Headphone amp?

I would like to add high quality headphones to my system, which consists of a Pass  Labs XA30.8 and XP-20 preamp, and SoundScience Music Vault plus speakers. Do I need a headset amp or is there some other way to use say, a pair of HD800s phones? I could in a pinch plug in to my CD player but I doubt it would be as good my amp/preamp. What would the cognoscenti suggest?


I would suggest you seriously consider a good Headphone amp for your Sennheisers . I also have HD800s and know they are a difficult load so a plug into the headphone jack of your amp won't do. I have The Luxman P- 750 u and my friend has a Pass Labs Head Amp and these are superb amps if maybe a little steep for some folk but there are so many out there and you can find one for both your pocket and your sound appreciation.

Would you use an A/V receiver to power your speakers for two channel listening instead of your Pass gear? 

Yes, you need a headphone amp to fully enjoy a good set of headphones, which the Senns are. 

There are a lot of great headphone amps and even the entry level ones are likely to be better than listening from your CD player.  

What's your budget? 

There are a number of headphone aficionados here, but I'd suggest heading over to the head-fi forums for suggestions on what to get and reviews.

 Thanks, gentlemen. I haven’t bought the headphones yet, and they’re around $1500. Might find them used for less. I’ll research the proper amps.

If you do not have a headphone already then, not clear from your post, these headphones and amp interface box will get you state of the art headphone sound (really almost 2-channel like)

(8) RAAL-requisite SR1a | Headphone Reviews and Discussion - Head-Fi.org

Jotunheim R Sold separately to another user, no longer included.

The above quote in the ad is referring to me. I received the JR last night and it worked perfectly. The JR is not as good as an excellent 2-channel. I am not sure if your PASS labs have enough power. You need a min of 100 watts to drive these properly with a stereo amp.

Edit: I just looked up your Pass Labs and it is not enough power for the RAAL SR1a. An entry level amp to listen to these headphones is the $800 JR.

Amplifiers • RAAL-requisite (raalrequisite.com)

I use a KRELL 175XD (Class A) and a CODA #8 to drive the RAAL SR1a. Along with the used JR I got yesterday.

if you really want high end headphone and headphone amp answers, here is the best forum to look at and ask your questions. a few here on Audiogon know stuff, but this is where there is thread after thread of information to read. which might help you to know the right questions to ask. and it’s up to date and cutting edge.

also Classified on this site is very active. and....drum roll.....free.


I own Sennheiser HD800s. You can see my system under my user ID. I also have Focal Utopia, LCD, Beyerdynamic, UltraSonde… and other headphones. I listen to the Sennheiser the most, although I would have to give a slight sound advantage to the Focal… but the Sennheiser are lighter, comfortable with a much more open sound stage (open backed is why)


Headphones and associated gear are just like every other piece of high end gear. You need to support them with the best possible source and amplification. You want them to sound good, you need a very high quality and warm headphone amp. Given your main system amp, I can make some assumptions about your taste. The amp helps warm up and render your system more natural sounding. The Sennheiser need ample power with a very natural sound. I highly recommend Woo head amps. Woo knows how to build powerful natural sounding amps. I have searched for years through different amps… imported one from Germany that was real powerful. I found Woo to consistently provide the best natural sound.

I have used a WA6 (~$1K), WA6SE (~1.5K), and finally now a WA5 (~$5K). Each step up made a jump in performance, that last by far the biggest. The 800s are really addictive with massive 800B tube power. Woo makes different lines as well. I highly recommended any of his stuff. Quality and outstanding sound. Of the caliber you Pass.

You can occasionally find HD800s headphones used, but expect to pay ~$1200 for a complete boxed set in excellent condition.  I waited several months for the pair I recently purchased.

I run mine with a Quicksilver tube headphone amp and Moon Audio Black Dragon cables - a setup which, by audiophile standards, doesn't break the bank. For my listening tastes (mostly female vocals), I rarely take the volume knob past 10 o'clock. (If $$ were less of an issue, I would have looked closely at the Pass Labs HPA-1).

The 800s cans sound wonderful, though I find the HD600 series to be slightly more comfortable.  Still, it's a worthwhile trade-off.

As always, YMMV.

Good luck in your quest!

I use Moon Audio Black Dragon headphone cables, too - I've got them for all 3 of my headphone sets. The Quicksilver tube headphone amp is some serious value for money at under $1000. 

I drive Sennheiser HD800s (as well as some planars) with Simaudio MOON 430HA. The Simaudio 430HA was chosen after I tried a few others. Highly recommend for the great sound and the ability to drive demanding headphones.
The sound is detailed but not analytical, closer to the tube sound than many other non-tube amps, and without the hassles of dealing with tubes. The amp is powerful enough to drive HD800s, and HIFIMan HE6SE planars via balanced output even if you want to play with equalizer. The amp can also come with an optional DAC module, which is decent, but a bit lacks soundstage in compare to a top-end dedicated DACs. Overall, given the difference in price with/without the DAC is not that big, may worth it if one does not plan go for an expensive dedicated DAC. All the above is purely my opinion, I am not a dealer, just the end user.


After i’ve got HD800s i was trying to compare Simaudio to some cheaper alternatives - including highly rated THX 789 - the contest was over after 5 min of listening to THX 789, I returned it.


I stopped looking after I got my Simaudio 430HA. I also like the Sony TA-ZH1ES if you’re looking for something more affordable. I have HD800 (not S) and they sound great with either amp.

I use a Woo WA22 tube amp with my HD800s, and I think it sounds great.

The signal is run balanced with XLR connections from a Sony XA5400 SACD player. 

With the ability to roll different type of tubes you can tailor the sound.

Hi there OP, 

I have experience with vintage gear and the 6.3mm out for headphone listening on those units. The sound is fuller than something like an M-Audio interface, for example.

I heard that the A 30 Pro from Topping is really good. Lots of reviews on the internet. But I have yet to to try it out.

I also have the Quicksilver Headphone amp.   It is awesome, built like every other piece of Quicksilver gear....like a tank.  It is high quality and sounds great with any impedance phone.   Its killer for the $$$    I had mine built with a chrome transformer cover like my Mid Monos.   

@stringreen I use my equipment as a vehicle to listen to my music as you do.


Whats the issue here?

@stringreen ,

"Do you people listen to your equipment or to music?"


Many headphone amps sound different from one another. Some warmer, others, leaner. Some are more detailed than others. Each preferred by an individuals` taste.

I listen to equipment when I am in an upgrade cycle… after that only the music.

However, it is easy to get seduced with details and slam at the expense of rhythm and pace / musicality. Then your final system is only enjoyable to listen to the equipment… this leads to… ok, I listened to my one album and go do something else. Also, constantly seeking out better recorded albums. As opposed to finding it hard to drag your self away from your system almost regardless of what is playing.

I listen to music three hours a day… and have to drag myself away from it each time.