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Using old home hi-fi amp as headphone amp

  1. miles1993
    I'm considering getting a pair of beyerdynamic 990 (250ohm version), but due to their high impedance I won't buy them until I have a clear plan on how to amp them.

    Reading various threads I think that there are two common solutions:

    1) the cheap one is using a DAC/amp combo like the fiio e10k, some people say it sounds good, some people say it doesn't

    2) the safe one is getting a schiit Modi and magni or similar which I cannot get for less than 250€ (I'm non in US). Maybe below 200 if I look in the used market.

    Then I thought I could use an old amplifier I have at my parents' house. It's a pioneer a-40, like this one

    Connecting it to an external DAC such as the schiit Modi, what kind of result can I expect?

    Thank you!
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2018
  2. Monsterzero
    Tough one.
    Heres the deal with Beyers and vintage Pioneers.
    Beyers have treble,lots of it. To my ears and many others,its too much. To mitigate the often piercing treble a tube amp with warm tubes is the best solution.
    Vintage Pioneers often are known for being the brightest receivers of the Big Three from that era,Sansui and Marantz being the other two.
    So matching a bright headphone with a bright receiver can be overkill on the treble,at least for me.
    Not all receivers from the same company sound the same though. My Sansui 5000a is much,much,much warmer than my Sansui 881,for example.

    The other issue is that Pioneer came out in the early to mid 1980s,which is after the Golden Years of the Wattage Wars of the mid to late 1970s. Theres a good chance(I dont know how to read schematics) that the Pioneer still uses an in-line resistor to power headphones,which is what you want. But if it uses an op-amp,its going to sound pretty underwhelming.

    The only way to find out is to give it a try. You might really enjoy the pairing,and its a pretty small investment for the DT990s.

    Let us know how it turns out.
  3. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Pros: Best cost to performance ratio since it's going to be X to 0.

    Cons: The worst performance to real estate ratio. Most integrated amps don't drive the headphone output using the same high quality output stage driving the speakers; Philips and Marantz don't either but they at least get that driver chip that was eventually used on the original Fiio E9. Practically all of them have very high output impedance but nothing to really worry about with a 250ohm headphone.

    I'd just drive them with the integrated amp first while saving up for a DAC and headphone amp.
  4. PurpleAngel Contributor
    What is your over all audio budget?
    I would try and talk you into getting a lower impedance (Ohm) headphone.
    If you bought a DAC/amp for about 100 Euros, how much of your audio budget would be leftover for buying headphones?
  5. Monsterzero
    There,fixed it for you.
  6. kid vic
    You might want to see if you can find a Yamaha amp, decent performance comparatively but almost always pretty cheap. Try to avoid anything after 82 if you can though.
  7. miles1993
    First of all thank you very much for your answers!

    Could adjusting the treble dial be any good for this?

    I can try if you say that ther're chances it can work, but I'd still need to buy a dac since I have no device with analog output (the cd player that was paired with is broken).

    Ok thank you, I'm open to alternatives. Let's say my entire budget is around 250 euros. But I can stretch it a bit if it's really worth it. Especially if I'm buying something that I won't need to upgrade for the rest of my life (ok maybe not that long), so I'd rather go for an used schiit modi/magni (btw is there something I should be careful about when looking in the used market?) than for a fiio e10.
    I was trying to upgrade my HM5 (the lindy premium version) and I liked the beyers for their price (then i discovered that they need expensive equipment to drive them) and from reviews/descriptions I liked them over the 770/880 (but I may be wrong). I listen to rock, classical, jazz, acustic. I don't usually listen to bass heavy music and i'm not a basshead but I like to hear the bass well pronounced even in jazz. Also I was curious of trying something with a great soundstage.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2018
  8. audiobomber
    I've never heard a Pioneer A40, but it was highly recommended by the British hi-fi magazines. Definitely worth a try.
  9. richard51
    I use a vintage amplifier and I smile to the foolish idea to upgrade....Any cheap headphone amplifier I ever try sound like crap compare to it and even some known headphone tube amp and even my stax rig were less natural to listen to...Viva Vintage!... Ask advice here it is a good place but dont fall for any hype costly product except if you are stuffed with money... The best advice I receive here was about buying vintage TOTL of the past... Except for the dac all my pieces of audio are vintage and it is impossible to crush my system for less than 10,000 dollars and perhaps more...Viva Vintage!
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2018
  10. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    And there are a wide variety of modern and not modern amps. Just because the one you have works properly doesn't mean that all of them would, but the thing is, he's getting it free, so wear and tear aside what he has to contend with otherwise is how good it is compared to a modern and far more compact dedicated headphone amp, which can be a good thing if he doesn't have a shelf or an audio rack to listen in.

