Headphone amps compared

Did anyone compared headphone amp section of NACN272 vs DAC V1 vs Headline / Flatcap or Hicap? 

To use with HD800 / LCD2 / Sony Z7 

I currently use 272 but not very happy about it, Mojo have more drive. 

I am exploring a headlamp to connect my main system, use it with both Nas / CD player and future turntable.

I find a used DAC V1 wondering if it is worth to buy to use it just with Headphones.

There are other non Naim candidates as well form Violectric, SPL and Terdypardo but i would like keep my frame Naim if i can...

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Original Post

Main-amplifier integral h/p amps are generally a kind of free 'add-on' and okay but nothing special. If one engages in a lot of h/p listening, a dedicated amplifier is essential.

With a lot of headphone use in evidence, I'm surprised that Naim haven't revamped the long in the tooth and average sounding (to these ears at least) Headline; or indeed developed a much more 'serious' and higher-cost device. The Headline is a daft bit of kit; ideally requiring a Supercap to give of its best - then becoming overpriced for its performance level.

There are many better, (and simpler one-box) h/p amps out there; and as ever, one must simply listen and find a good synergistic match with one's chosen headphones.

Come on Naim. Make a really good headphone amp. The market is crying out for it.

John.

 

J.N. posted:

Main-amplifier integral h/p amps are generally a kind of free 'add-on' and okay but nothing special. If one engages in a lot of h/p listening, a dedicated amplifier is essential.

With a lot of headphone use in evidence, I'm surprised that Naim haven't revamped the long in the tooth and average sounding (to these ears at least) Headline; or indeed developed a much more 'serious' and higher-cost device. The Headline is a daft bit of kit; ideally requiring a Supercap to give of its best - then becoming overpriced for its performance level.

There are many better, (and simpler one-box) h/p amps out there; and as ever, one must simply listen and find a good synergistic match with one's chosen headphones.

Come on Naim. Make a really good headphone amp. The market is crying out for it.

John.

 

I wholeheartedly agree with the possible exception that integral h/p amps are a free add-on. While it is true to a certain extent that doesn't mean they have to be lackluster. Go listen to an equivalently priced Yamaha integrated h/p output and let me know how it compares to Naim.

Naim really need to step up their game in this department.

There was a thread here a few weeks ago along the same lines.  I posted then that I thought my headline was roughly equivalent to the headphone amp with my Nait XS2 (which, unlike others, I think is very good).

Just last week though I picked up a used 2010 Hicap and am now using it to power the Headline.  It really puts it into a different league.  With just the isupply the Headline was roughly on par with my Graham Slee Novo.  I think you would have a challenge besting the Headline / Hicap combo.  Whether it represents good VFM is another question.  I picked up both of mine used.  

 

I have a idle flatcap2 but i won't invest into Hicap just for Headline, you can buy a lot headamp for headline+hicap price, i have to buy it new, impossible to find second hand where i live

How about Dac V1 vs Headline vs 272 comparison ? anyone ? if we are talking about 272 level for V1 or Headline, i am out for another brand because mojo betters 272 headphone stage with HD800

Maybe i should wait for a new Naim headamp like the Moon Audio's one

A tough question as most people will ahve used one of the other but not both. I imagine the headphone amp on the 272 is at least fairly capable. I have to say, if I had a 272, I would be inclined to buy headphones that compliment it rather that go so overboard I needed to buy a seperate headphone amp to do them justice.

The only direct Naim/Naim comparison I have done recently is the headphone amp on a UQ2 (which is categorically not in the same league as a V1 in this respect) against a HeadLine/NAPSC and then HeadLine/HCDR. Differernces in source aside, there are some cans that even a HeadLine/NAPSC struggles to wake up. Using HD600, it is clear that the UQ2 is inferior in headphone driving ability for 300Ohm units. The difference a HeadLine/NAPSC makes is incredible in terms of opening up the sound which is very forced on the UQ2.

HeadLine/HCDR is as big a leap again over the HeadLine/NAPSC. As you would expect for a GBP1600 dedicated analogue headphone amp. But not sure if this is because the HC is just such an amazing PS or because the HC delivers 25% higher voltage than the NAPSC. Would have been interested in seeing whether a FCXS got as good results but I already had a spare HCDR.

A 272 might be enough for HD800. I'd give it a try before spending any money.

