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Is there an integrated amp with a great headphone amp?

  1. freesole
    Just as the title says, I'm looking for an integrated amp that has a very capable to fantastic headphone amp. Are there any out there? I currently have the PS Audio Sprout100 and while I think it sounds great, I don't have another reference point. I know that when I plugged my headphones into a Primaluna Dialogue HP it sounded far fuller and the sound stage was immense compared to my little Sprout100. A lot to ask... I know. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
  2. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Cayin CS-55a but I've only tried it on 300ohm Sennheisers. Full sound but not overdone. Problem is it's expensive and huge, and only has USB for digital input and needs specific drivers. Not sure how it works with Roon.

    Do you really want everything in just one box? Because you can get a fairly small DAC-HPamp-Preamp and then look for a T-amp that doesn't have a preamp circuit in it, still going to be fairly small, just two boxes. And in some ways it's easier to deal with two smaller boxes than one huge box, since you get the option to reduce the surface area by stacking them.
  3. Redcarmoose
    freesole likes this.
  4. Monsterzero
    Watch the video I posted last week on this topic. It will help explain this situation.

  5. freesole
    It sounds like he's saying that integrated amps of today won't sound as good through the headphone vs a vintage receiver. Not very encouraging :)
  6. Monsterzero
    Ermm,that review was done by me,and thats exactly what im saying. I own modern high end multi channel receivers and the headphone outs sound like trash.
  7. megabigeye
    Define "great" and "fantastic." I have a Peachtree nova65SE that has a discrete headphone amp and it sounds very good. Maybe not the best, per se, but if it were the only thing I knew, I would certainly be very happy with it... In fact, it's not the only thing I know, and I am very happy with it. Ultimately, I would put it at the "very capable" end of the spectrum.
    Be sure to check out the specs pages for their amps, as not all of their headphone circuits are created equal. Some are capable of more than 1W, some capable of 0.075W.

    The Bottlehead SEX is also an integrated, and the headphone out is supposed to be superb (kind of sort of kicking myself for not nabbing one during last week's sale). And I have a BH Quickie + Quicksand-- which technically aren't an integrated, as they're separates-- which has a beautiful tonality, though definitely not technically "fantastic."

    I was also recently reading about an off-the-shelf integrated with a discrete headphone circuit that's supposed to be very good, but of course I can't remember what I was reading or where.
    I believe the amp on the NAD D3020 is also supposed to be good, though I haven't heard it myself. And a lot of people love the Emotiva A100's amp, though that requires a bit of modding, if I'm not mistaken (again, not heard it myself).

    So, yeah, good headphone amps on modern integrateds do exist, they're just maybe not as common as they once were.

    PS, don't you think it's a little unfair to expect your $600 Sprout100 to compare to a $4,400 PrimaLuna? I should hope the $4,400 amp sounds better (for the sake of the people buying it)! I have little interest in such expensive gear precisely because I don't want what I have (and can afford) to pale in comparison.
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
    freesole likes this.
  8. freesole
    Hope you didn't think I was knocking your video, I wasn't. It provided a good explanation of quality of receivers/amps today vs those from 20-40 years ago. I guess you would have to use a standalone dac that then connects to the receiver for the headphone out? Any issues with noise?
  9. Monsterzero
    Correct. A standard DAC into the receiver works the same as into a regular headphone amp.
    Theres no added noise,assuming the receiver is in good working condition.

    As to what headphones will sound good via vintage gear,I explain that in my video.
  10. freesole
    Thanks for the input. I've heard good things about Peachtree since I started diving into the audio space. I'll also take a look at the Bottlehead products.

    And yes, it is definitely unfair. I think that benchmark though told me that there was a difference and that I could get better than the Sprout100 so that's why I'm looking into another amp that is maybe a little less than the Primaluna (both in $ and in size, weight, etc). The Primaluna is a nice piece of gear for sure though.

    The Linear Tube Audio Z10 integrated amp and MZ3 is very intriguing. They are not cheap though at $4,700 and $3,700 respectively. The downside too is that they are low in power output so that would severely limit me in terms of speakers to pair them with.
  11. megabigeye
    Also, what do you mean by "integrated?"
    Something like the Sprout or Peachtree-- which have multiple types of input-- are closer to what I'd think of as modern stereo receivers.
    However, an integrated is any amp that includes both power amp and preamp stages-- that includes everything from an amp board with a volume pot to AV receivers.
  12. audiobomber
    Why not buy a dedicated headphone amp and run it from the RCA analog outputs of the Sprout?

    My main system didn't have a headphone amp, so I connected an Asgard 2 to the tape outs on my preamp. Works great!

    EDIT. On second thought this may not work for you because the Sprout RCA outs are controlled by the volume pot and the sound would also be going to the speakers.
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
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  13. PopZeus
    Yeah, just get a dedicated headphone amp with an RCA pass thru that pairs well with your headphone. You have tons of great, affordable options and the stack will take up less space than anything integrated.
    freesole likes this.
  14. freesole
    Come to think of it, this would not be a bad option. Using the Sprout100's DAC may be a bit limiting though (which is partly one of the reasons why I wanted to try a different application).

    Maybe I should just get the KEF LS50 Wireless and then get a headphone amp / DAC combo and sell the Sprout100.
  15. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    There's the Cayin CS55a and a WooAudio that sells for $5600. NAD D3020 is somewhat decent.

    In any case, it's not really that big of a problem when you consider that old headphone amps that didn't come with certain headphone systems also sucked before, but now you can get a DAC-HPamp-Preamp and a power amp for not a lot of money.

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