Solid State Home Headphone Amplifier Reviews

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John Grandberg  |  Jun 30, 2015  |  5 comments

An updated version of the DAC I enjoyed so much a few years back—with several minor complaints addressed. What's not to like?

John Grandberg  |  Nov 14, 2017  |  8 comments
There's no shortage of choice for quality headphone amps. Whether your budget is $249 or $5,000, or somewhere in between, you should be able to find an amp that satisfies your requirements.

The same goes for D/A converters. The little Grace Design SDAC is killer at only $79 while high-end DACs routinely go for many thousands of dollars.

Preamps? Same story. As a more "traditional" hi-fi component, there's a seemingly endless supply of designs out there. A surprisingly large number of brands sport prices you might typically associate with a new luxury car. On the other end, Schiit's Saga does a bang-up job at $349.

Yes, there are more options than ever for building a system using separate components for each function. Yet things don't often go as well when using integrated devices.

Wes Phillips, Sam Tellig  |  Sep 05, 2006  |  0 comments
I've been a little remiss in writing about one of the best tools for travel I've experienced recently: Ray Samuels Audio's Emmeline The Hornet ($350), a tiny (3" L by 2" W by 1" H) rechargeable portable headphone amplifier. I tend to travel with my iPod packed with hi-rez music files and a pair of low-impedance headphones. That's not a marriage made in heaven, so I also need a headphone amplifier. Over the years, portable headphone amps have gotten better and better while getting smaller and smaller. The Hornet is the smallest I've discovered so far and is my current favorite.
Tyler Schrank  |  Jan 30, 2018  |  60 comments
I'm going to make a bold statement right out of the gate. Schiit has rewritten the rules for budget headphone amplifiers with the Magni 3. Then again, they've done the same for other product categories multiple times in the past. Whether it be their $2399 Yggdrasil DAC down to the $179 Eitr USB->SPDIF converter, they offer high-performing, value-oriented, and often game-changing gear. So, perhaps that isn't so much a bold claim as it is more the norm for the company.
John Grandberg  |  Dec 04, 2013  |  22 comments

Resonessence Labs, the wizards behind the ESS Sabre DAC chips and the exceptional Invicta DAC, release their first product aimed solely at headphone users. And it's a doozy.

Kalman Rubinson  |  Nov 29, 2010  |  4 comments
I remember my first experience with headphones. In 1960, I bought a set of Trimm dual 'phones (less than $5) and rewired them for stereo. The experience was remarkable for several reasons. First, it brought the sounds into my head—I was thrilled with the impact. Second, stereo effects, especially with Enoch Light's ping-pong LPs (eg, Provocative Percussion, Command RS800SD), were striking. Third, I could play them really loud without bothering others. Of course, they had no bass, brittle treble, distorted at high levels, and their wire headband and Bakelite earpieces were uncomfortable. My fascination with this gimmick quickly faded.
John Grandberg  |  Jun 19, 2015  |  66 comments

Interested in a reference quality, powerhouse amplifier to drive any headphone in existence, from big cans to sensitive IEMs? Look no further than the Violectric V281.

Skylab  |  Oct 04, 2012  |  14 comments

In what seems like a relatively short time, Burson Audio has developed a reputation for making good products, and they seem to have a pretty devoted and happy customer base. These are enviable things. I had read lots of good things about Burson's products, but never had the chance to hear one, until being sent this review loaner from Burson.

Tyll Hertsens  |  Aug 17, 2011  |  4 comments

I'm very pleased to have Todd the Vinyl Junkie nearby. Thursday nights he has listening sessions of newly arrived vinyl and serves imported Belgian beer in proper glasses ... so that's cool. But in this case, I'm pleased because I get first dibs listening to Pete Millett's newest creation for Apex Hi-Fi and TTVJ: The Butte headphone amplifier.

John Grandberg  |  Dec 07, 2012  |  5 comments

I just love checking out previously unknown (to me) gear from Japan. They have quite a few high quality headphone-oriented brands that don't get much exposure anywhere else. Case in point - the Izmo M1. Check out the picture above: looks like a nice portable amp right? That was my first thought as well but it turns out I was wrong. Sort of. It's far more than just a portable amp but can impersonate one with the right accessories.

Confused yet? Allow me to explain...

Tyll Hertsens  |  Feb 19, 2016  |  20 comments

Some audiophile gear is like fine jewelry, but lacks technical competence. Some audiophile gear is butt-ugly, but gloriously competent in musical fidelity.

The HeadAmp GS-X does both insanely well.

John Grandberg  |  Feb 07, 2014  |  31 comments

Should a reference-quality headphone amplifier cost more than a slightly used jet ski? Because that seems to be the trend. AURALiC goes in another direction with their statement amp, the stunning TAURUS MKII.

John Grandberg  |  Feb 21, 2014  |  2 comments

I love relatively compact devices packed with features. Unfortunately many of them involve significant compromise to achieve their size or price point.

Here's one that doesn't.

John Grandberg  |  Oct 25, 2012  |  17 comments

Electrostatic headphones. Just mentioning to term conjures thoughts of supremely expensive systems and frustratingly confusing naming conventions. Example: the Stax SRS-4170 system is comprised of the SR-407 headphones and the SRM-006tS amplifier. But the official name is "earspeaker" instead of headphones, and "driver unit" rather than amplifier. And at $2,000 this is merely a mid-range system, with the top models selling for significantly higher prices.

Woo Audio aims to help make 'stats more accessible with their WEE transformer box. Read on to find out why this thing might just be your ticket to electrostatic goodness at a reasonable price.

Skylab  |  Jul 18, 2014  |  11 comments
I own British speakers. I love British speakers. My main speakers are B&W Nautilus 800's, and I LOVE them. What do I love about them? They sound very, very natural over the long haul, but they don't immediately hit you over the head with this or that. They are not flashy, but they provide superb musical satisfaction over the long haul. Nothing sticks out, and that's what provides the naturalness of the sound.

I have to think that the Tisbury fellows like this sort of British sound, because that's EXACTLY what I got from the CA-1. Nothing stuck out, but the music flowed in an remarkably natural way, and one that I would not have expected from a $600 solid state amp.

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