Amplifier Recommendations - Headfonia Headphone Reviews

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Amplifier Recommendations

The rule that I use is that the bigger the size of the headphone, the bigger the need for amplification. Of course factors like driver sensitivity and impedance will matter, but the general rule of thumb is, use a dedicated headphone amplifier for a full size headphone. Even a portable amplifier can be enough, depending on the type of the headphones. Also remember that open back headphones usually require more amplification power (from A Guide to Headphones).

 

Portable Amplifiers

JDSLabs Cmoy
This great sounding portable amp at a great price is becoming a very consistent recommendation for all sorts of headphone listeners. For $60, you can get into the portable amp bandwagon and see what the fuss is all about. The JDSLabs’ sound quality don’t disappoint either. Open and spacious with smooth mids and a very musical overall sound. It also comes with a bass boost feature that bumps up the bass significantly. If you decide to order, it’s recommended to ask if you can also have the recharging circuitry built into the amp.
$59.99 from JDSLabs | $60 Pack of Awesome: JDSLabs Cmoy

Electric Avenues PA2V2
One of the oldest portable amp in existence is also another great entry level portable amp. The sound signature is more forward and engaging than the JDSLabs Cmoy, making it a better choice for Rock. The PA2V2, however, doesn’t come with a bass boost switch. It’s also another highly recommended items, and if you ask me to choose between the PA2V2 and the JDSLabs, I really would just get both of them since they are so affordable. $60 including US shipping from Electric Avenues.
$60 from Electric Avenues (gary@electric-avenues.com) | Electric Avenues PA2V2 

RSA SR71A
Despite the advancement in portable amps with the newer digital volume control and balanced topologies, I still think that the SR-71a, with the signature dark and weighty lows of RSA is still one of the most desirable portable amps in the market, the only downside being non rechargeable batteries.
$450.00 from Ray Samuels Audio | The Usual Suspects

ALO Rx Mk2
Although there are a lot of portable amp in the market, the ALO Rx Mk2 is one of the most popular amp around with its thin form factor, digital volume control, clean, open, and spacious sound with great bass impact makes this an easy amplifier to like. Suitable for anything from IEMs to hard to drive full size headphones.
$449.00 from ALO Audio The Usual Suspects

 

Desktop Amplifiers

Schiit Asgard
Frankly, the initial hype surrounding the Asgard sort of puts me in a sceptic mode. Is this going to be another over-hyped item? After all, how good can a sub-$300 solid state amp sounds? After doing a review of the Asgard, Valhalla, and Lyr, I was truly impressed with the sound and performance of the Asgard that it deserves a spot in Headfonia’s recommendation list. So here it is, an entry level solid state amp with a slight warm sound and a superb musicality. Truly a high value/dollar product that I’d highly recommend to people without a desktop amp as well as those who already has a higher-dollar desktop amp.
$279 from Amazon.com (free shipping)| Triple Schiit: Asgard, Valhalla, and Lyr

Woo Audio WA6
The mid-level, single-ended-triode, class-A amp from Woo audio delivers a clean and grainless sound with good bass impact. One of the most popular mid-fi tube around, the WA6 is a lively and open sounding amp without the slightest hint of mellow or “tubey” sound. Best build quality in the business too. Output transformer coupled design means that it handles both low impedance and high impedance headphones.
$620.00 from Woo Audio | WooAudio6 Tube Amplifier

Burson HA-160
The Burson HA-160 is a mid-level solid state amplifier that offers all the good thing normally associated with solid states. Most notably is one of the best bass impact among any desktop amps, as well as a clear articulation, full midrange and a fast-paced warm sound signature.
$695.00 from Amazon.com | Burson HA-160 Review

Graham Slee Solo SRG II
These two solid sounding mid-hi level desktop amplifier from Graham Slee don’t quite have the buzz that the other components I listed has, but here are two very likable sounding amp for those of you looking for a mid-hi level desktop amplifier.
£434.00 with PSU1 power supply; £314.25 standard unit | Graham Slee Desktop Amps: Novo, Solo SRG II, Solo Ultra Linear

 

Only list the most popular products are listed here. If you feel it to be too limited, feel free to browse the reviews on the Amplifier Category:

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365 Comments

  • Reply January 19, 2012

    Ericky

    ALO Continental? 

    • Reply January 19, 2012

      Eric

      could think about portable and desktop amplifiers.

    • Reply January 19, 2012

      Mike

      I will consider that, yes. I’m not done revising this page yet.

  • Reply January 24, 2012

    Ramesses

    Hi Mike,

    Would you recommend the WA6 over the two Schiit tubes?
    I have the Asgard and want my first tube to compliment it. My music taste is broad.
    The cans I have are D7000, D5000, LCD2Rev1, JH13s, T5ps (just ordered and possibly T1s if I like the T5ps!). Source is MacBook Pro 13″ 2011 to Bifrost via optical.
    Thanks for your advice.
    Ramesses.

    • Reply January 24, 2012

      Mike

      Yes I would recommend the WA6 over the two Schiit tubes. 

      • Reply January 24, 2012

        Ramesses

        Hi Mike,
        Thanks for the replies. Do you have any knowledge of the WA2?
        I was going to get the WA6 with Princess tube upgrade. I wondered if it would be worth the extra for the WA2 with stock tubes given its supposed to pair well with The T1s. Your thoughts woukd be much appreciated. Ramesses.

        • Reply January 24, 2012

          Mike

          I’ve never listened to the WA2, but it’s an OTL design and from experience it should be very nice with high impedance dynamic cans, especially the likes of the T1 and the HD800. 

          If I were to blind guess and I’ve never listened to either the WA6 or the WA2, I would definitely go with the WA2 for the T1. 

          Just keep in mind that with OTL designs, you may not be able to drive orthodynamic headphones very well. 

          Another one that is looking very nice is the Raptor: 
          http://www.raysamuelsaudio.com/products/raptor

          • Reply January 25, 2012

            Yoon

            is there any WooAudio that can?
            because i remember you saying that the WA5 couldnt.

          • Reply January 25, 2012

            Ramesses

            Thanks Mike, I think I need to give this one some more thought as most of my current cans are not likely to be good with the WA2, by default therefore I think the WA6 would be best for me at the moment. Thanks Ramesses.

  • Reply January 25, 2012

    Ben

    Hey Mike,
     I was wondering if you would recommend the WA6 for D7000/D5000 and a Senn 598 or would you recommend a solid state amp like the Asgard or Graham Slee Solo.  My music tastes all over the place, Rock, Jazz, Pop, Etc. Source is a Dacport LX. I might also get a HE-400 or HE-4 but that might not be for a while.
    Thanks for your advice.

    • Reply January 25, 2012

      Mike

      Ben,
      Better to go with the Asgard then. It’s a better all rounder than the Solo.

  • Reply February 5, 2012

    john oh

    Hey Headfonia,

    I hate to do this but would you considering doing a Bottlehead Crack (+Speedball) review? Its becoming quite popular as im sure you know. Supposed to pair great with the HD600/650 but i just wanted to get your opinion on that, because i value it so much 🙂
    Also i was wondering about the Little Dot Amps. They seems like the ultimate budget tube amps but ive read many horror stories with those products, but good ones as well.

    I already have an asgard and ive been wanting a tube compliment (Woo6, bottlehead, LD, etc). The only thing stopping me from getting the OTL right now is because it cant drive low impedance headphones which is kind of a bummer but i think i should get it anyways. haha.

    Thanks,
    P.s. i love reading your reviews.

    • Reply February 6, 2012

      Mike

      Hi John,
      Yes it’s quite popular and to be frank me and Lieven really wants to do a review on it. Thing is Bottlehad have been really slow to respond to our inquiries. I don’t know, perhaps they’re busy taking care of all those customer orders.

  • Reply February 11, 2012

    Norman Perlmutter

    Why do the portable amp recommendations jump all the way from $60 to $450? Is there nothing good in between?

    • Reply February 11, 2012

      Mike

      Yeah I try to choose products that not only has a good review, but also has a good track record with the users. It’s not very easy to come up with a product for every single price point because of that.
      I’ll try to add things to the list as time goes though.

      • Reply February 12, 2012

        Anonymous

        If it was just up to me I’d put the JustAudio µHA-120 in the list

  • Reply February 12, 2012

    Norman Perlmutter

    In the headphones section, you recommend buying, i.e. 3 $200 headphones rather than one $600 headphone. I followed that suggestion, and I’m glad I did. Does the same sort of recommendation apply to amps?  Am I better off buying 3 $60 portable amps rather than one $200 portable amp?

    • Reply February 13, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Norman,
      Good question. I think the case with amps are quite different. A good amp can drive many different headphones very well, and personally it’s not unusual for me to plug a headphone to an amp more expensive than it is.
      What’s your budget, what headphones, what music?

  • Reply March 1, 2012

    TT

    Mike, I am currently looking for a desktop amp to drive my AKG Q701. My budget is $250, and some amp that falls in that range are Objective 2, Matrix M-stage, and now the Schiit Asgard after reading your reviews. I like the mids and trebles on my Q701 so I want an amp that is not overshadowed by bass. Whats your take on these three? I read your reviews on the m-stage and asgard and they seems to be on the warmer side. The O2 seems to be cheaper and more bright from reading other reviews. Any other recommendations are also welcomed, Thanks!

    • Reply March 1, 2012

      Mike

      TT,
      I probably would pair the O2 with the K701/Q701 yes. Somehow the O2 has a similar direction as far as sound signature is concerned. Clean, good separation, spacious. The Asgard and Matrix are warmer, yes.

      • Reply March 2, 2012

        TT

        Thanks for your reply, I would go with the O2.

  • Reply March 1, 2012

    Rashid

    Hi Mike,
    Just wondering as to why the Dacmini is not on the recommendations list/ Your take on the Dacmini vs the HA-160D is one of the very few head-to-heads I have seen, and from your writings it seems they are both of high and equal quality, albeit mildly different strengths. Therefore, just wondering why the dacmini did not have the grade, thanks much!

    • Reply March 1, 2012

      Mike

      Good question.

      Yes, sometimes a product would do well on a review, but somehow it’s was not well received by the crowd. In the case of the Dacmini, I think most people I know think that it’s a little too dry and a tad bright for music listening through headphones. In that aspect the less resolving Dacport actually makes for a much more enjoyable gear to listen to (hence you’ll find the Dacport on the source recommendations).

      • Reply March 1, 2012

        Rashid

        Hmm. thanks for the response. Almost makes me want to pair the dacport LX with the Burson stand alone HA-160 headphone amp, to get the best of both worlds to pair with my HD-650s. The LX with its better clarity and resolution, and the Burson with its weight, bass impact and musicality might me  a match made in heaven. What do you think? Thnaks

        • Reply March 2, 2012

          Mike

          Yes you can do that, but it’s worth mentioning that the DAC on the Burson HA160D/DS have a special synergy with the amplifier section.

