HR Desktop Max vs. Desktop Balanced
Aug 30, 2007 at 12:02 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 14

riverlethe

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Both of these amps, fully upgraded, are about the same price, if you factor in the DPS for the max Desktop. What would be the major differences in sound between them? Ie., what does balanced do that would make up for the lesser Home+Home upgrades?
 
Aug 30, 2007 at 3:58 PM Post #2 of 14

vcoheda

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i think almost everyone would agree that headphones sound better balanced than singled ended. at least, i feel this way. therefore, i would get the balanced desktop.
 
Aug 30, 2007 at 5:35 PM Post #3 of 14

riverlethe

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Almost everyone would agree on a lot of things.
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Aug 30, 2007 at 5:42 PM Post #4 of 14

vcoheda

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Quote:

Originally Posted by riverlethe /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Almost everyone would agree on a lot of things.
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i don't think that is true. i actually think for most topics of discussion on this board, there is little consensus.
 
Aug 30, 2007 at 6:45 PM Post #5 of 14

LeChuck

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The question isn't whether balanced is better than single-ended in general, it's whether the Desktop Max is better than the Desktop Balanced. Virtually everyone agrees that balanced audio is at least technically better than single-ended, but make no mistake, there is absolutely nothing close to a consensus on how large (if any) of an improvement there is.

If you have a balanced source, it might be worth getting the balanced amp to take full advantage of what your source can provide. On the other hand, if your source is single-ended getting a balanced amp would be needless expenditure.

Also, don't forget about the need for a balanced headphone cable, which run anywhere from $100 on up.

Personally I'd opt for the Max, because it's a higher quality amplifier, and I'd be willing to bet that the improvements you'd get from the superior components outweigh the improvements you'd get from a balanced setup with inferior components.

One thing to note about balanced is that it's louder, which can mess up perceived differences between it and single-ended.

If you want to be "safe" you can get the Max, and if it really doesn't satisfy you, you can return it and go balanced.


I've been struggling with the "go balanced" question myself, but ultimately decided to invest $500 in upgrading my WA4, and remain on the single-ended path.
 
Aug 30, 2007 at 7:37 PM Post #6 of 14

riverlethe

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Quote:

Originally Posted by LeChuck /img/forum/go_quote.gif
The question isn't whether balanced is better than single-ended in general, it's whether the Desktop Max is better than the Desktop Balanced. Virtually everyone agrees that balanced audio is at least technically better than single-ended, but make no mistake, there is absolutely nothing close to a consensus on how large (if any) of an improvement there is.

If you have a balanced source, it might be worth getting the balanced amp to take full advantage of what your source can provide. On the other hand, if your source is single-ended getting a balanced amp would be needless expenditure.

Also, don't forget about the need for a balanced headphone cable, which run anywhere from $100 on up.

Personally I'd opt for the Max, because it's a higher quality amplifier, and I'd be willing to bet that the improvements you'd get from the superior components outweigh the improvements you'd get from a balanced setup with inferior components.

One thing to note about balanced is that it's louder, which can mess up perceived differences between it and single-ended.

If you want to be "safe" you can get the Max, and if it really doesn't satisfy you, you can return it and go balanced.


I've been struggling with the "go balanced" question myself, but ultimately decided to invest $500 in upgrading my WA4, and remain on the single-ended path.



If my source is digital, the DAC should do all the balancing, right?

I was thinking the same thing about the loudness factor.

Anyway, I ordered the Desktop with Home modules, so we'll see if that satisfies me. I also got some AKG 701's to try out and see if I prefer them to HD650's. Frankly, I'm still impressed with the Micro Stack with HD650's, but it makes me very curious as to what I've been missing. The Headroom salesman perhaps inadvertently talked me down from the Desktop Balanced when I asked about the comparison. He said there would be a great improvement going from the Micro line with Desktop components to the Desktop line with Home components, but not as much upgrading to max or balanced. However, he only tried them with the AKG 701's, not the HD650's.
 
Aug 30, 2007 at 7:49 PM Post #7 of 14

vcoheda

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with the HR desktop balanced, the dac in the balanced desktop could serve as your balanced source, even if connected to an unbalanced one. if you were using the desktop and your own dac, that dac would have to be balanced.
 
Aug 30, 2007 at 7:58 PM Post #8 of 14

Dept_of_Alchemy

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I actually think that feeding a balanced amp with an unbalanced signal makes sense... one is signal (requiring purity), and one is driving the headphone (requiring power and slew rate), different requirements.

