A headphone amplifier recommendation, please.

KennethSwaugerKennethSwauger ModeratorPosts: 7,227
I'm working on a project to adapt a tube line level preamp to a Dolby B noise reduction unit and as part of the final testing I'd like a fairly small, reasonably priced ($100.00 to $200.00) headphone amplifier so I can listen to changes I make in the tube amplifier's negative feedback setup. It doesn't need a built in DAC (most seem to come with this) and I need RCA left/right inputs and 1/4" headphone jack (only one is necessary). Selectable headphone impedance (high/low) would be nice.
Your suggestions are welcome and appreciated.
"They thought we were too loud, but shoot, I had four army blankets folded over my amp, and the volume level was on 2. I'm used to playin' on 10!" S.R.V.

Comments

  • msgmsg Posts: 5,963
    edited July 31
    Might have a look at the Schiit Magni 3.
    I don't think it does variable impedance, but it does offer Lo and Hi gain selection.

    They're $100 new, and not uncommon finds in the used market for $80 or so.
    Post edited by msg on
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  • KennethSwaugerKennethSwauger Moderator Posts: 7,227
    Thank you!
    "They thought we were too loud, but shoot, I had four army blankets folded over my amp, and the volume level was on 2. I'm used to playin' on 10!" S.R.V.
  • tonyp063tonyp063 Posts: 828
    even better.
    https://www.schiit.com/b-stocks

    $60-$90 for various Magni flavors. Full warranty
  • afterburntafterburnt Posts: 7,512
    Ifi?
    rpf65 wrote: »
    I’m thinking you’ve reached the point where people are afraid to open your posts.

    I disabled, I am the South Carolina woman who gouged her eyes out on meth.
  • KennethSwaugerKennethSwauger Moderator Posts: 7,227
    I've been using the Magni 3 headphone amp and except for a little issue with the volume control (the knob might be binding against the faceplate opening) it is fine. Very clear sounding and seems well balanced and I can easily hear differences in the solid state and tube output stages. Great value, certainly!
    Now it makes me think about better headphones, of course.
    "They thought we were too loud, but shoot, I had four army blankets folded over my amp, and the volume level was on 2. I'm used to playin' on 10!" S.R.V.
  • msgmsg Posts: 5,963
    Hey Ken, glad it's working out for you. That knob issue you describe is not uncommon with these units. I noticed it as well, and I've seen other comments about it.

    I thought about removing the cover and widening or smoothing case opening a bit, but seems to have resolved itself. But yeah, a little uncomfortable, that scratchy feeling of metal on metal.

    You can pull the knob out a bit to clear the case, too.
    I disabled signatures.
  • DaveHoDaveHo Posts: 2,814
    Based on other Schitt gear I've owned, the circuit board mounting may have some wiggle room. Open it up and see if you can move it slightly to alleviate the issue.
  • KennethSwaugerKennethSwauger Moderator Posts: 7,227
    Good idea, thanks! What headphones are you using with success?
    "They thought we were too loud, but shoot, I had four army blankets folded over my amp, and the volume level was on 2. I'm used to playin' on 10!" S.R.V.
  • msgmsg Posts: 5,963
    edited August 9
    I'm still early in my headphones testing, since I've only been messing with headphones for maybe 3 or 4 yrs? Ha.

    Everything I've tried with the Magni 3 has been pleasing, each pair of headphones having their own strengths. The Magni 3 with its Lo and Hi gain options makes it relatively versatile with the headphones I've tried with it, ranging from 32Ω to 250Ω.

    All of the following sound good to me with some time to readjust after a move from any one of the others. Just takes a little time to get used to each's signature.

    ATH-M50x
    This became my general go-to until recently. Good all around, but not very detailed compared to the others in this list. Closed back, good bass. A good office headphone for ambient isolation. Note that with all the plastic and articulating joints, they're creaky, and you'll hear it with micro movements while listening. I found this annoying and distracting. I addressed this with a few drops of Tri-flo Teflon drylube at these joints. Tri-flo is a lube for bicycles. There are two kinds, and the dry version goes on wet, but dries like a wax. Works great, lasts months. The M50x are the most comfortable headphones I have, but feel the cheapest.

    Philips Fidelio X1 and Fidelio L1
    I really like the Philips sound a lot. Both of these are smooth and comfortable, but the X1 offer a bit more liquid-y sound. The X1s are open back, and were/are my favorite for overall sound, being relatively well balanced across genres I listen to - electronic, rock, classical, and mellow chick singer stuff, folksy, jazzy, and otherwise.

    The L1s are smaller, some complaining that the earcups are too small for some ears. Semi-open design.

    These are discontinued but available as refurb, new old stock, or used. The X2 has replaced the X1.

