Amp questions for use with SR80/125 or MS-1s - Where does each one rank?
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Azure

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Okay, I've now decided that I'm going to spend $200 instead of $100 (Funny how that happens, huh?). I'm basically looking for an amp that will deliver great sound for something like the A500s and eventually HD600s/DT880s. It doesn't matter if it is portable or not. SIZE DOESN'T MATTER! Though I am primarily looking for something that can use batteries, I wouldn't mind if it couldn't if the quality was good enough. Input: Any, though RCA would be nice as I wouldn't need to get a Y-Cable for my Karma. So, what should I get?


Old Post:
I'm thinking about getting some new phones after my AT ones didn't give me the sound signature I was looking for, so now I'm thinking about Grados/Alessandros. The problem is that I hear that if I want something comparable to the A500s, I'll need an amp. My budget is maxed at ~$130 and I'm currently thinking one of the following:

Audio-Technica AT-HA2 - $69
Go-Vibe 3 - $89
Z-Audio Epsilon - $80
Z-Audio Mu - $110
JMT PIMETA - $125
Headroom Airhead - $149

The AT one looks VERY appealing, especially with its dual headphone jack (Great for A-Bing and listening to music together) and its professional look. I know that aesthetics don't mean everything, but it seems like all the other ones aren't going to perform well since they are in really cheap cases and seem to have BARELY anything in them. The only problem with this one is that it might be too low end because of the price. The next AT one is over $150, so that's a problem. Anybody know what op-amp it comes with?

The Go-Vibe 3 sounds promising, though it's not released yet. So I guess I'll need input based on the first and second editions. It looks good, but from the inside it looks very empty and seems very lacking. The problem I have with this amp is that YOU have to choose the op-amp yourself since he gives you both. I'm INCREDIBLY indecisive (As many of you already know), so this would only bring even more pain. And it would be a really long process too since I'd have to constantly turn it off, open it, switch op-amps, put it back together and then take a listen. Repeating this process numerous times will probably be very time consuming and will only cause more pain and stress.

The Z-Audio line is supposedly supposed to offer the top of the line sound without breaking the bank, but I have no idea as to how they compare to other amps. I just recently found them too and was completely unaware of them beforehand. Is this a new business or something? Where in the amp hierarchy are the Epsilon/Mu supposed to be?

The PIMETA is supposed to be pretty top of the line, right? But I hear that PIMETA's can be heavily modified and so the quality of each one differs. How close is the JMT PIMETA to a maxed out one? Are there any other PIMETA retailers? I'm also concerned with aesthetics with this one since it looks unbelievable cheap with that plastic blue case and it looks like there aren't many things in it.

The headroom airhead's pricetag makes it look powerful, but is it only so expensive because it is mass produced? What opamps does it use? Is it really worth this $150 pricetag? The dual output jacks is appealing like the AT amp but it is so expensive!

So, where do these amps rank in the amp hierarchy for use with the SR80/125 or the MS-1s? I'm mainly looking for sound, so I could care less about portability and battery consumption. How should I deal with the dual volume situation (Having to control both the volume on the player AND the amp. Should the amp volume be maxed all the time?)? And for interconnects, the one that comes with each amp should suffice, correct? If not, which one is recommended (No more than $20)? If you know any other amps that aren't on this list that would be perfect for me, please don't hesitate to post them! I look forward to your responses as I've been wanting to find an answer to this amp confusion for as long as I found out that headphone amps existed


Thanks for reading!
 
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Teerawit

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what source are you using? when connecting an amp to your player, you should connect it to your player's line-out. that way, you don't need to use the volume knob on your player, but rather the volume knob on the amp only.
 
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warpdriver

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You should use line out, or if you have a volume control, then set it to about 3/4 up and leave it there. You want the signal to be clean and loud without distortion. Then let the amp control the volume.
 
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Azure

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I'm using it with the Karma, so the line out would be RCA cables. Would this be a problem as I'd need to either find an amp that has the appropriate input jacks or find a y-cable that won't hamper the sound quality too much?
 
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rickcr42

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whichever one gives the most clean output current would be the best choice for driving Grado/Alessandro with Class-A drive being the ultimate but not feasable in a portable
 
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Azure

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I did a little searching and it appears this is a relatively new amp that not many people know about/have tested? It looks pretty good, but is the reason that it costs so much because it is a mass-produced amp, unlike JMT's PIMETA? Would that mean that the PIMETA would produce better results than the 3HA? Also, what's a "crossfeed processor" (Crossfeed switch?) and is it that important (The absence of one was one of the "Cons" in a review that I read)? I also read that since 4 AAA batteries only lasted 8 hours, that it wouldn't be able to drive high impedance headphones (Though I'll be using it with the A500s/MS-1s at first, I'll eventally be using it with the HD600s).