If you've already made up your mind to spend money and add boxes, HD800 off a HeadLine/HCDR is incredible (I use this myself). But, really try the 272 for a while. I'm sure Naim did put thought into a decent headphone amp on the unit.

i listen again 272 with HD800, it is thin and not alive, i listen it at 60/70, it can get loud but music is not a joy to listen, i will give it another try with a repertoire of string quartets, sonatas and concertos when i find a very quite time in my living room. ıt did not perform with black keys, ben harper and Wii Butler ( Live! very good album by the way ).

I tried it with Sony Z7 which proved to be not bad at all,  still i have to compare it with mojo but i did enjoy it. 

Anyone tried Headline with Flatcap2? 

I really like the headphone amp in the Supernait 2, which may or may not be similar to those in the 272 and/or V1. I find it generally more informative than the Headline2 with a Flatcap. However, I think the little Creek OBH-11 is almost its rival for overall performance. I'm keeping both, anyway. Maybe it depends on the phones - I'm using Beyer T90s.

Of course the other obvious thing to try in the Sennheiser HDVD 800 headphone amp which is designed for them. I did try this and it is a VERY good  match for them. But ultimately, as a source, an NDX/XPSdr is better and so was the HeadLine/HCDR. Though the HDVD 800 was better VFM if you didn't already have the rest of the hifi.

Thank you for your input

can the hugo tt used with 272?

use the 272 as streamer and hugo tt as dac/headphone amp 

and use hugo tt dac as a dac for 272 ? 

If i make and investment to tt i want to use it as a headphone amp and a dac for the main system, i dont know it is possible

For a headphone amp only it is a lot of money 

Salmon Dave posted:

I really like the headphone amp in the Supernait 2, which may or may not be similar to those in the 272 and/or V1. I find it generally more informative than the Headline2 with a Flatcap. However, I think the little Creek OBH-11 is almost its rival for overall performance. I'm keeping both, anyway. Maybe it depends on the phones - I'm using Beyer T90s.

I have a Supernait 2 and I would say that the headphone amp on it is no more than ok, sounds fine until unplug my phones and plug them into my Hugo which is stunning in comparison.

J.N. posted:

Main-amplifier integral h/p amps are generally a kind of free 'add-on' and okay but nothing special. If one engages in a lot of h/p listening, a dedicated amplifier is essential.

With a lot of headphone use in evidence, I'm surprised that Naim haven't revamped the long in the tooth and average sounding (to these ears at least) Headline; or indeed developed a much more 'serious' and higher-cost device. The Headline is a daft bit of kit; ideally requiring a Supercap to give of its best - then becoming overpriced for its performance level.

There are many better, (and simpler one-box) h/p amps out there; and as ever, one must simply listen and find a good synergistic match with one's chosen headphones.

Come on Naim. Make a really good headphone amp. The market is crying out for it.

John,

I agree that I was hoping Naim to come up with a Superline level 'phone amp (with cct. board on a floating brass slab etc..), I disagree regarding your assessment of their current Headline 2 particularly with HD800.

I was in a search of better closed can a few years ago so I went to a Head-fi meet with my HL2 and NAPSC to hear various headphones.

Boy, did I hear a lot of *crap* headphone amps!
HD800 was everywhere and driven by many different amps both valves and solid state and guess what! the HD800 sounded the best with my humble HL2/NAPSC.

Now this was before Sennheiser came out with their own amp for the HD800 so I do not know how it fairs, HL2/HD800 ( with a proper source ) was most enjoyable for me.

As far as the use of a SC with HL2, it certainly isn't a mandatory I feel as even a littlest NAPSC has the Naim sound I love in spade. I certainly did not get this when I was listening via non Naim amps.

Provision for a chassis mounted DIN socket would be also nice as I think that the stock captive plug is limiting its performance. ( albeit it is generally much better than various non Naim aftermarket cords I have tried so I could see from the factory stand point,  having this is better than using a less than optimal none Naim cable )

I got mine modified and used a Hi-line, there was a marked performance boost. I've no doubt that Super Lumina also can be good here.

No.

I had ex US distributor ( NANA ) modify the unit so that I can experiment with various aftermarket cables.

The factory should offer it. I am sure if they were to come out with a *SuperNAHA*, it would NOT have a captive cable.

Simon-in-Suffolk posted:

It's only worth it if you value the differences you hear. I don't know the Mojo, but I value the difference I hear between Hugo and HugoTT. The TT has a more capable headphone stage than the Hugo which I am told suits the higher impedance Sennheisers better.