  • Reply March 6, 2012

    Stephen Zhang

     Hi Mike, have you tried the O2 amp, it seems very interesting at 150$, and also being compared to amps 4 or 5 times the price?

    • Reply March 7, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Stephen,
      Yes I’m working on an O2 review. It’s very nice, but amps 4 to 5 times the price? I think that’s far too ambitious.

      • Reply March 7, 2012

        Minh Le

        Would love to see the O2 review. I’ve been jumping all over the place finding an amp/dac under $200 – $250 (if possible), to pair up with a new set of headphones I might buy.

        All the best Mike,

        • Reply March 7, 2012

          Mike

          Alright, we’re working on it. 🙂

  • Reply March 7, 2012

    Baby Milo

    Hey Mike, 

    I love your work here, it’s been very helpful for me as a newbie. I recently purchased the M50 as my first step but I feel like I’m not getting the most out of it. I’ve read that buying an amp would be the next step for improvements so I am looking at the O2 and E17. My budget is around $150-200 (even though I’m tempted by the Asgard and M-stage) and I listen to mostly pop and rock. Currently my headphone is hooked up to a X-Fi Xtremegamer sound card that I got for free – I’m a casual gamer but gaming is not the purpose here.

    Portability of the amp isn’t a priority for me, I don’t plan on carrying it around. Would buying a dac/amp combo show greater improvements than just buying a dedicated amp in my case (considering the sound card setup)?

    • Reply March 7, 2012

      L.

      The M50 is a good headphone and it improves a little with an amp but not that much imo. I’m afraid it wouldn’t be worth the investment, but that’s just my idea

    • Reply March 7, 2012

      Mike

      If you can afford $250, I’d go with the Asgard and stock with the stock sound card for now.

  • Reply March 17, 2012

    Isaiah Mackler

    If on the lookout for a budget amp, lets say under $200, would you go with the Objective 2 with the HD650 or something else? Thanks! 

    • Reply March 17, 2012

      Mike

      Under $200. Well you can actually go with a Cmoy, should be powerful enough for the HD650.

  • Reply April 4, 2012

    Ville Söderberg

    Hi,

    What amp under $300 would you recommend to me? I have the Pro 900, D2000, HD25-1 II and the Sennheiser IE80. I’m also considering putting down some money on the DT990 Pro 250 Ohms..

    So far, the Schiit Asgard, O2, FiiO E9 and Headstage Arrow seem interesting. I’ve already got an E11 (for portability) and E10 (will be used as a DAC in the future – note: NOT impressed with it’s bass enhancing). Portability is not a requirement at all, I only kept the Arrow in there because it has tone controls, which is a plus but not a requirement either. A good control of an authoritive bass is however a requirement.

    Thanks.

    • Reply April 4, 2012

      Mike

      Go for the Asgard. It’ll be good for your big full size cans.

      • Reply April 4, 2012

        Ville Söderberg

        Thanks! Aiming for Asgard then. 🙂

  • Reply April 7, 2012

    Rogier Schreurs

    Hey Mike,

    Found that the Musical Fidelity X-can V8P pairs up the best with my DT990 250, probably because the tubes work miracles with the low mids in the Beyer. Which amps compare the most to the MF?

    Greetz

    • Reply April 7, 2012

      Mike

      Rogier,
      I’ve listened to the V8P briefly.. very brief so I’m not very familiar with the sound.. but from what I recall it wasn’t extremely tubey or mid-centric.

      • Reply April 11, 2012

        Rogier Schreurs

        Hey Mike,
        sorry I see I’ve said it works well with the low mids, what i meant was that the curve of the DT990 is a bit of a smiley, hence I called the mids ‘low’. 
        In comparison with the HD 600 and 650 the V8p struck me as being quite neutral in sound(not that I have a lot of experience with different amps and cans). The thing is I haven’t heard any other ‘neutral’ amps that brought out the mids in my headphone so well as this one. I’m looking for an al-round good amp that can lay a bit of a thicker mid-body under my headphone as compared to the bass and treble, and this made me scope out the Tiny Tube Dac. Do you reckon this might be a good choice for me? 

        • Reply April 27, 2012

          Mike

          Sorry for the slow reply, Rogier. 

          If you want more mid-body, the Tiny Tube would help with that yes. 

          • Reply May 3, 2012

            Rogier Schreurs

            Hey mike,

            never mind the delay, thanks for your reply. I think I’m going to get one; can’t seem tot get a decent Mu-Fi for a nice price around here anyway. Cheers!

  • Reply April 20, 2012

    Victor Yu

    Hi Mike,
    How would you compare the Asgard, WA6 and Burson 160, in terms of mid-range and bass? I use only AT headphones, 2 woodies, 1 bass head and 1 open, which amp you think will match them some, I listen to all kind of musics except hip hop, reggie and soul. Thanks

  • Reply April 20, 2012

    Victor Yu

    Hi Mike,
    How would you compare the Asgard, WA6 and Burson 160, in terms of mid-range and bass? I use only AT headphones, 2 woodies, 1 bass head and 1 open, which amp you think will match them some, I listen to all kind of musics except hip hop, reggie and soul. Thanks

  • Reply April 27, 2012

    m.rezadwiarianto

    Mike im currently have hd 650 jdslabs o2 and dacport lx,and i want to upgrade my amp,because i think o2 is sound thin,my budget is around $300-400(i live in indonesia),what desktop amp do you recommended that sound warm and thick? I already think to buy schiit asgard,is it good? Or should i buy another amp
    Thx mike

  • Mike
    I have hd 650 and dacport lx,i listen to music like beatles,rolling stones,pink floyd and other classic rock stuff
    What amp is better with my music ,im looking for schiit asgard and graham slee solo srg ii(because there is a guy in local forum who sell this amp at just $370)

    Thanks mike

    • Reply May 8, 2012

      Mike

      I think the Solo SRG II is great for classic rock. Warm, smooth and punchy when needed.

  • Reply June 12, 2012

    Danilas Cercovas

    I find good price for LITTLE DOT MK III. Is this amp would fit for
    Fidelio L1? How it would be compared to Objective 2, E17 and Shiit
    Asgard?

    • Reply September 19, 2012

      Ruben Torres

      I just bought the Dacport LX and it sounds amazing. I was going to get the Burson Soloist but I found a deal on an HA-160D. So should I get the Soloist or just get the HA-160D instead and get my money back on the LX?

  • Reply June 16, 2012

    Cary D

    Hi Mike, thanks for all the fantastic reviews and informative comments here! Would love to know what you feel would pair best (desktop or portable) with the ATH W3000ANV I have on order?

    I listen to a variety of music from Sinatra, jazz, classical, opera to Loreena McKennitt, Deva Premal, Irish folk, spiritual music to Maroon 5, Adele, pop, dance, current and 80’s alternative; and occasional reggae, rap, hard rock and metal.

    Other headphones I enjoy: ath-esw9a, akg k550, considering d5000.

    Loved your ALO Continental write-up, by the way! (Would this be a good option? What about the BH Crack?)

    Thanks in advance

    • Reply June 18, 2012

      Mike

      Cary,
      I have yet to listen to the W3000ANV, but from the W1000X I would try to find a good tube amp for the ATH.

      • Reply June 18, 2012

        Victor Yu

        I used Wa6SE and Asgard for the W3000 and are fantastic, especially the Woo, just bring out the best vocals of it.

  • Reply June 18, 2012

    Alan Tan

    Hi Mike, my current setup is as this:
    DacPort LX -> Bravo v2 hybrid tube amp -> DT770 250 ohm, so wondering any good amp that can truly reflect the beauty of the DT770?

    • Reply June 18, 2012

      Mike

      I don’t have too much experience with the DT770 amp pairing. I think it’s designed mostly as a neutral monitoring headphone. I would imagine that the Bravo would add fuller and smoother mids to it. But if you ask me for a recommendation with the DT770, I honestly am not that experienced.

      • Reply August 5, 2012

        Alan Tan

        if i say i prefer something that shows music as it is, no colouration on the music by the amp, and let the cans convey their sound too, is it even possible? 😡

        • Reply August 5, 2012

          Trent_D

          I’m sure it is, but that might need to be filed under the “be careful what you wish for” category.

        • Reply August 6, 2012

          Mike

          The problem is that that idea of an amp that shows no coloration and shows emotions are only an idea in the head. Usually, colorless amps = dry to the human ears. While musical amps = colored.

  • Reply June 18, 2012

    Stephen Loke

    Hey,

    I have the HD25-1 II, V-Moda M-80 and other portable headphones. I was wondering what portable setup should i get for around 300USD-450USD. I want a good combo and also a setup which works well with portable headphones which don’t have too high impedance.I don’t really mind whether it’s a DAC & Amp in one or whether the DAC is one item & the Amp is one item.

    I listen to mostly: Pop, rock and Alternative

    Thanks.

  • Reply July 4, 2012

    Isaiah Mackler

    Hey Mike,
    I have the HD650 and HD600, one for office (85% of listening), one for home; I’ll probably rotate them occasionally. I recently got a used AHA-120 for around $400 and am really impressed by it. Its better than both Fiio E9 and O2, at least with the HD600, 650. It works good as transportable between the home and office. My question is if I could could get a better desktop amp for like $300 than the portable AHA-120; If I could, I’d keep the O2 for the occasional home/portable use and keep the desktop amp in the office. You said some really positive things about the AHA-120. But can I beat it in a desktop for around $300? If not, I’ll probably keep it! (DIY is kind of out of the picture for me…)
    Thanks!

    • Reply July 4, 2012

      Mike

      The AHA is very nice and I think the quality of portable amps are getting better and they are quite competitive with $300 desktops these days. Another amp that you want to try is the ALO National. I just took it to the local Jaben store yesterday and we paired it with a lot of different headphones, all with very good results including some hard to pair headphones like the Sony SA3000, Beyer T70, and Denon’s D2000.
      http://www.headfonia.com/the-sequel-alo-audio-the-national/

      • Reply July 4, 2012

        Isaiah Mackler

        Thanks for the response, Mike!I’ll keep an eye out for the national! As it stands right now, you don’t see me losing out on sound quality by not getting a $300 or so desktop amp over the aha-120?

        • Reply July 4, 2012

          Mike

          Yes I don’t think that a $300 desktop would be better than the AHA-120.

  • Reply July 8, 2012

    Stephen Loke

    Hey Mike,

    Would you recommend the Continental over the National for IEM? Is it worth the extra couple hundred dollars?

