Best Amps for HD800 - 2021 Edition

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by ChaChaRealSmooth, Dec 18, 2020.

  1. Emojiless

    Emojiless Rando

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    I've read too many great impressions about the SW51+ to have buyers remorse - I will definitely patiently wait for it, listen and compare. Having buyers remorse would probably be a little disrespectful to designer I feel, seeing that he does this specifically for members of this forum - I'm glad to be a part of the SW51+ batch : )

    But you know having cought the hifi bug and read the impressions I will know it is considered of rather small soundstage so I will wonder what's out there. Plus, I can't hold my friends MCTH for months until the SW51+ arrives :D So was hoping I might find a contrasting amp that will work in the meantime that I could eventually compare against SW51+ and keep the one I like more... Or both!
     
  2. bilboda

    bilboda Florida boomer

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    Not a lot of reviews out there yet but the Black Amp from Austin Audioworks was a squinch better than my EC Zana Deux S. I did not roll tubes in the ZDS so maybe it could have come out ahead but a SS amp that ranks up there with ZDS? This is it.
     
  3. bengo

    bengo Friend

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    @Emojiless I don't suppose a used MCTH is that expensive either.
     
  4. wordclock

    wordclock Rando

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    sw51 soundstage is it’s Achilles heel. it’s closed in
     
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  5. limesoft

    limesoft Facebook Friend

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    Well who would have thought, Dangerous Source headamp sounds rather good with the HD800S to me - better than Apogee Element, ican se and even somewhat the Woo WA8 depending on my mood. I am using a better power supply with it (ifi ipower x) which made it competitive otherwise I was a little underwhelmed with original power supply (closed in/bit grainy etc).

    I've tested lot of combinations, with different dacs including the internal one to be able to isolate the headout characteristics.

    So why do I think it works well with the HD800s vs my other amps mentioned, even if it might not be the ultimate SS solution:

    + It's less shouty and seems to have significant power reserves; as the volume goes up it keeps it's composure and never seems to get strained nor shouty, unlike all my other gear (minus the WA8)

    + Lacks air but in a good way as it works well with the bright HD800 - where some of my other headamps are brighter and bite more (Element) and with more glare (ican, WA8), the Source is more damped in the treble, there's no sparkly treble reverb refinement here, there's no magic glow, glare nor grain; it's dry, dark, quite textured but also composed with a sense of calmness.

    + It seems to communicate more directly and takes the room out of the equation - this might sound less accurate but it's the opposite for me as the sound is more to the point, even if a touch less refined. It can be a little forward but it does not get annoying thanks to that feeling of power reserve and composure.

    + It's punchy, dynamic and fast - the HD800s kick like a mule even if sub bass is a little rolled off (the Element has more wooly sub bass), the mid bass is meaty and solid and kinda old school sounding which is nice. It's can boogie. The WA8 ofcourse punches more and is a meatier sound but it also has glare or maybe thats a bit harsh, perhaps it's a glow/excitement in the treble which can get tiring (maybe it's a tube thing).

    - Would like bit more sub bass, and the mids don't always needs to be so direct, a touch of creamy smoothness might be nice. The Element has more analogue/smooth sounding mids.

    - Does not seem to be super resolving as different DACs sound kind of similar out of it; I'd be happy using it's internal burr brown dac as Chord Qutest doesn't really bring a lot more to the table (a bit smoother and more refined maybe but also a little "fake" sounding)

    - I still have to use EQ, it doesn't magically solve the Senns problems.

    I haven't heard the Asgard 3 or Jot 2, I assume they might be better pairing. However as an AIO it's very good - it's a good dac, preamp with flexibility and solid headamp that plays nice with the Senns. It definitely needs that power supply upgrade to shine - don't even bother trying it with stock it's nothing special at all..

    It's a forward, punchy and direct dynamic sound with a lack of air or "glow". HD650s also go very well with it, they sound fast and dynamic, almost making me regret spending my hard earned money on the HD800s!!

    Anyway just my brain dump, maybe it will get someone interested in checking this 10 year old model.

    Edit: maybe this should go in "best amps for hd800 2012 edition"
     
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    Last edited: Mar 18, 2021
  6. capt_wacky

    capt_wacky Rando

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    That my my experience with the Source. I used it for a number of years as a DAC and monitor controller for my post production work, but it was also a very capable and transparent headamp. One of the interesting features is that you could mix sources (let’s say you wanted to listen to an analog input while keeping the USB input on) or route different sources to the line outs and the headamp at the same time. Almost a mixer, though no level controls by input (just output). My one quibble is that my unit didn’t have the greatest channel balance at the lowest end of the volume knob on the headphone out.
     
  7. Toobuzz

    Toobuzz Rando

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    Built a Garage1217 Horizon for my HD800 last week. It’s is my first non-hybrid tube amp (other than Vali 1), and wow, it is super impressive. I can roll all sorts of tubes and has a high output impedance. I’m getting into DIY and this was a fun project aside from all the sonic benefits I’ve experienced.

    IMO, the HD800 with a quality amp w/ high output impedance is simply not the same headphone as the HD800 on a low output impedance amp. To me this type of amp makes the biggest change, more so than mods (save for the Stefan AudioArt, but that is a different topic).

