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Suggestions for a headphone amp?

diddly

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Hi,

First time posting here, so hopefully this is in the right place.

I'm planning on buying a headphone amp to use with my audio interface, a focusrite clarett 8. The headphone amp on this is ok at best, so I would like to use an external one to get a better performance. I will be using it primarily for mixing music, so it needs to be clean, clear and as true a representation as possible. It will be connected from the line outs on the back of the focusrite, so it has to have balanced connections.

From what I have seen while browsing on here is the Topping headphone amps seem to be getting great reviews. The L30ii is RCA only so that isn't an option. The L50 looks like it performs well and has balanced connections. Also its a good price too. I currently have Sennheiser HD650's but I'm planning on getting some planar magnetic phones, as they are supposedly better for mixing as they take EQ better without distorting etc. Possibly a set of Hifiman's (sundara or ananda nano) as they come up a lot in suggestions.

Is there anything else I should consider looking into that's around the same price range as the L50? I have considered a DAC/Headphone amplifier, but for now I think I'll go with just a headphone amp. If its a huge improvement over the built in amp on the focusrite, I may get a DAC down the line as I don't want to spend a lot before I'm convinced this will be an upgrade. The focusrite amp apparently distorts a lot with lower impedance phones which means it would be useless with the Hifimans I mentioned.

Thanks
 

MAB

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Hi,

First time posting here, so hopefully this is in the right place.

I'm planning on buying a headphone amp to use with my audio interface, a focusrite clarett 8. The headphone amp on this is ok at best, so I would like to use an external one to get a better performance. I will be using it primarily for mixing music, so it needs to be clean, clear and as true a representation as possible. It will be connected from the line outs on the back of the focusrite, so it has to have balanced connections.

From what I have seen while browsing on here is the Topping headphone amps seem to be getting great reviews. The L30ii is RCA only so that isn't an option. The L50 looks like it performs well and has balanced connections. Also its a good price too. I currently have Sennheiser HD650's but I'm planning on getting some planar magnetic phones, as they are supposedly better for mixing as they take EQ better without distorting etc. Possibly a set of Hifiman's (sundara or ananda nano) as they come up a lot in suggestions.

Is there anything else I should consider looking into that's around the same price range as the L50? I have considered a DAC/Headphone amplifier, but for now I think I'll go with just a headphone amp. If its a huge improvement over the built in amp on the focusrite, I may get a DAC down the line as I don't want to spend a lot before I'm convinced this will be an upgrade. The focusrite amp apparently distorts a lot with lower impedance phones which means it would be useless with the Hifimans I mentioned.

Thanks
Welcome!
There is a review index:
Headphone amps are routinely reviewed here, for instance just yesterday:
I use RME ADI-2 DAC, specifically because of the EQ features:
And it performs really well.
The issues with some headphone amps tends to be driving crazy-low impedance and low sensitivity. I don't have experience with the Sundara for instance, so I can't comment if those would have issues with my amp, and how much more noticeable with EQ (I would probably use some bass boost with the Sundara, for example). Also, I tend to listen to headphones at pretty low volume compared to speakers.
 

staticV3

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Here's a list of Headphone Amps with balanced input and up-to-date pricing:
Screenshot_20231014-212917_Sheets.png
 
