SuperBAF Cheap Tube Amp Guide ~$1200 or less

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by purr1n, Sep 13, 2016.

  1. Ice-man

    Ice-man Friend

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    There are some good points here and I appreciate you taking the time. Of course we all have to take into account price. There are times when I've had a $200 budget to work with for an amp and at other times $2k. The Vali2 IMO doesn't really have a true peer at it's price point, particularly with regard to tone and timber.

    The Valhalla just came across as dry and slightly grainy in the mid range. A little too think and SS sounding overall. Thinking back on my own journey, I'm not sure that there are many amps that I'd spend money on between the Vali2 and say, the Kenzie. Hmm...maybe the BHC and SEX 3.0.

    That being said, I haven't heard the soon to be released amps from Massdrop. Those could be game changers and I am hoping to get my hands of the MCTH soon.
     
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  2. ohshitgorillas

    ohshitgorillas Almost "Made"

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    Do y'all think that a Mjolnir 2 is a significant upgrade over a fully pimped out Crack? I have HD800 and Atticus, and while I love the Crack with the HD800, its high-Z shows a little more with the Atticus, and I know that both headphones are capable of a little more resolve than the Crack has to offer. I know Mjolnir excels at dynamics, something I'm a sucker for. I am eventually getting a Gungnir Multibit, my end-game DAC, until then I'm only going SE which I realize isn't ideal for Mj2.

    Big improvement over fully modded Crack (when balanced)? Or better to just save up for a ZDS/Kenzie/CSP3?
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2018
  3. Gaspasser

    Gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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    So I am going to answer but In a roundabout way. I went on a journey from Vali 2, Jot, Mjolnir 2 to ECP Torpedo 3. During that time I went from ModiB to Gungnir Multibit and added HD800 to my collection when I moved up to T3. Recently, I sold off Torpedo 3 and went back to Vali 2 while I’m waiting for the ZDT Jr and saving up for ZDS or something.

    However, I now realize the elders’ wisdom of the Vali 2. I would advise you to not go the Mjo2 route. The balanced “thing” is nothing to worry about, it is a folly that people chase thinking it matters more than the amp. The Mjo2 has a compressed stage and there is midrange funkiness. I don’t know about matches for Atticus, but I would investigate lower priced alternatives while you save for a big boy amp. Also, there is a new hybrid amp Jason mentioned in the latest chapter of his book, hopefully it will be released soon.
     
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  4. AllanMarcus

    AllanMarcus Friend

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    I've experience with both. The crack and MJ2 are different animals, are are highly dependent on the tubes used. If you want a smooth, musical, sort of easy going sound, it is easier to achieve with the Crack. Also, as you have noticed, the Crack can only be used with a limited set of headphones. The MJ2 with the WE396a tubes, and other tubes (read the MJ thread) can be more Crack like, but the MJ2 will likely always sound more impactful and possibly forward. The MJ2 can be used with a wide variety of headphones.

    As for balanced vs SE, only the output for balanced is better with he MJ2. I'm pretty sure there isn't any sonic advantage of using balanced in vs SE in, other than higher volume. If you are keeping your DAC and your amp a long distance apart, there is an RFI/EMI rejection advantage to balanced inputs, but other than that, nope.

    If money is an issue and you see yourself getting a higher end amp in the next two years, just enjoy what you have and save.
     
  5. allegro

    allegro Friend

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    Why not just buy used? There have been some good deals here and on HF recently under $1200 for well reviewed tube amps that listed over $1700.
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2018
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  6. Gaspasser

    Gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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    Used market values well below original sale price may be indicative of a lack of quality. A good deal on a turd, doesn’t change the fact it is still a turd. I would discourage blind buying amps above $1000 unless you have the financial means to take a loss. I think the point of this thread is to discourage people from chasing the dream in the “no mans land” of $1000-$2000. I’m still trying to figure this all out for myself, but many more knowledgeable people keep saying this and I believe them.
     
  7. ohshitgorillas

    ohshitgorillas Almost "Made"

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    Thanks for the feedback y'all. My goal in upgrading the amplifier is to have something close enough to end game that can take advantage of more of the resolution the HD800 has to offer, and have better synergy with the Atticus. The Crack makes the ZMFs sound a little soft, which normally wouldn't bother me but I know that they have a more slam and impact to offer (Magni 3 easily bests the Crack in this category), which is kind of one of their key features.

