To get the most out of my new headphones I decided I'd be getting myself a headphone amp for Christmas. I've been out of the amp market for a couple years and a lot of things have changed. What I've noticed is that the majority of amps are one of two things: designed for high impedance headphones or for power-hungry orthos. This gives me a few concerns. The first is output impedance, I used to own a Burson 160DS(OI=10ohm) and a PRO2900(I=40ohm) and it was a match made in hell. Bright, flabby, and noisy. Generally what I've read is that you want an OI 10 times lower than your headphone of choice's O; but I'm seeing a lot of tube amplifiers that supposedly work well with 32ohm headphones that have OI of 10, 15, and even 28. Does a different rule apply here with tubes versus SS? Are their multiple different ways to do this right?
Secondly, the amplifiers I do find with a low output impedance are generally all designed to work with the Orthos. And in that spirit they provide a good amount of power. My question here is whether or not this is an issue when using efficient headphones such as the ED12s. I generally follow the 'less is more' design philosophy with these things and was wondering if it's better to get a headphone amp with lower power(though still sufficient) over one that is clearly overpowered. Is there any disadvantage to a powerful amplifier beyond having less usable range on the volume control?
Ok, now that that's out of the way I'd like to ask for recommendations. While I'll be spending most of my time listening to metal, ambient electronica, and classical I want to make it known that I do not like the sound sigs usually recommended for these genres. I've tried Grado, Burson, and even lower-end Ultrasones; and the exciting forward sound does nothing for me. I'm looking for something more in line with my vintage Sherwood; though with a larger soundstage and perhaps a little more laid back. Still I am not looking for slow and syrupy and I can't stand things with obvious warmed colorations(Really not a fan of the Sennheiser sound. I prefer Beyer's velvety treble over Senn's veiled treble. ) I'm not really too picky with bass as this is where my vintage amp falls real short.(what do you expect with caps 30yrs past their expiration date?) Also seeing as it's such a vague term; when I say I listen to metal I listen to: black metal, funeral doom, and folk metal. All of the above genres are more suited for 'analog' sounding gear than they are for powerful/dynamic 'modern' gear.
I've been researching amps for about 2 weeks now and this is what I've been looking at:
DNA Sonett 2($1400, concerned about output impedance. Not too many reviews)
RWA Cassabria($1850, Interesting concept, can't find even one review)
White Bird Amplification Virtus($1???, For whatever reason this amp has really caught my eye but the manufacturer hasn't returned my emails so buying in the US is likely not possible)
ECP DSHA-1($2000, Finally an amp designed for low-impedance dynamics rather than the Orthos! Pushing my budget though and I'm not sure if it's available)
If anyone has some experience with the above amps or has a better suggestion please don't hesitate to post. I know I'm kinda looking for something in an awkward price range(seems all the hype is around things under $1000 or over $2000) but hopefully that won't be a problem.
update: I forgot to mention it, but space is a big concern. I only have limited room on my desk, nothing larger than the amps listed above will fit. Size of external PSUs is not an issue as I can easily tuck those away or put them on the floor.
Edited by MohawkUS - 9/16/13 at 8:55pm