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  1. #1
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    Is my amp any good?

    Hi,

    So I'm kind of new to the game and when it comes to knowing what makes an amp any good or not I'm completely lost.

    I recently purchased a pair of high quality headphones; Sennheiser HD 598s and I want to run them as best as possible. I've heard it's best from a full system with a real amp and either from a CD or from vinyl. But I have no idea if my amp is any good or not. The same goes for my record player, but I'll probably post a separate thread about that later.

    Anyway, my amp is a Kenwood KA 893. Here are 2 link with specs for the amp and the headphones:
    Kenwood KA-893 | Owners Manual, Service Manual, Schematics, Free Download | HiFi Engine
    Sennheiser Canada Inc. - HD 598

    So is my amp any good for running my headphones? If not, why not and what would I be looking for in an upgrade?

    Also, it has a phono input, but I also own a phono preamp that my dad gave me. Should I plug my record player into the amp's own phono input or into the preamp and then into the amp?

    The preamp is a bozak madisson clk-ph2, the specs:
    Impedance: 50k ohms
    Gain: 50X (10mV in = .6V out)
    Max. Input: 35mV
    Response: 20-20KHz
    Max. Output: 1.9V
    S/N Ratio: -60dB
    Power Requirements: 117VAC, 60Hz

    Thank you very much for taking the time to read this wall of text and thanks for any responses, I appreciate it.

  2. #2
    Suspended markw's Avatar
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    How does it sound to you? Newbie or not, you should be able to know what sounds good or not. You can go broke and/or crazy trying to live by everyone else's opinions on what "sounds better" to them.

    I use a 40 year-old Marantz 2230 to run my Sennheiser HD-580's, Grado SR-80and Sennheiser HD-280's and they all sound great, but different. The amp is not my limiting factor on how they sound. I see no reason to think yours would not be more than adequate, but only your ears can tell you that.

    But, if you want to only use headphones, you can buy dedicated headphone only amps, and you can find a world of "opinions" on them here.

    As for that phono preamp, yes, you would plug that into your Kenwood's AUX input, not it's phono input. As to whether it's an improvement over what's in the Kenwood only your ears can tell you that. Try 'em both and let your ears decide.

  3. #3
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    Yeah I guess it's true that what I hear is most important. I'm just kind of trying to find a baseline. Like I was reading online about impedance and higher impedance headphones needing more voltage but less current and the amp should be 1/8 the impedance of the headphone for best results. But I couldn't find anywhere online how much voltage is actually recommended for any level of impedance. Just "more".

    Furthermore, when I play vinyl's they sound warmer and fuller. Like all the instruments have nice presence, better than on PC. (Though it COULD have to do with mastering) but at the same time they sound, er, muddier I guess. Especially the singing. On my PC it sounds much clearer, but the overall sound is not as warm and doesn't have as much depth. I'm trying to find out why. The sound is better from my vinyls, but not as clear essentially than from my PC.

    And lastly I'm probably going to buy a headphone amp. There's a dude that lives nearby that makes them by hand and they're apparently some of the best in the world. I've had the pleasure of demoing one and it was great.

  4. #4
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    When you say from your PC are you talking about mp3? MP3 is a compressed file and will not have all the music information your LP will. If the LP playback isn't clear for some reason you might try a better cartridge or have the table checked to make sure it's set up optimum. Most people would agree vinyl is a warmer sound and it's certainly going to sound fuller than mp3. You are correct though when you mentioned the sound will vary depending on the LP production.

    I think headphone jacks on home gear are fairly standard regarding impedance and voltage, where this may come into play is trying to drive something like the Senn's on an Ipod or something.

    I'm not certain but the KA-893 sounds like one of the integrated that came in a Kenwood rack system. If so, decent but on par with a mid level receiver.
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  5. #5
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    I saw on your other thread you download FLAC, a step in the right direction, still vinyl will have a different sound. What are you using for a DAC? Also, what table and cartridge? As Markw stated it's definitely worth trying both the inboard and outboard phono stages to see which one is better to you.
    Mark Levinson #512
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  6. #6
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    I tried a different record player and it's better, not perfect but better.

    It's a super old sucker. It's called a Dual 502 Belt Driven Turntable. I'm pretty sure it's from the 70's. I adjusted the counterweight and anti-skating according to some article I read online, but I know there's other adjustments that are possible and the table is old as hell so it probably needs a tune-up for sure. But to be honest I'm thinking of buying another one. I'm not sure what to be looking for in another one though. I live near like 10 thrift stores and pawn shops. I don't want to buy new if I don't have to, but I'm not sure what to look for when trying to buy one.

    For now, I'm using what seems to be the stock cartridge. I probably should replace it but I'm not really sure how to do that, or where to get a new one or even what kind I need.

    And I don't know what DAC is. Google said digital to analog converter. If that's what you're talking about I definitely don't have anything like that.

  7. #7
    Suspended markw's Avatar
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    Headphones/speakers and phono cartridges are both transducers. They convert one form of energy into another (mechanical and electrical) and are, by design, euphonic. That means they are designed to have their own sound and can vary greatly from one to another, particularly among brands. A lot of what people consider in these areas as "better" is simply a preference for one type of sound over another.

    As you read, a DAC converts digital signals into analog sounds. You do have one or else you wouldn't be able to listen to music from your computer. tn your computer.

  8. #8
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    Dual is actually one of the better brands from the 70's and probably better than what you'd find Thrifting or Pawn. A decent new table would run you around $400.00 with cartridge, look at the Rega 1 or Pro-Ject Debut or Music Hall, not sure what their entry model is. I would personally recommend Ortofon who makes good performing carts even in the budget range.
    Mark Levinson #512
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    Thanks for all the info. I appreciate it a lot. Each new answer brings new questions...I hope you don't mind.