    Thanks.

    • Reply July 9, 2012

      Mike

      Ummm the question here is not going to be over power output, but rather the sound quality.
      The Continental is the more refined amp with much better treble, mids and soundstage. The National is more fun, to me, primarily due to the fuller bass body and impact.

  • Reply August 4, 2012

    Victor Yu

    Hi Mike, how would u compare RSA The Predator VS the RSA-71A on the amp session, also is the DAC good?

    • Reply August 4, 2012

      Mike

      Victor, I don’t think that the Predator would stand a chance to the 71A. The 71A IMO is still Ray’s best portable amp.
      The DAC, I’m not so sure since it’s quite old already.. I’d probably put my money on the newer DACs.

  • Reply August 6, 2012

    Leonard Glennaldy

    Hei mike, hv u ever tried amp named Marshall model MG15cfx? My friend’s dad wanna sold it cheap for me. But idk is it good with my Senn 598 and my Ipad2 as my Dap? Worthed or not?

    • Reply August 8, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Leonard,
      Sorry I haven’t.

  • Reply August 13, 2012

    peter baker

    I am purchasing the Sennheiser 598’s soon, and have decided on these finally (unless you have something that will blow them out of the water for a similar price) and have been looking for the best amp to pair with these headphones for under $200. I listen on my laptop as well as on my iPod, and I need something that can cater to both of these. I have been looking for a long time, and need a reply that doesn’t have ten suggestions in it. Thank you. (I listen to mainly Indie/Acoustic stuff, some rock, classic rock and a variety of other genre’s).

    • Reply August 13, 2012

      Mike

      Peter,
      How much is the Sony MA-900 in your area? I think it’s extremely good for the price that it sells here (about the same as the 598s), and I can see more people liking it than the 598.

    • Reply August 13, 2012

      Mike

      Disclaimer: I happen to be selling the MA-900 on my headphone store (though not internationally), so do check it out yourself and see if you like the MA-900.

  • Reply September 3, 2012

    nan

    hello mike, im ordering the sennheiser hd800 for my dad and im looking for a portable usb DAC/amp for him since he has most of his music on his laptop.

    what would you recommend?

    • Reply September 3, 2012

      NubTAM94

      Perhaps the Dacport LX paired with an extremely powerful mobile amp like the Continental or the L3. Assuming that your dad has the HD800, the prices of these shouldn’t be too far from his reach 🙂

      These are the best you can get for mobile amping really

    • Reply September 3, 2012

      Mike

      Nan,
      I really would’t recommend running from a portable.

      But if you must, the Matrix Mini Portable is nice. http://www.headfonia.com/the-320-portable-dacamp-matrix-mini-portable/

  • Reply September 3, 2012

    Guest

    Hello Mike, i managed to convince him out of a portable solution for the HD800. whats DAC/Amp would you recommend. I was having a look at the Burson HA-160DS, also you said u prefer tube amps with the HD800, anything u can recommend under $1000?

    • Reply September 3, 2012

      Mike

      The HD800 works incredibly well out of the Bottlehead Crack actually, just add external DAC.
      The ALO Pan Am comes with an external DAC but I’ve yet to try it with the HD800.

      • Reply September 3, 2012

        nan

        Just had a look at the Bottlehead Crack, since its a DIY its a no go. I prefer something already built, Another thing also is that the voltage requirements would not work since we use 220 v. WHhat do u think of the HD800/ Burson HA-160DS combo. Im open to any other suggestions you have

        • Reply September 3, 2012

          Mike

          I think the HD800 works best with tubes. Perhaps the ALO Pan Am, but let me try it with the HD800 first.

          • Reply September 3, 2012

            nan

            will be looking forward to ur review on that

            • Reply September 4, 2012

              Mike

              Tried the HD800 with the PanAm all afternoon today, and while it’s not as impressive as the big $5K tube amps, I think the pairing is smooth and nice. The two works quite well together, the HD800 of course best for classical and stuff like audiophile Jazz, but still the PanAm is not quite like a $3K WooAudio WA5. With the LCD-2 however the opposite is true. The PanAm is much better than the WA5.
              Will try the HE-500 tomorrow.

              • Reply September 4, 2012

                Trent_D

                If your choices were the PanAm or the Bottlehead Crack?

                • Reply September 4, 2012

                  L.

                  Value for money, the crack is pretty hard to beat imo, by any amp. Let’s see what Mike says

                  • Reply September 5, 2012

                    Mike

                    For the HD800, the Crack actually.

                    For the LCD-2 the PanAm is really hard to beat even by bigger amps.

    • Reply September 3, 2012

      Mike

      I think a few people is asking me about the PanAm + HD800 combo so I’ll make time to get some listening time.

  • Reply September 10, 2012

    Gerald Chow

    Hi Mike,

    I am what you would call a beginner at this audio appreciation stuff.

    Currently, I have a GoVibe Mini-Box 2012 Edition and am looking for an upgrade.

    I am also currently using the Audinst HUD-MX1.

    The headphones that I have are the AKG K420 and Alessandro MS1i. Planning to get either the ATH-AD700 or AD900 in the future.

    I am considering the followings;
    1) JDSLabs Cmoy
    2) Audinst AMP-HP
    3) ALO The National

    The music genres that I listen to most of the time are J-Pop, R&B, piano music and orchestra.

    Should I jump straight to the heavy-weight (The National) or start off with something light (AMP-HP)?

    Thanks for your time and advice.

    • Reply September 11, 2012

      Mike

      If you can afford it,
      Go with the National.

      It’s one of the best portables around currently.

      • Reply September 25, 2012

        Gerald Chow

        Thanks for the advice.

        I went and got The National. My wallet is still crying but my ears are enjoying every moment with The National.

        #–#

        Just a quick question; In reference to your Rule #3 for headphones, does it apply to amplifiers as well?

        I am considering to audition the Graham Slee Voyager (if Jaben SG still has one) to hear the difference between it and The National.

        I am hoping to hear what an analog and tube sound sounds like from the Voyager.

        Will having difference sets of amplifiers expand the genre bandwidth without the need for more headphones?

        Or, will having too many amplifiers be a bad thing?

        • Reply September 25, 2012

          Mike

          Enjoy the National!

          The #3 rule, I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to own more than 1 amps.. but I’ll be lying if I don’t say that one amplifier is better at one music than the next.

  • Reply September 13, 2012

    Michael Mercer

    I couldn’t stop listening to the ALO Rx Mk3 this weekend. Typically, I’ll listen to my headphone rig while writing, then go listen to the reference stereo system in the media room. Last Saturday I was so enraptured by the combo of my Audeze LCD3’s + ALO Rx Mk3 (my Ipod Touch as source, via Moon Audio’s LOD3 cable into the ALO) that I listened until the sun came up. Been a LONG time since I had an all-night sesh like that!!!!

  • Reply September 18, 2012

    Kristanto Siswanto

    Hi Mike,

    I am looking to buy portable amp + dac for my edition 8 head phone, my usual source would be from Iphone or Ipod and I travel quite a bit thus i need a compact size portable amp… could you give me some recommendation that would suit my edition 8 ?

    Thank you

    • Reply September 18, 2012

      Mike

      • Reply September 18, 2012

        Kristanto Siswanto

        Hi Mike,

        Thanks for the info, should i go with amp only or amp + sac? sorry this question might sound silly but i am a newbie in this stuff.

        So Fostex HP-P1 not too large to carry around or travelling? or does a cheaper amp like JDSLabs CmoyyBB would do good when paired with Edition 8?

        Thank you again

        • Reply September 18, 2012

          Mike

          Kris,
          I suggest you spend a little time reading the articles, that would give you a better idea of what to get.

          • Reply September 18, 2012

            Kristanto Siswanto

            Mike, I read so many articles and get more confused 🙁 thats why i just wanted to know what is a good amp + dac to have for edition 8, thanks for your input

            • Reply September 18, 2012

              Mike

              If you’ve narrowed down your choice to the Fostex HP-P1 and the JDSLabs Cmoy, then I can tell you easily that the Fostex is the better product and the price reflects it too.

            • Reply September 18, 2012

              Nick Tam

              Assuming that you want the Fostex HP-P1 mainly because you have an iDevice, then go for it. With other mobile amps, you’re amping the signal from the iDevice’s analogue out processed by it’s onboard DAC chip. You should really read the “source recommendations” and FAQ sections first.

  • Reply October 13, 2012

    Su Inspire

    Hi Mike, I am thinking to get a local made Objective 2 amp,I am recently listening to vocal sound,is the o2 amp fullfill my need? and listen to some of the violin as well. Thanks.

    • Reply October 13, 2012

      Mike

      Best audition it yourself?

  • Reply October 25, 2012

    Alan Tan

    Yo Mike,
    Im looking for a headamp that is small, has enough power for beyerdynamic 250 ohm can, and does not run off batteries or need recharging, currently my dac using dacport LX, so something that can reflect sound of the wonderful beyer will be great.. not much budget around, USD 200 tops (i think)

    • Reply October 25, 2012

      Mike

      Should be pretty easy these days to find an amp that can power the 250Ω Beyers. If you get the standard Dacport with the amplifier, that would do. There are so many choices out there. The difficulty is finding a desktop amp (that’s what you want, right) under USD$200.

      • Reply October 25, 2012

        Alan Tan

        actually the thing i want is just an amp that needs not recharging, and is small for my small table

        • Reply October 25, 2012

          Nick Tam

          … so a desktop amp? I don’t recall desktop amps running off batteries (except for the Pan Am)

          • Reply October 25, 2012

            Alan Tan

            actually any size amp will do, just want it small and cable powered, has power for 250 ohm beyer, worth around or below usd 200

        • Reply October 25, 2012

          Mike

          Actually the Cmoy for $60, add in a power adapter and you’re all set. No need to go to $200. For a “real” desktop amp, the cheapest I can recommend is the Asgard and that’s a bit over $200. You can find some desktop amps for less than $200 on eBay but I’m not so sure of their quality.

          • Reply October 25, 2012

            Alan Tan

            funny thing is i used to have the cmoy from jdslabs.. 😀 time for a return trip to jds? alternatives? maybe the highly debated o2? it can run without batteries, right?

            • Reply October 25, 2012

              Mike

              The O2 would do too. If you plug in the AC adapter then it shouldn’t matter if you have batteries or not, in effect it’ll be a “desktop” amp.

              • Reply October 26, 2012

                Alan Tan

                what are the sound character of an o2? very transparent? not much colouring to music?

                • Reply October 27, 2012

                  Mike

                  Yes very transparent for the price.

