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Headphone amp selection

Nathan

New member
Jun 23, 2016
38
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Hi,

So I have a hi-fi setup at the moment that is a Roksan Kandy CD player connected via the aanlogue outputs to a Roksan Capsian M2 integrated amp which also takes a stereo line out feed from a Denon AVR-X4200W. Connected to this are a pair of Monitor Audio Silver 6 speakers and I am very happy with it. However, we all like an upgrade.....

So what I would like is a headphone socket which means getting a headphone amp as the M2 doesn't have one. From what I have read, I seem to have two options.

Option 1

Take the analogue line out feed from the M2 to a headphone amp and use it simply to plug some headphones into. Seems simple although I'm not sure which one to go for but something like the Project Head Box S would seem a simple and cheap option.

Option 2

It seems that there are pleny of DAC units our there that serve as a DAC and a headphone amp. So, what I could do is take the digital output from the Kandy CD player and plug this into a DAC (such as the Audiolab M-DAC+ or the Pioneer U-05) and let that unit handle the DAC instead of the CD player. I could then run the analogue outputs (balanced or RCA) to the M2 and let it then amplify the signal and feed the speakers.

Given the setup that I have, which would be better? Is there an advantage in using the DAC to do the audio conversion instead of the CD player or is the DAC in the Roksan Kandy likely to be better? Option 2 would also allow me to feed in ripped CD files as well I guess instead of having to do this through the Denon.

Thoughts before I waste a load of cash?

Nathan
 

Nathan

New member
Jun 23, 2016
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Can anyone help? I guess the questions really come down to whether the Pioneer U-05 or the M-DAC+ is a better DAC than the built-in one on the Kandy. If not I would just stick to adding a headphone amp. They are better though is there much in it between the two DACs? Obviously if I went for the M-DAC+ I would also need a headphone amp as it doesn't have a headphone socket. This seems to give me three options:-

1. Get a headphone amp and connect it to the M2

2. Get the Pioneer and use it as a DAC between the CD player and the M2 and also use it as a headphone amp

3. Get the M-DAC+ and use it as a DAC between the CD player and the M2. Then buy a headphone amp as well and connect that to the M-DAC+ or the M2
 

Leeps

New member
Dec 10, 2012
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The MDAC and MDAC+ both have headphone outputs.

Aside from that, I've heard very good reports about the Rega Ear, and it's a much much cheaper option than the DAC/Headphone amp.

Personally I think the Roksan CD player is excellent. If you used the MDAC instead, I think the balance could make it sound quite different. I would describe the Roksan as fluid, musical and well-timed. The Audiolab is much more analytical and precise but a little dry for my taste.

One problem with many pure headphone amps (like the Rega Ear) is their lack of remote control. I've not owned a product like this, so I don't know if your amp's volume control would control your headphone amp, or whether you'd use the headphone amp's volume control?

Whatever, for me not having a remote control while using headphones would be a deal breaker. Using headphones does tend to require more regular volume adjustment. You need to protect your ears and it's much easier to damage your hearing through headphones. So having to get out of your seat and wander across to your hifi for any volume adjustment would be a faff. Maybe there are some Rega Ear (or similar) users out there who could enlighten how it's used.

I was just wondering, if you use the tape output of your M2 into something like a Rega Ear, would this also permit you to listen to your AV input too at the same time? Could be handy.
 

Nathan

New member
Jun 23, 2016
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Thanks leaps - that's very helpful. I guess the issue with one DAC or the other is not necessarily what 'sounds better' and more what suits the user's taste.

I hadn't really thought of the volume control but I agree - that's a deal breaker.

So it seems that the MDAC+ (or the M-DAC) might be an overkill for just a headphone amp. Below is the diagram of my setup at the moment (apologies for the hijacked visio icons). What would someone suggest as a headphone amp that would match my setup or even a DAC that 'might' be better than the CD player's and where should it sit?

 

Leeps

New member
Dec 10, 2012
219
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I've seen a Rega Ear going very reasonably priced on a well known national auction site (not me auctioning btw!). Almost worth a punt just to experiment with it. If you didn't like it and had to sell it on, you wouldn't lose much. They're not too expensive new considering the quality of the rest of your system.

Either that or visit a dealer who has one (or similar from another manufacturer: the Creek OBH 21 has good reviews too, but is a step up in price over the Rega). There's nothing like playing about with a product to fairly quickly know whether something will work for you or not.

It might be worth a try asking headphone amp users on the headphone part of this forum. I'm an occasional 'phone user rather than a specialist.
 

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