    Sad not to see the Mainline on this list. My ML kit arrives on Wednesday!
     
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  8. mkajj

    mkajj Rando

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    Hi, how about the RNHP or G111 for folks in the EU?
     
  9. Ruined

    Ruined HD700 ruined my ear holes

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    I am a soundstage fanatic and I was extremely impressed with the DNA Starlett's big soundstage. Maybe a good alternative for not too much more money.
     
  10. JayNYC

    JayNYC Friend

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    I'm casually curious how the Schiit Jotunheim 2 gets a recommendation as being a good match for the HD800 series with an output impedance "Less than 0.1 ohms". Much of what I've read on this forum is that the HD800 series responds best (or requires) amplifiers with high(er) output impedance. Is the Jotunheim 2 somehow special or unique?
     
  11. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    HD800 can be thin sounding and having an amp with a higher output impedance can help thicken up the lower mids while also maintaining good control of them. If it's a tube amp (if it's high ohm it probably is) it's also an opportunity for some tasteful tube bloom which can help offset some of the clinical character of the HD800. I think Marv has mentioned he thinks there's a desirable output impedance cross-section that HD800 likes, which if I recall is 10-20 ohms. I believe DNA Starlett falls in that range and other amps that tend to be nominated as best matches.

    Jot 2 is good for HD800 because it accomplishes some of those technical features by other means. The Nexus and Continuity S topologies contribute tonal thickness, a touch of warmth, and a somewhat tube-like sound with mid focus. Additionally, Jot 2 bass hits hard and this is helpful to the bass light HD800. So, all roads lead to Rome.
     
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    Last edited: May 31, 2021
  12. Ear-Wax

    Ear-Wax Rando

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    Sorry, (That's Canadian for Hello eh) I am surprised no one mentioned the RME AD-2 DAC.

    I recently acquired one along with a pair of HD800S and just can not wipe the maple syrup eating grin off of my face. The RME's PEQ although limited with 5+2 bands is useful alas I much prefer an Impulse response convolution filter on my Mac ahead of the DAC for EQ. No matter what I put on it sounds perfect to my ears. The RME headphone amp is probably underrated and sounds plenty good to me.

    YMMV.
     
  13. Ear-Wax

    Ear-Wax Rando

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    My bad. I just realized the OP was asking about amps only. I still hope my contribution is valuable to some one else looking for suggestions along the way.
     
  14. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    I'd rather use the RME as a source and one of the amps mentioned in the first post of this thread. The RME's built-in amp is goshdarn awful. Everything is relative. Unless you have actually heard any one of those amps in the first post and compared it directly to the RME headout, and still preferred the headout.
     
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  15. Ear-Wax

    Ear-Wax Rando

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    True everything is relative. I have not heard the amps mention in the first post. But goshdarn awful? I guess I need to step back and reevaluate things.
     
  16. Beefy

    Beefy Almost "Made"

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    If you enjoy what you have, then just enjoy it. There is always something better, and chasing perfection is usually futile (not to mention time consuming and expensive).

    Just remember to take the opportunity to listen to different gear whenever you get the chance, it can be truly eye opening.
     
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  17. Lycos

    Lycos Rando

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    RME ADI2 has excellent features. However, this thread mainly focuses on sound.

    ADI2 in-built amp for me is just so so.
    If I can put value - it's around $200-300 - somewhere between Heresy and THX789.
    In terms of DAC, it's very good - but for me, it has a typical delta-sigma sound signature that I don't enjoy. It's too harsh and dry.

    I ended up replacing it with a cheaper Biforst 2 + Jot 2 combo ($1.1k vs RME $1.3k).
    This stack offers much-needed bass impact to HD800 and more engaging.
     
  18. limesoft

    limesoft Facebook Friend

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    Plug the HD800S into a high OI tube amp (see recommendations) and then come back to the RME head out - you'll probably go.. oooh riiightt so that's what it's supposed to sound like when on tube amp. I think you might be doing your 800s a massive disservice running them out of the RME. I personally run mine out of a Woo WA8 amp; all the good stuff you hear out of solid state on the Senns, multiply it X 2-3 times out of a good tube amp: larger but more natural soundstage with more density and texture, more sub bass, less etched treble - it's almost a different headphone.. it's like they've been specifically designed for this. Don't settle on the RME headout if you can help it. I've been chasing solid state for years now for my HD800s, your HD800s will get seriously depressed (if not already) and won't stop crying
     
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  19. Lycos

    Lycos Rando

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    Has anyone tried to pair HD800 with Headamp GS-X mini?

    For my home setup, I do have Burson Soloist 3x, but it does not pair well with HD800.
    It's too neutral. I prefer the warmth and slam that Jot 2 has.
     
  20. JeremiahS

    JeremiahS Acquaintance

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    When I had my HD800S most solid state amps were kind of bad pairing for the Sennheiser, they seem very harsh and dry and this included popular ones like Schiit Jotunheim 1 and Ragnarok 1. In the end I prefer the HD800S with DIY amps like AMB Beta 22 and Gilmore Dynahi, both are definitely leaning towards warmth.

    In the end I decided to move on from the HD800S, I can no longer stand their weak sub bass and midrange.
     

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