Headphones and Headphone Amps

I am getting round to doing some upgrades, after a few years and now being retired. So alongside auditioning the ND5 XS2 streamer, I’d also like to get new headphones, mainly to avoid disturbance to my wife. My system is largely Naim-based so assume a Headline with NAPSC might be best, but as I know almost nothing about suitable headphones, I’d appreciate some advice on what might be good cans to look at and listen to.

Go for closed headphones.

My favourite are AKG K92, Audio Tecnica ATH-M50X, Pioneer HDJ-2000 MK2-K, and Shure SRH840.

Headline+NAPSC is very good.

An alternative (cheap but still valid option) is Lake People G109P.


Are you going to be listening whilst in the same room as your wife as you’ll need to decide whether closed back (good isolation and minimal noise leakage) or open back (poor isolation, lots of noise leakage) are suitable. Comfort is a big consideration too. No point having amazing sounding 'phones if you don’t find them comfortable to wear. I’m not sure of your budget but I take a look at the Focal range - At around 1k you have the Clear and Elear (open) and new Elegia (closed). Great sounding and comfortable. My personal favourite is the Sony MDR Z1R. Lots of choice so go and find a good dealer and take a listen.


If you can still get some; Oppo PM1 or PM2, both are open back magnetic planar or the Oppo PM3 which are closed back magnetic planar. The PM3’s are also good at keeping noise out.

They are all effortlessly good.

If you’re after active noise cancelling the Sony WH-1000M3 are my goto’s for obliterating the family noise makers.

Without wanting to plug a dealer above others, Hi-fi Lounge (Dunton, nor Biggleswade) have an extensive headphone-specific section and are always a good online browse. If you are anywhere near, they are well worth a visit. Excellent staff too …


Thanks for the suggestion although my local dealer is close by in Essex. According to their website they stock headphones from KEF, Bowers and Wilkins, Audio-Technica and Audeze. I suspect the Audeze ones will be a bit over my budget which is probably up to £500.

Hi another brand to look at would be Grado! They are open back and leek sound but sound fantastic. I have the sr225’s and use them with a Chord Mojo which might be a bit overkill but it really makes them sing.

For similar reasons I recently moved from Sennheiser HD800/Headline to HD820 [closed back] and HDV 820 headphone amp. Superb, sometimes I forget I am wearing the head phones and think I am listening to speakers.
BTW, there’s a good price on a HDV 820 at Basically Sound

I have been using Sennheiser for years and find them excellent, and incredibly reliable.

I have had a pair of HD650’s for years. They perform very well and as they are a few years old can be found for a bit of a bargain price these days.

If you can stretch your budget something like the Grado GS1000 are a totally different ball game.

You are spoilt for choice a bit. I find that there are a lot of really good headphone amps on the market. Although I use a HeadLine2/HCdr, not everyone wants to spend that much money on a headphone amp. Sublime though it is, I have loved a few lower cost alternatives.

I lived for years with a Rega Ear driving Sennheiser HD600 and it was fantastic. Not quite up to driving HD800 convincingly but Ear/HD600 is a superb combo.The Ear is just one of those great low cost amps that simply gets the job done right.

That said, I’ve seen many headphone amps that have tempted me. There is no end of reasonably priced valve designs too. While a HeadLine2/HCdr is the best I’ve heard, it’s also the most expensive I’ve heard and others that cost lost haven’t been miles off. Incidentally, with the NAPSC, it’s never quite floated my boat. There’s a big voltage difference between the NAPSC and the bigger power supplies too and I suspect that greatly affects how it behaves with more demanding cans.

Your first port of call is headphones. Comfort will come before sound quality here so when you demo them, be sure to wear each pair for at least 10 minutes at a stretch. I heard some fantastic Audeze cans but they hurt my noggin. Conversely, my comfortable HD800 hurt my friend’s head.

my 2 cents. You can choose some different high impedance models of cans. From what I collected around, Naim hedphone amps have output impedance around 5 ohm, a value that could not be a good match for low impedance headpones(32 ohm e.g. Grado). The general consensus is to choose headphones with impedance at least 8 times greater than the impedance of the amp, in order to do not alter the frequency response of the headphones. At the contrary, Lake People/Violectric amps are OK in this respect, having output impedance minor than 1 ohm.

I’ve used a pair of AKG K702’s for a few years with my N272; they are very good and extremely comfortable.

But upgraditis set in :crazy_face:

I recently bought a pair of beyerynamic Amiron Home which are brilliant. They hurt my head for a few weeks until the headband relaxed and now I hardly notice I’m wearing them.

The N272 struggled to drive them adequately so I also bought a Headline2 and a Flatcap XS, and that’s a great combination.

However, the difference between the inbuilt headamp of the N272 and the outboard Headline is not night-and-day. Better yes, significant no.


I use a Headline 2 powered by a HiCap DR with Sennheiser HD600 headphones. The headphones are old (20 years maybe) and can be had for a relatively low price used these days. I am not sure how much difference the DR version of the HiCap makes but you could probably get a used Headline/HiCap/HD600 set up for sub £1k all in with the option to upgrade to DR later.

I really enjoy the combination, and while the sound is not as good as my SBL’s with SL cabling its still very impressive for those moments when you want to listen loud and the rest of the house are asleep!

One day I will get some different headphones but for now I am happy with the sound they produce.

I’m using a Graham Slee Solo amp with Sennheiser HD600 headphones. To be honest the combination doesn’t delight me but it’s acceptable. However, I don’t find the HD600 headphones particularly comfortable so the advice to try them before you buy is very wise IMO. Might look for some new headphones in the future.

Check massdrop for good deals…

My wife would argue that it would take a lot more than a pair of headphones …


Hifi man he400i magnetic planer…easy to drive,comfortable and sound fantastic…sometimes can be had for around £200 on Amazon but usual rrp is circa £300.

I have the HD800 and have tried a few amp options. My Nova drives them quite well in my main system, but my Uniti2 in my media room was less so. I tried the Rega Ear at my dealers through a N272 line-out, but that was no better than the direct headphone out of the Nova (I tested them side by side). I’m thinking of the Headline off the Uniti2 in the media room, but hesitant for the price and need for a power supply. So what I have done, a bit left field, is hook up my old A60 to the Uniti2 line out and use it as a headphone amp, which is turning out to be quite excellent.

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Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee

Picked these up from MD, very happy!

I’m currently using a mojo with Sennheiser hd800. Works well for my headphone use which is quite limited ergo I never got round to questioning if the mojo could be be bettered. Maybe a Hugo might be worth investigating, I’ll have to see.

I did have headline/hi cap but wanted less boxes and wires and as far as technology goes it’s getting on a bit…