Headphone amp question

Discussion in 'Headphones, Earphones & Portable Music' started by fish99, Oct 19, 2005.

  1. fish99

    fish99
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    Hi,

    Just wondering how important a headphone amp is for Grado phones. I've just ordered Grado SR80s, which are my first quality headphones. They are going to be used with a variety of devices including my PC, an MP3 player and eventually with a quality CD Player. So how badly will an amp be needed in those cases and how much will it improve the sound?

    Also can anyone recommend a budget headphone amp to go with them? Super-fi have the Project Headbox Mk2 amp for £75, which is the sort of money I was aiming to pay, certainly no more than £120.

    Cheers,
    Simon :)
     
  2. alexs2

    alexs2
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    You could do a search here for headphone amps,which will turn up quite a few in your price range,and more if you will accpet used/ex-dem.

    The Creek comes in at the top of your range,but you should also be able to find used MF X-cans at around that level,as well as some others.

    Also have a look at www.head-fi.org which although US based,will give you an idea of what exactly is out there.
     
  3. eviljohn2

    eviljohn2
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    Why not try the BK Electronics HPA1? I think you'll struggle to find a better entry-level headphone amp and it's portable too. :)
     
  4. fish99

    fish99
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    Cheers lads, think I've found something.
     
  5. fish99

    fish99
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    Actually, a thought just occurred - plenty of regular hi-fi amps have headphone sockets, like Marantz PM4400 or Denon PMA225. Will the output from these headphone sockets be amplified, and how would it compare in terms of quality to the output from something like the MF X-Cans? My guess is it wouldn't be as good, but would it be somewhere near?

    It's just that I'm also thinking of building a budget hi-fi seperates system, and if I could get a single amp to power both speakers and headphones, I can save some money.
     
  6. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Generally it won't be as good,and how close it comes depends a lot on your 'phones,your ears and your expectations.

    As a start,and sparing the expense of a good h/p amp,it can be a useful beginning,but it won't compare with even a £100 dedicated amp.
     
  7. fish99

    fish99
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    Okeydokey. Well there's a couple of MF X-Cans on ebay, one of which I'm the current highest bidder for @£50, so if I can get one of those for a reasonable amount (I suppose if they're £130 brand new then £70-80 would be a fair amount to pay) then I'll be sorted. Suppose some millionaire will outbid me though :D
     
  8. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    You'd have got much better sound by spending £200 on headphones than you will from spending £80 on headphones and £120 on a headphone amp.

    Still, I guess you're committed now. You might try a Rega Ear - my father used to have one of those, and reckoned it was good value at the price.
     
  9. fish99

    fish99
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    £200 headphones with no amp? Everyone is always saying you'll never get the best from high quality headphones without a quality headphone amp. The number of times I've read comments by someone who had great cans who said an amp made them far better.

    Anyway, hopefully it'll be more like £80 on the headphones and £50 on the amp.
     
  10. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    £200 headphones + £300 amp will very likely sound better than £200 headphones alone - the fact that I use a headphone amp that retails at well over £400 together with my Sennheiser HD650 'phones is not mere snobbery, there's a reason for it. :) But £200 headphones, even without an amp, will probably still sound better than £80 headphones + a £120 amp.

    This will depend on what piece of non-dedicated hardware you're using to drive the 'phones, of course.
     
  11. fish99

    fish99
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    Ok, but remember if I get that X-Can for £50 I'll only have spent £130 :D And I suspect some of my devices, like my MP3 player won't have the power to drive decent phones at all.

    Point taken though. Oh well, I'm sure it'll still sound great to me.
     
  12. Steve.J.Davies

    Steve.J.Davies
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    FWIW
    I have had the Grado 80's running off the Creek headphone amp for some time now.
    Sound good to me and have found no reason to change them.
     
  13. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Well, it's certainly true that you can have problems with driving (say) high-end Sennheiser 'phones directly off anything that is designed to run off batteries: they do need a bit of "oomph".

    Grado SR60 and SR80 'phones tend not to need a headphone amp as much as some higher-end ones, though.

    If you do end up buying an X-Cans for £50 then a) well done, as they used to sell for £250 new, and b) you should look into replacing the valves with some decent ones. My father also owns an X-Cans V2, and was pleasantly surprised by how much difference changing the valves made.
     