    I'd much sooner just use a $5 3.5mm to RCA cable from Best Buy or something and hook up a computer to that integrated amp, even if you really should avoid doing that, and then just save money for a good DAC-HPamp, more so if the size of the Pioneer isn't exactly ideal for your space.

    For the most part I'd always go and start with something decent that will be a marked upgrade and likely won't need an upgrade unless you upgrade associated equipment that really won't work well enough with it. It's only in hobbies where you might totally screw something up like DIY amps or people asking me about what cutlery to get that I'd say stay the hell away from certain brands at the start because the maintenance and care can get screwed up. With audio the equivalent is like going straight to a Beta 22 as a firs DIY project.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2018
  11. Monsterzero
    I actually own six vintage receivers,a $1000.00 modern AVR,a modern Glenn OTL,and a Gilmore Lite MKLll.
    All six pieces of vintage gear sound brilliant with high ohm(250+) headphones,and most planars as well. The modern AVR sounds like dirt for headphones due to the modern op-amp driving the phones. AFAIK Op-amps are a fairly modern thing,and no vintage receiver that Im aware of uses them. Instead in-line resistor was used,so headphones are being driven from the same amp that the speakers are.

    To an extent. Some receivers have high and low freq cut as well,but it really changes the way a headphone is supposed to sound too much for my tastes. They also have a loudness button which boosts bass and treble,and that can be fun,but again youre straying very far from intended sound,but at the end of the day,the only thing that matters is whether or not you like what you hear.

    You might like all the treble that the Pioneer/Beyer combo should bring,so again give it a shot and keep us posted.
    kid vic likes this.
  12. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    That's six among hundreds. Does one of them happen to be a Pioneer A40? Because there's always the probablity of it turning out like, "cars before the Yom Kippur War were all really cool and fast!" and then I end up getting a front wheel drive Cadillac that feels like a barge when I'm expecting something like a Mustang. Just as there are bad speaker amps for driving speakers from any era then there are some among those, even if they were good enough with speakers, that they're not exactly as good with even higher impedance headphones.

    Bottomline though: at least he's getting it free. I wouldn't advise him to buy it if that was the case, and in fact I'm telling him to just go and use that.
  13. Monsterzero
  14. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    And you don't need to be so offended by it. At the very least maybe if it was one of the six amps you have, so you can be more certain that it is good, especially when if it was a case of encouraging somebody who might not live near a tech and might have to ship a huge speaker amp that isn't even used on speakers for repairs.

    He hasn't even heard them together...which is even getting even farther ahead than me, as I've said he should at least try them first. Sure he hasn't bought the DT990 but I'm assuming he's already done some research to narrow it down to that.
  15. Monsterzero
    Nobody here is offended,but when you say:

    Its a gross blanket overstatement.

    My passion for vintage audio gear is as strong,if not stronger than my passion for headphones. Whenever I go to check out old receivers I bring a couple headphones,usually K240 sextetts and HD250s along to see how said receiver drives them. Ive yet to encounter a vintage receiver in good working condition not be able to drive my headphones very well.

    There are things that my GOTL does better than my old stuff,and there are things on my old gear that the GOTL simply isnt capable of.
    richard51 likes this.

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