It's a way to get you to buy much more expensive cables and get confused about 2.5 mm TRRS, 4.4 mm TRRRS "pentacon" and XRL which gets worse when things which claim to be balanced aren't really. You don't need to bother with it until long from now when it becomes relevant to you and your equipment.I've always heard about balanced but am not so sure what it is. Is that better SQ than single-ended?
Balanced involves the left and right stereo channels having their own independent signal paths.
It doesn't sound like you understand my clarification of how the term hybrid is used. Don't bother with tubes yet.And I think I could move up to $150 for a hybrid if it exists.
I do not.Do you agree that at least 2W per channel @ 32 ohms is needed for driving the HE400i?
My hybrid xDuoo TA01B puts 2.1 W into an unbalanced output and I can barely turn the volume dial before every headphone I have owned - including the planar HE400i and Fostex T50RP Mk. 2 - is way too loud. My HE400i ran on every DAC/amp combo I own(ed) including the SMSL M3, Micca OriGen G2 and the aforementioned ES100. The only device which could not power it to listening levels was the tiny FiiO μBTR.
You should look at the published specs for each of these, particularly the power output into the nominal impedance of your HE400i. This number is less important that it seems and the general advice that big planars need big power is true, but lacks important nuance about impedance matching and current. There are other factors to consider such as distortion, but at your budget this is unlikely to be a significant differentiator.
SI units and prefixes and the relationship between the units Volt, Amp and Ohm is your simple homework. Understanding things like impedance as a function of electric potential, current and frequency at multiple junctions is way more advanced and you don't have to bother with it since to a very good first approximation your amp either can or cannot adequately drive your headphone - especially at your budget.I am having trouble figuring out how to convert mW to W, volts, etc. Not sure about what high and low gain is either.
High (and medium) and low gain switches change the range of signal output for the positions of the volume knob. This is most useful when changing between headphones of varying sensitivity. The rule of thumb is to choose the setting which allows the greatest range of listenable volume.