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  1. #1
    music whore Happy Camper's Avatar
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    Speaker tube amp for planar headphones.

    Fellow Hi-Fiers,

    I have purchased a pair of Hifiman HE-6 planar headphones. My headphone amp only has the current to drive them adequately. I put a headphone jack on the speaker taps of a Rotel RB-1050 and it really did the job. I just don't like SS sound so I am gathering notes to hunt for a quality tube amp. I don't know how much power is needed but if it's high current, 10-15 watts should be enough.

    My goal is to get as 3-D a sound as I can and still be fast and clean (read that as not real tubey).

    Budget will not be such an issue to limit this to budget minded amps only. I'm trying to find the design features to drive the headphones to their fullest.

    Specs:
    Impedence: 50 Ohm
    Efficiency: 83.5 DB (not very efficient)
    d HC b

  2. #2
    RGA
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    I would post this to head-fi.org. That is the mother of all headphone forums. They are probably more up to date on dedicated headphone amps and you may find some people who use the exact same headphones.

    As a Start I would look at Antique Sound labs as they make dedicated tube headphone amps. I know someone who uses my OTO Phono SE integrated amp as a headphone amp for his AKG 1000s headphones. It's 10 watts per channel and very quiet.

    The ASL would be on the cheap end of the scale so there may be better out there http://www.divertech.com/aslmgheaddt.html FWIW I have had the ASL for over 10 years and it's been pretty darn good.

    The Sugden Headmaster is terrific - not a tube but as close as SS generally gets. http://www.onhifi.com/product/sugden_bijou.htm but it's also nice because you have more inputs and it can work as a preamp.

    But these are both older units - the Headfi guys will be more current.

  3. #3
    music whore Happy Camper's Avatar
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    I'm from Head Fi.

    I'm trying to pick the brains of planar speaker/monitor guys with quality tube amps in the low wattage range. We are all currently evaluating the best power range for these headphones and I don't think we've come to any sure bets yet. Since these need a speaker amp to power them properly, normal experiences with headphone amps are futile.

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    d HC b

  4. #4
    RGA
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    Well the good thing is even if the planar headphone is low sensitivity the volume output required will not need a high powered amp to push it.

    I mentioned my Audio Note OTO Phono SE and I will now recommend it more strongly (although you're looking at close to $4,000). If you don't need the phono stage it is closer to $3000.

    Alternatively, The Audio Note Kit one can be made into either a 300b or 2a3 http://www.audionotekits.com/kit1mk2.html And you could of course look at any and all of the tube amps from ASL.

    The sensitivity is not really the concern. The 50ohm load might be though for some amplifiers I suppose. I would check with the manufacturer of the amp just to be sure - send them an e-mail. Most of them might find the question interesting since they may not know about such headphones.

    I'm kind of surprised that they don't make an amplifier directly for this headphone. Stax used to do that and probably still do. That way people don't have to worry - the match for the can is right there. Or perhaps they do but people don't like the sound of it??

  5. #5
    music whore Happy Camper's Avatar
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    They have one now but it doesn't do justice to the 6s. There will be a couple hitting the streets in the coming months but I am an old school type. I'd rather know what to look for and hit the trail for a fondly loved senior amp with quality iron, I can rebuild the rest.

    Some of my questions for an amp are:

    1) What would you consider the best topography for this type of driver? Push-pull, OTC, etc.
    2) Speaker amps are generally rated at 4 & 8 ohms which is where the wattage comes from. What's the formula to figure 50 ohm wattage?
    3) I don't have a lot of experience with tubes. I have used the 5998 with good results but not real impressed with the 6080 options. This KT88 tube gets a lot of coverage so I will look into amps using it. I'm looking for a 3-D sound with no roll off in extension. What technical information is necessary to find that in an amp?
    4) Can hybrid amps give a tube presentation?

    I'm trying to learn what I need to know so I can hunt wisely.
    d HC b

  6. #6
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Happy Camper
    They have one now but it doesn't do justice to the 6s. There will be a couple hitting the streets in the coming months but I am an old school type. I'd rather know what to look for and hit the trail for a fondly loved senior amp with quality iron, I can rebuild the rest.

