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Are $2000+ amps worth it?

  1. coinmaster
    I've been wondering for a while now and I haven't been able to find the answer.
    I currently own a O2+Odac combo and I'm looking for an uograde.
    The thing is I can't tell if upgrading to Woo Audio WA22+WDS1 is a worth going broke for or is it really just a minor one that happens to be expensive.
    Will I get blown away by upgrading to top end amp/dacs or is it all over hyped? 
    Mr Rick likes this.
  2. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    If you're going to go broke for it, it doesn't matter how much better it is - you'll just end up selling it when something comes up.
    Personal finance aside, there's something called "diminishing returns" as you spend more on DACs and amps. Unless you can at least guess how much less THD the upgrade amp has at your listening level vs what you have now, the only real way to find out for yourself is to buy it and listen to it (if you want to go broke in the process, well, that's up to you).
  3. Mr Rick
    ^^^^^^ What he said. 
  4. coinmaster
    Not really the answer I was looking for :p
    I was hoping someone could tell me if generally speaking, top end amps are really THAT much better than entry level amps, or if it's just a lot of hot air and people with money to spend.
    I'm aware of the diminishing returns. But if I'm paying $2000 for 1% better sound then it's not worth it.
  5. kramer5150
    Absolutely they can be worth it.  Is it worth it to you though... that's the question.  What level does your point of diminishing return start?  You can drive yourself into debt and serious financial irresponsibility if you are not careful.  For me personally I don't think I would be happy with just one TOTL amp/can setup, because I listen to all kinds of music and the reality is no headphone rig can do everything perfectly...  There are flaws and limitations to any rig/setup.   I certainly can't afford multiple TOTL rigs to cover multiple bases.  So I am very happy here in mid-fi land with my various cans, amps and source (see profile).
    Is it "hyped"?.. absolutely.  Any time there are fans, enthusiasts with preferences and forum rules that enforce an environment of posativity you are going to have hype.  There are other forums out there in EVERY gear-centric hobby I partake with different moderation rules and fan bases.  Its good to be a member of various forums so you can hear multiple views.
  6. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Like I said, it depends on what you're driving or intend to drive. If your amp isn't even hitting audible (for your ears) distortion at your listening volume right now, no amp will sound better on the same headphone (or speaker).
    When I got my HD600 I bought several amps for it (including new earpads, and also bending the headband frame) since I could tell there was something wrong with each one. The Little Dot MkII (ditto my CMOY) was too dark to the point that the built-in headphone amp on my Marantz CD60 sounded a lot more neutral if a bit too "flat" (as in "falls flat," a little bit) with the percission (it was tight, which was better than a boomy bass drum), the iPod 5.5g+PB1 Toucan was a bit of an improvement but the midrange was a bit too dark and a bit grainy. Finally got to hear the Meier Cantate with various CDPs and its own USB DAC, and later on got my own Cantate.2 - perfectly neutral and it got loud enough to be work as desktop speakers with no easily audible distortion.
    Basically if you don't even have any complaints about how your system sounds like now, it's hard to make the guess that you'll hear a day and night difference. You may just have SARS - Severe Audio Replacement Syndrome, aka upgraditis, aka GAS - gear acquisition syndrome.
    encoreAC and Mr Rick like this.
  7. coinmaster
    I'm willing to spend what it takes to get good sound and good enjoyment.
    So far my experiences with the HD800 and the TH900 has yielded good sound but not so much enjoyment.
    I'm hoping the source of my issue is that my O2+Odac is a piece of junk.
  8. kramer5150
    This (in bold) is the biggest un-truth on HeadFi.  I don't know where it comes from, but as a generally accepted fact it's just not true.  Amps can and often times do sound different from one another, even when driven well within their dynamic range... at least to me in my blind ABX testing with other members.  Finding a better sounding amp is then a matter of pairing up cans, amp and source to yield a positive result to the listener.
  9. davidsh
    I think the biggest untruth is that you need to spend kilobucks to get the best sound from your amp/DAC. IMO
  10. Shaffer

    I've heard the O2. It sounds like cardboard. Given your headphones,especially, you'd get much better sound with good equipment.
  11. liamstrain
    Better? Sometimes, depending on the load/need. 5X (or more) better? As long as basic requirements of current/voltage headroom and impedance match are made for your needs, without excess noise, then no.

    But to those with the money to spend on the percentage of improvement they do represent (for their needs), then why not. 
    My favorite budget amp with the HD800 is honestly the Bottlehead Crack ($300 ish). They play really well together in my experience.

    It won't match well with the TH900 though. 
  12. KG Jag
    Please explain exactly what you mean by this.
  13. coinmaster
    Read the whole thing. I'm not sure I can word it better.
    I liked the TH900 better than the HD800 even though the HD800 was vastly superior in sound quality because the TH900s had a more human sound to them and the HD800s were sterile sounding without feeling or emotion.
    That being said the TH900's mids are too recessed for me because I'm a mid junkie.
    Moral of the story is good sound doesn't mean good enjoyment.
    If the HD800 had soul in its sound it would be the perfect headphone for me. I've heard of people hooking it up to certain amps and finding its soul but I lack the ability to demo equipment so it would be a lottery for me to find such a set up.
  14. KG Jag
    Yeah--not well done.  Marco didn't even tell us what music (I have to assume it was music) he was listening to for the test or directly describe what delivered it to his DAC (I'm guessing the Mac he referenced) or the format of his music files (which I'm assuming is computer based).  Also you don't test a $1,500 ish can with $250 amp--even a good one like the Asgard 2.  Most especially with only that amp.  That is more especially true of the HD 800, which is notoriously amp picky.
    As for liking or not liking a sound signature of a can (especially when hearing it from only a single amp, etc.), everyone here should get that.  I happen to very much like the very different sound signatures of both the HD 800 and TH 900.  Here's another viewpoint on each:
    say compared to the very good HD 600:
  15. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    No, I did not say that "all amps sound the same, period," which is the "biggest un-truth" that you are referring to (you could read the paragraph following the one with the highlighted portion, as I gave examples there of how many amps I tried that sound very different from the one I ended up being happy with). What I said was that if at a given output level two amps have nearly identical THD levels, and at said output level the OP can get to very loud levels anyway, upgrading his amp will very likely not sound any different to him. In many cases when amps are compared it's not like the person doing the comparo is actually using a dB meter to make sure they're at the same volume level; and as much as it might be true that a really good amp should get very low THD while it can go loud, just how loud would one need it to be? If one can listen at 90dB on a given headphone with only 0.001% THD off one amp, then is it really necessary to upgrade to an amp that can push the headphone to 95dB with only 0.001% THD assuming he isn't upgrading the headphones at all?
    The oversimplified phrasing of course isn't something I would call "untrue" outright, but simply oversimplified, and the whole story of it isn't simply something that comes out of the Sound Science sub-forum. Basically, where the Sound Science sub-forum would say, "all (SS) amps sound the same" with likely no further qualifications other than "distortion levels are not audible" (although two amps being compared may measure differently) the Amplifiers and Recommendations sub-forum would have threads that say "I spent a gazillion bucks and I don't hear any difference!!!" The problem with the latter is that it's attributed to "burn-in," "untrained ears," and "doesn't scale well." I won't even go into burn-in, but I'll discuss the latter two. First, as much as there are people who actually are tone deaf, there are also people who don't check all the variables - like one who might correctly observe that one amp is better. He might have missed however that said amp is also playing louder, but I'll give it to him and assume that the other amp distorts at that output level. The problem there is, at the point where both amps sound too similar, it might already be loud enough to cause hearing damage over the long run anyway, so the value of the extra performance has to be put into question: will he consider the expense justified considering he shouldn't use the extra clean power often? If he isn't aware of this, then the price isn't just the premium on the amp, but hearing damage. As for equipment "scaling," when it comes to headphones/speakers and amplifiers, "scales better" is better phrased as "you were hitting audible distortion levels on that other amp at this output level." It's not outright, ear scratching distortion, but it's there - the question is will it be audible to the particular user if another amp that costs triple that can drive the same headphone at the same output level with only 1/5 of the other amplifier's THD?
    Mr Rick likes this.

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