Any other choices?
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dhwilkin

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I'm almost done upgrading my headphone system (no, I really mean it, quit snickering). One of the remaining items is the headphone amp. Now, I've already got an old Max, so it's obviously no slouch. And since my main headphones are basically set in stone as the W2002, that pretty much rules out tube amps. The question is, what choices in the solid-state realm do I have?

I've thought about the Sugden, but have ruled it out because I really like the awesome bass from the Max, and I don't feel like jumping through hoops and waiting forever to get one. The obvious upgrade is the new Max w/ stepped attenuator, but that thing's pretty expensive. Would a decked-out Gilmore amp by antness have any possibility to compete w/ a new Max? Are there any alternatives I'm missing? Your thoughts, please...
 
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lini

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What about the 901 from Grace Design - which would also provide you with an integrated dac to play with?

Greetings from Munich!

Manfred / lini

P.S.: And what about Jan's PreHead?
 
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dhwilkin

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The 901 has very few reviews... I think the one I remember had it being comparable to a new MOH, which seems like it'd be more different than necessarily better. Maybe somebody can convince me otherwise? I'm not interested in its integrated DAC.

The PreHead could be an option, you're right. Again, the problem is lack of reviews. Hopefully, some should pop up relatively soon...
 
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Vertigo-1

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Well, is there something you're actually unhappy about in your system? I mean, you don't wanna go out looking for trouble when there was none to begin with.
 
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dhwilkin

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Nah, my system sounds great. At this point, it's just the perfectionist in me that's causing the trouble.
 
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pigmode

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Why are tube amps ruled out? I know at least one other W2002 owner who is happy with tubes, and I've decided on an EMP for my own W2002.

Just wondering.
 
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dhwilkin

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Basically because it seems like way too much trouble to get the W2002 sounding good w/ any given tube amp, and I don't feel like going NOS tube hunting again. I do look forward to your impressions of the W2002 + EMP combo, though... you'll be the first to have that combination, right?
 
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pigmode

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No, 88Sound has one. I hope he checks in to this thread. I may order the EMP next week. Am in the process of gathering some tubes. Spending bucks on tubes can be a drag, but there's no choice when your audio tastes demand it.


P.S. I don't like stepped attenuaters. More so with HPs since you need the added adjustablity, or you are too soft--you definitely don't want too loud, right?
 
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dhwilkin

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It's not really the money for NOS tubes I object to, I just don't want to spend all the time researching, verifying their authenticity, etc...

As for stepped attenuators, funny you should mention the loudness issue. That is actually my one complaint about the Max I have now... the W2002 is so efficient that some really hot recordings are almost too loud w/ the Max at the lowest volume. Well, lowest before you start running into big volume mis-matches between channels, which obviously isn't acceptable. If I did go w/ the new Max, one of the things I'd ask for is for them to lower the gain by two or three notches. I remember reading some discussion about how big the volume jumps between steps were in the Headroom forum, and it didn't seem like it would cause trouble.
 
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88Sound

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Checking in....

I have read over and over how the W2002's don't go well with tube amps, and for all I know this may be true in general, I've heard exactly two tube headphones amps with the W2002, both of which I currently own the EMP & RKV. The RKV without impedancer is not a good match with the W2002, first of all there is too much hiss for me to get around to a serious listen, when the impedancer arrives this may change. The EMP is a different story, no noise or hiss at all, I'm currently running Telefunken NOS ECC88's and ECC81 in the EMP. After a short warmup it sounds very good, maybe a little soft in the bass but good. Here's the kicker, after about two hours of warmup the EMP takes on this Holographic, 3D quality that is incredible. The bass tightens and is very articulate, like you can tell what kind of pickups are being used on electric bass, the instruments & vocals in particular are very fleshed out and real sounding, like they're outside the headphones and even in heavily layered productions each nuance has it's separate space and is easily defineable.

I listened to Tori Amos 'Scarlets Walk' with the EMP/W2002 combo this evening and it really was breathtaking.

My phone & amp pairing usually goes like this:

EMP/W2002/W100
901/HP-2/RS1/325
RKV/K1000

The 901 will work well with all these phones but I prefer the EMP with the W2002/W100 and the more sensitive material, female vocal, old jazz, Tom Waits, etc.... For fusion, particularly with fast bass licks the tube amps (EMP & RKV) are out and it's the 901 all the way.
 
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Dammit, there was an EMP here yesterday and I didn't get the chance to plug the W2002 into it. However, the owner loves the combo.
 
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kelly

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pigmode
Have you heard any headphone amps with stepped attenuators? The steps tend to be quite close together (closer than the channel matching in most pots) so I can't say I agree with your assessment of stepped attenuators in general.

dhwilkin
I have reviews coming soon but do not have the W2002 in my posession. I would suspect the Gilmore and Prehead of making a good match. I've not yet heard the Grace 901. I agree that the W2002/RKV was a poor match without the impedancer and although I have an impedancer coming, I won't have a W2002 for that either.

But this is all conjecture. Vertigo is right. You should identify what the shortcomings are in your system as is before upgrading. If you have not yet identified any flaws, maybe you should enjoy what you have before the flaws come out of the closet and present themselves to you. They'll eventually do so with whatever hardware you have anyway. If it is only the desire to spend money that has captivated you, I suggest buying some new music.
 
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Quote:

Originally posted by kelly
pigmode
Have you heard any headphone amps with stepped attenuators? The steps tend to be quite close together (closer than the channel matching in most pots) so I can't say I agree with your assessment of stepped attenuators in general.


One things for sure, with the Max I have, I sure do have problems getting the right level, especially with low impedance phones.
 
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kelly

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Quote:

Originally posted by CRESCENDOPOWER
One things for sure, with the Max I have, I sure do have problems getting the right level, especially with low impedance phones.


That surprises me. I was happy with the Max's stepped attenuator with the HP-1000 and Etymotic.
 
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CRESCENDOPOWER

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Quote:

Originally posted by kelly
That surprises me. I was happy with the Max's stepped attenuator with the HP-1000 and Etymotic.


I don't know, maybe I'm just picky, but I'm sitting here right now listening to the ER4Ps with the Max, and there is no way possible to get the right volume. A lot of the time I have trouble with the HD-600s, and Beyer DT-770s also in this regard.
 
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