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Headphone amp - which is best option? (Read 2885 times)
Steve Deckert

If the 1st watt
sucks why continue?

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Headphone amp - which is best option?
10/09/12 at 20:20:39
Hi there,

I am from Singapore and am very new to tube amps. After going through your website and several forums, i have narrowed my decision down to 2 options.

1.        Mini Torri (with headphone mod) or ;
2.       Taboo (with headphone mod) + CSP2+  combo.

The 2 options were selected because they can drive speakers as well as headphones. I have a pair of LCD2 and a mordant short mezzo 2 (rated at 88 or 89dB) bookshelf speakers. I think the mezzo 2 should be alright for moderate listening levels which i do anyway. Somewhere down the road, i am probably going to upgrade to higher efficiency speakers, so suitability of the mezzo 2 is not a top concern right now.  I am likely to listen to speakers more than headphones. My source is  itunes through a DAC (Musical Fidelity V dac 2)  connected to one of the 2 options.  

I would appreciate if you can help answer some questions below regarding the 2 options so i can put in my order through soonest as i understand there is a long waiting time of about 12 weeks. And i really do not want to wait any longer than is necessary.

1.       How is the volume controlled on the Mini Torri when headphones are used? Is it individual left and right controls  as it is with speakers or controlled with just one nob?

The standard way is individual left and right controls, however we can make it custom with just a single knob.

2.       With the stepped attenuator upgrade on the Mini Torri, i will be able to dial the left and right speakers to exactly the same volume by applying the same number of “clicks” for each speaker?

Yes, but you can also do that with the standard volume controls, as they also have "detents" so you simply count the clicks.  The nice thing about the standard ones, is that you can actually adjust the control between two detents if you want a finer level of adjustment, whereas with stepped attenuators you can not.

3.       Regarding the Taboo & the Mini Torri, i read that the sound coming through the headphones are different with and without speakers being connected. I am always going to have the speakers connected to the amp. However, i understand that when both headphones and speakers are connected, the amp does not cut out the sound coming from the speakers, so both headphones and speakers will produce sound concurrently.

That is true.  

4.       When i want to use my headphones exclusively, is the sound coming from the speakers going to be loud enough to alter the headphone onlyexperience or is the speaker sound barely audible and i am just being too anal about this?

Depends on the speakers and phones, but with LCD2, for example, and your speakers, the speaker sound would be at a background level and have little if any effect on headphone listening, but make an excellent way to monitor your music when the headphones are not on you head.

5.       I also read that a switch for speaker only / headphone only can be done. Are there any sonic differences between a unit with and without such a switch? Any compromise in sound quality with speakers and headphones when such a switch is implemented? Would you recommend having such a switch ?

This has proven to be a bad idea simply because the headphones will often sound better when the amp is either connected to speakers, or in place of speakers, a 5 watt resistor.  The nice thing with the resistor is that you can change values of resistors (from say 4 ohms all the way up to 100 ohms) and that in turn changes the sound of you headphones.  We have found this a very handy tool for "voicing" your headphones to your own taste.

6.       Not exactly a technical question, but based on what i mentioned,  which of the 2 options would you recommend? Any other option along your product lines that suit my needs better?  

I recommend the Taboo with CSP2+ because A) the taboo has lucid mode which is like the worlds best cross-feed.  B) Having both is the ultimate headphone platform able to drive literally ALL headphones of any impedance or efficiency.  Many phones, especially those in the 100 to 300 ohm range will work but sound different in either unit.  So you can have two different sounds from your headphones based on what unit you plug them into.

While i certainly understand that a phone call will be a much faster way to communicate, swift email correspondences is preferred as i am in Singapore and phone calls may not be practical with the different time zones and expensive call charges.  

Thank you, hope to hear from you soon.

You're welcome,

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Re: Headphone amp - which is best option?
Reply #1 - 01/13/13 at 13:54:08
Great post; saves me an e-mail and you some time  :)
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