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

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shafesk

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Sep 18, 2010
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rob100 said:
It makes strange reading this thread, why would a cheap headphone jack on an integrated amp sound anywhere near as good as an amplifier designed for headphones :?

I've owned three different headphone amps, even my £40 cheap chinese ebay headphone tube amp sounded much better than the headphone jack on my Cyrus 8VS2.

Headphone jacks on integrated amps are generally included for convenience and they serve a purpose. But to get the best sound from headphones generally a dedicated amp is needed. Common opinion, of which I fully agree with based on my own experience, is that the Q701s need a good amp to sound their best.

My DVD player also plays CDs, but that doesn't mean it sounds as good as my dedicated CD player...
Thank you my friend, couldn't agree more!
 

eggontoast

Well-known member
Feb 23, 2011
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rob100 said:
It makes strange reading this thread, why would a cheap headphone jack on an integrated amp sound anywhere near as good as an amplifier designed for headphones :?
This opening statement clearly shows you have no understanding of amplifiers.
rob100 said:
I've owned three different headphone amps, even my £40 cheap chinese ebay headphone tube amp sounded much better than the headphone jack on my Cyrus 8VS2.
? So the Cyrus just isn't very good

Headphone jacks on integrated amps are generally included for convenience and they serve a purpose. [/quote]nonsense

rob100 said:
My DVD player also plays CDs, but that doesn't mean it sounds as good as my dedicated CD player...
not sure where the correlation is here.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
This opening statement clearly shows you have no understanding of amplifiers.

[/quote]

You're right - I have no idea about how an amp works - but I trust my ears

Anyway, I'm not going to get sucked into a petty debate. My ears clearly tell me that a dedicated headphone amp sounds better than a jack on an integrated amp. Logic would also imply that an amplifier designed purely for the purpose of listening to headphones will also be better.

If you are happy listening to headphones on a jack from an integrated amp then great, you've saved yourself the extra expense. Me, I am happy because my headphone amp (handbuilt with bespoke parts and fine tuned to match my CD player and headphones) sounds amazing.
 

Inter_Voice

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Oct 5, 2010
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I have my AKG K702 for some time and I found that the music output from my Leema Tucana II headphone jack still cannot compete with the SQ generated from my SA-1 speakers.

I decided to add a decent headphone amp and have just ordered a Fidelity Audio HPA-200 headphone amplifier (http://www.fidelityaudio.co.uk/hpa-200.html) which WHF gave HPA-100 5 stars ratings (http://www.whathifi.com/review/fidelity-audio-hpa-100). HPA-200 is supposed to be better than HPA-100 as the power supply has been upgraded. My HPA-200 will arrive next week and I hope it can produce excellent SQ when coupled with AGK K702.
 

Inter_Voice

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Oct 5, 2010
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@ Sizzers. Source is from OPPO 83 NUforce Edition Universal player which has further been modded by changing a lot of opamps and capacities as well as the master clock and upgrading the power supply for the 2 channel output. I can only say the result is stunning.

You may wish to know that the headphone jack output of Leema Tucana II is insufficient to drive the power hungry K702 as I need to turn the volume to 12 o'clcok position to obtain a reasonable level of output. When listening thro' my SA-1 speakers the volume is normally at 45 min. position. I have also changed the headphone cable to PCOCC-A by Furukawa.
 

shafesk

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Sep 18, 2010
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Inter_Voice said:
@ Sizzers. Source is from OPPO 83 NUforce Edition Universal player which has further been modded by changing a lot of opamps and capacities as well as the master clock and upgrading the power supply for the 2 channel output. I can only say the result is stunning.

You may wish to know that the headphone jack output of Leema Tucana II is insufficient to drive the power hungry K702 as I need to turn the volume to 12 o'clcok position to obtain a reasonable level of output. When listening thro' my SA-1 speakers the volume is normally at 45 min. position. I have also changed the headphone cable to PCOCC-A by Furukawa.
Interesting you say that you have upgraded your cables....do you feel they make a difference to the 702s? I've been looking for a cable which contributes to the bass a bit
 

Inter_Voice

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Oct 5, 2010
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shafesk said:
Interesting you say that you have upgraded your cables....do you feel they make a difference to the 702s? I've been looking for a cable which contributes to the bass a bit
I did not notice a big difference when using the default AKG cable in comparing with the replaced cable which costs about 100 pounds. This might have due to the not so good performance of the headphone jack output of the intergrated amp.

When I have my HPA-200 headphone amp. in hand I will AB test them again.

TBH I don't think by changing the headphone cable you can increase the bass in the AKG. Good cable can certainly increase the transparancy and the quality of sound output. I have seen from some forum that if you reduce the thickness of the earpad of your AKG you can inrease the bass by a noticeable amount. However I have not tried it as I consider the bass is okay with me.
 

shafesk

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Thank you for your honest reply, most people would say that it made an immense difference i.e the placebo effect. Well a man can always hope, I have yet to hear a cable that adds bass, at most it woolies up the sound signature which I don't want. I would try the earpad mod but am afraid of ruining one of the better headphones I own :wall:
 

Womaz

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Dec 27, 2011
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I would be very interested to know what you think about your new headphone amp Inter........I am still awaiting delivery of my Cute Beyond. Its only just over £100 and I effectively have a free weeks trial.

