I'm not doing well trying to study with headphone---too intimate and fatiquing. So I thought about this ultra budget rig just so can have my own ambient noise rather than roomate, street, whatever:
Paradigm Atom 180/pr
ASL The Wave Mono block 200/pr
Sanjean 909 shortwave / fm radio
with stereo line out
CD source--probably disc man style portable; like RS 3400.
People who have talked to me say it's workable, "all you to do is go to Radio Shack, get a sound pot, mabye build a little box; install RCA female. Get that much but wire it how? put the sound pot where?
In the alternative, can I just use the volume controls on CD disc man and shortwave radio to control input in the Wave and not bother with passive amp.
Happy to listen to case being made for headphone set and amp: Meirer-Eudora and Beyer? Maybe the Grado SR-60's are just too uncomfortable.
Building a passive preamp is straightforward, but honestly you should really consider buying a vintage integrated amp on eBay. It'll almost certainly be cheaper (and you won't need to buy a soldering iron!), it won't feel chintzy and you won't be tempted to upgrade. (e.g. You can get a vintage tubed Fisher for $100-200, or a solid state Marantz or NAD for $50-$150). There's a recent thread in the Amps+Source Components forum with suggestions.
Not to mention, if you're going with small speakers like the Atoms and you just feel like ambient noise sometimes, you'll appreciate having real bass and treble controls -- you can reduce the volume to really low levels and tweak the treble and bass just a bit so the music still sounds good.