Simon

 

Simon, I'm currently experiencing an issue with my TT and wondered if you have the same problem in your setup. I noticed that when the front led display is on/lit then a faint high pitch noise can be heard through the speakers (SCM40A), it's audible 0.5-3 foot away. The noise disappears once the front led display times out and switches to off. The noise is not audible through headphone out.

Halloween Man posted:
Simon-in-Suffolk posted:

It's only worth it if you value the differences you hear. I don't know the Mojo, but I value the difference I hear between Hugo and HugoTT. The TT has a more capable headphone stage than the Hugo which I am told suits the higher impedance Sennheisers better.

Simon

 

Simon, I'm currently experiencing an issue with my TT and wondered if you have the same problem in your setup. I noticed that when the front led display is on/lit then a faint high pitch noise can be heard through the speakers (SCM40A), it's audible 0.5-3 foot away. The noise disappears once the front led display times out and switches to off. The noise is not audible through headphone out.

Halloween Man, I saw in another place that you were having some hassles with your TT, sorry to hear it. It might reassure you (or annoy you!) to know that when I had a TT and SCM25As one of the tests I did was to put the TT to max volume and my ear right on the drive units - I couldn't hear any noise. I am pretty sure the display wouldn't have timed out while I was doing that, if only because you don't want to have things at max volume any longer than necessary in case music accidentally starts playing! Now others have mentioned it though, I do recall a couple of incidents when the TT changed inputs when I thought I had pressed the volume on the remote; at the time I put it down to clumsy fingers, but given what others have said, it probably wasn't. As far as your noise is concerned, are you driving your 40As balanced or unbalanced? Does anything change if you move your speaker cables? Or other cabling?  Or try a different input on the TT? Is it both speakers or just one? It isn't really acceptable imo.

It's odd because the noise is unaffected by volume. It is completely silent when front display led is unlit. tried balanced and unbalanced but same issue. the xlr speaker cable or any other cable makes no difference when moved. noise there even when no inputs attached. both speakers the same. defo noise from display led.

i also get change of input when adjusting volume (but rare)! so why did u move on from tt and atc? scm25a are similar to scm40a. its difficult to imagine how it can be improved (no led display noise obviously!).

i wonder if going to a preamp rather than power amp makes a difference?

Halloween Man posted:

It's odd because the noise is unaffected by volume. It is completely silent when front display led is unlit. tried balanced and unbalanced but same issue. the xlr speaker cable or any other cable makes no difference when moved. noise there even when no inputs attached. both speakers the same. defo noise from display led.

i also get change of input when adjusting volume (but rare)! so why did u move on from tt and atc? scm25a are similar to scm40a. its difficult to imagine how it can be improved (no led display noise obviously!).

i wonder if going to a preamp rather than power amp makes a difference?

Strange. I'd get straight onto Chord, but might be worth trying a power amp or preamp or anything with a phono input to see whether it is ATC related.

Why did I move on from TT and ATC SCM25A? Simple. DAVE and ATC SCM50ASLT Anniversary. Just incredible.

ah, now i understand why u moved on! that is one system i would love to hear.

i have informed the good folks at chord electronics and they are investigating. i take it you get no such issues with dave and your speakers?

u might find it interesting to know that tt, dave, and atc scm40a are all single ended. tt and dave convert single ended to balanced and atc convert balanced to single ended. to preserve transparency it may be better to go unbalanced rca to xlr. worth comparing balanced and unbalanced cables. scm40a have single xlr input that accepts balanced or unbalanced signal.

Halloween Man posted:

ah, now i understand why u moved on! that is one system i would love to hear.

i have informed the good folks at chord electronics and they are investigating. i take it you get no such issues with dave and your speakers?

u might find it interesting to know that tt, dave, and atc scm40a are all single ended. tt and dave convert single ended to balanced and atc convert balanced to single ended. to preserve transparency it may be better to go unbalanced rca to xlr. worth comparing balanced and unbalanced cables. scm40a have single xlr input that accepts balanced or unbalanced signal.

No such issues with my DAVE, absolute silence at 0db - just to be sure I checked again before I made my previous post. Thanks for the info about single ended - have seen what Rob W has said in another place so will try my single ended leads which I have left from when I had a Hugo.  My balanced leads are about 6m of Canare star quad so will be interesting to see if single ended gives me a little extra or not.  My system is already incredibly transparent and convincing. Btw, does it make any difference to your noise issue if you run your TT from batteries - ie with the power lead completely disconnected? Just a thought.

kuma posted:
J.N. posted:

Main-amplifier integral h/p amps are generally a kind of free 'add-on' and okay but nothing special. If one engages in a lot of h/p listening, a dedicated amplifier is essential.

