Headphone amp recommendations


#21

Grain of salt: my opinion is obviously limited by my experience. I only talk about what I’ve auditioned in >100 hours of listening. I don’t double blind test gear and I cannot parse the audio nuance like an audiophile because my experience and audio memory with personal gear isn’t vast enough for comparisons. However, I do know what I like.

Talking just amps: I recently dropped $250 on a headphone amp that is really giving me joy at my workstation: The Cavalli CTH.The CTH does everything well. To my ears, it sounds like an early 70s megabuck system… in a good way. (It drives my Etymotic E4, HiFiMan HE560 or Sennheiser HD 580 Precision below the 10-oclock position!) Bang for the buck factor is high.

While traveling I like my HeadAmp Pico Power. One can find them new on the internet, in sales, for $250. My only complaint is I needed get cables for my HE560 because I didn’t want to use a 1/4" to 3.5mm adapter. :confused: This puppy sounds great, gets about 40 hours on it’s 9v batteries and stays reasonably portable. Oh, and it costs about 25% of what my Headroom cost.

I travel with only an Audioquest Dragonfly Black and ThinkSound ON2 (or Etymotic ER4) in my kit when I need to go light. (It takes the $199 ‘Red’ to drive my Sennheisers where I like) The $99 ‘Black’ sounds great on the ON2 and not bad at all with the Etymotic. Anyway, Dragonfly is a DAC/amp so it fails the apples and oranges test.


#22

I’ve been idly looking around for an amp/integrated amp, probably tubes, 8 to 25 WPC that I can use specifically with the energizer for my old Stax SR-5N headphones. I’ve decided I don’t want to wire them into a circuit with my big Class D Wyred4Sound STI-1000 amp.

I have an old Sanyo 70 WPC amp solid state amp that I can use them with. But I don’t like that amp very much, and I don’t want to put in in with my other equipment. I wrote to Schiit, and they say that NONE of their amps (I was thinking of buying a Valhalla) are recommended to be used with the energizer unit for the STAX phones.

Nick T\ 40x40 Nick T (Schiit Audio)

Sep 2, 16:23 PDT

Sorry for the delay.

I’m afraid we don’t actually recommend any of our products be used with an energizer unit. They present a very non-standard load for amplifiers and we cannot recommend proper performance of our components with them.

I’ve not had any issues with any amp I’ve used with it. But I’ve just eliminated Schiit Audio.
I’m irked enough that I’m considering going out of my price range and having one of these built.
http://www.erhard-audio.com/SCA-NGT.html
I can’t imagine anything built on an improved Dynaco platform that isn’t bulletproof.

Any recommendations?


#23

I’d avoid energizers with electrostatic headphones entirely and go for a dedicated electrostatic headphone amplifier.

Energizers are a compromise at best (subject both to the limitations of the amp AND the foibles of the energizer itself) and most eStats are resolving enough that I wouldn’t want more transformer ringing in the chain than was absolutely necessary (none is preferable … and tolerating more than that would have to be due to an absolute budgetary constraint and no option for other headphones).

Even the basic Stax amps and/or Woo GES will do a better audible job than any energizer I’ve heard. The KG stuff, if you can find something that fits your budget, is better still.

(The “problem” with Schiit amps and most of the eStat energizers is as much on the side of the energizers as it is on the amps.)


#24

These headphones were designed to work with the energizer. They are the old Standard Bias, and not Pro Bias. Do you know if they will even work with the later amps instead of the STAX SRD-6?


#25

If I remember correctly those were Electric Condenser headphones that came as a set with the energizer from Stax. I used to own a pair of these long ago. I still have the headphones stuffed in back of the bottom shelf of my LP cleaning cabinet.

I store my cleaning fluids and brushes that I use with my VPI MW-1 vacuum cleaning machine in this cabinet. The bottom shelf ended up being used for left over stuff and I tossed these electret condensed Stax cans in there.

I remember the sound that these cans produced and I doubt anyone would really enjoy that sound after going through the time and expense to find and buy a working energizer. The only one I am aware of for these cans is made by Stax. If we are talking about the same headphones, the sound is OK but you can get much better from any modern dynamic set of headphones.

Sometimes its just best to forget old models and move on.

Ed


#26

Actually, I do have a working energizer, an SRD-6SB. These are full electrostatic STAX earspeakers, and their sound is excellent. I have a set of HiFiMan HE-560s that are probably as good, and some Sennheiser HD-580s that are not.

I know that it is possible to run them on an electrostatic headphone amplifier as @Torq suggests. My only concern there is the proper bias. I’ve looked at some of the Woo Equipment and wondered if I should go there. If I can find a used SRM006t, it will handle both normal and Pro-Bias STAX phones.


