally. So don't think for a second the TAURUS is one of those light, airy sounding amps which is really "pretty" but doesn't have enough guts.

You like soundstage? Precision imaging? How about sheet music pages turning, or audience members coughing? The TAURUS does microdetail and localization better than the vast majority of amps I've experienced. We can thank the inky-black background for that, and I'm sure the signal to noise ratio doesn't hurt. Despite all that, I wouldn't call this a hyper-detailed amp. The overall sound is superbly balanced, and the lack of grain combines with the excellent bass extension to impart a sort of warmth to the end result. It's hard to explain but there it is.

I ended up preferring the HD800 in balanced mode as I felt it was more open and "holographic" sounding. The STD output was nice too and I wouldn't complain if that's all I had available to me—yet direct comparison showed the balanced connection to be consistently preferable with this headphone.

I compared the TAURUS to the Icon Audio HP8 MKII ($999 plus tube upgrades for another $500) which is one of my favorites for HD800. The TAURUS gave a more well rounded, even handed presentation from top to bottom. The Icon was a lot of fun—especially with the adjustable output impedance cranked up, thus reducing damping factor and warming things up a bit. Add in the somewhat smooth top end and I can absolutely see the appeal. On the other hand, when I switch to TAURUS I do hear what seems like a more faithful representation of the original recording. Laser-sharp accuracy and wide open soundstage makes for an appealing listen, especially with exceptional recordings. I might choose the HP8 for some light hearted fun—The New Amsterdams, Wu-Tang Clan, Soundgarden, Riverside, Metric... you get the idea. Switch to some more "serious" material—nearly anything from Reference Recordings, 2L, Channel Classics, the MFSL releases, the Steve Hoffman DCC Gold discs—that's the sort of stuff which really shows the "authenticity" of the TAURUS. I'd listen to the Icon and think it couldn't get much better—then I'd swap in the TAURUS and prove myself wrong.

HiFiMAN HE-6
Next I switched things up to the HiFiMAN HE-6 which is a headphone I've really struggled to enjoy. On the one hand I appreciate its resolution and clarity. On the other hand, I find it somewhat bright and at times downright unnatural. Part of the problem is the extremely low sensitivity—I'm not necessarily on board with the folks who demand huge monoblock speaker amps for the HE-6, but I will admit it needs a beefy (headphone) amp to do it justice. The TAURUS clearly seems up to the task.

This is the first time I felt the HE-6 worthy of being called a true flagship headphone. Up until now the best I had heard it perform was from the Violectric V200. In that scenario I felt like HE-6 and the less expensive HE-500 were different but roughly equal in performance. The TAURUS is the first amp I've heard allowing HE-6 to clearly surpass the more affordable sibling. They have most of the precision of the HD800 with more solidity and "punch" all around. Soundstage takes a considerable hit; this is the most expansive I've heard a planar magnetic design sound, yet it still falls short of the HD800 by a significant margin. That's just the character of the headphones and TAURUS isn't a miracle worker. Still, large orchestral works were satisfyingly grand in terms of space and scale, so I can't complain much.

The HE-500 doesn't seem to improve much when mated with the TAURUS—apparently the V200 already takes it about as far as it will go. But with the TAURUS in play, HE-6 has superior midrange articulation, better deep bass impact, and just sounds more effortless in general. Is it worth the price difference? That's subjective. For me, the answer has always been "no". Until now. I can totally see building a system around the HE-6 now that I've heard what it can really do.

I like the HE-6 a lot with both outputs. My contact at AURALiC says they prefer the BAL option, and I agree it sounds mighty good. Yet more often than not I find myself gravitating towards the STD output. I suppose this is one of those cases that comes down to individual preference. I'm glad HiFiMAN chose to include a balanced cable as well as the adapter for single ended use. It's win-win.

post #66 of 68
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the tip, I'll definitely look into those but if I decide to purchase something US built I'll just fly over to pick it up, might as well invest the 30% of duties and taxes I'd pay in a plane ticket for a short break, see the sights and carry the amp back myself.  Not from India though, flights are just too long :confused_face:

 

Has anyone heard from NVA amps?  Appears to be a small builder in the UK, hand builds his amps and is willing to do custom stuff, I like their philosophy but can hardly find any users, certainly not with headphones.  See http://nene-valley-audio.com

post #67 of 68

Yes I have two of their amplifiers

The NVA-AP10P-Personal-Integrated-amplifier is 15 watts output so will power both speakers and headphones. I can power my Stax electrostats off the speaker terminals with an energiser transformer and my dynamics out of the headphone socket

I also have a custom build NVA 2 box headphone amp with separate power supply. The headphone unit will also act as a passive pre.

They are very well known and respected in the UK and to some extent in Europe, Its a small boutique manufacturer like Headamp, Eddie Current, TJVV etc.

The amplifiers are quite powerful, very dynamic and transparent. The A10P will most likely power your HE6. I believe they will sell on a purchase or return basis if you ask. 

I would not call it a warm sounding amplifier at all, its a bit Krell like so not an ideal match for the Sennheiser HD800, great for say the 600/650 as it livens then up a lot. The Beyer DT880 sound great on them too.

It easily powers my 007 and Jecklin floats off the speaker terminals. You may see an odd used one rarely pop up on ebay for between £100 to £200.


Edited by complin - 2/9/14 at 4:41pm
post #68 of 68
Thread Starter 

Update:  After a number of contacts, reading a ton of reviews as well as the entire (yes) 'Headphones that power the HE-6' thread and pm'ing with a couple of owners of various amplifiers I finally (and alas, predictably) overspent my allocated budget and ordered a FirstWatt F3-amplifier with Reno Hifi in the US.  Due to time constraints and airport fatigue I'm going to have it shipped to Europe after the voltage has been converted by Nelson Pass (the designer). Will only be able to give it a spin mid april but am really looking forward to it and after the 'new toy' syndrome has worn off I'll write up a review of it with the HE-6 and compare notes with my Violectric V200/HE-6 combo.  I've also purchased a resistor box from a fellow head-fi'er who makes them, this will enable me to also use it with my other headphones.

 

For those wishing to know more about the amp:

 

http://www.firstwatt.com/f3.html

 

http://www.renohifi.com/FirstInStock.htm

 

Incidentally:  communication with both Renohifi and FirstWatt (Nelson Pass himself) were truly excellent.

 

For those taking a look at the amp:  it's a niche product, not suited for driving most conventional speakers (Nelson Pass writes himself that for 98% of users, the FirstWatt amps will likely not be what they need).  I specifically purchase it for my HE-6 and don't intend to use it with speakers (except who knows a ribbon speaker setup in the distant future).  Don't snicker after seeing it's a 15W amp, the underlying design principle and objective is different from what you'll find in typical speaker amps.

 

I'll let everyone know how the chips fall come end of april.

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