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Budget headphone amp vs Budget stereo amp - Page 3

post #31 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by pbirkett
I am still not entirely convinced that a dedicated headphone amp is all that much better than a good integrated amp for driving headphones...

I can honestly say that its pushing it for there to be a 10% improvement for most amps. Their performances, while tonally different, are all much of a muchness.

Anyway, I doubt anyone here will be interested, but nevertheless, here it is, this is my opinion. Anyone else agree?
After purchasing the Portal Panache integrated amp with a great headphone jack, I totally agree. The Panache isn't exactly a budget amp but it does offer a great value. Compared to my reference amps, the RS Raptor and the Grace 901, the Panache more than holds its own. After listening to the Panache this weekend, I was more than happy to sell my Grace 901. The headphone circuit on the Panache is not an afterthought like it is on most receivers and integrated amps, it was designed for serious headphone listeners. The headphone jack is driven directly off the speaker outputs with only a protection feature in between. Take a look at this amp here:
http://portalaudio.com/panache.html
post #32 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveM324
After purchasing the Portal Panache integrated amp with a great headphone jack, I totally agree. The Panache isn't exactly a budget amp but it does offer a great value. Compared to my reference amps, the RS Raptor and the Grace 901, the Panache more than holds its own. After listening to the Panache this weekend, I was more than happy to sell my Grace 901. The headphone circuit on the Panache is not an afterthought like it is on most receivers and integrated amps, it was designed for serious headphone listeners. The headphone jack is driven directly off the speaker outputs with only a protection feature in between. Take a look at this amp here:
http://portalaudio.com/panache.html
Wouldnt it have been more cheaper/better to get a really good headamp + integrated stereo reciever though at that price range?

I just looked at the price tag on one of those panaches and clicked the X
post #33 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by RP2X
Wouldnt it have been more cheaper/better to get a really good headamp + integrated stereo reciever though at that price range?

I just looked at the price tag on one of those panaches and clicked the X
Answer, absolutely no. The manufacturer, Portal Audio, often sells demos at $500 off the MSRP on Audiogon. That makes the price $1295 plus shipping and they give a 60 day money back trial period. I've compared the Panache to the Raptor, MSRP $1199 and the Grace 901 (which has the same amp section as the Grace 902), MSRP $1500 when it was new. The Panache, IMO, is better than both amps. I can't think of any combination of dedicated headphone amp and integrated stereo speaker amp for under $1295 that sounds as good as the Panache. I owned the NAD C370 integrated amp and its not in the same league as the Panache. Don't take my word for it, read the reviews on the Portal website. Back in Dec 2002, On-hifi compared the Panache to the $1499 Arcam A85 and for pure sonics, the reviewer claimed that the Portal had better soundstaging capabilities, more drive and better resolution. I'm not saying the Panache is the best integrated amp that you can buy, I personally own a better one, the Mark Levinson No. 383 but it's MSRP is $6500 and it doesn't even have a headphone jack . I think anyone looking for either an integrated amp or a high end headphone amp should give the Panache some serious thought. Its versatility driving the most difficult to drive cans (low impedance cans and the K1000's) and its speaker driving capabilities make it a great value.
post #34 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by pbirkett
This is what I have found:-

1. Lower impedance headphones tend to seem to take more advantage of headphone amps than higher impedance ones. The reason for this is to do with the output impedance of the headphone jack. The output impedance on a typical headphone amp will be close to 0 ohms. When you plug in a set of headphones, the impedance of the headphones contributes to the overall impedance in the "chain". So, for example, its clear to see that 0+32 ohm's = 32 ohms is probably a good thing for most headphones. However, take an integrated amp, which due to the resistor based design, has an output impedance of 220 ohms at the jack, this will more severely affect the sound. However, if you plug 250 or 300 (or even 600) ohm headphones into the jack, although they are still affected, it seems to affect them far less. Without being an expert in electronics, this has universally seemed to be the case in my experience. For example, the headphones that sounded distinctly disadvantaged on my Rotel were the Sony MDR-CD3000, CD1700, AKG K240 and K271 Studio headphones. All of these headphones are 55 ohms or less. Pretty much all of the other headphones were at least 250 ohms, and there seemed to be much less difference between the integrated and a headphone amp in these cases.
Hi everyone, in my first message. I was planning to get the AKG K 701 after all the hype and also a dedicated amplifier for them (that would be my first reference-headphones experience ever). After reading through this thread I am more confused than I was. I always heard that high impedance cans (not the K 701) benefit much from a headphone amplifier, even more than that, their full abilities could not be experienced without dedicated amplification. Now, it seems that for those high impedance cans using a headphone amp would not make a noticeable improvement. I don't know a word of electronics but the explanation above supporting this idea sounds reasonable to me. What then is behind the so extended opinion about high impedance cans needing dedicated amplification?. What a mess
Also, In what place are left those medium impedance cans such as the K 701? Should I expect a real upgrade with respect to my integrated amplifier? Wasting money is not primarily my hobby
post #35 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Banach
After reading through this thread I am more confused than I was. I always heard that high impedance cans (not the K 701) benefit much from a headphone amplifier, even more than that, their full abilities could not be experienced without dedicated amplification.
I, too, would like to hear a further explanation. I thought it was, like, common knowledge, that low impedance headphones are easy to drive (think Grado), while high impedance ones (think top Sennheisers) are not.
post #36 of 53
You need to look at two parameters:

Impedence and effficiency.

Usually high impedence headphones (Senn 580/600/650) have low efficiency and need higher power to drive.

Low impedence headphonse(Grado line) have higher efficiency but do better with amplifiers(either headphone amps or receivers/ int. amps) that can deliver high current. This is not an easily discernable capability by merely reading specs and you may need to check with the amp's manufacturer to determine it's current cabability.

Hope this helps.

Sorry about your wallet.
post #37 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by tbonner1

Sorry about your wallet.
Dam Straight
post #38 of 53
I have a pair of HD 580s and Beyer DT 831s that I've had hooked up to a Sony Receiver at home. This has been my setup for years.
I finally bought a Portaphile V2 last week and got in the mail yesterday. Honestly I could not tell a difference with my 580s at all. I think if I had to do a listening test with my eyes closed I wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

My 831s did seem to open a bit; got rid of a lot of the bass and the soundstage seemed to get open. But we are talking a margin of maybe 5 to 10% improvement. Nothing huge.

I knew I wasn't going to hear a vast improvement, but I figured there would be something more noticable then what I heard. Especially with the amount of threads saying "you need an amp to open the 580s". I was more suprised that my 580s didn't open up but my Beyers did!

So now I'm kind of caught between returning or keeping and trying out and testing more.

Just wanted to share my experience and I guess the overall hype on what a true headphone amp can do dissapointed me in the end.
Maybe I got lucky with my Sony Receiver that purchased back in the 90s.

I will say the both the stereo headphone out and the Portaphile both sound much better than the CD player's headphone out jack.

But who knows; maybe in a week I'll be singing a different tune about the Portaphile.
post #39 of 53
Well there is ppl that say that its source first.

Some ppl say it should be 2x price of phones for amp and 4x price for source.. um i really dont know if prices of good sources are that high compared to other parts.

Some say its phones,source then amp.

I dont really see many ppl saying its amp first?
post #40 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Banach
Wasting money is not primarily my hobby
The simply truth is that EVERY headphone benefits from a quality amplification. There are a very small percentage of integrated amplifiers with a headphone jack that could actually match the sonics of a dedicated headphone amp.
Believe what you will, but with the AKG K 701s you would be a fool to think that a dedicated amplifier wouldn't make a difference.
Good luck trying to weed through the B.S. that runs rampid here.
post #41 of 53

NAD preamp blurb from mid 80's

I'm one of those folks who have enjoyed an NAD receiver's headphone jack on the other end of a good pair of headphones. I happened across an old flier for NAD's 1155 stereo preamplifier -- mid-1980's, I think. I was interested, because the 7155 receiver had the same basic preamp circuitry, and my 7175PE is probably similar.

Blurbage:
Quote:
High-Current Output Buffer.In addition to its normal outputs the 1155 contains a high-current output stage, in the form of a miniature power amplifier that can produce up to 15 volts RMS at low impedance. Its output is fed separately to the front-panel headphone socket and to the High-level output jacks on the rear panel. Virtually all non-electrostatic headphones, even low-sensitivity models, can be driven to full volume directly from the 1155 preamp, with no need for a separate power amp. And the low output impedance of the 1155 can easily drive several power amplifiers in parallel, drive professional 600-ohm studio equipment, or drive the long connecting cables required for active powered loudspeakers or for remotely located power amplifiers.
post #42 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by davebot
I'm one of those folks who have enjoyed an NAD receiver's headphone jack on the other end of a good pair of headphones. I happened across an old flier for NAD's 1155 stereo preamplifier -- mid-1980's, I think. I was interested, because the 7155 receiver had the same basic preamp circuitry, and my 7175PE is probably similar.