I would spend more if it was worth it.
 

Inter_Voice

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Oct 5, 2010
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Womaz said:
I would be very interested to know what you think about your new headphone amp Inter........I am still awaiting delivery of my Cute Beyond. Its only just over £100 and I effectively have a free weeks trial.

I would spend more if it was worth it.
Actually I have made some research before I decide to choose Fidelity Audio HPA-200 though it costs 200 punds more than HPA-100.

This simple little headphone amplifier is hand made by a small UK company even though someone might consider the price tag is on the high side. However for me I found the components/electronics it uses are of top quality and I like neutral sound without too much added coloring and simple design, i.e. no DAC or USB input etc. I have confident that this HPA-200 can meet my expectation and will report my findings.

Remark: We have the responsiblility to support UK's small comapnies in this hard time.
 

Womaz

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Dec 27, 2011
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Its hard to know what to do for the best.

I got the 701s as decided not to spend the £800 to 1k on headphones.

I like the 701s but to be honest, in my opinion they are only slightly better than my Sr80s....so at £275 thats a lot of cash for a small improvement. Now starting to think that to get a big improvement the more expensive cans might have been the option.

I looked at the amp you mention but at £550 that would have put me back to the original near 1k outlay.

I suppose its also now got me thinking about future upgrades to my hifi set up. Once you have a fairly decent system the amount of money you have to spend to get significant improvements, might be over the top.

Please do report your findings on the amp
 

Sizzers

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Jun 20, 2008
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Womaz said:
Its hard to know what to do for the best.

I got the 701s as decided not to spend the £800 to 1k on headphones.

I like the 701s but to be honest, in my opinion they are only slightly better than my Sr80s....so at £275 thats a lot of cash for a small improvement. Now starting to think that to get a big improvement the more expensive cans might have been the option.

I looked at the amp you mention but at £550 that would have put me back to the original near 1k outlay.

I suppose its also now got me thinking about future upgrades to my hifi set up. Once you have a fairly decent system the amount of money you have to spend to get significant improvements, might be over the top.

Please do report your findings on the amp
In what way are you saying that the K's are only "slightly better" than the Grado's? Or in other words, what is it you don't like about their sound?

I've not personally heard the Q's but they are on the same line of reference phones as the K701/2. For a lot of people they can be very much an acquired taste - Marmite springs to mind. If you simply don't like their sound signature then I doubt a £3- £4- £500 headphone amp is going to make them sound any better to your ears if basically you don't like them in the first place. Personal preferences is a funny thing. I bought a pair of SR80i's a couple of years ago and thought they were wonderful, 12-months later I bought my 702's and now I can't bare to listen to them!
 

Inter_Voice

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Oct 5, 2010
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Womaz said:
Its hard to know what to do for the best.

I got the 701s as decided not to spend the £800 to 1k on headphones.

I like the 701s but to be honest, in my opinion they are only slightly better than my Sr80s....so at £275 thats a lot of cash for a small improvement. Now starting to think that to get a big improvement the more expensive cans might have been the option.

I looked at the amp you mention but at £550 that would have put me back to the original near 1k outlay.

I suppose its also now got me thinking about future upgrades to my hifi set up. Once you have a fairly decent system the amount of money you have to spend to get significant improvements, might be over the top.

Please do report your findings on the amp
AKG 701/702s including the Q series are well known to be very difficult to push and you need to have a good headphone amplifier to make it sing.

My Leema Tucana II costs 3500 pounds even though it can drive my Spendor SA-1 like a charm and I really love the sound from the speakers, its phone is handicapped and the output is far from sufficeint to drive my K702 that has seriously affecting the SQ. It is sufficient to drive high sensitive headphones and when I tried it with my Sennheiser HD202 (costing less than 30 pounds) I found the SQ output is better than my K702. Can we just say HD202 is better than K702 ? The answer is obvious it is all about synergy.
 

Womaz

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Dec 27, 2011
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:) Hi Sizzers

Its not that I dont like their sound, I just dont think they are a massive step up from my Grado SR80s.

Maybe I was expecting too much from them.

I await my amp with excitement and trepidation :)
 

wbarr

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Aug 17, 2007
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Your CB is certainly taking its time to arrive. I got mine in about 2 days of ordering from RA. Mind you, they should be selling like coats on a winter's day given the price-performance ratio. But I'm putting words into your mouth.

Given your dissatisfaction with the sound of your Qs through your Arcam compared to your cheaper Grados, I revise my earlier comments and hope you hear a real difference with the CB in place.

One hint - the CB has a gain setting. I run it in low gain. Sound through high gain is more forceful at low volumes, but sounds 'burnt' to me. Happily, more than enough grunt from 12 oclOck onwards on vol pot.
 