That said, I think that balanced amplification is so much more superior technically speaking (it bothers me a little how people refuse to treat amplification as a technical issue and insist on jabbering about each amp as subjectively as if it were a piece of painting, well, to me amplification is an electrical engineering problem and while subjective taste does factor into the equation the perceived performance of the amp must be correlated to its measured specs, but I guess that's another can of worms...).

That said, balanced amplification is a much more technically-correct way to do the job that if I had a choice I would go with balanced anyday.
 
Aug 30, 2007 at 8:44 PM Post #9 of 14

riverlethe

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Dept_of_Alchemy /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I actually think that feeding a balanced amp with an unbalanced signal makes sense... one is signal (requiring purity), and one is driving the headphone (requiring power and slew rate), different requirements.

That said, I think that balanced amplification is so much more superior technically speaking (it bothers me a little how people refuse to treat amplification as a technical issue and insist on jabbering about each amp as subjectively as if it were a piece of painting, well, to me amplification is an electrical engineering problem and while subjective taste does factor into the equation the perceived performance of the amp must be correlated to its measured specs, but I guess that's another can of worms...).

That said, balanced amplification is a much more technically-correct way to do the job that if I had a choice I would go with balanced anyday.



It's still very subjective. Is the technically inferior way inadequate enough that the listener will notice, and if so, does the amount of improvement to be had justify the cost of the technically better way?
I guess the only way to "know" is to try them side by side. I'm probably financially better off not knowing.
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Aug 30, 2007 at 10:39 PM Post #10 of 14

twsmith

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Quote:

Originally Posted by riverlethe /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Anyway, I ordered the Desktop with Home modules, so we'll see if that satisfies me. I also got some AKG 701's to try out and see if I prefer them to HD650's. Frankly, I'm still impressed with the Micro Stack with HD650's, but it makes me very curious as to what I've been missing. The Headroom salesman perhaps inadvertently talked me down from the Desktop Balanced when I asked about the comparison. He said there would be a great improvement going from the Micro line with Desktop components to the Desktop line with Home components, but not as much upgrading to max or balanced. However, he only tried them with the AKG 701's, not the HD650's.


I used a HR Desktop with the Max modules and AKG 701s -- in my opinion they are not the best match. I've since switched over to using my K701s with the Headamp GS-1, which I greatly prefer. I thought the K701s sounded too "hard" and lacked detail with the HR amp. Somehow I have the impression that HR amps in general may sound best with Senns. If you're planning on using K701s, I wouldn't recommend any of the HR amps -- I think you can do better.
 
Aug 31, 2007 at 1:13 AM Post #11 of 14

warrior05

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Quote:

Originally Posted by twsmith /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I used a HR Desktop with the Max modules and AKG 701s -- in my opinion they are not the best match. I've since switched over to using my K701s with the Headamp GS-1, which I greatly prefer. I thought the K701s sounded too "hard" and lacked detail with the HR amp. Somehow I have the impression that HR amps in general may sound best with Senns. If you're planning on using K701s, I wouldn't recommend any of the HR amps -- I think you can do better.


I'm going to disagree with you here. I heard a balanced K701 out of a maxed out home unit and it was absolutely heavenly. It was my first exposure to balanced and I was hooked.
 
Sep 2, 2007 at 6:01 AM Post #12 of 14

Dept_of_Alchemy

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Quote:

Originally Posted by warrior05 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I'm going to disagree with you here. I heard a balanced K701 out of a maxed out home unit and it was absolutely heavenly. It was my first exposure to balanced and I was hooked.


That's why there is a 30 day return policy.
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Greatest concept since sliced bread, AFAIC.
 
Sep 2, 2007 at 2:02 PM Post #13 of 14

twsmith

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Quote:

Originally Posted by warrior05 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I'm going to disagree with you here. I heard a balanced K701 out of a maxed out home unit and it was absolutely heavenly. It was my first exposure to balanced and I was hooked.


Perhaps I need to qualify my previous opinion since I only have heard the AKG 701s in a single-ended configuration with the HR amp. Perhaps in some manner, least with the HR Desktop amp in particular, balanced K701s actually do sound much better. However many folks may not be inclined to spend the extra $$$ to send out their K701s for re-cabling, even if they decide to go balanced. Although this is clearly a highly debatable issue, AKG did not seem to design the 701s with the intent of making them easy to convert to balanced mode - possibly for a reason (??) - unlike the higher end Senns which can be easily and relatively cheaply converted to balanced. With the appropriate single-ended amp, I feel that the SE K701s can probably closely approach (I didn't say "equal") what one might experience with a balanced amp and cans.
 

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