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Headphone amps


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Wondered about your thoughts on a headphone amp. I've got some great cans (Senn HD-600, Denon 7000, Grado 325i, Etymotic ER-6) and I enjoy listening late when the neighbors wouldn't enjoy it. I have an old Headroom amp that I'm using directly from the single ended outputs from my AR DAC-7. It sounds quite good, but I suspect I can improve on that. In other settings I use the Benchmark and the Proton, but for this I'm using my best digital source (Mac Pro/Amarra/Lynx/DAC-7). Don't need it as a DAC or pre-amp so don't want to spend dollars for those functions. Obvious choices are the Headroom Ultra, Luxman, Musical Fidelity; or the numerous small brands (Woo Audio looks interesting) discussed on Head-Fi where you can lose your mind with the variety. Any ideas?




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The headphone out of your Benchmark DAC (I presume that's what you were referring to?) is pretty impressive IMO; I own two and have used one for years with my HD650. In my experience the majority of amp 'upgrades' within a reasonable price range (by which I mean those you've suggested) will do little other than add flavor/colour, not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that...


I have heard the Woo Audio WA6 SE out of a DAC1 USB and it was very nice to my ears, a bit of tube warmth in comparison to the DAC1's internal amp, but also seemed to have a more luxurious and full sound (excuse the clumsy descriptions). If nothing else they are beautifully crafted, and obviously offer the potential for fine tuning by way of tube rolling. That's all very nice, but price wise it's just over $1000 new and still only a mid-range product within the Woo range. That said, models like it are probably the sort of amp you would need to consider to gain a noticeable upgrade in sound quality given your current system.


Maybe try the DAC1 first since you own it and consider what you feel it's lacking?


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I have a Rudistor RP5.3 which I find to be excellent (Phones: AKG 701, Denon D2000, Shure 840). Compared to the headphone out on my Lavry DA10 and Metric Halo ULN8 (which are also both very good) it just adds a weight and warmth without giving up clarity. The Rudistor website has a nice range of amps. They are not discussed that much on Headfi but there was a great review of the Rudistor RP5.1 (predecessor to mine) on Soundstage.com a while back




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Another possibility for your "to demo" list - Lehmann.






...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Everybody will be there and you'll have fun. This is one of the best opportunities to try different headphones and headphone amps and talk to the manufacturers and other end users.


If you can't spare the time or expense, call Woo Audio for recommendations based on your budget and present/future headphones. They have so many great options from $500 to $5,000. If I had to better my Benchmark, I would be interested in trying the WA2, WA6 or WA5 LE.




Have fun and keep us posted.


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