#27

I have considered the Woo stuff also and from what I know the Woo GES and WES estat amps are very good. I believe they come with Pro only bias though. If you need the older, standard bias you will have to special order the Woo amp with the proper bias. Woo used to provide almost any type of upgrade if you are willing to pay for it.

The Stax amps are good to OK and the best rated estat amps are 3rd party choices. The best one being the very limited edition HeadAmp Blue Hawaii ($6000~). Two Woo amps are more affordable with the GES being around $1600 USD IIRC. Interestingly enough the WEE is back on their site. It went away for awhile and I just noticed its back.

The WEE uses a regular amp, at about 3 watts and uses its output with the WEE box to drive estat headphones. Currently the old estat flagship from Woo, the WES, is on sale. Things change fast. Its been awhile and they now have a 3ES as their flagship estat offering. Its more expensive than the Blue Hawaii…interesting.

I have a set of Stax Lambda Pro earspeakers with the SRM1/MkII driver and that box includes both the older standard bias plus the pro bias port. The SRM1/MkII is all solid state (FETs) but is a pretty nice amp.

Ed


#28

I really liked the sound of the Lambda Pros - they were the new top of the line when I bought the SR-5Ns. I did not care for the size and the box design. I think the SR-5n’s were the best of the normal-looking headphones when I got them.

I will have to look at what I want to afford in the headphone amps. How is the WEE different than an energizer? I just checked out the Woo website and saw it.


#29

My ex wife gave the Lambda Pros to me as a Christmas gift for Christmas 1990. I love those cans and estats ruined me for all headphones forever. My Magnepan dealer also sold Stax gear and I auditioned them long ago. Needless to say it started a long love affair with Stax stuff.

I really like my Focal Clears but when you listen you can hear the difference between the lightning fast full range estats compared to even the best dynamic headphones. The Focal Clears are nothing short of great for a dynamic driver setup but Stax makes the best sounding headsets in my opinion. They are dammed expensive but worth the money.

I am not sure what exactly makes up the WEE but Iooked into it some years ago. You use a small power amp, approx 3 watts, and the WEE uses that power to modulate the power supply in the WEE, or something along those lines.

Woo audio does not recommend the WEE for any of the high end Stax headsets. I guess the WEE is a barely functional approach that doesn’t translate to ultimate sound quality.

When you are powering a set of really nice Stax headsets it doesn’t make sense to short cut the driver. The Woo GES is $1600, which isn’t too bad for a tubed estat driver. I have not personally auditioned this stuff but I have read reviews on the GES and it sounds interesting enough to keep it in my list of possible future equipment.

My SRM1/MKII needs service again and I can send it in to have the circuit repaired for the second time or I can buy the Woo Audio GES for $1600. What I read about that unit is that people have remarked that they get more bass from their Lambda headsets when paired with the GES.

Apparently their is more to be had from our Stax headsets and the Stax drivers are not necessarily delivering…if you believe what others have written. My SRM1/MKII has served pretty well for over 27 years and a new driver might be just the thing to put a little more life in my Stax setup.

If I end up buying the WOO Audio GES I would also consider the new L700 headset in the near future. It isn’t a SR-009 but its supposedly very very good. The L700 uses technology developed for the SR-009 and is not too terribly priced.

Unless I hit the lottery I am not going to buy the dream setup of the Headamp Blue Hawaii and the SR-009. That’s almost $10,000 worth of gear but it gets the best setup nod from many reviewers who have access to stuff many of us only see in photos. If I had the money I wouldn’t hesitate to buy that setup for my headphone nirvana. Immediately.

Ed


#30

Well you convinced me. I’ve decided to go and buy a used but refurb/upgraded amp
https://mjolnir-audio.com/used-amplifiers/ This link works, but he took down the amp after I bought it.

The SRM-T1S shown here. It has normal bias for my existing STAX, and pro bias for any future STAX I may buy. I’ve corresponded with Birgir Gudjonsson- and invited him to the forum here. I think this is the best deal for my proposed use; I’m looking forward to trying it out. I’ll probably even write about it some.

If you follow the top link, Birger describes what he has done with it, using some of those KG parts where indicated in place of the original STAX setup.


#31

Very nice! Let me know how this works with your current Stax cans. Maybe a set of SR-009s is in your future?

Ed


#32

I’m not planning on the flagship STAX phones until I pick the proper lottery numbers. But a modern lesser set is always possible.

Birger tells me that it has GE tubes that are perfectly good, but he finds the original Toshiba ones to be better, but hard to find. I’ll probably stay with the GEs for a while. I live only a few miles from a factory that used to make RCA tubes. There last products were TV tubes, cathode ray, and maybe some tubes for green or amber monitors. They were next to a FISHER plant that made VCRs.


#33

Thats turning back pages on a calendar. Time moves so dammed fast that I often read people writing about this or that old thing and, to me, it is something I have not even tried yet. Too new and I haven’t got around to it. Its the time warp dance.