Headphone amp advice needed

Hello,

I listen music every night with my headphones. Focal Elear / SN2 / 4M cardas cable. I was about to buy a dedicated headphones amplifier to improve my listening sessions but i would like to have your advices before. Will it really improve, since the headphone amp on the SN2 is already good ? If yes what are your suggestions for a £1K budget. Thanks !

Original Post
Fourteen posted:

Hello,

I listen music every night with my headphones. Focal Elear / SN2 / 4M cardas cable. I was about to buy a dedicated headphones amplifier to improve my listening sessions but i would like to have your advices before. Will it really improve, since the headphone amp on the SN2 is already good ? If yes what are your suggestions for a £1K budget. Thanks !

I use the same headphones managed to pick up a dac v1at an attractive price this is a excellent combination plus it has remote volume control.

Pcd posted:
Fourteen posted:

Hello,

I listen music every night with my headphones. Focal Elear / SN2 / 4M cardas cable. I was about to buy a dedicated headphones amplifier to improve my listening sessions but i would like to have your advices before. Will it really improve, since the headphone amp on the SN2 is already good ? If yes what are your suggestions for a £1K budget. Thanks !

I use the same headphones managed to pick up a dac v1at an attractive price this is a excellent combination plus it has remote volume control.

Whoops the Dac 1 has digital in only no analogue input.

I auditioned the Trilogy 931 a few months back; I found that it did make a difference and was suitably impressed - this was with my 272 & Focal Clears. The 931 fits with your budget however there are plenty of options so it will be interesting to see what other posts are made - again, it will always be down to personal taste and the ability to do a meaningful audition with your gear. All I can say is that the Trilogy will be the one that I will likely add. 

I can testify that a Headline and Napsc work very well with the Elear. Using a Hi-Cap instead of the Napsc gave a lot more of everything, but I found it a bit too thrilling to listen to, and preferred the slightly less revealing and more easy listening Napsc. There wasn't a great deal of difference compared with the DAC V1, it was more around the presentation of each really. 

I previously had a SN2/ NDX which I used with an Icon Audio HP8 headphone amp (pre-copper plate), and that was a big improvement over the Supernait headphone out - a more fleshed out, 3 dimensional and realistic sound. There's lots of other options and manufacturers though.

I am quite startled by how good the Arcam rHead makes my Quad Era-1 'phones sound. Silly value too at just £200. Can you get to hear one in Canada? I know someone else on here has one and raves about it too.

if you want something a bit warmer then I have heard Quad's own tube headphone amp the PA-One, I used this when demoing 'phones. At ten times the price of the rHead it seemed very good but without a back to back not sure I could say worth the extra investment.

Bruce

Fourteen posted:

Thanks to everyone who responded so far. I did not know the trilogy 931 nor the Icon audio HP8. They may be difficult to find in Canada i will see.  The idea of a valve amp is quite interesting. Waiting for more suggestions  Cheers!

Trilogy aren’t represented in Canada.  I bought a Trilogy phono stage a while back.  I had it shipped from the UK.  

Bruce Woodhouse posted:

I am quite startled by how good the Arcam rHead makes my Quad Era-1 'phones sound. Silly value too at just £200.

I agree the rHead is an impressive value. Plenty of true class A power for my 250Ω Beyer T70. Both 3.5 and 6.35-mm plugs upfront with extremely low noise. I also like that I can turn the volume dial down to standby mode. Tonal balance is pleasing. All those positives aside, the bass is slightly rounded, but I'm going to experiment with alternative ICs and see if I can tighten that lone issue.

Hi i use the Graham Slee UL Diamond Edition and it is fabulous ........ I think it superior to the Headline, Lehmann Linear and the 272 headphone amp ... it sounds amazing with the HD800S.... and is reasonably priced. Graham also has a 30 day return if not satisfied.

I had no idea about Violectric until I was lent one by a friend ; driving my HD800S's sounds like end game to me.

I am not saying it's the best but it's awfully good. High current, solid design, reasonably priced, warm and full sound complementing nicely the detailed HD800S

David O posted:
Dustysox posted:

Can...see what i did...sorry,  i just add DAC V1 into the mix. It’s currently working it’s ass off into my HD820’s!

How you enjoying the 820’s DS?

Sorry David i completely missed your post.

