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Tube Amps & Headphone Appropriateness

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by zro30, Apr 17, 2014.
  1. Zro30
    Hi All,
    Need a little help understanding synergies between tube amps and headphones.  I'm looking to upgrade, and in so doing, am trying to narrow down where/what I should be considering in terms of options.  Hopefully knowing what works and doesn't, and why, will help.
    What I do know I want a tube amp for the qualities they are generally known to provide, and am looking in the Valhalla, Bottle Crack, Little Dot MKIV range... Of course, I am (will be) then looking at headphones these obviously will drive well and fit my preferences.  A few opening questions:
    If I really want to get a pronounced effect from a headphone amp, is going higher in ohms necessary?  Does dropping the ohms on a headphone so they work better with more portable player degrade quality in some respect?
    I read many comments on how tube amps don't work well with low impedance phones - is this an opinion, or something scientific?  Or, does it depend on specific characteristics of the amp, e.g. certain levels of output at various ohm factors?
    Sorry - sort of mixed questions here, but I think the underlying confusion is clear.  Of course, more specific questions on gear to follow....
    Thanks in advance
  2. Zro30
    Never mind - found a few threads that address some of these questions.
  3. mcandmar
    Those three amps you listed are all OTL, or Output Transformer Less so they will have a high impedance output.  Running low impedance headphones through them will work, but will sound slow, wolly and just not very good at all.
    As for synergy, all you can do is read the threads, sprinkle a little salt, and then decide what you think will suit your tastes.
  4. Brooklyn70
    im looking for suggestions On a tube amp for my cans. Which are the Fostex t50rp mk2,hifiman he500,hd660s and waiting on a pair of LCD X
  5. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    WooAudio WA6se
  6. Brooklyn70
    I was looking at the woo. I also want balanced and the woo amps take up a lot of realastate
  7. Rhamnetin
    Let's see... a bunch of low impedance headphones and a 150 ohm one. You didn't list a budget, do you have one? Because the Apex HiFi Audio Pinnacle 2 Ultra is the best you can get, but the cost is too high for most people (same for the regular Pinnacle 2).

    Are you sure that you require a tube amp, and not just a great amp regardless of whether or not it uses tubes? I've learned over time that a quality amp design and build are what matters most, and you can have good or bad tube hybrids, OTC tube amps, OTL tube amps, and solid state amps.
  8. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    OK...first off, you have low impedance, low sensitivity headphones. That means you're restricted to using tube amps with output transformers.

    Second, that will take up a lot of real estate, because unlike an OTL amp with just one main transformer, most designs have three, like the older WA23. At best there's the WA6 (the non-SE version) which is kept down to the size of an OTL amp. It's got a lot of power and can work with your headphones, but not if you want to have the same kind of power output as balanced drive amps.

    Third, balanced drive amps will take up a lot of space, since a true balanced drive amp will basically have four independent amp channels. Look at how the Beta22 needs four boards for balanced operation. The Jotunheim and a few cheaper amps can be a lot smaller, but 1) these aren't in default 2ch single ended kits where you need to scale up as in the Beta22, and instead have the boards designed for balanced circuits, and 2) these are not tube amplifiers. At best you might find a hybrid single ended input/preamp stage mated to a balanced drive amplifier output stage, although chances are most of these cheap hybrid balanced drive amps won't even have more power than a WA6 (let alone the WA6se).

    You can check Alex Cavalli's webstie and see if he's got any hybrid balanced drive amps, or even his Massdrop amps. Just note that the CTH just has an XLR jack but it's still a single ended amp.
  9. Brooklyn70
    I’ve got the schiit jotunheim and the aune x7s. I’ve used others bur i prefer the tone of the Schiit and the aune
  10. Mayonnaise
    +1 for the x7s one of the best amps for under 400 and its nearly half that

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