Advice for a newbie Please?

Discussion in 'Ask The Experts' started by Steve53, Jan 30, 2012.

  1. Steve53

    Steve53 New Member

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    I haven't got a headphone socket on my high end amp or CD player do I need a headphone amp and if so could you please suggest which would be the best amp and closed headphones?
     
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    High end audio

    Headphone Amplifiers & DACs - Headphone Amps

    Since you indicated a high-end system, here are some headphone amps sorted by highest end first. You can drive the headphone amp from the "line out" of the amp or CD player.

    For headphones you can check the same page - there are many closed headphones in all price ranges.
     
  3. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    Hi Steve

    If you let us know a budget and the type of headphones you will be using we could make some suggestions. :)
     
  4. Steve53

    Steve53 New Member

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    Thanks

    Thanks for the reply, I like the look of the ICON AUDIO HP8 MKII PURE VALVE AMPLIFIER.
    Could you suggest a compatible set of headphones to match that please?
    I prefer closed or noise cancelling headphones as I no longer have a room dedicated to music but am open to suggestions.

    Thanks
     
  5. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    Icon Audio HP8 MkII is one of my favourite amps (if not my favourite), it is super powerful, very clean and detailed but really natural and warm sounding. Have a look at these and feel free to ask about the ones that appeal - I have included some high end stuff which might be over the budget that you were thinking but at least I know you will not have a heart attack as you are a HiFi guy - Headphones have nothing on speakers as far as price goes!


    Ultrasone Signature PRO Closed-Back Studio Headphones
    £749.95 - Very linear sounding, might be too analytical for some listeners but incredibly accurate.


    Audio-Technica ATH-W1000X Closed Back Reference-Class Headphones
    £569.95 - Great natural feel with plenty of detail.


    Denon AH-D7000 Closed-Back Reference Class HiFi Headphones
    £754.96 - A bit warmer overall than a lot of high end headphones but a bright and exciting top end as well.


    Beyerdynamic T70 Premium Closed Back Headphones 250Ω (T 70)
    £438.95 - Bright and exciting, great detail, bottom end is smooth and punchy with plenty of texture but the overall feel is balanced without feeling too analytical.


    Ultrasone PRO900 Closed-Back Professional Headphones (PRO 900)
    £339.95 - Again some find these a little analytical but I find these a really good listen. Very balanced feel.


    GermanMAESTRO GMP 450 PRO Closed Headphones (GMP450PRO)
    £199.00
    +
    Beyerdynamic DT770 PRO Closed Back Headphones 80Ω (DT 770)

    £129.96

    Both of these are surprisingly accomplished for their price - Similar sound and feel, both very comfy. GMP450 have more of a warm sound whereas the focus is on the detail for the DT770 but it does have great bottom end too.
     
  6. UndefinedMemory

    UndefinedMemory New Member

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    Hi Robin,

    Obviously we've been focusing on different headphones than Steve is looking for, so this may or may not be relevant to him (but hopefully is helpful for him as well!). Do you prefer the Icon Audio HP8 MKII across the board to the Graham Slee Solo SRGII/Ultra Linear? Or is this more an issue of preference and headphone selection?

    I really like the customisability/upgradability of tube amps versus solid state, and you really recommend the Icon Audio very highly. I'm also curious about the PSU1 that seems to make a big difference to the Graham Slee amp, as it isn't something that most other amps in the price range focus on explicitly. Would the PSU1 be a good upgrade to the Icon Audio amp as well, or is the quality of its power source already very high?

    Thanks.

    Chase
     
  7. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    Hi Chase

    Hope you are well:)

    The Icon Audio HP8 Mk II amp is a personal fave - I wouldn't argue with anybody who prefers the excellent Ultra Linear. I have to admit that I find valves (or tubes) really exciting. As a guitarist I have a little collection of guitar amps which have valve circuits, the orange glow is reassuringly old fashioned but the sound is unmatchable with solid state guitar amps. Hifi is a bit different obviously but the idea of smooth clipping is I'm sure very useful to stereo amp designers as well. The power supply is not an issue with the Icon amp as it has a massive and appaerently brilliant transformer inside the unit, it is inside the cube shaped bit on the top behind the valves. This is an important part in the sound it creates as well - it is just integrated instead of being external and therefore swappable. If you have an amp (or a DAC) with an external transformer, swapping this for a better one can have massive benefits to noise reduction, you can end up with a much darker background to the sound and even a much more vivid and solid feel to the sound. If you haven't heard of Fidelity Audio give them a look -

    Fidelity Audio : Power supplies PSU upgrade smps switch mode -

    The power supplies are amazing but their headphone amps are superb too. The HPA200 is similar to the GS Ultra linear (Shhh some people say they prefer it but don't tell Graham!) and they will have a new full size DAC soon which has a proper built in headphone amp - that one sounds a bit more like a cleaner Lehman Rhinelander.
     
  8. UndefinedMemory

    UndefinedMemory New Member

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    I am thanks! Hope you are too.

    I have a bunch of guitarist friends who have a collection of valve head/pre-amps, mostly quite neutral amps and pedals that let them do whatever they want on the fly. But across the board they love their valve amps.

