What are vintage amps comparable to?
Apr 16, 2006 at 10:38 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 4


100+ Head-Fier
Mar 3, 2004
I've got this marantz 2215b, which sounds pretty damn good with my dt770/80s hooked up to my crappy sound card on my computer. I just bought a pair of K701's and am going to buy a firestone fubar USB DAC to round out my setup. Because I've never heard a better headphone amp, I'm wondering whether my Marantz 2215b is going to be the weak spot in my system. Would it make sense to buy something like an EC-01 or a Gilmore Lite, or is a vintage reciever like the marantz already at that level?
Apr 16, 2006 at 11:18 AM Post #2 of 4


Headphoneus Supremus
Jan 1, 2006
The 2215 was a pretty low end model from Marantz and had only 15 watts per channel. The 2215's THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) of 0.9% is much higher compared to Marantz's more popular vintage models, the 2270 coming in at 0.3% and the 2238B at 0.08%. This means you'll hear a lot more feedback, hum, or static during playback. I would probably rate the 2215 somewhere around a Pimeta, it won't match the performance of a GL. If you want a vintage receiver/amp to compete with those you would have to move up the foodchain. I personally love my Quadraphonic Pioneer, it is a beast. I use it for a pre-amp but the headphone out it pretty good as well, I've never seen another or heard of it it at all on the internet but if you can find one I suggest you snatch it up.
Apr 16, 2006 at 9:27 PM Post #3 of 4


500+ Head-Fier
Jun 14, 2002
Noise and distortion are separate artifacts. Total Harmonic Distortion (THD)of 0.9% is inaudible under most any music listening scenario. As this is the maximum allowable THD that Marantz spec'd for the 2215 at rated power (15 watts RMS per channel) the actual distortion level at typical power levels required for headphone listening (100 to 200 times less) will be much lower. For comparison, tube amplifiers rarely have a stated Harmonic Distortion specification of less than 1% and it is not unusual to see even 3% or more THD spec'd for some well respected tube amplifiers.

Noise can be from an external source such as 60 cycle AC noise that is heard as a low frequency hum when it is not adequatedly suppressed by the filter capacitors in the power supply. It can also be generated by the electronics components themselves (especially carbon composition resistors and early transistors). The 2215 probably has a lower signal to noise specification (more noise) than some of the newer amplifiers.

One way to eliminate the AC line as a source of possible noise is to design the amplifier to run on battery power with playing time limited by battery run time. Unless such a headphone amplifier comes with a correspondingly high quality AC power supply, battery operation will generally yield quieter, more satisfying listening. The limiting factor, however, may be the noise in the original program material or source equipment (such as an inexpensive computer sound card). Also not all noise is audible. If it falls far outside the range of human hearing it will have minimal if any effect on the music.

If you traded your 2215 for a dedicated headphone amplifier you would lose the flexibility of multiple inputs plus the balance control and tone controls. The dedicated headphone amplifier would have a smaller footprint and a higher signal to noise specification (less noise) and lower rated distortion.

As to whether a dedicated headphone amplifier sounds better, it depends on the model of headphone being used with the 2215. On a cost basis, the Marantz unit such as the 2215 has the advantage of being fully depreciated (at least 80-90%) and as such will cost 1/3 or less of a comparable dedicated headphone amplifier of similar listening quality. If you can, borrow the specific model amplifier you are considering and perform your own listening test to see if it warrants the additional cost.

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