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Headphone amplifiers and audiable differences between them

The subject pretty much says it all, but I'll elucidate on my question.  I've recently gotten into headphones over speakers and I'm looking for a good headphone amplifier. Just like the rest of the audio equipment world you can spend crazy money on this stuff including a $10,000 headphone amplifier by Chord.  Aside from the sonic differences that two headphone amplifiers of two different types (such as tubes versus solid state) might make, can I expect that a $10,000 amplifier that has the same wattage output of a $1,000 amplifier should sound relatively the same all things being equal? 
In other words the same difference is I would expect from a reasonably priced solid-state amplifier versus a ridiculously priced solid-state amplifier in the speaker world?
Music lover and recovering high end audiophile

Re: Headphone amplifiers and audiable differences between them

Reply #1
Quote
Aside from the sonic differences that two headphone amplifiers of two different types (such as tubes versus solid state) might make, can I expect that a $10,000 amplifier that has the same wattage output of a $1,000 amplifier should sound relatively the same all things being equal?

Headphone amplifiers do 2 things:  increase gain, and reduce output impedance.  Which are you buying an amplifier to do?

FWIW, with typical 16-150 ohm "normal" headphones, I'd expect a $50 amplifier to be source limited by 16 bit input, and probably even 20 bit input.  If you want to drive something exoitc that requiers very high voltages, you may have to pay a lot more however. 

Re: Headphone amplifiers and audiable differences between them

Reply #2
I'll be driving Focal Utopia headphones.
Music lover and recovering high end audiophile

Re: Headphone amplifiers and audiable differences between them

Reply #3
If it's basic accuracy that you seek, then no, you're not likely to hear any additional sonic truths for the added expenditure. $150 should be more than enough for a well-designed amplifier capable of driving 80 ohm headphones.

But what you could get for more money are nicer features and packaging which can have a real effect on your enjoyment of the thing. Me, I have pretty much everything plugged into my Benchmark DAC 2 HGC because it's so convenient, and though it's small, it's got enough mass that it's not easily yanked off the shelf by mistake.

OTOH, I think a DSP-equipped unit could be a different kettle of fish, and I plan to try this one:
https://www.minidsp.com/products/dsp-headphone-amp/ha-dsp
They also offer a companion headphone measurement device, but I'll have to pick that up later.

Re: Headphone amplifiers and audiable differences between them

Reply #4
I'll be driving Focal Utopia headphones.

These: https://www.focal.com/headphones/pdf/utopia_specification-sheet.pdf ?

They're high sensitivity and moderate impedance, so about as easy to drive as headphones get.  Any basic amp should work as any other, and for things like a cellphone, you won't need an amp. 

Re: Headphone amplifiers and audiable differences between them

Reply #5
Thanks folks.  

As far as DSP goes i'll be using a Smyth Research A16 ( http://www.smyth-research.com/index.html ), which is about as DSP as you can get.

 All the reviews say that the $10k Chord DAVE sounds the best, so i believe them!  I mean i'm sure it will sound better than a more reasonably priced amp ... as long as i'm looking at it that is.
Music lover and recovering high end audiophile

Re: Headphone amplifiers and audiable differences between them

Reply #6
In the wider audiophile world concepts such as ohms law and physics in general simply do not exist and do not figure into consideration of choosing and fitting equipment. So you're probably hearing a lot of "your amp needs to cost 0.88846786 of the price of your headphones for proper synergy" or "it might get loud with a cheaper amp but it won't really drive them properly and you'll be missing a lot of [insert whatever descriptive comes to mind for that particular person]".
You need to learn to ignore this noise and follow the science or at least people who have a firmer grip on it in the relevant fields, otherwise you'll drown in bullshit that's being pumped non-stop.

Re: Headphone amplifiers and audiable differences between them

Reply #7
I realize this. My last paragraph was tongue-in-cheek.   I'm just verifying that amps are amps, regardless of if they're driving floor or head speakers. 
Music lover and recovering high end audiophile

 
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