A question about headphones

I've decided I would like to give the headphone experience a try because I am an early morning person and I would like my wife to enjoy her sleep.  She is definitely not an early bird.

I have a McIntosh C48 preamp and it has a headphone jack on front.  I have plugged my BT transmitter into this and paired with my Bose noise -cancelling headphones but can't say its anything to write home about.  Do I need a headphone amplifier and where do I connect the amplifier to my rig?

I like headphones that fully encapsulate my ear.  I can't see that open-back headphones appeal to me.  I am about 20' away from my rig and although I would consider a cable, what's the consensus on BT headphones or a combo BT / cabled?

I live in Canada and I was thinking to make a start, I would not want to sink more that $500 into headphones until I am convinced this is the route to go.  I still don't know about the headphone amp and its cost - if I need it.

I don't post much here but I follow this forum daily ad appreciate all opinions and feedback.  Thanks in advance everyone.


A couple of things come to mind.  First, I only plan to use these in my music room so why would I want noise-cancelling?  It seems the money spent on that feature could be better served elsewhere.

My preamp has two sets of outputs, RCA 1 / XLR and RCA 2 / XLR.  I have it configured so output 1 is XLR and not RCA so it feeds my power amp.

Output 2 is RCA and I have a 20' dual-RCA cable off of this going to my SVC-2000 Pro sub.  The sub is closer to my listening position.

Could I put some RCA Y-splitters on this cable before it goes to the sub and then add a headphone amplifier?  The amp would be close to where I would listen with headphones.  Thanks.


I like rich base.  Do open-back designs lack this?  I have heard 'bright' and a lack of base.  Thanks.

@r042wal It seems you are ’new’ to headphones / headphone systems. I encourage you to keep the first steps simple.

Figure out which headphone(s) you like / enjoy / appreciate. The easiest way to do this is to start with a mainstream option. The advantage is the price point, ease of trial and return, up to date in terms of wireless specs/codecs, and a quick re-sale via a local site like craigslist. You can usually listen / audition at your local best buy or equivalent store.  Most of these options will come with ANC, but it can be turned off. ANC does come handy and you may wish you had the option when you realize so. They are also fully portable and will not restrict you to your audio room.

If you go wired, it moves from a bit more complicated to much more complicated. You are already trying to make the step of using aspects of your current system...which can be fraught with issues and a domino effect (typically not in a good way and in dollars spent) for someone just starting out.

There are mainstream options within your budget that are both wired and wireless.

The first sentence of your opening post points to "needing your wife to enjoy her sleep." Open back headphones are typically superior sonically but they do bleed sound.

There are tradeoffs all around. And it is not straightforward.

I’ll reiterate: since you are new to this start basic. Learn. Move on with a greater understanding and to better and wider options.

All of the major players in the mainstream wireless space have decent offerings within your budget, and with budget to spare.

If you want to dig deeper, go over to headfi.org

I like rich base. Do open-back designs lack this? I have heard ’bright’ and a lack of base.

With the latest, better open-back designs I don’t think you’ll be at all disappointed at either end of the spectrum and whatever little you might give up will be more than made up for in benefits in other areas.. Just my take. BTW, The Anandas I recommended above I believe come with a generous trial period.

Could I put some RCA Y-splitters on this cable before it goes to the sub and then add a headphone amplifier? The amp would be close to where I would listen with headphones.

In theory I suppose this could work, although you’d obviously have to turn the subs off while listening to headphones, which isn’t a big deal. Another option, just to get started, would be to use a headphone cable extender and just use the headphone output from your Mac. Here’s one that might be long enough and doesn’t cost too much…


All depends on how much you wanna spend getting into this. Do I think running a y-splitter into a good separate headphone amp will sound better assuming you use a quality splitter? Yes, absolutely. But it will obviously cost quite a bit more going that route. If I’m you I might start with the $69 Grado extension cable into a good set of ‘phones and go from there until you get “the itch.” Plus it’ll give you some time to determine what sound characteristics you’re looking for in an amp and research what amp would work best. But if you wanna go bigger you’ll certainly get no argument from me. Last thought, if you’re concerned with audio, noise-cancelling and/or Bluetooth headphones should not be in your vocabulary. Period.

Last point, if you have a good store in your area it’d be best to go listen to some headphones if you can. But, that said, many online places offer return policies so definitely take advantage of this if you can.



I have been using headphone systems for fifty years (the top of my head hurts from remembering the Koss headphones… ouch). I got really interested in high end headphone systems about twenty years ago. You can see my current headphone system under my user ID. I was listening to it just this morning and was simply stunned at the sound.

I have Bose QuietComfort and I love them on airplanes and while traveling… but they are cartoonish and simply terrible in terms of High-Fi. Blu-tooth sounds terrible.

First of all, I can assure you headphones can be absolutely stunning. They will not replace a regular audio system… but, as in your situation… wanting to let your partner sleep… they can be wonderful.

I would stick to wired for your test. Bluetooth is terrible. Once you know how wonderful they can be, then you can decide how to proceed.

Lots of high end preamps have headphone jacks… many sound simply terrible. They just throw them in, without thought. The best system is a separate system. But, you are not there yet. You are testing the waters. I would recommend a set of Focal headphones which are plugged into your Mac as a start. Focal are very efficient… so will sound pretty good.

To escalate, you probably want a good headphone amp… I recommend a Woo. Their tube headphone amps are incredible… warm, natural and dynamic… the more you pay the better they sound. I own a WA6, WA6SE, and WA5. I recommend any and all.

Headphone systems are exactly like main systems. Every component maters… and the sum of the parts equals the whole. The good thing is you can put together an incredible headphone system for a tenth of the price of a main system. Well, worth having both. For me, sitting in front of the fireplace while listening to music on my headphone system is wonderful.