With a lot of headphone use in evidence, I'm surprised that Naim haven't revamped the long in the tooth and average sounding (to these ears at least) Headline; or indeed developed a much more 'serious' and higher-cost device. The Headline is a daft bit of kit; ideally requiring a Supercap to give of its best - then becoming overpriced for its performance level.

There are many better, (and simpler one-box) h/p amps out there; and as ever, one must simply listen and find a good synergistic match with one's chosen headphones.

Come on Naim. Make a really good headphone amp. The market is crying out for it.

John,

I agree that I was hoping Naim to come up with a Superline level 'phone amp (with cct. board on a floating brass slab etc..), I disagree regarding your assessment of their current Headline 2 particularly with HD800.

I was in a search of better closed can a few years ago so I went to a Head-fi meet with my HL2 and NAPSC to hear various headphones.

Boy, did I hear a lot of *crap* headphone amps!
HD800 was everywhere and driven by many different amps both valves and solid state and guess what! the HD800 sounded the best with my humble HL2/NAPSC.

Now this was before Sennheiser came out with their own amp for the HD800 so I do not know how it fairs, HL2/HD800 ( with a proper source ) was most enjoyable for me.

As far as the use of a SC with HL2, it certainly isn't a mandatory I feel as even a littlest NAPSC has the Naim sound I love in spade. I certainly did not get this when I was listening via non Naim amps.

Provision for a chassis mounted DIN socket would be also nice as I think that the stock captive plug is limiting its performance. ( albeit it is generally much better than various non Naim aftermarket cords I have tried so I could see from the factory stand point,  having this is better than using a less than optimal none Naim cable )

I got mine modified and used a Hi-line, there was a marked performance boost. I've no doubt that Super Lumina also can be good here.

Kuma - Are you going direct from SuperLine to Headline or are you using a preamp in between?  

I have a spare HiLine but would need to convert one side to a DIN4 if coming direct from the SL. I'm trying to decide if this is worthwhile...

Back to the OP - As far as the headphone amps in the 272 & SN2, I found them adequate at best, but in no way suited to the HD800 or other demanding cans.  If you are serious about headphones and want Naim then the Headline + HCDR (or SCDR) is really the only way  to go. 

Now if I could only try the new Focal Utopia or Elear with my HL...

MarkMcK79 posted:

Kuma - Are you going direct from SuperLine to Headline or are you using a preamp in between?  

I have a spare HiLine but would need to convert one side to a DIN4 if coming direct from the SL. I'm trying to decide if this is worthwhile...

MarkMcK79,

It was straight from SuperLine via Supercap to a SC'd NAHA. So I was using HILine DIN4/5.
Some crazy experiment I was doing!

Was it worth it. You bet but ultimately convenience won over and I went back to a conventional NAHA/HC via 52's Tape socket. I got tired of unplugging and plugging between speakers/headphones. Nice to switch just hit a mute button and I'm in business.
I don't advise you to modify your Hiline, tho. ( unless the factory reterminate it for you ) Otherwise, just get a new 4/5 HiLine.

However, originally I used it with a Nagra PLL preamp ( DIN5/RCA ) so that I can adjust a volume via remote.
It was a sonic disaster, I must say...

One thing I have learnt tho, is that a direct feed off a source isn't necessarily good for NAHA. Having a Naim preamp in the middle sometimes gives better dynamics and lower noise floor ( depending on a power supply feeding the pre )

likesmusic posted:
Halloween Man posted:

ah, now i understand why u moved on! that is one system i would love to hear.

i have informed the good folks at chord electronics and they are investigating. i take it you get no such issues with dave and your speakers?

u might find it interesting to know that tt, dave, and atc scm40a are all single ended. tt and dave convert single ended to balanced and atc convert balanced to single ended. to preserve transparency it may be better to go unbalanced rca to xlr. worth comparing balanced and unbalanced cables. scm40a have single xlr input that accepts balanced or unbalanced signal.

No such issues with my DAVE, absolute silence at 0db - just to be sure I checked again before I made my previous post. Thanks for the info about single ended - have seen what Rob W has said in another place so will try my single ended leads which I have left from when I had a Hugo.  My balanced leads are about 6m of Canare star quad so will be interesting to see if single ended gives me a little extra or not.  My system is already incredibly transparent and convincing. Btw, does it make any difference to your noise issue if you run your TT from batteries - ie with the power lead completely disconnected? Just a thought.

the canare is similar to what im using, sommer emc quad xlr-xlr, sounds superb. after speaking with atc and chord it seems like rca-xlr maybe worth a try so have chord shawline rca-xlr on order, im only running 2m pair.

i have tried running from battery but made no difference unfortunately.

