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Cheap balanced amp?

post #1 of 63
Thread Starter 

I'm in need of a cheap balanced amp. In terms of a regular amp, I have a HDP and a Headroom Ultra Desktop Amp ($1600), so I'm fine there. But I wanted to give balanced headphones a try because I've heard so much hype about them.

 

Does a balanced amp <$400 even exist? Maybe used, idc? Or does anyone have one for sale/trade?

 

How much better is, anyways, say, a balanced HD800 versus my HD800 with the Headroom Ultra Desktop Amp?

post #2 of 63
Thread Starter 

Anyone?>

post #3 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by gradofan1 View Post

 

Does a balanced amp <$400 even exist? Maybe used, idc? Or does anyone have one for sale/trade?

 

Ibasso PB-1 used, or PB-2 new or used.

post #4 of 63

How high up the $$ scale do you have to reach before a balanced amp starts to out-perform a $1600 single ended design?... (ignoring placebo affects)

post #5 of 63
Thread Starter 

Anyone heard of the Firestone Bobby Amp for $500-ish? Has dual 3-pin balanced AND dual 1/4 jacks...

post #6 of 63

I recommend you try a Class-T speaker amp like the Topping TP10 MK4. It's based on the Tripath TA2024 and has single-ended input but the solid state amplification and output are balanced push-pull.

post #7 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by gradofan1 View Post
 

Anyone heard of the Firestone Bobby Amp for $500-ish? Has dual 3-pin balanced AND dual 1/4 jacks...

 

An active head-fi'er made a thorough review on innerfidelity

http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/firestone-audio-bobby-balanced-headphone-amplifier

post #8 of 63
Thread Starter 

Yeah thanks - I saw that -- but there are like no other reviews or even postings about it on head-fi or anywhere really... It's not really well known (unlike say, a HDP) is what I'm trying to convey..

post #9 of 63
Matrix makes the Quattro balanced headphone amp.
Sells for $400 plus shipping.
I've never tried one, so I can't comment on it's quality.

Audio-GD makes the NFB-6.
Sell for approx. $400 plus shipping.
Again, I've never heard one myself.

Anyway, interesting thread, I would also like to find a good balanced headphone amp at a decent price. biggrin.gif
post #10 of 63
The Matrix Quattro Threads:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/564151/matrix-quattro-amp-unboxing-and-initial-impressions

and:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/570997/matrix-quattro-dac-and-amp-loaner-program#post_7741686
Edited by Chris J - 2/8/14 at 2:25pm
post #11 of 63
post #12 of 63

And here is a conceptual diagram of how the Audio-GD NFB-6 works:

 

In layman's terms, the circuit can generate a balanced output from an SE input.

It can also output a Single Ended version of a balanced input signal.

And obviously take a balanced input signal and output a balanced signal.

Or take an SE signal and output an SE signal. 

post #13 of 63

I don't get why you would want a cheap balanced amp. Balanced by default means you have 2X the ammount of gain stages, which mean for the same price, you will have 2X cheaper gain stages instead of 1 higher-end ones in a standard design.  You'll get double the voltage swing,, but balanced isn't required for huge voltage swing. Of course, it depends of what specific design we're talking, but I don't think buying a sub 500$ balanced amp will improve anything over your Headroom amp.

Whatever you decide, keep us updated still, curious how it turns out for you.


Edited by Rem0o - 2/11/14 at 7:50pm
post #14 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rem0o View Post

I don't get why you would want a cheap balanced amp. Balanced by default means you have 2X the ammount of gain stages, which mean for the same price, you will have 2X cheaper gain stages instead of 1 higher-end ones in a standard design.  You'll get double the voltage swing,, but balanced isn't required for huge voltage swing. Of course, it depends of what specific design we're talking, but I don't think buying a sub 500$ balanced amp will improve anything over your Headroom amp.


Whatever you decide, keep us updated still, curious how it turns out for you.

I agree with everything you say!
Don't forget that a properly designed balanced input stage (I.e. Differential input stage) has the potential to reject noise from a properly balanced line.

I can't speak for the OP, but I have a few SE headphone amps and would like to try a balanced amp for comparison purposes.
For example, I have a Matrix M Stage head amp and would like to compare it with the Matrix Quattro balanced headphone amp.
Edited by Chris J - 2/12/14 at 4:03am
post #15 of 63

I'd wager that over 99% of us could not determine whether we're listening to balanced or single-ended headphones. I've spent lots of time listening to three pair of balanced headphones, HE-500s, K240 Studios and modified T50RPs in both balanced and single-ended mode. They were connected to a variety of balanced and single-ended output amplifiers through my Robinette Box speaker amp to headphone interface. The box has 1/4" and 1/8" single-ended headphone plugs as well as a balanced 4-pin XLR socket. Using an XLR to TRS adapter I can move the balanced headphones from balanced to single-ended operation by moving them between the 1/4" and XLR inputs. The box also allows you to connect single-ended headphones to balanced output amplifiers using two 10 ohm resistors to protect the amp from the common ground.

 

RBInside.jpg

The Robinette Box's internals. Headphones and 'Amp Mode Switch' on left, speaker binding posts, resistor L-pad network and 'Network Bypass Switch' on right.

 

I cannot tell any difference between balanced and single-ended operation--absolutely none. I really believe 99% of us would fail to discriminate between the two modes of operation using blind testing.

 

I've always been a fan of balanced headphone gear. All my headphones are set up for balanced operation and my primary amp & source are balanced as well (Schidt Mjolnir and TEAC UD-H01). I'm just telling it like it is. I understand the benefits of balanced line common mode noise rejection and the efficiency and noise rejection of push-pull amplification but the bottom line is what we hear in our headphones.


Edited by robrob - 2/12/14 at 5:46am
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