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Anyone know anything re: headphone amps? Need recommendation #1471285
07/09/10 03:03 PM
07/09/10 03:03 PM
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dcb Offline OP
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I just discovered that if you buy good headphones, your digital piano sounds much, much better than through the speakers. I bought a pair of AKG k701 headphones and I love them. They sound great and are very comfortable.

Here's the catch...they are very low volume and I have to put my piano volume to the max and I still only get about half the volume of my last headphones (Sony MDR-V600)

So, 2 weeks ago I didn't even know that there was such a thing as headphone amps and now I think I need one. I then bought a cheap one online (behringer miniamp 800 - $50) and realized that I think I need a better one because they made my headphones sound lousy. (noisy, not crisp, or clear)

So does anyone have a recommendation for a headphone amp that will work with my headphones? Some online reviews say the Creek OBH-11 are good but it is around $200. I was trying to avoid the audiophile path, but it looks like I've started.

Any ideas for a good, inexpensive headphone amp that will make my headphones sound exactly like they do plugged into my digital piano except louder...please let me know.

Thanks!

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Re: Anyone know anything re: headphone amps? Need recommendation [Re: dcb] #1471300
07/09/10 03:27 PM
07/09/10 03:27 PM
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MacMacMac Offline
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Just how inexpensive? Most headphone amps are $100 or (much) more.

I think the cheapest route would be to buy a stereo amplifier/receiver. Feed the aux out line from the piano to the receiver, and plug your headphones into there.

You can completely meet (and exceed) your requirements for very little money. Thousands of used receivers sell on ebay for $30-$50. (And no batteries to worry about.)

But you didn't say ...
- Does your piano have an aux out connection? If not, you could feed from the headphone jack.
- Do you need portability?

Re: Anyone know anything re: headphone amps? Need recommendation [Re: MacMacMac] #1471322
07/09/10 03:53 PM
07/09/10 03:53 PM
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dcb Offline OP
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Some more information:

-I don't need portability
-My piano has two sets of outs 1/4" and RCA (plus two headphone outs but I've been told it's better to not run an amp from the phone outs)

I want to spend less than $150.

I always thought that the headphone jack on a stereo receive wasn't too high quality and a dedicated headphone amp would be higher quality. Am I wrong?

Re: Anyone know anything re: headphone amps? Need recommendation [Re: dcb] #1471334
07/09/10 04:04 PM
07/09/10 04:04 PM
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dewster Offline
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Headphone amps are well on their way to full assimilation by they audiophile community Borg (i.e. mad dash to soak the rich rubes) which means the reviews are becoming rather meaningless, the prices are becoming decoupled from the actual value, and the descriptions of the designs are becoming unhinged from scientific reality.

I have a PreSonus HP4 which work very nicely and can recommend. Mono and monitor mute switches, handles 4 sets of headphones plus an external monitor with separate levels for all. Physically fairly small. Only downside is it has perhaps too much gain, but it sounds like you could use some for your DP / headphone combo.

Sells for $130 over at Musicians Friend

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Re: Anyone know anything re: headphone amps? Need recommendation [Re: dewster] #1471337
07/09/10 04:16 PM
07/09/10 04:16 PM
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dcb Offline OP
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Does anyone know anything about the Creek OBH-11. This is supposed to be a good amp...anyone have any experience with it?

Re: Anyone know anything re: headphone amps? Need recommendation [Re: dcb] #1471340
07/09/10 04:22 PM
07/09/10 04:22 PM
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Northern NJ
dewster Offline
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I skimmed some reviews for it - typical audiophile BS IMO.

It may well be an excellent headphone amp, but you really don't need to spend a ton of money driving something as simple and low powered like a set of headphones. Too much power and you'll burn them out.

Re: Anyone know anything re: headphone amps? Need recommendation [Re: dcb] #1471359
07/09/10 05:18 PM
07/09/10 05:18 PM
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MarkL Offline
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Originally Posted by dcb
Some more information:
I always thought that the headphone jack on a stereo receive wasn't too high quality and a dedicated headphone amp would be higher quality. Am I wrong?


That's how I do it and the quality is great. I also bought a relatively cheap headphone amp way back when, and it was more noise than music. My stereo amp provides great sound. If you don't already have a stereo receiver/amp of some kind pick up a used one for cheap.