    I don't necessarily care that much about balanced vs SE, unless I do end up with a Mjolnir 2 in which case balanced kind of required. I mean, I understand what balanced is and why it's necessary/better from an engineering standpoint, but in terms of transmitting audio over a six foot cable in my apartment, it's the solution to a problem I don't have. It's certainly not a deal breaker either way.

    It's not that money isn't an issue... it definitely is, which is why I can't really fuck this decision up. I don't know if I really see myself paying more than something just north of 1k for a headphone amplifier. I mean, Zana Deux has kinda always been my dream, but there are so many things I could do with that money...

    Used is certainly an option, however, used markets for good popular tube gear are sporadic, unpredictable, difficult and require a bit of persistence and tenacity. There are a lot of other people willing to fight way harder for used deals than I am, so it's not something I want to count on.
     
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  8. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

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    A used Torpedo III seems like a good option. You can sell for little loss if need be.
     
  9. Magnetostatic_Tubephile

    Magnetostatic_Tubephile Friend

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    @ohshitgorillas

    In a similar situation as you, being unable to spend thousands of dollars and discouraged by this (or other) SBAF threads to take the 1000-2000USD tier road, I simply decided to actively check second-hand market. Rough goal was to get a 1500-2000USD headamp positively acknowledged here for around 1000USD price (therefore effectively not taking the 1000+USD road while still probably upgrading from what I have). Surprisingly, Ive succeeded just in few days even though it required frequent checks on multiple forums, some negotiation skills and a partial trade for something I wanted to get rid of anyway.

    My advice therefore is to setup at least somewhat probable goal (do not chase EC ZDS for under 1000USD, hehe)... and work towards achieving it. You never know, it may actually happen! :)

    Just for closure - I would not blind-buy Mjolnir 2 unless you can get it for a very good price second-hand (that would let you re-sale later for similar money) or unless you value potential experience gained from Mjolnir 2 ownership over any financial loss you may take by not liking it in the end. Based on available impressions, it can be a polarizing amp sonically, with significant advantages and no less significant shortcomings. I would definitely trust those impressions on that.
     
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  10. Taverius

    Taverius Smells like sausages

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    I'd hold onto my wallet for now anyway, big boss has been saying to wait until the new Schiit amp is out, which might be a week or two unless Murphy intervenes.
     
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  11. AllanMarcus

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  12. allegro

    allegro Friend

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    I remember Marvey saying in the HD800 thread just use a Vali 2 and save your money for a ZDS or other TOTL tube amp. I seem to be out of the loop here; Schiit has a new headphone amp coming out soon? All I have heard of is the Sol and Gadget.
     
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  13. Taverius

    Taverius Smells like sausages

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    Yep.

    Quoth the Schiit-head on heAD-Fi "Then the next chapter will be an intermission—new product time. I hope. Just waiting for one board."

    So fingers crossed amp announcement in 2 weeks? Iirc there's 3 products in the works, could be longer, but if you're in a tight budget might be worth the wait.
     
  14. ohshitgorillas

    ohshitgorillas Almost "Made"

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    Well I appreciate the advice but it seems fate had other plans. ebay is having a 20% off or up to $100 sale across the board, so I'm now the owner of a Rega Planar 3 with a Sumiko Blue Point for less than 700, the last turntable I will ever need.

    When the time comes again, and it will come, I will heed yalls advice, skip the Mjolnir 2 and hold out for a used TOTLOTL. Cheers!
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2018
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  15. ohshitgorillas

    ohshitgorillas Almost "Made"

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    I saw elsewhere that there's a Torpedo 5 in the works/on the way... if the T3 is as good as everyone says it is, then I think my decision has already been made. Extra extra bonus points for being DIYable.
     
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  16. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

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    It won't be. It's been touched on in the T3 thread here.
     
  17. ohshitgorillas

    ohshitgorillas Almost "Made"

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    Womp womp... Me and my assumptions. It's a shame that the Mainline is the only DIY option for TOTL tubes, and most reviews make me nervous
     
  18. AllanMarcus

    AllanMarcus Friend

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    Er, there’s the elekit with many good reviews. There’s also one called the masterpiece, but no reputable reviews of it. But the mainline certainly is the most mainstream.
     
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  19. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

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    There are 300B DIY headphone amps as well.
     
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  20. AllanMarcus

    AllanMarcus Friend

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    Other then the EleKit and the Masterpiece, what 300b DIY amps are you aware of? Links please.
     
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