Amps that can drive headphones

We keep getting asked about 600 ohm dynamic’s and planar’s HE6SE’s etc…can we have some “This amp can power this set” personal rec’s…not my expertises but it would be great to have a power tier to help people sort their ohm driver requirements?

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It really comes down to voltage vs current. Just like OTL tube amp are notorious for not playing well with planars, high impedance headphones are not meant to be powered by some current amplifiers as it adds distortion into the signal way earlier.

Interesting read:

Yeah I know but this was for the HiFi Guide fam…ie what do ‘you’ use and works ok with say DT880 600’s etc…just firsthand rec’s :man_shrugging:

I get that - but I also think for this to work you would have to have heard it on both types of amps. Like it you might play this on a 789 and be perfectly happy, which it great then, or you might think this is rubbish but then you aren’t really giving the headphone a fair shot.

Just personal rec’s…ie I use this amp and it has enough :muscle: to power these HP’s ok…we seem to have a lot what power/headroom do I need etc.
If we had ‘actual’ user feed back against just power requirements it would be good?

The reality is a lot of members of this forum have done just that. We have several active posters who have heard many headphones through many amp and dac combos. I think @Ohmboy is being helpful to the community by asking such posters to confirm whether certain headphone and amp combos are worthwhile. We humans tend to relax when we hear someone with experience on a given issue share those experiences.

However, I think you are also correct that educating oneself on how different kinds of amps work and how they interact with different types of headphones is also a good idea. Even with the wealth of experience on this forum, there will still be unique combinations that no one has gotten to sufficiently. That’s where the science comes in. Thanks for posting the above link.

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A common question is about the power necessary for Fostex T50RP and mods based on it (Argons, Dekoni Blues, Fostex T60RP, etc.). They are indeed power hungry. In the budget range the JDS Labs Atom does a respectable job powering them, but the bass is still a touch sloppy and boomy to my ear. The Schiit Asgard has plenty of power, but isn’t the best synergy, IMO. The Liquid Spark has plenty of power and synergizes exceptionally well with my Dekoni Blue.

^^^ This…Thank you mate…we get a lot figures mW @ Ω etc but what in the real world actually work?

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I get that and appreciate where you are coming from - but you can be equally harmful to the community when subjective experiences are posted on this particular headphone.

I have always been a believer in “listen to your ears” but as much I want to follow that here, it would be misleading and potentially detrimental to some people by ignoring the science on this particular headphone I believe.

Gosh that’s news to me in this hobby…very little science apart from the sensible stuff and subjectivity?..Can a iFi Micro drive a 880 600Ω ok and is there any headroom? etc.

Not interested in arguing with you mate. Hope you find what you are looking for in this thread

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No argument, not looking mate it’s just we have a lot of members asking about what they need power wise to drive particular HP’s…I just wanted to see what members use to drive (power wise) their “hard to drive” sets that’s all :man_shrugging:

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Honestly, if want an Asgard 3 that is more refined and can push 24 watts balanced, Schiit Ragnarok. Personally I am toying with the idea if I take the plunge on a susvara. I also know there are better options… I mostly have zero need since I have a GS X mini that fits my needs quite well.

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Could get v expensive lol :heart_eyes:

I already got the Abyss Diana Phi… that ship has sailed.

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Ok even more expensive lol :clinking_glasses:

To answer this thread’s main question… with my DT880 600 ohm I have used JDS Labs Atom, Monolith Liquid Spark, SMSL SP200, Schiit Asgard 3, and Darkvoice 336SE. For some quick additional context, when I really want to get into music, I’ll listen at around 75dB average loudness. I have no complaints about all 5 of these amps and their power, but they do some different things to the sound which I will expand on here:

The Atom (high gain) and Liquid Spark (low gain, the difference between Spark’s low and high gains is quite small, actually) need their potentiometers turned to about 3:00 to reach that 75dB average listening level. It’s been awhile since I used either of them on the DT880 for any critical listening, but I don’t recall hearing any clipping or bass distortion that often happens when power runs out.

The SP200, A3, and Darkvoice all have PLENTY of power for the DT880 600. The Darkvoice can really change its sound depending on what tubes are used. But, it’s never struggled to make the DT880s sound pretty good. It pushes the 880s with the deepest and most quantity of bass of these 5 amps. It also has the widest soundstage of these 5 with the 880. The SP200 and A3 are an interesting comparison. At 600 ohms they both have lots of power yet. In terms of dynamics and all that, they’re both pretty close. Neither shows signs that a lack of power is an issue, IMO. The difference is in their topology. I greatly prefer the A3.

The issue I have with amps and the DT880 has less to do with power and more to do with amp topology, I think. I’m a bit treble sensitive and the amplifiers that I’ve heard that use op-amps as the primary means to amplify the signal push the treble frequencies forward and give them a harsh, brittle timbre across headphones, but the DT880’s neutral-bright signature and overall high detail retrieval really exacerbate that. Such amps would be the Atom and SP200. The Darkvoice is of course a tube, and the Liquid Spark and Asgard are both more “classic solid-state” designs that use transistors to amplify the signal (the Asgard 3 is a high-bias class A/B). On the Atom and SP200 I could rarely, if ever, listen to rock or metal (my preferred genres) for any length of time because of that treble murder. I would occasionally force myself to fight through it to listen for mid-range and bass quality (which is also excellent). The treble sounds much more natural and accurate on the Liquid Spark, A3, and Darkvoice. The A3 and Darkvoice sound better than the Spark, but they are both at least twice as expensive as the Spark. Either way, I think @ZeosPantera conflated “amp type” with “amp power” a bit too much in his review of the DT880. He went from his Drop 789 (THX tech uses primarily op-amps for amplifcation) and plugged them into an Emotiva speaker amp. He went from an op-amp based amp that’s rated at 100mW at 600 ohm single ended and plugged them into a Class A/B speaker amps with 8wpc and said “it’s the power!” I think the amp design had just as much to do with it. To my knowledge, he never used the Darkvoice with the DT880.

I don’t have any experience with more expensive amps. IMO, these 5 amps are all “price-appropriate” amps for a headphone that is around 200USD. I hope this long-winded take on powering the DT880 600 helps some folks out there.

Last note: @DagoRed has said elsewhere on this forum that the Schiit Magni Heresy - a $99 amp that uses op-amps - does not exhibit some of that treble harshness I described with the Atom and SP200. I cannot confirm this as I don’t have a Heresy, but he’s an experienced listener who’s opinion should be considered.

Cheers, all.

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@Ohmboy my Emotiva will be here Monday, already have the Beyers and will be using the d50s until I can get the geshelli, will definitely be posting thoughts

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Thanks for this detail, and I agree topology and damping factor play a huge part. Reminds me of how Wilson speakers are so inefficient and guys power them with 250 to 500 W amp’s I truly believe it’s that damping factor and that control

I have been looking for just this my self. This is fantastic for me and helps me to learn.

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