"Wall of Fame" Page for Headphone Amplifiers

The hardest part of building an InnerFidelity "Wall of Fame" page is you have to have a pretty good idea that you've reviewed a relevant group of amps, and have sorted out which ones qualify legitimately as a best-in-class contender. As CEO of HeadRoom I really didn't spend much time evaluating competitors amps—we went our own way and I didn't want the distraction. Unfortunately, that means my experience with the headphone amp world is somewhat limited relative to the 20 years I spent evaluating headphones while there. Fortunately, I have the honor to be accompanied here at InnerFidelity with a number of writers very familiar with headphone amps who have ferreted out some terrific amplifiers in their reviews. Thank you so very much Skylab, John Grandberg, Nate Maher, and Ryan Clarin for your efforts.

I mention Nate above because his review on the ECP Audio L-2 would certainly have made the list were it not out of production. Which brings me to a mention of the rules, for amps to qualify for the list, they: must have had an InnerFidelity review; must be currently in production; must be available in the U.S. or can be ordered on the internet from the U.S., and finally has to be among best-in-class for its type and price. I only wish I had a couple of dozen more reviews to choose from, there is some great gear out there and you can't get to it all.

So, this would be a good place to acknowledge some of the other great amps out there. Please feel free to highlight one of your favorites and why in the comments.

Okay, wanna see who made the list? Check out the InnerFidelity's "Wall of Fame Headphone Amps".

COMMENTS
leonardodrummond's picture

A GS-X loan would be nice! Curious as to how you'd compare it to the Taurus, Tyll.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I know the GS-X is a lovely amp.

Kaesar94's picture

Tyll, you have to listen the CMA800R, especially with the HD800, it's simply outstanding. According to all those who have tried it, it's the best SS amp for HD800 out there, significantly better than the AURALiC Taurus...

I hope it happens very very soon !!!!! smileysmileysmiley

Thank you in advance...

John Grandberg's picture

As much as I love the CMA800R, I'm not sure I'd use that term. The Taurus and Questyle trade back and forth for supremacy with various headphones. Taurus wins with most planars, CMA800R wins with most Sennheisers. Even when they don't win, both still sound great. 

I will send my CMA800R to Tyll whenever he wants to try it. 

Kaesar94's picture

Of course i was talking about the pairing CMA800R/HD800, i know the Taurus wins by far with some other headphones....sorry for the misunderstanding....yesyesyes

lithium's picture

I see a bottlehead in the picture above,but no mention in the final list. Why Tyll, Why??

Tyll Hertsens's picture

It's not on the list 'cuz I are dumb and spaced it out.  Bottle head will be going up on the list.

lithium's picture

Don't be so hard on yourself....It will be great to see more headphone amp reviews. are there some reviews in the works?

xander01's picture

Yeah, the Crack omission was a head scratcher, but glad to hear it'll be making it after all.

Along the lines of the Crack / specialized amps - I thought I had a vague recollection of you saying somewhere, however briefly, that you were blown away by the ECP Audio L-2, or that you at least thought it was one of the best HD800 drivers you'd ever heard...

Maybe I'm misremembering & it was a different reviewer?

John Grandberg's picture

There's no doubt the L-2 would belong on the list if it was still in production. 

neo's picture

The Crack is a great sounding amp but maybe isn't versatile enough. Its an OTL amp hence you cannot change gain. Only +300 Ohms and dynamic headphones can be paired with the Bottlehead Crack

Jazz Casual's picture

Just realised that not one headphone or piece of ancillary gear that I own hangs on the Wall of Fame.

John Grandberg's picture

Just grab a KSC-75 on the cheap, and you're part of the club. Everybody should own at least one of those anyway. 

Jazz Casual's picture

I'm actually pretty happy with most of the choices I've made, which suffer the ignominy of hanging on my personal wall of shame. 

Eric_C's picture

Typo on "Meier" in the wall of fame...

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Fxt, thanks!

Three Toes of Fury's picture

Woo Hoo!!!.....great to see the "Wall of Fame" groweth!   Another outstanding additon to a website filled with great reviews and suggestions!!

Uh Oh!!!.....oh boy...the "Wall of Fame" groweth.....and along with it,  the urge to purchase more "Innerfidelity Approved" items....now where did i put that credit card?

Thanks Tyll .n. crew...great stuff!!

Peace .n. Living in Stereo.

          3ToF.

DrForBin's picture

hello,

JDS Labs C5.

SPL Phonotor 2

great addition to the site!

Nymrej's picture

Shouldn't this be a "Desktop of Fame"?  In any case, thanks for the new feature!

John Grandberg's picture

Tyll actually hangs these things on his wall. It's quite precarious, especially with the BHSE. 

cansman's picture

Hi Tyll,

Isn't this amp supposed to be on the Wall of Fame as well unless you / John have changed your mind/s about it?

Cheers,

cansman

John Grandberg's picture

The Concero HP is exceptional, but it's not strictly a headphone amp.... it's a USB DAC with headphone amp combined. It can't really be compared to stand-alone amps, as neither function can really be separated. 

Claritas's picture

Presumably, there will be separate subsections someday: desktop, portable, tube, solid state, &c. and the reviews will be expanded to include measurements. Much luck!

Never Satisfied's picture

Any chance of the Theorem 720 being reviewed? I would imagine it compares directly with the HiFi-M8 though without all the possible input/output combinations. From what I've read about the differences between the 2 sonically, the HiFi-M8 has more low-end authority but the Theorem is more "musical"...

Dadracer's picture

This is great and congratulations to all those concerned. Would you like to consider having a wall of fame foe ancillaries such as headphone cables and such?????

 

schalliol's picture

I know it's discontinued, but the Balance Ultra Desktop Amp is pretty darn awesome and specs really well (especially with the Desktop Power Supply).  The extremely low noise floor, flexibility with line level rear outputs, fully balanced design, and the crossfeed circuit makes it hard for me to find anything that I would switch to.  I do have the HiFi-M8 now too, which is nice but for a completely different application.  The BUDA just has so much power available on my HD 800s that I can't imagine what would require the high gain setting.

ultrabike's picture

I think HeadRoom amp/dac offerings are unfortunately discontinued. Would love to know if the micro combo design is/will-be available under a different name or vendor.

Bennyboy's picture

Stuff that real humans can afford would be good

FizzlePop's picture

The headphone wall of fame has several options < $100.

Folks on limited budgets get the most bang for their buck by investing in better headphones and an amp that just "does the job."

Schiit Audio Magni and Vali absolutely belong here.

Mintroo's picture

I am very surprised none of the SR-71B, F-35 Ligtning or Intruder are included in the Wall of Fame. Having owned many portable amps (including Pico Slim, ALO and Cypher Labs amps) omitting any of RSAs amps is to me a gross oversight. 

br777's picture

how on earth did the o2 amp not make it on this list? 

Tyll Hertsens's picture

If we haven't reviewed it, it can't show up on the Wall.  We're working on it and a number of the amps mentioned may indeed make it up.

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