Headphone amp
Dec 8, 2008 at 7:31 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 12

hdlovar

New Head-Fier
Joined
Nov 13, 2008
Posts
47
Likes
0
Hey there,

I posted a few weeks ago about my first foray into the world of audiophile sound and I'm back again!

I'm looking to purchase an amplifier that works decently well with the hd580s, has an optical in (I'm guessing most do) and is around $200. It's basically going to be used for everything from music (atm from the white macbook) to gaming (xbox 360) and movies (both macbook and 360). Mostly music and gaming though (basically %47.5/%47.5 with the other %5 for movies).

Once I fix my desktop I'm planning on upgrading the soundcard to a more 'audiophile' quality one and at that point I'll probably start looking for DACs and the like.

I don't need to be blown away as this is my first REAL amp but I do appreciate quality
smily_headphones1.gif
Also keep in mind, when looking at prices, I have no problems buying used.

Thanks!
biggrin.gif
 
Dec 8, 2008 at 7:52 PM Post #2 of 12

Uncle Erik

Uncle Exotic
Joined
Mar 18, 2006
Posts
22,597
Likes
501
I don't know of any amp around $200 that has an optical in, short of building one yourself.

If an amp has an optical in, that means it has a DAC inside. Optical is digital, so you need a DAC to convert it to analog for the amp. Putting a good amp and DAC inside a box increases costs. You can get an amp for that price, but probably not both. Another option is to just get an amp now and run it from the analog outs on your gear. It'll still sound pretty good and you can use it until you upgrade.

Though it's outside your budget, the PreSonus Central Station will do what you're asking for. They run $500 new, but refurbs are around $400 and used can be a little less. With one of these, you can run optical into it straight from your Mac - no soundcard needed. I used one constantly until I got sucked into vinyl, SACD and tubes.
 
Dec 8, 2008 at 7:57 PM Post #3 of 12

scootermafia

MOT: Double Helix Cables
Joined
Nov 24, 2008
Posts
3,015
Likes
198
the Zero DAC is exactly what you're looking for. It can decode optical and coax, can be had for well under $200, and has a headphone amplifier built-in. It's pretty popular and there are many threads on it - while it is not the top headphone amp out there it is one of the cheapest and can be tweaked if you're into that sort of thing.

It can be had on ebay or audiophilechina.com.
 
Dec 8, 2008 at 8:13 PM Post #4 of 12

hdlovar

New Head-Fier
Joined
Nov 13, 2008
Posts
47
Likes
0
Quote:

Originally Posted by Uncle Erik /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I don't know of any amp around $200 that has an optical in, short of building one yourself.

If an amp has an optical in, that means it has a DAC inside. Optical is digital, so you need a DAC to convert it to analog for the amp. Putting a good amp and DAC inside a box increases costs. You can get an amp for that price, but probably not both. Another option is to just get an amp now and run it from the analog outs on your gear. It'll still sound pretty good and you can use it until you upgrade.

Though it's outside your budget, the PreSonus Central Station will do what you're asking for. They run $500 new, but refurbs are around $400 and used can be a little less. With one of these, you can run optical into it straight from your Mac - no soundcard needed. I used one constantly until I got sucked into vinyl, SACD and tubes.



Well the optical thing would have been requirement for my xbox. I never realized that a DAC was required to run optical into an Amp, guess I should have read more
tongue.gif
. I'll keep that in mind then. I'll probably go the route you suggested and just run the analog outs into the amp and once I can afford a dedicated DAC grab that and use it.

On the other hand what scooter posted about the Zero sounds interesting. I'll have to take a look at it.

So back to amplifiers! What amp can be had (for around $200) that will fulfill my requests (minus the optical in).
 
Dec 8, 2008 at 8:55 PM Post #5 of 12

xxbaker

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
May 31, 2008
Posts
327
Likes
10
Just a note, the headphone amp in the zero is fairly cheap, any headphone amp around the same price will blow it out of the water (assuming you're running from a decent DAC to the amp). The Zero's DAC however is quite good for the price.
 
Dec 8, 2008 at 9:57 PM Post #6 of 12

hdlovar

New Head-Fier
Joined
Nov 13, 2008
Posts
47
Likes
0
Quote:

Originally Posted by xxbaker /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Just a note, the headphone amp in the zero is fairly cheap, any headphone amp around the same price will blow it out of the water (assuming you're running from a decent DAC to the amp). The Zero's DAC however is quite good for the price.


I had read penchum's glowing review of the Zero and it seemed like it was a good place to start for someone that's never had an amp before.

Also, could you use it as a dedicated DAC? I understand it could be used as a preamp but what's the difference between that and a dedicated DAC, or is there none?

If that was so I could purchase the zero now, as an entry level amp and a decent DAC, and then when I had the money just buy a nice amp and just use the zero as my DAC.
 
