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The AHB2 looks like a very nice amp. It's a bit beyond my budget if I sell my Timekeeper though.
HE-6 is definitely not laid back.
I think it is outstanding for treble extension, clarity, openness, punch, bass, and has vivid detail at all frequencies.
I prefered it over the HE-1000.
The HE-1000 has a big soundstage, bigger than HE-6, has excellent bass extension, and is very detailed, but it was too "soft" sounding for my tastes, and lacked transient speed.
Just my 2 cents.
I would consider the AHB2 to be nearly the pinnacle of what one can obtain for the HE-6. Before that, I'd say the Bryston 2B wins for that price bracket. Somewhere in between, the excellent Neurochrome HP-1. That's all just personal opinion though. There are a bazillion choices out there.
I've heard some of the older Burson stuff but wasn't really moved by them.
What preamp were you using to hear the AHB2? Also, have you compared the AHB2 to the First Watt amps?
I'm speaking in broad strokes here as I have not heard the AHB2 myself. However, I have several friends who have and most importantly we share many of the same reference points (several of which we've even exchanged directly between each other). So I'm not making the recommendation blindly here.
noteworthy sources used: Schiit Yggy, Prism Sound, GOV2
noteworthy preamps used: Emotiva Big Knob, Stereoknight balanced TVC, there's others I forget
noteworth amps used: Krell, Bryston, Fostex, Crown, Lab Gruppen
I was curious about calling that amp the pinnacle if it has not been compared to other highly recommended amps for the HE-6 like the J2, so I was wondering if you had compared a few of those amps to come to that conclusion. Both the J2 and AHB2 are highly regarded amps, but I'm not sure which one pairs up better with the HE-6. One problem with the AHB2 is that it has balanced inputs only. Benchmark suggests that you use their XLR to RCA adapters if you want RCA inputs, but some people have not had good results with that. Then obviously comes the problem of having a fully balanced preamp.
Has anyone tried the Niam NAP 100 with the HE-6?
I know three people now who've ended their amp chase with the AHB2.
Very intriguing. I may have to start selling off some of my excess gear to buy one.
First Watt F7. I have a Hegel P+H20, a Ear Yoshino v12, and other headphone amps not worth mentioning but that could drive the he6 I suppose. The First Watt is my favourite of the three. Haven't heard the AHB2, but let me put it this way-
I can go from my EC Studio to the First Watt F7 with my CodeX and think I've lost just a bit of technicalities but gained so much musicality and flow that it's more of a different flavour than a different level.
Seriously, anyone driving planars or low impedance headphones should just look at speaker amps. In this usage method the First Watt's low power output is a huge plus, not a minus.
I actually don't like using speaker amps for headphones... but it's one of those cases where the HE-6 is a sweaty beast that doesn't fit into either category well, but fits into the speaker amp category "better". Most speaker amps are actually too noisy for headphone use and have too much gain, but the HE-6 is so low in sensitivity that the noise gets pulled down below audible levels.
On the question of "minimum power requirements of the HE-6", I can personally attest to this:
The nominally 1-watt rated (S.E.T.) ALO ' Studio-Six' amp can cleanly and boldly drive the HE-6 up to an SPL which could/would
permanently damage hearing in relatively short order --if one were foolishly inclined to do so!.
When using the HE-6 with the Studio-Six, a lot more of the voltage gain of the amp is used in normal listening as compared with powering
phones of more conventional sensitivity. And so yes, the volume control gets advanced closer to max than usual --but that's actually a plus IMO
So yeah, it's not quite as simple or straightforward as saying "the HE-6 needs a powerful amplifier to play well". There are parameters beyond
a simple unqualified output wattage rating which are important factors in determining what the real-world 'drive capability' of an amp is.
How effectively can it swing voltage into whatever load impedance/s (reactive and/or purely resistive) ?
The devil is often in the details --it keeps life interesting!
Have always respected varying opinions but cannot agree with this................I use nothing but vintage speaker amps to drive all manner of headphones and have for five years now - total of 11 different vintage amps from Pioneer, Sony, Kenwood, Fisher and Hitachi and driving even easy to drive Denon LA7000's have NO no noise - just a black background. Maybe it's because they are in great shape and a few have been recapped but even the 40 year old SX-1050 with all original components have no background noise and I've run over 50 headphones through them, from cheap Panasonics to my HE-6.
I post this not to argue with you but to let folks know there are options beyond "headphone amps" that are in my opinion very limiting in their lack of tone controls, loudness circuits as well as losing the option of driving headphones out of the speaker taps. And a HE-6 out of a Pioneer Spec system, or for that matter any of the 5 Pioneer vintage amps that I have, is a magical experience, and the cost of entry is way lower than most higher end options talked about recently. My SA-8800 and SA-9900 were purchase for $500 combined and drive the HE-6 with authority, not to mention the Cerwin Vega and Klipsch speakers they also share duty with.
We are simply the product of our experiences then. I've run through a random assortment of Sansui, Harmon Kardon, Hitachi, Luxman, Emotiva, etc. Through an L-pad or the front headphone jack there's no problem, but direct from the taps I heard noise when using more sensitive headphones.
I'm one of those who has heard the AHB2 which I directly compared to my Krell Evolution 302e at home. Both are more capable than the HE-6 so they ended up sounding the same. Get the AHB2 and call it a day.
The only reason why I didn't make the switch is because I need to drive ESLs.