Which amps have a good headphone output?

zenza

Well-known Member
I am looking to buy an amp or receiver primarily for headphones at first (Sennheiser HD600). However, at a later date I will be getting some speakers like Monitor Audio BX5 or B&W 685.

So I am looking for an amp that has a very good headphone amplifier or/and DAC built in as I will be using it primarily with the Sennheisers to start with running of my iMac for music and my TV for movies.

Budget is up to £300.

The ones I have come across so far are:

Harmon Kardon 3490
Onkyo A-5VL
Onkyo TX-SR606
Onkyo A-9555

Would any of the above be any good or are there any others?
 

PSM1

Distinguished Member
Where are you buying the Onyo 606 from as that is a very old amp now and should be well under £300. In fact with the reilability of Onkyos of hat age I would not spend anything over £100 on one if not less.
What features do you need? What are you planning on connecting to the receiver in terms of sources? I assume second hand receivers are an option?
No receiver is going to have a great headphone output as it is very much a secondary consideration. Most people will buy a receiver to connect speakers to firstly and then may use headphones occasionally. This means any money will go on improving the quality of the amps etc. that will power the speakers. A cheap headphone amp etc. will then be chucked in to give that functionality but it will be at the minimum acceptable level.
If you want good headphone output then you would be better buying a proper dedicated headphone amp that is built for the purpose you want.
If it must be an AV receiver and happy to go secondhand then a lot depends on the features you need. If you do not need audio over HDMI then you could pick up some very high end receivers (albeit old ones) for your budget and makes like Arcam would be in the options. However, if you need more modern features then you will be looking at mid range amp for your budget from the likes of Yamaha, Denon, Sony etc.. They will not sound as good as the older higher models but should still do a reasonable job of music etc especially through any attached speakers.
 

dante01

Distinguished Member
I'm not sure you'll get any increased performance from any AV receiver in terms of headphone output, but Yamaha do rmploy something theu=y call Silent Cinema on their AV receivers. THis creates virtual surround via headphones and is said by many to be better than Dolby's own headphone surround. No other manufacturer includes a virtual surround headphone option.
 

diablo

Active Member
I have a Harmon Kardon HK980 which is vaguely comparable to the model you mentioned, mine has a discret headphone amp section. I sometimes use it with Beyer DT990 250 ohm phones. I'd prefer if the phones went slightly louder but I suppose it protects my ears. :)

The Sennheiser HD600 is, I think, 300 ohms so needs a slightly higher voltage to sound as loud.

At one time I looked at buying Sennheiser HD600/650s and I think I decided I'd need a dedicated headphone amp to make good use of them.
 

zenza

Well-known Member
Where are you buying the Onyo 606 from as that is a very old amp now and should be well under £300. In fact with the reilability of Onkyos of hat age I would not spend anything over £100 on one if not less.
What features do you need? What are you planning on connecting to the receiver in terms of sources? I assume second hand receivers are an option?
No receiver is going to have a great headphone output as it is very much a secondary consideration. Most people will buy a receiver to connect speakers to firstly and then may use headphones occasionally. This means any money will go on improving the quality of the amps etc. that will power the speakers. A cheap headphone amp etc. will then be chucked in to give that functionality but it will be at the minimum acceptable level.
If you want good headphone output then you would be better buying a proper dedicated headphone amp that is built for the purpose you want.
If it must be an AV receiver and happy to go secondhand then a lot depends on the features you need. If you do not need audio over HDMI then you could pick up some very high end receivers (albeit old ones) for your budget and makes like Arcam would be in the options. However, if you need more modern features then you will be looking at mid range amp for your budget from the likes of Yamaha, Denon, Sony etc.. They will not sound as good as the older higher models but should still do a reasonable job of music etc especially through any attached speakers.

The £300 is the maximum I want to spend and is not an indication of the price of the Onkyo 606, that model can be bought for around £100 as you mention.

In terms of sources, well I am looking to connect to my iMac for music and to my TV for movies. My TV has optical and RCA connections at the back. The iMac has SPDIF so can be used with a Toslink to mini Toslink cable I believe.

I was also considering an Audiolab 8000A but not sure how I can connect it to the TV and the mac? Would I be able to run RCA to RCA cable from the Audiolab to my TV? Or would I need a DAC to connect to the TV via optical and then RCA from DAC to the amp?

I am looking for the best sound for my budget to drive speakers and headphones.

However I am not sure on how to connect the amps mentioned to my TV and iMac.

For connecting older amps like the ones I have mentioned, would I be connecting via RCA to a dad and then dad to the mac and TV or would I be able to connect direct without a DAC?
 

zenza

Well-known Member
I have a Harmon Kardon HK980 which is vaguely comparable to the model you mentioned, mine has a discret headphone amp section. I sometimes use it with Beyer DT990 250 ohm phones. I'd prefer if the phones went slightly louder but I suppose it protects my ears. :)

The Sennheiser HD600 is, I think, 300 ohms so needs a slightly higher voltage to sound as loud.

At one time I looked at buying Sennheiser HD600/650s and I think I decided I'd need a dedicated headphone amp to make good use of them.


Yes I was also looking at the HK 990 which is supposed to have a very good dad built in but not sure how much one would be on ebay now?
 

diablo

Active Member
Yes I was also looking at the HK 990 which is supposed to have a very good dad built in but not sure how much one would be on ebay now?

Both the 980 and 990 probably have the same headphone amp circuit as they were designed at the same time by the same team. You could email HK to check.

I doubt you will find a 990 going cheap though.
 

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