Headphone amps

Anyone care to share experiences of headphone amps, generally and maybe some options for me to try?

I have a pair of Quad Era-1 magnetic planar headphones used in my main system with an arcam rHead amp. This was a new departure for me last year as I’d never even owned decent headphones before and I’m using this a fair bit for listening.

The rHead is ridiculously cheap at about £150 which makes me wonder if the upgrade curve is nice and steep and spending maybe £750 to £1k would really give me a big step up.

In my rack I just don’t have room for a Headline plus PS so has to be a non-Naim solution and no bigger than the standard Naim shoebox.

I was looking at Graham Slee Solo, Meridian Prime and Beyerdynamic A2 maybe. I could probably have at home on a 30 day return basis but nice to hear what others have or can suggest.


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Bruce, I have a Trilogy 931 that I use from my 272 with Focal Clears and I am impressed with the improvement that this has shown over the 272 headphone output (which is perfectly ok). The Trilogy really adds an extra drive which brings out the best in the music but still retains the meaning behind the music. I needed a home dem for this to really convince myself of the benefit and I am glad that I did. There are some equally good makes that you have listed but if you can I would try the Trilogy and see what you think.

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Thanks Paul

Does not seem to be an item that triggers a very lively thread…

Anyway I’ve found an ex dem Trilogy 931 for a significant saving so I’m hoping you are right about it. No pressure.



Bryston BHA-1 is a good one with a decent price, also check violectric and lake people amps… some models offer good value v200 being my favorite

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Olive Headline + Hipcap into Sennheiser 650 sounds pretty good to me

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I am fortunate enough to have both a trilogy 933 and an olive headline\supercap and love both although they are different flavours of sonic nirvana.

The Naim is like a hardwire to the music, the Trilogy gives you more time to appreciate the sounds, for want of a better description.

They are however both two box solutions, but you can always find room :slight_smile:

no pressure indeed Bruce! I would be very interested to hear what you think.

Ear hp4? Small footprint, but high price!

Well, I certainly couldn’t tell the difference between an Arcam rHead and a Sennheiser HDVA600 which at the time it was new cost around 4 times as much. I should also mention I did not compare them directly. But, I will also say that I can always identify the difference in amplification for speaker setups with the same method. In my opinion, the Arcam rHead, is a bargain.

I’ll post a back to back when I get time this weekend.


I can heartily recommend the Marantz HD-DAC1 as a superb headphone amplifier that has the added benefit of being a cracking DAC as well. It’s a great looking piece of equipment (mine is in the silver finish but the black would probably look better next to Naim gear) and seems to exude quality.

I’m using mine to drive my current favourites, a pair of Audeze LCD 3s and using my Unitiqute as a source connected using the digital coaxial input. It really allows the LCDs to shine and compared to the output on the Qute, the soundstage is massively increased and overall definition is improved without becoming harsh. It does show up poor recordings but that could be due to the quality of the headphones as well.

You can pick up a used one on Fleabay for around £450 which I think is a bargain.

please check mass drop for good deals in good value headphones as well as some amps…

Focal is coming with a new amp/dac very soon but the price will be 2500$ I guess or euro

Well bad weather curtailed outside playtime so had a good listen to the rHead vs the Trilogy 931. The Trilogy is ex-demo so not box fresh sound.

Same cable from my 252 into each and into Quad Era-1 headphones with Chord Shawcan headphone cable.

The rHead is clearly a bargain, doing everything pretty well. Hard to pick out major failings or indeed major distinct qualities so I’d say it is very balanced. It is generally smooth, has nice detail and is a very good listen at varying volumes. Needs a good warm up-at least an hour I reckoned or it can be just a bit dull when cold.

Trilogy 931 has a different character. Sounds faster and a bit cleaner, and the top end opens up. It definitely has better sound stage presentation. Bass is not so different to the rHead at least with my kit, maybe slightly tighter when it was fully warmed up and the whole sound gained a bit more weight as time went by. Just a little bit technical sounding maybe? Possibly also more fatiguing on a long listen but as I swapped back to back I found the music more engaging and with just a bit more life compared to the rHead.

Conclusion; the rHead is fabulous value and a gem. The Trilogy is different in a variety of ways and on balance I prefer it but not an absolute leap forwards, and may not suit everyone’s taste or system. Also, the Quad 'phones are a lovely thing and giving me lots of pleasure!

I’m keeping the Trilogy.



Excellent, thanks for the update & your findings Bruce. It does show that there are some quite impressive pieces of equipment out there for a relatively modest sum that do a really great job! I am pleased (& also relieved) that the Trilogy did the job for you.

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