What's the best headphone amp you have heard?

vinylphilemag

WBF Founding Member
Apr 30, 2010
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Kelowna, BC
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#2
This was many years ago, but my best headphone (amp) experience was the Stax Lambda Signatures and their accompanying amp. I think the amp is only suitable for Stax's headphone--or earspeakers as they prefer to say--so I guess they wouldn't be very useful as a generic headphone amp.
 

LesAuber

New Member
Jun 22, 2010
141
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#4
Got to hear the tubed version of the Stax amp once. Lovely. Not that the SS version is bad. Just seemed like the tubed version was another step up the reality factor. Just wish I could afford it.

The part about the Stax proprietary Amir left out is that the amps provide the voltage needed to drive the electrostatic transducers. Not sure but I think it's in the 500 volt range.
 

cjfrbw

Active Member
Apr 20, 2010
2,174
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38
Pleasanton, CA
#5
I am not that much of a headphone jock, but I do use the Manley 300b at home with JJ 300b tubes, and it is pretty impressive.
I have not heard the Stax rigs, but there seems to be an ongoing battle(as usual) about the merits of the electrostats vs. the others, which I suppose comes down to taste.
I get wonderful results in a second system using my beat up pair of Senn 580's with a Euridice type preamp. Mercury vapor rectifier in the power supply, and a ratshack adaptor on the outputs to enable headphone use. The Euridice is a transformer coupled WE417a tube with no cap in the signal path.
 

MylesBAstor

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
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#7
Senheiser Orpheus.
 

caesar

Active Member
May 31, 2010
2,981
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#9
As a Soundlab owner, I have heard Stax, and surprisingly, I did not like it!

Although Stax had great speed and transparency, it was suffering from the same things that plague electrostats - bottom end weigh/ slam and dynamics (with Soundlabs plagued by these less than other brands).

I like the Manley much better. Woo Audio 5 is pretty damn good also.
 

cjfrbw

Active Member
Apr 20, 2010
2,174
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38
Pleasanton, CA
#10
As a Soundlab owner, I have heard Stax, and surprisingly, I did not like it!

Although Stax had great speed and transparency, it was suffering from the same things that plague electrostats - bottom end weigh/ slam and dynamics (with Soundlabs plagued by these less than other brands).

I like the Manley much better. Woo Audio 5 is pretty damn good also.
The Woo Audio 5 also uses 300b. Do you like the Manley better than the Woo? What 300b tubes do you use? I use the JJ's, really like them a lot.
 

DaveyF

Well-Known Member
Aug 1, 2010
5,883
59
48
La Jolla, Calif USA
#11
Don't know about the best, BUT my Musical Fidelity XCAN V3 is nothing special. ST reviewed it and basically gave it a major 'rave'. Frankly, IMHO this is one more example as to why you should never rely on a reviewer's opinion; because after that rave and my own experience with this piece,I can now safely say two things..1) NEVER buy anything in audio without listening for yourself first ( which I usually never do, but for some dumb reason did this time) and 2) ST is IMHO certifiably tone deaf.
 
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#12
I use a Benchmark Media DAC1 HDR and Sennheiser HD800 + Denon AH-D7000 headphones. The Sennheisers have an amazing soundstage and amazing detail. The Denons offer a wonderfully rich and laidback sound with great dynamics, 2 brilliant headphones.

Sorry Looking at it got the wrong end of the stick........best headphones not headphone amp.

I run DAC1 HDR straight from my PC and I feed it he Flac files that I have stored for the Linn Klimax DS. The results are brilliant, up until recently I had the Lehmann Audio Linear USB which sound great, looked great and as built like a tank. But I needed the Pre-amp stage as this is in my Study and I run PMC AML1 Speakers off of the DAC1 HDR. Both the Pre-Amp stage and the Headphone stage are fantastic, maybe not in the league of the EAR HP4, which I have considered integrating in my main system. Yes the volume increase is a little wayward on the remote and the top end frequencies can be a little bit brittle but the Dynamics and fluidity of the music are brought through brilliantly, one of my best buys out of all the kit I own.......

I will leave comment later about the Ear HP4.........
 
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caesar

Active Member
May 31, 2010
2,981
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#13
The Woo Audio 5 also uses 300b. Do you like the Manley better than the Woo? What 300b tubes do you use? I use the JJ's, really like them a lot.
We are expecitng a baby shortly, so unfortunately I am staying away from exposed tubes. Since my audio rig already takes up 1/3 of my living room, I am currently using a "tiny" Naim Headline 2 with a TeddyCap 3 powersupply. Amazing PRAT for the late night listening sessions!

I dont' know whether it is coincidence, but the best headphone amps I have heard all use the 300B tube. Unfortunately, I did not audition the Woo and the Manley in the same system, but I think Manley is better. It has amazing resolution and 3-dimensional images hang in space like I have never heard in a headphone rig. Another thing going against the Woo 5 is that it is 2 huge heavy 40 pound pieces, while the Manley is a single preamp.