  • Reply November 21, 2012

    sling5s

    Was the Violectric v200 a consideration for desktop recommendation. Maybe over or instead Burson HA-160? Any reason you picked the Burson over Violectric v200

    • Reply November 21, 2012

      L.

      I Choose the Violectric over the V200 because of the warmer sound and bass. The Burson is very nice too but is more neutral sounding and doesn’t have the bass impact of the Violectric. I think we hadn’t test it when we recommended the Burson. In my personal opinion both are recommended depending on your preference in sound sig.

      We should probably do another update to all these pages Mike 🙂

      • Reply November 22, 2012

        Vern

        Perhaps the DAC portion makes a difference… but having owned the Burson HA-(160D) before I got my V200, I thought the complete opposite about how L described the bass impact of these two amps. I think the bass impact was greater on the HA-160D, but the V200 bass definitely sounds more refined (likely due to its warm nature). The HA-160D also had a much shorter decay.
        I think you guys should do a side by side comparison of the HA-160D vs. the V200 with the Planar Magnetics… The difference in sound quality is not subtle, in favor of the V200 😛

        • Reply November 22, 2012

          Mike

          I don’t know about the V200 but the way you compare the Burson’s bass is spot on IMO.

        • Reply November 22, 2012

          L.

          And I stick to my point about the Burson bass impact compared to the V200 on the LCD2. I’ve listened to the Burson several times, even last sunday and each time that’s my conclusion. The Dac part I didn’t use as a matter of fact. Anyhoo, V200 is best if you prefer a warmer sound.

  • Reply November 21, 2012

    sling5s

    Thanks. I knew your preference for warmer would make you choose Violectric over Burson. Have you compared the Mjolnir or Pan Am with Violectric v200? I’m assuming the Mjolnir would not suit your taste but you guys seem to love the Pan Am. Hoping your favorite is still the violectric v200.

    • Reply November 22, 2012

      L.

      I was listening to the Pan Am last sunday. Also a good amp, very clear and light sounding. To me missing some body ans bass slam, but an awesome result from such a tiny device

  • Reply December 23, 2012

    fsgb80v7cbwe

    Great website…

    please visit the sites we follow, including this one, as it represents our picks from the web…

  • Reply January 8, 2013

    Regis

    Hello there, I have ultrasone edition 8 cans and would like to know what amp you would recommend for them. Im currently looking at either the o2, c421 or the schiit asgard.
    Thank you.

  • Reply February 7, 2013

    John123John

    Hey guys,
    I just received an opportunity to audition the He-500 and Audeze LCD-2 only to realize i dont really have high end amps. well…
    I currently have the Bottlehead Crack, CMoyBB(DIY) and the Audioengine D1. Is this sufficient or would i need to get something else.
    If the latter, what would you recommend on a budget?

    • Reply February 7, 2013

      Trent_D

      Well, the Fiio e11 or e12 would be able to drive them. The Schiit asgard should be decent. I know the Crack won’t drive them, and even if the cMoy is modified for higher current, I don’t know if that would be enough.

      • Reply February 7, 2013

        L.

        Honestly I wouldn’t even go for the E11 or e12

        • Reply February 7, 2013

          John123John

          fudge…..
          How about the Fiio e9k? Honestly, im probably going to return the amp after im done using it.. im a horrible person
          Actually what about an O2?

          looking for something around… $150 max.
          Thanks guys.

          • Reply February 7, 2013

            Trent_D

            Well, in Mike’s review, he said the e12 could drive the HE-6, which is maybe the hardest headphone there is to drive.. As a result, it should have no problem driving the he-500 or the lcd-2, but I can’t guaranty it will be a good pairing.

            • Reply February 10, 2013

              John123John

              “Strangely though it powers the Audez’e LCD-2 and Fostex T50RP (and its derivatives like the Mad Dog headphone) just fine, I didn’t feel the synergy to be there.”
              Turn off….

              • Reply February 10, 2013

                dalethorn

                It sure sounds like a power issue mainly. Wouldn’t a medium priced amp like the Schiit Lyr be better, with the extra power it has?

          • Reply February 8, 2013

            Mike

            It’s not the ideal HE-500 or LCD-2 amp but the E9K can drive the two yes.

            • Reply February 10, 2013

              John123John

              Okay I basically reread all the amp reviews from the $100 to $300 range and it seems like none of them can really bring out the potential of the he-500 and lcd-2…. sad day.

              Im looking at the e07/e09 combo, e11, e17, e17,e09 combo, c421 and maybe the audinst mx1. The butte too but i cant find it anywhere…

              Mike, could i get your impressions of the orthos on the e17 and mx1 and and your opinions of the amp choices.
              Sorry im being annoying.

              • Reply February 10, 2013

                Trent_D

                Try the Asgard?

      • Reply February 7, 2013

        John123John

        I had the asgard! and i liked it!
        not sure why i got rid of it…

  • Reply February 10, 2013

    Remus

    Mike, I really think that you should spend some time to update the buyers guide section. It seems really outdated , especially the amp section since you have reviewed many amps recently. I would very much like to see amps you like alot like the apex glacier and national/continental being updated onto the recommendation list. Just a suggestion to make headfonia a better and more informative read(:

    • Reply February 22, 2013

      L.

      You’re right but it’s a question of “having time”

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    Mirela Anghel

    Hi there! My husband is a professor and he lately had a major surgery at this vocal cords. He is still teaching, though he cannot be heard that much. Could you please help me and recommend a set of microphone and amplifier that are portable and easy to use. I mostly appreciate.

    • Reply February 22, 2013

      L.

      Hi Mirela, I’m afraid we don’t have much experience with microphones and their amplifiers. We focus on headphones and their amplification, a whole different thing. Good luck with your search!

    • Reply February 23, 2013

      Sam Pascoe

      Depends on your price range. I would recommend a countryman e6 omni, for the mic. There are cheaper options though.

  • Reply April 1, 2013

    Damián Bonadonna

    Hi Mike,

    My next step is to get a desktop Amp + DAC, I want an all in one solution cause I basically hate cables… it must have USB input and I would like to use it with some speakers later.

    What do you recommend for SRH1840 and future HD650, HE400/HE500 and maybe some 2 channel speaker setup. I don’t really know price range now, I guess something around 1K, but I would like to know all the options in a kind of rating. If it really justifies to expend more maybe I would.

    Thanks as always.

    • Reply April 1, 2013

      Mike

      The Burson Conductor is the best along all the all in ones I’ve tried.
      Including
      Grace m902, Benchmark, Lavry, and a few others.

      • Reply April 1, 2013

        Damián Bonadonna

        Have you tried the Grace m903 or Benchmark D2? 1800 USD is a big step from my current set up.. so I really need to nail on this :). Some other guy recommended the V200 with the USB option.. but it seems a little rustic to me.

        • Reply April 2, 2013

          Mike

          Sorry haven’t tried either. While the Grace should have a much more improved DAC over the predecessor, the amplifier section is IMHO inferior to the Burson.

  • Reply April 21, 2013

    JamesLoh

    Hi Mike, I would get my new Philips Fidelio X1 in coming weeks, my current headphone amp is Fiio E10, I would like to upgrade my amp, any recommendation?

    • Reply April 25, 2013

      Mike

      The Fiio E7K and E9K combo is great for the X1

  • Reply May 10, 2013

    Eli Segal

    Hi

    Is it possible that the C421 feels warmer and fuller than the SR-71A
    (I just got it last week)

    • Reply May 10, 2013

      L.

      That sounds about correct from what I’ve read about the SR-71A. Mind that the C421 is no longer being sold as it’s been replaced by the C5

      • Reply May 10, 2013

        Eli Segal

        I thought it should be warmer as it supposed to have a better bass impact and a darker sound rsa is known for

        • Reply May 10, 2013

          Mike

          They’re both just as warm

  • Reply June 4, 2013

    John123John

    Hey Mike,
    This pertains to a bit older stuff but Butte or M-Stage Matrix? I listen to a wide variety of music (Rock, Jazz, Hip hop, EDM) as well at shows and movies. Current headphones are HD650 (might sell *gasp*), Momentum, DT880. Might get something new but not really important.

    Maybe a pros and cons list or something of the sort.
    Thanks,

  • Reply June 7, 2013

    Yongky

    Hi Mike, can u suggest an desktop/portable amp that similar character with RSA SR-71A?of course with internal charging. or maybe u had sumtin in mind?Im looking for strong bass impact (tight and punchy, not boomy), fast paced, realistic and good treble.

    • Reply June 7, 2013

      Mike

      Intruder. Was just listening to the two this afternoon

      • Reply June 7, 2013

        Yongky

        sorry i forgot to mention the price range, maybe around the same price with alo rxmk3. more than that will be out of budget.

        what’s the difference between SR-71A and intruder?i heard that intruder is mellow and slow paced?

        • Reply June 8, 2013

          Yongky

          mike, how about alo international?more closer character to SR71A or u still defend the intruder?

          • Reply June 9, 2013

            Dave Ulrich

            Have you read the International review? They are compared.

          • Reply June 11, 2013

            Mike

            The Intruder, 71A, and International are all relatively dark. We just did a comparison last week and I thought that the Intruder has the smoothest sound with the weightiest lows and that’s probably the modern equivalent of the 71A. The International however is extremely popular with the local crowd at the moment as it handles different headphones and different genres beautifully.

            • Reply June 19, 2013

              Eli Segal

              How is the intruder compared with PanAm for HD650?
              which would be a better combination?

              • Reply June 19, 2013

                Mike

                I like it better with the Intruder

                • Reply June 19, 2013

                  Eli Segal

                  Including the DAC?

                  • Reply June 19, 2013

                    Mike

                    The PanAm DAC is better but overall the synergy with thr Intruder is better

                    • June 20, 2013

                      Eli Segal

                      I’ve read in head-fi that there’s some imbalance when using the SE output. Did you notice something like that?

                    • June 20, 2013

                      Mike

                      Nope. No problems with IEMs too

    • Reply June 7, 2013

      Mike

      And your wallet wished you never asked that question ;p

  • Reply June 10, 2013

    HZE

    Hi Mike, after I read your review on ALO Panam,I got an impression that it is the best amp for LCD-2 that you have ever heard so far. So, is the Panam better than beta22 when paired with LCD-2?

    • Reply June 11, 2013

      Mike

      The last time I compared the Beta22 was to the Burson HA-160 which I felt is a slightly better amp for the LCD-2 than the Beta.
      Interestingly the PanAm beats the Burson Soloist (I don’t have the HA-160 around anymore) not only in things like midrange quality which tubes always have an advantage on but also dynamics and soundstage.
      Now recently some local friends and also Lieven are saying that the Vio V200 is a better LCD2 amp and though I don’t agree to that statement, you may want to check out the Vio as well. The Vio has a bigger soundstage and fuller bass but the midrange and soundstage image is fuzzier, the sound less clean and less clear, and the soundstage depth is shallower — plus minus in all.