    Some of my questions for an amp are:

    1) What would you consider the best topography for this type of driver? Push-pull, OTC, etc.
    2) Speaker amps are generally rated at 4 & 8 ohms which is where the wattage comes from. What's the formula to figure 50 ohm wattage?
    3) I don't have a lot of experience with tubes. I have used the 5998 with good results but not real impressed with the 6080 options. This KT88 tube gets a lot of coverage so I will look into amps using it. I'm looking for a 3-D sound with no roll off in extension. What technical information is necessary to find that in an amp?
    4) Can hybrid amps give a tube presentation?

    I'm trying to learn what I need to know so I can hunt wisely.
    My preference has always been for single ended topology (SET) when sound quality is the goal. But it comes at the expensive of power. Then to get the power while still remaining high quality then costs (usually on part with a Mercedes - and not the cheap Mercedes).

    People keep saying you need lots of power for planars and they're probably right - but the Audio Note Soro so far to me has sounded better with Magnepan than anything else I've tried. It's 18 watts but it is considered a highly robust amplifier. Quad designed tube amps directly for their electrostats and their flagship amp was 40 watts (3db louder than the Soro in theory) - both were designed/made by the same guy.

    Unfortunately, I would want to try a lot of this stuff before I blindly bought something. Does the maker of the headphones have any suggestions?

  7. #7
    music whore Happy Camper's Avatar
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    I'm guessing the maker will put out their own amp for the 6s after we have had a chance to review the landscape. The maker is HiFiman (who incidentally has had a nice writeup by Adam on his 801 player) and seems his popularity has caught up with his abilities.

    I will look into your suggestions and thank you for your considerable knowledge.
    d HC b

  8. #8
    RGA
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    Not really on topic but I just bought a Rotel RB-1050 for my SS system a week ago. Still have not had a chance to set-it up and start listening.

  9. #9
    music whore Happy Camper's Avatar
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    I have been using mine for yard speakers off the main rig. Without a preamp on my hp setup I can't use my RMB-100 monoblocks. The RB-1050 has gain trims in the front so I could try it with the headphones now. I want the sweet decay of a tube controlling this fast action diaphragm. I suppose a tube buffer could work with the ss amp but it adds to the chain.
    d HC b

  10. #10
    music whore Happy Camper's Avatar
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    RGA, how do you like your RB?

    I have been given an audition of a perfectly working GTA SE 40. So far the sound is exactly what I was looking for. With a overhaul and upgrade kit, I think this will work nicely.
    d HC b

  11. #11
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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  12. #12
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Happy Camper

    1) What would you consider the best topography for this type of driver? Push-pull, OTC, etc.
    If you are not afraid to try used gear, you won't get hurt at all.
    There are tons of people who try Sophia Electric Baby Integrated amp for headphone usages.
    You did say the cost won't be an issue, but if you are not going to audtion gear first, I suggest you to tryout and enjoy used gear until you find a satisfactory match. If you like find the right amp then just buy a new unit.
    The Sophia Electric Baby offers 10 watts Class A in push pull configuration. I love the sound coming out of EL84, you just might love it as well. The EL84 based amps I've heard have tight sound presentation without the stereotypical tubey sound. I love tube amps, but I'll take SS amps over flabby tube amps.

    BTW, a general rule for the OTL amps is that they are mostly best match for high impedance speakers and headphones. I have ATH AD1000 rated around 40 ohms and play with a OTL headphone amp. I think it sounds just fine, but the combination does lack fullbody sound. For that, I am looking for high impedance cans like Sennheiser rated 300ohms. If you want to be on a safe side, then I would look for a transformer coupled tube amp.

    If the cost wasn't a concern, I would love to try one of the amps made by Woo Audio. No personal experience with a unit, but I have heard nothing but great comments.

    Best Luck,
    JRA

  13. #13
    music whore Happy Camper's Avatar
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    http://www.audioreview.com/cat/ampli...9_1583crx.aspx

    This is a review of the GTA amp. The gentleman giving me an audition of this amp has two of them in the garage mothballed. Re-tubed with Sovtek 5881s and NOS Tung Sol 6sn7s. His pleasure is seeing my joy in discovery and is willing to part with them for a good price. For a few hundred I think I can live with this.
    d HC b

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