I've been reading Head-Fi for quite a while, since I was pointed here by a fellow GeekHack member. Finally registered to get some specific amplifier advice.
Background: About six months ago I bought a paid of Sennheiser 598's and a Fiio E17. Made quite a nice change from generic IEMs for listening to audio from my laptop at work. Lately, though, I've been thinking about trying some close-backed headphones to see if I can emphasize the ranges I like (low and mid-range) and avoid the top-end sibilance that can leave my ears ringing after a few hours. I've borrowed my spouse's ATH-M50's, and like them with some reservations. Nice bass, but can sound a little muddy, and not nearly as defined in the mid-range as the HD598s. Based on what I've read, I think Mad Dogs are going to be close to my idea for headphones. I've read good things about the ATH-W5000's, but wasn't impressed with the ATH-W1000's that I listened to.
At the same time I'm looking for some desktop speakers to replace the completely bass-heavy Bose set that I use with my PC. As long as I'm upgrading speakers, I figured I'd look for an amplifier and/or DAC to drive both headphones and small speakers (could go self-powered for the speakers, don't necessarily need a power amp). And I'm curious about tube amps in general... So I'm looking for amp and DAC recommendations that will check the following boxes:
- Tube output stage (looking for warm low end if possible)
- Optical/USB input (for streaming audio and gaming)
- Stereo pre-amp or speaker outputs
- Dual headphone support (nice to have)
- Price range between $200 and $1200.
I'm not concerned about small form factor, in fact I prefer the beefy old-school stereo look. Doesn't have to be portable, I have the Fiio for that. I've looked at some vintage integrated amps, but they either have a lot of compromises (no digital inputs), or they're insanely expensive. There is one Rotel RCX-1500 that looks pretty neat, I may take the plunge on that just to try it out, but it's not tube.
From reading reviews and comment threads, I'm looking at models like;
- Jolida Audio - Glass FX Tube - Headphone Amplifier
- Decware CSP3
- Woo Audio WA7
I watch/listen to a lot of movies, music tastes tend towards vocal electronica and eclectic pop (Lorde, AWOLNation, OneRepublic, Leonard Cohen, Diamanda Galas, Amanda Palmer, etc.).