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

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

Originally I posted this in the introductions forum since I just registered but It was suggested it would get more replies here and it didn't seem like the mods would move the original thread. Hope its alright to repost this and I've finally found the right place for it.

 

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 know these are divisive products but for the type of music I am listening to most of the time, this presentation is better and more enjoyable to me than anything I have heard by the other big brands. I am going to have them balanced shortly. 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 CIAudio's 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 although I may balance them in the future.

 

What I am looking for is a balanced amplifier that will pair with my preferred headphones(702s) and can act as a serviceable preamp for when I listen to speakers. RCA input for my phonostage would be cool but not crucial. 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.

 

I've read one or two that claim the bryston in particular produces hiss with headphones that have sensitivity over 100 db. A couple reviews have pointed out that the GS-X sounds sort of limp as a pre amp. Can anyone confirm or deny either of these claims? Someone suggested looking at Ray Samuels products. Can anyone speak to the quality of his amps? They seem expensive for what they actually are. Or does anyone recommend any custom builders of beta 22s or any other balanced design? I cant seem to find anyone who still builds gilmore dynamites but that was my first impulse as my favorite amplifier for my akgs was a now unfortunately deceased gilmore.

 

Thanks for any suggestions or advice. Been in and out of the headphone world so I need some help from people more up to date.

post #2 of 3

I have a Ray Samuels Apache amp.  I got some amount of hiss when I used it with my iems, until I got for the iems a new cable with balanced interconnects.  Then, no hiss at all, and the iems sound great.  I also use it as a pre-amp, and it sounds fine.  I have not had the opportunity to compare it to other SS amps, and so I can't say what is best.  For listening to my HD800s, I prefer my Eddie Current Super 7, because its flexibility with tube choices has permitted me to compensate for certain idiosyncrasies of the HD800s.

post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

I think I'm mostly looking for solid state amps I think. The apache was one I looked at initially and though would meet my needs until I read some negative reviews of RSA products. I'd be happy if anyone could speak to this since it seemed like its preamp had the most functionality/versatility out of the amps I've been looking at.

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