Advice on Headphones Amplifier (for Aeon2?)

Hi all!

With the wife also working from home these days I am seriously considering adding a pair of headphones to my 2-channel setup and wondering if you guys could shed some light.

My current setup:

DMP > DSD Sr > YS-Audio A3 Preamp > First Watt J2

The A3 tube preamp does not have a headphone jack but has two fully balanced outputs, so I could use that to connect to an external headphone amplifier.

Here’s the rear panel of the preamp:

I have not gone out to try different headphones but I know it has to be a closed back so I can enjoy some music while the wife goes on conference call. I am looking at the Dan Clark Audio AEON2 as it is said to be comfortable on the head. But feel free to recommend similar comfortable closed back headphones.

My question is, is that the best way to connect a headphone amplifier? And if so, which headphone amplifier would you recommend for the Aeon2?

FYI I have a pair of old Sennheiser HD555 (open back) and a pair of Bose QC Bluetooth that I used for travelling back in the day.

Thank you all!

Hello n-tone! Here’s a review you might find helpful.

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Opps. That’s for the open back version.

No problem! I am just not sure how best to connect my current rig with a headphone amp. Maybe a small one like a Schiit Vali2 would get me going. Thanks!

Budget?

I’m aiming sub-$500. :innocent:

Probably something in the Schiit family like a LYR3 would work well. I think you would need a little bit of power with the Aeon2s. I don’t have a set of A2s, but have the original Aeon Flows.

I was going to suggest you check out the Headamp GSX-mini, but it’s way over your target price ($1800-$2K). That is an exceptional solid state headphone amp but at a much higher price range.

Cheers. -------Robert

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I second the GSX-mini. For under $500 you can’t go wrong with a Schiit Asgard 3. Don’t do tubes with planars (unless it’s a hybrid).

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I have the original version, the MrSpeakers Aeon. They are very easy to drive. I used to use them from my phone using USB Audio Pro and a Chord Mojo, but now use a Zorloo ZuperDAC-S. These cost me $79 delivered.
https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/zorloo-zuperdac-s.22836/reviews

I’m now listening using Devialet Gemini earbuds, the sound is superb.

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@netspecht-2 thanks for sharing your experience. I’m also looking at the Magnius as it’s fully balanced (and more budget friendly):
https://www.schiit.com/products/magnius

I could add the Magnius between the DSD Sr and my tube preamp since it’s got balanced in and out? Or maybe after my preamp… have you experienced between connection differences?

Thanks @Jedi

The GSX Mini looks lovely but price is out my my range unfortunately.

I don’t think the Aeon2 are hybrid planar… so SS is better than tube? Plus I have a tube preamp so if I wanted to add a bit of warmth I could stick the headphone amp behind the pre…

I should really go and try them out, but with the pandemic I am debating about going out to auditioning the headphones and amp combo. Years ago I have read rave reviews about Beyerdnamics headphones but listened to a few pairs at a show and it’s not my cup of tea. :face_with_hand_over_mouth:

Thanks @stevensegal :+1:
I’ll probably need some portable gear later as well for connecting my iPhone. I was thinking the dragonFly.

Sorry I meant a hybrid amplifier - tubed input with SS power. Planars require a lot of current which tubes don’t do well. If you don’t mind used, a Monoprice Liquid Platinum might br the best amp for $500 (and it’s a hybrid with tubes and SS). Sometimes Monoprice runs sales where they sell it for ~ $500 new.

That and the Asgard 3 are what I would look at. Do some research on those and see if either sounds like what you’re looking for.

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I normally run out of the preamp, or from the DAC to the headphone amp. I have used the headphone amp outputs to act as a preamp when channeling from another DAC. (e.g., using my tubed headphone amp as a tube buffer). From my view, I get best results connecting the headphone amp at the end of the chain.

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Thanks guys for the suggestions! @Jedi @netspecht-2

I did managed to go out and auditioned a pair of Aeon2 yesterday but unfortunately it fell short than what I hoped - after reading all the good reviews. Or it could have been the MyTech Brooklyn amp?

For A/B comparisons I brought along my 15-year-old Sennheiser HD555 open back and music was more engaging in upbeat songs. Vocals sounded very good on the Aeon2 but overall it felt a bit tamed. Maybe that’s the difference between closed and open headphones?

On the other hand, I was pretty impressed with the similarly priced HiFiMAN HE-R10D. Soundstage is wide and sounds very smooth. It’s also very comfortable to wear, especially compared to the Focals. Though this headphone seems to be getting a lot of hate for “recreating” (copying) the legendary Sony MDR-R10.

Anyone experienced AUDEZE closed back headphones? Such as their LCD-2 Closed Back?

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Audezes sound nice, but they are heavy. I had a set of LCD-X…loved how they sound but I felt like I had an anchor on my hat. Make sure you audition them and consider comfort as a factor.

You might want to check out ZMF headphones. Open Aeolus, or closed Atticus/Eikon.

I have two sets of open ZMFs, both Aeolus. Finely crafted wood cup headphones, and great sounding. Lots of talk about ZMF on headphones.com.

I still have a set of HD595s. Very similar to your HD555.

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Thanks for the heads up! I will try and audition them first as I am used to wearing lightweight headphones.

Cool. Let me looking into ZMF too! :+1:

I was going to suggest ZMF as well :+1: