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Are there amps that do both orthodynamic & high efficiency headphones well?

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by drjon, Sep 12, 2011.
  1. DrJon
    I’m starting to get into this headphone thing and looking for a good amp.  I can’t tell what headphones I’ll want to play with in the future.  So I’m thinking about one, good, general purpose amp.  Something that can have the juice to run orthodynamics, high efficiency headphones, and everything in between.  Does such an amp exist?  Or do you need 2 amps, essentially, to cover all the headphone bases?
    From my reading, I gather that the really high powered amps like a Lyr do great with orthodynamics.  But then do not do well with high efficiency headphones- low level noise and such.  Conversely, a good amp for most headphones will not have enough oomph for orthodynamics.  
    My question is pretty general.  But more specifically, I’m hoping to not go over $500 although I could if there was a good reason.  No preference on tubes versus solid state because they each have their strengths.  No DIY unless it can be built in less than a day due to an unfortunate lack of free time.  
  2. Willakan
    Contrary to what you often read on Head-Fi, orthodynamics are not some magical kind of transducer which needs vastly more power than their sensitivity ratings imply. They are often harder to drive than their dynamic counterparts, but 6W headphone amplifiers are pointless overkill.
    The simple way to make your decision is to look at power ratings of amplifiers that you are interested in. Ideally you'll be wanting amplifiers that can pump between 0.5-1W into around 50 ohm impedances, to be on the safe side. This is for the ultra-low sensitivity HifiMan orthodynamics - for products such as the Audeze LCD2s (more efficient orthos) you'll be happy with quite a bit less power than that.
  3. lootbag
    Based on my research and experience.
    The one amp I would suggest is the Violectric V200.
    I managed to audition this amp with multiple headphones:
    - LCD-2 R2 (50 ohm, or was it 60?)
    - Grado HF2 (32 ohm) 
    - Sennheiser HD600 (300 ohm) 
    - Westone ES5 (20 ohm) 
    You can adjust the gain of this amp on the back panel based on what type of headphones you are using.
    Also, when you look at the technical specifications of the amp, particularly its output @ varying ohm, it is well suited for driving various headphones.
    It had a black black background even with my very efficient and sensitive ES5s and drove the LCD-2 R2 with ease.
    Of course, it is double your budget -_-;;
    If I were to keep the rest of my headphones, I would have bought this amp.
    But I decided to sell off most of my other headphones and stick with the LCD-2 R2 + Schiit Lyr combo.
  4. DrJon
    Thanks, Willakan.  That's a good perspective.  I'm still learning about all of this.  So it's interesting to hear that I (we?) might not need as much power as people claim.  My guess is that the sports car forums probably also are talking about how they need more power.  [​IMG]
    So up to 1 W at 50 ohms to be safe.  But as I look at the specs of various amps, it's hard to compare.  Each company uses a different means of reporting their specs. 
    I'll keep looking.  If there are any particularly appealing amps that would suit all headphones, I'm always up for recommendations and some more reading.  Thanks.

  5. DrJon
    Hi lootbag,
    Yes, I've seen the very positive views on the Violectrics.  Like you say, $1,000 is a bit steep for me at this point- when I have not yet committed fully to the hobby.  [​IMG]
    But you have a Lyr.  It makes me wonder if a 2 amp setup is desirable.  Get a Lyr for those headphones needing a lot of power.  Then a lower powered amp for the less power hungry headphones.  If keeping with Schiit for the sake of argument, maybe an Asgard.  An Asgard and a Lyr come in much cheaper than a Violectric.  Or could an Asgard or Lyr be good enough for a one amp system that works well for most headphones?

  6. wuwhere Contributor


    On my HE-6 I was using an amp rated at  measured peak voltage into 55 Ohms 11.84 Volts with 215 mA, 2.55 watts. Gain was at 10.5. I specifically asked the amp maker to measure it at around that impedance. It was clipping.
  7. Willakan
    What was the amp in question?
  8. khaos974
    And bear in mind that if you double the power, the sound only get 3 dB louder, that's right, 2W is only 3 dB louder than a single watt, and 6 dB louder than 500 mW.
    And with only 250 mW @ 50 ohms (peak capacity, not even RMS), the LCD-2 can reach whooping 115 dB peaks, which means 100 dB average listening volume for music which is already considered as dynamic.

    And 100 dB is LOUD...
    And a lot of desktop amps reach 250 mW RMS.
  9. Willakan
    Hence why I asked for the amp - a suspicion it was from the "numbers are for scopes, not for listening" school of design, shall we say?
    Suffice to say 2W into 50 ohms would, unless mathematics has broken since I last did some, should drive the HE-6s pretty damn loud, let alone the LCD-2s!
  10. Brooklyn70
    Does anyone have an opinion on the Little Dot MK6+ with planar cans. The balanced headphone out that is
  11. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    It's an OTL amp, just running two of them on a balanced circuit (think of a Beta 22 that utilizes four boards instead of two with a shared ground), so it still delivers a lot of power at high impedance than the low impedance load of planars. For that kind of money you might as well just get a transformer coupled tube amp like the WA6.
  12. Rhamnetin
    Or a solid state amp or a tube hybrid. MK6+ might be an interesting match for the 200 ohm LCD-4, that's about it though regarding that amp and planars. Also I personally wouldn't suggest the WA6, it sounds unimpressive to me and I think you can do far better for the price though I agree with your general point.
  13. Brooklyn70
    schiit jotunheim
    I’ve been useing the schiit jotunheim so I’m kind of spolied with the balanced out. So I’m looking for a balanced tube. I’ve reached out to had audiolads a few times and haven’t got any respounce on there
    Project Zephyr ONE - 2a3 headamp
  14. Rhamnetin
    The Questyle Audio CMA400i might be of interest to you.
  15. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Balanced isn't necessarily the only way to get good sound though. Not even more power considering the Lyr3 vs Jotunheim.

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