Loving the 820’s to the point when my wife was watching TV on Saturday for two and a half hours whilst I had the HD’s on and coming up for hour three muted the tv and said are we not speaking tonight!! Nearly three hours flew past of pure medical joy in a heart beat. Always a good sign!

Yes they are expensive, what isn’t with this wonderful hobby!!!! Suffice to say, they are big, very comfortable and sing o so nice. I love them.

Dustysox posted:
David O posted:
Dustysox posted:

Can...see what i did...sorry,  i just add DAC V1 into the mix. It’s currently working it’s ass off into my HD820’s!

How you enjoying the 820’s DS?

Sorry David i completely missed your post.

Loving the 820’s to the point when my wife was watching TV on Saturday for two and a half hours whilst I had the HD’s on and coming up for hour three muted the tv and said are we not speaking tonight!! Nearly three hours flew past of pure medical joy in a heart beat. Always a good sign!

Yes they are expensive, what isn’t with this wonderful hobby!!!! Suffice to say, they are big, very comfortable and sing o so nice. I love them.

DS, reason for asking is that I have been looking for a pair of closed back headphones for quite a while,  trialed a pair and I was amazed at how good they are....so I splashed out ...

DrPo posted:

I had no idea about Violectric until I was lent one by a friend ; driving my HD800S's sounds like end game to me.

I am not saying it's the best but it's awfully good. High current, solid design, reasonably priced, warm and full sound complementing nicely the detailed HD800S

Which Violectric model are you referring to? Thanks, nbpf

Hello, thanks for all your helpful comments. Considering i want to buy from a Canadian seller and i do not want a tube amp nor a DAC, i have now three products to choose from : Graham Slee UL diamond, Violectric/ Lake People ( don’t know which model yet ) and i’ll add Bryston BHA-1. Of course they’ll have to be better than the SN2 headphone output and better than Headline powered by an external psu because i’ll always give preference to Naim first. I will try to audition some products but it will be difficult. I’ll keep looking and please continue sending your comments. One question though : since the signal at the headphone amplifier input will be unbalanced because it is coming from the SN2 output, is it worth it to have a balanced designed headphone amp and use its XLR output. Regards!

Richieroo posted:

Hi i use the Graham Slee UL Diamond Edition and it is fabulous ........ I think it superior to the Headline, Lehmann Linear and the 272 headphone amp ... it sounds amazing with the HD800S.... and is reasonably priced. Graham also has a 30 day return if not satisfied.

I also have a UL Diamond in one room, and a Headline in another. Using HD800 s, among others.

I think their sound is entirely determined by the power supply used. The Graham Slee with his most expensive power supply is possibly better at resolving than the Headline/HiCap, but the Headline/Supercap blows it away.

I realise that I have deviated from the OP’s costings🙉

@Fourteen: About which Violectric model I may help a little because I was able to test some models on CanJam Europe in 2015: HPA V200, HPA V280 and HPA V281. Headphone has been the Sennheiser HD800, and I was able to use my own music tracks for testing (*.flac files).

The V280 has been superior to V200 basically because it has XLR-output, which gives better sound than the unbalanced one. This was surprising to me because right at the V280's output a short (few centimeters) XLR-to-stereojack adapter was connected.

Then, unfortunately, I tried the V281. Knowing its price it was my (little) hope not to hear a difference significant enough to seriously think about the associated additional invest. But, well, the V281 was adding quite a lot and my very first thought was "shit, I should not be have tested". However, in discussion with Violectric's CEO Fried Reim he mentioned that not everybody testing both V281 and V280 made the experience to hear any difference... And, I'm not going to describe the amp's sound as this is quite difficult, just, Violectric headphone amps are from my point of view very neutral and have full control over full frequency range.

So, choice is up to you - in particular with respect to budget limits. For same reason I personnally put descision off: V281 and HD800 (which has been my conclusion after CanJam visit) sum up to around 3300€, which levels priorities ...

nbpf posted:
DrPo posted:

I had no idea about Violectric until I was lent one by a friend ; driving my HD800S's sounds like end game to me.

I am not saying it's the best but it's awfully good. High current, solid design, reasonably priced, warm and full sound complementing nicely the detailed HD800S

Which Violectric model are you referring to? Thanks, nbpf

200, the "simple" one, not balanced no remote. I haven't heard the 220, 280, 281 but I read above from Kilian there is a difference. As currently my source is NAIM NDX I wouldn't consider balanced design. My next step though is to try the new dSC Bartok which also has an onboard headphone amp... 

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