Balanced SS high-end amps (Apache, RPX-300, Phoenix, GS-X)
Oct 11, 2009 at 3:46 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 67

Purple_Dreams

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After much research into high quality headphone amps I am now at a point where I have several options. I have surely read most comments and reviews available and am now at a point at which I would like to make decision. However, I find this extremely hard due to the fact that I have absolutely no possibility of auditioning any of the candidates. So I can only go by informed user reviews and comments. I am in fact hovering between the various choices on a daily basis and am looking for that little bit of extra conviction to push me over the edge in favour of one of the amps in question. Maybe this thread will be able to help me in my decision-making process.


Here is the relevant information:

Source: Electrocompaniet PC-1
Headphones: AKG601; upgrade to Sennheiser HD800 in the near future


Choice of amps:

Ray Samuels The Apache
Rudistor RPX-300
Headamp GS-X
Audio-GD Phoenix


Evidently, I wish to run a fully balanced setup eventually, but single-ended connectivity should be present as well. Preamp functionality is not a must but a bonus. Inputs should allow for more than one source (i.e. CD player, computer via DAC).

I have no immediate preference when it comes to one-box vs. two-box solutions or the nature of the volume controls (DACT vs. non-DACT).

Currently, The Apache and the RPX-300 are my hottest candidates, followed by the GS-X. Naturally, there are pros and cons for each unit. Most reviews give these amp the highest ratings with lots of savoury expressions to describe the sound qualities. With the RPX-300 there is also a certain amount of criticism present when it comes to build quality. It also seems to have a "house sound" which one likes or not. I'm also skeptical about the two separate volume controls and whether it will be hard to synchronize them. I also wonder if a DACT attenuator should be preferred. Obviously, I cannot speak from experience and need to rely and the comments of more experienced users.

So, I would be interested to hear suggestions, especially with reference to my source/headphone combination. I am looking for a completely involving and enveloping experience while listening with eyes closed, so soundstage, holographic imaging and natural musicality are definitely high on my list of criteria.

Thanks in advance!
 
Oct 11, 2009 at 4:13 PM Post #2 of 67

danne

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Im pretty much looking at the same thing as you are, thought I didnt like the single ended rudistor we had at the mini-meet, so Ive mostly been looking at the phoenix and the apache.
There is a huge price diffrence between those two aswell and Ive got no were to try them out, so Im pretty thorn.
The + with the apache is the ability to drive IEM's with the low gain setting aswell as it seems to be a very well built amp.
The phoenix on the other hand has a very appealing price, looking on the amount of stuff you get. in/outs/remote/etc.

And then you could roll opamps on the apache if Im not misstaken, to get the sound of preference.
Though some people doesnt seem to care for opamps build in high end gear.
 
Oct 11, 2009 at 5:01 PM Post #3 of 67

wavoman

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Purple -- you're where I was in Jan 2008, as I headed to my first CanJam in Florida.

My source is a Wadia 781i, balanced output from SACDs and redbook CDs. Also sometimes a Benchmark DAC (balanced output) from hi-res digital audio files.

My dynamic HPs are all balanced by the best of aftermarket HP modders: Drew at moon-audio (Ultrasone 750), Larry at headphile (beyer 880/600 and 770/600), Alex at APS (AT AD2K) , Stefan Audio Art (Grado GS1000), Headroom (AKG 701), Mark at Lawton Audio (Denon D2000), plus moon-audio and Zu balanced cables for Senn 600. (I also have balanced K240DFs but those are for studio-type monitoring with a special set-up, not under consideration here).

So we are more or less in the same boat.

First of all, you do not need your amp to support single-ended phones ... no reason to compromise on top-of-the-line female XLRs (e.g. gold Furutechs). Stefan Audio Art (and any of the other modders listed above) will sell you an adaptor cable that lets you plug s.e. HPs in to your balanced amp. (Also get the other-way adapter so you can bring your balanced HPs anywhere).

