Headphone Output Naim XR3

I have just bought a Naim XR3, which sounds wonderful with my PMC speakers, but I have a question about the headphone output.

I use headphones a lot as my family do not really appreciate the contemporary Jazz I like. I have a Lehmann Audio Drachenfels headphone amp connected to the tape out on the Naim.

By a small margin I think I prefer the Drachenfels, with my Sennheiser HD800S headphones, as it seems a bit more detailed, but using the jack output on the Naim, seems to produce a slightly warmer less detailed sound.

Any opinons on the Naim XR3 headphone sound quality using the built in jack output.

My friend had an Escort XR3 in the eighties, but I can’t comment on it’s ability to drive headphones as that is frowned upon while driving.

Did you mean XS3?

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My mate had a 1980 " W" reg xr3. Not great from memory. Looked like it was quick, but wasn’t.

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Surely - your own:

I have a Lehmann Audio Drachenfels headphone amp connected to the tape out on the Naim.

By a small margin I think I prefer the Drachenfels, with my Sennheiser HD800S headphones, as it seems a bit more detailed, but using the jack output on the Naim, seems to produce a slightly warmer less detailed sound.

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I just wanted some other opinions as it is so close cut, that I cannot decide which I like better.

Yes my bad XS3

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I’ve never heard an XS3 and I’m also unfamiliar with your headphone amp.

However I do own a Supernait 3 and a pair of Sennheiser HD800S.

I think the SN3 headphone output is pretty good to be honest, but I have 2 dedicated headphone amps (Violectric 222 and Naim Atom HE) in different rooms which to my ears are better than the SN3.

The Atom isn’t a fair comparison because it is also a streamer and dac, and has never been connected to the same hifi as the SN3 or the V222.

The Violectric is a good comparison though as it takes an analogue feed from my NDX2, which is exactly what my SN3 used to do before it was moved to another room.

I don’t know what difference there are between the SN3 and XS3 headphone stages are, maybe they are the same?

All I can really say is if we assume that the SN3 output is at least as good as the XS3 then a dedicated headphone amp can be an improvement (the V222 is ~£1k, not sure about yours) and could allow you to use the 4.4mm balanced cable that came with your Sennheisers.

I still use the SN3 for headphone listening on the rare occasions I am in that room and need to be quiet.

Thanks for the reply.

The HD800S to my ears does sound better on my dedicated headphone amp, by a very small margin.

Compared to my previous Beyerdynamic Amiron Home cans, My new HD800s headphones are much more detailed. But I have the impression that they are not very tolerant of below par recordings.

Lehmann seemed to be an amp brand that nailed Sennheiser HD800 sound and tuning.

I have an XS3, and have used the headphone output to drive ‘good’ headphones.

The headphone driving capability of the present lineup of Naim integrateds is good!

When compared against (much) higher quality (heavier/higher price points etc) headphone amps; held up very well and even preferred with some headwear (eg Focal clear) and specific music genres…

If I know where to listen/what to listen for, I can find areas that the much heavier dedicated headphone amps can pull away from the XS3’s inbuilt ‘class A’ headphone amplifier.

If I was critically listening, using my best DAC, and fast A/B switching with matched volume level etc, I might even consistently place it 3rd place (out of 3) when litening to orchestral music.

Given just such a setup, and ‘fast A/B switching’ isn’t really convenient; I typically fell back to using the XS3 headphone jack…

(even though it was harder to reach than two BIGGER, BETTER headphone amps sitting on my desk in front of me)

The convenience of the XS3 being on (always), warmed up and ‘ready to go’, probably nets it a better sound, for short listening sessions, than powering up the ‘nicer headphone amps’ and using them for less than two hours…

It is true that better headphone amps exist, vut the quality of the XS3 headphone amplifier is VASTLY BETTER than most headphone jacks on home hifi amps for many many decades…

I’d happily forgo a better amp, as, in most cases, better earpads would make a more practical upgrade, as an easy example…
(funds into a cable or DAC might be more practical)

The Lehmann is probably a superior amp, noticeable with the Sennheiser 800 series headphones.

I was in a similar camp with nice headwear, and I chose to use the XS3 for a few reasons- one being the Burson Conductor would make the Focal Clear clip at volume levels much lower than the XS3 would drive them with NO clipping… (better usable volume range)…

I like the sound from the XS3, and have just readded it (as a power amp) to a bedroom surround setup, the qualifier being I get the headphone amplifier built into the XS3 as well

Given I have three or more dedicated headphone amps or amp/DACs that could easily be installed in the bedroom, from higher pricepoints and specification than the XS3; and I choose the Naim integrated amps headphone socket is ‘pretty telling’.
It is certainly good enough, and holds its own very well against good headphone amps.

Those Sennheiser HD800S, certainly can reveal differences in setups, and might show up some obvious changes with large scale orchestral recordings…

otherwise, I’d expect a slight “stage dimensions” reduction, perhaps less stage depth and a smidge off the sides…

if rows of instruments still layer well, and/or they are ‘close enough’ with regular music that its a hard pick, I’d go with whichever is naturally an easy listen…

for me, the XS3 headphone amp section, whilst I seriously thought I’d NEVER use it; has proven to be a real asset, and one I enjoy.

Can be beat for serious coin outlay, and many wouldn’t notice any differences at all, even with orchestral on yhe Sennheiser HD800S…

for the op:
if you power down your headamps, but not the XS3, I’d encourage to stick with the XS3…

but, ‘yes’ the Lehmann part is probably a nice/special match up with those top tier Sennheisers.

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Thanks for the very detailed reply.

I think the Lehmann, is just a slither ahead, but the XR3 headphone amp is very good.

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For a (relatively) mid prices integrated amp to be able to convincingly drive a headphone of the quality of the HD800 is actually a remarkable achievement!

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I guess system matching comes into the equation. One of the selling point of the XS3 to me was the headphone amp. However when paired with my Quad ERA-1s I thought the sound was rather lacklustre, I now have a pair of Focal Clear MGs which is far superior combination with the XS3 especially in dynamics but still falls short of listening through speakers