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New AKG Q701.....is it worth buying a dedicated headphone amp?

Womaz

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Dec 27, 2011
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I have just bought some AKG Q701 headphones after deciding
not to splash out for more expensive cans.








At first listen they are superior in my opinion to my Grado
SR80s, but maybe not as much as I expected for the extra cost.




I understand the Q701 need a good run in to sound their best
so I am not too disillusioned just yet.








Would it be worth adding a headphone amp to the set up? I
have thought about the Graham Slee Novo but only after reading reviews. I am
currently using my Arcam A85 amplifier.








I am a little reluctant to part with any more cash unless
this will make a big difference. The problem of course is we cant listen before
we buy.








Any suggestions please.


 

wbarr

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Aug 17, 2007
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Have same 'phones. Love 'em. Got 'em before Christmas as a upgrade to Senn 595s. They do benefit from h'phone amp and from running in - I left them on for about a week with a source running through them.

I went for Firestone Cute Beyond as h'phone amp- £109 until 5th Feb at Russ Andrews. Sounds pretty amazing, so much so I bought a Supplier nower supply and that improved things again. Not that it needs the power supply, but I was impressed enough to try it.
 

Sizzers

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Jun 20, 2008
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I also have a pair of SR80i's which I haven't heard for as long as I can remember - I love my K's too much!

They are/can be an acquired taste. Is there a particular type of music that you listen to?
 

Womaz

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Dec 27, 2011
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I know we all like to think that we like most kinds of music, but I think I really do.Today been listening to Elvis, Enter Shikari, Oasis, Adele, Drake......and some house music. The only music I dont listen to is Calssical.

I note you have the Graham Slee AMP........does this make a huge difference?.

I have only received the AKGs today so I know I need to run them in.

Regards
 

Womaz

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Dec 27, 2011
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To wbarr

Thank you I have found this on Russ Andrews site and I will definitely consider it.
 

Sizzers

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I bought the Novo for £150 used and at that price I thought yes it was most definitely worth it over the headphone jack on my Marantz PM6003. Would I say the same if I'd paid full retail? (around £240 at the time IIRC). Possibly not, but as I've not had it plugged in to the amp - again, for as long as I can remember! - I wouldn't like to say. Unfortunately that amp is sitting in the spare room so I can't do a comparison at the moment. Is there something in particular your not happy with your Q's? I love them with Adele, for example, and electro really hits the spot between my ears. what's your source by the way?

I bought the Novo for £150 used and at that price I thought yes it was most definitely worth it over the headphone jack on my Marantz PM6003.

Would I say the same if I'd paid full retail? (around £240 at the time IIRC). Possibly not, but as I've not had it plugged in to the amp - again, for as long as I can remember! - I wouldn't like to say. Unfortunately that amp is sitting in the spare room so I can't do a comparison at the moment. Is there something in particular your not happy with your Q's? And what's your source.
 

Womaz

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Dec 27, 2011
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I have the Arcam A85 amp.....the headphones do sound good, but I have noticed in a lot of reviews that they work best with a dedicated headphone amp.

As stated earlier I think I expected a bigger improvement from my Grados, but as I say they are by no means run in yet.

I already prefer them to the Grados so happy.......but maybe not escstatic......yet :)
 

Womaz

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Dec 27, 2011
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Also please excuse my ignorance on this, but what is the puropose of a headphone amp over say my existing amp.

Does the hedaphone amp connect to my source...ie CD player...or my amp......I take it I would need decent interconnects too?
 

wbarr

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Doubt you'll be disappointed if you go for it. I was dubious, but swayed by the 14 day return policy. Took about 14 mins to decide the CB was a keeper.

Re AKGs. I was only vaguely impressed at the start, but they do benefit from running in. Very impressed now.
 

eggontoast

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Feb 23, 2011
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is it worth buying a dedicated headphone amp? IMO no, all amplifiers have their own sound signature and whether it's going to sound better is going to be subjective, one would assume you like the sound of the Arcam amplifier since you brought it. If you have a poor Hi-Fi amp (which you don't) or no headphone socket a headphone amplifier is advisable. Just don't expect to hear a huge difference between your A85 and a headphone amplifier because you won't.
 

datay

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Nov 19, 2008
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The AKGs need 300 hours - during that time I wondered whether they would ever become listenable. Piercing upper midrange. Now much more balanced but a very analytical sound.

If you can take the headphones into a dealer that stocks a couple of headphone amps, you will be able to listen for yourself and decide if you need one. Having heard the AKG K701s with NJC Monitor Audio hp amp, Matrix Mini-i and headphone out of a NADC350 integrated amp, I can say there are significant differences. Whether it's worth it is up to you.
 

Sizzers

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datay said:
The AKGs need 300 hours - during that time I wondered whether they would ever become listenable./quote]

Scroll down this post here where I copied the reply from AKG regarding my "concerns" (the reason why it appears ragged is because it was posted through my mobile).
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
I've had my Q701s for about 6 months now and agree 100% that they need a dedicated amp, but its worth doing a bit of research as these are picky headphones. Get it right and they really can rival the best headphones, get it wrong and you'll wander where the bass and drive has gone.

