I need a new amp for my HD600s... suggestions please =]

Discussion in 'Headphones, Earphones & Portable Music' started by dheadkandyb, Nov 28, 2010.

  1. dheadkandyb

    dheadkandyb
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    Hey guys, not sure what's happened to my previous username... no longer works for some reason.
    Anyway onto the issue at hand!

    Optional reading
    Bit of background: I got my Senn HD600s back in 2004/5 for a song off ebay :D (Actually at the recommendation of people from this very site) and I eventually went on to buy an amp - it was only a small thing, a custom made job off of ebay. I've been listening to this set up with both a laptop from the audio jack and an ipod for the past 5/6 years and loved it.

    Main point and questions
    Recently I let my flatmate try my amp on his HD595 and he then asked to try my HD600... and to my shock he preferred his HD595! I listened to a mixture of dubstep, hiphop, metal, acoustic and instrumental guitar... I could see why. On the 595s, the sounds were more distinct and clear - there was a slight muffle which my ears picked up on comparison between the 2 which was barely present on the 595s.

    Overall, The amp I had bought drives the 600s well but nowhere near what I've been led to believe their full potential is. It drives the 595s very very nicely though.

    Anyway to stop rambling, I've decided a new amp is what's in order for my beloved 600s and to this end I'm now here with a plea to you lovely folks to help me as you did before in choosing a nice amp.

    Criteria:
    • I love bass in all my music.
    • I like clarity of sound (for example I love hearing the squeak on a guitar string on an acoustic tune, and I like different levels of sound to be distinct - I love listening to a tune for the 100th time and noticing a sound or backing track I never really noticed before)
    • I like customisability and control but too many knobs and dials and I'm like *** do I do...:confused:
    • I listen to a lot of guitar music including instrumental (e.g. buckethead) acoustic, metal (including death/heavy metal) and I want to prioritise this aspect above all else, though if it's good for dnb/dubstep and hip hop I'm happy to take those into the equation too ;)
    • portable/desktop - don't mind which as I won't be carrying it around much anyway (although portable would be useful since I do walk around my flat with my headphones on when I'm using my iPod)
    • Max budget: £300 +/- £50
    Extra info
    I realise finding the right headphone/amp combo has a lot of room for speculation and personal subjectiveness. For this reason I also request info on places in and around London where I could maybe try different amps (or even stock them...?) or audiophile specialist shops or similar in which I would be allowed time to make a purchase only when I'm completely satisfied.


    If you've read this far thank you so much for bearing with my rambling and thanks in advance for any and all suggestions!
     
  2. andyox1

    andyox1
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    You'll find recommendations galore here mate: Forums - Head-Fi.org

    With my HD650s I found the Musical Fidelity X-Can v3 hard to beat (even better tweaked with NOS Mullard valves). You'd get one of those second hand in your budget.
     
  3. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Moved to headphones.
     
  4. Drubbing

    Drubbing
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    Having heard more amps than I can remember the names of, I think Waaay too much is made of their ability to do certain stuff.

    They don't add bass, treble or clarity to any noticeable degree. They can tweak certain areas, but that's about it. Depending on how picky your ears are, you'll either like one tweak or another.

    Find an amp that has enough power and refinement to drive them well. The rest is mostly hot air IMO. Listening to some amps is the best thing you can do. You may be surprised you can't hear much difference, if any between them. That's how subtle many of the differences are, and it takes a while with an amp to hear its capabilities.
     
  5. Mr_Sukebe

    Mr_Sukebe
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    I've owned a Rega Ear and a Meier HA2se and used them with my HD600s. More recently, I acquired a Little Dot iv valve amp. Have to say that it's lovely, and really does make the other amps come across as a bit harsh in places. For all that, the LD is a valve amp, this runs hot, will need new tubes on a vaguely regular basis (every couple of years or so).
    So my personal view is a decent valve amp from LD or Darkvoice.
     
  6. Steven

    Steven
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    I always advise (1) source > (2) headphones > (3) quality of digital encoding > (4) amp > (5) cables, with (1)-(3) on a near par for perceptible differences

    Saying that if one is completely satisfied with their source + headphones combo then imho you cannot go far wrong with Ray Samuels Audio amps. Unfortunately his products are USA only so no opportunity for demo unless you are fortunate enough to live local to an importer who will allow you to demo. I owned the portable Tomahawk amp (at the height of favourable exchange rates as back then!) and did perceive slightly better separation and airiness to the music. Still I emphasise a nice amp is almost a discretionary purchase and I would get the other things in order first :)
     
  7. dheadkandyb

    dheadkandyb
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    Wow I'm overwhelmed by the replies thank you guys. I'll take it all under advisement. I've been to head-fi and read through a buncha threads... it all just goes over my head however - I'll often sit there thinking ".....uhh... what?"