Also, could you guys answer the other questions I had in my original post so I have a better idea of how good the other amps are and so I can compare them to the 3HA?

BTW, what's a DAC?
 
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jrosenth

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You might want to do a search under cross-feed, there are a few detailed threads – it’s a feature that some people think makes music sound better, particularly older recordings that really separate the signal between the left and right channels.

DAC: digital to audio converter, an external unit that usually sounds better than the ones built in equipment.

Looking for more stuff inside an amp is not necessarily a sure way of determining what sounds best. The benefit of any amp, IMHO, is subjective, so it's tough to say what's best, particularly with a portable in that price range that runs both Grados and Senns well. (Interconnects are even more subjective, largely depending on the quality of the other pieces of your system.) If you want dual headphone jacks, the Xenos is one of the few, unless you have something built – I would really stay away from the Audio-Technica AT-HA2.

You might want to try something with a return policy, like HeadRoom's 30-day trial period.

I would imagine your best bang for the buck is with a pimeta, the new go-vibe, of the Z-audio Mu – but that's sheer speculations because those are mostly new amps that not a lot of people have heard.

You may want to wait for people to buy the new stuff and look at the reviews (your Grados/Alessandros should fair especially well un-amped in the meantime) or better yet attend a meet.

Good luck
 
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Thaddy

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I've been playing with the Z-Audio demo amps for the past few days, and I'm very impressed. I think Zemo has something good going here, these amp (all 3) drive my HD580's fine. The clean up the sound very nicely as well, all throughout the spectrum. If I were on a budget and looking for a portable amp, I'd grab the Mu, as I feel it's worth the extra $$ over the Epsilon.
 
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Azure

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Quote:

Originally Posted by jrosenth
I would imagine you best bang for the buck is with a pimeta, the new go-vibe, of the Z-audio Mu – but that's sheer speculations because those are mostly new amps that not a lot of people have heard.


Is this when the Xenos 3HA is factored in? I've been reading up on it and it seems like an ideal amp for my case, but I'm still torn between it and the JMT PIMETA. From my point of view, I see it like this:
1. 3HA/PIMETA

2. Z-Audio Mu/Go-Vibe 3

3. Z-Audio Epsilon

But I'm still curious as to whether the Airhead costs so much because it is high quality or because it is a mass-produced amp.
 
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jrosenth

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Without having heard those amps (new go-vibe looks like it's just up on the site), it's tough to compare sound quality - but you may be able to narrow things down if you decide what features are important to you - dual jacks and ac ability: Xenos; cross-feed and AC: pimeta (but those features will probably take you out of your price range)
 
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Thaddy

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Azure, will you be using your A500's?

I happen to be listening to the Mu right now with my Karma and HD580's, and Dream Theater is sounding damn good. I've really missed this articulate and very fast/punchy low end that I don't get with my Millet.

Ty is a really great guy to do business with, he'll make the amp to your exact specifications, depending on what cans you have. Also, you have the ability to swap opamps to find the perfect sound.

edit: Here is a quick comparison with the Mu and a Pimeta.
 
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Azure

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I will be using them with the A500s/MS-1s and eventually HD600s.

So, you find the Mu to be better than the PIMETA? You mention that the PIMETA gives more detail and that you prefer the "slightly smoother and more fluid" sound of the Mu. Could it be that the PIMETA gives too much detail? If so, the same thing might happen with the 3HA. How did you find having to use and adjust two different volume settings? Have you tried rolling the AD8066 and AD8610 op-amps?

Sorry for my ignorance, but who is Ty?
 
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Thaddy

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Azure, remember that I haven't compared the Pimeta vs. the Mu, just the attendees at the oregon meet. And sorry, I didn't say that Ty = Zemo = Z-Audio


And when I'm using my Karma, I was using the line-out on the dock. But if I were using it from the DAP itself, I'd probably have it between 50% - 75%.

edit: Also, I use no EQ with my Karma.
 
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Azure

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Thaddy
And when I'm using my Karma, I was using the line-out on the dock. But if I were using it from the DAP itself, I'd probably have it between 50% - 75%.

edit: Also, I use no EQ with my Karma.



With what amp do you use the line-out? And would using a custom EQ on the Karma with an amp be a problem (I can't live without my custom EQ)?

So, Ty will modify the amp to meet a particular headphone's needs? To what extent does he modify the amp to do this?
 
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