Bit the Dollar and bought headphones.

Finally went ahead and ordered a set of headphones.  The Focal Stellias are on there way from Moon Audio in North Carolina.  A headphone amp is next.  I’m currently using my CD players, a Marantz headphone amp.  There’s a Sim Audio headphone amp with dac I’m looking at advertised here on Audiogon.  I know I’ll want a seperate dac also eventually.  I’m tempted to buy a discreet headphone amp and use the dac in my Cambridge Audio universal disc player for now.  The Sim Audio Moon is very nice and just within price range used.  I was looking at a Woo and Rogue, both tube.  I’m split between the Sim Audio and the Woo 22 v2 and Rogue Audio RH 5. I haven’t gotten any feedback on the Rogue.  I’ve gotten feedback on both the Sim Audio and the Woo so I’m thinking one or the other.  I do realize I’m comparing solid state with tube.  Please give me feedback on the sound characteristics of aforementioned units.  Interconnects come after the amp.  Suggestions are greatly appreciated.  I can not afford a penny over the price of aforementioned amps so I’m limited to about 2500 for the headphone amp.  Other suggestions are greatly appreciated.  Used is obviously an option as I’m looking at entry reference level. This will be an endgame headphone amp for me unless I win the lottery.  Thanks.



Most headfiers that buy the WA22 v1 or v2 end up rolling tubes for the best sound.  That can be said of just about any tube amp but in the case of the WA22 it can cost nearly as much as the amp itself.  The Stellias are very efficient so you won't need much power.  In that price range <$2500, Auris makes a nice tube amp, HA-2SF, that is sold by Moon Audio.  Woo makes less expensive amps like the WA-2 or WA6/6SE that are highly regarded.  Feliks Audio tube headphone amps are a good match with Focals.  A good solid state amp in that price range is the Headamp GSX-Mini.  Burson's TOTL SS amp comes in at about $2500 and it should have enough power to drive just about any headphone that you may buy in the future.  You'll find a lot more information about the amps that you're considering on Head-Fi.

Audio GT R28.  I was looking on Underwood Hifi and came across this headphone amp dac combo.  Anyone have any experience with this amp or others by this constructor?  Smatsui, good point about the cost of rolling tubes.  I would enjoy rolling tubes yet the cost is a big factor.  I’d be looking at new tubes every 6 months or so.  I can’t find any reviews on YouTube for the Rogue amp.  I do not think anyone registered here has the Rogue headphone amp.  That is telling me something too.

Quicksilver and Linear Tube Audio MZ2 with Linear power supply would also be worth looking at. 


I'll share my experience with the Audio gd R28:

For years I was happy with my LTA MicroZotl MZ2. It drove pretty much any of the maybe 15-20 headphone I tried over the years.  That was true until I received an email from Adorama regarding a sale, HE16E v2 $609.00.

Well, what the hell I thought. If it turns out I didn't like them I could return them (30 day policy).

Yes, I read all of the forums and reviews that said the HE6 se was so inefficient that you had to have a speaker amp to drive them. Since my MZ2 had driven everything to date I had confidence that it would drive the HE 6's. Not so.

It did reveal, at first, how terrific the HE6 se sounded, the great detail and staging. But as I listened ( I listen mostly to classical) I realized that the MZ2 was running out of steam. 

To make an already long story short, I ended up with the R28 from Wally at Underwood. 

At first I thought I had made a mistake. The sound was veiled & syrupy to me. I had read, & Wally advised me that the R28  needed 500 hours to "burn in". 500 hours!

I am familiar with burn in. My last DAC needed 60 hours, but 500......

If you decide to go with the R28 I will tell you that it need every minute of 500 hours, maybe even 600 hours. Of course the R28 is eminently listenable & very pleasant while the mystery of "burn in" is in process.

My experience is that after 500 hours the R28 is transformed. Detail becomes more distinct. There is more "air" and dimension to the notes. The R28 is capable of very good transparency if you will wait the time to "burn it in". It will also drive ANY headphone with great authority. It is absolutely wonderful on the HE6SE v2, but I can also hear the control and enhanced dynamics on my AKG 812 phones (another hp that benefits from lots of current).

I loved the LTA & Audio Mirror DAC. Wouldn't have even tried another amp/dac except for the HE6 purchase. 

In the end, it has been a bit frustrating, but ultimately, with the phones I currently have, the R28 does a superb job driving them with authority.yet can sound delicate, detailed, and so musical.

For the money, I don't think you can go wrong with the R28.

Just remember; 500 HOURS!!





Whatever headphone amp you’re considering, I’d recommend it have (among other features) a balance control, gain switch and decent power supply. Especially when you’re talking end game.

I'd also recommend the Quicksilver if you're looking for a tube headphone amp at a great price - I think it's just about $1000, and sounds like it should cost a lot more than that - hand-built in the US, too. Upgrade tubes for it are relatively inexpensive, and you could use some of what you saved from that $2500 to invest in an upgraded headphone cable...

@pastorbob - yeah, DAC burn-in is ridiculous, isn't it? When I got my Holo May DAC, I just turned it on and left it for about 3 weeks before I put it into my system - sounded awesome by then!! 

I am delighted with my ZMF Verites. They are made to order and take several months. Check out the reviews for the Verite Closed. I have the open but most are focused on the closed. For $2500 I think they can stand up to ones costing much more.

