Aside from the need for a pre or passive attenuator, I agree that the Pass amps are great solid state options. For those on a budget, the complete Pass amp camp kit is like $300? F3, among other, clones are also quite cheap and pop up regularly used on audiogon/audiomart/craigslist for those who want prebuilts but don't want to invest in the real deal. I have an F3 clone sitting next to me right now in the office. Gets hot enough to cook an egg on but sounds really good. Supposedly even pairs nicely with hd800's but I haven't gotten around to building a new XLR to speaker tap adapter.
Ive heard the F3 isent that great with HE-6 bcuz of some voltage stuff.F6 isent the best either, but it sounds blood damn good. Apparently the F1J and SIT amps are the IT amps from First Watt.But they are also very expensive.
Gumby can throw the ratio out of whack because of it's value and high performance / dollar. Still, if you've got Gumby, you really should be running an amp that will take advantage of it's capabilities.As far as the distant break points, put the figures in Excel and interpolate. My reasoning was as follows:1] Headphones will be the most colored piece of gear in the audio chain. We can discuss this all day, so we won't. Pick this first for obvious reasons.2] DACs sound closer to each other than not. Differences between DACs are more easily heard with more resolving gear.3] Thus don't bother with DACs at the low end or even entry level. Use what you have handy or can get for free from friends (iRiver Soviet iPod, sound card, old HeadRoom BitHead).4] As an aside, because of #1 and #2, so called "objectivists" claim there are no DAC differences if three or four measurements don't show nonlinear behavior past certain thresholds. Of course this has nothing to do with science since these "objectivists" have not heard any of the gear in question nor have they conducted experiments to support their hypothesis. They demand experiments of high rigor (DBT, 0.01db volume matching, etc.) from those who they disagree with, while accepting less rigorous "experiments" (anecdotes) from those they agree with: "I conducted a blind test of the ODAC and the Benchmark DAC1 and I couldn't tell the difference from my Objective 2 amp, which we all know is nearly perfect and transparent".5] As we move up to higher fidelity headphones, the immediately weak link seems to be amplifiers. Many headphones, such as high efficiency orthos and moderate efficiency traditional dynamics, love amplifiers that can provide clarity, power, control, dynamics, articulation. There are some exceptions. Grados and certain Audio Technicas, because of their super efficiency, may not sound any better with an amp. These kinds of headphones require extremely resolving amps, not necessarily power. But in general, more power is better, but only if we can maintain resolution, clarity, low distortion, etc.6] At some point, between roughly $2000-$3000, the source starts to become more important, as important as the amp or even slightly more, just in case. IMO, in the initial or medium stages, source should take a back seat to the amp because an amp's sonic colorations are more obvious.7] Finally, for some headphones, spending more on amps won't matter after some point. They won't scale. All you will get is something "different" (nothing wrong with that, just be cognizant of it and don't let HF convince you otherwise). Same thing for amps. After some point, DACs won't matter if your amp can't reveal the nuances of what the better DACs are capable of doing. The above, #2 and #5 is why Gary at HF didn't find any distinguishable differences between most of the DACs he auditioned. He used an LCD3 (presumably degraded) and a speaker amp.8] Another approach is source first. Maybe a small business in a nice small town just north of El Lay made a kick ass DAC (or two) which is universally agreed by everyone as to have an extremely high performance/price ratio. Might be a good idea to start with that.
Definitely.. and forget such thing as "best headphone of the world" .. that does not exist. There's only "personal preferred headphone for me and the music/recordings I listen to" . understanding there's no "world champion" headphone is the best way to enjoy happily this hobby .
Too bad Music Alchemist won't accept this...
This needs to be a sticky on the new site