Headphone Amp

Which headphone amp do you recommend? I want a headphone amp to play my Naim CD5Si and project turntable and would prefer if it had a remote control. I don’t believe Naim has a current model.
I have the following.
Naim Nac 282pre-amp. Naim Nap 250 amp. Naim Hicap DR power supply. I would consider a quality second-hand item.

I have STAX earspeakers (their term), which are fantastic electrostatic designs and mate well with Naim kit. Highly recommended.

I used to have Grados, working off an Olive Naim Headline, which were luxury items, with real wooden enclosures for the ‘cans’. They may be rather pricey these days (I am rather out of that ‘loop’).

I didn’t know that Naim had discontinued the Headline (I wonder why?), but there are lots of Headline units for sale on eBay. If you buy one, you will then be able to go for just about any dynamic headphones that you want. Just be aware that, if you go for a Headline, you will need a Naim power supply for it.

Lastly, I understand that Naim greatly improved the internals when switching production of the Olive Headline to the later Classic version - but I have never used the later version, so I can’t comment more on that. Other Members may have a better insight.

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Got both olive (NAHA) & black (NAHA2) Headlines. NAHA2 improves on NAHA.

It should be noted that in the usual Naim style, an external PSU will be needed for a NAHA(1 or 2) - I’ve tried NAPSC, NAPSC2 & olive Hicap on both types. Not a huge differences in SQ between the PSUs that I tried, however the Hicap was definitely better and benefits from having an ON/OFF switch. Cans are Sennheiser 650 with an after-market cable.

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Huge amount in the Forum about headphone amps if you search.

Do you have a budget range? What headphones are you going to be using? One box or two box solution?

My own journey evetually lead me to a Trilogy 933. Now discontinued I think so ex dem or s/h only, has a remote too. Ex dem not much under £2k so not cheap.


As Bruce has mentioned, we need more details, and budget is king.

For a few months last year I borrowed an SPL Phonitor 2. A fantastic sounding headphone amp that can drive just about any headphones, I’d have thought. A couple of adjustments available, then forget about it.
It doesn’t come with a remote, but it can receive commands from almost any remote, volume only. I used an Apple TV remote, worked nicely.
A little pricey but if I could, I would.

I have always had a fascination with stax but never tried them, which model do you have?

I have the Naim Atom HE, great headphone amp, starting to see some graded examples appearing at dealers for about £2k.

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I used a Chord Hugo TT2 with Focal headphones and it was excellent but expensive.

I have the SR007 MkII, I think. Some kind soul messed them up for me when visiting my home, and I need to get them back to the importers to be fixed - which I hope won’t be a difficult/expensive job.

The energiser is, from memory, SRM717, a transistor-powered unit, which I preferred to the valve equivalent. More Naim-like!

The energiser is connected to one of the Tape outputs of the Naim amp, and switches in when one of the lower battery of switches on the NAC52 is engaged.

(Apologies if I’ve got any of this wrong. I’ve been away from home for over a year, and am having to readjust to being home.)


The Atom HE is also a streaming device, I believe?

Yes, maybe a flexible addition to your set up.

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To be honest the OP is spoiled for choice. There so many good headphone amps on the market at all price points.

It’s really going to depend on not just budget but headphones.

At the entry level, I used a Rega Ear for years with Sennheiser HD600 and it really excels. While the Naim Headline2 was getting outclassed at it’s price points (remember a HL2/NAPSC, HL2/FCxs, HL2/HCdr are effectively totally different headphone amps), being discontinued means it and a required power supply can be picked up for the sort of price that makes it extremely competative. I had a HL2/HCdr (still do I suppose) driving HD800 and thought it was endgame at the time.

At the higher end of the budget scale there is a lot to be said about driving headphones with tubes. I use a Luxman SQ-N150 now still into HD800 (it’s a fleawatt integrated that uses the same output stage for speakers and headphones) and the performance level is so far above the HL2/HCdr I wouldn’t know where to begin.

The point being, whether the budget is $300 or $5000, there are amazing things on the market.


On a slight tangent from someone who doesn’t use my Beyer headphones often (and perhaps very obvious to some here)…how do you connect headphone amp to the source if you also want to also run a pre-pwr-speakers off the same source? I have read that I will degrade my source signal by using 2 digital outs. Do others here pull cables and re-route to headphone amps every time you listen to cans?

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If you want to stay within the Naim family, with the Naim sound signature, you can look for a used Naim Headline and power it with a HiCap DR. This combination is not very deep in stage and you will miss a little bit of three-dimensionality, but the sound signature is intact and still surprise me on some parameters (no remote control here). For something more refined, you can try a Naim DAC-V1, which is very pleasant. If you want the latest technology in headphone amplification, then a Naim Uniti Atom HE is at an even higher level and probably capable of driving any headphone on the market (both with a remote control).

Outside of the Naim family, but with something that comes as close as possible to the Naim philosophy, I would recommend Ferrum OOR and its external power supply HYPSOS. You can easily find information online. You should also find them on the 2nd hand market.

If you are looking for that silky and refined sound that only the world of electrostatic products can provide, then certainly STAX is the solution. Or as mentioned by feeling_zen, there is the world of tube amplifiers, and to avoid searching too much for the right product, Luxman is certainly a guarantee, and the SQ-N150 is really an amplifier that I would like to try, feeling that it could be a truly definitive solution.


You don’t. You connect a purely analogue only headphone amp to the record out on a Naim amp.


Thanks feeling-zen. As silly as I feel, that’s a lightbulb moment for me:) After a year with a 282 and wondering why on earth I would want to record-out (after all I haven’t wanted to do that since the vinyl-to-cassette tape recording for my car stereo era), those bottom row buttons now suddenly make more sense. Just a pity my DAC V1 doesn’t have an audio input though.

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Atom HE: Is there anything else I would need to stream music, apart from a ipad or phone. Could I use the Atom to play my CDs and turntable. without using a ipad or phone?

Yes, phono stage needed ofcourse for TT.
CD player via Atoms digital inputs.

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I too preferred the transistor energisers to the valve ones - they had a bit more bite and get up and go. I did have a valve energiser for a bit with my STAX 404 Signatures but didn’t really get on with it. TBH I rather missed my old STAX Lambda Pros and SRD-7SB Mk2 Pro Energiser.

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The SQ-N150 looks amazing. How do think it would rate aginst the Naim Atom HE?