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Which new Headphone Amp should I buy

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Apr 23, 2020
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#1
Hi everyone, I'm pretty new to this forum and hope to get some honest advices or opinions here ;)

I'm planning to buy a new headphone amp and a dac.
My current headphones are:
- HifiMan HE400i
- Sennheiser HD 598
- AKG K530 limited edition
- Sony 1A
I'll probably go for something like the HD 660s from sennheiser next ;)

I'm looking for a smooth and clean amp that does not highlight nor underrepresent any part of the audible bandwith, but most importantly not underrepresent the low end..I hate that haha

I had an Audio-GD R2R11 which I bought because many (in other forums and reviewers on youtube) have said that it's a brilliant amp/dac combo and probably the best under 500.

When I got the R2R I was extremely dissapointed with it, it sounded way worse than my ASUS D1 PC-soundcard. The only thing it did better was volume, although the sound got even worse the louder I played it. It sounded squashed and had no punch/low end. So I sold it

For the DAC I'll most probably go with the Topping E30.

I'm yet a bit unsure for the AMP.
I'll either go with the Schiit Asgard 3, the Magni Heresy or the 3+.

I know the Heresy measures really good, better than the 3+, the Asgard 3 sadly wasn't measured yet.
I also know from years of experience in Hifi (worked in a Hifi shop) that bad measuring stuff always sounds bad, but something that measures just good enough, can sometimes sound better than something that measures exceptionally well (subjectively).
A good exemple are Amps from Cambridge audio like the 851 and something like the M3 from Musical fidelity. The 851 measures better and even consists of better and more substantial components....but just sounds lifeless and weak with about any loudspeaker me and my former collegues have tried it with. The M3 somehow always sounded smooth, a little warm and had really handled the low end and subbass like a champ.

Back to headphone amps, I read some reviews where the Magni 3+ is described as smoother and with more "body" and "weight" in the low end than the Heresy. Measurewise the 3+ is also good enough I guess.

Since the first time reviewers and other forums made me buy the worst audio gear I have ever owned, I don't want to make the mistake of trusting their (seemingly completely bad) hearing abilities and evaluations again.

I'd really appreciate any opinions on this, maybe someone owns one or two of these and cares to explain some differences in sound between the them.

I don't want to end up with a lifeless, robotic and flat (in a bad way) sounding amp (Heresy) nor with a muddy or worse one that is described as better (3+)...or one that is described as all around better (Asgard 3), but probably is the worst of the three, each as described by people who might not be able differentiate between good sound and something like the R2R 11 ;)
 

solderdude

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#2
Asgard 3 is measured, just not by Amir. The same test equipment was used though.

It basically is the Magni 3+ with onboard power supply, better quality volpot and bigger formfactor and can play slightly louder and you can add an onboard DAC.

You can read all kinds of colorful descriptions between the mentioned models on various sites/magazines.
When you buy into this simply buy the one you think it is best.

I am sure folks will recommend one over the other or suggest completely different amps for a myriad of reasons.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Feb 15, 2020
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#3
I have a SMSL SP200: is clean, powerful and smooth if your dac is smooth. If your dac is harsh the SMSL SP200 sounds harsh.
Always have the option the increase the bass a litle bit and probably the harshness disapears.
Most people says the Asgard 3 is more fun but I don't tried and I don't know what fun in audio means.
 
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#4
Warm, smooth, fun, musical...

People say all sorts of things. Many subjective audio forums are like audio Dungeons and Dragons for adults.

The 'leader' or 'forum master' says; 'Oh this amp sounds blah blah blah.'

And the followers listen and also say 'Oh yeah, it does sound blah blah blah', even though it is all imagined.

This is why science is important.
 

Cahudson42

Senior Member
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#5
Though it doesn't get a lot of Love here, I use the Monoprice Liquid Spark with my HE400i, and really like it, particularly because of what to me is excellent bass response. I think the power delivery of the LS makes a difference.

I think this because when using the HE400i with portables like the es100 and btr3 that are reviewed ok with the HE400i, I perceive thin bass. Had both. Both went back. Also tried an NX3s. It's close to the LS. But not quite there. But I kept it because of portability to use with my LG V20 where the extra amp is necessary, even in 2v mode.

I listen to mostly 16/44.1 Amazon Music HD, so the 99 SINAD of the LS is also not a big issue with me. I also think the LS is an example where SINAD doesn't tell the complete story, since it's not due to distortion or noise, but a 30Hz power supply issue. To me, it would seem to be more like 105 SINAD. No issue with dynamic range, hiss, or distortion.

The build quality is great. The volume pot is a pleasure.

Overall, no plans to replace it at all.

The LG V20 Quad DAC is again to me, great. With the V20, I eliminated a D10/USB OTG cable setup - no problem. The 3.5mm works great with the LS. I usually do have the LG in 2v mode so the LS operates in low gain, where it does so with plenty of headroom. But a $30 LG Rebel trackphone (used as a wifi streamer) also drives it just fine.
 