Do yourself a favor and get a pair of HD600/650/6xx and use that as a reference for all your future purchases. HD600/650 has one of the best mid range performance out of all of the headphones when properly amped (pretty easy to do).

Music lives in the mid range and any headphone that can't match or beat HD600/650 in the mid range is one to toss out right away.

@mglik, the Verite Open is a great headphone.  I first bought the Verite Open and then about year later I bought the Verite Closed.  I had both for at least 6 months before I decided to sell one.  I ended up selling the Verite Closed.  The VO is more natural sounding to my ears.  Unless you need a closed headphone, the VO is the way to go imo.  For reference, I currently own the Susvara, Abyss 1266TC, Focal Utopia and the ZMF VO.  My headphone amps are Enleum 23R and the Auris Nirvana.

@smatsui - great set of headphone gear you've got! I've got Susvara, Utopia, VO, and LCD-5, though I've got the VO's up for sale - great headphones but just didn't click with me and I don't want to deal with pad rolling.

I also use an Auris Nirvana, and also for the Susvara I just recently got an Ferrum Oor stack, which is awesome (I'd like to hear that Enlium sometime).

For the more efficient headphones, I've also got an Eddie Current Studio B.

I was curious about the 1266's, but for the kind of headbanging music those would be great for, you can't headbang or the cans will fly off! 

What kind of DAC do you use?

@larsman, I have a Holo May KTE DAC that is sourced by an Aurender W20SE for streaming and music files.  I also source it with a PS Audio PST SACD transport.  I also have 2 turntables, a Linn LP12, Radikal PS, Keel subchassis, Ekos SE arm, and a Rega P10 with Apheta 3 cartridge.  I’ve had my Enleum 23R for just over a month now and I couldn’t be happier with it.  

The VO on the 23R is much better than it on the Nirvana.  I considered selling my VO until I heard it driven by the Enleum.  I love my Nirvana but the 23R is the best amp I’ve ever heard.  It brings out the best in everyone of my headphones, but not only that, it’s a fantastic amp for high efficiency speakers.  I’m floored how good my Klipsch Cornwall IVs sound driven by the 23R.

@smatsui - You've got some great gear!! 👍

I was sorely tempted by Bakoon, but it was not available anymore during temptation time. I am still interested in hearing the Enlium in my system, and when I find someplace here in the US that's got it in stock, I may very well buy one and check it out....

Hello fellow agoners.  The Focal Stellias came yesterday.  I was going to comment after a few hours of listening but decided to wait.  I needed to give them more time. I’m using a Marantz CD players dedicated headphone amp as a source.  It’s the CC4003 model.  I was not overly impressed yesterday.  This is changing with further listening and different recordings.  I want to go back to the recordings I first listened to before commenting.  I’m hoping burnin is taking place as they sound much better.  Only about 5 hours total.  I was thinking a return with restocking fee if they didn’t improve but boy did they.  I’m currently listening to a symphonic Prog band from Greece called Ciccada, the release A Child In The Mirror.   Sounds extremely impressive. Exponentially better than first impression from yesterday.   I’ll comment in detail later.  I’m thoroughly enjoying them now.  

I’m using a Marantz CD players dedicated headphone amp as a source

No!  You can’t insult those nice ‘phones by powering them with a damn CD player.  Shame on you!  Stick a crowbar in your wallet and get a decent headphone amp and DAC.

@soix LOL!  Your not kidding.  The headphones are so accurate and revealing they point to the source being extremely lacking in quality. The phones also reveal a lot about the source recordings.  I’m learning a lot with these headphones.  They are that good.  I want to take my time so I buy the proper amplification and dac.  I’m used to this source and its good enough to steer me in the correct direction.  I was going nuts upon first listen.  I wanted to return them.  They sound so much better yet the source is again extremely lacking in power in all registers.  I can not drive the phones enough for proper dynamics at preferred listening volumes.  High volume especially suffers the consequences.  Since I’m driving the phones to higher levels for bass etc., the lower volumes suffer also.  Still they sound miles better than the Sonys.  This would be Sony WH-1000XM2.  I’m looking for that sound I had as a youth listening to vinyl with very old and heavy Sony headphones.  I may have had an old set of acoustic research headphones too.  I’ll  have to be happy at lower volumes for now. Did some listening last night.  The headphones are coming alive even with the lacking Marantz.  I want to get some more recommendations on amps and dacs after the community gets a better idea on my tastes.  Thanks.  I’ll post later.

I decided to go with the Woo Audio WA 22.  Music is very dear to me so I’m biting the dollar again.  One question for Woo and other tube amp  owners as a lot of tube owners listen to classical music.  How are tubes, this particular amp with progressive rock.  Progressive rock is a very demanding and dynamic music that requires proper amplification as with all music.    I do love classical too yet primarily listen to symphonic progressive as related to classical.  Anyone familiar with Renaissance to old Genesis knows what I mean.  I also listen to bands such as Haken and Dream Theater.  This is progressive metal.  In other words I need an amp that is versatile when it comes to music.  I was looking at the Sim Audio Moon with dac yet this looks sold.  I can not afford this one new and am not waiting anymore. As for the Stellias I’m happy.  Haven’t done enough listening to make further review type comments.  They are again extremely revealing.  I found with the cd head amp I desperately need a headphone amp for proper listening as I’m stuck with a very small volume range for semi quality listening.  I would greatly appreciate any comments on a good power cord for the tube Woo as I’m all but sold on it. Thanks.  Paul.