Looking for a good balanced headphone amplifier
Dec 10, 2008 at 4:09 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 18

Zerox Millienium

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I have just acquired my Cambridge Audio DAC Magic, it's lovely.

Now I want to shop around for a balanced headphone amplifier and would like to hear some recommendations from fellow head-fiers.

What I would like is something not exceeding 500 bucks, possibly have a headphone 1/4" or 1/8" output option and gain control.

Regards.
 
Dec 10, 2008 at 5:04 AM Post #4 of 18

nestacio

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.
I went down that path a few months ago before going "all-in" (in head-fi terms, it means I accepted the inevitable which was that the cost of incremental upgrades to the 'peak' would be more than the cost of going to the top immediately
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so, it's actually cheaper in the long run to go straight to the top -- but prob. less fun).

A quick glance through the forums shows a Headroom Balanced Desktop as one of the more affordable, non-DIY balanced amps (but > your $500 budget) and it only got more expensive from there. The reason balanced drive is much more costly is the fact that it uses more parts than single-ended to achieve its output.

Ultimately, I settled on TWO (!) solutions which I am still in the process of evaluating - but I paid somewhat dearly for the experience: I met with Craig at Eddie Current to put my down payment in for the Balancing Act which I should be receiving in Feb. 09 and also picked up a Headroom Balanced Home to enjoy in the meantime... so I am exploring the solid state vs. tube options for balanced. 'Top' here is subjective since there are several nice but not inexpensive balanced amp options; I could have gone as easily with a GSX for solid and a Singlepower for tubed but I was impatient and wanted the balanced sound immediately to see whether I would like it.

That said, I am not 100% sure balanced is worth the cost of entry at this point in my headphone education; there are certainly some soundstage differences and an overall 'tightness' to the sound but Craig at EC challenged me to hear differences using the switch in his BA prototype and I was hard-pressed to really hear anything different. This was using my senns as well as his AD2000 with a balanced recable.

I would be amazed if anyone chimes in with a sub-$1000 balanced amp reco. My rig is in my signature; I'm running HD650s balanced with a silver dragon cable out of the balanced outs from my Esoteric into a Balanced Home with all the max modules.

.
 
Dec 10, 2008 at 5:20 AM Post #5 of 18

compuryan

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You might be able to find something used, but I even doubt that for under $500. Like MaloS said, the cheapest balanced amp to build would be the M^3. The Little Dot MKVI is $699 plus some hefty shipping fees.
 
Dec 10, 2008 at 10:20 AM Post #8 of 18

FallenAngel

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There are TONS of great balanced options in the DIY realm. Lots of 2-channel amps can easily be balanced - CKK-III, Soha2, Millet MAX, even a CMOY! Yes, you can definitely balance M^3 and PPAv2 but they're not meant for it and you're losing board space but who cares, if you want it, do it.

Personally, I'm building a balanced JISBOS buffer, parts cost - $100
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Of course I'm spending another $100 on a Sigma22 and I know it's absolute overkill, but why not. You can easily run it off an LM317/LM337 (or the way I like to do it is using 2x LM317) for $40 including transformer.
 
Dec 10, 2008 at 4:30 PM Post #10 of 18

Seba

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I'll be posting some impressions when I get my Zapfiltered Zhaolu up and running and then it will be paired with my C2C amp and cables will be Audioquest King Cobra XLR's. So not completely balanced set but let's see how it will perform.
 
Dec 10, 2008 at 5:19 PM Post #11 of 18

Lil' Knight

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Dept_of_Alchemy /img/forum/go_quote.gif
The Little Dot Mk6 would be about perfect, although it uses a non-standard 4-pin XLR connector so you'll need to have your headphones recabled for it.


The MK6 has 2x XLR 3-pin in the back though.
I don't think you can build or buy a balanced M3 @ $500. The balanced CK2III is more feasible.
 
Dec 10, 2008 at 8:57 PM Post #12 of 18

DefectiveAudioComponent

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The ear 90 has balanced output and costs $480, but with balanced inputs the price goes up to 565.

However, I have not listened to it. (the shop had sold theirs before I got around to it :frowning2: So I'm just telling you about the price, not whether it is any good.

Sombody decided to open their 2005 version up and took some picture from the inside of it: Minhembio.com - Hemma hos Fredsarme - Harmony Design Ear 90
 
Dec 12, 2008 at 7:38 PM Post #15 of 18

DefectiveAudioComponent

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Quote:

Originally Posted by El_Doug /img/forum/go_quote.gif
looks like the Harmony Design Ear 90 DOESNT have a balanced output... :S


Why don't you think so? They seem to be quite proud of the balanced output too.

EDIT: you are right, if you want an XLR output you have to order it with that instead of the two normal headphone outputs.
 

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