I use a handbuilt Panda headphone amp and it sounds fantastic

http://rockgrotto.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=m&action=display&thread=6605

But if you don't fancy DIY then the Matrix M Stage is meant to be a great match for a reasonable price. You can pick these up on ebay, but these are from China and you run the risk of import VAT. I'd buy from amp city, no risk of additional charges and a 30 day money back guarantee.

http://www.ampcity.co.uk/matrix-m-stage-headphone-amp.html

Spending a bit more the Heed Canamp is also said to be a great match.
 

datay

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Nov 19, 2008
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Yep, Heed Canamp supposed to match well (would love to hear it actually) and the Matrix (this is the headphone amp, not the Mini-i dac/preamp with headphone out that I own) is apparently a Lehmann Rhinelander clone. The latter was designed using Sennheiser HD600 (not exactly sure of the model, their former reference model) I believe.
 

datay

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Sizzers said:
datay said:
The AKGs need 300 hours - during that time I wondered whether they would ever become listenable./quote]

Scroll down this post here where I copied the reply from AKG regarding my "concerns" (the reason why it appears ragged is because it was posted through my mobile).
Thanks for that Sizzers. While I agree with AKG that the fit of the earpads will affect bass as a more user-friendly fit is acheived (more likely with on-ear, given the 701s are very large circumaural I think it matters less), I found there were very, very noticeable changes over 100, 150, 300 hours that could only be down to mechanics. This was not psychoacoustic either.

I think my NJC Audio Monitor II may be a bit too "clean" for them, but I'm not spending another £400 on the Heed...then there's Heed's PSU to resist as well...
 

eggontoast

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Feb 23, 2011
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datay said:
Sizzers said:
The AKGs need 300 hours - during that time I wondered whether they would ever become listenable./quote]

Scroll down this post here where I copied the reply from AKG regarding my "concerns" (the reason why it appears ragged is because it was posted through my mobile).
Thanks for that Sizzers. While I agree with AKG that the fit of the earpads will affect bass as a more user-friendly fit is acheived (more likely with on-ear, given the 701s are very large circumaural I think it matters less), I found there were very, very noticeable changes over 100, 150, 300 hours that could only be down to mechanics. This was not psychoacoustic either.
What would AKG know about headphones :?
 

Womaz

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Dec 27, 2011
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I do know that my Grados definitely improved with time, by some degree too.

Not sure it could be put down to the earpads with that model.

Oh well......back to leaving the AKGs on all day and night for the next week or so :)
 

fatman

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Nov 11, 2007
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another vote for the Q701 & firestone audio combo -

i run the Q701 with the Fubar 4+ as I wanted a DAC too.

i haven't added the supplier yet, but is my intention to do this in the not too distant.

wbarr - how long did you listen for before adding the supplier? was there a huge improvement with the supplier? can you describe the difference at all? i also see you use an upgraded headphone cable - was this a previous upgrade, have you tested against the cable the Q701's are shipped with? questions questions. upgrades, upgrades. best regards.
 

Womaz

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Dec 27, 2011
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Also please excuse my ignorance on this, but what is the puropose of a headphone amp over say my existing amp.

Does the hedaphone amp connect to my source...ie CD player...or my amp......I take it I would need decent interconnects too?
 

Sizzers

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Jun 20, 2008
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Womaz said:
Also please excuse my ignorance on this, but what is the puropose of a headphone amp over say my existing amp.

Does the hedaphone amp connect to my source...ie CD player...or my amp......I take it I would need decent interconnects too?
A headphone amp is a miniaturised version of your main amp - your main amp drives big speakers, a headphone amp drives very little ones.When you plug your cans in to the headphone jack of your main amp it's obviously not a very good idea for it to unleash it's full power in to two tiny little speakers - they would simply blow up, and with your head most likely too! Most amps - except perhaps at the very high-end - use a series of step-down resistors to reduce the amps output to provide your cans with a manageable load. So the obvious theory is that a dedicated headphone amp will give a more "pure" sound than one from where the output has been steadily reduced through a series of resisitors.Some CDP's - such as my Marantz CD6003 - have their own headphone jack and will drive some cans like Grado's with ease but fail utterly with K's. A headphone amp is connected to the "Tape Out" on your main amp which provides a fixed signal output to your headphone amp which in turn drives your cans. It can be very contentious with some people as to whether they provide any real benefit over the inbuilt jack on a main amp, or indeed how it may effect the sound signature that you enjoy from your hifi when listening through normal speakers. However, even running your cans through your main amp is not going to have the same sound signature as the one you have through your main speakers in any case so I don't see the argument.

A headphone amp is a miniaturised version of your main amp - your main amp drives big speakers, a headphone amp drives very little ones.

