- Jan 27, 2013
I have used 4 different amps on the HE1K, and these can scale down to other amps pretty darn well. The amps I have used : Fillo e12, Schiit Audio's Asgard 2; lyr 2, Ragnarock. The HE1K is a very natural, ultra revealing headphone, that always sound so beautifully musical. And these cans scale down and up with the audio equipment, one uses.
I recently got the chance to play with a bunch of extremely nice headphone amplifiers (some of the top-end ones include the taurus mkII & mcintosh mha100) with the HE-1000 and I actually strongly agree with this statement. The mha100 pairing scaled up the sound quality so well that I even considered purchasing it despite its ridiculous $4.5k price tag. Quite audible and significant improvement to the sound quality. Won't comment in-depth because I don't own these high-end equipment, but did spend multiple hours doing direct (sighted) comparisons and running various test tracks (all lossless files mainly covering classical, jazz, rock, and soundtrack - may list the actual song list when I have more time).
Previously, I found amplifier scaling with the high-end headphones I've tried not to be significant enough to my ears to justify any extremely expensive purchases, but the HE-1000 does really noticeably scale up with top-of-the-line equipment to quite a significant degree. The additional plus in my mind is that the HE-1k not very picky with amplifiers and still sounds pretty solid using even entry-level & mid-tier gear. Noticeably underpowered though in direct comparison against stuff like the Aune B1 and HA-2, and easy to hear that you are not maximizing the potential of the HE-1k. The best amplifier to my ears out of all the ones I tried was the mcintosh mha100 by a very wide margin. Some of the more interesting ones I got to try included the new tube amp from Hifiman (EF100) and the new amplifier from Audeze (Deckard). There were a few more, but really the mha100 was the one that stood out the most in my mind and the one I ended spending the most time with.
Also, I found that balanced headphone output with RCA single-ended input on the taurus did not outperform the mha100, which is only single-ended. I do wish that I could have run a fully balanced set-up on the taurus to do a better comparison. Also, tried RCA input to balanced output on the taurus against the RCA input to the single-ended output. Perhaps there may have been differences, but relatively harder to gauge. Would need more time to really get a good sense.
I also had the opportunity to try the HE-1000 with the Chord Hugo. The Chord Hugo definitely does NOT adequately power the HE-1000 in direct comparison to the nicer headphone amplifiers. Its amplifier section was actually not very competitive in my mind. Perhaps it would work as a standalone dac in your setup, but I do have to admit that I personally was not very impressed with Chord Hugo. Also, got to try the Vega as well. From my personal testing, I do feel that the amplifier makes more of a significant difference in sound quality than dacs. Actually opposite of what I was expecting as I went in looking for a dac upgrade and left wanting an amplifier upgrade. hahah. Would like further testing to confirm though.
I also did have the opportunity to run direct comparisons between the LCD-3 & HD800 on the mha100 & taurus against the HE-1000. Please note that these are my personal opinions from extensive auditioning, so feel free to disagree/ymmv. The comparison against the LCD-3 was easy. I personally felt that for my tastes and for what I am looking for, the HE-1000 strongly outperforms the LCD-3. Most noticeable difference was that LCD-3 had an significant blurring effect to the notes compared to the HE-1k. The HE-1k easily sounded cleaner, clearer, faster, more accurate, and more realistic with a larger soundstage & more precise imaging. I can see the LCD-3 appealing to people who enjoy that warmer 'smoothed over' 'slightly blended' effect to their musical presentation. I will leave the more detailed analysis to actual owners. The HD800 was more competitive to the HE-1000 in my mind for what I am looking for, but at the end of the day, I personally felt that HE-1000 was distinctly the more sonically capable pair of headphones to my ears. The HE-1k also scaled up to much higher performance levels on the mha100 than the HD800 in direct comparisons. The HD800 was not modded with stock cables and I don't know if the mha100 is considered a good pairing for them, so I will refrain from analyzing in-depth. (Feel free to PM me for my subjective thoughts, but rmb not the same set-up as some of the other people are commenting on). I do disagree with some of the other opinions expressed about the relative differences between the HE-1k & HD800 after my own direct comparisons, but I am not a HD800 owner, so I will leave it at that. I do strongly respect the HD800 and I do think it is quite a solid pair of headphones. This is the fourth time I've extensively auditioned the HD800 and I do appreciate it more every time I try it. For me personally, this experience did answer the remaining questions I had about the HE-1k and I will most likely be keeping it.
edit: Do note I still highly recommend doing a personal audition to see how the HE-1000 fits for you with your equipment, and seeing if the price difference is worth it for you personally. We all are looking for different things in this hobby and have different views on budget/value.