Dec 9, 2008 at 1:12 AM Post #7 of 12

mrarroyo

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Jul 27, 2005
Posts
19,073
Likes
29
Dec 9, 2008 at 1:40 AM Post #8 of 12

xxbaker

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
May 31, 2008
Posts
327
Likes
10
Quote:

Originally Posted by hdlovar /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I had read penchum's glowing review of the Zero and it seemed like it was a good place to start for someone that's never had an amp before.

Also, could you use it as a dedicated DAC? I understand it could be used as a preamp but what's the difference between that and a dedicated DAC, or is there none?

If that was so I could purchase the zero now, as an entry level amp and a decent DAC, and then when I had the money just buy a nice amp and just use the zero as my DAC.



Well it's a good place to start because it'll be a big jump from onboard audio and later down the line you can upgrade to a full blown amp and still have a great DAC. I just wanted to point out that if you were looking for an amp (and you already had a fairly good source) then there might be better options out there.

It can be used as a dedicated DAC, in this case I don't believe there is a difference between the usage of preamp and DAC. Your plan there is what the Zero was designed for, and what I'm using it for.
 
Dec 9, 2008 at 5:11 AM Post #9 of 12

hdlovar

New Head-Fier
Joined
Nov 13, 2008
Posts
47
Likes
0
Quote:

Originally Posted by xxbaker /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Well it's a good place to start because it'll be a big jump from onboard audio and later down the line you can upgrade to a full blown amp and still have a great DAC. I just wanted to point out that if you were looking for an amp (and you already had a fairly good source) then there might be better options out there.

It can be used as a dedicated DAC, in this case I don't believe there is a difference between the usage of preamp and DAC. Your plan there is what the Zero was designed for, and what I'm using it for.



Awesome. I'll definitely be looking at the Zero then.

I'll have to do some more research about this Octavert amp/dac before I decide to take the dive. $270 is just a little too steep for me right now. If HighFllight is selling one I may see what I can get it for. Thanks for the recommendation.

Anyone know how the Zero compares to the Octavert?

Also on a side note, would anyone have any idea about how the Zero compares to this amp: http://www.astrogaming.com/products/.../5/A40_MixAmp/ I had purchased this and sent it back when I realized I could just get a "real" amp for the same price. Even if it's equal in quality the zero still wins with the ability to be a dedicated DAC but just wondering how they might compare as far as amps go.

One other question: the a40 mixamp I mentioned has a feature they called "dolby headphone" which is supposed to simulate dolby 5.1 on stereo headphones. What I'm wondering is are there any "real" amps that have that feature?
 
Dec 9, 2008 at 5:33 AM Post #10 of 12

scootermafia

MOT: Double Helix Cables
Joined
Nov 24, 2008
Posts
3,015
Likes
198
I don't know about that Mixamp, but it looks atrocious. Looks like a gaming peripheral, not any sort of legit headphone amp. I don't think anyone on this board would be going for Dolby Headphone anything, since the whole point of head-fi is to look for the best quality, truest sound, not sound that's been desecrated by a ton of equalization, dsp, and fancy programming.

I would get the Zero. Its headphone amp, while nothing fancy, is still much better than using the output of an ordinary stereo or laptop or sound card, and it's a pretty nice standalone DAC. It is so, so cheap that there really is no alternative. I can guarantee that it would sound better than a gaming peripheral.
 
Dec 9, 2008 at 7:33 AM Post #11 of 12

hdlovar

New Head-Fier
Joined
Nov 13, 2008
Posts
47
Likes
0
Quote:

Originally Posted by scootermafia /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I don't know about that Mixamp, but it looks atrocious. Looks like a gaming peripheral, not any sort of legit headphone amp. I don't think anyone on this board would be going for Dolby Headphone anything, since the whole point of head-fi is to look for the best quality, truest sound, not sound that's been desecrated by a ton of equalization, dsp, and fancy programming.

I would get the Zero. Its headphone amp, while nothing fancy, is still much better than using the output of an ordinary stereo or laptop or sound card, and it's a pretty nice standalone DAC. It is so, so cheap that there really is no alternative. I can guarantee that it would sound better than a gaming peripheral.



That's pretty much what I was thinking, just seeing if anyone thought or knew any different
tongue.gif
Thanks for confirming that.

Still looking for a comparison of the Zero to the O1 Amp/DAC. I was trying to search the forums for more info on the O1 but for some reason the search function was malfunctioning.

The only reason I'm asking about the dolby digital is my friend is a big gamer as well, I personally don't feel this feature is necessary, but he really wants surround sound for his games. I was just wondering if there was a higher quality amp that might have it, if not then I guess he'll either have to deal with it or buy that POS mixamp.

One other thing I thought of, having to do with gaming peripherals :3. When using a 5.1 headset (multiple drivers per ear) do you have to have a receiver that you plug the headset into that splits the optical into the different channels to achieve full surround sound? I've never really known how surround works, so this is why I ask. Other thing would be, if the receiver is required, is there a headphone amp that works as a receiver and an amp?

Thanks for the replies
biggrin.gif
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top