When you plug your cans in to the headphone jack of your main amp it's obviously not a very good idea for it to unleash it's full power in to two tiny little speakers - they would simply blow up, and with your head most likely too! Most amps - except perhaps at the very high-end - use a series of step-down resistors to reduce the amps output to provide your cans with a manageable load. So the obvious theory is that a dedicated headphone amp will give a more "pure" sound than one from where the output has been steadily reduced through a series of resisitors.

Some CDP's - such as my Marantz CD6003 - have their own headphone jack and will drive some cans like Grado's with ease but fail utterly with K's. A headphone amp is connected to the "Tape Out" on your main amp which provides a fixed signal output to your headphone amp which in turn drives your cans. It can be very contentious with some people as to whether they provide any real benefit over the inbuilt jack on a main amp, or indeed how it may effect the sound signature that you enjoy from your hifi when listening through normal speakers. However, even running your cans through your main amp is not going to have the same sound signature as the one you have through your main speakers in any case so I don't see the argument.

EDIT: I meant to add on that as EOT says I doubt you will find a huge difference with a headphone amp, although I've no experience of your particular amp to comment on how it's phone jack actually performs. There's not a huge difference between my PM6003 and Novo, for example, but I do prefer the Novo.
 

eggontoast

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Feb 23, 2011
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Sizzers said:
A headphone amp is a miniaturised version of your main amp - your main amp drives big speakers, a headphone amp drives very little ones.
Speaker size has nothing to do with it, they can just both drive different loads.

Sizzers said:
Most amps - except perhaps at the very high-end - use a series of step-down resistors to reduce the amps output
It's usually just one resistor and the headphone coil then completes the potential divider circuit, the resistor just drops a proportion of the output voltage.

Sizzers said:
to provide your cans with a manageable load.
? the cans are the load.

Sizzers said:
So the obvious theory is that a dedicated headphone amp will give a more "pure" sound than one from where the output has been steadily reduced through a series of resisitors.
I must be missing the obvious theory, are you saying the dropper resistor somehow colours or distorts the sound ?

Sizzers said:
Some CDP's - such as my Marantz CD6003 - have their own headphone jack and will drive some cans like Grado's with ease but fail utterly with K's.
They are op-amp based like a Cmoy or RA1, some parallel up op-amp stages to improve the current drive but rarely.

Sizzers said:
However, even running your cans through your main amp is not going to have the same sound signature as the one you have through your main speakers in any case so I don't see the argument.
So you don't agree that amplifiers have a sound signature ?
 

Sizzers

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eggontoast said:
Sizzers said:
A headphone amp is a miniaturised version of your main amp - your main amp drives big speakers, a headphone amp drives very little ones.
Speaker size has nothing to do with it, they can just both drive different loads.

True, but you're not going to pump a 100W amp through your cans are you?

Sizzers said:
Most amps - except perhaps at the very high-end - use a series of step-down resistors to reduce the amps output
It's usually just one resistor and the headphone coil then completes the potential divider circuit, the resistor just drops a proportion of the output voltage.

I wouldn't personally know whether it is one or several but that is what I recall reading somewhere.

Sizzers said:
to provide your cans with a manageable load.
? the cans are the load.

Misphrase perhaps, but again you're not going to wire your cans in to your apeaker terminals are you?

Sizzers said:
So the obvious theory is that a dedicated headphone amp will give a more "pure" sound than one from where the output has been steadily reduced through a series of resisitors.
I must be missing the obvious theory, are you saying the dropper resistor somehow colours or distorts the sound?

Not my "obvious" theory, but others express it elsewhere.

Sizzers said:
Some CDP's - such as my Marantz CD6003 - have their own headphone jack and will drive some cans like Grado's with ease but fail utterly with K's.
They are op-amp based like a Cmoy or RA1, some parallel up op-amp stages to improve the current drive but rarely.

Sizzers said:
However, even running your cans through your main amp is not going to have the same sound signature as the one you have through your main speakers in any case so I don't see the argument.
So you don't agree that amplifiers have a sound signature ?

Of course they do, but whatever cans you use you're not going to have the same sound signature of your main speakers are they?
 

Womaz

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Dec 27, 2011
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Ok it seems I have started a healthy debate.......and I am now much more informed than previously.

My Amp is good and I do like the sound ...................so no further forward really :)

Still not sure if its worth spending the extra cash on a headphone amp, and not possible to listen first as the amp used would be different anyway.

Thanks for all the replies.
 

wbarr

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If you are itching, try the Cute Beyond. You can return it no questions asked to RA. Would cost you return postage, which would not be much, if you don't like it. CB may not be the best headphone amp out there, but it is very good. If you hear no real improvement over your Arcam then I doubt you'll see any benefit in upgrading at all for reasonable money. Just a thought. :)
 

Womaz

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Dec 27, 2011
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If you are itching, try the Cute Beyond. You can return it no questions asked to RA. Would cost you return postage, which would not be much, if you don't like it. CB may not be the best headphone amp out there, but it is very good. If you hear no real improvement over your Arcam then I doubt you'll see any benefit in upgrading at all for debunks money. Just a thought.


:clap: :clap: .....might be a plan!
 

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