In Florida I spent a lot of time with a Rudistor balanced amp (do not recall the model) and the RSA Apache. Also with a balanced amp in the Headroom suite. All three sounded great. But a baalnced amp from Eddy Current (not on your list) sounded better, and so did Beta 22's on the member tables in the big room.

I didn't hear the Headamp (but I have a Headamp amp for my Stax 'stats, and think that anything built by Justin is probably amazing).

But back to the Beta 22. Many of the wise-old-men at CanJam whispered to me: get a Beta 22 built. So I want to the AMB web site, and AMB has two approved builders. I chose Ying at YBM Audio (the other is Rockhopper ... search on that name here, because I do recall a post where Rockhopper had stopped building since he just had a newborn, or something like that ... search is your friend ... maybe he's back now).

Ying built a "100% all in" (OK, I've been watching poker on TV) fully balanced Beta 22 (with an outboard Sigma 22) ... that's 6 boards or something ... exactly to my spec (I wanted individual left-right non-ganged volume controls, and a balanced "pass thru" connector, etc.). You can see pictures of it on his site at YBMaudio.

The SQ is to dream about, and "dream" is your last name, no?

I agree with your list of criteria ... although I think soundstage and imaging come more from the HPs than from the amp. I would add: razor-sharp transients. Here the DAC and amp do actually make a difference I believe. This really translates into the ability to effortless drive high ohm phones.

If you are anywhere near NJ you can listen.
 
Oct 12, 2009 at 4:27 AM Post #4 of 67

Purple_Dreams

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Thanks for the replies so far!

@ Wavoman: I live in Europe. So the Rudistor seems appealing because of that. I have no experience with importing from the USA (or the fees this will incur). Similarly, I am hesitant to have an amp like the Beta 22, which certainly has my interest, custom built. I don't know if there are any good builders in Europe. This is why I'm inclined to go for a "ready-made" solution.

I wish I could just go somewhere (or accept your offer), but I experience the same thing as with music gear (I'm a guitarist) - the options seem vastly limited where I live and there are almost no serious stores which I can go to to test any gear.

From various threads I got the impression that the GS-X would probably be a good second choice to the Beta 22 in terms of quality. I'm still torn, though.
 
Oct 12, 2009 at 4:58 AM Post #5 of 67

rosgr63

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With the Audio GD you may have import problems as it may not have all the EU electrical safety approvals. I suggest you check the treads. I had a similar dilema choosing between the RudiStor and a custom built B22, Check my thread http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f5/rp0...ed-b22-445367/ . I finally went for a RudiStor.
 
Oct 12, 2009 at 5:12 AM Post #6 of 67

Zombie_X

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I ordered a Roc from them and it should be more than enough to power the K601's! I'll let you guys know how it turns out when I get mine (have to borrow my K601's back from someone).
 
Oct 12, 2009 at 11:39 AM Post #7 of 67

3nity

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Purple_Dreams /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I live in Europe. So the Rudistor seems appealing because of that. I have no experience with importing from the USA (or the fees this will incur). Similarly, I am hesitant to have an amp like the Beta 22, which certainly has my interest, custom built. I don't know if there are any good builders in Europe. This is why I'm inclined to go for a "ready-made" solution.


If you're from Europe, you may consider the hpba-2 balanced amp from Qes labs in Italy.
They're in the pro audio, with astounding pieces of gear.

Maybe you can talk to them to have a b22, sigma22, built and shipped from Europe.

popcorn.gif
 
Oct 12, 2009 at 11:51 AM Post #9 of 67

tom hankins

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If your moving to the HD800, the Headroom BUDA (balanced ultra desktop amp) is a very good combo. I would put it on your list. It and the balanced HD800 are something special together.
 
Oct 12, 2009 at 12:15 PM Post #10 of 67

danne

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After reading some more on these forums it seems like they are all pretty much on the same sound quality level, but they all have diffrent types of sound signatures.

There is no thread that compares them all but there is alot of people saying that its a toss up between the phoenix and the b22 (with a little favor for the b22), aswell as there is a thread comparing the b22 to the gs-x saying their pretty much the same, aswell as a thread comparing the gs-x and the apache saying that the apache has abit more impact and a little warmth and the gs-x is more transparent but still even sound quality wise.

