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THX AAA-887 headphone amplifiers


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I'm looking to get a headphone amp to round off my system.  I currently have Beyer DT990's and Ultrasone Pro900 headphones, and only currently use them with a mobile phone or for music recording monitoring.  (The Ultrasones are remarkably good with a mobile phone).  I have no headphone facility on my HiFi other than a cheap ugly switching unit which can allow the Pip to drive them direct.  Actually, apart from the klutziness, the Pip arrangement doesn't do a bad job, but Mrs Pinkie would prefer less mess, and I'd like to do it proper.

I connect Pip to Benchmark with balanced leads, and would ideally like an easy switch box (or better still headphone amp with balanced through connection or switched output).  How do you guys use your headphones?  Does nobody use headphones with their main system?  Is it always a dedicated headphone system?

I am looking for an amp (available in France) using TXX AAA-887 technology, and have the SMSL SP200 and Monoprice 887 in my sights.  Anyone any experience or opinions?  Especially with my headphones?

There's history here.  My first PT system at Uni had a NAD 7020 into Keesonic Kubs - but only really for low level background on campus.  Proper listening was a pair of Stax electrets.  Later at PT , as Pip was due to launch, I asked for a headphone socket, and to considerable scorn was given a pair of Celestion SL600's (I had a Quad 405-2 by this stage) and told to grow up.

Roll forward nearly 40 years, and I have renewed my friendship with Owen Jones, and got to see and hear his prototype headphone amp for Benchmark.  (Mr "I don't do headphone sockets" now has a rack of a dozen or so  headphones, from humble to Premium) .  The HPA4 is serious money here in France, so I am looking for the THX technology nearer the 400 euro mark.  With a facility to switch balanced outputs between headphone and speaker amps

Does anyone have any experience or advice?

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I nearly bought the SP200 but I don't need balanced connections so went for the cheaper Topping L30, which is very nice for the money, in fact remarkably so.

SMSL has just released the SH-9 which is THX spec and has balanced connections but like the SP200 I don't think it's actually truly balance. I do think the SH-9 looks a much nicer amp to my eyes.

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Thanks. The sh9 is an interesting option although I need to think about whether i want a display to tell me the volume. And i would still need an XLR switch box to select cans or speakers. 

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I have an SMSL SP200.

i think it is very good for the money. Very detailed and dynamic. Bags of energy and can power pretty much any headphones to the point where you don't really need the high gain setting at all.

On the negative side it is pretty "in your face" and relentless. Some people may find it a touch fatiguing over an extended period. 

However on balance it's a good amp. I previously had an old Graham Slee Solo and it was an upgrade to that. Made the Graham Slee sound sluggish

Have since moved onto a HeadAmp GS-X mini which has the power of the SMSL but more refinement/delicacy but it's a big price difference.

Would be happy to sell the SMSL if interested. I did set it up as a second bedroom amp but doesn't get a lot of use.

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  • 1 month later...

I too have the smsl200 and its a cracking amp for the money..its a cracking amp full stop.  Buy one pre loved as Above ...Reg..and it will hold its money. You cannot ho wrong. I also have the same dt990 pro 250 ohms and it drives them with ease.

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