Dedicated balanced amp recommendations? (on a budget)

Hello, I just made an account and am new to HifiGuides forums.

I currently use an iFi Zen DAC with an SMSL SP200 THX amp, but as people have pointed out before, the SP200 isn’t really a balanced amp despite having a 4-pin XLR input.

I’m basically a virgin to a dedicated amplifier that’s truly balanced (yes, I know the Zen DAC has 4.4mm balanced output, but I’m talking about dedicated amps here), preferably with 4-pin XLR. No experience with tube amps too in case you’re wondering (probably not). Anyway, I don’t have all the money in the world but I’d like to one day replace the SP200 with something… better (I suppose).

Love the THX sound, but I want to expand my horizons too. FYI, I use an Audeze LCD-2C as my daily driver.

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Welcome aboard,
If you like the THX sound i think you should focus on that, regardless of if an amp is truly balanced.

Aside from some extra power you wont get a lot in terms sound with a truly balanced AMP (most amp now days have such a low noise floor that it really doesn’t matter) - In order for an amp to be “Truly Balanced” it has to run 2 separate circuses, one for SE and Balanced, and you will normally see the balanced output having more power.

So regardless of the output it has XLR or 4.4 both, or even having only a single ended out, For example Geshelli makes great amps that are Truly balanced, but only have a SE out, it can still be called a true balanced amp.

By the way the IFI zen Can is a true balanced AMP that can be hooked up via 4.4 from you Zen dac from the back, but its more on the warm side, unlike the THX “clean” sound

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Absolutely agree with this.

As mentioned, Traditionally the real reason for “true balanced” or end to end balanced was to get more power, out of the system. Today that power is easy to obtain unbalanced it you want it, so I wouldn’t obsess over it as much.

I like having the connection options, so I can plug gear in, but as long as you have enough headroom for the headphones I am listening to, you are probably good, regardless of being balanced or single ended.

As a primary IEM user, I borrowed a Topping NX7 portable amp, which has a 4.4mm that isn’t actually balanced, but it has so much power I never noticed that it wasn’t balanced. It sounded better than any of the desktop Topping amps I had heard, and uses their NFCA modules that are in their top end desktop gear. NFCA is sort of their version of THX.

That still bugs me, and is why I tend to think of it as “end to end” balanced. It is odd to get that close, then screw it up over the output connector(s).

https://www.schiit.com/products/magnius

So is this a real balanced, differential amplifier?

Yes. There is no conversion to single-ended at any stage. The 4-gang potentiometer takes balanced signals natively, and the gain stage is balanced and differential.

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I get it, no idea why Geshelli does that, but at the end who cares as long as it sounds good :smiley:

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geshelli has been rumored to be coming out with a new amp that has SE and BAL outputs for a while now
I know Zeos leaked it a while ago

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That is the third time the Modius / Magnius has come up in discussion today.

I am an IEM guy first, so portables are more practical for me, but I have always wanted a nice desktop setup, and either a Schiit or Geshelli have been in the running. I so don’t need one, so it seems stupid, when I would get use out of other gear.

To the magnius point, I think the Asgard is quite a bit more capable for low impedance planars like the LCD-2 but misses the balanced requirement.

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https://www.schiit.com/products/jotunheim-1

For $150 more…

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Which would be my hard rec at that price. Maybe if Singxer comes out with the SA-2 anytime soon I’d say give that a chance but yeah you’re right on.

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yeh, the Jot is definitely worth the extra.

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