Looking for <$300 amp to pair with SRH1840 and Alpha Dogs to replace reciever headphone out
Jul 27, 2015 at 11:53 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 10

Thunder240

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Question: is there a <$300 headphone amp that would match well to 50-65 ohm cans and that punches well above its weight?
 
Background: I'm currently using the headphone out of my Denon 3808ci receiver when listening in my living room. I'm aware that it is not a good impedance match for my headphones -- Shure SRH1840 (65 ohm, 96dB sensitivity) and Mr Speakers Alpha Dogs (50 ohm, 98 dB sensitivity). I want a headphone amp that to use in conjunction with the Denon as a DAC that matches well with those two sets of cans. My hope is to keep the price under 300. The headphone out on the Denon sounds good, but not great. My chief point of comparison is with a 2nd rig that I keep in a different room, comprising a NuForce Icon HDP connected to a Sony Blu-Ray player via digital coax that I use as a DNLA renderer. (I've experimented by moving the NuForce to my livingroom and connecting it's RCA inputs to the Denon's pre-outs, and I notice a improvement in detail, imaging and soundstage, although it isn’t drastic. Still, it’s enough to incline me to do most of my headphone listening in that other room.) For the record, I’m content with the DAC on the Denon. In comparing the Denon’s DAC to the NuForce’s DAC and to an Emotiva XDA-1 paired with a passive resistor, I could not hear a difference. I’m not saying that all DAC’s sound the same, but if there are DACs whose sonic improvements my ears can hear, they cost more than I care to spend.
 
Anyhow, what I really want to know is whether $300 can buy me a substantial improvement in amplification SQ over my Denon's headphone output given my headphones? (I'm pretty sure it can.) Assuming so, what would be the best amp for the job? My preference is for solid state since I don’t expect the Alpha Dogs to pair well with tubes, although there may be the oddball exception, which I’d welcome. (Please only recommend a tube amp if you have listened to it with an orthodynamic headphone and found it to work well, better yet a headphone that uses T50RP drivers. Please don’t recommend a tube amp just because it’s a good amp in general.) I don’t plan to use the pot much — I’ll control volume from the Denon —  so that shouldn’t be a factor. I’ve read several reviews of the O2 and various offerings from Schiit and FiiO among others, and at least in the case of the latter two I suspect that the improvement they might offer is not substantial enough to justify the expense. The O2 has some big fans, but several people have stated that the sound is a bit thin, which turns me off. I’m also familiar with NuForce’s budget lineup, but while I found the HDP to offer some improvement over my Denon, I imagine that I could make my money go farther.
 
Finally, if you feel that no single amp can do justice to both of the headphones that I hope to match (Shure SRH1840 and Mr Speakers Alpha Dogs) because of the driver differences or for some other reason, please explain.
 
Thanks for the recommendations!
 
Jul 27, 2015 at 4:02 PM Post #2 of 10

Me x3

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Schiit Asgard 2 will drive both with ease.
 
Jul 27, 2015 at 4:19 PM Post #3 of 10

cel4145

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Anyhow, what I really want to know is whether $300 can buy me a substantial improvement in amplification SQ over my Denon's headphone output given my headphones? (I'm pretty sure it can.)


No one can tell you this since that is a value judgement that is based on how each of us perceive any improvement, one that is also tied to how much we had to spend (which the money has different value as well).

That being said, IMO, the maximum improvement will likely come from having a lower impedance headphone output since that could improve bass quality.

Massdrop currently has the O2 for $70 shipped. And no. I don't think the O2 sounds thin. LOL
 
Jul 27, 2015 at 5:40 PM Post #4 of 10

KG Jag

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I have not heard any cans out of your receiver.  However, I have also not heard any can, high or low impedance, being powered by any receiver (especially A/V receivers) made since about the mid to late 80's that drives a headphone as well as a decent moderate to low priced headphone amp.  Both the O2 and the Asgard 2 are among those headphone amps.
 
Just make sure that you get one with a high/low gain switch.
 
Jul 27, 2015 at 5:50 PM Post #5 of 10

Sam21

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get this : 
 
http://www.lake-people.de/produktdetails/G103-S.html
 
impressive amp for the price, the power ratings are on the site too : 
 
 17.8 Veff in 600 ohms = 530 mW
  > 16.0 Veff in 300 ohms = 850 mW
  > 13.7 Veff in 200 ohms = 940 mW
  > 7.5 Veff in 50 ohms = 1130 mW
  > 3.7 Veff in 16 ohms = 890 mW
 
 
much more powerful than the O2.
 
Jul 28, 2015 at 12:04 AM Post #6 of 10

Thunder240

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All thanks for the recommendations. The Lake People looks like it's what I want. I'll see if I can find one used or discounted, and if not, I'll pull the trigger on a new one.
 
@cel4145 I understand that what is substantial to one person is hardly noticable to someone else, and I believe in listening before I buy whenever possible. However, most of these products are sold internet direct, and it simply isn't possible to walk into an audio shop and A/B each of them to choose my favorite, and even those that accept returns usually require that the buyer pay shipping. So I really depend on reviews and recommendations, whether I like it or not.
 
Jul 28, 2015 at 8:20 AM Post #7 of 10

inthere

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I have Alpha Dogs, Schiit Asgard, and O2.
 
O2 is ok, Asgard is great. However, I like the Aune T1 mk2 better than the Asgard for Alpha Dogs.  
 
Jul 28, 2015 at 10:15 AM Post #8 of 10

cel4145

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@cel4145 I understand that what is substantial to one person is hardly noticable to someone else, and I believe in listening before I buy whenever possible. However, most of these products are sold internet direct, and it simply isn't possible to walk into an audio shop and A/B each of them to choose my favorite, and even those that accept returns usually require that the buyer pay shipping. So I really depend on reviews and recommendations, whether I like it or not.


Right. Most of us have that problem :)

But you said "whether $300 can buy me a substantial improvement in amplification SQ." No one can answer that particular question for you.

Given that many head-fiers have little experience with the headphone output on higher end AVRs--and especially with the Denon model you have--the better recommendation to seek might be to ask in different discussion threads for particular amps that fit your budget whether or not the amp should perform as well or better than the Icon HDP. From what I could find, looks like the low output impedance of the Icon HDP is 10 ohms. So given the 1/8 low output impedance rule, you can improve upon that performance. And here's a comparison of the Icon HDP with the ODAC + O2 amp (you'll have to read the translation): http://dzwiekozerca.blogspot.com/2013/03/test-nuforce-icon-hdp-vs-o2odac.html. The reviewer like the ODAC + O2 better. So it seems like the O2 should perform as well as your Icon HDP headphone amp, based on that review.
 
Jul 28, 2015 at 11:43 PM Post #9 of 10

Thunder240

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Cel, now I understand what you're getting at! Yes, it's make sense simply to ask for comparisons relative to the NuForce rather than the Denon receiver. Great find, by the way!

Interesting, thanks for sharing your experience amplifying the Alpha Dogs.
 
Aug 8, 2015 at 1:19 AM Post #10 of 10

Thunder240

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Well, I'm happy to say that I feel I got my money's worth with the Lake People G103S! Not only does it drive my Alpha Dogs with authority, but it gives a sense of space that I've never heard before on several tracks I've listened to. On live albums like the Band's Last Waltz, I can place the instruments in the music hall. There is a natural texture to the sound that I love, and that I never got from the NuForce, let alone the Denon Receiver.

I can't say whether the extra cost over the O2 buys anything, but I'm not looking back. Thanks to all for your advice!
 

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