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Desktop tube amp recommendations: headphone support plus desktop speakers

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

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.).

 

Suggestions? 

post #2 of 5

It would make everything a lot easier if you get a sound card or an external DAC.

 

Mad dogs sounds like a good idea from what you describe.

post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

I do have a soundcard, an Asus Xonar DX, but I would like to try an external DAC, perhaps something with EQ abilities as well. 

post #4 of 5

Search button. I can't even begin to give you ideas of the different choices available.

But the advice I can give you, is that you should consider first obtaining a set of headphones (Not your spouse's m-50) or monitors before investing over a grand.

post #5 of 5
My x-Can has USB dac, is a hybrid tube and has pre outs. Also has dual jacks. It's discontinued though.
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