So it seems like the B22 and the GS-X are the most transparent ones while the phoenix and apache has a little bit of their own sound touch to it. (bass impact and warmth on the apache and smoothness on the phoenix)
 
Oct 12, 2009 at 2:23 PM Post #12 of 67

Purple_Dreams

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Choices, choices. But this is why we love this hobby, right?
smily_headphones1.gif
It's so hard to find out which amp is right for ME. I'm sure that most of the amps mentioned are of very high quality and perform respectably. So I guess it really comes down to taste. However, this is exactly the one criterion which cannot be decided by simply looking at specs or even reading reviews.

I will dig into the GS-X vs. the other amps a little more to see if I can find out more about soundstage, image depth and the like. The GS-X is described as very transparent. Does this equate coldness? I'm pretty certain I tend towards the warm side of things, albeit without wanting to lose detail or experience the dreaded cover/shroud. My EC PC-1 seems to be warmish (I have no real comparison at the moment), so maybe a GS-X would be a good match after all. With the AKG601 I get the impression that more clarity is needed. But, as I said, I want to go HD800 in the not-so-far future.

I just realized that the GS-X has only one pair of XLR inputs. I was planning to hook up my computer via a balanced DAC (in addition to my main source, the EC PC-1). Furthermore, I believe that a single-ended source signal is not converted to balanced, am I correct? So hooking up the computer via RCA and listening with the HD800s is probably not so good? Any comment on this? In the end, though, my priority is still a superb CD > headphone amp setup.

EDIT: Some more reading has clarified a few things. The GS-X seems to "disappear" behind the source. Coupled with an inadequate source this will surely result in a less than exciting listening experience. If I go for the GS-X, I'm certainly hoping that my Electrocompaniet will prove to be a high-end source. This review was helpful: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f5/rev...-ended-247854/. The amp seems to have an impressive soundstage, so that's a good thing.

Still, I'm onto the Apache as well, even though it's significantly more expensive. It seems to have slightly fuller, warmer sound with a great soundstage and holographic imaging. I wrote Ray Samuels an e-mail inquiring about shipping fees etc. but haven't received a reply yet. I bet he's busy.
 
Oct 12, 2009 at 2:29 PM Post #13 of 67

danne

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Pretty much the same feeling I have aswell Purple.

Im looking for something abit on the warm side aswell possibly something that would push out just slightly more bass out of the HD 800.
With that said I end up in the apache camp, but the price of a new apache is quite heavy, seeing as I need to upgrade the DAC aswell.

Right now Im considering buying the Lavry DA11 to start out with, then sell off my old amp,headphones and save a few months for the apache.

As you said, choices choices, their so many :wink:
 
Oct 12, 2009 at 5:47 PM Post #14 of 67

rosgr63

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Oct 13, 2009 at 3:35 AM Post #15 of 67

wavoman

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Quote:

Originally Posted by 3nity /img/forum/go_quote.gif
If you're from Europe, you may consider the hpba-2 balanced amp from Qes labs in Italy.
They're in the pro audio, with astounding pieces of gear



OMG x2! x2! on the QES Labs suggestion. When I read the OP was in Europe I was about to recommend Val at QES, but 3nity beat me to it.

You must contact Val at QES, really!

I had QESLabs make me a custom HPBA-2 (pictures are on his web site) with dual balanced HP output designed for 600 ohm phones, and a balanced pass-thru. Val did a superb job, and the SQ is amazing, as good as a Beta 22. Remember, I have both -- probably the only one in the world with both units by top pro builders.

Now with Senn 600s and K701s (I don't have 800s or 601s), the Beta 22 slightly beats the QES HPBA, but with beyer 880/600s and 770/600s the QES wins.

The QES gear meets all EU standards of course. On the other hand, the Euro is at an all time high against the dollar, so buying from the U.S. is a bargain.
 

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