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Icon Audio HP8 mk II headphone amplifier: headphone recommendations?

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 

Hello.   First post on here, though I have read extensively on these forums and found them extremely useful.


I have an Icon Audio HP8 mk II tube amp and currently use some Denon AH-D7000 phones.  While I'm generally pleased with the combination, there are two areas I'd like to improve on.  Firstly, soundstage: a bit limited with the Denons, which I assume is partly down to the closed back design.  Secondly, comfort: I don't find the Denons that comfortable for protracted periods, by which I mean anything beyond around one CD's worth of music.  


While we're on the subject, my sources are a Leema Antila IIs CD player, and an iPod / Onkyo NDS1 / Arcam rDAC combination.  


My music tastes are general rock and pop, not really classical or jazz.  Or metal, apart from a bit of Queens of the Stone Age, Metallica, and Them Crooked Vultures.  Recent CD purchases (for a bit of background) include Arctic Monkeys, Goldfrapp, Leonard Cohen, Deacon Blue, Mark Knopfler, JJ Cale, Jools Holland Big Band Orchestra, and Lana del Rey.  


I would ideally like to find a headphone with an expansive soundstage, such that you almost forget the phones are there.  Probably unlikely given that they're clamped to the side of my head, but anyway.


I'm currently thinking of an open or semi-open design.  Budget no more than £500-600, but ideally less if possible as I suspect there's a law of diminishing returns with headphones beyond a certain price point (don't ask me what that price is).  However, if there's a view that a pair of T1s would be fantastic then I suppose I could haunt eBay and see what comes up.  


Otherwise I will aim to audition new ones.  I just need to narrow the list down, which so far consists of Sennheiser HD600 or 650, Shure 1840, Beyerdynamic DT880 600 Ohm (seems to be perhaps an under-rated phone, from what I've read), Beyerdynamic T90, and AKG 702.  My budget will have to include any after market cables, if there's a strong view that they make a significant difference to the stock ones (and I appreciate that not all of these models have detachable cables).  


So, does anyone out there have the Icon amp, and if so which phones really work well with it?


Thanks for any help.  

post #2 of 2



I have the same setup, but I haven't (yet) had an opportunity to listen to many different headphones out of the HP8.  I really like the Denons out of it but I have yet to find the perfect valve pairing: the best sound that I've heard comes with a bit of treble sibilance, while the valves that address that issue also seem to lose some of the resolution.  I am confused about your comment on the comfort though.  I find the Denons exceptionally comfortable!  To the point where I virtually forget I'm wearing them and can wear them for hours at a time without a problem.  So I'm curious what about them you find uncomfortable?


My experience so far with the amp is that it really does well with open headphones. My next set of headphones will be a high end open backed one, like the T1 or a pair of Hifiman HE-500s.  A friend of mine has the DT880s and they're amazing at their price point.  Seriously impressive headphones, good soundstage and excellent instrument separation and placement.  They reproduce the lower notes as well, but with nothing near the impact of the Denons.  IMHO if you already have the Denons as your benchmark and you have the HP8 you want something more than the DT880s.  I think the amp is simply better than them, and same goes for the HD600s.  I have the 580s and comparing those on the amp to the Denons highlights where the Senns are lacking.


From what you've said you like musically, the HD650s may be a good match for what you want.  I'm not as big a fan of the Senn sound signature but I have to say that even compared to the D7000s, the HD580s do vocals really well.  So the HD650s would likely sound really good out of the HP8.  I expect the Shure and the Beyers would perform really well, but the AKG that you've listed is likely going to be simply not as good as what the amp is capable of achieving.  The DT880s are exceptional for their price point and I think the amp is still better than that.  I am pretty excited to hear what the T90s sound like out of it, and even John on Inner Fidelity said that it changed his mind about the T1s.  They sound amazing out of the HP8 apparently.

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