    Beyerdynamic DT-880 Pro
    I just recently had a chance to try these after reading about Beyerdynamic for years (thanks @Clipdat ) The BeyerDs are a semi-open headphone, and I found them thin in the lows with all but the most bass accentuated pieces. Initially this was a disappointment. The only headphones I've ever found more lacking in bass were some version of Grado, but the BDs reminded me of that experience, though nowhere near as anemic nor as uncomfortable.

    The mids and upper frequencies are beautiful, though. I had a couple startling moments trying them with familiar pieces and hearing sublime little details like guitar strums I've never heard before. The stereo channel detail and stereo channel play caught me a few times, too, so far, again with details I never noticed before. Somehow more accentuated with these.

    To address the low end with the BDs, I added a Schiit Loki EQ I had sitting around. This is a 4-band EQ. For the DT-880s, I bumped controls 1, 2, and 4 to my liking, with a good amount of increase on the bass control. Schiit markets the Loki as "bringing back tone controls" in a sense, but in a good way.

    The Schiit mini footprint pieces make a nice stack for a little desktop or something nearby that you can reach out and adjust as needed. One can also integrate these pieces with a larger system as well. For me, the Schiit minis on a desktop and the coiled cable of the DT-800 Pro are a great combination for listening while I'm working at the desk or reading online.

    According to Beyerdynamic, the standard DT-880 offers the same sound as the Pro, but with lighter clamping force and a straight cable.

    Heres's some more information on the Loki that might interest you.
    https://www.schiit.com/about/news/welcome-back-eq-introducing-loki-mini
    https://www.schiit.com/products/loki

    Others seem to enjoy the Sennheiser HD650.

    @ALL212 Aaron has tried some others I've not heard of. I think they were made of coconut 🥥 shells and horse hooves.
    Post edited by msg on
    I disabled signatures.
  • KennethSwaugerKennethSwauger Moderator Posts: 7,227
    Thank you! I've always been a Sennheser fan since the classic HD414. I wish I'd bought a pair of Stax headphones when I was a dealer.
    "They thought we were too loud, but shoot, I had four army blankets folded over my amp, and the volume level was on 2. I'm used to playin' on 10!" S.R.V.
  • msgmsg Posts: 5,963
    Wow, I didn't know you used to be a dealer, Ken.
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  • KennethSwaugerKennethSwauger Moderator Posts: 7,227
    I remember selling a pair of SR Series "earspeakers" and power supply along with a Janis W1 subwoofer to a middle aged guy. His idea was to wear the headphones and sit on the subwoofer, no kidding, he thought the bass vibrations would travel up his spine and he would feel the bass and hear the rest through the headphones.
    "They thought we were too loud, but shoot, I had four army blankets folded over my amp, and the volume level was on 2. I'm used to playin' on 10!" S.R.V.
  • msgmsg Posts: 5,963
    Haha! That sounds... not very relaxing.

    The SR series you mentioned - those were/are by STAX?
    I disabled signatures.
  • KennethSwaugerKennethSwauger Moderator Posts: 7,227
    Yes, it's impossible to keep track of their model numbers. For a while they had an electret style headphone called the SR44 I think. For the money they were excellent. Somewhere along the line I believe Stax made a tonearm.
    "They thought we were too loud, but shoot, I had four army blankets folded over my amp, and the volume level was on 2. I'm used to playin' on 10!" S.R.V.
  • KennethSwaugerKennethSwauger Moderator Posts: 7,227
    After a quick search on Google I found the Stax UA-7 tonearm and I believe I had one installed on a Sony TTS-3000 turntable way back in the pleistocene era of my audio journey.
    "They thought we were too loud, but shoot, I had four army blankets folded over my amp, and the volume level was on 2. I'm used to playin' on 10!" S.R.V.
  • pitdogg2pitdogg2 Posts: 17,295
    Did it use a wooden needle?
  • msgmsg Posts: 5,963
    After a quick search on Google I found the Stax UA-7 tonearm and I believe I had one installed on a Sony TTS-3000 turntable way back in the pleistocene era of my audio journey.
    LOL
    I had to look that up...
    cq4u5o8bncoq.png


    I disabled signatures.
  • KennethSwaugerKennethSwauger Moderator Posts: 7,227
    Didn't Soundsmith have a cartridge that used a cactus needle?
    "They thought we were too loud, but shoot, I had four army blankets folded over my amp, and the volume level was on 2. I'm used to playin' on 10!" S.R.V.
  • pitdogg2pitdogg2 Posts: 17,295
    Didn't Soundsmith have a cartridge that used a cactus needle?

    That would be cool if they did. BTW I was not being facetious. I actually ran across an old turntable that did use wooden needles. It was really a cool set up. Early 1920's maybe reminded me of early victrola or something.
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