Need help deciding whether to buy a headphone amp | Grado SR325
Jan 13, 2013 at 12:24 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 14

chuckgopal

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Hello!
 
I'm a bit of a newbie to high-end audio, so please forgive me if my question might be a little basic.
I own (and love!) a Grado SR325i. I listen to rock, prog and metal (FLAC) through my desktop computer which has an Asus Xonar Essense ST. It has a built-in headphone amp, and I take the Grados out of there, and they sound pretty darn awesome.
 
I didn't have an amp per se, but then when I went to my Dad's place, he had this old Sony Hi-Fi system (whose model number I really can't figure out) which he bought in 1995 (one with dual cassette docks etc). The system is still pretty kickass but he never used it, so I took just the stereo amplifier from him. Image below.
 

 
 
Now, this is not technically a headphone amp, but I wanted to see if it would do the job. The result - well, it did, a bit. It added a bit of thump, but quite honestly, nothing more. Currently the thing is under repair and I run the Grados right off the Asus, and I don't notice too much difference. That's kinda worrying because I've also owned a PA2V2 which came highly recommended for Grados, and I didn't notice too much difference with that either.
 
At the same time, I'm quite keen on 'upgrading', so given this, does it make sense getting a dedicated headphone amp, given I've not noticed too much difference with these 2 (very different) amps I've used? Perhaps my ears aren't 'evolved' enough yet :wink: 
 
And if it helps, I stay in Mumbai, India (which means many of the amps you might recommend will not be available here. This and this are the offerings from an 'audiophile' website here)
 
Thank you very much for your help! :)
 
Deepak
 
Jan 13, 2013 at 1:06 PM Post #2 of 14

joseph69

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I also own the 325is, and I use either my Sony CDP-c701 headphone out or my Adcom GTP400 pre-amp/tuner to drive them. I was in the same situation as you are in, wondering if I should purchase a dedicated amp or not? Anyway after reading some threads on this forum, I'm probably leaning towards NOT purchasing one because the Grado's are very easy to drive and also sound great out of either one of my source's, with the exception of the Sony having less power to drive them at a certain volume. The Adcom however has plenty of power the drive them way beyond what I need! Plus most of the response's I get about this question are a matter of opinion, so in my own thoughts, and listening experience's, I would have to say I probably would not benefit from a dedicated amp for the headphone's as far as power to drive them. I know different amp's have different sound quality, but I am more than happy with either one of my source's sound quality. So if the sound quality to YOU and your source drives them well enough for you (which by all means it should), then IMO it would just be a matter of a different sound signature you would after, otherwise I would say hold off!
And don't get me wrong, I am still curious also about some headphone amps out there, but that's one of the thing's about this hobby (curiosity) LOL!!! 
 
BTW, I see you have the (G) cushions on the 325's, I know I need to hear them for myself, but how do you like the sound?
Also can you give me your opinion on the difference's between the (L) and the (G) cushion's? Thanks.
 
Jan 13, 2013 at 1:31 PM Post #3 of 14

chuckgopal

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Thanks so much for the reply, Joseph. What you say makes a lot of sense.
 
To me, the decision to upgrade to the G-Cush was purely on the basis of comfort. Say what you will, wearing the L-Cushes are like sleeping on a carrot grater. The G-Cushes push the headphones away from the ear a little more, but I quite like the change in sound. A slightly improved soundstage (to me, anyway) but a slight reduction in bass. Can be easily adjusted with a few EQ settings. Again, my ears are not evolved enough to notice such subtle differences. To me, this sounds (and feels!) very good, so no complaints at all!
 
Upgrade to G only if you're having comfort issues with the Ls, I'd say (which, unless you're bionic or something, I guess you have!).
 
Thanks again for the help on the amp :)
 
Deepak
 
Jan 13, 2013 at 1:42 PM Post #4 of 14

joseph69

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Fortunately, I do not have comfort issue's with the (L) cushions, also I have adjusted my headband to where there is NO pressure on my head, the drivers just lay over my ears. The reason I ask about the sound of the (G) cushions is because when I hold the drivers slightly away from my ears, I seem to like the results myself, and most people say they disagree (which is only their opinion) so I believe I would like the sound also, so in the near future I will purchase the (G) cushion for my own listening. Good luck!
 
Jan 13, 2013 at 2:10 PM Post #5 of 14

PurpleAngel

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The Sony receiver's headphone jack should have a high impedance, which would give the Grado's a bloated bass
What source(s) do you plug the PAV2V into when your using it?
The PAV2V should be the preferred amplifier for driving 32-Ohm headphones (SR325i)
I would assume plugging the PAV2V into the RCA outputs on the Essence ST would be the best sounding connection?
 
