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Good tube amp to run both Grado sr325 and HiFiman HE 300? Recommendations?

post #1 of 58
Thread Starter 

Hey everyone!

 

I am new here to the forums, and tubes, and headphones in general. I am only 24 and recently into the hi-fi game. This is my first post, but I have crept the forums a lot lately trying to do some research, but as opinions go... I keep seeing both good and bad about different products, so I could use some direct help!

 

I am looking for a tube headphone amp. I recently heard my Grado sr325 headphones through tubes and they sounded so much smoother.

 

I have a budget of $2-300, ideally closer to the $200 mark.

 

Accompanying equipment:

 

Sources: NAD 533 and Luxman pd290 turntables, iMac, playstation SCPH-1001 as cd player

through either a Van Alstine Omega II preamp, or an Audible Illusions Modulus 2C tube preamp

powered by a Jim Nichols built 6l6 tube power amp

pushing B&W DM 302 speakers.

I have Grado sr325, and eventually want to get planar/ortho headphones like the HE-300 or similar... maybe modded Fostex?

 

So...

I want something I won't need to upgrade tubes immediately, so it should come with decent stock tubes. I also want the quietest amp with lowest noise-floor I can get.

I would prefer Class A, and it to have a tube output (not a Hybrid tube/mosfet). I know the Little Dot mk1+ compliments Grados well but I want to avoid the hybrid setup.

I want a TUBE-SOUND. Warm and smooth, but still dynamic and detailed. If none that I mention achieve that, please let me know! haha

 

I was looking at the Little Dot mk3 or mk4, I know they are switchable for different impedances so they could run lower or higher impedance headphones.

 

I also am intrigued by the DarkVoice 336 amp.

OR the Schiit amps, but I believe these don't have a good tube sound? Valhalla?

 

 

Also those tube DACs and headphone amps like the Grant Fidelity TubeDAC11 or the Maverick Audio one look nice, but I believe the headphone output is solidstate, correct?

 

Let me know what other amps I might be interested in that I haven't mentioned, or which you'd recommend? 

Any input about anything I have said so far is helpful haha!

Thanks in advance, and I hope to post here more often!

 

-Zack


Edited by zackk - 12/31/13 at 10:55am
post #2 of 58
Thread Starter 

bump

post #3 of 58

Well I personally like the graham slee ultra linear a lot with the grado 325i which I both have but since your budget is tight, I would recommend the schiit valhalla. Haven't had the chance to hear it yet but to be honest, there isn't much option at your budget. I would say the Little dot amps aren't that good, but of course that is my opinion using the HD650. Hope this helps.

post #4 of 58

Hi,

I recently purchased a Bravo V3 tube amp. It's awesome, though I don't use the same headphones as you and don't know your total set up (from what I understand mileage can vary depending on what your exact set up in total is). However, it has performed well for me. I am not 100% certain if it is a hybrid amp though, but in any case, it does seem to give a warmer, more natural, sound compared to my FiiO. 

post #5 of 58
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Y View Post
 

Well I personally like the graham slee ultra linear a lot with the grado 325i which I both have but since your budget is tight, I would recommend the schiit valhalla. Haven't had the chance to hear it yet but to be honest, there isn't much option at your budget. I would say the Little dot amps aren't that good, but of course that is my opinion using the HD650. Hope this helps.

The problem with the Valhalla I have read is that it is bright for a tube amp, and tube rolling isn't a viable option for that amp. The build quality is attractive on its own though.

 

Why would you guess the Little Dot amps aren't that good?

post #6 of 58
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by professorwiki View Post
 

Hi,

I recently purchased a Bravo V3 tube amp. It's awesome, though I don't use the same headphones as you and don't know your total set up (from what I understand mileage can vary depending on what your exact set up in total is). However, it has performed well for me. I am not 100% certain if it is a hybrid amp though, but in any case, it does seem to give a warmer, more natural, sound compared to my FiiO. 

 

 

I know the Bravo amps are a bit better than the Little Bear amps, but I want to avoid that kind of product. They're not so reliable and the noise floor is quite high. Plus they are hybrid I believe. I would consider a higher quality hybrid if I knew they had a nice warm, liquidy sound (which suited my Grados nicely).

 

Wouldn't a "warmer" sound be less natural?

post #7 of 58

I'm not a hundred percent sure but the schiit amps are now tube rollable. I think I read that in headfonia or something or was it innerfidelity? not sure but I heard some good things about some russian tubes or something, but don't trust me on this because I'm not a tube guy. I even don't like woo audio amps. It's just that the "tubey" sound doesn't fit me. Solid state (the good ones) seems like to me that they have a stronger impact with bass or so on but this is just for people who don't perfectly like tube amps. I like the idea of things lasting forever(well, not really but you get the point) instead of having to change things. The grados you got there should do better than just fine with some solid-state but I'm gonna stop talking about that because I feel like I'm getting off topic. So, Little dot amps, I had a thought over this and well, for the budget I ended up concluding 'why not'

ps you should find out about tube rolling with the schiit valhalla

post #8 of 58
From the Valhalla FAQ on the Schiit Website:

"Are Valhallas “rollable?”
Earlier Valhallas (August 2010-April 2012) are not designed for tube rolling. All Valhallas shipped since May 2012 are rollable to accommodate E88CC, 6DJ8, 6922, 6N23P, etc on the input stage (that is, the shorter tubes.)"
Edited by Radioking59 - 1/2/14 at 11:01pm
post #9 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by zackk View Post
 

 

I know the Bravo amps are a bit better than the Little Bear amps, but I want to avoid that kind of product. They're not so reliable and the noise floor is quite high. Plus they are hybrid I believe. I would consider a higher quality hybrid if I knew they had a nice warm, liquidy sound (which suited my Grados nicely).