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twsecrest

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I'm planning on buying a headphone amp to use with my audio interface, a focusrite clarett 8. The headphone amp on this is ok at best, so I would like to use an external one to get a better performance. I will be using it primarily for mixing music, so it needs to be clean, clear and as true a representation as possible. It will be connected from the line outs on the back of the focusrite, so it has to have balanced connections.
From what I have seen while browsing on here is the Topping headphone amps seem to be getting great reviews. The L30ii is RCA only so that isn't an option. The L50 looks like it performs well and has balanced connections. Also its a good price too. I currently have Sennheiser HD650's but I'm planning on getting some planar magnetic phones, as they are supposedly better for mixing as they take EQ better without distorting etc. Possibly a set of Hifiman's (sundara or ananda nano) as they come up a lot in suggestions.
Is there anything else I should consider looking into that's around the same price range as the L50? I have considered a DAC/Headphone amplifier, but for now I think I'll go with just a headphone amp. If its a huge improvement over the built in amp on the focusrite, I may get a DAC down the line as I don't want to spend a lot before I'm convinced this will be an upgrade. The focusrite amp apparently distorts a lot with lower impedance phones which means it would be useless with the Hifiman's I mentioned.
The line-output jacks (1/4", 6.3mm) on the back of the FC8 (Focus Clarett 8), can work with both a balanced connection (TRS plug) and a unbalanced connection (TS plug).
So you can connect the FC8 to any headphone amplifier that has XLR or RCA or 1/4" or 1/8" (3.5mm) line-input jacks.
Planer headphones need less voltage than the 300-ohm HD600/HD650/HD6XX series, so planer headphones should work just fine plugged directly into the FC8.
Lower impedance planar headphones would normally have less distortion issues, plug into the FC8, than other low impedance (Ohm) headphones.
For budget monitor headphones, Sony MDR-V6 (less than $100).
The FC8 comes with S/PDIF (coaxial/optical) outputs, so can easily be connected to an external DAC/amp.
For driving the HD650, for audio enjoyment, get a tube headphone amplifier to drive it.
 
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diddly

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Thanks for the replies. I will check these suggestions
 

twsecrest

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Thanks for the replies. I will check these suggestions
I'm starting to think getting the Topping L30ii is a good idea. I would guess the L30II's headphone amplifier is a little more quality (less primitive) headphone amplifier than the FC8's.
With the L30ii very low output impedance, your removing any impedance issue (like bloated bass), that might happen with any low impedance headphones.
And more juice for driving the HD650.
 
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diddly

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I'm starting to think getting the Topping L30ii is a good idea. I would guess the L30II's headphone amplifier is a little more quality (less primitive) headphone amplifier than the FC8's.
With the L30ii very low output impedance, your removing any impedance issue (like bloated bass), that might happen with any low impedance headphones.
And more juice for driving the HD650.
That seems to have a great review on here. Its RCA connections only though, so that rules it out. The L50 has balanced inputs though and looks like its got a good review too. Near enough to the L30ii. The headphone amp on the focusrite is ok at best. It does drive the 650's ok but has trouble with lower impedance phones as it adds a lot of distortion. According to a review and test Julien Krause (if thats his name?) performed in a video review on youtube.
 

Dunring

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The L50 is really good, great for IEMs too. The Sabaj A20h is the best value at $80 on Amazon though. I have one of them and it's got everything. A sister company of SMSL so people aren't as familiar with the brand. The A10h got measured here and this is the bigger version.
 

twsecrest

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That seems to have a great review on here. Its RCA connections only though, so that rules it out. The L50 has balanced inputs though and looks like its got a good review too. Near enough to the L30ii. The headphone amp on the focusrite is ok at best. It does drive the 650's ok but has trouble with lower impedance phones as it adds a lot of distortion. According to a review and test Julien Krause (if thats his name?) performed in a video review on youtube.
Two 1/4" TS plug cables with an RCA plugs at the other end, will connect the FC8 to the L30ii.
Unless you only want to use a balanced connection?
 

AnalogSteph

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Two 1/4" TS plug cables with an RCA plugs at the other end, will connect the FC8 to the L30ii.
Not usually a good idea, unless you know for a fact that the output stage is of the floating variety that does not mind having the cold side shorted to ground. The Clarett (USB) 8Pre manual does seem to indicate that both TRS and TS would be fine.
 
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diddly

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I just went with the L50. Got one for 160 euro on eBay. Seems a good price to test if theres a big improvement. I can upgrade to something more high end down the line or maybe just a higher quality interface in general. Should power some planar magnetic headphones too. Thanks for the help
 
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