Simon-in-Suffolk posted:

It's only worth it if you value the differences you hear. I don't know the Mojo, but I value the difference I hear between Hugo and HugoTT. The TT has a more capable headphone stage than the Hugo which I am told suits the higher impedance Sennheisers better.

Simon

 

FWIW, I have returned the Hugo TT.. In the end I prefer the standard Hugo on SPDIF. The HugoTT might still have been running in after a week and a half, but I feel the overall differences were very subtle in the end, and there is something about the original Hugo that just seems to gel with my Naim and just sounds more 'musical'.

Interesting Simon. I guess it's all down to preferences at the end of the day. For myself the move to TT was mostly motivated by the isolated usb, and using it as a preamp with remote volume control direct to power amp/active speakers but I also valued the uplift in sound quality I percieved from original Hugo (smoother/less bright with better instrument separation/soundstaging but as you say these were subtle differences).

kuma posted:
MarkMcK79 posted:

Kuma - Are you going direct from SuperLine to Headline or are you using a preamp in between?  

I have a spare HiLine but would need to convert one side to a DIN4 if coming direct from the SL. I'm trying to decide if this is worthwhile...

MarkMcK79,

It was straight from SuperLine via Supercap to a SC'd NAHA. So I was using HILine DIN4/5.
Some crazy experiment I was doing!

Was it worth it. You bet but ultimately convenience won over and I went back to a conventional NAHA/HC via 52's Tape socket. I got tired of unplugging and plugging between speakers/headphones. Nice to switch just hit a mute button and I'm in business.
I don't advise you to modify your Hiline, tho. ( unless the factory reterminate it for you ) Otherwise, just get a new 4/5 HiLine.

However, originally I used it with a Nagra PLL preamp ( DIN5/RCA ) so that I can adjust a volume via remote.
It was a sonic disaster, I must say...

One thing I have learnt tho, is that a direct feed off a source isn't necessarily good for NAHA. Having a Naim preamp in the middle sometimes gives better dynamics and lower noise floor ( depending on a power supply feeding the pre )

Kuma - Thanks for the diagram.  Interesting observation about the need for a preamp in-between.  For the last few days I've been running the HL/HCDR straight from an ND5 XS and felt a little something was missing in the drive.  I'll try slotting a pre in the mix and see if that resolves things.

If I remember correctly, you were a fan of the HL/HD800 combination.  Have you had any experience with the newer HD800S yet?

MarkMcK79 posted:
If I remember correctly, you were a fan of the HL/HD800 combination.  Have you had any experience with the newer HD800S yet?

MarkMck79,

Yes. I loved the HL/HD800 combo. But I have yet to hear the new HD800S. ( looks sexy in black )

It would be interesting to hear what they did. I hope they did not dumb down the product to appease to those who use a portable amp with a low resolution files.

I have 252 into HL/HD800 and like the combo. I also use them with MAC/Hugo (night table), nice combo also.

A review states: "HD 800S touting improvements in bass response along with a hip new black color scheme and an included XLR-4 headphone cord for use with balanced-drive headphone amps...

... offers all of the sonic strengths and audio performance advancements of the original model but with just a touch more low-end  presence, which made it sound slightly smoother overall and more musically cohesive to all of our headphone.com testers".

Regards.  Erich

I never found the HD800 light on bass. In fact, when I auditions many cans before buying a pair, the really notable thing was how incredibly low and clear the 800 managed to get without sounding dark. I had always assumed that the 800S was to address the other end of the scale since so many people are fans of modding (or ruining depending on how you see it) their 800 with thick felt added to the inner fabric grille.

Erich posted:

I have 252 into HL/HD800 and like the combo. I also use them with MAC/Hugo (night table), nice combo also.

A review states: "HD 800S touting improvements in bass response along with a hip new black color scheme and an included XLR-4 headphone cord for use with balanced-drive headphone amps...

... offers all of the sonic strengths and audio performance advancements of the original model but with just a touch more low-end  presence, which made it sound slightly smoother overall and more musically cohesive to all of our headphone.com testers".

Regards.  Erich

Dear Erich how do you compare HL vs Hugo with HD800? 

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