REVIEW SUMMARY: A ranking of 32 tube and tube/hybrid headphone amps
Feb 11, 2011 at 3:46 AM Post #181 of 482

Skylab

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Or, you could get a NuForce μDAC-2.  The headamp built into it works quite well for low impedance headphones and while it's not the ideal amp for the HD-600/650, it performs very well as a USB DAC/amp for 120 bux.
 



Indeed, that plus one of the less expensive tube amps here might make a nice combo.
 
Feb 11, 2011 at 5:15 PM Post #183 of 482

HeadphoneAddict

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Skylab, You are amazing!  Just found your "A ranking of 29 tube and tube/hybrid headphone amps", what a fantastic resource!
 
I have ordered HD650s, looking for an inexpensive (around $300?) tube amp/DAC, can you make a recommendation?
 
Thank you!


Thanks.  I cannot really make a recommendation for you since I have not owned HD650's in 3+ years.  But I will say that there are not many choices for a tube amp/DAC combo in that price range.  I would recommend getting a Woo WA3 or a Schiit Valhalla, perhaps, and then getting a DAC later.

Or, you could get a NuForce μDAC-2.  The headamp built into it works quite well for low impedance headphones and while it's not the ideal amp for the HD-600/650, it performs very well as a USB DAC/amp for 120 bux.
 


Agreed, I find the uDAC-2 RCA line-outputs to match my Pico DAC-only's RCA output, both beating my Headroom Micro DAC line-out feeding a desktop amp.  It's a noticeable step up from the original uDAC line-out and headphone amp which was more forward, less spacious, and slightly rolled off.  The uDAC-2 drives the HD600 decently, but I'd worry it's not nearly enough power for the HD650.  Sometimes I wish I still had a pair of 650's just for testing purposes.  
 
It's still worth a try, but among tube amps I found the uDAC-2 feeding the head-direct EF2 amp to work better with HD600 than the uDAC-2 alone (I would ignore the EF2 built-in DAC).  I also think the uDAC-2 would pair very well as a DAC feeding the Schitt Valhalla, an amp that I tried out with HD650 at RMAF last fall.  I've only heard a few amps that I thought made me like the HD650 as much as the HD600, and the Zana Deux was one, the Valhalla is another.  But this stretches the budget a bit more than uDAC-2 > EF2.  Other choices in this budget for tubes are uDAC-2 feeding a used EF1 or Cavalli CTH, or a used Dark Voice 336i.  With 300ohm HD600 the DV336i with good tubes beat the other amps, but the others were still very good with HD600 and all beat the 336i with low impedance phones.  This covers budget tube amps that I've tried that worked well with HD600.  i wish I could say HD650 too, but I didn't get to try them.
 
IF the price range is really $300, he needs more options for DAC/amp combo unit, and it doesn't have to be tubes - then a Travagans White or a used Meier 3MOVE would be something that would likely have enough juice for the HD650.  The 3MOVE's power really surprised me with the HD600, especially with a 12v PSU, and seemed to offer a similar amount of power to some cheaper desktop amps like the White.  These two might be enough for the HD650 too.  
 
But, none of these DAC/amps above had a DAC as good as the DAC in the uDAC or uDAC-2.  So, another SS option is having the uDAC-2 feeding the Travagans Red instead of the White - there is more room in the Red than White for better opamps like a pair of OPA627 or AD743, and it can drive speakers if needed.  If the budget can be stretched a little more, and SS is okay, the Nuforce HDP pairs very well with my HD600 and has gobs of power with them, and I believe it's slightly aggressive nature would pair well with the HD650 too, as it does with the LCD-2.  It has a nice 24/96 USB DAC, plus optical, coax digital, and analog inputs.  If USB input-only is good enough, there is the Nuforce HD which is even cheaper but without all the other inputs.
 
Feb 13, 2011 at 2:51 AM Post #184 of 482

musedesign

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I love Head-Fi !
 
Every time I ask a question, I am so impressed by the wealth of knowledge  !
 
Now I have plenty of reading material for the next couple of days as I digest the responses, Thank you!
 
Feb 13, 2011 at 10:04 AM Post #185 of 482

ptrok

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Skylab, I was wondering if you have had any experience with the Decware Taboo. I know you are a fond of the MiniTorii and the CSP2 so I was wondering how the Taboo compared to those two amps.
 
Feb 13, 2011 at 10:22 AM Post #186 of 482

Skylab

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Sorry, but I have not heard the Taboo.
 
Feb 22, 2011 at 7:21 AM Post #187 of 482

leesure

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Hi Sylab,

Have you tried running orthos fro. The speaker taps of the Ming-Da? The specs say it delivers 5watts to the speaker terminals. Not sure what kind of power they deliver to the HP jack...do u know?
 
Feb 22, 2011 at 8:36 AM Post #188 of 482

Skylab

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Unfortunately, I sold the Ming Da long before getting any orthos.
 
Feb 22, 2011 at 9:10 AM Post #189 of 482

moodyrn

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I wish I had hung on to mine long enough to try with the orthos I've had. This is just a guess, but I remember looking on the inside of the one I had, and I could find any resistors on the headphone output. The only thing I saw separating the headphone out and the speaker out were wires and the headphone/speaker switch. It's one of the most powerful amps I've ever owned, so I wouldn't be surprised if those same five watts were delivered to the headphone out as well. But there may have been a resistor of some kind that I couldn't see. It would be interesting to see what that amp would do with some of the current orthos. But at least you know you get 5 watts from the speaker outs.
 
Feb 22, 2011 at 9:48 AM Post #190 of 482

BmWr75

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I'm on the LCD-2 waiting list, been a month now.  Will let you know how they sound with the Ming Da when I get them.
 
Feb 22, 2011 at 11:15 AM Post #191 of 482

kwkarth

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Is the Ming Da actually 5W into any impedance?  I highly doubt it.  Typically, an amp that delivers 10W into an 8 ohm speaker will only be bale to deliver about 0.7W into a 120 ohm load, and a little over 1.5W into a 50 ohm load.
 
Feb 22, 2011 at 11:38 AM Post #192 of 482

moodyrn

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I don't think anyone claimed 5 watts into any impedance, as the ming da is rated at 5 watts into 4 to 8 ohms. But the headphone out may be powerful enough to drive orthos other than the HE-6. It is transformer coupled and may have the juice to do it for low impedance, inefficiennt orthos(again, other than the he-6).
 
Feb 22, 2011 at 11:41 AM Post #193 of 482

Skylab

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Kevin, I am not sure exactly how the Ming-Da is wired, but if its headphone out uses a 32 ohm secondary winding from the output transformer, isn't it possible it would deliver more power into 50 ohms, via the headphone out, than in your example?
 
Feb 22, 2011 at 11:41 AM Post #194 of 482

kwkarth

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Quote:
I don't think anyone claimed 5 watts into any impedance, as the ming da is rated at 5 watts into 4 to 8 ohms. But the headphone out may be powerful enough to drive orthos other than the HE-6. It is transformer coupled and may have the juice to do it for low impedance, inefficiennt orthos(again, other than the he-6).

Even 1W is more power than 90% of all headamps on the market.
 
 
Feb 22, 2011 at 11:43 AM Post #195 of 482

kwkarth

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Kevin, I am not sure exactly how the Ming-Da is wired, but if its headphone out uses a 32 ohm secondary winding from the output transformer, isn't it possible it would deliver more power into 50 ohms, via the headphone out, than in your example?



Absolutely, in that configuration it would probably do a solid 3+ watts into 50 ohms.  Very nice!
 

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