      • Reply June 11, 2013

        HZE

        I will try to audition them when I have a chance. Thank you for you recommendation.
        I love this site 🙂

        • Reply June 11, 2013

          Mike

          You’re welcome 🙂

          • Reply June 11, 2013

            HZE

            With all of the high end amp that you have tried, can we say that the pan am can be near “end game” for LCD-2?

            • Reply June 11, 2013

              Mike

              I can’t quite say that since there are tons of $2K++ amps I haven’t tried. The formula with ALO and Audez’e have been working quite successfully, however, with people now saying that ALO amps are naturally good performer for Audez’e headphones (I understand the two are working quite closely together). For a $1K price bracket, however, the PanAm is a very strong recommendation.

              • Reply June 11, 2013

                L.

                So far I stick to the Violectric ss amps myself for the LCD-s. the Pan Am was good but not my sound. Shows again audio is personal 🙂

                • Reply June 11, 2013

                  HZE

                  The sound that I want is good separation and layering with full midrange and great bass slam, a bit more air is also appreciated.
                  From the review here, both of the Panam with mullard tube and V200 have the characteristic that I want. That is why I can’t decide between those two.
                  But which one has better based on the sound that I want above?
                  And unfortunately there is no place to audition around here.

                  I read somewhere that Apex Peak also works great with LCD-2. Is the Panam/Vio better than the Peak?

  • Reply June 18, 2013

    Reus

    Hi Mike, I’ve a question: does the source matter when it’s connected with amp and dac? Sooner or later I’ll probably buy an amp and dac so I want to know if there will be any difference between listening from laptop or from dap.

    • Reply June 19, 2013

      Dave Ulrich

      Yes, the source makes a difference.

    • Reply June 19, 2013

      Mike

      Yes transport quality makes a difference

  • Reply August 1, 2013

    Aakshey

    Hi Mike,

    I have a question. Between Matrix M Stage and Asgard 2, which is the better one? Especially as a preamp? Particularly for mids and clean/transparent sound? What are the pros and cons of each against each other? And how do these two compare to Lyr?

    Thanks in advance

    Aakshey

    • Reply August 2, 2013

      Mike

      Hi Aakshey,
      I think the M Stage is a better amp than the original Asgard, but I haven’t listened to the Asgard 2 as Dave did that review. Also I was using the M Stage mostly as a headphone amp and never as a preamp.
      If you want clean mids and transparent sound you’ll be better off with tubes even $300 ones tend to have a cleaner mid and more transparent than solid state equivalents. The solid states win in bass usually.

      • Reply August 2, 2013

        Aakshey

        And how does Marrix Mstage compare to Lyr?

        • Reply August 3, 2013

          Mike

          The MStage is darker, more grainy. Lyr brighter, cleaner.

          • Reply August 3, 2013

            Aakshey

            Could you please just answer this question.

            Between, Asgard 1 or 2, and Matrix M Stage: Which is more transparent and clean and clear sounding?

            • Reply August 3, 2013

              Mike

              Asgard 1 vs mstage: a bit more transparent on the M Stage. Just a bit.
              Asgard 2: haven’t heard

              • Reply August 17, 2013

                Aakshey

                All the comparisons and differences you told me so far:
                Did you compare the first lot Asgard 1 to Matrix? Or did you compare the revised lot of Asgard 1 to the Matrix? Because I hear there is a big difference between the two.

                • Reply August 19, 2013

                  Mike

                  The two versions of the Asgards are still roughly in the same “camp” in terms of sound to the Matrix so the comparison would still apply.

  • Reply August 11, 2013

    Joe Sandoval

    Hello Mike, I really need help. I am in process of upgrading my HTC smartphone to a portable DAP. I only use IEM and pico slim. I’m new to HiFi and don’t know about better options. I want to construct a portable rig with Awesome sound. Please help. Budget is under 500.00 USD.
    Joe Sandoval

    • Reply August 11, 2013

      dalethorn

      As a long time user of Apple 64 gb DAPs, I didn’t find anything satisfactory to me less than the A-K 100 or 120. That’s because my Apple player with 44k WAV tracks sounds great, and adding a DAC like the Verza makes it even better. You might find one of the HiFiMan players will work OK for you, but you’ll struggle with memory, and the sound will not be as good as a small cheap netbook computer with Dragonfly, Microstreamer etc. DAC/amp. If high quality DAPs were selling in large numbers it wouldn’t be so bad, but they’re not being made en masse so the price for a reasonable data capacty is $1000 or more.

    • Reply August 12, 2013

      Mike

      Joe the AK100 is the best selling player in my store and people seems to like it very much.

      Personally I think the HM60x players are still competitive in terms of SQ and even sounds more analog to my ears but people like the AK100 for their build, touch screen, overall qualities of the player.

  • Reply August 11, 2013

    Joe Sandoval

    Thanks Dale, I have been eyeing the AK100 , I was kind of skeptical about its sq, I think I just might shell out the the extra loot for their AK100.

  • Reply August 16, 2013

    Bradford

    I have the HD 650s. I really hear so many great things about the Bottlehead Crack
    pairing well with it. It’s just so big! In addition, I’d need to buy an DAC.
    How much of a difference in sound is there between the JDS Labs C5 and
    the Bottlehead Crack for the HD650’s? You are welcome to email privately as well.

    • Reply August 16, 2013

      L.

      Huge difference. Tubes vs portable ss. I suggest reading our reviews about the C5, the Carck and the HD650 from Dave, I think you’ld get a good idea 🙂

      • Reply August 16, 2013

        Dave Ulrich

        I don’t remember reviewing the Carck… 😉

    • Reply August 16, 2013

      Dave Ulrich

      Wouldn’t you need a DAC for the C5 as well?

      • Reply August 16, 2013

        Bradford

        What DAC should I get for this combo? I’ll mainly be playing it from USB source.

        • Reply August 16, 2013

          Dave Ulrich

          Well, L says the e10 is a very enjoyable combo with the Crack. Mike has said he thinks the e7k is Fiio’s best DAC, so that might be worth a look. I like a really clean sounding DAC with the Crack (or everything really), so I recommend the Dacport LX. I tried the MS2+ the other day and wasn’t really impressed with it. The Dacport retails for 250 from Centrence.

  • Reply August 21, 2013

    Steven

    Mike, get your hands on the Pico Power and review it!

    • Reply August 21, 2013

      Mike

      I do have one on the store. Not liking the sound. Forward but harsh mids and congested on the middle. Very solid state, very dry. I really rather not write a review on it.

      • Reply August 21, 2013

        Steven

        Is that a specific comparison or in general based upon your vast experience,

        or a matter of system synergy?

        I have the Pico Power but do not worry, not seeking validation or anything :p
        Am pairing PP with the Clas -dB. Find the PP to be neutral / un-coloured. Bass is clean and tight.

        Am *considering* picking up the Alo MK3B+ just for the hell of it, but down the line when my wallet recovers. Originally demoed the -dB and MK3B together and was wowed. But got distracted by the PP…

        • Reply August 22, 2013

          Mike

          I tried it with a few set ups, I don’t know, I don’t like the sound. Glad you’re enjoying it though, that’s all that matters.

  • Reply August 26, 2013

    Guest

    Hi Mike do you do export of the ALO Six to Singapore ? Please guide me. Tks.

  • Reply August 30, 2013

    Nikola Matečić

    Hi, could you give some advice for picking some portable amp or amp/dac combo for Shure se535ltd for using with ipod classic? thx

    • Reply August 30, 2013

      Mike

      Nikola,
      I don’t spend too much time with the SE535LTD but in general my experience with IEMs is that they rarely need amping and that you’ll be better off upgrading your source.

  • Reply September 21, 2013

    Steven

    Mike, do you know anything about Orb Jade to go portable amp?: http://www.orb-audio.jp/english/collection2.htm

    Was researching Just Audio AHA-120 and stumbled across a UK website selling only Orb and JH portable amps…

    • Reply September 21, 2013

      Mike

      I tried those. Pretty good warm sound. It’s an easy to enjoy sound. Soft and relaxed.

      • Reply September 22, 2013

        Steven

        Guess I have to go on a site visit and demo the Orb Jade to go and AHA-120 then!

        How do you expect synergy with Clas -dB -> [the above two] -> Senn HD600?

        • Reply September 24, 2013

          Mike

          I think either amp pairs well with the HD600.

  • Reply October 31, 2013

    John Junior

    What warm sounding amp would you suggested within O2 amp price? My Aune T1 + HD 600 can be too bright sometime and I read
    that the amp is the culprit. Thinking of changing to warmer one. Change
    tube, or get amp?

    • Reply October 31, 2013

      L.

      Something from Fiio like the E12, JDSlabs C421 or C5. Not the O2 😉

      • Reply October 31, 2013

        John Junior

        May I know why C421 or C5 sir?

        • Reply October 31, 2013

          L.

          Cause they’re good and dark like a Senn needs 😉
          Read the reviews 🙂

          • Reply October 31, 2013

            John Junior

            Well, after reading some review I’d been a bit confuse between those 3 JDS. How about Shonyun 306a? Or still those JDS are better?

            BTW, both C421 and C5 sound and looks good. But which one would be the best paired with HD600?

            • Reply November 1, 2013

              L.

              I’d go for the C421. No idea about he Shonyun

              • Reply November 1, 2013

                Mike

                C421 is in production again?

                • Reply November 2, 2013

                  John Junior

                  I thought replaced by C5 right? And only used unit available?

    • Reply November 1, 2013

      Mike

      The Fiio E09K is a good amp

      • Reply November 1, 2013

        John Junior

        Thanks… Will make consideration. Ever tried Little Dot MK III?

  • Reply November 1, 2013

    Kukuh Setiadi

    What dac/amp would you guys suggested for Sony SA3000, price range about $200 and can be found on local store(Indonesia) ?
    SA3000 is a bright sounding headphone and I want just a little more bass and more warmer mid (not as bright/thin)
    many thanks 🙂

    • Reply November 1, 2013

      Mike

      Budget?

    • Reply November 1, 2013

      Mike

      Or you can get the MA900 it really is a warmer SA3000 with better bass and more accurate timbre

      • Reply November 1, 2013

        Kukuh Setiadi

        so do you suggest me to change the cans? I like SA3000, its very comfortable to wear. I never heard Sony MA900. My budget is about $200, and I can find dacport (dac/amp) 2nd hand for $180 🙂

        • Reply November 1, 2013

          Mike

          I don’t think the Dacport pairs nice with the Sony.