Blurbage:
Now that's interesting. I might have tried to pick up one off ebay but have already gone another way.

As it is, I have a 70's Sony 6800SD receiver coming from ebay (cross country from Spokane). This thing has a huge toroidal transformer and beautiful stepped attenuator. Very pure, good old fashioned design. Hopefully, the headphone out will be of similar good quality, and I'll be able to shed some light on this discussion.

I have a Mad Ear+ HD Purist which drives the UM2's and Senn 595's beautifully. But IMHO is not so good with the Senn 600 and 650's even with Cardas. Tube smoothness added to Senn smoothness is a bit bland to my ears, though many others love the sound.

The Senn 600/650's do open up a bit when driven by the headphone outs of my midfi Pioneer 5.1 receiver, or two 80's vintage Onkyo receivers. But the clarity and refinement don't match (not even close) the Mad Ear+ HD, so I thought I'd try the near TOTL Sony which I got for $102.50.

I had a Sony 6055 I bought in 1969 and I remember it as being pretty good with my Koss Pro4A's and Sony VR6's. The volume pot corroded a bit so the ex-wife pitched it when I wasn't looking. Sigh...

I know my ears like the warmer sounding Senn's with solid state better than my tube amp, so we'll see if my search for the right synergy pays off with the 'new' Sony.

I'll update next week and hopefully provide at least a little guidance in the form of my opinion. FWIW
post #43 of 53
I'm glad I stumbled across this thread. I plan on moving in a couple of weeks and I'm finally going to upgrade my home audio system.

I decided my source is going to be a Denon DVD-3910. A solid universal player with DVD-A and SACD playback. I'm also going to purchase a Denon AVR-3806 for my receiver.

For the time being my primary cans are Beyerdynamic DT 880's. Sometime this year I plan on purchasing a pair of Grado RS-1's. I was going to purchase a Headamp GS-1 for a dedicated headphone amplifier, but maybe the headphone jack on the AVR-3806 will suffice?
post #44 of 53
OK, time to update the headphone amp vs integrated amp/receiver headphone jack debate as I promised.

Sorry for the length but I've a lot to cover.

The following is simply my opinion based on discriminating (and sometimes not so discriminating listening for over 40 years, plus direct comparison of a top of the line (TOTL) 70's classic receiver headphone output to a MAD Ear+ HD Purist. The HD is generally considered to be an excellent stand alone tube based amplifier available at a very good price.

I've been considering a SS stand alone amp to complement my own tubed HD Purist. But like many of you, I've already spent too much money on this hobby.

This thread and a thread on audiokarma.org about headphone jack output motivated me to do some experimenting with the classic SS amps of the 70's.

Here's a statement and quote from the audiokarma thread:

The poster states the headphone out on his amp from the 70's sounds excellent. Then says:

"For comparision I use Sennheiser hd600 headphones with a Headroom Max headphone amp....so if something sounds good compared to the Max it sounds GOOD." He was talking about his TOTL Kenwood amp from the late 70's. And the Headroom Max sold for $1,887 before it was upgraded/discontinued.

That got me moving.

My TOTL (for 1977!) Sony 6800SD receiver has arrived. Paid about $150 including shipping on ebay for it. ( http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...MEWN%3AIT&rd=1 ) Plus I have a near TOTL Kenwood amp due next Thursday, (more info here: http://audiokarma.org/forums/showthr...highlight=7300) but I've enough good info from listening to the Sony to post some conclusions.

First a description of the Sony so we know what we're talking about.

It was Sony's top of the line receiver for a year before being displaced by the 7800SD, originally sold for $600, and pumps out a VERY conservatively rated 80 watts/channel.

It uses a stepped attenuator and a transformer the size of a coffee can. The headphone out is directly driven by the main amp with just one resistor in line to step down the juice. No wimpy little add on board for the headphones here.

Just a quick off topic paragraph about the Senn 600 series. Boy do they need juice.

When used to drive speakers I usually set the volume knob of the 6800SD three steps from fully attenuated which is not quite 9 o'clock. When driving the 600/650s, I have to set it at 12 o'clock. My gosh, that's a lot of juice. Just for comparison, Westone UM2's and Senn 595's settings are more like the speakers. Mind you, I'm talking about listening LOUD, which I do with certain rock albums or even E Power Biggs playing church organ music. This type of music is meant to be played loud.