    Sadly I don't have the cash to splurge on high quality audio equipment so the source is going to have to stay as my laptop or my ipod. Track wise, I'm slowly replacing all my music with FLAC... most of my music that I rip from my CDs are 320kbps vbr in any case (though I realise CDs aren't the greatest of things) (thanks for the link btw I'm having a read of that too =])

    I have no illusions that splurging on a £10k amp would make my aural receptors have an orgasm but I do believe they can only add to my music.

    Saying that, are there other things I CAN get to improve source quality? (I think that's a dumb question but I thought I'd ask it anyway lol)

    Question still stands though... does anyone know of any specialist shops in and around London? =]

    Thanks again guys!
     
  8. Drubbing

    Drubbing
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    There's no getting away from the fact the 600 need a decent amp to sound their best, but there's little point in amping your basic sources and revealing your weak link. The 600s are capable of giving you more than the quality of signal they're currently getting.

    The difference won't floor you, but production details, dynamic range and separation of instruments are likely to be the nuances you unlock.

    As Steve suggested, if you currently have an amp, a source upgrade for your PC may be a better use of your money right now.
     
  9. J2C

    J2C
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    Before you shell out on new equipment I would first re-rip your collection to a lossless format such as FLAC or Apple Lossless - whichever suits. No matter what components you have downstream, and as Drubbing always points out, the sound is only as good as your weakest link. It also doesn't cost any money to do this.

    Next, if you are simply connecting your amp to the headphone jack or line-out on your laptop, you could make big improvements with an external DAC. Firestone Audio have a promotion on their newly released Spitfire MkII. This is only £130 delivered from the Netherlands or £150 from a UK Dealer. In January it will return to 250EUR/£250. Other DAC's to mention in your budget are Beresford Caiman or Cambridge Audio's DACMagic, but personally, considering the price, I'd go for the Spitfire. In fact I just ordered one myself. You can connect by USB from your laptop. I noticed a much crisper and cleaner sound when I did this. If you bought a digital dock for your iPod you can hook that up to the DAC too. There are only 3 on the market as far as i know. I would look at Pure's i-20. That is £75.

    As far as the amp is concerned and since you already own one I would see how it fairs with a new DAC. If it's still not up to what you expect then look around there is a few within the £300 budget. I personally use the Graham Slee Novo.
     
  10. dheadkandyb

    dheadkandyb
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    Oh nice thanks guys! Really good information here. I'm gonna look into this DAC thing (I have no idea what it is lol) but that deal sounds good.

    As far as amps are concerned, I think that's a good way to go about it. I'll ofc be ripping my entire music collection again soon when I get my new external HDD - my laptop has like 120gb and most of that is taken up with crap lol.

    iPod docks don't interest me however... I just plug my iPod into my laptop and play the music from there =]

    J2C any sites you can show me to get the spitfire mk2?
     
  11. J2C

    J2C
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    a DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) takes a digital signal (such as a computer file, CD etc) and converts it to analog for the amplifier to process. At the moment your onboard souncard is doing this job.

    The better the conversion, the more accurate the sound. With cheap conversion, no matter the quality of the amplification it can only sound so good.

    The Spitfire MkII (with USB) can be found for 150EUR from Firestone Audio's European Distributor
    http://www.firestone-audio.eu/shop/

    Delivery is 5EUR to the UK.

    It can also be bought in the UK for £150 from AudioElevation and Russ Andrews, among others. I think the offer expires at the end of the month.

    Hope this helps, let us know how you get on.
     
  12. dheadkandyb

    dheadkandyb
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    Awesome thanks. Phew it's a good thing I get paid early this month lol! Let's hope this gives my set up a much needed boost. Will report back when I've ordered and received it. =]
     
  13. dheadkandyb

    dheadkandyb
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    Quick update - ordered the spitfire today. Ouch... but hey at least I'll be reaping the benefits soon. Let's see if I get it before crimbo :)
     
  14. Boink!

    Boink!
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    Be careful with headfi.org, their motto is, "Sorry about your wallet" ;)
     
  15. dheadkandyb

    dheadkandyb
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    HAHAHA!! That's the main reason I didn't seek advice from there. That and the fact that any posts I read on there make me confused and give me a headache.

    You what? Ohms? 30,000 ohms to 6 ohms? What the hell does resistance have to do with sound? What? Flux? STOP CONFUSING MEEE!!!

    *curls up into the fetal position and rocks back and forth in the corner*

    ...:rolleyes: hehe
     
  16. dheadkandyb

    dheadkandyb
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    Got my spitfire today. After a little testing: preliminary results suggest that i dont need an amp :)
     
  17. Drubbing

    Drubbing
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    They will. If you want them to provide a sound nearer to their potential.

    Any demanding phone will sound 'nice' without an amp, but they don't come alive until given adequate power.
     

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