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Asylum Seeker

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#7
Hi everyone, I'm pretty new to this forum and hope to get some honest advices or opinions here ;)

I'm planning to buy a new headphone amp and a dac.
My current headphones are:
- HifiMan HE400i
- Sennheiser HD 598
- AKG K530 limited edition
- Sony 1A
I'll probably go for something like the HD 660s from sennheiser next ;)

I'm looking for a smooth and clean amp that does not highlight nor underrepresent any part of the audible bandwith, but most importantly not underrepresent the low end..I hate that haha

I had an Audio-GD R2R11 which I bought because many (in other forums and reviewers on youtube) have said that it's a brilliant amp/dac combo and probably the best under 500.

When I got the R2R I was extremely dissapointed with it, it sounded way worse than my ASUS D1 PC-soundcard. The only thing it did better was volume, although the sound got even worse the louder I played it. It sounded squashed and had no punch/low end. So I sold it

For the DAC I'll most probably go with the Topping E30.

I'm yet a bit unsure for the AMP.
I'll either go with the Schiit Asgard 3, the Magni Heresy or the 3+.

I know the Heresy measures really good, better than the 3+, the Asgard 3 sadly wasn't measured yet.
I also know from years of experience in Hifi (worked in a Hifi shop) that bad measuring stuff always sounds bad, but something that measures just good enough, can sometimes sound better than something that measures exceptionally well (subjectively).
A good exemple are Amps from Cambridge audio like the 851 and something like the M3 from Musical fidelity. The 851 measures better and even consists of better and more substantial components....but just sounds lifeless and weak with about any loudspeaker me and my former collegues have tried it with. The M3 somehow always sounded smooth, a little warm and had really handled the low end and subbass like a champ.

Back to headphone amps, I read some reviews where the Magni 3+ is described as smoother and with more "body" and "weight" in the low end than the Heresy. Measurewise the 3+ is also good enough I guess.

Since the first time reviewers and other forums made me buy the worst audio gear I have ever owned, I don't want to make the mistake of trusting their (seemingly completely bad) hearing abilities and evaluations again.

I'd really appreciate any opinions on this, maybe someone owns one or two of these and cares to explain some differences in sound between the them.

I don't want to end up with a lifeless, robotic and flat (in a bad way) sounding amp (Heresy) nor with a muddy or worse one that is described as better (3+)...or one that is described as all around better (Asgard 3), but probably is the worst of the three, each as described by people who might not be able differentiate between good sound and something like the R2R 11 ;)
It always surprises that people with such good ears () that they can hear such minute, even imperceptible differences among several amps across days, weeks, seek the advice of others. I can offer you no advice because my ears are plainly worse than yours. I've never heard a Heresy. I'll take your word that it sounds 'lifeless', 'robotic' and flat in not a good way.
 
OP
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Thread Starter #9
It always surprises that people with such good ears () that they can hear such minute, even imperceptible differences among several amps across days, weeks, seek the advice of others. I can offer you no advice because my ears are plainly worse than yours. I've never heard a Heresy. I'll take your word that it sounds 'lifeless', 'robotic' and flat in not a good way.
I have never heard the Heresy, the Magni 3+ nor the Asgard.
I have no clue if I'd be able to tell any difference between those haha

All I said is that others have described them the way i said and that I do not trust their (often completely random) evaluations....

I was just asking for advice and opinions ;)

That being said I'd like to thank those who replied, I very much appreciate it.
 
OP
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Thread Starter #10
...Always have the option the increase the bass a litle bit and probably the harshness disapears.
How can you increase the bass on the SP200? As far as I can see it doesn't have any tone controls?
 
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#11
How can you increase the bass on the SP200? As far as I can see it doesn't have any tone controls?
Using a software equalizer. I use the eq of the app USB Audio Pro in android. In Mac and Windows there are a lot of options, jriver, audiorvana,roon,foobar...
 
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Thread Starter #12
Using a software equalizer. I use the eq of the app USB Audio Pro in android. In Mac and Windows there are a lot of options, jriver, audiorvana,roon,foobar...
I'll definitely try that out on my pc, but I'll mostly use the amp with my cd player (via coax, rca is already connected to my speaker amp) so I need an amp that by itself doesn't have a lacking low end ;)
(I'll also use it with my chromecast audio via toslink)

So I'll hook up my pc (usb), my cd player (coax) and my chromcast audio (toslink) to the topping e30 which is connected to the amp.
 
Last edited:

Yuno

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#13
I'll definitely try that out on my pc, but I'll mostly use the amp with my cd player (via toslink, rca is already connected to my speaker amp) so I need an amp that by itself doesn't have a lacking low end ;)
Any good headphone amp that you will buy will have the exact same amount of low end as it will have of every other frequency. The linearity of those things is ruler flat, as the only purpose of an amplifier is to amplify sound. There are some amps that are not ruler flat, those don't qualify as good amps.
If for whatever reason you need to color the sound, you can get something like JDS Labs Subjective3 and put it into the chain. Although this doesn't even come close to software equalizers, if your goal is to increase the amount of bass, this will work.
 