Jan 13, 2013 at 3:34 PM Post #6 of 14

joseph69

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Unfortunately I do not know the impedance on the output for the headphone jack on the Sony (no manual). But I also had no problem with the bass being bloated at all listening through the Sony with my SR80i, maybe because the 80i's don't have much bass to begin with?
I have never listened to the 325is through the Sony, being that they have a bit more bass maybe I will notice some bloated bass, I'll check it out and hear how it sounds.
 
Jan 15, 2013 at 11:47 AM Post #7 of 14

chuckgopal

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Thanks for your help, guys. 
 
Will stick to the Asus output for now. 
Honestly, the PA2V2 does nothing for me :) Have tried the Asus -> PA2V2 -> Grado combination. Zilch. Maybe it's my ears, but hey.
 
Perhaps later, when I get onto bigger, badder headphones, I'll get an amp.
 
Thanks again!
Deepak
 
Jan 15, 2013 at 12:58 PM Post #8 of 14

chuckgopal

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Quote:
The Sony receiver's headphone jack should have a high impedance, which would give the Grado's a bloated bass
What source(s) do you plug the PAV2V into when your using it?
The PAV2V should be the preferred amplifier for driving 32-Ohm headphones (SR325i)
I would assume plugging the PAV2V into the RCA outputs on the Essence ST would be the best sounding connection?

 
Hello! 
 
Quite honestly, doesn't make too much of a difference. Not to me, anyway (Asus -> PA2V2 -> Grado, that is).
Was wondering if a 'true headphone amp' (The Sony, after all, was not a true headphone amp, it was part of a stereo system) would make too much difference...
 
Deepak
 
Jan 15, 2013 at 1:15 PM Post #9 of 14

joseph69

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Quote:
 
Hello! 
 
Quite honestly, doesn't make too much of a difference. Not to me, anyway (Asus -> PA2V2 -> Grado, that is).
Was wondering if a 'true headphone amp' (The Sony, after all, was not a true headphone amp, it was part of a stereo system) would make too much difference...
 
Deepak

I don't understand what you mean by; (The Sony, after all was not a true headphone amp, it was part of a stereo system) would make too much difference.
 
Jan 15, 2013 at 2:21 PM Post #11 of 14

woktrr1919

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I've never really noticed much of a difference between my sr325is' running off of portable players/headphone amps/stereo receivers. My opinion is that having a nice, clean DAC & using higher-bitrate compression, or lossless will make more a bigger difference than amplification with the grados.
 
Jan 15, 2013 at 10:46 PM Post #12 of 14

chuckgopal

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Quote:
I don't understand what you mean by; (The Sony, after all was not a true headphone amp, it was part of a stereo system) would make too much difference.

 
Basically, the amp which you see in the image on the first post of this thread was not a 'headphone amplifier' per se. It was part of a Sony HiFi system (tuner + amp + CD player + cassette player with speakers). I borrowed just the amplifier part to see whether it would do anything for my headphones, but apart from a little bit of thump, doesn't do much.
 
So, I was wondering whether an actual headphone amplifier like a Woo or HiFiman or some such, would actually make that much of a difference.
 
:)
 
Deepak
 
Jan 15, 2013 at 10:48 PM Post #13 of 14

chuckgopal

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Quote:
I've never really noticed much of a difference between my sr325is' running off of portable players/headphone amps/stereo receivers. My opinion is that having a nice, clean DAC & using higher-bitrate compression, or lossless will make more a bigger difference than amplification with the grados.

 
Thank you! I do use lossless audio files, which run off an Asus Essence ST, which has a built-in headphone amplifier. Would I benefit from buying an external DAC considering the output will be coming from the Asus?
 
I stay in India and access to audio equipment is limited, let alone auditioning stuff, and the best available here seems to be the Audioengine A1.
 
Thank you!
Deepak
 
Jan 15, 2013 at 10:59 PM Post #14 of 14

joseph69

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Quote:
 
Basically, the amp which you see in the image on the first post of this thread was not a 'headphone amplifier' per se. It was part of a Sony HiFi system (tuner + amp + CD player + cassette player with speakers). I borrowed just the amplifier part to see whether it would do anything for my headphones, but apart from a little bit of thump, doesn't do much.
 
So, I was wondering whether an actual headphone amplifier like a Woo or HiFiman or some such, would actually make that much of a difference.
 
:)
 
D

Yes,I replied to you on the original post's, but I wasn't sure if you where reffering to my Sony CDP-701es on ine of your recent post's. (my misunderstanding).
 

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