Yamaha P90, Kawai GL-10
Re: Anyone know anything re: headphone amps? Need recommendation [Re: dcb] #1471419
07/09/10 08:08 PM
07/09/10 08:08 PM
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Originally Posted by dcb
Some more information:
-My piano has two sets of outs 1/4" and RCA (plus two headphone outs but I've been told it's better to not run an amp from the phone outs) I want to spend less than $150.
You didn't say what piano you're using. But it won't likely have two sets of outputs. The RCA jacks are probably aux output connections. The 1/4" jacks are probably aux input connections.
Quote
I always thought that the headphone jack on a stereo receive wasn't too high quality and a dedicated headphone amp would be higher quality. Am I wrong?
It's a lot of hype. Hollywood could write a science-fiction fantasy film using the non-science crap spouted in the audiophile world. The headphone jack on a stereo receiver works just fine.

Re: Anyone know anything re: headphone amps? Need recommendation [Re: MacMacMac] #1471446
07/09/10 09:22 PM
07/09/10 09:22 PM
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James Q Offline
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Take a look at the website of headroom's HeadRoom Total BitHead. Their website is www.headphone.com.
But based on my knowledge about headphone amps and headphone, you may not feel the difference about sound on a $200 amplifier.


Let's enjoy playing the piano.
Yamaha Avant-grand N2
Galaxy Vintage D + Vienna Grand
Re: Anyone know anything re: headphone amps? Need recommendation [Re: MacMacMac] #1471449
07/09/10 09:29 PM
07/09/10 09:29 PM
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emenelton Offline
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I do own the 701's and they are definitely a cut above. It's my opinion that better components and engineering contribute to better sound. While I agree with the recommendations about stereo receivers and the presonus all being in many ways very good, I think that the K701 can benefit from a better amp. Both the Creek OBH-11 for $200.00 and the Creek OBH-11 SE for $300.00 are not crazy money and are well reviewed. How-ever the people reviewing them are for the most part audiophile nut cases and have in their profiles cables, power conditioners and other audiophile 'stuff' that are in general way more expensive than the headphone amp itself!
The Creek OBH-11 is an op-amp based Class AB amp whilst(whilst is a favorite word used by audiophile reviewers) the Creek OBH-11 SE is a discrete transistor Class A amp.
I have never used the Presonus or the Creek.


Re: Anyone know anything re: headphone amps? Need recommendation [Re: emenelton] #1471455
07/09/10 09:51 PM
07/09/10 09:51 PM
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dewster Offline
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Originally Posted by emenelton
How-ever the people reviewing them are for the most part audiophile nut cases and have in their profiles cables, power conditioners and other audiophile 'stuff' that are in general way more expensive than the headphone amp itself!

Yes.

I don't make the rules, but people who think that exotic cables or power conditioners are in any way audible are by very definition either insane, deluded, or after your money. The headphone / speaker "break-in" period is almost certainly another popular psychosis and I wish to god it would stop already.

An amp is an amp, all that matters is frequency response, crossover distortion, IM & THD, damping factor, and a bit of headroom for your particular application. It's really trivial to cleanly drive almost any headphone to literally deafening levels.

Re: Anyone know anything re: headphone amps? Need recommendation [Re: dewster] #1471480
07/09/10 10:39 PM
07/09/10 10:39 PM
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SteveO42 Offline
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I use Rane headphone amps in my studio.

They are great IMHO.
Company is superb and supports their products very well.



Re: Anyone know anything re: headphone amps? Need recommendation [Re: SteveO42] #1471563
07/10/10 03:12 AM
07/10/10 03:12 AM
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SnowTown Offline
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Re: Anyone know anything re: headphone amps? Need recommendation [Re: SnowTown] #1472026
07/10/10 09:27 PM
07/10/10 09:27 PM
Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 144
Idiocracy, USA
stringless Offline
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I have a Firestone Audio "Cute II" amp fed by a Supplier power supply from the same people. Nice build, terrific sound, and I've not heard it lose its composure, no matter what it's playing or how loud. Even Phase 4 Stereo (London (decca), anyone remember that? They're brutal to reproduce.) You can change the chips running this yourself and experiment. Mine's still as it came. I hear no need to fiddle with it.

Anyway, this is all feeding akg 271s. Two years and not a problem. I rarely if ever turn 'em off. They're my computer rig at work. Google Firestone Audio, they're from Taiwan but they have a Canadian distributor handling north america.

I've since put foam pads on these, and changed the powersupply faceplate to black. i may go back to red, I kinda like the psychotic mod look in a corporate jailcell.