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#14
I'll definitely try that out on my pc, but I'll mostly use the amp with my cd player (via coax, rca is already connected to my speaker amp) so I need an amp that by itself doesn't have a lacking low end ;)
(I'll also use it with my chromecast audio via toslink)

So I'll hook up my pc (usb), my cd player (coax) and my chromcast audio (toslink) to the topping e30 which is connected to the amp.
For me, the better option is buying a clean and low distorted amp and add your taste with a equalizer. Other option is buying a hardware eq such as schiit loki mini.
But if you use a pc as a source I could use a audio player with eq integrated as I mentioned in other post. Try one and decide.
It's free ;)
 
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Thread Starter #15
Any good headphone amp that you will buy will have the exact same amount of low end as it will have of every other frequency. The linearity of those things is ruler flat, as the only purpose of an amplifier is to amplify sound. There are some amps that are not ruler flat, those don't qualify as good amps.
If for whatever reason you need to color the sound, you can get something like JDS Labs Subjective3 and put it into the chain. Although this doesn't even come close to software equalizers, if your goal is to increase the amount of bass, this will work.
Sure, I know that basically, but different amps react differently to changes in impedance between frequencies (headphones and speakers don't have ruler flat impedance, sadly it changes with frequency) and phase changes..

So a really good amp manages to deliver the needed current and voltage for any changes in impedance of the headphones in order to make them sound the way they should.
That makes measured frequency response somewhat incorrect for "bad/weak" amps...

(all of the above might be incorrect and I simply misunderstood this back when I was working in the hifi selling business)

All in all I hope that the Asgard (or the magnis) can do just that, if not I might get an uneven frequency response with a lacking low end/mids/highs or a combination of them.
(not talking about the uneven frequency response by the headphones themself)

Judging by the measurements (both from schiit and Amir), what would be the amp that most likely can do what I wrote above?

BTW, the SP200 as mentioned by Daimiel is a bit over my budget ;)
 
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#16
Sure, I know that basically, but different amps react differently to changes in impedance between frequencies (headphones and speakers don't have ruler flat impedance, sadly it changes with frequency) and phase changes..

So a really good amp manages to deliver the needed current and voltage for any changes in impedance of the headphones in order to make them sound the way they should.
That makes measured frequency response somewhat incorrect for "bad/weak" amps...

(all of the above might be incorrect and I simply misunderstood this back when I was working in the hifi selling business)

All in all I hope that the Asgard (or the magnis) can do just that, if not I might get an uneven frequency response with a lacking low end/mids/highs or a combination of them.
(not talking about the uneven frequency response by the headphones themself)

Judging by the measurements (both from schiit and Amir), what would be the amp that most likely can do what I wrote above?

BTW, the SP200 as mentioned by Daimiel is a bit over my budget ;)
Sure the magnis and asgard 3 are a super good option. Mesures well, have power and have a very good price en USA. In Europe the things are diferent.
Enjoy
 

solderdude

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#17
Judging by the measurements (both from schiit and Amir), what would be the amp that most likely can do what I wrote above?
All of them can do this equally well.
 
OP
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Thread Starter #18
Sure the magnis and asgard 3 are a super good option. Mesures well, have power and have a very good price en USA. In Europe the things are diferent.
Enjoy
I live in Austria so they are a bit more expensive than in the US.
Including shipment the magnis are about 148€ each and the Asgard 3 about 210€.
I have looked at the SP200 aswell but I don't need balanced and the price of about 300€ is a bit too much to justify the expected small gains over something like the Heresy for double the price...

The Asgard is just about 60€ more so I am wondering if it's worth the extra cost (sound wise)

What would be other good/better options for up to 220€?
 
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#19
I live in Austria so they are a bit more expensive than in the US.
Including shipment the magnis are about 148€ each and the Asgard 3 about 210€.
I have looked at the SP200 aswell but I don't need balanced and the price of about 300€ is a bit too much to justify the expected small gains over something like the Heresy for double the price...

The Asgard is just about 60€ more so I am wondering if it's worth the extra cost (sound wise)

What would be other good/better options for up to 220€?
Hi! In schiit europe the asgard 3 costs 259€ + 20€ of shipping, total 279€.
In what shop the asgard 3 costs 210€?
If I want a single ended amp I could wait the Topping L30.
 

Celty

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#20
You do not mention your price range, but I'll put in a plug for the 887 or 789. Plenty of power, as clean as you could ask for, and excellent versatility to drive anything from iem's to higher impedance headphones with 3 gain levels, and again versatility with XLR/RCA inputs, and XLR, 1/4 inch and 3.5mm outputs. As an owner of the 887, there are a few factors which gave a slight edge for it over the 789.

However, Drop just lowered the price from $400 to $300 on the 789, which to me makes it a no brainer proposition with such excellent value.
 
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