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In Reply to: RE: Stay away from the Senn amps... posted by Ivan303 on March 06, 2016 at 15:52:01
Which balanced amp ?
Auralic taurus MKII ?
Edits: 03/07/16Follow Ups:
and the main consideration would be your headphones which are certainly up to the task.
My DAC/Headphone amp accommodates both Single Ended and Balanced with the DAC section fully balanced as well (2 DAC chips per channel).
When I added a Balanced Cable to my 10 year old HD-600 the world changed for me.
For the price of the WOO, or less, some nice SCHIIT pictured above for less than a $1000. I heard the next model up (Ragnarok) with HiFiMan's best $2000 cans at CanJam last year and it was more than OK!
Link below: Available third week of March?
Some useful info:
There are several "balanced" headphone amps on the market, but basically there are two types to choose from.
My DNA Sonett, for example is of the first type. It has true, differential balance output by way of a single center tapped output transformer while using a single active amplification stage. The benefits of this type of balanced-drive design include better channel separation (less crosstalk between channels/better isolation of back EMF between channels) for less overall distortion.
The second (and most expensive!) type of balanced amp uses a differential output stage with two separate active devices (one per channel, of course). This type of balanced-drive headphone amp provides all of the sonic benefits of the first type but, in addition (because of the dual active devices), you'll also get a doubling of the slew rate and voltage swing power for faster transients and better dynamics. In other words, the benefits of balanced-drive are fully realized here for a cleaner and more powerful sound with the lowest possible distortion.
Be aware that a true balanced-drive amp does not need to have balanced XLR INPUTS (as well as balanced XLR outputs), as some might claim. MY (early model) DNA Sonett uses single-ended RCA inputs and dual 3-pin XLR outputs, for example.
Perhaps the most famous FULLY balanced headphone amp (called "The Blockhead" now discontinued) was made by balanced headphone pioneer Tyl Hertsens (former owner of Headroom Corp.). Essentially, it was a dual mono headphone amp joined in the middle to make one stereo amp. It had balanced inputs as well as balanced outputs for use in a fully balanced system. This is why it was once more common to see balanced headphone amps made with dual 3-pin XLR output jacks for connection to matching balanced headphone cables - mostly because Headroom's balanced amp designs used dual 3-pin XLR outputs and matching dual 3-pin XLR headphone cables. Nowadays, it is more common to see balanced headphone amps using single 4-pin XLR jacks that do the same job just as effectively while saving on cost, space, and complexity. You almost never see balanced headphone amps with dual 3-pin XLR outs any more as single 4-pin has become the new standard.
Balanced amplification is worth pursuing for that last bit of hifi performance but it must be admitted that there are many fine sounding headphone amps that are NOT balanced-drive designs. A pleasing tonal balance might be more important to you than the best detail resolution and the most ear-popping dynamics, so choose accordingly.
Try to attend a Can-Jam so that you can audition several different types of headphone amps before buying, if at all possible. Follow your ears.
Before considering any headphone amp (balanced or otherwise), the OP is asking if any such amp would be better than using the headphone output on his vintage Pioneer amp given that he finds the Pioneer "fantastic".
Is the Pioneer receiver good for the HD 800s or not?
... that very few people here have had the opportunity to listen to the very same Pioneer amp driving HD-800 headphones.
So, IMO, the OP needs to listen to a few modern, dedicated headphone amps so that he might learn for himself. Those of us who have listened to a variety of dedicated headphone amps (balanced or otherwise) have been pleasantly surprised, but it can be hard to convince another person who has not heard the difference on a firsthand basis.
OTOH, there is no accounting for taste. To the OP's ears, the Pioneer may indeed sound as good or better as anything being made today.
Listening is learning.
likely with decent headphone amps built in. My Marantz 2325 had a decent headphone amp as well and I am sure it would have sounded great with a GREAT set of cans like the HD-800.
But compared to anything Woo audio sells that is designed to drive headphones like the HD-800?
My bet is no contest, but I will admit that I have never experienced HD-800 driven by a forty year old Pioneer receiver.
Don't make me go down to the basement and dig out that Marantz 2325 and risk burning down the house by plugging it in for the first time in 30 years just to try it out as a headphone amp. ;-)
i think vintage receivers drive the headphones off the main circuit through some resisters (new receivers may have a separate chip-based amp for headphones).
This probably can make a big diference comparing the old receivers using the powerfull main circuit against the new headphone amps with simpler dedicated chip-based amp (?)
Maybe Ivan could try on his 125watt receiver and tells us about...
"i think vintage receivers drive the headphones off the main circuit through some resisters"
And that is where the mating of HD 800s to the Pioneer may come adrift from the ideal.
HD 800s are 300 ohm cans. So they deally need to be plugged into an output with an impedence that is <30ohms ( using the 10:1 rule of thumb). However the resistor network that is used to reduce the amplifier output to suit headphones may mean that the 'phones "see" a comparatively high impedence that is unsuitable from a perfectionist viewpoint.
Headpones were generally not considered as truly high end audio devices at the time of your receiver's manufacture ( certainly nothing of the standard of the HD 800s existed) and using an attenuation network would probably have been considered as adequate for the task ( but no more) by the manufacturer. Hence one reason for the creation of a market for outboard headphone amplifiers in later years when the potential quality of headphone listening improved.
Still, suck it and see.
very interesting point here
" HD 800s are 300 ohm cans. So they deally need to be plugged into an output with an impedence that is <30ohms ( using the 10:1 rule of thumb). However the resistor network that is used to reduce the amplifier output to suit headphones may mean that the 'phones "see" a comparatively high impedence that is unsuitable from a perfectionist viewpoint "
I have seen from a schematic that the Pioneer sx1050 headphone outs are obtained from the speakers out adding in series a 150 ohm resistor (one per channel).
So maybe the big bass perceived is just an underdamped bass ? bloated ?
Problem solved !
Sennheiser HDVD 800
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