          And yes the MA900 is even more comfortable. I sold both MA900 and SA3000 at my previous store.

          • Reply November 2, 2013

            kuse

            oh maybe it will make SA3000 too bright?

            how about topping d1 mk2, i read on the review that it has good bass?
            or maybe schiit asgard?

      • Reply November 1, 2013

        Kukuh Setiadi

        mike, what do you think about pairing SA3000 with topping D1 mk2?

  • Reply November 5, 2013

    Mester Mink

    I need a desktop amp for my phillips x1, i’m listening to rap/hiphop, dance and a little pop so a little bass boost will be fine. I was looking at the fiio 10. Do you have amy suggestions? my price range is 300 at the max

    • Reply November 6, 2013

      Mike

      Mester, do you think you can up the budget for the E09K? It’s a much better desktop amp than the E10.

  • Reply December 12, 2013

    Michael

    Are there any portable amps that are really going to made the Audeze LCD-2s sound their best for under $400? If not I’m willing to go with a desktop amp. Buying used is an option too so I could maybe get something that usually costs over $400 for a little less.

    • Reply December 12, 2013

      dalethorn

      What will the amp (also DAC?) be connected to on the source end?

      • Reply December 12, 2013

        Michael

        My computer or, if I get a portable amp, my iPhone as well. Should I get an dedicated soundcard as well? My motherboard has a soundcard but I know it’s not as good as a dedicated one.

        • Reply December 13, 2013

          dalethorn

          For the computer I’d suggest an external DAC and headphone amp together in one enclosure, to eliminate cables and connectors and wiring. Whether that DAC could also service the iPhone, that narrows the choices since Apple licenses the USB data and just a few manufacturers buy it. Portable amps have a possible advantage in sound insofar as there is no AC transformer or line noise etc. So if it were me I’d take a long look at the Theorem 720, and maybe up the budget if necessary.

    • Reply December 13, 2013

      Mike

      Under $400, try the ALO National

      • Reply December 17, 2013

        Michael

        If I upped it to like $550 could I get anything substantially better?

        • Reply December 17, 2013

          L.

          see above, there’s a 15% discount now on aloaudio.com

      • Reply December 17, 2013

        L.

        Best portable amps to me still is the ALO RX MK3 (which now is $551.65), and the Theorem. maybe the new Cypherlabs Duet will be awesome, I’ll find out in a few days but it’s a bit more expensive

  • Reply December 18, 2013

    Guest

    Mike-I’m looking for a couple of amp/dac recommendations. First, I’m looking portable AMP to use with my Fostex TH600s around the house. My source is an iPod Classic with ALAC files. I have narrowed my choice down to either the Fostex HP-P1 or the CEntrance HIFI-M8. Which would you recommend? Second, I’m looking for an inexpensive and highly portable USB DAC/headphone amp to use with my Macbook Pro and Mac Mini with high res 24/96 ALAC and FLAC files. Was thinking of either the Audioquest Dragonfly, AudioEngine D3 or CEntrance DacPort. Any recommendations (would use the TH600s with this setup as well as my Westone ES2 Customs). Thanks.

    • Reply December 18, 2013

      Dave Ulrich

      As seems to be the rage, maybe try the Cypher Labs Theorem. It works as a high quality USB dac and has a good built in am. It also works as a Dac/amp for ipods.

    • Reply December 18, 2013

      Mike

      1. HP-P1 or M8. The M8, though I am not a fan of it. It should handle the TH600 with plenty of power left. 2. I haven’t spent enough time with the D3 or the Dragonfly, sorry.

      • Reply December 18, 2013

        Richard Zeddun

        Thanks for the input everyone. May have to look at the Theorem too. I’m open to other portable USB DAC Headphone Amp combos for the th600s too so long as self powered for using around the house or traveling. So if you have any other recommendations besides what I mentioned I’d love to hear them.

  • Reply January 12, 2014

    Matthew

    Hi, super helpful article/website. I’m looking to buy a good Amp/DAC to use with an iPhone and my HD600 headphones. Source files are usually compressed AAC. Two choices are the new Sony PHA-2 (can get sent from Japan via eBay) or the Versa VAMP. Both about $600. Any thoughts between the two? Other contenders I should consider? Thank you!

    • Reply January 12, 2014

      dalethorn

      I had the v-moda Verza for a few months, and sent it off to Marcus in the Philippines, so you could google him and see if he’s reported on it yet. I wrote a favorable review but it doesn’t say much about the sound except that it’s about as good as you’ll get with CD quality tracks (which isn’t bad). I’m not familiar with the Sony, but if I were looking beyond the Verza, I would take a very long look at the Theorem 720 (and then promptly buy it).

    • Reply January 13, 2014

      Mike

      The VAMP is better.

      The PHA-2 is still a hit and miss IMO.

      • Reply January 14, 2014

        Matthew

        Thanks for your response. I see others here recommend the Theorem, but that is way too big for my needs. The only other contender is the Fostex HP-P1, but that also is not as slim/sleek as the VAMP. Do you still recommend the VAMP over the Fostex?

        • Reply January 14, 2014

          dalethorn

          I had the Verza. I wish I had the Theorem instead.

        • Reply January 14, 2014

          Mike

          Ignoring size, the Theorem is currently my #1 preference. The Vamp is a close second.

    • Reply January 13, 2014

      L.

      I can’t say it enough: Cypher Labs Theorem!

  • Reply January 22, 2014

    Diego

    Hey Mike, great and informative website. I bought myself now the first expensive iem (westone 4r) and I search now a portable amp. I will use it also for my desk. So I read all your reviews and now I have the problem that I stay where I began. I searching something between around 400$. I listen any kind of music, but most hiphop. I hope you can help!

    Best regards from n’ keep it up!

    • Reply January 23, 2014

      L.

      I can fully recommend the Duet as well

    • Reply January 30, 2014

      Mike

      Hi Diego,
      With IEMs, a better source is what I’ll go for first.

  • Reply February 5, 2014

    Roey

    Mike, need your expertise on running the He-6 from an vintage amp via speaker taps. Which one would you recommend, Marantz or Pioneer? Also, where in Jakarta would you recommend I can get a vintage amp repaired or check-out before plugging in speakers/headphones into them.

  • Reply February 6, 2014

    STARSTERN

    which amp that been reviewed here would be closest to the quality sound wise of this amp HEADAMP GS-XMK2 ?

    • Reply February 6, 2014

      Mike

      Sorry I have no idea.

  • Reply February 6, 2014

    Raskoln

    Hi, can you recommend an amp, desktop or portable, to pair with Senn 598s? Very wide listening tastes.

    • Reply February 7, 2014

      Raskoln

      Recommend Audinst HP or Fiio E12 for above?

      • Reply February 7, 2014

        Mike

        The Audinst

        • Reply February 7, 2014

          Raskoln

          Thanks.

  • Reply February 21, 2014

    Gabriel

    Hello!
    I have a Sony MDR-X10 (among others), Sony Xperia Z Ultra and a FiiO E11. I do not need portability so I am looking into a better amp at no more than $150..maybe the Little Dot I+, or the Magni or maybe you have another suggestion?
    Thanks!

    One thing that concerns me is the Bass Boost of the FiiO as I like to use that since the sound from my phone seems to lack bass on some songs.

  • Reply March 7, 2014

    Vishal Singh

    I have read your several reviews and I know your are not a big fan of diymod. However, I have got one and I want your help in buying an amp which will complement my diymod well. I have Arrow 3G but it does not go well with the diymod. Help please.

    • Reply March 7, 2014

      L.

      I have no clue concerning the imod (diymod), sorry

      • Reply March 7, 2014

        Vishal Singh

        Its just an imod with blackgate capped lod. It has abundant bass in them as it is and adding arrow 3g with it just makes it to bass heavy and to dark for my taste.

        • Reply March 7, 2014

          L.

          Arrow 3G is a good amp though. In that case get a nice neutral amplifier? Or one with adjustable bass like the JDSlabs C5

          • Reply March 7, 2014

            Vishal Singh

            I was wondering that myself. Thanks.

  • Reply April 29, 2014

    Tommy

    Mike & Lieven, what do you think is the most neutral portable amp under $200? If possible it also have great technicalities as well..

    • Reply April 29, 2014

      L.

      do you consider the O2 to be portable?

      • Reply April 30, 2014

        Tommy

        Nope.. I prefer smaller size, pocket size.. Even better if it under $100..

        • Reply April 30, 2014

          L.

          under $100? I’m not very much familiar in that price range I’m afraid.

        • Reply April 30, 2014

          dalethorn

          FiiO E07k – excellent sound and under $100.

  • Reply May 19, 2014

    Giacomo

    hi there!im looking for an headphone (fidelio x1) amp to connect to my asus xonar dx (used as a dac)…any advise? around 100/150 $ thanks 😉

    • Reply May 19, 2014

      dalethorn

      For under $100 USD, the FiiO E07k (amp only) or the PA2V2 would be good. Above $100 but under $150 the O2 (assembled) is good. I don’t know of any amp only (no DAC) above $150 that’s better until it gets to almost $400.

      • Reply May 19, 2014

        Giacomo

        many thanks for reply! i already read only good things on the O2…but compared to schiit magni which is better? but you mean fiio e09k? i was thinking that 07 is a dac (sorry for my english anyway 🙂 )

        • Reply May 19, 2014

          dalethorn

          I don’t know, but the Magni review on Headfonia describes it well, and the Amazon price is good, so maybe check the review and see what you think.

          • Reply June 27, 2014

            Alton Britt

            Dalethorn—recently received fiio e11 and fiio e07k, both of which sounded great, but each had a connection short or similar problem which shorted out sound in right ear-cup of HF. Jiggling the cords made sound on right come and go. Bothe can be returned, but what should I get? Should I get both replaced, get the fiio e17, or perhaps go with the schiit magni or vali/modi combination. Trying to stay under $250 or so! What advantage does a yube amp give?

            • Reply June 27, 2014

              Dave Ulrich

              sounds more like a headphone problem. You sure the problem was with the amp?

              • Reply June 27, 2014

                Alton Britt

                I was mainly using the Beyer DT 990Pro, but I’ll try it with others. When I jiggle the cords, the right-side sound is in and out. I really appreciate your response; you guys are awesome!!

                • Reply June 28, 2014

                  dalethorn

                  Yeah, like Dave said – unlikely both amps would have the same very unusual problem.

  • Reply July 3, 2014

    Tsuneharu Renji

    Hello there! Recently i just bought a Sennheiser HD 8 DJ headphone and
    currently looking a better amp that gives a good detail sound or a
    little flat and portables from these brand like Fiio E17k or the Hippo
    cri cri + (Price range = $150<) . I couldn't decide on which one
    should i get and can you give a thought about it or suggest a better
    amp? Thnks..cheers~

    • Reply July 3, 2014

      dalethorn

      I would choose the E17, to get the most power and flexibility.

