Reference Amp recommendations

Discussion in 'Advice Threads' started by rhythmdevils, Sep 13, 2021.

  1. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    Hey all,
    I'm looking for a not too expensive (under 1k$ - hopefully less) amp that I can use as a reference for tuning headphones. I'm looking for something that if I tune a headphone to sound right and good with, the headphones will sound right on the most number of other systems possible. So the most correct FR and tonality. I can test dynamics and resolution with other amps, I'm mostly looking to check balance of mids, treble, bass and tone. The Gilmore cold, flat tonality doesn't work here. Nor the super warm Black Widow.

    So far I've got these on my list:

    Schiit Magni 3+ (best balance and tone of any solid state amp I've heard)
    Cavalli Liquid Carbon X
    Cavalli Liquid Gold

    Wondering if an iFI Micro Signature or Diablo would be good. The Micro BL sounded very "right" to me but it's been a while and I don't know if the Diablo has that character.

    Any recommendations would be great! I want to try to figure out what is correct and how my current amps are colored and affecting how I tune headphones. I don't currently use any measurements to tune, it's all by ear so the gear I use is pretty important. I know, maybe I should invest in EARS instead, but I'm no computer wizard and it all looks like a nightmare. And I dont' think I would trust the results anyways. I only really trust Marv's measurements on this site. Because I've compared them to my own impressions of headphones for years and they match exactly.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2021
  2. Gazny

    Gazny Friend

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    Are you tuning ortho or dynamics?
    Reference to the whole hobby or sbaf?
     
  3. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    Orthos. And a reference to anyone so that if headphones sound right on the amp, they sound right on the most other gear possible. I'm guessing this thread will just be people's preferences but I thought I'd give it a shot.
     
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  4. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    I remember Bob Katz was searching for a neutral amp on Innerfidelity to compare other amps with. He settled on the AMB M3.

    Bad news is it's DIY but I can see the appeal.
     
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    Last edited: Sep 14, 2021
  5. BarnBurner

    BarnBurner Acquaintance

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    I wonder if a Benchmark DAC1 would be good in this application. They can be found for $400 or so used and I think they are quite neutral and would make for a good reference. (Meaning, I would use benchmark gear if I were back in a studio, though it wasn't my favorite for personal listening).
     
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  6. Polygonhell

    Polygonhell Rando

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    The Original Liquid Gold is on the warmer side of neutral, I haven’t heard the Monoprice version.
     
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  7. JeremiahS

    JeremiahS Acquaintance

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    Ti Kan's AMB amps are very underrated and it's a bit sad that they don't get much discussions nowadays. I have a 2-channel Beta22 and it has a flavour compared to the GS-X (another amp that I respect a lot) but it's doing a very good job doing balance between musicality and neutrality. It's worth considering if you're looking something that is highly technical but not as "sterile" as the Gilmore Dynalo designs.
     
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  8. Jerseysam

    Jerseysam Rando

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    Lake People G111 ($550) is a pretty neutral/smooth, studio-listening designed SS amp. Two SE headphone jacks so you could compare two sets of headphones simultaneously. Built like a tank, but not very large form-factor wise. Runs very cool with no wall wart (internal toroidal). Pretty black background.....not as void of space dark as Magnius/THX amps, but close. Lot of power available. In my limited experience, the affordable (sub $1k) amp that best "plays with everything". I usually run it off a Soekris DAC2541...but its sounded aces off a Bifrost 2, Burl B2 Bomber, Modius, etc.

    Downsides....SE-out only if that matters to your line-up (balanced or SE-in). Voltage rather than current based amp (thinking on plannars)....but has enough zing in my experience to run "average impedance" orthros a-OK. No traditional external gain switch....there's an internal circuit where you can adjust but have to open the case (not hard, but fiddly). The initial/base setting kicks out a lot power, so that may never be a worry for you (I've only done it just to have done it/give a bit more headroom to high-impedance...have not 'needed' running 20 ohm LCD-X's to DT880 600 ohm off the initial setting).

