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Old 09-21-2012, 02:09 PM
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IamHere IamHere is offline
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Default Desktop amp for HD650

Hello. After lurking around Head-Fi for a while, I just got tired of all the cow feces going on there and decided to try and stay around here

I have the Sennheiser HD650 headphones. I do not plan on upgrading/changing them... ever. And because I plan on using them exclusively at the desk (my only audio source is computer), I am looking for a desktop amp and not a portable amp - meaning I would very much prefer AC power versus battery power among other implications.

I currently have a FiiO E10 (via 1/4" to 1/8" adpater included with headphone) and an NAD 3130 integrated speaker amp available to use. I haven't sat down and done detailed A/B testing or anything like that, but the general impression that I got was that the NAD sounds a little more laid-back and perhaps a little fuller, but possibly slightly muddy at the same time; the E10 sounds a little leaner and crisper, with the leaner part seeming more pronounced. The difference is pretty subtle and I'm not completely convinced that I could differentiate them in a blind test.

I've read that the E10 is at best barely sufficient to just get by for the HD650, and my understanding of speaker amps are that the headphone out is driven from the power amp with extremely high resistant resistors in place and therefore not really optimal for headphones (I think the headphone output impedance on the NAD is 220ohms, but not sure about that at all). With that in mind, if I have a budget of $250 (I would prefer to spend less), would I be able to get a headphone amp that will give substantial improvement?

One requirement is that I would need a line-out or pre-out option on the headphone amp. I'm currently using the E10 as a DAC and using the line-out to feed my NAD unit into the CD input. If the headphone amp has a line-out, I can feed that into the CD input instead; if it has a pre-out, the NAD has a input for bypassing the pre-amp stage and straight into the power amp that I can use.
Also, while I am kind of curious as to what tube amps sound like, a DSP for foobar2000 that's supposed to model the tube sound just made it sound... scratchy, and not much else. I realize that a DSP is not going to be the best representation of what a tube sound is, but I can't help but feel very skeptical. As a result, I think I would prefer a nice SS amp, especially when I factor in maintenance for tubes. I am still open to advice on this point, however.

Some amps that I've looked at:
Matrix M-stage (getting usb input option would replace FiiO E10)
Little Dot MKIII/MKIV
Woo Audio WA3
Maverick Audio TubeMagic D1
(this would replace my E10)

I'm completely open to the idea of used items (partly why some items I've listed go above the $250 price point). Also, I'm completely open to other suggestions.

Thanks for reading. I apologize for the long post...

Oh, and an unrelated question... is it normal that I'm find with the volume that I'm getting out the E10 on low-gain with the dial only turned to about 3 on the HD650? If the E10 is supposed to be barely enough... it seems odd that the volume that I'm getting is so high (though I realize that there's much more to properly driving headphones than volume).
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