      • Reply July 3, 2014

        Tsuneharu Renji

        thnks @dalethorn:disqus!! now i can buy with confidence~ cheers~

  • Reply August 21, 2014

    john doe

    hi. I just bought the hifiman 500s and can’t afford a quality headphone amplifier at this time. how much am I losing by using the headphone jack on my home stero amp. it sounds pretty good to my untrained ears

    • Reply August 21, 2014

      L.

      I don’t know how your stereo amp sounds so that’s hard to tell. there are some really good stereo integrated old school receivers but a fair bet would be you’re not getting the best of of it

      • Reply August 21, 2014

        john doe

        thanks for your reply. time to start saving my pennies!

  • Reply August 26, 2014

    SoundEskimoo

    WA6 … is the synergy good enough for Sennheiser HD650?

    • Reply August 26, 2014

      L.

      Are you playing me man? I replied to your eskimo account more than enough. We don’t think the 6 is a good match as its no OTL. you just refuse to see that it seems 🙁

  • Reply September 10, 2014

    Yuri Sirotin

    Mike, L, I asked for advice for relatively budget amplifier for HE-500 in comments for Fiio E11K. I thought it’s better to move my question here.
    Do you think that Duet, Theorem or Solo SRG II would suit HE-500 better than Lyr or EF-5
    (with OP627 mod), despite the huge gap in power at the comparable price?
    What about the highly praised Geek Out 1000 or cheaper iFi iDSD micro?
    I listen
    mostly to EDM, pop and rock music. So I prefer a little punchier than
    flat bass (not a bass head though), thus aggressiveness of Burson or something similar may
    come in handy.

    • Reply September 10, 2014

      L.

      I’m not a fan of the LYR. I haven’t heard the ifi yet. Duet and Theorem do really good with the HE500

  • Reply October 8, 2014

    Toby

    Hey guys! Just got a pair of LCD-2s and I have one question. What would be the best all-in-one amp/dac for it under the $1,000 price range? I heard the Resonessence Labs Concero HP is pretty good.

  • Reply October 10, 2014

    Dan

    Hello! I have a question on the Amp/Dac I should use with my headphones (Audio-Technica ATH-m50’s, and Shure SE353). I am interested in the iFi ican Micro. What are your thoughts on the amp/dac I should use?

    • Reply October 10, 2014

      dalethorn

      What devices and/or computers would the amp be used with?

      • Reply October 10, 2014

        Dan

        Well it all depends.. If the “perfect” amp is portable, than I may use it on my iPad, and/or iPhone. Other than that, the amp will be stationary hooked up to my computer. If the amp is a desktop amp, then I will only be using it with my computer.

        • Reply October 10, 2014

          dalethorn

          I see that the iFi Nano iDSD works with iPhones etc. and computers also. There may be others as well.

    • Reply October 10, 2014

      Headfonia_L.

      I was pleasantly surprised with the ifi performance and sound. Micro iDSD review coming up over the next few months. Very clear sound, good detail, power. Maybe a bit dry sounding but really good

      • Reply October 12, 2014

        Marc

        If only the amp section sounded more fluid… I find the DAC to be superb.

        • Reply October 12, 2014

          Headfonia_L.

          Exactly. but some people prefer the dryer sound

          • Reply October 12, 2014

            Marc

            I guess the synergy of both DAC and amp could be considered neutral, theoretically the best of both worlds. It’s an all rounder/jack-of-all-trades kind of sound.

            Can’t wait for the review, Lieven!!

          • Reply October 20, 2014

            Marc

            I’m hearing great things about the LCD-XC/Micro iDSD pairing’s performance. In the local forum here, this pairing was chosen over and enjoyed more than the LCD-XC/Chord Hugo pairing.

            This is a suggestion in case you haven’t tried the combination!!

            • Reply October 20, 2014

              Headfonia_L.

              Oh I have, but I can say I fully prefer the Hugo pairing wih the XC

          • Reply October 20, 2014

            Marc

            Which review is coming out first? Also, Is the Micro iDSD worthy of a comparison with the Hugo or is the Hugo still a league above?

            • Reply October 20, 2014

              Headfonia_L.

              Hugo probably. To me it’s still a league above.

              • Reply October 20, 2014

                Marc

                Thanks!!

  • Reply November 20, 2014

    hypebeast88

    Hey, what headphone usb headphone amplifier would you recommend with the HD598’s? Thank you so much, preferably under 200

    • Reply November 20, 2014

      dalethorn

      From what source/device to the amp?

      • Reply November 20, 2014

        hypebeast88

        From my MacBook air to the DAC/amp to headphones , what do you think is better than the fiio e10k I want a nice desktop Amp in 100-200 range

        • Reply November 20, 2014

          dalethorn

          FiiO E17 is good. The mini-DACs like the Dragonfly or Microstreamer don’t have enough power in my opinion. But if it were me on a limited budget, I might get the JDS O2-plus-ODAC in one enclosure, and spend a little more. If you don’t like the O2, look through the amps here and find something comparable – ALO Island, or something by Schiit.

          • Reply November 20, 2014

            Headfonia_L.

            The new E17K is coming out soon. there’s also the JDSLabs C5D but that is around $250

            • Reply November 20, 2014

              dalethorn

              Good idea – forgot the C5D – I’d definitely save up the extra $50 for the C5D.

              • Reply December 1, 2014

                hypebeast88

                Hey i just pulled the trigger on a Yulong U100 Amp/DAC got it a really great price, now I was wondering which headphones to pair it with, do you think the HE-400’s are nice or the HD598’s

                • Reply December 1, 2014

                  dalethorn

                  No idea about the comparison of those 2 headphones. I would probably get the HE400 – just taking a chance, because to me that’s the future and the HD598 is the past. Sennheiser has been glutting the market with a lot of headphones that are all over the map in sound, and very few that are any good. But HiFiMan, even though they haven’t been 100 percent consistent, are genuinely pursuing better sound.

            • Reply December 1, 2014

              hypebeast88

              Hey i just pulled the trigger on a Yulong U100 Amp/DAC got it a really great price, now I was wondering which headphones to pair it with, do you think the HE-400’s are nice or the HD598’s?

  • Reply December 4, 2014

    Jenna Felton

    Awesome page! Sometimes it can be hard to find a good pair of earbuds, especially when most of us have a limited budget! I learned a lot from your article. I just ordered myself the #3 top selling earbuds under $50 and I can’t wait to get them! Thanks again! http://bit.ly/1wuTdkl

  • Reply December 4, 2014

    Headfonia_L.

    thanks for posting 🙂

  • Reply December 7, 2014

    BattousaiX26

    ifi idsd micro or theorem 720 in terms of DAC section? 🙂

    • Reply December 7, 2014

      Headfonia_L.

      ifi: analytic & dryer sound
      720: Musical and dynamic

      I prefer the 720

  • Reply January 4, 2015

    Anonymous

    Hey guys, I’m thinking of getting a portable amp or amp/Dac and I need some suggestions….I use an iBasso dx90 and headphones are fidelio l2,aedle, beyerdynamic the 88 year edition (forgot the model), grado sr series(forgot the model too), and I’m thinking of getting an Audeze lcd xc. So suggestions? Thanks.

    • Reply January 4, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      If you stick with the DX90 I would just get an amp like the Duet or Vorzuge and use the DX90’s DAC

      • Reply January 4, 2015

        Anonymous

        Ok great thanks! What about if I’m using my phone?

        • Reply January 4, 2015

          Headfonia_L.

          Then you need something like cypherlabs or centrance

  • Reply January 5, 2015

    Vaibhav Pisal

    hello headfonia,

    I am shortlisting amplifiers for purchase and looking for your recommendation.

    Which is best solid state for under $500 for best soundstage depth and image?

    If its a amp-dac combo, then even better.

    Your recommendations in past have been very helpful. I am looking forward to driving easy to drive dynamics with low impedence and iems.

  • Reply January 5, 2015

    Jojo Feliciano

    Hi Headfonia,

    I’m currently using a Cayin C5 and iFi iDSD Nano combo though I’m not really into mobile use. As source I plugin my laptop or cellphone playing flacs, dsds etc. Or I sometimes just plug my cd player to the C5. Now I’m looking at a good budget desktop amplifier not because I find the C5 lacking, quite the contrary in fact because I really love the C5 sound! My reason is I keep forgetting to charge it and I really hate it when the Cayin dies on me in the middle of a listening sesh.

    My eyes are set on the Rega Ear amp though I find the lack of online reviews uninspiring. Is it a good match for the iDSD? I really need some guidance on this guys. Thanks in advance.

    PS: BTW the headphone I’ll be suing is my trusty Grado 225i.

  • Reply January 5, 2015

    tjmetcalf

    I’m looking for a recommendation on a good headphone amp. The gear I’m using is a PS Audio Perfectwave DAC thru a vintage McIntosh receiver, so I have no need for a amp/DAC combo. I’ve been looking at Beyer A20, Music Hall ph25.2 and (for tubes) Woo Audio W6. The amp would be used with Beyerdynamic DT 880 (250 Ohms), AKG K712 (62 Ohms I believe), and Audio Technica ATH-M50x. Thanks in advance for your help.

    • Reply January 5, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      With those headphones I would go for the A20

      • Reply January 5, 2015

        tjmetcalf

        Thanks. I’ve already taken your advice and placed the order.

  • Reply January 17, 2015

    Ankit

    Hi! I’m looking for a clean spacious portable amp with a 1/4″ output to drive the oppo PM1s. What would you recommend?

    • Reply January 17, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      I think the new Bakoon will be great. Or the Centrance

      • Reply January 17, 2015

        Ankit

        Thank You. The HiFi M8 seems to fit what I want perfectly.

  • Reply January 22, 2015

    Ethan Chan

    Hi, I’m looking for a headphone amp that would really boost the sound and the stoundstage of my ATH-M50X’s! What would you recommend? (Under $250)

    • Reply February 9, 2015

      dalethorn

      Music source to drive amp?

      • Reply February 10, 2015

        Ethan Chan

        MacBook Pro Retina (Late 2013), thanks

        • Reply February 10, 2015

          dalethorn

          HRT Microstreamer. There are a plethora of these mini-DACs on the market, but the Microstreamer has a quality sound, well-suited to the M50, plus it has a line out so you can add a different amp to the MS’s DAC if you wish.