Woo upsells the Shugang 50-Years Treasure 300B for their amp for $600. I tried these in the Woo 5, and they are definetely smoother and better than the stock 300B's that come with the unit, but one is definitely hitting the law of diminishing returns by tube rolling. I know there are some Western Electrics going for over $1K! That is what was recommended to me as the ultimate for the Manley. What other 300B's have you tried?
 

caesar

Active Member
May 31, 2010
2,981
6
38
#14
Don't know about the best, BUT my Musical Fidelity XCAN V3 is nothing special. ST reviewed it and basically gave it a major 'rave'. Frankly, IMHO this is one more example as to why you should never rely on a reviewer's opinion; because after that rave and my own experience with this piece,
I can now safely say two things..1) NEVER buy anything in audio without listening for yourself first ( which I usually never do, but for some dumb reason did this time) and 2) ST is IMHO certifiably tone deaf.
Amen. My headphone amp in my tiny Rotel integrated sounds "good" compared to plugging the headphones into my computer or a portable cd player. However, when I plug my Naim headline 2, it sounds GREAT. When I plug in a better power supply with the Naim, it sounds great x5. When I plug everything into the power conditioner, it further sounds great x2.
 

cjfrbw

Active Member
Apr 20, 2010
2,174
7
38
Pleasanton, CA
#15
We are expecitng a baby shortly, so unfortunately I am staying away from exposed tubes. Since my audio rig already takes up 1/3 of my living room, I am currently using a "tiny" Naim Headline 2 with a TeddyCap 3 powersupply. Amazing PRAT for the late night listening sessions!

I dont' know whether it is coincidence, but the best headphone amps I have heard all use the 300B tube. Unfortunately, I did not audition the Woo and the Manley in the same system, but I think Manley is better. It has amazing resolution and 3-dimensional images hang in space like I have never heard in a headphone rig. Another thing going against the Woo 5 is that it is 2 huge heavy 40 pound pieces, while the Manley is a single preamp.

Woo upsells the Shugang 50-Years Treasure 300B for their amp for $600. I tried these in the Woo 5, and they are definetely smoother and better than the stock 300B's that come with the unit, but one is definitely hitting the law of diminishing returns by tube rolling. I know there are some Western Electrics going for over $1K! That is what was recommended to me as the ultimate for the Manley. What other 300B's have you tried?
Sorry I took a while to catch up with this thread. I have tried the Shuguang Black Treasure 300b's, liked them a lot, but one of them had a little pop which for headphone use made me a little crazy, so I use those in Santa Cruz in a hogan 300b amplifier. I thought the standard EH 300b's were fine, but the JJ's just have the best clarity, definition and space of all of them, at least in the Manley unit. I would like to acquire a pair of STC 4300 tubes someday, supposed to be even better than the old WE 300b's, but they are uncommon rare and expensive.
I think Svetlanas are supposed to have bout 90 percent of the perfomance of the re-issue WE. I had a pair until one blew, they definitely have some magic lysergic quality in the midrange tonalities, but less definition and directness than the JJ's.
 
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FrantzM

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
6,469
0
0
#17
I use a Benchmark Media DAC1 HDR and Sennheiser HD800 + Denon AH-D7000 headphones. The Sennheisers have an amazing soundstage and amazing detail. The Denons offer a wonderfully rich and laidback sound with great dynamics, 2 brilliant headphones.

Sorry Looking at it got the wrong end of the stick........best headphones not headphone amp.

I run DAC1 HDR straight from my PC and I feed it he Flac files that I have stored for the Linn Klimax DS. The results are brilliant, up until recently I had the Lehmann Audio Linear USB which sound great, looked great and as built like a tank. But I needed the Pre-amp stage as this is in my Study and I run PMC AML1 Speakers off of the DAC1 HDR. Both the Pre-Amp stage and the Headphone stage are fantastic, maybe not in the league of the EAR HP4, which I have considered integrating in my main system. Yes the volume increase is a little wayward on the remote and the top end frequencies can be a little bit brittle but the Dynamics and fluidity of the music are brought through brilliantly, one of my best buys out of all the kit I own.......

I will leave comment later about the Ear HP4.........
Well almost same Denon 5000 however. Very good combo.. These days I am thinking Stax f ESL cans with their (Stax) amps
 
#18
Stax Lambdas, after them any other would sound as a toy. I listened to 2 different versions and I think the older ones sounded better but I'm not sure, I don't like listening with headphones and I wouldn't spend so much money.
 

Lee

Active Member
Feb 4, 2011
1,428
22
38
Alpharetta, Georgia
#20
Best non-Stax amp I have heard is the EAR HP4. Wonderful. For Stax headphones, I like the Blue Hawaii amp.
 

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