  14. fish99

    fish99
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    Could you tell me maybe what you feel the amp does for the sound and what devices you use the amp + phones with?

    Cheers,
    Simon.
     
  15. Reano

    Reano

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    Mate go with the project headphones they will work well with the grado I have used that exact combination before,

    Here are the amps I have had or still do, etc Creek11se, musical fidelity X-Can v3, Project Headbox, Graham Slee Solo v4, Sugden Headmax, Grace m902 and countless amp/CD headphone outs

    In my opinion based on listening to Jazz, R&B and classics through Grado RS1 and Senn HD 650 with Stefan cable. Sound quality is in this order :lesson:

    CD/AMP out, Creek 11se, MF X-CAN v3, Project Headbox, Graham Slee, Sugden and then Grace. I also take into account practicality, build, sound and looks. The headbox is good enough for the Grado 80 and at the price is very good value.
     
  16. fish99

    fish99
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    Cheers :) If the ebay x-cans go for under £80 I think they'll be worth getting given their original price.

    My SR80s turned up this afternoon and to me they sound pretty stunning, and that's just connected to a Sony Network Walkman E107 playing 192 kbps MP3s. Can RS1's really be 7 times better? :D (7 times the price)

    The NW has to be on 80-100% volume though, and with some particularly quietly recorded music (Stone Roses for instance) it's not loud enough even on full. Can't wait to hear them with a quality CD player and headphone amp.
     
  17. Allan Mills

    Allan Mills
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    How important is the source? Will I gain any advantage using the Rega Ear dedicated headphone amp with Sennheiser HD580 and Sony Walkman portable Cd player? The sound is ok just plugging the 580's into the Walkman's headphone jack or line-out.
     
  18. alexs2

    alexs2
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    As with anything else,the source is as important,if not more so,than any other part of the chain.
    The only caveat to that is that the op-amps in portable players are often very limited in not only quality,but also maximum output,and behaviour into all but the easiest of headphones,which the Sennheisers wouldnt really qualify as.....
    In short,you may notice an improvement,but I'd be very careful before you buy,and maybe look to some of the portable headphone amps around also,such as the US based headroom range,and others.

    I certainly wouldn't spend a large amount of money on one,unless you intend to move to a better player.
     
  19. WhyAyeMan

    WhyAyeMan
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    I disagree with this: I've owned lots of headphone amps, and in general, my old Rotel amp was at least as good, and in some cases better, than the ~ £100 amps I had. Only one amp I owned was significantly better and that is a £220 amp, and is in my sig ;)
     
  20. Reano

    Reano

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    Loler it doesn't work like that e.g. pay twice the cost get twice the sound it's the law of diminishing returns but the RS1's are day and night between the Gr80 really!! You think they are good then RS1 are just awesome!! especially with SACD, 256+ kbps mp3 and CD
     
  21. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Thats absolutely fine with me....we all have our opinions,and the point of a forum is to enable all to air their views on a given subject,within reason.

    I would say that most headphone socket outputs from most receivers/amps,other than the few decent ones(which your Rotel may very well be one of,given Rotel's history of turning out products that provide decent listening),are really not designed for the job at all,and can be bettered quite easily.

    Lets not forget that just as there are poorly designed headphone outlets on amplifiers,there are also poorly designed headphone amps....both will give poor results.
     
  22. Crocodile JD

    Crocodile JD
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    I'm in the Mr Birkett camp. I have a dedicated headphone amp for my Senn HD580s. I also have Arcam Int and Power amps both with headphone outs, a Yamaha HC receiver with headphone out and a very recent addition a 10yr old Denon DRA-335R amp and the reason I aquired it is because it is simply the best headphone sound I've ever heard coupled with an old Denon DCD 610 CD player. For the first time ever the sound is massively spacious. I've never got close to my KEF floorstanders for enjoyment until this day.
    As you already pointed out fish99 in one of your earlier posts
    I've spent hundreds over the years and I get given these for naught. I admit I wasn't totally suprised, that this combo was good. I've already posted on this forum in the past that my Yam receiver beats my dedicated headphone amp for sound. I was however totally shocked at just how much better it is. The space and clarity to the sound even in the heaviest passages left me with drop jaw.
    My message is don't write anything off let your ears decide and don't expect any headphone amp to make any improvement by default.

    Anyway there you have it my 2p worth

    Croc :lesson: ;)
     

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