  • Reply February 9, 2015

    Zach

    I’m looking at portable headphone amp/dac for my beyerdynamic DT770s and my ASG 2.5 IEMs. I’ve been looking at the Fiio E17k, iBasso D-Zero MK2 or the JDS C5D. Looking in that price range and my source is my macbook or iPhone 320 mp3s.

    • Reply February 9, 2015

      dalethorn

      Wasn’t the FiiO E18 made for lowest noise with IEM’s? Then high-gain mode for regular headphones? It should have more power than the E17.

      • Reply February 9, 2015

        Zach

        Don’t need power, just looking for better SQ

        • Reply February 9, 2015

          dalethorn

          I mentioned the E18 because you need power for the headphone you specified, plus a low-noise capability for the IEM.

          • Reply February 9, 2015

            Zach

            Oh woops I forgot to mention I have the Beyerdynamic DT770 32 Ohms

            • Reply February 9, 2015

              dalethorn

              Maybe some of the other guys will have a suggestion – I thought the E18 would be a good starting point…

              • Reply February 9, 2015

                Zach

                I’d love to hear other peoples’ opinions!

    • Reply February 10, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      Budget setups would indeed include The Fiio gear. Dac/amp wise you have the E17K (listening to it now), Something like the GEEK (I don’t like them), the HERUS, C5D, DZero, etc

      I think you can go many ways

      • Reply February 10, 2015

        Zach

        I think I might get the iBasso D Zero MK2 because it is reviewed as better than the E17k and I can get it cheaper. Do you think this will improve my SQ on a MacBook or iPhone using the a lightning to USB camera cable so it goes through the DAC?

  • Reply February 12, 2015

    Dreamriser Kit

    Anyone try Aune B1 yet? I’m curious whether it worth to switch Fiio E12A with this amp. I use DX90 and noticed that pairing it with E12A + ALO Green Line + Yuin PK1 made vocal a little bit thin compare to DX90 internal amp. Any suggestion will be appreciated.

  • Reply October 9, 2015

    nish

    Hi, please any recommendation for a portable amp that can properly drive the beyerdynamic DT 990 pro 250 Ohms? I have the beyerdynamic a100p, which I use with my macbook air and htc one m8. But aside from being able to raise the volume (getting a louder sound), I don’t notice any significant improvement in sound quality. So, I’m really disappointed. Any help?

    • Reply October 9, 2015

      derSchallhoerer

      Aune B1 or Cayin C5. Those are the two that came to my mind. Both of them have enough Power to drive the DT990 Pro.

      BTW: Don’t expect a huge difference in Sound. In the end, they are just Amplifier and “amplify” the signal.

      • Reply October 9, 2015

        nish

        thanks @derschallhoerer:disqus! If I am able to have a louder clear sound, doesn’t this mean that I have no power issue? Because, right now my disappointment is with the sound quality which remains the same.

        • Reply October 9, 2015

          dalethorn

          Let me say more clearly about the A200p: If you plugged the much cheaper Dragonfly (or Microstreamer, or other mini-DACs) into your computer you would get a much better sound than with the A200p. The A200p is not a good amp, and its only merit was being an Apple-compatible DAC when there were very few such options. Even though the mini-DACs are much cheaper, they are far better with computers. Why suffer with “phone” sound when using your computer?

          • Reply October 9, 2015

            nish

            I get your point now (as it relates to the computer). Now I’m thinking maybe the A200p isn’t just worth it because when I tried it with an iPhone 6 and DT 990 Pro, the sound can only get louder (still clear) but no better quality. To be clear: the sound quality is fine, it’s just not better as I’d expect.

            • Reply October 9, 2015

              dalethorn

              Another possibility today is to use a Jitterbug if it cleans up the portable sound any. It helped with my HA-2 and iPhone.

        • Reply October 9, 2015

          derSchallhoerer

          If you dont like the current sound, an amp won’t help. Invest in a better DAC or a better pair of headphones. Of course there are amplifier that colour the sound, but that is usually not what you want.

          • Reply October 9, 2015

            nish

            Actually the current sound is fine. I was just expecting it to be better. Maybe this whole thing has to do with my initial expectations. But as @dalethorn:disqus suggested, I will try to get my hands on a mini-DAC first and see if it makes any difference (quality wise) with my computer.

    • Reply October 9, 2015

      dalethorn

      You will get different results with any amp that runs off of the computer and the phone. You’ll need a decent DAC for both – you certainly don’t want to run an amp from a headphone jack, unless that jack is re-purposeable as from a Dragonfly etc. Now instead of compromising my sound on the computer with my Oppo HA-2, I use the Dragonfly 1.2 on the computer, and the Oppo with the phone. But if I had to have one DAC/amp do everything, I would maybe choose the Hugo, or for less money, maybe a Theorem 720 etc.

      • Reply October 9, 2015

        nish

        thanks @dalethorn:disqus! Yes, I meant the A200p. Actually, what happens is with it plugged in the USB port I can get pretty high volume, but the sound quality is quite similar to what I get without it (both on the laptop and phone).

  • Reply October 31, 2015

    svfoo123

    Right Now I have been using a PB1 and DB1 to run my LCD2 headphones Balanced. Would you recommend a portable set up such as a
    Cypher Labs Solo -db and ALO Rx Mk3-B
    or a desktop set up such as a Matrix Audio M stage HPA-3 and a Schiit Gungnir?

    Thank you

    • Reply November 1, 2015

      Dave Ulrich

      Well, I haven’t heard the LCD-2/M-Stage combo myself, but I have heard they make a good pairing. However, and I know L will agree with me on this, the LCD’s make a great pairing with the violectric amps. Anything from the G109 to the V281. Also, I think L really likes the LCDs with the Cypher Labs Theorem.

  • Reply November 26, 2015

    Alan Chow

    Hi there,
    I am now in selection of a headphone amp for home use.
    My Headphone: AKG K612 pro
    I like the flexibility of portable amp but also like the power of desk amp (very contradictory)
    My music source were mostly CDs so i need to connect the headphone amp to my CD player for listening at late night. I have also a network player that could go through music files and connected by optical if needed.
    Selection list:
    Pioneer XPA-700
    Pros: USD 250, switches for different features such as hi lo gain, upsampling etc, opt out
    Cons: lack of power (but 100mA x2 in 32 ohm should be enough for my 612?)
    Teac P50/ Onkyo HA200
    Pros: Good power, nice look, USD 200, opt out
    Cons: Just hi lo gain switch, DAC function is not as good as XPA-700
    Schiit Asgarrd
    Pros: Good power, nice look
    Cons: Just RCA out, no DAC function, not easy to find in my place

  • Reply January 17, 2016

    Jonathan “falvern” Sutedja

    hi guys i have ath m50x and i was wondering what kind of amplifier will be good for it
    source usually asus laptop iphone5 and ipod mp3 player
    i dont know if its better to get portable or desktop amp
    if the sound quality of desktop amp will be far more better than portable i think i will get the desktop one
    and my budget is around 50-200$
    but if u guys want to recomend something outside the price range its ok but tell me what so god about it hahaha thank you very much

    • Reply January 17, 2016

      dalethorn

      New DragonFly for laptop only – $200. New DragonFly for portable (laptop too) – $100. The main difference is power. The extra power for $200 is not for louder volume playback, it’s for dynamics and transients.

  • Reply April 5, 2016

    Arttt

    Hi from Sweden!
    i got hifiman he560 and beyerdynamic A1 to drive it. I am not sure if its a good match, since A1 was designed to drive high Ohms headphones like T1 …

    I heard that planar headphones are current hungry, but how do i see current output on my A1 and how much current output do you need to drive he560 correct ?

    Thanks

  • Reply April 28, 2016

    Benjamin Fong

    Hi, I need some advise. I m a poor study student n I have a very tight budget n small room . But want to find a small desktop amp with or without dac, for easy to moved about n for small room. My source is my laptop or my iPhone. I have a t1 n aedle hp n a centrance m8.

    I come across concero hp n graham slee solo ultra linear diamond version n a old 8 year darkvoice figaro tube amp.

    So please do give me some advise. A lot of things I don’t know n not sure. I try to max my money for the the best choice. Thks.

    • Reply April 28, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      we need more info. Headphones, DAC, portability, budget, etc

      • Reply April 28, 2016

        Benjamin Fong

        Hi ,

        I thought I mention I have a t1 n aedle headphone n centrance m8.

        Now trying to find a decent desktop amp for my t1. I happen to see graham slee solo ultra linear diamond version , a beyerdynamic A1, concero hp n old darkvoice figaro tube amp for sale. Due to my limited budget I am seek advise from you to see which is a better choice.

        Budget is a bit flex but limited. Ratio. Lowest cost with best sound. :p poor man ratio.

        • Reply April 28, 2016

          dalethorn

          A good amp for T1 is not for the poor. I’d be looking for a tube amp in the range of $1500.

  • Reply April 28, 2016

    Benjamin Fong

    Actually , I am quite incline to the old darkvoice Figaro tube amp connect with my centrance m8 as dac. The price is cheap. But am afraid to be troublesome if the tube spoil. Then I think maybe concero hp which is a amp/dac. But the price is ex n don’t know if it can support iPhone as source. Then the graham slee solo ultra linear diamond n beyerdynamic A1. Both connect with my m8 for Dac. Since I m new ,it is a very hard decision to made since my knowledge is very limited. So I sincerely hope you may able to help me by giving me some advise. All the set I mention are second hand set. I can’t afford new set. Thks.

  • Reply April 30, 2016

    Benjamin Fong

    Woo A7 vs meridian prime ? Which is better ? Which better suit with t1

    • Reply April 30, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      Go for tubes!

      • Reply April 30, 2016

        Benjamin Fong

        Thks. I will get the Wa 7

  • Reply May 11, 2016

    Edward

    What amplifier would you recommend to someone who listens mostly to classical music and appreciates clarity, smooth and sweet mid and treble, deep bass and open and truthful soundstage? I have the Senns HD650s and I’ve been going back and forth between Woo Audio WA3, WA6, Burson Soloist SL, Bottlehead Crack (but having to build it puts me off) or Schiit Asgard 2 or Valhala 2?

    Thanks in advance

  • Reply July 24, 2016

    aroesli

    hi , any suggestion for best amp for audeze lcd 2.2, deckard, mojo, wo7, lyr 2, and any suggestion for replacement cable , thx u

  • Reply August 5, 2016

    Lee Sweeney

    Linnenberg Maestro headphone amp or violectric V281

  • Reply August 28, 2016

    Ega

    Hi headfonia,

    Since headfonia already give good rating for more recent amp like cypher picollo and lake people G109, Is the list still relevant?
    Please give me advice, best amp under $1K for my RS1 and centrance dacport (as my dac). Most of the time i listen to pop and rock music, never classic.

    Thank you

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