    As for headphone or cartridge preference. Well accurate representation is the most important to me. I already have a pair of cans I'm very happy with, and I guess I'll just fiddle with cartridges until I find something. Though I'll take the Ortofon suggestion as a place to begin.

    Now for tables, I looked into the Debut III and I like it a lot. It's in my budget and probably much better than what I have now. That being said I'm still not sure what kind of amp I'd need to run it. If the one I currently have would be sufficient or not? And if not why? / What would I be looking for in a new one? Manufacturers put all kinds of ridiculous numbers on things and expensive stuff has diminishing returns on quality anyway. Essentially I want to be the best informed that I can be before a purchase. I tried doing a lot of research online but it's hard to find the info I wanted. Thus my presence in this forum haha.

  10. #10
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    You wouldn't need anything new if you got a new turntable, it would hook up and play like your old one.

    In looking to improve your system you might listen to some other integrated amps to see what you think. Brands like NAD or Cambridge Audio have good budget amps but when replacing gear it's always best to try to listen first if possible.
    Mark Levinson #512
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  11. #11
    Suspended markw's Avatar
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    What does "accurate" sound like?

    I've often wondered, in my 45 years in this hobby, how do I know "accurate" when I hear it. What with all the electricial bufoonery that goes on before the tracks are finally laid dow for posterity, where does the real music stop and the enhancement begins?

    Don't get too humg up on hyperbole. What you're looking for is like trying to capture wind in it's natural state. You can capture the air it's made of, but the force that makes it wind won't be there.

    I've been to many concerts in many venues and, you know what? Even when the same orchestra plays in the same venues, it always sounds different. Now, you might want to consider that you're lookng for what sounds like what you would like music to sound like, and that's all well and good, but as for accuracy to the original performance, you're chasing smoke. Go for what sounds the most like what you want music to sound like.
    Last edited by markw; 05-20-2013 at 06:04 AM.

  12. #12
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    Well then, that's more than twice my age haha. I've never thought of it that way though. "What does accurate sound like". I still don't like the idea of added EQs and I probably won't buy anything that says it adds anything to the music. But it is a great point that you made, I need to start taking that into account.

  13. #13
    Suspended markw's Avatar
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    Virtuallty (not all) every recording made has gone through more eq, dubbing, reverb, and other electronic manipulation than you want to imagine.

  14. #14
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    Well yeah I understand that much. Like that's inherent mastering and production. But that's all I want. Like if the artist decided to up something a certain amount for example, then I don't want to mess around with my own eq's or whatever at home and add more or less of it.

    I guess that just relies on me making my home EQ flat. But I understand what you mean that everything will sound different. Even two "flat" headphones for example but made by two different companies will sound different. I guess what I mean is I don't want to purposely add anything unnecessarily. So if a product is advertised as "increasing the bass" or whatever it may be, that's not really the product for me. I like vanilla ice-cream music. Just give me a flat reproduction please.

    I understand that's not necessarily a thing you can test for and personal preference is important, but I think maybe it's a good starting point.

  15. #15
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    I agree "accurate" may be a moving target, or even an imaginary target, however, upgrading your system is not that difficult. It does help to have heard live performances or played music to know what an instrument sounds like. When listening to a potential addition or change of component you will notice things, one may have better bass detail, allowing you to hear what is making the bass, in many times better bass may actually sound like less because there will be a lack of distortion or smearing. Do the vocals sound like coming closer to human than mechanical? Do cymbals sound the way you heard them; you may like them smooth, some like them bright, but do they come closer to sounding real. Cymbals are really difficult because of recording, I have albums where they are almost buried, some with them out front, but you get the idea, you have to trust your judgment as to what you like. You will probably come to find that gear that does reproduce the recording more accurately will be less forgiving to bad recordings. If possible try to get out to listen to as much gear as you can and even though you can't afford something still go listen to it, you won't understand why a disc player costs $10k unless you hear it, once you do then you can make up your mind if it would be worth spending $10k if you have it. I posted not long ago in the General Audio about an audio event I attended at a shop, I heard the Dynaudio Evidence Platnum which range any where from $65k to $85k depending on who you ask, a $25k Clear Audio turntable rig etc. I can't afford these but it gives an idea of what more expensive gear can do and a better perspective. I believe there is audio gear that is more accurate just by the ability to make an instrument sound the way it should, does the piano have all the body and harmonics close to when you heard a piano live, even in your school auditorium or grandma's living room, can you tell real strings from a synthesizer etc. Some of us feel these improvements are worth the expense and time to find them where others may be satisfied with a receiver all their life. I have friends who have nothing but a home theater, I don't rag on them to buy better and I don't expect them to wet on my parade when I fire up my system. It's all about where your passion takes you.

    Another tip I recommend for listening, always take your own music, and take the same ones all the time. This can also give you a concensus of how different systems reproduce the music. As an example, I have a Vanessa Williams CD I've heard on a few nice systems, I took it to an audio shop and on one system her voice had a bit of throatiness or lower octave that just wasn't there on the other systems, although a sales person might just say, "that's because ours is more accurate", use your judgment, I knew from the other auditions and my own system those effects shouldn't be there and it was added by this particular brand of expensive bookshelf speakers.
    Mark Levinson #512
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    Clarus Crimson loom - AC outlet to speaker terminal
    Revel Performa F52 main/center & S30's
    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
    Marantz BD-7003 > AV-8003 > LINN 5125
    Transparent cables / Tributaries HDMI
    PS Audio Quintet

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