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Looking for recommendations: balanced amplifier for high sensitivity headphones with preamp out 1500-3000 USD

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

I'm in the process of moving to a small apartment and am downsizing my system. I want to use this opportunity to balance my headphones since I'll be using them a lot more. I'm looking for a balanced amplifier for headphones that also has balanced preamp out. 

 

My favorite headphones are my akg k701s. I am going to have them balanced. Until now I have been satisfied with how they sound with a KICAS caliente but am looking to upgrade and satisfy my preamp needs at the same time. It seems that the bryston BHA-1, Headamp GS-X and 4 board Beta 22's are popular choices for balanced amps. My concerns are the ability to drive high sensitivity headphones, the quality of the preamp and less importantly the number and type of inputs.

 

The amp would be connected to a CIAudio DAC and serving as a preamplifier for CIAudios class D monoblocks. It will be primarily driving balanced k701s but I have single ended GS1ks which I like to listen to from time to time.

 

What I am looking for is a balanced amplifier that will pair with my preferred headphones and can act as a serviceable preamp for when I listen to speakers. RCA input for my phonostage would be cool but not crucial to me. I'm looking to make a reasonable investment in this equipment as I anticipate using my headphones much more than in the past.

 

Reviews for the usual suspects mentioned above appear generally favorable but I'd really like to hear more opinions and also maybe learn about some alternative options. Ideally I'd like to audition the most promising candidates. Or does anyone recommend any custom builders of beta 22s or any other balanced design?

 

Thanks for any suggestions or advice.

 

Edit: didn't know if this belonged here or the amplification forum. I'm a new poster so this seemed like the best place.


Edited by ikaretababy - 11/16/13 at 10:28pm
post #2 of 5
I would give the traditional greeting of: Welcome to head-fi, sorry about your wallet - but it appears your wallet is already well acquainted with this concept. smily_headphones1.gif

I think your questions are advanced well beyond what can be answered in the Intro/Help thread. To your question - I haven't got much advice - that's not an area I know anything about. However, I can say that when I first read your thread title and "sensitive", I thought you might be talking about IEM-type sensitive - but you're not. The K701 is sensitive compared to a power hungry 300 ohm 'phone, but it's not Westone IEM-level sensitive. They are 62 ohms & 105 db SPL/V. I heard the K701 on a few different amps (including the incredible Darkstar), and I did not think any of the amps caused hiss or other typical sensitivity issues when driving the K701. I suspect you'll be fine with most amps unless you specifically choose one with high gain. I have to say, the Ray Samuels Darkstar is one amazing piece of kit - check it out. Good luck.
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by billybob_jcv View Post

I would give the traditional greeting of: Welcome to head-fi, sorry about your wallet - but it appears your wallet is already well acquainted with this concept. smily_headphones1.gif

I think your questions are advanced well beyond what can be answered in the Intro/Help thread. To your question - I haven't got much advice - that's not an area I know anything about. However, I can say that when I first read your thread title and "sensitive", I thought you might be talking about IEM-type sensitive - but you're not. The K701 is sensitive compared to a power hungry 300 ohm 'phone, but it's not Westone IEM-level sensitive. They are 62 ohms & 105 db SPL/V. I heard the K701 on a few different amps (including the incredible Darkstar), and I did not think any of the amps caused hiss or other typical sensitivity issues when driving the K701. I suspect you'll be fine with most amps unless you specifically choose one with high gain. I have to say, the Ray Samuels Darkstar is one amazing piece of kit - check it out. Good luck.

Thanks. Most of the reviews I have read concur with your comment about sensitivity but I've read one or two that claim the bryston in particular produces hiss with other headphones that have sensitivity over 100 db.

 

I have looked at the apache by Ray Samuels but also read some pretty mixed comments about those products. Does anyone have any insight into this?

 

If this thread would get more replies in the amplification forum would it be possible for a mod to move it? 

post #4 of 5
I don't have much experience with the more expensive HW - just a little casual demo listening. One of the things that has previously been talked about on head-fi is the difference between the traditional hi-fi world and the head-fi world. Traditionally, the hi-fi community has considered the headphone jack an after-thought - an accessory that was needed, but really wasn't taken very seriously. So, you see audiophile gear with gain and impedance levels at the headphone jack that might have been fine in the old days of 300 & 600 ohm 'phones, but really aren't made for today's more sensitive headphones. I have no idea if that applies to the Bryston (they make great gear!) but it wouldn't surprise me. One question to ask Bryston would be the impedance at the headphone jack.

http://www.head-fi.org/t/17238/headphone-impedance-vs-headphone-jack-impedance#post_191825
post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by billybob_jcv View Post

I don't have much experience with the more expensive HW - just a little casual demo listening. One of the things that has previously been talked about on head-fi is the difference between the traditional hi-fi world and the head-fi world. Traditionally, the hi-fi community has considered the headphone jack an after-thought - an accessory that was needed, but really wasn't taken very seriously. So, you see audiophile gear with gain and impedance levels at the headphone jack that might have been fine in the old days of 300 & 600 ohm 'phones, but really aren't made for today's more sensitive headphones. I have no idea if that applies to the Bryston (they make great gear!) but it wouldn't surprise me. One question to ask Bryston would be the impedance at the headphone jack.

http://www.head-fi.org/t/17238/headphone-impedance-vs-headphone-jack-impedance#post_191825

Thanks, 

 

What I've read about the bha-1 suggests that is every built purpose built as a headphone amplifier primarily but I've owned plenty of headphone amplifiers that have struggled to drive certain headphones

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