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Thread: Headphone amps on a budget

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    Senior Member nefigah's Avatar
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    Default Headphone amps on a budget

    In searching for a headphone amp, I've found audiophiles either build their own DIY amp, or spend $300+ on one.

    I was thinking about a compromise, as I don't feel like soldering: on ebay it seems like there are lots of already-built DIY amps for sale. Is anyone familiar with this? I was thinking about giving it a shot.

    Other than that, any other suggestions would be appreciated. I'm looking for something to help drive AKG K601's (which I should receive soon) when using my ipod.

    Thanks!

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    I ended up buying the FiiO E3 "Headphone Amp" for about $12 USD total on ebay. I've tried it with a few other headphones (everyone I've mentioned in the other thread) and it's really done wonders. Right now, I'm listening to Kleibers Beethoven 5th on a cheap portable CD player, with the Bose Triports (only 32ohms I believe), and the difference the amp makes is like night and day. So much more detail comes through...I really can't wait to hear what a more quality amp sounds like, but as it is now, this is doing so much more than I thought it would.

    Anyway, the K701's I ordered are 62ohms, I'm thinking this amp or it's bigger brother (the E5 - $20USD) will hold it over until I can get something better. The K601s have a higher rating than that (120ohms), so I really don't know how either of those would work.

    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_3_...0&sprefix=Fiio

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    Senior Member nefigah's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David58117 View Post
    I ended up buying the FiiO E3 "Headphone Amp" for about $12 USD total on ebay. I've tried it with a few other headphones (everyone I've mentioned in the other thread) and it's really done wonders.
    I was looking at this, but in the reviews someone said that while they liked it for their portable CD player, they tried it on an ipod Touch (which has more power) and couldn't notice a difference. Since the latter is what I'm using, I was hesitant to get it, especially considering the considerable impedance of the K601, as you pointed out.

    Thank you for the reply though!

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    Senior Member nefigah's Avatar
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    After more research and a lot of hunting, I decided on the uAmp107.

    Here's why:
    • Got a pretty good review, which you can read here if you want. Though not exactly scientifically rigorous, it at least made me feel better to know I wasn't shooting in the dark.
    • Didn't break the bank, but still is a "real" amp. Came to under $100 after shipping from ebay.
    • Very good battery life, and comes with a charger.
    • Made in and ships from the US. The vast majority of similar amps I looked at on ebay shipped from China, some from Europe. That would mean more expensive shipping and fees, and sizable shipping time.


    I'll report on it once it arrives, if anyone's interested.

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    Definitely tell us how it is, I've very curious since I'm also in the market for one!

    Well the K701 arrived today. I was very afraid the small E3 amp would have only a marginal affect on it, or that there would be some glaring flaw with it while using these headphones, but it's working wonderfully so far! Granted I have nothing to compare it to yet, but without it the IPOD (and portable CD player) had to be at or near 100% volume...that $12 really makes a difference (IPODs now at 60% or so volume).

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    Senior Member nefigah's Avatar
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    I've spent some time with my setup now (K601's with the above mentioned amp) and I'm very happy with the results. There's definitely a difference in the detail you get.

    Since this thread is about the amp in particular, I'd like to say to all those who are looking for a portable amp with excellent battery life and a power cable that's under $100, this one is a home run. I don't have any other amps to compare it to sound-wise, but it sounds great to me, so take that for what it's worth. I did quite a bit of research to find it.

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    Senior Member muxamed's Avatar
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    There are simply great valve amplifiers on e-bay branded Indeed and Bravo costing around 90 dollars.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nefigah View Post
    In searching for a headphone amp, I've found audiophiles either build their own DIY amp, or spend $300+ on one.

    I was thinking about a compromise, as I don't feel like soldering: on ebay it seems like there are lots of already-built DIY amps for sale. Is anyone familiar with this? I was thinking about giving it a shot.

    Other than that, any other suggestions would be appreciated. I'm looking for something to help drive AKG K601's (which I should receive soon) when using my ipod.

    Thanks!

    I guess I'd probably be lumped with those snobs who spend $300+ on one.

    I have a TTVJ Millett's Portable Tube Amplifier which I use with my Sony MZ-RH1 Hi-MD (CD quality mini-disc media on the go).

    It is sumptuous and gorgeously detailed; rich and lush and full-bodied with a warm resonance that only a tube amplifier can deliver. It outclasses my Musical Fidelity X-Cans v2 desk-top amplifier. This is the portable amp which will blow your head off! It's just superb.

    I do also have a Fiio5 amp. Like it's younger sibling, it does little for an iPod, other than allow you to turn the volume up, or add bass boost to overcome the iPod's pathetically weak internal and badly designed amplifier. It's worth £15 (or $22) but don't expect miracles.

    The mid-range portable amplifiers (valve) are a mixed bag. Meier amps (Germany) are worth an audition if you get a chance. However your best bet is probably saving up and getting a decent portable amplifier, that will assuredly make a huge sonic gain in leaps and bounds, rather than one that is just 'barely detectable' improvement.

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    Senior Member nefigah's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Head_case View Post
    I guess I'd probably be lumped with those snobs who spend $300+ on one.

    I have a TTVJ Millett's Portable Tube Amplifier which I use with my Sony MZ-RH1 Hi-MD (CD quality mini-disc media on the go).

    It is sumptuous and gorgeously detailed; rich and lush and full-bodied with a warm resonance that only a tube amplifier can deliver. It outclasses my Musical Fidelity X-Cans v2 desk-top amplifier. This is the portable amp which will blow your head off! It's just superb.

    I do also have a Fiio5 amp. Like it's younger sibling, it does little for an iPod, other than allow you to turn the volume up, or add bass boost to overcome the iPod's pathetically weak internal and badly designed amplifier. It's worth £15 (or $22) but don't expect miracles.

    The mid-range portable amplifiers (valve) are a mixed bag. Meier amps (Germany) are worth an audition if you get a chance. However your best bet is probably saving up and getting a decent portable amplifier, that will assuredly make a huge sonic gain in leaps and bounds, rather than one that is just 'barely detectable' improvement.
    Forgive me for wondering out loud, but at least in guitar land, tube amps have a distinct sound, but it is a sort of imprecise, warm, natural sort of sound, as opposed to the more "reference" style of amp. I can see why many guitarists like them, but it seems to me that if it's the same deal with tube headphone amps, I'm not sure if I'd like it. I'm not sure if I'm looking for something to alter the sound that much, if that makes any sense... I think I'd really have to hear one first to see if I'd like it, especially before spending that much money. Problem is, not sure there are any just sitting out to test :\

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    Senior Member muxamed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Head_case View Post
    I guess I'd probably be lumped with those snobs who spend $300+ on one.

    I have a TTVJ Millett's Portable Tube Amplifier which I use with my Sony MZ-RH1 Hi-MD (CD quality mini-disc media on the go).
    But it costs more than $300 ?

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