Womaz

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Dec 27, 2011
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Delivery tommorow !

I am not really unhappy with my Q701s I think i just expected big improvements on the Grados. I am going to get the Grados back out in the next day or so to see what I think.......hey maybe I am getting a little obsessive :wall:
 

wbarr

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Aug 17, 2007
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That will be interesting; the comparisson I mean. Nostalgia for a product has, at times, coloured my memory of SQ from products. I wonder if you are a fellow sufferer?

I suspect there may be something more obvious at work. AFAIK , Grados have a very definite sound signature, which may mean they flatter certain parts of recordings or type of recording. The AKGs are pretty neutral - they tend to reveal the source. Sometimes my Qs sound marvellous, other times ok. When I get that 'down' a quick blast through the speakers reveals its the recording at fault.

I'm really intrigued to see whether the CB alters any perceptions.
 

eggontoast

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Feb 23, 2011
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rob100 said:
eggontoast said:
This opening statement clearly shows you have no understanding of amplifiers.
You're right - I have no idea about how an amp works - but I trust my ears
And so you should but everybody else doesn't have too.

rob100 said:
Anyway, I'm not going to get sucked into a petty debate. My ears clearly tell me that a dedicated headphone amp sounds better than a jack on an integrated amp.
Why is it petty ? its just a debate with a difference of opinion.

rob100 said:
Logic would also imply that an amplifier designed purely for the purpose of listening to headphones will also be better.
Amplifiers are not designed for listening to headphones, they are designed to make small signals into big signals without adding or taking anything away. The only difference between a headphone amplifier and an integrated is the loads which they can cope with. Lets take the Cute Beyond which has been discussed in this thread, it is the simplest circuit possible and is an op-amp biased into class A. There is nothing in the design which is ground breaking, Grado was dragged over the coals when they released their RA1 and it was exposed they had used just an op-amp in the circuit. Granted they did try to relieve you of £350 for the privilege of owning one.

rob100 said:
If you are happy listening to headphones on a jack from an integrated amp then great, you've saved yourself the extra expense.
As I previously said I have a few headphone amplifiers. Its not about being happy with an integrated amp, all amplifiers have their own sound signature, I use different cans with different amplifiers for different music and one of those amplifiers is my integrated. Its not that the headphone amplifiers sound better they just sound different and are suited to certain types of music.

rob100 said:
Me, I am happy because my headphone amp (handbuilt with bespoke parts and fine tuned to match my CD player and headphones) sounds amazing.
Sounds interesting I would be interested to hear more about the fine tuning what did this involve.
 

wbarr

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Aug 17, 2007
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I don't really know enough to challenge any technical arguments, but I do think that the headphone out and speaker out of integrated amplifiers can sound very different. Perhaps it's the circuitry. Hence, my Cyrus 6XP sounds quite warm and soft through the headphone out, not a description I'd use of the sound heard through three sets if speakers (which include my current PMC babies). Something must be happening with the output stages, and it may be the same with many other amps, hence the idea that headphone sockets on amps don't sound as good as headphone amps?

Just speculation, really. Like all things Hifi, one really has to listen in ones own system and without preconceived ideas to guage whether kit provides a worthwhile upgrade. On that, it seems we agree.
 

eggontoast

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Feb 23, 2011
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wbarr said:
Perhaps it's the circuitry. Hence, my Cyrus 6XP sounds quite warm and soft through the headphone out, not a description I'd use of the sound heard through three sets if speakers (which include my current PMC babies).
I can't comment on the Cyrus design, they tend to keep all service information about their products in house and are very protective and unhelpful when it comes to technical queries.
 

Womaz

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Dec 27, 2011
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Took delivery of the amp today and its back in the post tomorrow.

I was really hoping it would be an improvement as I am lazy and now have a trip to the PO.

However my Arcam A85 is definitely a better sound.......the beyond cute does sound good for the price , but like I say not as good as sound as my Arcam. Maybe if I had a lower cost amp this would not have been the case

I also got the Grados back out tonight and did a comparison with the AKGs ,and the AKGs really did blow them away. That was a pleasant surprise, as 2 weeks ago I could not tell a great deal of difference. Not sure if it because I am geting used to the AKG sound , or if its the burn in that people discussed.

So now do I try a more expensive headphone amp.....or do I settle. My gut feeling is to settle now and see how they sound with some more running in. Mind you they have had nigh on 150 hours now.

Thanks to everyone who helped me on here.
 

eggontoast

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Feb 23, 2011
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TBH the cute beyond didn't stand a chance. Op-amp based headphone amplifiers are really entry level and they don't have enough oomph to drive headphones properly. If you were to dig a little deeper you would definitely hear an improvement, how much you would have to spend to equal your Arcam only you can say. From what your have said though, are the AKG's the cans for you ? You seem to be after miracles from a headphone amplifier which I don't think you are going to get. If you wanted to try something else for similar money pick yourself up a second hand x-can, I personally like the V3 but they are a little more expensive.
 

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