Dedicated Headphone amp?
Mar 24, 2006 at 3:08 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 8


New Head-Fier
Mar 24, 2006
Hello all! Just a quick beginner question, if no one here minds.

I have been listening to various vintage headphone outs on my old school receivers and all of them sound really great, at least to my ears! I have bought every single receiver/integrated amp for less than 50 dollars, so for these prices I wonder if they will be easily beaten by dedicated amps (I love the thrift stores here!). Just as a beginner listener and newbie head-fi'er, I can hear some distinct and subtle differences in many of the amps I have... However, on average, all of the headphone outs on the vintage receivers are really exceptional! To me, the sound stage with my HD580s
is adequate, although seem to lack some “center” stage sounds, plenty of dynamics for bass transients, more than enough output power and just an overall great sound! (Nothing to me sounds "laid-back" as many seem to say about the Sennheiser HD-580s but then again, these are my first "hi-fi" cans and this is my first attempt at getting into head-fi!) Well, getting to my question... Is it worth to purchase a purely dedicated amp for headphones only? What advantages could I be looking at? Considering I've only paid at MOST 50 dollars for the receiver/integrated amps I do have, would it be worth it sonically? Or building something that is strictly headphone only? Something like this looks very promising...
Any comments and thoughts are appreciated!

Some other information:
Just as a few examples of the receivers I have an unmarked Fisher (funny amp, has a “dual 6800+6800uf Nichicon cap” and massive transformer, equally large hybrid ICs) circa 1970's with output rated >75W/channel, older JVC 4.1 receiver 100W/channel, Mitsubishi black face 80W/channel, an HK330C rated 10W/channel, many Kenwoods, Sansuis etc... Each have their own distinct sound, some more neutral than others, while others are warmer and slightly rolled off in the treble end, presenting a slightly “tube” like sound. Many older and vintage amps, if this helps with any idea of wondering what the sound is like. As explained, the headphone outs sound great. Sound is better on the higher wattage/higher quality amps!

Using few things for sources:
1)Foobar2K with Kernel streaming (FLAC)
2)Pioneer TX-9500ii (a vintage tuner, 20 bucks!)
3)Technics SL-1311 (15 bucks!) Direct Drive, Quartz locked with AT130E.
Also using an AudioSource Model EQ Eight/Series II (20 bucks!!) whenever I feel the need for vinyl eqing or some "phat" bass. Using ghetto 2 dollar interconnects from a local electronics store...

Thank you for your time!
Mar 24, 2006 at 3:31 AM Post #2 of 8


500+ Head-Fier
Jan 22, 2005
When i first bought my SR80's i was plugging them into a 30 year old Sherwood Tube Amp of my moms. It was meant to be a hold over till I bought my own amp. I ordered a gilmore and was dissapointed. I was expecting it to blow the vintage amp away. Instead they were more or less on the same level.

-Bass Bass Bass (a little too much could muddle and cloud other aspects)
-Exceptional tone on some instruments a put you in the room live music feel
-Recessed vocals
-Muddy or murky sound
-High Noise level (doesn' bother me so much)

-No bass at all
-No noise at all
-Clearer mids and highs, more detail
-Inferior tone no put you in the room magic.

If you are happy with your vintage amps I say stick with them. There is a good chance they are better than that sherwood and I was hard pressed to choose between that and the $300 gilmore. Unless you are going portable I would not bother with a $150 or less amp. There is very good chance that they will sound quite dissapointing compared to your vintage amps.

I feel that with the MPX3 I have now acheived the best of both worlds but that cost ~$1100.
Mar 24, 2006 at 7:06 PM Post #4 of 8


500+ Head-Fier
May 21, 2004
Hi RetroGrade, I used to own the HD580 headphones.

After I started listening to them through my receiver, I thought the sound was detailed and balanced.
But I felt like they also sounded kind of thin and flat.

That's when I found this website and bought a headphone amp.

I have to say it is hard for me to go back and listen to these headphones without a headphone amp.

But be warned, depending on the headphone amp. that you use. The amp. can change the sound by adding some colorization. It can also add some reverb. Some people may like this effect, but I personally like keeping as close as possible to the way it was recorded.

There are alot of options and it can be overwhelming, but that is half the fun.
Mar 24, 2006 at 7:31 PM Post #5 of 8


Headphoneus Supremus
Apr 23, 2002
Italy (Turin)
There are some new product that are similar design like Scott, Williamson, Leak, Fisher... these amps sound incredibly better than most of dedicated headphones amp... the problem is that they do not cost 50 $...

Mar 24, 2006 at 9:30 PM Post #6 of 8


500+ Head-Fier
Jan 22, 2005
I would still give a dedicated headphone amp a try but make sure it has a good return policy or try attending some head-fi meets.

There is nothing like listening and comparing the sound for yourself.

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