    Lake People G111 Headphone Amplifier (power-holdings-inc.com)
     
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  9. Ruprit

    Ruprit Rando

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    Do you know if Ti Kan is finished with diy audio or if he has launched a new site? Both amb.org and the forum have been down for a few months now.

    If you do go the M3 route, you might want to check out the Rebelamp. My understanding is that it is basically an M3 configuration. If I remember correctly the Rebelamp designer built it and then asked Ti Kan for his blessing.
     
  10. Beefy

    Beefy Almost "Made"

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    Eh? Both site and forum are currently active. Just looking at the forum ToC, Ti has posted several times over the last few days. Hasn't published anything new in a while, but the old designs are very well supported.

    Looks like the OPAMP input and MOSFET output of the M3, on a traditional dual-rail power supply, meaning no active ground. You could do a lot worse from a technical standpoint. Although there is a *lot* of competition at that price point.
     
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  11. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    If you want reference, you want Topping!
     
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  12. Ruprit

    Ruprit Rando

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    I'm glad to hear the site is still active. I wanted to buy some pcbs a few months back and the website wouldn't load, nor the forums. Even today I get this. It guess it's something on my end then.

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Beefy

    Beefy Almost "Made"

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    Seems like a Safari or maybe Mac problem. Works fine in Edgium for Windows 10, so maybe just try a different browser.
     
  14. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    what country are you in? You might need a VPN
     
  15. Ruprit

    Ruprit Rando

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    It does the same thing for me with Firefox. I also have a Windows PC and it has the same result. Even using Edge browser, stock, same issue.

    I'm in USA. Maybe. I'm wondering if it is my ISP or it got blacklisted by my router for some reason. It's even more bizarre now that I know it's up.

    Fake edit. I just went outside and tried to access the site on my cellphone via cellular. Amb's site loaded perfectly. It's definitely something on my end then. Thanks all!
     
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    Last edited: Sep 14, 2021
  16. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    Yeah it's weird. I have no problems with either site no matter which browser. Even on my iPhone
     
  17. CEE TEE

    CEE TEE Free Agent

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    This is what I did with the Benchmark DAC1 when I had it. Was excellent because you use the same DAC to the 2 headphone outputs and also to an outboard amp. Great for A/B comparing 2 of the same headphone and also neutral and also easy to output to an amp and hear how amps are different.

    Another thing is you can use your old 3-pin dual XLR headphone cables out of the back since the Benchmark and Lavry’s are preamp outputs connected to the volume pot. This is an old Head-Case trick with HD580 that used to be cheap.

    These days, I would reco instead the Lavry DA-11 if it is in your budget. Same 1/2 rack form factor and I/O but the Lavry also gives you digital numbers for the volume settings to make it easy to take notes and volume match, plus I think the lower (sub) bass extension is a little better than DAC1 or DA-10.

    I recommended this to @shotgunshane , maybe he can chime in with his experience and DA-11.

    There is also PiC which is Dan Lavry’s crossfeed. May be fun to play with, I didn’t mess with it much but after seeing Jan Meier’s Country stuff, it could be interesting to revisit.
     
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  18. bixby

    bixby Friend

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    Try going into admin settings on router and change dns server addresses to something else like googles dns servers instead of your isp default dns servers. Or first try flushing dns cache on your win machine.
     
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  19. señorhifi

    señorhifi Friend

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    I was always really curious about this one. It costs basically the same as a Jot2 once imported to EU (ok maybe a bit more). Can you say anything about how "3D" it sounds? For example, Magni3 has no width to it and THX AAA 887 has all the width in the world, but 0 depth. How does this one compare?
     
  20. BarnBurner

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    I loved the Swiss Army Knife utility of the DAC3. Not my favorite sonically but a sweet little box all the same.
     

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