 

Wouldn't a "warmer" sound be less natural?

 



I am not sure, the usage of terms like "warmer" puzzles me because it's a vague term without any precise definition I've seen, so maybe I am not using the word properly. It doesn't sound distorted, it just has a really great sound that isn't harsh. Everything sounds like it should, but like I wrote in my review of it under the head gear section, some CDs that have a bit of harshness sound more tamed. Of course, that probably IS from the mild type of distortion that tubes give, but it's just minor enough to soften the rough edges of certain music. Everything else sounds untouched. Please correct me if that usage of "warm" is incorrect. I'm new to these forums and enjoy them, but am still learning a bit of the "lingo".

In any case, I've not had any problems with noise with my Bravo. I love the little thing. But, like I said in my review, I can't attest to how it would sound with other setups. 


 

post #10 of 58

buy a little dot mark 3 for $200 + shipping on  ebay and don't look back. I've had one for several years and it drives all of my Grado and SONY MDR 7506 low impedance phones with no problem. It also drives my high impedance AKG 600's and Sennheiser HD580's with plenty of volume headroom. I've also used it for a line stage. I've taken it apart and it's well built with quality  audiophile grade parts. I've tested it on the bench and it is stable as a rock driving high capacitance loads like long interconnects and headphone extension cords.

 

As for sound it has a midrange that's breath taking and amazing depth of field and imaging. I've designed and built a number of high end solid state head hone amps and the Little Dot in comparison just sounds sweet, sweet, sweet. I can't image anyone that's been used to solid state being unhappy with the Little Dot.

 

If you like to tweak and tube roll there's plenty of that on the internet some with no mods to the amp required. It has a large following in the high end and is well regarded. 

 

Good luck.

 

Frank

W3MEE

post #11 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank18944 View Post
 

buy a little dot mark 3 for $200 + shipping on  ebay and don't look back. I've had one for several years and it drives all of my Grado and SONY MDR 7506 low impedance phones with no problem. It also drives my high impedance AKG 600's and Sennheiser HD580's with plenty of volume headroom. I've also used it for a line stage. I've taken it apart and it's well built with quality  audiophile grade parts. I've tested it on the bench and it is stable as a rock driving high capacitance loads like long interconnects and headphone extension cords.

 

As for sound it has a midrange that's breath taking and amazing depth of field and imaging. I've designed and built a number of high end solid state head hone amps and the Little Dot in comparison just sounds sweet, sweet, sweet. I can't image anyone that's been used to solid state being unhappy with the Little Dot.

 

If you like to tweak and tube roll there's plenty of that on the internet some with no mods to the amp required. It has a large following in the high end and is well regarded. 

 

Good luck.

 

Frank

W3MEE

 

Looking at a Little Dot for my HE-400s. Good match? If yes, what DAC would pair well with the LD, in the same-ish price range?

post #12 of 58

yes, like I said, the LD MKiii will be a perfect match. The HE-400's are nice phones but somewhat inefficient compared to most low impedance phones but the LD will have no problem driving them to ear splitting volume I can't help you with a DAC selection, sorry. There are just so many choices these days. It also would depend on your application, for example, do you want a low cast DAC with USB input to connect to your PC? If so, there are a number of DAC's in your price range. Check out Stereophile magazine for their recommended equipment issue especially. I don't necessarily agree with their reviews but the recommended equipment issue gives you a good idea of just what's out there and then you can do some internet research once you narrow down your choices.

 

All the best,

Frank

W3MEE

post #13 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank18944 View Post
 

yes, like I said, the LD MKiii will be a perfect match. The HE-400's are nice phones but somewhat inefficient compared to most low impedance phones but the LD will have no problem driving them to ear splitting volume I can't help you with a DAC selection, sorry. There are just so many choices these days. It also would depend on your application, for example, do you want a low cast DAC with USB input to connect to your PC? If so, there are a number of DAC's in your price range. Check out Stereophile magazine for their recommended equipment issue especially. I don't necessarily agree with their reviews but the recommended equipment issue gives you a good idea of just what's out there and then you can do some internet research once you narrow down your choices.

 

All the best,

Frank

W3MEE

 

Thanks. If it's any help, this would be running off of the optical out of an Apple TV v3. I could also just use the DAC chip in the ATV3, but I'm not sure of the quality.

 

I'm currently using an Audio-Gd NFB 12 DAC/amp combo. 

post #14 of 58
For a beginner tube amp, the bravo audio amps are a good place to start.

I have the Ocean, it is detailed and dynamic, yet slightly warm and tubey.

Stock tube sounds fine, you can always upgrade it though.
post #15 of 58
7CRn0u

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