[Linked Image]

Last edited by stringless; 07/10/10 11:20 PM.

o.O

A hammered piano, minus the strings. Brilliant!
Re: Anyone know anything re: headphone amps? Need recommendation [Re: stringless] #1472272
07/11/10 10:34 AM
07/11/10 10:34 AM
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Chicago
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Michael Darnton Offline
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A good headphone amp does a lot of things for the sound. The most obvious one to most people is that it has the ability to deliver more transient power more quickly, so that percussion instruments and orchestral dynamics have more impact. It also can help keep instruments more tightly located on the stage, and provide clearer, more defined bass, among many other less easily heard things. Whether those things are important to you or not is an issue (and for the use being discussed, they probably aren't). Also, if you get a really good headphone setup you will discover that most contemporary music, classical included, isn't recorded all that well, anyway, and a good system won't reveal anything extra: garbage in; garbage out.

I have a really good phone setup way beyond what's being discussed here, and I rarely listen to it because though I definitely hear the many differences (to me the one that jumps out the most is the reality of the sound--it can sound like you're literally right there, live), they're not all that important to me--I'm more into the music than the sound, something I suspect I share with most non-audiophiles. If you think that a digital piano is good enough, having the fancy stuff probably won't matter to you, either.

The other issue, more important in the context of this thread, is that many high-end phone amps are more signal processors, than amps. They're not designed to amplify the sound much compared with what the device they're plugged into does, so spending a couple of hundred bucks on one may not accomplish what you want to do if you're just looking for something louder.

Probably, the best solution for most people is either one of the recording studio distribution amps listed early on (which are designed to pump through a lot of volume for live monitoring), like the Presonus HP4, or just an old stereo amp with a headphone jack.

Re: Anyone know anything re: headphone amps? Need recommendation [Re: Michael Darnton] #1472406
07/11/10 03:17 PM
07/11/10 03:17 PM
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dewster Offline
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First, headphone power requirements are around three orders of magnitude less than speakers - some tens of milliwatts before your ears start bleeding - so designing a headphone amplifier with sufficient output power is easy to do.

Second, headphone load impedance is at least an order of magnitude higher than speakers, so a good damping factor, and therefore flat bass response, is also pretty easily done.

I'm not saying there aren't bad headphone amplifiers out there somewhere but, given the above, if you know what you're doing it's trivial to design a completely transparent headphone amplifier. In most cases all you need is a decent op-amp, and to cover all the bases you add a bit of current boost with a couple of very generic transistors biased A or AB or whatever the voices in your head tell you to do that day.

Anyone who tells you that you need exotic circuitry / wires / power conditioners before the magic happens is wrong. All of the magic associated with headphones happens at the transducers.

Re: Anyone know anything re: headphone amps? Need recommendation [Re: dewster] #1472411
07/11/10 03:30 PM
07/11/10 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by dewster
Anyone who tells you that you need exotic circuitry / wires / power conditioners before the magic happens is wrong. All of the magic associated with headphones happens at the transducers.
You're right, of course. But try telling that to audiophiles. They want razzmatazz, not truth!

So, it just cannot be any good unless ...

- The wires are "oxygen-free" (gee, isn't ALL copper wire "oxygen free?)
- The connectors are gold-plated (because we like to submerge our equipment in salt water!)
- The unit is shielded against electro-frammic injection, magneto-cyclonic disturbance, and sub-molecular isothermal shock.

Madness! smile

Re: Anyone know anything re: headphone amps? Need recommendation [Re: MacMacMac] #1472418
07/11/10 03:38 PM
07/11/10 03:38 PM
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dewster Offline
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Originally Posted by MacMacMac
Madness!

Yes. Though a very calculated "madness" with the intent of monetary extraction. We really should have laws against such baseless / false claims as they are quite destructive.

Re: Anyone know anything re: headphone amps? Need recommendation [Re: dewster] #1472532
07/11/10 06:50 PM
07/11/10 06:50 PM
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Michael Darnton Offline
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It's hard to tell now what you're calling fraud, whether it's better amps (which were the point under discussion) or fancy wire and stuff, which only the two of you are talking about. At any rate, you guys can legislate mediocrity for yourselves, but please leave me out of it.

Re: Anyone know anything re: headphone amps? Need recommendation [Re: Michael Darnton] #1472566
07/11/10 07:48 PM
07/11/10 07:48 PM
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dewster Offline
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Originally Posted by Michael Darnton
It's hard to tell now what you're calling fraud, whether it's better amps (which were the point under discussion) or fancy wire and stuff...

It's all part of the audiophile mythos.

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