The quick comparison:

MAD Ear+ Purist HD. ( http://mapletreeaudio.com ) This amp is a beauty. Very, very clean and very, very smooth. It doesn't add anything to the music at all IMO. But if you change the output tube, you can change the character of the sound.

Use a clinical tube and you get clinical sound. Use a rich, guttural sounding tube and that's the sound you get. This amp is an extremely good value at between $500 and $600 depending on options. Very rich bass, very smooth highs both reaching the limits of what we can hear and a bit beyond. Not quite as tight as SS but much smoother and plenty tight enough. A sound I prefer for most but not all my listening. And oddly enough the more I listen to this amp with the Senn 600/650's the more I like the combination.

Sony 6800SD sound: The headphone jack output is surprisingly good. Very clean, very transparent. No coloration to speak of. It holds its own against the HD Purist in all but the very highest frequencies. A smooth sound for solid state (Sony's of that era were considered sweet sounding). Only the tiniest touch grainy at the loudest volumes. Bass is excellent and tight, as good as you can ask for even at the loudest listening levels. Concert level bass with the right phones.

I considered the highs very slightly grainy, but only at loud listening levels and when directly compared to a dedicated tube amp. Still very, very good when compared to most solid state, including dedicated amps. All in all a great value. You'd have to spend way more than $102.50 in a dedicated amp to get anything approaching this sound.

Is the HD Purist or another dedicated headphone amp worth the price differential when compared to a headphone jack?

Good question for most. But in my opinion, absolutely, IF you prefer tubes. I listen to a LOT of music. The HD is so smooth, listener fatigue is not an issue at all. Plus the ability to change the sound by taking a few seconds to swap a tube is invaluable.

Headphones and amps are expensive, tubes are relatively cheap. When looking for that elusive perfect sound, the flexibility and purity of the HD is unbeatable.

But that's for a fussy listener who favors tubes. If I favored SS or if I were a college student, or even an audiophile on a budget, headphone jack output of the amps from the classic period is hard to beat.

Why no mention of tube amps/receivers. Because I didn't try one. But also because they are relatively uncommon compared to SS and hence more expensive. Plus tube receivers/amps need many tubes and good tubes are expensive to replace.

READ THIS PART!

The headphone jacks of receivers built after the receiver/amplifier wars of the mid to late seventy's generally are not very good, in fact IMO they suck, not to put too fine a point on it. Don't get me wrong, there is fine output to be had from some contemporary receiver headphone jacks. But it is rare and takes some hunting and is gnerally not available in cheaper models.

In my review/comparison I'm ONLY talking about the headphone outs of top of the line receivers and amps from the glory days. A period roughly from 1973 through 1981. After that the price wars came and quality went down hill quickly.

BTW the low and mid price amp headphone outs of this vintage solid state period, while still pretty good, aren't worth the price savings. We're only talking of $50-$100 or so to step up to TOTL after all.

Make absolutely sure the headphone jacks of the amp/receiver you are considering is connected to the main amp circuits. No separate board for the headphone out. Other than that check audiokarma.org and other forums of that type, lots of good info about what were the best vintage TOTL models. Then hunt through the for sale listings. Check as many sites as you can find including ebay. Then be careful. Lots of bad old amps on their last legs out there. Plus capacitors age. This means the higher frequencies might be missing even if everything else is working fine.

Bottom line in my opinion FWIW:

Lots of caveats, but if one is on a budget and has the time and patience to find the right classic amp/receiver with a headphone jack driven directly from the main amp there is no need to spend big bucks on a separate amp for your headphones unless you need the absolute best sound.

Good luck!
post #45 of 53

AKG701 and Adcom

Hi All,

This is a fantastic thread. I just bought some AKG701s, and I'm still waiting for them in the mail.

I have an Adcom 565 preamp, the manual to which states that it has a high quality headphone amp built in. I have contacted Adcom, but haven't gotten many specificss other than that it's optimized for headphones with an impedence of between 100 and 600 ohms, and that it should work best at the upper end of this continuum.

The AKGs coming are rated, I think, as 62 Ohms.

Now: What do you folks think about my situation? Will there be a significant sonic enhancement if I go with a dediated amp, say a Creek or X-can?

Everyone seems to be offering thoughtful advice in this thread; I hope somebody can help me out. I have no way to audition amps where I live, and I'm running on reviews and advice from folks like you.

Shameless PR: By the way, I just published a collection of essays on Dark Side of the Moon, if anybody is interested; it's called: Speak to Me: The Legacy of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, and it's available on amazon.com

Best,
russedelic
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