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Amp costing 1-2K and designed for low-impedance dynamic headphones?

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
About a week ago I bought myself a pair of Ultrasone ED12s and I'm more than happy with them.(better than the HE-6 IMO but that's a topic for another thread). Amp wise all I have now is the old receiver I'd been using to amp my STAX SR-5s, a Sherwood S6000. It's a first generation solid state amp from about 1970. It sounds good for the price, but it hums, has poor soundstaging performance, and very little range on the volume pot when using headphones.

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. wink.gif) 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
post #2 of 5
These are not the droids you are looking for. :P


PS: I don't know the ED12 but I'm going to assume it's crap unless proven otherwise. smily_headphones1.gif
Edited by eugenius - 9/15/13 at 1:05pm
post #3 of 5

If you are after a neutral amplifier, Audio gd Master-8 fits well to your price range and seems well equipped to handle low impedance dynamic cans

post #4 of 5
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by eugenius View Post

PS: I don't know the ED12 but I'm going to assume it's crap unless proven otherwise. smily_headphones1.gif

Yeah, I expected a comment like that and given Ultrasone's track record it isn't exactly uncalled for. The PRO2900 were some of the worst headphones that I've owned. I can't prove anything but I can say that the ED12s show both more detail and a more accurate timbre than the Beyer T90s, Sennheiser HD700s, and Hifiman HE-6(well timbre is about the same with these). I know that's a lot less useful than comparisons to the other flagships, but I can't comment on headphones I haven't heard. Anyways I'll have a look at the Fosgate amp, I believe Skylab's review will be up by the time I'll be buying.(he commented on it on the Pathos Aurium thread I believe?) The LED lights under the tubes are a real turn off though, makes it hard to take seriously.

i019791, thanks for the rec. I forgot to mention one thing though... I only have limited space on my desk. If I picked the DNA Sonett I'd really be pushing it. That and I really don't like amplifiers that try to be everything all at once. I just want something simple with one or two inputs; and no more than 2 headphone outputs. redface.gif
post #5 of 5

DSHA has been sold out for months.  You'd have to buy used and there have been WTB ads up for months, so my guess is it would be hard to find.

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