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Does a vintage receiver cut it as a headphone amplifier?

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by nickrobotron, Jan 8, 2012.
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  1. nickrobotron
    I have a pair of AKG K601's and I've read here that they are hard to drive. I have two restored vintage receivers (Marantz 2250B and Pioneer SX-850) and a modern NAD C 740 receiver. The headphones sound incredible on all three receivers, but I'm wondering if I'm missing something. Would it be worth it for me to buy a dedicated headphone amplifier? If so, why?
  2. Raser
    If you think they sound good enough, why change? Biggest factor in hifi is our own mind. 
    But if you think your missing something, bass, soundstage etc, then it is a different matter.
  3. Chris J
    Biggest problem with vintage receivers is the headphone jack usually has a very high output impedance.
     - You usually get tighter bass from a very low output impedance headphone amp.
     - Sometimes I use the headphone jack on my Bryston 2B-LP, the bass gets very boomy when I do this
    In addition, a high output impedance can interact with the headphone impedance and give you some undesirable frequency response alterations.
  4. maverickronin

    That's usually the biggest problem you'll have with a vintage receiver.  The K601s don't have large impedance swings so the biggest problem you're likely to have with them is boomy bass from the poor damping factor.
  5. nickrobotron
    So what would you guys recommend for these headphones? It would have to be a definitely jump up in quality from my receivers and I'd like it to also be versatile enough to be used when I upgrade. My budget is no more than $300.
  6. maverickronin

    If you're already happy with what you've got you might not find an upgrade worth the money if you only use the K601s.  If you want something that's more versatile for future headphones the Objective2 might be a good choice.  I've seen other people who like it with K601s and it has low enough noise and output impedance to work fine with even with sensitive IEMs.
    I actually have a pair of 601s coming in tomorrow so I'll get to see how well they wor together.
  7. nickrobotron
    Ahh. Yes, please post your opinions. I'd be interested in hearing which amplifier you think sounds best with your new headphones.
  8. maverickronin
    I'm expecting the Objective2 to be the best since I've come to prefer a nice clean sound (you can Google for its measurements if you're interested) but I've got a few other amps I can try it with too.
  9. nickrobotron
    Any updates?
  10. nickrobotron
    I did a big shoot out with all my stereo receivers. I preferred the Pioneer SX-850 and then the NAD C 740. The Marantz just sucked. I was disappointed. I have more money in the rebuild of this amplifier and I think it looks awesome. It's definitely not going to be used for this application.
    I'd love to try a nice headphone amp with these. What do you guys think of the Little Dot tube amps for the K601?
    pedalhead likes this.
  11. hodgjy
    This question gets asked here a lot.  To cut to the chase, receivers can, and do, make great headphone amps.  Many of the vintage offerings are better than some of the new dedicated amps.  But, the bottom line is what YOU think.  If you like the sound, stay with it.  If not, research an amp that might meet your voicing preferences.

  12. RexAeterna
    the k601 are not very hard to drive. their amping needs get exaggerated around here. they even work fine off an ipod with more enough volume. if you like how they sound then no need to get a headamp. you would probably see no benefits. also most AKG headphones shouldn't be affected too much from high output impedance. i tried the k601 off close to 0ohm output impedance of speaker outputs and headphone jacks fed with 680ohm resistors giving a 680ohm output impedance and the bass did not become boomy or whatever.
  13. maverickronin

    I've found that they haven't been that hard to drive.  They're a bit inefficient compared to most things on the market but they sound nice out of different amps.  My Cowon D2 does pretty good by itself, though I prefer my XM6 in between for the crossfeed.
    If you're happy with what you've got you probably don't need something else unless you get another headphone that's more efficient or sensitive to output impedance.
  14. Chris J


    After much careful consideration and analysis (actually not possible, I only have two, maybe three brain cells, LOL!):
    Dedicated Headphone amps can be made much smaller than a vintage receiver
    A new headphone amp comes with a warranty (it had better!)
    A new head amp should also be a lot more reliable than an old, vintage receiver.
    OTOH, that vintage Yamaha receiver that Rawrbington bought looks, well, AWESOME! 
  15. Spareribs
    Yes but in likelihood it would be a vintage receiver. I have a Marantz receiver that I got from eBay and it is a 1971 built model and the headphone jack is great. However, I 've had a couple receivers from other reputable brands built in the 1980s and the headphone jacks sounded veiled. 
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