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Recommend me a sub $1,000 desktop amp for planars

  1. skingg
    Hi, I'm trying to look around for a desktop amp that can drive my Fostex TH500RP. Back then when I got the headphone, it sounded decent when I paired it with the Hifime (ES9018K2M DAC) > Cayin C5 > Viper4Windows (equalizer software for windows). However after several windows update, the Viper4Windows stopped working and the TH500RP doesn't sound that good right now. It is a very recessed headphone and although my Fostex HP-A4BL dac/amp drives my 650s (300ohms) and T50RP (50ohms) pretty decent, the TH500RP just doesn't pair well.

    I was looking at the Valhalla 2 OTL amp (since many says it pairs well with the HD650) however I stumble over another thread that says OTL amps are not recommended for orthodynamic phones. Then I come across the Beyerdynamics A20 amp which drives high impedance headphones well but there are not much reviews on it and the TH500RP is only rated at 48ohms.

    Thus I'm open to suggestions on what headphone amp you think might be able to go well with my TH500RP. I suppose it needs a mid-forward sounding amp. My connection would be Windows 10 (source) > Fostex HP-A4BL (rca out) > *new headphone amp* (rca in) >headphones.

    That or even another dac/amp within my budget range you think may go well with the TH500 and/or my headphones (in my sig).
  2. buke9
    Massdrop Cavalli Tube Hybrid and you’re done. Not a dac amp but a amp .
  3. Rhamnetin
    My first choice would be either a Dynalo from Mjolnir-Audio, or a Bottlehead S.E.X. with the C4S upgrade (even if you don't want to assemble one, you can buy an assembled/used one from here or ebay or somewhere else). They have plenty of power for these planars and pure class A output (less distortion) unlike almost all other options which will have next to no class A power and other poor design choices. The Dynalo is one of the most linear, best measuring headphone amp circuits out there. Either one of these will leave you enough money for a decent DAC like a Schiit Modi Multibit.

    Though if you happen to come across one, a used HeadAmp GS-1 would be my top pick. Super rare though.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2018
  4. HBen
    ... a used Auralic Taurus MKII can be had for around that price. Sound pretty neat with all my planars :)
  5. skingg
    Appreciate the suggestions though I forgot to add that I do not reside in the States. I'll be heading over to Tokyo soon however so perhaps there are certain models/brands some of you whose been there could recommend?
  6. bildar
    Check out an iFi iCan Pro.
  7. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    In no particular order:
    AudioGD NFB-1AMP
    Schiit Lyr 3
    Violectric V200
    Gilmore Lite Mk2
    Schiit Asgard

    That's because OTL amps have very high output impedance; even at 40ohms the Valhalla2 is just low for OTLs.

    A20 AFAIK also has a 120ohm output impedance so that's probably why people aren't rushing to buy them.

    AudioGD NFB-11 or NFB-29
  8. skingg
    Although I'm not very technical in these but it does mean that I should probably not plug low impedance headphones into the A20 to prevent damage to the phones am I correct?
  9. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    It won't damage anything but very high output impedance vs load impedance can result in lower damping factor, and hence it can't control driver movement as well. That can contribute to driver damage but unless you really push them and for example they hit their excursion limit, then no, there is no direct damage. The sound will be altered though.
    skingg likes this.
  10. FumblingFoo
    I can vouch for the Violectric V200 as well, I'm a big fan of their gear. I own the v281 and a couple other gadgets from them and they sound great with my Hifiman HE-1000 planars. I also own the Lyr 2 and as fun as the amp is with rolling tubes the Violectric gear has better resolution, neutrality, sound-staging, has silky-smooth, liquid sound and - this is a big one - provides a sense of immersion. Even though my experience isn't directly with the v200, its a direct predecessor of the v220/v281 and would share the same "house sound" of Violectric.

    If I remember correctly the v200 will be a little warmth that comes with its trademark full, rich, but reference-grade sound (Lake People, the parent company, started out making equipment for studio IIRC). I'm not sure how it compares to the other amps suggested but there are definitely more clinical/analytical/cold amps than the v200.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2018

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