    I don't yet have a DAC aside from the FiiO E7, but will likely pick up a V-DAC II soon. So I don't know about needing anything as specialised as those PSUs but it's good to know that there are options to upgrade virtually every component! I think, especially as I'm factoring in getting a DAC, I have to cap out my spending at £500 on the amp so unfortunately the Ultra Linear and the HPA200 would be out of my budget.
     
  9. Steve53

    Steve53 New Member

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    Hi Robin & Chase
    Sorry I’ve been a while getting back to you but I just wanted to thank you both so much for the info. As I’m a classical music freak I’m looking for a more natural and warm sounding amp and have been rather impressed by the valve amps I’ve listened to in the past, so am considering the Icon Audio HP8 with the Beyerdynamic T70 Premium Headphones.
    I wouldn’t mind listening to them first though but as Hi Fi shops are few & far between these days I might just bite the bullet and order them. I must admit that when I’ve done that in the past I haven’t been disappointed, but will read a few more recommendations first.

    Tanks again for your help,
    Regards
    Steve
     
  10. UndefinedMemory

    UndefinedMemory New Member

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    Hi Steve,

    I've been trying to make a decision for a while and finally decided on the Icon Audio HP8. It should arrive today and, while it will need a fair amount of burn in, I'm happy to post my impressions. I don't have the T70 headphones, but I do have the DT1350 (which also has the Tesla driver) so I should be able to give you an idea of how it matches with those. I'll have a bit of a read around on the T70 as well to get a better idea of how these compare to the DT1350, so I can hopefully give you a bit better guidance.

    I'll leave the amp to burn in for the next couple of days and let you know when I've had some time to properly listen to it.

    Chase
     
  11. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    Steve - I really like the T70 and they would be a great combo with the Icon HP8 MKii. The headphones have a light and airy feel for a cvlosed back with good soundstage and fantastic detail and stereo imaging. The Icon amp has a smooth and powerful feel which never seems to undermine the strengths of a good set of cans. I like combining a very accurate headphone with superb separation with the HP8 as it's natural warmth never feels that it has any negative effect on detail or the sense of space within a recording. I cannot imagine this combination would disappoint!


    Beyerdynamic T70 Premium Closed Back Headphones 250Ω (T 70)
    £438.95


    Icon Audio HP8 MKII Pure Valve High End Headphone Amplifier
    £499.96
     
  12. UndefinedMemory

    UndefinedMemory New Member

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    Hi Steve,

    I've had a couple of days to play with the Icon Audio HP8 MKII now. I'm sure it will get better as time passes but I thought I'd give you my initial impressions.

    My first reaction was a bit disappointing - there was a lot of noise/hiss. I ddin't have this before so thought it was odd, so I checked the connections/cables, and realised it has nothing to do with the amp. The cables I'm using to connect the FiiO E7 DAC input are poor and not well shielded, so are picking up a lot of noise that was not apparent before. So will definitely be getting a new DAC as soon as possible!

    The Beyer DT1350 are quite small on-ear 'phones and the soundstage is relative to that, but from my portable amp (Just Audio uHA-120)they're driven really well. Clear, very detailed, good separation of instruments and a nice bass boost as well. I was expecting them to scale really well with the Icon Audio amp. But when I connected them I was quite surprised. The sound was very comparable to them connected to the portable amp. I actually prefer the sound out of the portable amp.

    Then I started listening with my Sennheiser HD580. The Beyer's are actually a pricier set of cans, and hooked up to the uHA-120 sound decidedly better than the HD580 (though those are open backed and have a better soundstage - much easier to listen to for long periods of time). But the Beyer's are also 80ohm, portable, small and closed back. The Senns are 300ohm... and I honestly had no idea that they could sound as good as they do through the Icon Audio amp. I never knew how good these headphones really are. The bass is immediately so much more powerful, and everything is more detailed and pronounced - I always thought it was strange that people found these 'phones to be sibilant and didn't know it was a characteristic of them being properly driven. Hopefully this will tone down when the valves have been fully burned in, but it's only in specific songs at high volumes that I really notice it.

    And then there's the soundstage. It is so much more three dimensional. The placement of the instruments, movement back and forth across the channels and especially the lifelike character of the vocals is seriously impressive. And the integration of the whole soundstage is seamless. Listening to songs with multiple singers is a completely new experience. And this is using an old pair of headphones that likely won't match up with the T70. Even if the soundstage is bigger due to these being open, the other aspects I expect to be extremely good with the T70.

    I was really expecting the DT1350 to be the ones that impressed me, but clearly I've hit their max with the portable amp I have. I am not likely to get much better out of them. So while they are also using the Tesla drivers, a higher impedance, higher performance set of headphones like the T70 are really what amps like the Icon Audio are designed for. I still love my Beyer's for portable use but I can't imagine ever going back to them at home now. Even little things - like digital modulation on a character speaking in a video game - now has a three dimensionality that makes me pause.

    I'm extremely impressed. It really is an excellent recommendation from Robin. I am already in touch with Icon Audio to look at upgrading the tubes (something I'll probably do in the next month or so when I can pick up a new DAC). I would definitely take his word if he feels that the T70 is a good pairing with this amp!

    Chase
     
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